Wars pose modern democracies no small number of significant problems. It certainly is not the case that democracies do not like going to war. If modern history is anything to go by then one must conclude that democracies rather enjoy the thicker end of the diplomatic wedge. As foreign policy within a democracy is ultimately the will of the people, war tends to be waged with determination and aggression because it is driven by the fallacy that so many people can’t be wrong. This particular blessing of the assent of the people also has its flip side – most of the people must agree with the hawks.
As everyone is entitled to their own opinions and come to their own conclusions within a free society, it follows that the best argument (for or against going to war) with the most convincing evidence will convince the greater part of an intelligent and informed population. Yet when the mass media filters, which hold a monopoly on the transmission of this information, are acting with and for the multi-billionaire hawks within government and the upper echelons of society then the dice of gaining democratic consent are weighted. The proliferation of the internet and social media has made it increasingly more difficult for state and state-friendly broadcasters to manufacture that consent, and so the rules of the game have mutated accordingly.
Government agencies within apparently free and democratic societies – like the United States and Britain – have turned towards internet surveillance as part of the construction of security states, where the logic of counter-terrorism has been that of preserving freedom by the limitation of the same. Awareness of the subversive power of alternative forms of media the mainstream has developed new strategies and clever codifications of language to undermine the veracity of unfiltered information and opinion. “I read it on the internet” has become a by-word for the opinions and paranoia of tin-foil hat wearing bloggers in campervans with Wi-Fi connections, without any real critical analysis of the more dangerous agendas behind trustworthy news.
We live in the greatest democracies in the world and our answer to everything is bombs and war. A sad reality. #DontBombSyria—
Muhbeen Hussain (@MuhbeenH) December 02, 2015
In the days before and after the Westminster vote on airstrikes in Syria a review of the right-wing English media was informative with regard to the above. David Cameron, in an attempt to shame Jeremy Corbyn for his opposition to the war, referred to him as a “terrorist sympathiser,” and immediately this insinuation of treason was the catchword of the BBC, the rightist press, and the neo-liberal journals. It was clear they were acting, as if on cue, in tandem with one another to present anti-war sentiment as “anti-West (The Economist, 5 December).” The Telegraph went so far as to blame Corbyn for not saving Britain by doing more to stop the British government from arming ISIS through its Saudi allies:
Mr Corbyn could have done more to press the government to help cut off weapons and funding bestowed on ISIL by rich individuals in states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, had his wider case not been occluded by Labour turmoil.
The Telegraph, “Jeremy Corbyn could have stopped the war. Now it will be his epitaph.” 1 December 2015
Goebbels, the Third Reich’s propaganda chief, said something about telling big lies and telling them often – eventually they will become the truth. The reason why democracies go to war, so aggressively and so often, is because the social inequality gap creates the conditions in which some have all the power to tell their truth, and the rest have none. This war in Syria, like all other wars, again proves the adage that the Truth is the first casualty.