3 Easy Steps to Change the Media’s Views on War & Torture

These days I’m like Mr. Spock in the dark, parallel universe of Star Trek. I see our leadership going down the wrong path regarding the use of war and torture. It’s an illogical, fear-based path, and it’s presented as the only alternative.

Therefore I’ve come up with some fun, easy steps to change that.

In our country fear rules people and acquiring resources has trumped all ethical considerations.  The power structure and media viewpoint has rejected non-violent solutions as weak and ineffective. The discussion of other solutions are mocked,  marginalized and the proponents cast as naive or terrorists lovers.

In the Mirror Mirror universe Captain Kirk challenged the waste of lives, potential, resources and time of an Empire that ruled by fear and violence.

The goateed Mr. Spock could see the illogic of that Empire but says, “One man cannot summon the future.”  Kirk replies, “But one man can change the present.”

There are powerful groups and people who support war and torture. They are smart, organized, well-funded and know how to use strategic propaganda and specific appeals to ego, power and corporate monetary gain to get what they want.

How to you overcome these groups, people and their views?

In the episode Spock said, a man has to have power to change the present.  Kirk tells him of a button that makes opponents disappear. A button like that has been used on the voices and images of anti-war, anti-torture people in the media.

I could try to use that button on the opposition, but I’d prefer to push the button that can make us appear.

I’ve listed three methods today to help us appear and change attitudes toward torture and war. Most are focused on the “news” media but some on other media creators.

Now a fun part.  Listen to the Jimmy Dore Show. Jimmy and his writers, set up issues woth jokes like Stewart or Colbert.  This week was about the media’s selling the ISIS war with no push back and how Fox News has become ISIS’s PR agency. He describes Chris Matthews’ strange “moral” compass and his love for war.

Changing Minds on Torture 

Since going to the Symposium on Torture and Security at Boalt Hall at Berkeley, I’ve been thinking about ways people can change the present on this issue.

I’ve been talking to people in various communities because I was puzzled by torture’s support (68 percent!). My Vulcan logical brain agreed with Mark Danner. We have all the facts, why won’t minds change?  My human emotional brain knows how people make decisions based on emotions as well as data. Facts about torture and the war were suppressed. Evidence of success was falsified.

What to do?

1) Get experts refuting the lies in front of the media and the public. 

Experts  and “experts” are the lifeblood of today’s media. Deciding who comments on an issue is a powerful tool of the media. Big defense contractors and the CIA understand this. There is a reason General Dynamics and Raytheon hire retired generals and prep them for TV.

If you have no other source or way to get information without being subject to jail time, what do you do?  Find people who disagree with the information. Oops, those people are in jail and can’t talk to you.

Following the Senate torture report I contacted Dr. Gordon the author of Mainstreaming Torture and asked if she was getting a lot of calls to discuss it. She wasn’t. It didn’t surprise me. When you understand how the world of booking experts on TV and radio work, you learn why the same faces show up over and over.

On the press side there is more diversity of experts, but rarely is there a coordinated approach to prep and place powerful anti-war or anti-torture sources in front of the press prior to news events.

I tried to help by prepping her and making some calls to local media. Sadly we were beaten out of the KQED Forum on the topic out by the Heritage Foundation, who had on three guests.

If you know of experts who can provide the opposite of the pro-war pro-torture world view, start suggesting them, not only to the media you watch/read but to the media you think everyone else does. With Twitter, Facebook and email it has never been easier.

And if you can’t get the expert in front of the media, there are other voices that need to be heard.

2) Hear from innocent victims of torture, via the celebrity route

At the symposium someone said, “If only the American public could hear the voice of the innocent people we tortured.” Again, great idea, however I follow this issue, and even I don’t want to read Guantanamo Diaries.  Plus, the writer can’t do an interview, he is still in Gitmo. This is a problem.

It’s time to look at what pushes issues in the media today. The issues celebrities are discussing!  If I was that book publisher I would get George Clooney to do a dramatic reading of parts of the story. Amal Alamuddin, his human rights lawyer wife, could talk about the issues of torture around the world.

The media would fall all over themselves to cover it.  Unlike the serious news, there is always room for celebrity stories. Pitfalls? “Enough about torture, who are you wearing?”

Also, if you can’t prep the celebrity in advance, then be prepared to jump in and support the issue. That makes the media feel better about covering celebrities, ‘Clooney raised an important issue, Jamell Jeffer, the ACLU lawyer familiar with the Mohamedou Ould Slahi case Clooney mentioned told us…”

I don’t know any celebrities, but I do know they often have “people” who help them. Maybe you are one of those people, or know them. Reach out and help educate the celebrities on the issues so they don’t put their foot in their mouths. Get the focus back on the issue.

3) Promote alternatives in real life and fiction 

Dr. Gordon said that we get many of our ideas about torture from fiction. And in the scenarios fiction brings us, torture works. It is written to work. If it doesn’t work, that is written too. We see torture dilemmas in almost every cop show in America.  Often the hero is the torturer.

It’s lazily writing and it’s old, it’s time for fiction writers to up their game. One of the reasons I liked the show “Lie To Me” was it provided an alternative to getting information.

I have a friend who is writing a script for an action technology TV show. I’m suggesting to him not to fall into standard torture tropes.

Show the reality of torture. Show a hero’s refusal to partake in torture. Give him multiple reasons it’s the right thing to do and make them stick. Or show the alternative method where they “took the gloves off” and it still didn’t work.

If they want some reality as their source, they can use the real CIA files as evidence where torture doesn’t work and how making the choice to torture is bad for the hero in multiple ways.

If the people in the media see fiction that supports an idea, then are fed lies that supports that idea, they start thinking that their fiction is close to reality, when it is not.

It might seem strange to educate fiction writers as a way to influence the media, but since Chris Matthews seems to think First Blood was a documentary, it’s an important thing to do.

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