Monday, 7 November 2011

Should "Radio stations should stop the music at 11am on Remembrance Day..."

War Monument in Niagara Falls, Canada.
In response to “Radio stations should stop the music at 11am on Remembrance Day out of respect for the vets

Steve Kowch, Canada's Online radio mentor to talk show hosts, anchors, reporters and tutor to radio and J-students at, recently proposed, “Radio stations should stop the music at 11am on Remembrance Day to honour our veterans.” It is difficult not to agree with what he says. All nations and societies should honour their men in uniforms, leaders, and the war dead. I am personally aware of organizations and institutions that solemnly observe a moment of silence, honouring the brave. Nevertheless, it is a little difficult to envisage a scenario where the entire ‘Commonwealth’ falls silent to honour the dead. We cannot enforce, forcibly, people to abide by such norms.

Therefore, it is a little difficult to agree with the proposal though I appreciate the sentiment! I am afraid that it may transform into a hollow ritualistic gesture meaning nothing. Remembrance Day, minus the radio issue, will always leave our eyes moist and throats lumpy. Nevertheless, should we not be doing something more concrete for the members of our armed forces and their families?

Moving on, do remember, many a time a simple, noble and well intentioned gesture may morph into a signifier of a dangerous and chauvinistic mind-set. Today we stop music on radio stations to honour the war dead; tomorrow we force clubs and bars to shut down, and the day after…only God knows!

Steve Kwoch, like any patriot with a reasonable dose of emotion, goes on to say that “it's hard to believe that an industry like the radio benefiting from a freedom of expression our veterans died to preserve can be so ungrateful on the one day of the year everyone else - including listeners - pause to remember.” Despite his well-intentioned exclamation, there lurks the danger of voicing what many media professionals do, “merely reflect the world as powerful groups wish it to be perceived.” I see an inadvertent hint of bias mobilisation and internalised preconception.

The whole idea, by implication, of the Allied forces representing the forces of everything good and noble and the Axis powers as regimes of evil, is a little difficult to digest. What does “freedom of expression” have to do with the World Wars, the Korean War, the Cambodian War, the Vietnam War, and Intervention in Nicaragua, Brazil, Chile & the Philippines. Or, what does “democracy” have to do with the support for regimes in Guatemala, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain & Israel. It is a simple case of "greed & self before the humanity" factor.

The so called ‘Great Wars’ were fought over a sharing of the pie – the colonial hegemony and accruing profits for industrial (western) societies through an overt and systematic exploitation of resources in Africa & Asia. Irrespective of the outcome of the Great Wars, the winning side would have carved a similar role for themselves, as have the present world powers. The Third World and the developing World would have continued to pay the same price, the dictatorial regimes would have plagued the poor and the oppressed aided and abetted by the winners of the Great Wars; and thirst for “the black gold” and other resources would have yielded similar results. It is time we learnt to read history without the baggage and the biases of the victor.

On a different note but on the same subject, the establishment, with the manufacturing consent of its established industrial order, uses events like Remembrance Day for a subtle drumming up of war-jingoism or whipping up of a threat perception of a hidden enemy or ‘war against terror’ or ‘the clash of civilisations’ white wash for mass consumption. A serving of a stiff swig of sentimentality through stylized night vigils carried out across the Commonwealth marks the ‘event’.

Or, is it that the Flanders poppy we wear, perhaps, is a symbol of our collective guilt for failing to do enough for ‘the brave but unsuspecting cannon fodder,’ and our failure to hold the ruling elite responsible for their greed, selfish pursuits and internecine policies that perpetuate & precipitate all conflicts & wars like they did - the Great Wars.

Ironically, our well-intentioned gestures of “lest we forget” serve a clinical cathartic device employed by the ruling few. The dominant elite (government) through the Remembrance Day not only deploys a pressure-valve technique but uses it as a diversion tactic, lest we discover that, we, the commoners, face the horrors of war and the miseries of failed free-market oriented capitalist policies because of the ruling elites’ refusal to change and mend their ways. That is why the ruling class fixes our premises of discourse and interpretation through the manipulation of the media. This process appears so natural and seamlessly smooth that most media professionals, like Steve Kwoch, despite all the integrity and good intentions find themselves convinced of the fact that it is they, who choose and interpret issues and news for the public. Further, it is used to enforce a state of collective amnesia, lest we remember that we possess the power, the power to change, and the power to undo the hegemonic exploitative structures & devices of the elites, the world over. We need no socialists or democrats to set our world in order – just common sense and insight!

The issue of ‘radio-silence,’ pun intended, is a complex multi-dimensional issue with far reaching consequences. On the surface, it is all about remembrance and honouring the war dead. On another level, it is about taking concrete steps to rehabilitate of our war veterans as socially healthy and productive members of civil society. On a different plane, it is about how governments carry out campaigns of dis-information to execute a self-serving agenda. It is about creation of myths and alternative truths to justify actions of the ruling elite. It is, also, a saga of silencing of the masses by manipulating information through media and established industrial order. It is like the Opium Wars where the governments actively encourage a state of lotus eating existence. This regulated diet, consumption of part-truth part-fabrication and often-fallacious information, is to prevent the public, the masses, from questioning the true intent or the agenda setting by the elites. The issue is about a “guided market system,” with normative guidance provided by the ruling class – i.e. the government, corporate community leaders, higher echelons of media industry, and few selected & screened individuals or/and pressure groups.

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