Media help US presidents hoodwink us

(Canscene) — A documentary I received for review a few days after writing the above makes the perfect companion piece for Margaret MacMillan’s book.


Last year, activist – actor Sean Penn and syndicated columnist and author Norman Solomon completed War Made Easy, a feature-length documentary which became an official entry in the International Documentary Festival, the Montreal Film Festival and the Vancouver Film Festival.

Subtitled How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning us to Death, the film is based on Solomon’s book of the same name. Solomon frequently appears on screen and Penn narrates this riveting examination of the way in which successive American presidents have brought their country into armed conflict over the past 50 years.

The brilliant editing of statements by Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George Bush senior, Bill Clinton and Dubya shows how each has used the same argument and the same words to justify wars and invasions. Underlying is the traditional American paranoia identifying every opinion left of centre with “communism.”

In the hands of a Michael Moore this treatment might have been turned to ridicule but in War Made Easy shots of young children dead and maimed by U.S, bombs strike a tragic chord.

And equally tragically, all this spin has been lapped up by a majority of media. Bush senior’s Desert Storm saw the technique of embedding journalists adopted and in 2003 carried to alarming proportions in Iraq. Voices like those of Norman Solomon, Phil Donahue and Morley Safer have been rare, but we can be thankful that the tide is beginning to turn.

While the film makes no excursions into the role of the arms industries in feeding these wars, it is evident from the plenitude of shots of weaponry from an infantryman’s rifle to a heavy duty bomber that fat profits are being made even as I write, by those all too ready to echo the sanctimonious utterings of American presidents in the name of freedom. And the shameful perversion of accurate reporting by the majority of media should fill us with continued unease.

You are likely to find a rental copy of War Made Easy in some of the “indie” DVD rental establishments like my own favourite, Queen Video.

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