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Psychological Operations: Media and Image warfare

By: Majid Khan (Melbourne) : –

According to Malcom X ‘the media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.’

It is interested to know that whenever a name of the country, culture, religion or celebrity of other part of the world is used before us, at the same time some image regarding that comes in our mind. We get the images in our mind like, China; a new economic giant, America; a super power, Brazil; amazon, football, Australia; Kangaroo. And we also get some bad images like Mexico; drugs, Afghanistan; Taliban, terrorism, Iraq; bomb blasts, Syria; ISIS, terrorism, Pakistan; suicide attacks, Taliban, terrorism. The question is, how and why such images come in our mind? The fact is, generally we know very little about other cultures, countries, nations and religions. We see the world through the eyes of media and media project through its own ideology in that case we follow the media ideology. In simple words media constructs all of these images in our mind.

Nathan Roger argues in his book Image Warfare in War on Terror that mass media system has been shifted to rhizomatic (grows horizontally under the ground) media system. That system relates to deterritorialized (take the control of) circulations and weaponization of images and this has resulted the paradigm shift from techno-war to image war. Image warfare is on the peak in every field. Organizations, political parties, nations all are fighting – and struggling – to construct a better image of themselves and also to demonize the enemy. In all this practice media play a vital role. Construction of image by the media has very extreme effects; the good or bad image of a country or any organization directly relates to its economy and without strong economy no one can sustain, Soviet Union is a big example for us.

Noam Chomsky says that media work on ‘doctrinal system’ where the message of the elite is put out. He pointed out that the global elite – like the Pentagon- controls what type of message is to be broadcasted in print and in electronic media. Such kind of doctrine system we have also seen in Iraq war, when US media were running a war

campaign against Iraq on false facts. In this doctrine news media is not only component but entertainment media is also a major factor of this game.

The idea presented by Noam Chomsky and Nathan Rogan is generally same and its application could be seen in image construction of Mexico, Cuba, Pakistan, Arabs, Muslims and many counties of developing world in the US media. It is interested to know that there are only six media conglomerates, which hold almost 90% of US media and they are the main players of image construction. These media conglomerates working and following only the interests of elite or international players like US government. They construct or destruct the image of a nation or country in the interests of their government. It has been proved in many scholar studies that US media always follow its government foreign policy.

Mexico is a beautiful country with growing economy but why the perception of drug industry comes from it? Answer is, Hollywood best movies on drug-cartels are mostly on Mexico like Sin Nombre, Miss Bala, El Narco, Hell and Private Perez. Documentaries like La Santa Muerte, Cartel Land, Narco Culture and famous US TV series Breaking Bad, all of these fiction and non-fiction movies portrayed Mexico a drug producer country and such image prevailed across the world. Same practice is being practiced by the US news media, framing drugs with Mexico.

Arabs and Muslims are also the biggest victims of image warfare by the Western media. In April 19, 1995, in bombing at Oklahoma City 169 people were killed. After few hours of this brutal incident of terrorism, journalists, law enforcement and government officials, reported that “Arabic-looking men in jogging suits [were] running from the scene.” Without credible witnesses and proof, journalists accepted and reported that terrorist must be from Arab and even some reporters began questioning the loyalty and integrity of America’s Arabs and Muslims. British newspaper Today published on its main page a scary picture of a fireman carrying the burnt remains of a dead child under the headline ‘In the name of Islam’. As a result Muslims throughout the United States were targeted for physical abuse, rough treatment and social ostracism. Later it was proved that bomber was American soldier, a decorated Gulf War (1991) veteran. The religion of this terrorist was not Islam but Christianity. But no one in either American or British media labelled him a

‘Christian terrorist’ and it must be not. And even media didn’t apologise from Arabs and Muslims community for its labelling barbaric image to them.

In most of Hollywood movies on Arabs and Muslims like, True lies, Rules of engagement, Navy SEALs and Patriot games presented them evils. According to Dr Jack Shaheen over three hundred movies were made till 2006 in Hollywood against Arabs and Muslim. Dr Driss Ridouani argues in his research that the Muslims and Arabs are conceptualized in the Western media together with the drastic effect, which scars the Western people. He pointes out that in several prominent cartoons of US networks like Ali Baba, the made dog of deserts and Aladdin, the evils were shown Arabs and Muslims, and same thing is in practice in video games. This practice of labeling by US media put drastic effect on the image of Arabs and Muslims in the Western world.

The image construction by the media is very much related to the interests of international players and it changes time to time. Pakistan is a great example in this sense. In the early years of war on terror, the Western media eulogized Pakistan for becoming ally of the US and its war partner. But when the war prolonged from expected time and the losses in men and material of the US and Allies increased, the international news media started to construct Pakistan as playing a double act; supporting the US strategy and at the same time providing covert support to the Taliban resistance. Many documentaries and news reports like The war in Pakistan, Taliban’s children, Pakistan double face, Pakistan secret war and in many Hollywood movies like London has fallen, Zero dark thirty, and famous US TV series Homeland season 4, constructed the image of Pakistan- a dangerous country. In the other side of the picture, Pakistan has suffered huge lose in the so-called war on terror, both in men and material which was ignored or never put up in the mainstream. This country has suffered a loss of almost US $ 100 billion including loss of over 50,000 precious lives of civilians and law enforcement agencies during the war on terror.

Image construction and news framing events by the media are now common features and very important tool in the modern warfare. In this new world of information, generally a common man thinks he has extensive source of information, but in reality

he has it? It needs to rethink by every person what we are getting images of the other parts of the world through media, its factual or manipulated?

(Majid Khan is a Journalist, Lecturer and PhD scholar of media in Australia)

Disclaimer : views expressed are not of The London Post

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