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Recently the mainstream media (MSM) gave saturation coverage to a picture of a little boy pulled from the rubble of Aleppo after his home and family were crushed in what was dubiously reported as a Russian airstrike. Promptly dubbed "Aleppo Boy," his dusty image immediately went viral in every prestige outlet. The underlying message: we -- the "international community," "the Free World," the United States, you and I -- must "do something" to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his main backer and fellow Hitler clone Vladimir Putin.
Not long before, another little boy , also in the area of Aleppo, was beheaded on video by the "moderate" U.S.-supported jihad terror group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. His grisly demise received far less media attention than official Aleppo Boy. This other kid received no catchy moniker. No one demanded we "do something." In fact, western support for the al-Zenki jihadists -- which the Obama administration refused to disavow even after the beheading and allegations of chlorine gas use -- can itself be seen as part of "doing something" about the evil Assad.
Another small detail readily available in "alternative media" but almost invisible in the MSM: Mahmoud Raslan, the photographer who took the picture of Aleppo Boy and disseminated it to world acclaim, also took a smiling selfie with the beaming al-Zenki beheaders. But, hey, says Raslan, I barely know those guys . Now let's move on . . .
For those who have been paying attention, Aleppo Boy is a familiar example of what is known as "atrocity porn ," titillating the audience through horror and incitement to hatred of the presumed perpetrators. Atrocity porn has been essential for selling military action in "wars of choice " unconnected to the actual defense of the U.S.: incubator babies (Kuwait/Iraq); the Racak massacre (Kosovo); the Markale marketplace bombings, Omarska "living skeletons," and the Srebrenica massacre (Bosnia); rape as calculated instrument of war (Bosnia, Libya); and poison gas in Ghouta (Syria). Never mind that the facts, to the extent they eventually become known, may later turn out to be very different from the categorical black-and-white accusations on the lips of western officials and given banner exposure within hours if not minutes of the event in question.
As I have detailed in a recently posted study, How American Media Serves as a Transmission Belt for Wars of Choice , atrocity porn is part of a well-established pattern. Whenever a U.S. president, whether Democrat or Republican, plots a military intervention in another country, MSM dutifully parrot government-provided content, taking advantage of the fact that few information consumers have the critical context to know when they are being misled.
The media's acting as a transmission belt for war is best understood by seeing the MSM as themselves an integral part of a multifaceted, hybrid public-private entity encompassing an astonishing range and depth. Centered in Washington with secondary concentrations in New York and Silicon Valley, it is variously known as the Establishment, the Oligarchy (as called by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions), or the Deep State (as analyzed in depth by my longtime Congressional colleague Mike Lofgren). This entity includes elements within all three branches of the U.S. government (especially in the military, intelligence, and financial sectors), private business (the financial industry, government contractors, information technology), think tanks, NGOs, the "Demintern," both political parties and campaign operatives, and an army of lobbyists and PR flacks. Students of history will note a startling resemblance to the old Soviet nomenklatura. The Deep State is not just Dwight Eisenhower's "Military-Industrial Complex." Compared to these guys, Curtis LeMay was a peacenik.
There is hope, though. Under assault from this year's anti-Establishment challenges from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the failure of Barack Obama's policies in Syria and Ukraine, and boiling anger from a shrinking American Middle Class, both the Oligarchy and its media component show signs of losing their grip. Of particular note is growing public skepticism of the MSM in favor of digital "alternative media" across the political spectrum: OpEdNews ,Antiwar.com , RonPaulInstitute.org , zerohedge.com , LewRockwell.com , Counterpunch.com , Unz , Takimag, Consortiumnews , and others. Other publications open to alternative views serve as conduits to more mainstream opinion, such as Chronicles magazine on the (genuine, not Neocon) Right, The Nation on the Left, the libertarian Reason , and the foreign policy realist publication The National Interest . A growing segment of the American public is discovering a skill once well-honed by the citizens of the former communist countries: reading between the lines of the official media (which is assumed to be full of lies) and making informed comparisons to samizdat alternative media, foreign sources, and the rumor-mill to guess what the truth might be.
There is also danger. The Deep State could risk a major war in a bid to save its wealth, power, and privileges. The idea of "kickstarting World War III" may seem to be alarmism, if not conspiracy-mongering. But such speculation isn't entirely baseless in light of the willingness of some American politicians, including some who aspire to the Oval Office (and one who might actually get there) to impose a no-fly zone or "safe area" in Syria, and threaten to shoot down Russian aircraft to do it; give lethal aid to Ukrainian forces, along with putting American and other NATO advisers' and trainers' "boots on the ground"; or directly challenge Beijing's claim of sovereignty over rocks in the South China Sea through U.S. and allied air and naval transit despite Chinese warnings of a military response. If such a confrontation were to get out of control, either by design or accident, the resulting conflict could assume unexpectedly catastrophic proportions. Instead of saving the Deep State, a world war (one that is presumed to go nuclear) could hasten its extinction, along with that of much else besides.