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Framing the Debate, Chinese Whispers and the Iraq War

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Framing the Usual Suspects

‘Framing’ is a term much beloved of Media Studies Departments, Sociologists and convicts serving prison sentences. The concept is an easy one to understand; terms of a debate get ‘framed’ by spin doctors, the media, politicians and special interests groups to the exclusion of another valid, or true, perspective. Austerity is a classic example of a framed debate. Instead of looking at the ‘meta’ issue (another term beloved by the Social Scientists), the debate is centred around ‘stability’ (as though stability may only be reached through universal austerity policies), process (ignore the real elephant in the room, the unacceptable risk inherent in casino capitalism and focus on ‘cutting’ and ‘correction’ and the short-term political game) and corporate preference (public sector mostly bad, private sector mostly good). If (and this has to be a likelihood, rather than a possibility) in ten years, we look back on the last five years as an economic disaster of retrenchment and insane book-balancing over employment priorities, then we will be aghast at how the corporate media failed in telling the story of the Crash. They failed – whether willfully or unintentionally – in their framing; the media has by and large not asked ‘what is the crisis and what was it caused by?’. ‘Debt’ as the primary and only cause of the Depression lets the main culprits off the hook – unregulated ‘shadow’ markets that trade Billions in seconds, Bond Markets that can destroy the Nation State (done mostly without malice of course, the irrational ‘invisible hand’ has no heart) where re-payment risk is solely a short-term consideration, crazy financial instruments and out of control corporate influence in the political sphere (that well-known Revolutionary Al Gore is scathing about this in his recent book ‘The Future’).  Just because blaming the Media isn’t always right, doesn’t mean it’s always wrong.

Chinese Whispers and a New Game of Thrones

Recent revelations, or rather confirmation, that the Chinese military have been conducting computer hacking on an industrial scale should come as a surprise to nobody. Be it for commercial, political or perceived military advantage, the PLA has been plying its trade with relative impunity; if you’re the Washington Post, what are you going to do to the World’s most populous Army by way of retaliation? It’s all part of an incredibly complex Sino-US matrix encompassing global trade, geo-strategic politics and resource and energy competition. The US ‘pivot’ has been well documented as has the build up of Arms in SE Asia but the Public consciousness of it is low burning. A region with the Koreas, China, Japan and a strengthened US presence is a region where the odds of a potential conflict are omnipresent and probable in certain circumstances.  This is the new frontier. It’s being posited that Secretary of State Kerry may have a different emphasis to his predecessor, that of de-escalation or increased engagement with China. Any process or strategy that seeks to de-militarise this precarious region as much as feasible is to be welcomed. Kerry is a heavy-weight appointment and ‘China Watchers’ will be keeping a close eye on how relations develop between the two countries.

Iraq – Ten Years on

A decade ago to the month, millions marched on the street to protest against a war that millions felt was unjustified. The drumbeats leading up to the second Iraq war just seemed wrong; claims of Iraqi WMD possession where Hans Blix could not find any, a totally mis-placed US emphasis on Iraq rather than hunting Al-Qaeda, the Wild West diplomacy of George Bush and his Global unpopularity and the same ‘mood music’ that played out during Gulf One – ‘Of course we’re giving peace a chance, war is a last resort etc.’. The calculus of the War was stark – overthrow of a vile dictator and introduction of imperfect democracy on one side, the death of up to one million people and Civil War (during the occupation and potentially still there) on the other. It remains a highly divisive issue, and not just a straight Left-Right Split; the US Foreign Policy ‘Realists’ saw the military, political and humanitarian consequences of invasion, the Interventionist Left saw it as a fight against fascism, with parallels to the 1930s. The political legacy has been profound: Tony Blair will always be remembered as the Prime Minister that brought his country into War on the basis of a false premise while Barack Obama’s opposition to the invasion was a major asset contributing to his defeat of Hilary Clinton in the 2008 Primaries. Above all, the general public is sceptical and cynical about any attempts to claim WMDs anywhere (the ‘Boy who cried Wolf’ syndrome). The effect on the Arab World was almost universally disastrous; a neo-con spin seeks to link the ‘Arab Spring’ with the overthrow of Saddam but this is implausible. For millions round the World, it was a War that was done ‘Not in Our Name’ and the consequences are still being reaped today.

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