Can we make the concept of liberating countries via military aggression outdated?
The war in Ukraine has suddenly started everyone talking about the Russian propaganda machine – for very good reasons.
For some, this might have been the first time when the role of media in warmongering was brought to their attention – but can it be extended to noticing it in the Western media?
Naturally, it’s easier to think propaganda is something “the others” do. The “bad countries”. “Regimes”. It’s easier to see state-owned media in Russia as advancing Russia’s agenda than to apply the same logic to, for example, the BBC. And it’s definitely easier not to notice warmongering in our own countries than to actively point to it and engage in potentially uncomfortable conversations.
On a psychological level, I think a lot of this stems from a very simple desire to hold onto dichotomies (“good” vs “evil”, “liberation” vs “military occupation”) and to see ourselves as being heroes rather than villains of our own lives. But on a collective/political level, holding onto these dichotomies – and rosy glasses – can mean missing out on what’s right in front of us.
I saw this post on Twitter that I thought captures so well how warmongering can seemingly slip into the mainstream media if we’re not careful. And only if we realise that it can come from countries whose political systems we don’t call “regimes”:
My comment here is simple: if we think it is only RT and not the Western media that is engaging in war propaganda, try replacing all the names of countries in this post with “Ukraine” and see how it sounds.
And if “Russian bombs make Ukraine stronger” makes you uncomfortable but “American bombs make Iraq stronger” doesn’t, this is where you can find space for reflection.
Now, the question is: will we see a further opening in people’s curiosity toward how consent for wars gets manufactured?
Will we agree now that bombs, destruction, and killings don’t liberate people?
Or will we continue distinguishing between what those bombs do to white and non-white populations?
I surely hope for the former.
Added on March 20, 2023:
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War. I invite you to reflect on its enormous human cost, the suffering, the trauma, and the illegality of it all.
Don’t stand with empires. Stand with our friends in Iraq.
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