MEDIA CULPA

Disinformation: A Crime Against Humanity and a Crime Against Peace


HALIFAX (12 April 2005) -- IN 2004, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet published a peer-reviewed paper http://www.marxmail.org/mortality-in-iraq.pdf that concluded 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been murdered in the aggression of Iraq. The casus belli was absurdly and knowingly false; hence, it was definitionally disinformation.

Symb-disinfoDisinformation distinguishes itself from misinformation in that the information is deliberately false; hence, it is an intentional attempt to deceive, to disinform. In the case of slain Iraqis this disinformation deceitfully helped generate widespread support from the US public, which, by and large, gullibly swallowed the corporate media regurgitation of Washington's pronouncements.

Eventually, the corporate media flagship New York Times felt compelled to admit to some flawed reporting. Leading the way was writer Judith Miller, a notorious purveyor of the US government's disinformation on Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction. However, little has changed at the Times.

And the occupation and the killing continue. It is a license to kill for some military.

US Marine, Lieutenant General James Mattis, had the stupidity to brag how much he enjoyed killing: "Actually, it's quite fun to fight them, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people, I'll be right up front with you. I like brawling You go into Afghanistan, you've got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway, so it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

Supposedly, in Mattis' warped outlook, using superior western weaponry against lightly armed Iraqis is a way to prove one's manhood.


Declaration on Disinformation


University of Lethbridge professor Anthony J. Hall put disinformation within a framework:

disinfoDisinformation originates in the deliberate and systemic effort to break down social cohesion and to deprive humanity of perceptive consciousness of our conditions. Disinformation seeks to isolate and divide human beings; to alienate us from our ability to use our senses, our intellect, and our communicative powers in order to identity truth and act on this knowledge. Disinformation is deeply implicated in the history of imperialism, Eurocentric racism, American Manifest Destiny, Nazi propaganda, the psychological warfare of the Cold War, and capitalist globalization. Disinformation seeks to erode and destroy the basis of individual and collective memory, the basis of those inheritances from history which give humanity our richness of diverse languages, cultures, nationalities, peoplehoods, and means of self-determination. The reach and intensity of disinformation tends to increase with the concentration of ownership and control of the media of mass communications.

In July 2004, following four days of presentation that detailed information on the method and operation of disinformation, as well as on relevant international law and conventions on propaganda, the participants at the Halifax International Symposium on Media and Symposium held that disinformation is:

1. A deliberate instrument to attack the consciousness, conscience, rights and well-being of the world's peoples;

2. Is a major block to the aspirations of humanity to establish a world of peace and justice and the ecology of sustainable and healthy life of the planet; and

3. Is a flagrant violent of fundamental international law and norms.

This led the symposium participants to unanimously declare:

1. Disinformation -- its creation and propagation -- is a crime against humanity and a crime against peace

2. Those responsible for the creation, propagation, and orchestration of disinformation campaigns should be indicted for crimes against humanity and peace.

Incumbent with this declaration, was the voicing of "absolute support for all people and peoples seeking to assert their individual and collective rights and responsibilities, but especially those of self-determination."

This emphasis on self-determination extends to the struggle of Iraqis, the Indigenous peoples of the Americas and all other continents, Palestinians, Cubans, Venezuelans, Haitians, and many other peoples and nations.

Support for journalists and independent media outlets

Since the corporate media is undeniably entwined with corporations and the corporate political establishment, support must be extended to the establishment and nurturance of independent media.

Furthermore, to ensure independent reporting, it is necessary to protect the media personnel who transmit and communicate news and information.

Recently at the elite gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, CNN news division head Eason Jordan admitted to a panel that the US military had targeted journalists working in Iraq. Jordan said http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8011.htm "he knew of about 12 journalists who had not only been killed by American troops, but had been targeted as a matter of policy." In an effort to quickly sweep the matter under the rug, some US politicians reflexively denounced Jordan's remarks.

The symposium participants considered there to be an "unprecedented assault on the conscience, livelihood and lives of journalists and communicators," and that this is part of the historical legacy of occupation forces targeting journalists and media outlets in occupied territories -- a war crime under international law.

The targeting of journalists is aimed at brutalizing, intimidating, and silencing all journalists and media personnel.

Some so-called "Non-Governmental Organizations" (NGOs) were called into question. Some NGOs were criticized for being mute about, complicit in, or openly defensive of crimes against media personnel. The independence of some NGOs is dubious. It was noted that Reporters sans Frontieres is at least partially financed by corporate media interests.

The symposium rejected with "utter contempt" the perfidiousness of disinformation to undermine journalists and their work as "propaganda" in a divide-and-conquer attempt to marginalize humanity.

Some might argue that a motion against disinformation is an abrogation of free speech. This is particularly relevant given the right-wing attacks on progressive academics such M. Shahid Alam and Ward Churchill. The difference is that disinformation is a deliberate distortion of the truth, and humanity suffers as a result. Free speech exists, but those who disinform are to be held accountable.

One suggestion in the battle against disinformation that arose out of the Halifax International Symposium on the Media and Disinformation was the call for the establishment of a research center. Hall envisioned a centre

to inform the public of disinformation's crucial role in the deterioration of democracy and in the further empowerment of repressive regimes of public and private power everywhere. The aim would be to engage people and peoples in the struggle to expose the lies of disinformation and to join in the articulation of a new era of Enlightenment based on the vigorous exploration, embrace, and deployment of truth. The aim would be to hold the perpetrators of disinformation and war propaganda legally and morally accountable for their violation of the public trust. It would to hold the perpetrators and disseminators of disinformation accountable their central role in crimes against individuals, groups, and humanity and against the ecology of sustainable and healthy life on the planet. The aim is to encourage and facilitate the study of disinformation and propaganda through conferences, publications, web activism, networking, and constructive engagement with legislatures, parliaments, peoples' assemblies, coalitions, unions, media, courts, media, and corporate officials.

A version of this article first appeared at pressaction.com. Kim Petersen is a freelance writer and political analyst resident in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He may be reached at kimpete@start.no

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The 2nd Halifax International Symposium on Media and Disinformation 1-4 July 2005 at Dalhousie University: a convergence for all those fighting or concerned about disinformation. Visit http://www.halifaxsymposium.ca for information, to be updated later this moth, including registration.


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