Books/Alvena Bieri

True Lies


Several journalists in the new Guerrilla News Network (GNN) have published their analyses of timid, cowardly journalism in the United States today. Anthony Lappé and Stephen Marshall in True Lies [Penguin Books, 2004] combine their criticism of the dominant news media with a description of what they say is the main thing being covered up, reporting on American ambition to rule the world. They say this is not just another book about the faults of the media. It is about "empire and the culture of deception that has allowed us to enter a new age of conquest without ever seeing it coming."

As we can tell from the title, their criticism is that George Orwell's oxymorons are all too prevalent in government now. A good example comes out of Abu Hishma, Iraq, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. The American commanding officer there told the New York Times, "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them."

The problem, though, is more than twisted, dishonest language. It is also ignoring issues, downplaying them and letting them get lost in the maze of words on TV and radio and in newsprint with which we are bombarded day and night. The media have taken on the same sort of habit of obscuring the truth as our government is prone to.

The authors say that no matter which political party is in control, members of the media tend to support the leaders because the journalists don't want to alienate the administration and lose their access to it. Not that access itself would result in clear and incisive reporting. It's always much easier to write about the troubles of Michael Jackson than to dissect and then report on suspicious evidence that officials high in the government knew about the World Trade Center attacks and the crash of Flight 93 at Shanksville, Pa., before they happened. The whole truth about these incidents may never be known. But the question is, would that truth be well-reported if it were?

A little simpler to grasp is the authors' description of the political fate of former Georgia representative Cynthia McKinney, elected in 1992, the first African-American woman ever to serve in Congress. Her experience is a perfect example of the danger of being too honest. They say that when an outspoken person like McKinney asks questions that the press should be asking, members of the press resent it. Among these queries of hers were the role of ChoicePoint in Florida in the 2000 election; Greg Palast says it had removed thousands of names from the voting rolls there. She also didn't rally behind the president in his invasion of Iraq, which probably cost her the Congressional seat; she even became known as a "terrorist lover." The Atlanta Constitution supported her opponent in 2002, and she lost.

A much neglected issue the authors take up is DU, or depleted uranium, which is radioactive. It is not depleted at all -- another Orwellian contradiction. It is still dangerous in the many used bullets lying around. GNN, along with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Christian Science Monitor, investigated DU in Iraq and concluded that the worst was indeed true, that the Gulf War Syndrome is due to uranium contamination. So in the future there will be many more innocent victims suffering from radiation poisoning, both soldiers and civilians, and we will hear next to nothing about it.

Finally, these writers have given me the courage to speak out on a couple of little criticisms of their book. The first is that they do not mention the work of writers like Michael Moore, Jim Hightower and Molly Ivins, not to mention all the other writers at The Progressive Populist! The second is that the book has no index. Anyway, give yourself time to study and ponder carefully what they have to say.

Contact Alvena Bieri, 2023 W. 11th Ave, Stillwater, OK 74074; or email

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