Canada's Role in the War and the Media's Crisis of
By Richard Sanders
How long can the government persist in making blatantly erroneous
statements that they are against the war and that Canada is not involved in it?
How long can this pretense be maintained by those in the media that persist
in presenting the government's lie as if it were the truth?
Are we approaching a point at which the myth of Canadian non-involvement in
this war is perceived by so many Canadians as a baldly false and ridiculous
statement that the government and media will have to backtrack on the
Thanks largely to the media for disseminating government statements, and
seeming to accept their veracity, the erroneous assertions that Canada
stands for peace and is not involved in this war, have spread quickly and
have taken root in our society's consciousness. This myth of Canada's
pro-peace stance was an easy one to perpetuate because it feeds directly
into a much broader, already widely-accepted, myth that has been built up
over many years, that is, the myth of "Canada the global peacemaker." This
myth is basic to Canadian cultural consciousness. It is part and parcel of
how we define ourselves as cultural beings. It reaches so incredibly deeply
in the roots of our national self-image that even though Canada continues
to take a leading role in the international weapons trade and in aiding and
abetting illegal, US wars of aggression, the myth of Canada as a force for
global peace continues to persist.
Since this war began, despite much evidence to the contrary, many in the
media have persisted in presenting government lies as if they were the
truth. Through the subtle phrasing of thousands of questions and
statements made by hosts, anchors, interviewers, columnists, editors and
others, many voices representing the media have parroted the government's
line of approach to the matter of Canada's supposed peace-loving, non-role
in this war.
It is as if a kind of quasi-judicial set of rules apply between government
and the media. The government is innocent until proven guilty. Perhaps
more to the point, the government line on the truth is accepted by the
media, until it is proven false.
That's fair enough, but who's job is it to prove that the government is
lying? Is this the responsibility of opposition parties, academics,
activists or, perhaps, everyone in society? What about that dying breed,
the investigative journalist?
We're in a new world now. In this new revolutionary era of internet
communications, many millions of Canadians get their news and information
in ways that completely bypass the mainstream media's historic, near
control over what is accepted as "fact." It wasn't too long ago -- even
during the 1991 Iraq war -- that the mainstream media was just about the
only way that people could get any information about the war.
Nowadays, using the internet, members of the public are doing their own
research. Even being able to quickly access media coverage from other
countries has made a big difference. There are also scores of alternative
ways to interpret current and historic events that can be quickly accessed
by anyone who is plugged in. Nowadays, when people hear some small piece of
evidence that contradicts the official story for instance that Canada has
for months had war planners working for US Central Command even though the
government asserts that Canada is not involved in the war -- they can
within a few moments access a wealth of information that exposes the
contradiction. This means that the public can sometimes quickly build
arguments proving that such contradictions are evidence that the government
is being hypocritical, or is deliberately trying to deceive the public. If
the media persists in broadcasting such deceptions while the public
simultaneously becomes aware of the deception, the media not to mention
the government -- loses credibility.
In the past, collecting evidence to build arguments that expose
contradictions within the official propaganda took much longer and, even
more significantly, it was very difficult to disseminate such
counter-propaganda. Now, with ready access to alternative sources of news,
information and analysis, the public has become much more aware of facts
that are being ignored by the media and the public is becoming much more
sophisticated in their media criticism. The public can much more quickly
see through the lies and, what's even more threatening to the status quo,
the public can debunk those lies very quickly to a much wider audience than
ever before in history.
This has created a very sticky situation for those who have long made their
business to lie to the public.
As people begin to see through government efforts at deception, their
perception of an official story goes through various stages. The internet
revolution in communications has effected this process. At first, when
members of the public feel themselves to be in a small minority that sees
the official story as a lie, they may feel extreme irritation upon hearing
the status quo perspective expressed in the media. Many then boycott the
media because it is so irritating, infuriating and disempowering to be
exposed to what are perceived to be as such dangerous lies being spread
through their society. However, in the old days, when the mainstream media
was our only access to the news, we had to keep consuming the media and
become more skilled at reading between the lines.
Exposure to propaganda inspires some people to produce counter-propaganda
to correct the predominant misperceptions that permeate the public pysche.
Another response is to seek out alternative means of getting news and
information. Both of these responses are now made much easier by the
internet. This means that a positive feedback loop is created because as
more people use the internet to conduct research into the contradictions
inherent in the reporting of government lies, and as more and more people
make their research findings available on the internet, the number of
people who realize that the mainstream perspective is a lie, increases
As the percentage of the population grows who have become aware that the
official story is a lie, the official story comes to be seen as a ludicrous
joke. The government and the media lose credibility and become a source of
ridicule and contempt.
Governments and the media have always ignored such public perception and
awareness at their peril.
Knowing, from opinion polls and audience feedback mechanisms, that the
public is no longer buying the official line, the government and media have
learned to slightly alter their descriptions of the official story in order
to accommodate public awareness of what's really going on. However, thanks
to the rapidity of communications offered by the internet, this need to
alter the official story is occurring so frequently that even more people
are made aware of the patterns of deception. It is easier to remember the
previous version of the official truth because the upgraded versions are
coming out so frequently. This may lead people to think the government is
confused, muddled or waffling in its indecision on a certain subject. This
may in fact be a defence mechanism to cover for their duplicity. As a
result, there is now an almost constant crisis in credibility for the
government and the media.
The official story that the Canadian government is against the war in Iraq
and is not supporting it, cannot possibly hold its shape. Canadians will
increasingly see through this lie and the government will increasing look
hypocritical. They will have to manufacture new lies to cover for their
old ones. Will the media assist them in this cover operation that will be
necessary to put out the fires of controversy resulting from their initial
The media is being put to an incredible test in this crisis of government
credibility. Who in the media will stand for truth, and who will stand,
wittingly or not, for the continued deception of the Canadian
public? Canadians are watching the media in this struggle for truth, but
we are also participating in the struggle.
Richard Sanders is the editor of Press for Conversion! magazine.