Is it time for Bush to press the panic button? by Michael Rivero â¢ Saturday May 01, 2004 at 09:20 PM "Gee, if this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier...just as long as I am the dictator." -- G W Bush I imagine that on Inauguration day, 2001, it must have looked easy. By March of 2001, when the US Government started quietly informing other governments that Afghanistan was to be invaded in October, it must have seemed as if the long-laid plans to conquer the Mideast's oil were moving along smoothly, unseen by an American public distracted by stories of Gary Condit and Chandra Levy. Cheney's Energy Task Force was pouring over maps of Iraq's oil fields, and the long-awaited pipeline into the Caspian Sea was ready to start construction as soon as there was a new government in soon-to-be-conquered Afghanistan. Then came 9-11, right on time to anger the American people into supporting a war against, well, nobody really knew, but danged there was sure a lot of evidence left around to find that pointed to Arabs as the culprits. Evidence that pointed in another direction was classified by the US Government and the war was on, spurred on by letters written to look like they came from semi-literate Arabs, but containing Anthrax from a US Government lab. But the first rumblings were already starting that the public was doubting the rationale for the war. The case was far from made that Afghanistan had anything to do with 9-11, especially since the named hijackers came from other countries. And right on cue, a video tape of Osama confessing showed up to put the doubts to rest. Except that the tape turned out to be a fraud, and mistranslated at that. At this point, the prudent man would have paid careful attention to the anti-war protests thronging the streets of the world, and reasoned that public support for the war was already dwindling, because faith in the official story was already dwindling. But Bush must have been getting some bad info. Bush himself has admitted that he does not read newspapers, relying totally on his advisors to tell him what is happening in the world. And those advisors, some of them veterans of the first Bush Presidency, probably were seeing the world as they wanted it to be, rather than as it really was. History will probably record that the greatest single error the Bush war machine made was to underestimate the impact of the internet. They didn't understand the internet, or the internet culture, its sociology, and most important, how access to the internet transformed Americans from mere accepters of broadcast information into active and critical participants in the information process. No doubt there was a tendency to dismiss internet news sources as just hobbies run by computer geeks for other computer geeks. Certainly nothing to worry about. Blogs were not mainstream media, according to the mainstream media. Bush and the NeoCons didn't really know what to do about the internet, so wishful thinking made it unimportant. That was their critical error, because while the polls kept showing more people were still getting their news from the TV set than from computers, the margin kept getting smaller. And, the polls didn't reflect the fact that people watching the TV sets were not as mentally involved with the information flow as internet users were. While fewer in numbers, people who were getting their news from the internet were more involved with that news... and they were talking to people they knew who did not have internet feeds. Thus it was that after the fall of Afghanistan, blogs carried the news that the new puppet-President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and the US special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, had both been part of the special oil company working group which had gone before Congress in 1998 recommending a change in the government of Afghanistan in order to facilitate the construction of a pipeline. The US mainstream media never made the connection. The blogs did, and word began to get out. And as Americans began to learn that there were things happening in the world that the TV set was not telling them, they started to ignore the TV set and pay more attention to the internet news sources. The government and mainstream media struck back against the blogs in predictable fashion, warning parents that the internet was a haven for child molesters and suggesting that only unfit parents would ever consider the internet a trustworthy news source. Paid public relations operatives were hired to dump obvious disinformation onto the net with which to tar it, but a strange thing happened. Unlike TV, where those who have contradictory facts are successfully isolated from all the other viewers, the internet allowed readers who recognized the false information for what it was to immediately present the facts to the entire world. Unlike the tame and manicured lawn of TV, the internet became a jungle where only facts survived for very long. The government had no more luck controlling the internet than the old USSR had controlling the Samizdat; the network of FAX machines that allowed Soviet Citizens to learn the truth of what their government was doing. All of a sudden, the ages-old mechanism of "what government says, the people think" was broken. The mainstream TV networks had lost their monopoly on the flow of information. The public was able to decide for itself what was newsworthy. The high ground in the war for the minds of America had shifted to the internet, and the US Government was losing that war. The internet gave the country a collective memory outside government control. When Fox News ran a story blowing the lid off the largest spy ring ever found in the US, run by Israel, pressure from Israeli supporters forced Fox News to remove the story from their own web site. This did not have the desired effect of erasing the story, because the story was already on dozens of blogs on the net. Worse, the Fox News removal underscored the dangerous degree to which Israel was influencing the US mainstream media, forcing into the public awareness what had previously been hidden. Other stories, downplayed by the mainstream media, or in many cases outright ignored, came to world attention on the internet. Typical was the news that the very first people arrested on 9-11 were not Arab terrorists, but 5 Israelis, later revealed to be Mossad agents, covered as employees of a moving company whose owner abandoned his business and fled to Israel. Americans began to realize that Israel still had a massive spy ring across America, and more alarmingly, the US Government was unable to do anything about it. As was admitted in the Fox News story, evidence that linked the arrested Mossad agents to 9-11 was being classified by the United States Government. Banished from the mainstream media, this information lives on by way of the internet. In the last several weeks, a strange phenomenon has started to happen. Mainstream news sources have become aware that they can no longer avoid reporting the unpleasant news stories, without their avoidance itself becoming news on the blogs. As a result, blogs now drive the mainstream news. The mainstream media have been maneuvered into having to make a choice between continuing to support the agenda of their owners/handlers, or saving what is left of their credibility by running the stories that the public will be aware of anyway through the internet. While some media companies are still toeing the line, such as the Sinclair Group that ordered its ABC Affiliates not to run the Nightline Program listing the war dead, other mainstream media outlets, including Nightline and "60 minutes II" are running stories, such as the abuse of Iraqi POWs, which are clearly damaging to the administration's war efforts. Bush and the NeoCons are in a corner. The time when they can count on the media to promote their particular point of view is fast running out. The time when the media could successfully sell a particular point of view is fast running out.