MANAMA, Bahrain – I have this theory that I have clung to for some time and which seems more applicable now than ever before. Even though we are inundated with a number of news sources, we are still anaesthetized and deliberately misled by the media. Most of the time we are blissfully unaware of it.
On one, seemingly innocuous level, the ‘news’ inundates us with pointless rubbish that serves to draw our attention from issues that really matter. Instead of murderous regimes in places like Syria, the masses are fed faux newsmakers like Paris Hilton.
On another level, the media often obfuscates when it’s thought to be in the public interest. Think of Fukushima and the triple nuclear meltdown.
And on another far more sinister level, powerful interests within our society deliberately manipulate our understanding of issues. Look no further than Iraq and the invisible WMD’s for proof.
Contemporary ‘Don Drapers’ - cunning ad people - are the tools that facilitate the molding of our perceptions by crafting a narrative using catchy press releases. Then they massage their media relationships to disseminate their clients’ often-false messages. The advertising people become, in essence, our anchorman and anchorwoman by dictating what news you get.
It’s a manipulative ruse and all it takes is a hint from a PR firm that advertising dollars will flow, or not flow, depending on the editorial slant a media group adopts with respect to a client’s company. Naturally, the publication or network need the revenues so they take the money and become part of a much larger cycle – every bit as compromised as the politicians they write about.
In some instances, the people doling out the ad dollars are about as subtle as a punch in the face. If you run this story, we will take you to the Super Bowl or fly you to the Bahamas all expenses paid on our private jet.
Case in point is the recent Facebook scandal in which founder Mark Zuckerberg’s minions were busted for engaging a PR agency to spread the love around (for a fee, of course) and encourage media and bloggers to write negative commentary about Facebook’s primary competitor Google.
Such practices are so common these days that even if you read above, below and between the lines, you still have no idea of whether you are reading the truth. Blatantly false ‘facts’ are planted by the PR arms of powerful economic forces and supported by ‘research’ carried out by prostituted scientists. The Facebook example is the exception rather than the rule because one of the bloggers refused the PR firm’s favors choosing instead to expose them publicly.
There are also a number of common myths we have been routinely fed that could easily be debunked. For instance, the long held belief that drinking two glasses of red wine a day is a healthy habit. But common sense tells us that no glasses of any alcohol would be better. Naturally we are left wondering if the wine growers association funded this research and because of the repeated pattern of lies and manipulation we have every right to be suspicious.
A simple glance at this damning excerpt from the movie ‘Inside Job’ demonstrates how economists’ research conclusions are for sale:
I try, and I struggle, to get anywhere near the truth of an issue but I do find that following a wide range of diverse media outlets and perspectives is imperative. There is, however, one other way to find out the truth and that is to go directly to the source of where the news is happening. It was this search for truth that drove me into perhaps the most misrepresented and misunderstood region of the world – the Middle East.
Upon entering the region, the convoys of police SUV’s scurrying past and the heavily-armed military checkpoints and helicopters buzzing the city center like dragonflies made it abundantly clear that I had landed in a police state.
Perhaps because Bahrain plays host to top international sporting events like a Formula One race, run on a beautiful, ultra modern track, there seems to be a level of tolerance towards it from the western world. It's almost like a comfortable tyranny that has mostly fallen off the media’s radar. Yet night after night the desperate protests continue. While hundreds of thousands no longer gather at the Pearl Roundabout, because it has been destroyed and replaced by a traffic light, anyone who attempts to approach the area now will be met with a not so sporty hail of rubber bullets and tear gas.
So Bahrainis are gathering outside their homes in neighbourhoods that are more difficult for the authorities to control and a significant distance away from the city center. It’s here that the Shia majority unfurls their banners and shouts their demands for a fair share from their Sunni masters.
But peaceful protest is a no-no in Bahrain and the country’s murderous leadership, which conveniently masquerades as royalty, has a plan. They have invited Saudi and Pakistani mercenaries to do their dirty work and stand back while those cold blooded soldiers regularly blast away at protesters with live ammunition, killing and wounding scores. Doctors who try to treat the wounded are brutalized as well and should you survive the bullets and be hospitalized, don’t expect any visitors because you will be quarantined.
I was able to confirm this as I observed the military barricading all entrances to Salmaniya Hospital, the medical facility where most injured protesters are sent.
So where is the outrage in the western media and from our governments? Of course, there is only so much outrage to go around and we’ve been directed by the media and their masters to save it all for that whacky Colonel Gaddafi.
Perhaps it's cynicism but I’m more than a little suspicious of NATO’s motives in Libya. Protesters around the region have remained mostly peaceful even when governments have brutally suppressed them. Yet in Libya, the rebels were armed and on the attack from day one. And where did they get the weapons? Somehow we went from a no-fly zone to Special Forces ‘boots on the ground’ and a mission to assassinate the leader of a country in no time at all. At least in Iraq, allied forces had the decency to pretend they had WMD’s before invading.
Not long ago Buddhist monks were being murdered and brutalized by the villainous junta in Burma and yet not a finger was raised by the international community. Obviously there are plenty of bad guys and odious regimes around the world. But only one, it would seem, is deserving of our outrage and condemnation as well as a NATO invasion.
Of course we are often told that oil is never a consideration when we go to fight or instigate a war. So there must be some other reason why Gaddafi stands out amongst the demons of this world, I just can't seem to find it.
In Bahrain, a list of the grievances was provided to me during a meeting with two of the key leaders of the protest movement: Dr. Jasim Husain Ali and Sayed Hadi Al Mosawi. Both men had resigned from parliament when the Bahraini government decided they preferred to negotiate from behind the barrels of guns.
Be sure to review these grievances closely because you likely will not see them anywhere else. The mass media are too busy ignoring these human rights violations because democracy cannot be permitted or supported in Bahrain. Apparently, this vile disease might infect the entire region.
And that’s bad for the big oil business because if their compliant dictators are shown the door, elected governments might decide to renegotiate and be forced to lift the lid on their contracts and ensure that their citizens derive the full benefit of the resources.
There is certainly no shortage of precedent for this type of interference in domestic affairs by the big oil interests and western democracies. After going through the near fiasco in Iran in the 1950’s, they know full well the evils of allowing democracy in a middle-eastern country. Upon Iran’s independence, their Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh decided to rip up oil contracts that were unfairly implemented by their British colonial masters.
This outrageous attempt to strike a fair deal was countered by the British and American intelligence services arranging the ouster of Mosaddegh and replacing him with the Shah. The enraged voters of Iran were naturally not very pleased with this turn of events but the CIA-backed Shah dealt with them in his own tyrannical way by unleashing his vicious Savak on any who dared speak out.
And we all know how well that worked out. The despised Shah provoked an equally hardline opposition who ultimately overthrew him and established the reign of the Ayatollahs and the era of religious fanaticism.
Democracy cannot be permitted or supported in Bahrain; apparently this vile disease might infect the entire region.
Democracy is hypocrisy when it comes to dealings in the Middle East by the so-called good guys in the west. Again and again they trot out convenient bogeymen. The mainstream media neglects to publish the grievances of the majority of Bahrainis while subsequently informing us, without the slightest bit of proof, that if the murderous dictators that currently run Bahrain are overthrown, the Ayatollahs of predominantly Shia Iran will assume control of Bahrain.
It’s late afternoon and the SMS action is heating up as Bahrainis use their mobile phones to coordinate that day’s protests.
Contrary to what we have been told by the supposedly all-knowing media, this is NOT a Facebook or Twitter revolution, it is primarily an SMS revolution. And here’s some breaking news for CNN: if a Bahraini is stopped in the vicinity of a protest and found to be in possession of a smartphone, it will be seized immediately. Because of that, much of the organization of protests is carried out using SMS on ‘dumb’ phones. I guess SMS isn’t quite as sexy as a Tweet and it doesn’t have a PR machine behind it like Facebook does, ensuring that it gets naming rights to revolutions.
I decide to make my way to what is expected to be a major protest in Sitra, just outside of the capital Manama, only to find out that it is much easier said than done. After a 45-minute wait, the driver finally arrives but when I inform him of the destination, he repeatedly declares, “no, no, no!” Of course it’s understandable because the hired guns would surely take his car if he’s caught ferrying around a foreigner in the vicinity of a protest.
I am finally able to arrange another driver who is willing to drop me at a nearby mall under the pretext that I intend to do some shopping. Obviously he is concerned that he is putting himself at risk so I make it clear that he could decline the job if he felt uncomfortable. But he was adamant that I must see what was happening so that others can understand the plight of the majority of Bahrainis.
During the drive he recounted to me how he was jailed for 18 months for protesting in the 90’s. He claimed that he was tortured and beaten and forced to record a video falsely acknowledging that he was trained in and under the influence of Iran. This was subsequently broadcast on TV with a few other similar confessions and suddenly these guys were now referred to as the ‘Hezbollah of Bahrain.’
He claims he had never been to Iran and that political affairs in that country had zero influence on his decision to protest. But when in doubt, invoke fear. Or better still, invent it.
This man went on to explain to me that Shia is no more beholden to predominantly Shia Iran than a Canadian Catholic would be to Catholic France. “It’s simply ludicrous,” he said. “If Iran were to try to hijack our revolution, we’d be fighting them next.”
After being released from prison, his punishment was not over as he was no longer permitted to continue his university studies nor was he permitted a passport to leave Bahrain. A learned man, today he drives a taxi
He was also adamant about his motivation for standing up for his rights. “I do it so that one day my son might have the opportunity to be prime minister of this country,” he said. “It’s not likely he would be but I need to fight so that he at least has the right.”
Our conversation had emboldened him and reminded him of the cause so he decided to risk his car, and perhaps another stint in the dungeons, and brave two more military check points to drive me directly into the centre of Sitra. There were not many foreigners willing to wade into the danger zone to seek the truth and for those who were, he suddenly felt it was his fiduciary responsibility to accommodate it.
Because of the numerous delays on our journey, the streets were basically silent and deserted and littered with broken barricades when we arrived. The riot police had already packed up their gear and were heading off to wherever it is such brutes call home. Not much to see here, move along then.
But even at this late an hour in a deserted and remote locale, there was much to see. Basic human rights that we take for granted in our countries are being violated in Bahrain. These people have legitimate grievances that are, strangely, being ignored by the world. It reeks of hypocrisy and familiarity, just like Iran some fifty years ago. We may one day come to regret our inactivity and choice of allies in this looming crisis as well.