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Aims of the Tribunal agreed at the Constituting Session, London, 15 November 1966

We constitute ourselves a Tribunal which, even if it has not the power to impose sanctions, will have to answer, amongst others, the following questions:

  1. Has the United States Government (and the Governments of Australia, New Zealand and South Korea) committed acts of aggression according to international law? {59}
  2. Has the American army made use of or experimented with new weapons or weapons forbidden by the laws of war?
  3. Has there been bombardment of targets of a purely civilian character, for example hospitals, schools, sanatoria, dams, etc., and on what scale has this occurred?
  4. Have Vietnamese prisoners been subjected to inhuman treatment forbidden by the laws of war and, in particular, to torture or mutilation? Have there been unjustified reprisals against the civilian population, in particular, execution of hostages?
  5. Have forced labour camps been created, has there been deportation of the population or other acts tending to the extermination of the population and which can be characterized juridically as acts of genocide?

This Tribunal will examine all the evidence that may be placed before it by any source or party. The evidence may be oral, or in the form of documents. No evidence relevant to our purposes will be refused attention. No witness competent to testify about the events with which our inquiry is concerned will be denied a hearing. The National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam have assured us of their willingness to cooperate, to provide the necessary information, and to help us in checking the accuracy and reliability of the information. The Cambodian Head of State, Prince Sihanouk, has similarly offered to help by the production of evidence. We trust that they will honour this pledge and we shall gratefully accept their help, without prejudice to our own views or attitudes. We renew, as a Tribunal, the appeal which Bertrand Russell has addressed in his name to the Government of the United States. We invite the Government of the United States to present evidence or cause it to be presented, and to instruct its officials or representatives to appear and state their case. Our purpose is to establish, without fear or favour, the full truth about this war. We sincerely hope that our efforts will contribute to the world's justice, to the re-establishment of peace and the liberation of oppressed peoples.

International War Crimes Tribunal1

NOTE

  1. A list of the members of the Tribunal can be found on p. 369. {60}{61}{62}


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Foreword to the 1967 International War Crimes Tribunal

"We are not judges. We are witnesses. Our task is to make mankind bear witness to these terrible crimes and to unite humanity on the side of justice in Vietnam."

With these words, Bertrand Russell opened the second session of the International War Crimes Tribunal, in November 1967. The American people were given no opportunity, at that time, to bear witness to the terrible crimes recorded in the proceedings of the Tribunal. As Russell writes in the introduction to the first edition, '... it is in the nature of imperialism that citizens of the imperial power are always among the last to know - or care - about circumstances in the colonies'. The evidence brought before the Tribunal was suppressed by the self-censorship of the mass media, and its proceedings, when they appeared in print, were barely reviewed.

Russell wrote that 'it is in the United States that this book can have its most profound effect'. He expressed his faith in the essential decency of the American people, his faith that the ordinary man is not a gangster by nature, and will react in a civilized way when he is given the facts. We have yet to show that this faith is justified. Russell hoped to 'arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance ... in the smug streets of Europe and the complacent cities of North America'. By now, there are few who can honestly claim to be unaware of the character of the American war in Vietnam. There are few, for example, who can now claim ignorance of the 'new Oradours and Lidices' described, in testimony to the Tribunal, by a West German physician who spent six years in Vietnam (see p.306). But consciousness has yet to create mass resistance. The streets of Europe and the cities of North America remain smug and complacent - with the {9} significant and honourable exception of the student youth. The record of the Tribunal stands as an eloquent and dramatic appeal to renounce the crime of silence. The crime was compounded by the silence that greeted its detailed documentation and careful studies. However, although no honest effort was made to deal with the factual record made public in the proceedings of the Tribunal, its work did receive some oblique response. The Pentagon was forced to admit that it was, indeed, using anti-personnel weapons in its attack against North Vietnam (though it could not resist the final lie that the targets were radar stations and anti-aircraft batteries). The hypocritical claim that the American bombing policy was one of magnificent restraint, that its targets were 'steel and concrete', was finally exploded beyond repair. A State Department functionary who had become an object of general contempt for his unending deceit regarding Vietnam demeaned himself still further by informing journalists that he had no intention of 'playing games with a 94-year-old Briton', referring tto one of the truly great men of the twentieth century. Those who were prepared to go beyond the mass media for information could learn something about the work of the Tribunal from such journals as Liberation, as could readers of the foreign press, in particular, Le Monde. The Tribunal Proceedings, along with the documentary study, In the Name of America, which appeared in the same year, and the honest and courageous work of many fine war correspondents, helped to crumble the defences erected by the government, with the partial collusion of the media, to keep the reality of the war from popular consciousness.

Though not reported honestly, the Tribunal was sharply criticized. Many of the criticisms are answered, effectively I believe, in Part 1 of this book. There are two criticisms that retain a certain validity, however. The participants, the 'jurors' and the witnesses, were undoubtedly biased. They made no attempt, in fact, to conceal this bias, this profound hatred of murder and wanton destruction carried out by a brutal foreign invader with unmatched technological resources.

A second and less frivolous criticism that might be raised is that the indictment is, in a sense, superfluous and redundant. This is a matter that deserves more serious attention.

The Pentagon will gladly supply, on request, such information {10} as the quantity of ordnance expended in Indochina. From 1965 through 1969 this amounts to about four and a half million tons by aerial bombardment. This is nine times the tonnage of bombing in the entire Pacific theatre in the Second World War, including Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 'over 70 tons of bombs for every square mile of Vietnam, North and South ... about 500 pounds of bombs for every man, woman and child in Vietnam'.1 The total of 'ordnance expended' is more than doubled when ground and naval attack are taken into account. With no further information than this, a person who has not lost his senses must realize that the war is an overwhelming atrocity.

A few weeks before the Tribunal began its second session, forty-nine volunteers of International Voluntary Services wrote a letter to President Johnson describing the war as 'an overwhelming atrocity'. Four of the staff leaders resigned. These volunteers had worked for many years in Vietnam. They were among the few Americans who had some human contact with the people of Vietnam. Their activities, and even the letter of protest, indicate their belief - surprisingly uncritical - in the legitimacy of the American effort in Vietnam.2 In this letter they refer to 'the free strike zones, the refugees, the spraying of herbicide on crops, the napalm . .. the deserted villages, the sterile valleys, the forests with the huge swaths cut out, and the long-abandoned rice checks'. They speak of the refugees 'forcibly resettled, landless, in isolated desolate places which are turned into colonies of mendicants'; of 'the Saigon slums, secure but ridden with disease and the compulsion towards crime'; of 'refugees generated not by Viet Cong terrorism, but by a policy, an American policy' - a process described by cynical American scholars as 'urbanization' or 'modernization'.

So effective is urbanization in Vietnam that Saigon is now estimated to have a population density more than twice that of {11} Tokyo. Experts in pacification ('peace researchers', to use the preferred term) assure us that 'the only sense in which [we have demolished the society of Vietnam] is the sense in which every modernizing country abandons reactionary traditionalism'.3 The methods of 'urbanization' are described, for example, by Orville and Jonathan Schell:

We both spent several weeks in Quang Ngai some six months before the [Song My] incident. We flew daily with the FACS (Forward Air Control). What we saw was a province utterly destroyed. In August 1967, during Operation Benton, the 'pacification' camps became so full that Army units were ordered not to 'generate' any more refugees. The Army complied. But search-and-destroy operations continued.

Only now peasants were not warned before an airstrike was called in on their villages because there was no room for them in the swamped pacification camps. The usual warning by helicopter loudspeaker or air-dropped leaflets were stopped. Every civilian on the ground was assumed to be enemy by the pilots by nature of living in Quang Ngai, which was largely a free-fire zone.

Pilots, servicemen not unlike Calley and Mitchell, continued to carry out their orders. Village after village was destroyed from the air as a matter of de facto policy. Airstrikes on civilians became a matter of routine. It was under these circumstances of official acquiescence to the destruction of the countryside and its people that the massacre of Song My occurred.

Such atrocities were and are the logical consequences of a war directed against an enemy indistinguishable from the people.4

Elsewhere, Orville Schell quotes a Newsweek correspondent returning from Quang Ngai: 'Having had experience in Europe during World War II, he said what he had seen was 'much worse than what the Nazis had done to Europe'.' Schell adds: 'Had he written about it in these terms? No.'5 Vietnamese-speaking field workers of the American Friends Service Committee describe more recent stages of modernization, as seen from the ground: {12}

In one such removal, during Operation Bold Mariner in January 1969, 12,000 peasants from the Batangan Peninsula were taken to a waterless camp near Quang Ngai over whose guarded gate floated a banner saying, 'We thank you for liberating us from communist terror.' These people had been given an hour to get out before the USS New Jersey began to shell their homes. After eight weeks of imprisonment they were ferried back to what was left of their villages, given a few sheets of corrugated metal and told to fend for themselves. When asked what they would live on until new crops could be raised, the Vietnamese camp commander said, 'Maybe they can fish.'6

Reports by Western observers are limited to areas more or less under American control. The most intensive attacks are therefore unreported in the West. We do, however, have Vietnamese reports, which will, perhaps, be given somewhat greater credence than heretofore now that the incident at Song My, which they described with accuracy at the time, has finally been made public. To select one such report virtually at random:

In Trang Bang on the evening of October 24 [1969], three flights of B52s made three sorties, killing 47 people, wounding many others (mostly children, and old folks), completely levelling 450 houses and devastating 650 hectares of fields. On the night of October 25, B52s flew nine attacks in Quang Tri and Quang Nam provinces, dumping more than 1,000 tons of bombs, killing 300 people, wounding 236 others, setting afire 564 houses and damaging hundreds of hectares of fields and orchards. In Pleiku, a fertile region, many flights of B52s came in on the morning of October 17 and released 700 tons of bombs which wrought havoc in hundreds of hectares of fields and orchards ...

In the area of Nui Ba and the villages of Ninh Thanh, Hiep Ninh Thanh, Hiep Ninh of the Tay Ninh Cao Dai persuasion, the US puppets resorted to toxic chemicals to destroy the crops and kill civilians. American hovercraft dumped tens of thousands of CS cans while helicopters dropped hundreds of thousands of toxic bombs on the villages. Moreover, enemy guns and mortars fired more than 5,000 gas shells affecting over 1,000 people, with 13 children under 13 killed (Ninh Thanh and Hiep Ninh villages) and more than 100 hectares of crops completely destroyed.7

{13} And on and on, without end.

The facts are, of course, familiar in a general way to the highest authorities in the United States. The Under Secretary of the Air Force, Townsend Hoopes, wrote a memorandum in March 1968 in which he pointed out that:

...ARVN and US forces in the towns and cities are now responding to mortar fire from nearby villages by the liberal use of artillery and air strikes. This response is causing widespread destruction and heavy civilian casualties - among people who were considered only a few weeks ago to be secure elements of the GVN constituency. ... The present mode and tempo of operations in SVN is already destroying cities, villages and crops, and is creating civilian casualties at an increasing rate.8

He describes the savage American reaction to the conquest of many cities by the NLF in the Tet offensive in January 1968 - for example, in Saigon, where in an effort to dislodge the 1,000 soldiers who had taken the city, 'artillery and air strikes were repeatedly used against densely populated areas of the city, causing heavy civilian casualties'; or in Hue, where the American reoccupation left 'a devastated and prostrate city'. 'Eighty per cent of the buildings had been reduced to rubble, and in the smashed ruins lay 2,000 dead civilians.9 ... Three quarters of the city's {14} people were rendered homeless and looting was widespread, members of the ARVN being the worst offenders'. Elsewhere, the story was much the same:

Everywhere, the US-ARVN forces mounted counterattacks of great severity. In the delta region below Saigon, half of the city of Mytho, with a population of 70,000, was destroyed by artillery and air strikes in an effort to eject a strong VC force. In Ben Tre on 7 February, at least 1,000 civilians were killed and 1,500 wounded in an effort to dislodge 2,500 VC.

According to Hoopes, the combat photographer David Douglas Duncan, whose war experience covers the Second World War, Korea, Algeria and the French war in Vietnam, 'was appalled by the US-ARVN method of freeing Hue'. He quotes him as saying:

The Americans pounded the Citadel and surrounding city almost to dust with air strikes, napalm runs, artillery and naval gunfire, and the direct cannon fire from tanks and recoilless rifles a total effort to root out and kill every enemy soldier. The mind reels at the carnage, cost, and ruthlessness of it all.

Hoopes also reports that a 'sizable part' of the PAVN force of 1,000 escaped. Compare the figures on casualties, cited above.

These events occurred too late to be considered by the Tribunal. I need not elaborate on what has been revealed since. Some indications are given in my book, After Pinkville. For far more, see the book by Edward Herman, cited in footnote 1 on p. 11.

I have mentioned all of this in connexion with the question, raised earlier, as to whether it is necessary, today, to publicize the detailed reports of the Tribunal. Is it not true that by now the monstrous character of the war has penetrated the American consciousness so fully that further documentation is superfluous? Unfortunately, the answer must be negative. To see why, consider again the case of Townsend Hoopes, who is now a leading 'dove'. {15}

A reviewer of his book in the New York Times describes it as the most persuasive presentation of the case for American withdrawal from Vietnam. It is instructive to compare his position with that of the 'hawks' on the one hand, and that of the Tribunal, on the other. Such a comparison shows how narrow is the gap between the 'hawks' and the 'doves', and how far removed the dove-hawk position still remains from the consciousness that Russell hoped would be aroused by the factual record and historical and legal argument of the Tribunal. I want to stress that Hoopes's is one of the most humane and enlightened voices to be heard within the mainstream of American opinion today, surely among those who have had any significant role in the formation and implementation of policy. For this reason, his views are important and deserve careful consideration.

America's early strategy, as Hoopes describes it, was to kill as many VC as possible with artillery and air strikes:

As late as the fall of 1966... a certain aura of optimism surrounded this strategy. Some were ready to believe that, in its unprecedented mobility and massive firepower, American forces had discovered the military answer to endless Asian manpower and Oriental indifference to death. For a few weeks there hung in the expectant Washington air the exhilarating possibility that the most modern, mobile, professional American field force in the nation's history was going to lay to rest the time-honoured superstition, the gnawing unease of military planners, that a major land war against Asian hordes is by definition a disastrous plunge into quicksand for any Western army.

But this glorious hope was dashed. The endless manpower of Vietnam, the Asian hordes with their Oriental indifference to death, confounded our strategy. And our bombing of North Vietnam also availed us little, given the nature of the enemy. As Hoopes explains, quoting a senior US Army officer: 'Caucasians cannot really imagine what ant labour can do.' In short, our strategy was rational, but it presupposed civilized Western values:

We believe the enemy can be forced to be 'reasonable', i.e. to compromise or even capitulate, because we assume he wants to avoid pain, death, and material destruction. We assume that if these are inflicted on him with increasing severity, then at some point in the process he will want to stop the suffering. Ours is a plausible strategy - for those who are rich, who love life and fear pain. But happiness, wealth, and {16} power are expectations that constitute a dimension far beyond the experience, and probably beyond the emotional comprehension, of the Asian poor.

Hoopes does not tell us how he knows that the Asian poor do not love life or fear pain, or that happiness is probably beyond their emotional comprehension.10 But he does go on to explain how 'ideologues in Asia' make use of these characteristics of the Asian hordes. Their strategy is to convert 'Asia's capacity for endurance in suffering into an instrument for exploiting a basic vulnerability of the Christian West'. They do this by inviting the West 'to carry its strategic logic to the final conclusion, which is genocide'. The Asians thus 'defy us by a readiness to struggle, suffer, and die on a scale that seems to us beyond the bounds of humanity.... At that point we hesitate, for, remembering Hitler and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we realize anew that genocide is a terrible burden to bear.'

Thus by their willingness to die, the Asian hordes, who do not love life, who fear no pain and cannot conceive of happiness, exploit our basic weakness, our Christian values which make us reluctant to bear the burden of genocide, the final conclusion of our strategic logic. Is it really possible that one can read these passages without being stunned by the crudity and callousness?

Let us continue. Seeing that our strategy, though plausible, has failed, the Air Force Staff worked out several alternative strategies, which they presented to the new Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford, in March 1968. The Air Staff preferred the following:

an intensified bombing campaign in the North, including attacks on the dock area of Haiphong, on railroad equipment within the Chinese Buffer Zone, and on the dike system that controlled irrigation for NVN agriculture.

But Hoopes and Air Force Secretary Harold Brown demurred. Why? They felt 'there was little assurance such a campaign could either force NVN to the conference table, or even significantly reduce its war effort'; furthermore, 'it was a course embodying {17} excessive risks of confrontation with Russia'. If they had any other objections to intensified bombing of the dike system of NVN, Hoopes does not inform us of them.11 Hoopes himself preferred, rather, the following tactics:

a campaign designed to substitute tactical airpower for a large portion of the search-and-destroy operations currently conducted by ground forces, thus permitting the ground troops to concentrate on a perimeter defence of the heavily populated areas ... the analysis seemed to show that tactical air-power could provide a potent 'left jab' to keep the enemy in the South off balance while the US-ARVN ground forces adopted a modified enclaves strategy, featuring enough aggressive reconnaissance to identify and break up developing attacks, but designed primarily to protect the people of Vietnam and, by population control measures, to force exposure of the VC political cadres.12

In a letter of 12 February 1968 to Clark Clifford, Hoopes explains his preferences in similar terms. We should, he urges, stop the militarily insignificant bombing of North Vietnam and undertake a less ambitious ground strategy in the South, trying merely to control (the technical term is 'protect') the populated areas. This policy:

would give us a better chance to develop a definable geographical {18} area of South Vietnamese political and economic stability; and by reducing the intensity of the war tempo, it could materially improve the prospect of our staying the course for an added number of grinding years without rending our own society... .

Compare these recommendations with the tactics now being followed by the Nixon administration. Secretary of the Army Resor, testifying before the House Appropriations Committee,13 refused to predict how long the war would last, but he sees time as 'running on our side':

Therefore, if we can just buy some time in the US by these periodic progressive withdrawals and the American people can just shore up their patience and determination, I think we can bring this to a successful conclusion.

To this remark General Westmoreland added: 'I have never made the prediction that this would be other than a long war.'

Thus the present Secretary of the Army agrees with the Hoopes letter of February 1968, that we may be able to stay the course for 'an added number of grinding years' if the American people will consent, if this policy will not rend our own society. And with this judgement, finally, Mr Hoopes disagrees:

Vietnam is not of course the only source of division in America today, but it is the most pervasive issue of our discord, the catalytic agent that stimulates and magnifies all other divisive issues. In particular, there can be no real truce between the generations - no end to the bitterness and alienation of even the large majority of our youth that is neither revolutionary nor irresponsible - until Vietnam is terminated.

This is the primary reason why, he urges, we must withdraw from Vietnam.

So the hawks and the doves divide: can the American people stay the course until victory, or will the polarization and discord in American society make this effort inadvisable, not in our national interest?

I do not want to suggest that the spectrum from Hoopes to Resor exhausts the contemporary debate over Vietnam, but there is little doubt that it represents the range of views and {19} assumptions expressed within the mainstream of 'responsible' American opinion. With this observation, we can return to the Tribunal. Its assumptions, of course, fall entirely outside of this spectrum. It is unfortunate, but undeniable, that the central issue in the American debate over Vietnam, in respectable circles, has been the question: can we win at an acceptable cost? The doves and the hawks disagree. Hawks become doves as their assessment of the probabilities and costs shifts, and if the American conquest were to prove successful, they would, no doubt, resume their former militancy. The Tribunal is concerned with very different questions. It does not ask whether the US can win at an acceptable cost, but rather whether it should win, whether it should be involved at all in the internal affairs of the Vietnamese, whether it has any right to try to settle or even influence these internal matters by force. Until this becomes the unique and overriding issue, within the United States, the debate over Vietnam will not even have begun.

Inevitably, despite disclaimers, the Russell Tribunal will evoke memories of Nuremberg and Tokyo. With the revelation of the Song My atrocities, the issues raised in the War Crimes trials have become, at last, a matter of public concern. We can hardly suppress the memory of our initiative at Nuremberg and Tokyo, or the explicit insistence of the US prosecutor, Robert Jackson, that the principles of Nuremberg are to be regarded as universal in their applicability. After the trials, he wrote:

If certain acts and violations of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. We are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.14

It might be argued that the verdict of Nuremberg and Tokyo was merely the judgement of victors, who sought vengeance and retribution rather than justice. I think there is merit in this accusation, but - right or wrong - it does not affect the broader question of the legitimacy of the principles that were recognized in the Charter of the War Crimes Tribunals. Legal niceties aside, the citizen is justified in taking these principles as his guide. {20}

A classic liberal doctrine holds that: 'Generally speaking, it is the drawn sword of the nation which checks the physical power of its rulers.'15 It is the fundamental duty of the citizen to resist and to restrain the violence of the state. Those who choose to disregard this responsibility can justly be accused of complicity in war crimes, which is itself designated as 'a crime under international law' in the principles of the Charter of Nuremberg. This is, in essence, the challenge posed to us by the Russell Tribunal.

Richard A. Falk has written about this matter in an important recent article.16 He points out that 'Song My stands out as a landmark atrocity in the history of warfare, and its occurrence is a moral challenge to the entire American society'. Nevertheless, it would 'be misleading to isolate the awful happenings at Song My from the overall conduct of the war'. Among the war policies that might, he argues, be found illegal, are these: '(1) the Phoenix Programme; (2) aerial and naval bombardment of undefended villages; (3) destruction of crops and forests; (4) 'search-and-destroy' missions; (5) 'harassment and interdiction' fire; (6) forcible removal of civilian population; (7) reliance on a variety of weapons prohibited by treaty.' That these policies have been followed, on a massive scale, is not in question. Falk argues that: 'if found to be 'illegal', such policies should be discontinued forthwith and those responsible for the policy and its execution should be prosecuted as war criminals by appropriate tribunals'. He also notes how broad was the conception of criminal responsibility developed, under American initiative, in the War Crimes Trials. In Falk's paraphrase, the majority judgement of the Tokyo Tribunal held as follows:

A leader must take affirmative acts to prevent war crimes or dissociate himself from the government. If he fails to do one or the other, then by the very act of remaining in a government or a state guilty of war crimes, he becomes a war criminal.

And Falk emphasizes the obligation of resistance for the citizen, if {21} the evidence is strong that the state is engaged in criminal acts.

It is correct, but irrelevant, to stress the vast differences in the political processes of America and the fascist states. It is correct, but hardly relevant, to point out that the United States has stopped short of carrying 'its strategic logic to the final conclusion, which is genocide' (Hoopes). Thus one cannot compare American policy to that of Nazi Germany, as of 1942. It would be more difficult to argue that American policy is not comparable to that of fascist Japan, or of Germany prior to the 'final solution'. There may be those who are prepared to tolerate any policy less ghastly than crematoria and death camps and to reserve their horror for the particular forms of criminal insanity perfected by the Nazi technicians. Others will not lightly disregard comparisons which, though harsh, may well be accurate.

Nazi Germany was sui generis, of that there is no doubt. But we should have the courage and honesty to face the question whether the principles applied to Nazi Germany and fascist Japan do not, as well, apply to the American war in Vietnam. Recall the objectives of 'denazification', as formulated by those who were responsible for this policy. General Lucius D. Clay, in 1950, described the primary objective as follows: 'to safeguard the new German democracy from Nazi influence and to make it possible for anti-Nazi, non-Nazi and outspoken democratic individuals to enter public life and replace the Nazi elements which had dominated all life in Germany from 1933 to 1945'.17 He reports that:

This was, perhaps, the most extensive legal procedure the world had ever witnessed. In the US Zone alone more than 13 million persons had been involved, of whom over three and two-thirds million were found chargeable, and of these some 800,000 persons were made subject to penalty for their party affiliations or actions. All this was, of course, apart from the punishment of war criminals many of whom were high-ranking Nazis.

Field-Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery saw the objective of the allied forces in Germany as 'to change the heart, and the way of life, of the German people'. Denazification involved a cultural and ideological change, to proceed side-by-side with economic reconstruction.18 {22} We can certainly ask whether three and two-thirds million Germans in the US Zone were more guilty of complicity in war crimes than any Americans. And we can ask whether a cultural and ideological change in the United States, at the very least, is not imperative if many others, who fear neither pain nor death, are not to be spared the fate of Vietnam.

Some of these questions arise in a revealing exchange between Townsend Hoopes and two young journalists who published an interview with him in the Village Voice (see note 14 above). Hoopes insisted that:

War crimes tribunals would be the worst thing that could happen in this country. That would amount to McCarthyism. You're proposing a system of legal guilt for top elected officials. The traditional way to deal with these top officials is to throw the rascals out.

In an article in which he comments on 'the curious piece of reporting' of Coburn and Cowan, Hoopes explains further that 'a democratic and an entirely elective form of retribution' has already been visited upon Lyndon Johnson, and that his 'closest collaborators' may also be excluded from high office.19 Hoopes does not say whether this form of 'retribution' would also have been more appropriate in the case of the Japanese and German war criminals should the West, then, merely have guaranteed a democratic election in which they might have been deprived of office? He does, however, reject the suggestion that civilian officials be held accountable for such incidents as the Song My massacre, or for the bombing of North Vietnam, or for such policies as those enumerated by Falk, cited above. In fact, Coburn and Cowan report that 'in the friendliest possible terms, he accused our 'generation' of wanting to impose a totalitarian system of morality' which would lead to 'universal anarchy'. Coburn and Cowan, in turn, ask:

If Tojo can be sentenced to be executed by an American war crimes tribunal for leading Japan into a 'war of aggression', should the only punishment for an American President be that he is voted out of office while his Secretary of Defense serves a secure term as President of the World Bank?

This seems a not unreasonable question, certainly not unreasonable for those who take seriously the statement of Justice Jackson, quoted earlier. Nor do Coburn and Cowan appear unreasonable when they add that: 'The 'anarchists' who frighten us most are those who wield the big bombs, control the courts, and assume for themselves the power to declare all their enemies outlaws.'

Hoopes strongly disagrees. It is these strange conclusions that make the Coburn-Cowan article such 'a curious piece of reporting'. To him it is 'crystal clear ... that such views could not conceivably be held or expressed by anyone who was a young man during the Second World War or who was engaged in the mortal struggles of its aftermath - in Greece, in Germany, in Berlin, in Korea'. Only 'sensitive, clever children' could be moved to such harsh judgements, 'unshaped by historical perspective and untempered by any first-hand experience with the unruly forces at work in this near-cyclonic century'. Those who designed our Vietnam policy were 'struggling in good conscience to uphold the Constitution and to serve the broad national interest according to their lights'; they were, 'almost uniformly, those considered when they took office to be among the ablest, the best, the most humane and liberal men that could be found for public trust', and 'no one doubted their honest, high-minded pursuit of the best interests of their country, and indeed of the whole non-Communist world, as they perceived these interests'. To be sure, they were deluded by the 'tensions of the Cold War years'. The tragedy of Vietnam, as he sees it, is that these good men were unable to perceive that the triumph of the national revolution in Vietnam would be 'neither a triumph for Moscow and Peking nor a disaster for the United States'. Furthermore, their policies received wide public support. 'Set against these facts, the easy designation of individuals as deliberate or imputed 'war criminals' is shockingly glib, even if one allows for the inexperience of the young.' Similarly, it would be 'absurd' even to ask whether a war crimes tribunal, even in principle, should try Nixon and Kissinger as 'war criminals' (even though they continue to 'buy some time in the US' so that the war can be brought 'to a successful conclusion', in the words of the present Secretary of the Army).

One should, I believe, agree with Townsend Hoopes that 'what the country needs is not retribution, but therapy in the form of {24} deeper understanding of our problems and of each other'. No one, to my knowledge, has urged that those responsible for the massacre of the people of Vietnam, their forced evacuation from their homes,20 and the destruction of their country, be jailed or executed, or even that 'denazification' procedures of the sort instituted against thirteen million Germans in the US Zone be applied to the American population. Let us, by all means, try rather to achieve a deeper understanding of our problems. Among these problems is the fact that one of the most liberal and enlightened commentators on contemporary affairs can assure us that Asian hordes care nothing of death, fear no pain and cannot conceive of happiness, while as for us - it is our Christian values that impel us to stop short of a final solution. Among our problems is the fact that the same spokesman can summon up the kind of 'historical perspective' that sees our intervention in Greece, in the 1940s, as a 'mortal struggle' (against whom?); or the fact that those who were, quite possibly, the most humane and liberal men that could be found for public trust could set out to annihilate the Vietnamese in the belief (whether honest or feigned - it hardly matters) that they were combating a communist monolith that included 'Moscow and Peking' (in 1965!). One of our problems is the doctrine developed by Mr Hoopes, in accordance with which - to take his words literally - no policy carried out by the best American leaders with wide public support could be criminal, could in principle demand any response other than 'to throw the rascals out'.

In fact, is it not a trifle naive (or even 'glib') of Mr Hoopes to suggest that we throw the rascals out? Did we vote the rascals in? Richard Barnet, in a recent study, writes:

Most of the men who have set the framework of America's national-security policy, as I found when I studied the background of the top 400 decision-makers, have come from executive suites and law offices {25} within shouting distance of one another in fifteen city blocks in New York, Washington, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston. It is not surprising that they emerge from homogeneous backgrounds and virtually identical careers with a standard way of looking at the world. They may argue with one another about means but not about ends.21

No one who considers carefully the role of the executive in civil-military decisions in the post-war world, or the role of the private economic empires in determining national policy (either in their own protected domain, or within the parliamentary system itself), or the kinds of choices presented by the two competing candidate-producing organizations can so easily speak of 'throwing the rascals out'. It would require social revolution, leading to a redistribution of power throughout the industrial as well as the political system, for a significant change to take place in the top decision-making positions in American society. For this reason alone, one must fully accept the judgement that 'what the country needs is not retribution, but therapy in the form of deeper understanding of our problems' - and appropriate action to remedy these problems, which, given our enormous power, are problems of life and death for a good part of the world.

These problems should be on the agenda for any thinking person. More immediate, however, is the problem of bringing about a withdrawal of American force from Vietnam. There is no indication that any such policy is envisioned, at present. Rather, it is clear that the US government is hoping to stay the course until victory is achieved, adjusting tactics, where necessary, to buy some time at home. For this reason, the Proceedings of the Tribunal is a document of first importance; the spirit and convictions that underlie it must, as Russell hoped, become a part of the consciousness of all Americans.

Richard Falk concludes the article I quoted earlier, writing:

Given the perils and horrors of the contemporary world, it is time that individuals everywhere called their government to account for indulging or ignoring the daily evidences of barbarism... the obsolete pretensions of sovereign prerogative and military necessity had better be challenged soon if life on earth is to survive.

The Tribunal takes one step - small, perhaps, but significant. The Tribunal, or another like it, should turn to Czechoslovakia, to Greece, to a dozen other countries that are suffering in the grip of the imperialist powers or the local forces that they support and maintain. Still more important, the work initiated by the Tribunal should be carried further by groups of citizens who take upon themselves the duty of discovering and making public the daily evidences of barbarism, and the still more severe duty of challenging the powers - state or private - that are responsible for violence and oppression, looking forward to the day when an international movement for freedom and social justice will end their rule. {27}{28}

Notes

  1. Edward S. Herman, 'Atrocities' in Vietnam: Myths and Realities (Pilgrim Press, 1970). In a careful analysis, he estimates South Vietnamese civilian casualties at over a million dead, over two million wounded, and he notes that two years ago the total number of refugees 'generated' mainly by the American scorched earth policy was estimated at almost four million by the Kennedy Committee of the 90th Congress.Back
  2. The letter appears as an Appendix in Don Luce and John Sommer, Vietnam: the Unheard Voices (Cornell University Press, 1969).Back
  3. Ithiel Pool, New York Review of Books, 13 February 1969, letters.Back
  4. New York Times, letter, 26 November 1969. The war in Quang Ngai and Quang Tin provinces is described in unforgettable detail by Jonathan Schell, The Military Half (Vintage Books, 1968).Back
  5. 'Pop me some dinks', New Republic, 3 January 1970.Back
  6. Vietnam: 1969, AFSC White Paper, 5 May 1969, 160 N. 15th Street, Philadelphia, Penna. 19102.Back
  7. South Viet Nam: The Struggle, publication of the NLF Information Commission, No.48, 15 November 1969.Back
  8. Limits of Intervention (McKay, 1969).Back
  9. The NLF claims that 2,000 victims of the American bombardment were buried in mass graves (see Wilfred Burchett, Guardian, 6 December 1969). This is consistent with Hoopes's account. Hoopes states that, after ten days of fighting, 300 local officials and prominent citizens were found in a mass grave. This corresponds roughly with the estimate of Police Chief Doan Cong Lap, who estimated the total number executed as 200; he also gives the figure of 3,776 civilian casualties in the battle of Hue (Stewart Harris, The Times, 27 March 1968). Apart from Harris, I know of only one journalist who has given a detailed eye-witness report from Hue at the time, namely Marc Riboud. US authorities were unable to show him the mass graves reported by the US mission. Riboud reports 4,000 civilians killed during the reconquest of the 'assassinated city' of Hue (Le Monde, 13 April 1968). AFSC staff people in Hue were unable to confirm the reports of mass graves, though they reported many civilians shot and killed during the reconquest of the city (see the report by John Sullivan of AFSC, 9 May 1968). For attempts to evaluate government propaganda on mass killings in Hue, see D. Gareth Porter and Len E. Ackland, 'Vietnam: the bloodbath argument', Christian Century, 5 November 1969; Vietnam International, December 1969 (6 Endsleigh Street, London, W.C.1); Tran Van Dinh, 'Fear of a bloodbath', New Republic, 6 December 1969. The only other accounts I have seen merely convey information given out by American government sources.Back
  10. This is not quite accurate. He does provide a brief philosophical discussion of Buddhist beliefs, which tend 'to create a positive impetus towards honourable death'.Back
  11. As Gabriel Kolko notes, in testimony to the Tribunal, the barbarism of Seyss-Inquart in opening the dikes in Holland was considered one of the most monstrous crimes of the Second World War, and was prominent among the charges that led to his death sentence at Nuremberg. Note also Kolko's discussion of the bombing of dikes in the Korean war, and the testimony given regarding American bombing of dikes in North Vietnam. Eye-witness reports of the bombing of dikes in the Red River Delta have appeared in the American press. See Christian Science Monitor, 8 September 1967, quoted in my American Power and the New Mandarins (Chatto & Windus, 1969), p.15.Back
  12. As we know from other sources, the VC political cadres thus 'exposed' were to be eliminated by 'Operation Phoenix', which, in the year 1968, is claimed to have killed 18,393 persons. See Senator Charles E. Goodell, New Republic, 22 November 1969 (cited in Herman, op. cit.), and also Judith Coburn and Geoffrey Cowan, 'Training for terror: a deliberate policy?', Village Voice, 11 December 1969. On 'population control measures', see William Nighswonger, Rural Pacification in Vietnam (Praeger, 1967). For earlier precedents during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, see my American Power and the New Mandarins, pp. 195-203.Back
  13. 8 October 1969, released 2 December. Quoted in I. F. Stone's Weekly, 15 December 1969.Back
  14. Quoted in an article to which I return in a moment: Judith Coburn and Geoffrey Cowan, 'The war criminals hedge their bets', Village Voice, 4 December 1969.Back
  15. Wilhelm von Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, 1792 (Cambridge University Press, 1969), J. W. Burrow (ed.).Back
  16. 'The circle of responsibility', The Nation, 26 January 1970. Falk is Milbank Professor of International Law and Practice, Princeton University.Back
  17. The Present State of Denazification, reprinted in Constantine Fitzgibbon, Denazification (Norton, 1969).Back
  18. Fitzgibbon, op. cit.Back
  19. 'The Nuremberg Suggestion', Washington Monthly, January 1970. Noam Chomsky.Back
  20. Coburn and Cowan report the views of Ambassador Ellsworth Bunker, who says in a statement to Congress on the refugee situation that the figures may be misleading, since the war-torn Vietnamese are used to disruption and 'have been moving around for centuries'. Since this is true, to a far greater extent, of the American population, there would presumably be even less reason to protest, if they were driven from their homes by a foreign invader.Back
  21. The Economy of Death (Atheneum, 1969). See also the detailed analysis by Gabriel Kolko, The Roots of American Foreign Policy(Beacon Press, 1969), Chapter 1.Back
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Speech to the First Meeting of Members of the War Crimes Tribunal, London, 13 November 1966¹

Allow me to express my appreciation to you for your willingness to participate in this Tribunal. It has been convened so that we may investigate and assess the character of the United StatesÂ' war in Vietnam.

The Tribunal has no clear historical precedent. The Nuremberg Tribunal, although concerned with designated war crimes, was possible because the victorious allied Powers compelled the vanquished to present their leaders for trial. Inevitably, the Nuremberg trials, supported as they were by state power, contained a strong element of realpolitik. Despite these inhibiting factors, which call in question certain of the Nuremberg procedures, the Nuremberg Tribunal expressed the sense of outrage, which was virtually universal, at the crimes committed by the Nazis in Europe. Somehow, it was widely felt, there had to be criteria against which such actions could be judged, and according to which Nazi crimes could be condemned. Many felt it was morally necessary to record the full horror. It was hoped that a legal method could be devised, capable of coming to terms with the magnitude of Nazi crimes. These ill-defined but deeply felt sentiments surrounded the Nuremberg Tribunal.

Our own task is more difficult, but the same responsibility obtains. We do not represent any state power, nor can we compel the policy-makers responsible for crimes against the people of Vietnam to stand accused before us. We lack force majeure. The procedures of a trial are impossible to implement.

I believe that these apparent limitations are, in fact, virtues. We are free to conduct a solemn and historic investigation, uncompelled {57} by reasons of state or other such obligations. Why is this war being fought in Vietnam? In whose interest is it being waged? We have, I am certain, an obligation to study these questions and to pronounce on them, after thorough investigation, for in doing so we can assist mankind in understanding why a small agrarian people have endured for more than twelve years the assault of the largest industrial power on earth, possessing the most developed and cruel military capacity.

I have prepared a paper, which I hope you will wish to read during your deliberations. It sets out a considerable number of reports from Western newspapers and such sources, giving an indication of the record of the United States in Vietnam. These reports should make it clear that we enter our inquiry with considerable prima facie evidence of crimes reported not by the victims but by media favourable to the policies responsible. I believe that we are justified in concluding that it is necessary to convene a solemn Tribunal, composed of men eminent not through their power, but through their intellectual and moral contribution to what we optimistically call ‘human civilizationÂ'.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

By persuasion if we can, but by coercion if we must!

The liberal media's reaction to reports of widespread abuse and torture of Iraqi detainees by US and UK military personnal marks a psychological turning point in the current phase in the sole superpower's war for total global domination.

Recent interventions have been justified in one way or another by our moral superiority, our more advanced, more humane form of civilisation, our crusade to spread democracy and liberal values. Whatever the crimes committed by high-tech weapons systems, whatever the abuses carried out at Guantanamo Bay, whatever the evidence of CIA-funding for the KLA or Al Qaeda, whatever the flaws in the allegations made against the former Yugoslav government, Britain - we were told - represented a beacon of justice and fairness.

No sooner had our brave service men and women liberated a new territory, the liberal media progressed to stage two, reconstruction via international bank loans and rehabilitation via NGOs. British experts would be sent all over the globe to teach our enlightened ways to people accustomed for so long to only dictatorships (with whom we used to do business). Thus for paid intellectuals like Johann Hari of the Independent or David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen of the Guardian, new military adventures provided a new opportunity to spread our values.

Wouldn't it just be wonderful if the whole world became a multi-hued mosaic of dominant post-1980s Anglo-American culture? Sure McDonalds would localise its burgers for the Mid East market, MTV would broadcast some Arabic rap, juicier scenes from Hollywood movies would be edited out and people would speak English with different accents and continue to learn local dialects for a couple more generations. But rest assured your Lonely Planet Guide to Iraq will feature an extensive list of gay nightclubs in downtown Baghdad. Okay Iraqis may have more traditional values now, but given time greater exposure to our benign media will usher in a new era of carefree hedonism.

US and UK crimes could easily be brushed aside by stressing the repressive nature of all local or nationalist alternatives. So pundits would opine that we need to stay the course in Iraq to stop Islamic extremists or Saddam Loyalists from (re)gaining power. Democracy has only one meaning: A pacified electorate happy to vote for responsible politicians who collaborate fully with the international community as defined by the Coalition.

To understand the chasm emerging within our ruling elite witness yesterday's Scottish Daily Record and UK Daily Express - not a word about US and UK crimes, just a page two article about Moqtaba Al-Sadr's threat to use captured female British soldiers as slaves. Then read the liberal press. The underlying message is Abu Ghraib represents a setback for the spread of our civilisation, very bad PR. Now the damage has been done, a section of the ruling elite, the same opinion-makers who campaigned passionately for humanitarian wars, want our troops out. But the die has already been cast. Withdrawal will leave the US in a significantly weaker position in the Middle East than it enjoyed in February 2003. Whether or not, US and UK armed forces retreat strategically, their dependence on near absolute control of the world's oil reserves is so great that they will just seek new and devious means.

It's time the left gatekeepers, as some call the likes of Greg Palast (who thinks the Beeb allows objective reporting), started challenging assumptions about our moral superiority and start publicly admitting rather than merely implying the real motivations for war. Torture and violence are not unAmerican any more than they are unChinese or unArabic. They are classic tools of conquest. As Madeleine Albright said "We will act multilaterally when we can, unilaterally when we must."

Let's paraphrase that: We will act by gentle persuasion where we can and by physical coercion and advanced brainwashing techniques where we must. What the liberal media is telling us is that the era of gentle persuasion is nearing its end.

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Inaugural Statement

Our Tribunal was formed, on the initiative of Lord Bertrand Russell, to decide whether the accusations of ‘war crimesÂ' levelled against the government of the United States as well as against those of South Korea, New Zealand and Australia, during the conflict in Vietnam, are justified.

During this inaugural session, the origin, function, aims and limits of the Tribunal must be clarified: the Tribunal means to explain itself, without sidetracking, on the question of what has been called its ‘legitimacyÂ'.

In 1945, something absolutely new in history appeared at Nuremberg with the first international Tribunal formed to pass judgement on crimes committed by a belligerent power. Until then there had been a few international agreements, for instance the Briand-Kellogg pact, which were aimed at limiting the jus ad bellum; but as no other body had been created to implement them, the relations between the powers continued to operate under the law of the jungle. It could not be otherwise: the nations which had built their wealth upon the conquest of great colonial empires would not have tolerated being judged upon their actions in Africa or Asia.

From 1939, the Hitlerian furies had endangered the world to such an extent that the horrified Allies decided, since they were to be the victors, to judge and condemn the wars of aggression and conquest, the maltreatment of prisoners and the tortures, as well as the racist practices known as ‘genocideÂ', unaware that they were condemning themselves, in this way, for their own actions in the colonies.

For this reason, that is to say because they were recognizing the Nazi crimes, and because, in the more universal sense, they were opening the way to a real jurisdiction for the denunciation and {63} condemnation of war crimes wherever committed, and whoever the culprits, the Tribunal of Nuremberg is still the manifestation of a change of capital importance: the substitution of jus ad bellum by jus contra bellum.

Unfortunately, as is wont to happen whenever a new force is created by historical exigencies, this Tribunal was not free from serious faults. It has been said that it was a diktat of the victors to the vanquished and, which comes to the same thing, that it was not really being international: one group of nations was judging another. Would it have been more worthwhile to have taken the judges from neutral countries? I cannot say. What is certain, however, is that, although the decisions were perfectly just by ethical standards, they did not convince all Germans. The legitimacy of the magistrates and their sentences is contested to this day. Also, it has been declared that, if the fortunes of war had been otherwise, a tribunal of the Axis could have condemned the Allies for the bombing of Dresden or for that of Hiroshima.

Such a body would not have been difficult to set up. It would have sufficed that the body created for the judgement of the Nazis had continued after its original task, or that the United Nations, considering all the consequences of what had just been achieved, would, by a vote of the General Assembly, have consolidated it into a permanent tribunal, empowered to investigate and to judge all accusations of war crimes, even if the accused should be one of the countries that had been responsible for the sentencing at Nuremberg. In this way, the implicit universality of the original intention would have been clearly defined. However, we know what did happen: hardly had the last guilty German been sentenced than the Tribunal vanished and no one ever heard of it again.

Are we therefore so pure? Have there been no war crimes since 1945? Have we never had further resort to violence or to aggression? Have there been no more ‘genocidesÂ'? Has no large country ever tried to break by force the sovereignty of a smaller one? Has there never been reason for denouncing more Oradours or Auschwitzes?

You know the truth: in the last twenty years, the great historical act has been the struggle of the underdeveloped nations for their freedom. The colonial empires have crumbled, and in {64} their place independent nations have grown or have reclaimed ancient and traditional independence which had been eliminated by colonialism. All this has happened in suffering, sweat and blood. A tribunal such as that of Nuremberg has become a permanent necessity. I have already said that, before the Nazi trials, war was lawless. The Nuremberg Tribunal, an ambiguous reality, was created from the highest legal principles no doubt but, at the same time, it created a precedent, the embryo of a tradition. Nobody can go back, stop what has already existed, nor, when a small and poor country is the object of aggression, prevent one from thinking back to those trials and saying to oneself: it is this very same thing that was condemned then. In this way, the hasty and incomplete measures taken and then abandoned by the Allies in 1945 have created a real gap in international affairs. We sadly lack an organization which has been created and affirmed in its permanency and universality and which has irreversibly defined its rights and duties. It is a gap which must be filled and yet which no one will fill.

There are, in fact, two sources of power for such a body. The first is the state and its institutions. However, in this period of violence most governments, if they took such an initiative, would fear that it might one day be used against them and that they would find themselves in the dock with the accused.

And then, for many, the United States is a powerful ally: who would dare ask for the resurrection of a tribunal whose first action would be to demand an inquiry on the Vietnam conflict? The other source is the people, in a revolutionary period, when institutions are changing. But, although the struggle is implacable, how could the masses, divided by frontiers, unite and impose on the various governments an institution which would be a true Court of the People?

The Russell Tribunal was born of this doubly contradictory conclusion: the judgement of Nuremberg had necessitated the existence of an institution to inquire into war crimes and, if necessary, to sit in judgement; today neither governments nor the masses are capable of forming one. We are perfectly aware that we have not been given a mandate by anyone; but we took the initiative to meet, and we also know that nobody could have given us a mandate. It is true that our Tribunal is not an institution. But, {65} it is not a substitute for any institution already in existence: it is, on the contrary, formed out of a void and for a real need. We were not recruited or invested with real powers by governments: but, as we have just seen, the investiture at Nuremberg was not enough to give the jurists unquestioned legality. . . . The Russell Tribunal believes, on the contrary, that its legality comes from both its absolute powerlessness and its universality.

We are powerless: that is the guarantee of our independence. There is nothing to help us except for the participation of the supporting committees which are, like ourselves, meetings of private individuals. As we do not represent any government or party, we cannot receive orders. We will examine the facts ‘in our souls and our consciencesÂ', as we say, or, if one prefers, in the full liberty of our spirits. None of us can state, today, how the discussions will turn out and whether we answer yes or no to the accusations, or whether we will come to a conclusion at all, perhaps deciding that the evidence, though real, is insufficiently proven. What is certain, in any case, is that our weakness, even if we are convinced by the proof brought before us, would not enable us to condemn. What can even the lightest sentence mean if we do not have the means to put it into effect? We will therefore limit ourselves, should this arise, to declaring that this or that act does in fact fall under the jurisdiction of Nuremberg, and that it is therefore a war crime and that, if the law were applied, it would be appropriate for this or that sentence to be carried out. In this case, if possible, we will name the guilty. Thus, the Russell Tribunal will have no other function in this inquiry and its conclusions, but to make everybody understand the necessity for international jurisdiction - which it has neither the means nor the ambition to replace and the essence of which would be to resuscitate the jus contra bellum, stillborn at Nuremberg, and to substitute legal, ethical laws for the law of the jungle.

From the very fact that we are simple citizens, we have been able, in coopting ourselves from all over the world, to give our Tribunal a more universal structure than that which prevailed at Nuremberg. I do not only mean that a larger number of countries is represented; from this point of view there are still many gaps. But, most of all, whilst in 1945 the Germans were represented only in the dock, or sometimes as witnesses, here {66} several members of the jury are from the USA. This means that they come from the country whose very policy is our subject and that they have, therefore, their own ways of understanding it. Whatever may be their conclusions, the intimate relation with their own country and its institutions and traditions will necessarily be reflected in this TribunalÂ's conclusions.

Whatever may be our wishes for impartiality and universality, we are very conscious that this does not legitimize our undertaking. What we would really like is that our legitimation would be in retrospect, or a posteriori. In fact we do not work for ourselves nor for our own edification, and we do not presume to impose our conclusions like a thunderbolt. In truth, we would wish, with press collaboration, to maintain constant contact between ourselves and the masses all over the world who are painfully watching the tragedy in Vietnam. We hope that they will be learning while we learn, that they will watch and understand, and come to their own conclusions. These conclusions, whatever they may be, we would wish to be reached individually and independently of those we come to ourselves. This session is a communal undertaking for which the final term should be, as a philosopher said, ‘une verité devenueÂ'. If the masses agree with our judgement, it will become truth, and we, at the very moment when we step back so that they will become the guardians and powerful supporters of that truth, will then know that we have been legitimized. When the people show their agreement they will also show a greater need: that a real ‘War Crimes TribunalÂ' be created on a permanent basis, that these crimes may be denounced and not sanctioned anywhere and at any time.

These last remarks reply to a critical comment made, without ill-feeling, in a Paris newspaper: ‘What a strange Tribunal: jurymen but no judge!Â' It is true, we are only jurymen, we have no power to condemn, nor to acquit anyone. Therefore, we are not prosecutors. There will not even be a real accusation. Maître Matarasso, President of the Legal Commission, will read you a statement of the charges registered. The jurists, at the end of the session, will have to pronounce on these statements: are they justified or not? But judges exist everywhere. It is for the peoples of the world and, in particular, the American people that we are working. {67}

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All in the Mind

Is it Time to Rethink Media Effects?

It has become increasingly common in some academic circles to write off public controversies about children"s media as moral panics. This paper sets out to challenge the implied claim made in this argument that media do not have psychological and cultural impacts on children. This position confuses public concerns with public safety and children"s well being with right wing moralizing about children"s taste. It also reduces the scientific study of the relationship between violent entertainment and anti-social behaviour to a narrow hypothesis of direct causes rather than seeing it as diagnostic work on risk factors. This paper suggests that the fifty year long debate about youth violence would be better understood as a political struggle over the "lifestyle risks" rather than "entertainment values" which now pits media corporations against anxiously concerned parents.

Introduction: The Crisis of Childhood and the Roots of Media Effects Theory

The cultural impacts of technology are rarely foreseen at their inception warned Harold Innis (1951) inThe Bias of Communication, his prescient analysis of the important role that media have played throughout history. It was therefore important to distinguish the impact of any technology from the hopes and ideologies we projected upon them.1 For many years, state and church maintained monopolistic control over print technologies; yet in the long term cultural impact of the printing press could not be contained, for the accelerated diffusion of knowledge and scientific rationality precipitated by print ultimately weakened church and state authority, while gradually shifting the exercise of power into the commercialized arena of public journalism and opinion. Innis predicted that new communication technologies, like radio and TV, would similarly generate profound and seemingly paradoxicaldisturbances in social communication. And by undermining the very oligopoly of scientific knowledge and authority of those who currently controlled them new media often precipitated political struggles to shape their role in the modernizing world.

It is not surprising that in post-war America the introduction of television was first and foremost apprehended as the harbinger of social progress and democratization. Optimists hoped that as television diffused through America, this new medium would make cultural and scientific knowledge readily available to the coming generation. Hope was especially strong among progressive educators who believed that television"s "window unto the world" would provide the next generation with a universal access to knowledge and culture. And in many ways it did. At the vortex of a burgeoning consumer culture, television became the preferred source of entertainment and information for all sectors of the population " but especially loved by children for its up beat visual story-telling.

As the onslaught of commercialized "low brow" popular entertainments flooded the airwaves, the progressives dream of an educated citizenship dissolved into an anxious fretting about the crisis of socialization in the modern world (David Reisman, 1952). Although public controversies about socialization have been traced back to Plato"s suggestion that teaching the written word would undermine children"s memory, these debates entered the mainstream of American media during the 1950"s. Did TV provide early access to the wisdom, acting as a cultural treasury for the nation or did it produce a generation of ignorant couch potatoes? Given the crucial symbolic space that childhood occupies in western cultures, and the conflicted perspective on childrearing in America after the war, it is hardly surprising that children"s fascination with TV was viewed with both optimism and horror too, not only by social theorists, but by the public at large (Spigal 1997). The public debates about children"s mediated culture became a regularly contested zone of "social regulation" after the war, that grew ever more controversial with children"s growing enthusiasm for it.

So shortly after its introduction, children"s television became the flashpoint of a protracted political struggle over post-war values and lifestyles. At the centre of this controversy was the question of television"s impact on children. Some alarmist commentators proclaimed that a "generation gap" was dividing America, and sought easy answers to the degradation of American civic culture byblaming it all on the mass media and the rise of popular culture.(Rosenberg et al. 1954) Did not children need to be protected from exploitation in the mass mediated cultures in the same way that 19th Century advocates protected children from abuses in factories and the family? As Kirsten Drotner comments "Children and young people are prime objects of "media panics" not merely because they are often media pioneers; not merely because they challenge social and cultural power relations, nor because they symbolize ideological rifts. They are panic targets just as much because they inevitably represent experiences and emotions that are irrevocably lost to adults." (1992: 59). Television seemed to represent the unstoppable force of cultural massification that separated the lives of post-war generations from their parents.

To understand our contemporary world demanded a new way of thinking about the media"s impact on socialization argued media guru Marshall McLuhan in his profoundly confusing but prescient,Understanding Media (1961). In this Age of Anxiety McLuhan declared, the controversies over tastes and popular culture arise from the deeper disturbances created by electronic media within our social values and cultural sensibilities. Pointing out limitations in Wilbur Schramms" study of children"s use of televisionwhich found no effectsMcLuhan argued that psychologists often failed to measure the underlying processes that linked the mass media to profound traumas of our age (pg 33). In his view the debates about children"s media presaged the way children"s cultural sensibilities and values were being reconstructed in the post-literate retribalizing global village.

McLuhan clarified his most famous aphorism, the medium is the message, by explaining that theorists would fail to comprehend the changes taking place in mass society without "understanding media as environments" in which cultural dynamics contend and interact. McLuhan"s probes into media cultures suggested paradoxically, that television would both enhance and subvert the values of our literate society. This implied that the impacts of media cannot be understood independent of the social system in which they are implemented and used. Although it can be said of McLuhan that by half of what he said he meant something else, while in the other half he meant nothing at all his work made media analysis an increasingly important part of the study of socio-cultural change: writers from Postman and Toffler to Baudrillard paid tribute to McLuhan in their own prognosis for late industrial society. The study of the media"s impact is now too diverse and too contentious to summarize here. But at its centre, the debate about media saturated childhood never abated.

Against a backdrop of fifty years of public controversy concerning children"s use of violent entertainment, a group of 33 cultural studies scholars have become supporters of the video game industry in its battle against media censorship. They have dismissed the concerns of children"s advocates about media violence as just another media panic, saying there is no proof of the "effects" hypothesis. This paper examines the political and methodological issues implied in this claim that media have no psychological and cultural impact on children, suggesting that this highly politicized media controversy is proof that media have profoundly impacted not only children"s culture, but the popular discourses on and the politics of childhood.

Moral Kombat: Media Theory in the Age of Anxiety?

The introduction of television occurred at the very moment that America was in the throws of traumatic social change. The baby boom generation - the first post war TV cohort - was already regarded anxiously by the American public, preoccupied as it was, about impending moral decline, breakdown of the family, the problems of education, and rising tide of youth violence after the war. Of course war, violence and crime are issues that plague primitive and modern nations alike. All societies, must develop both legal and cultural mechanisms for control of the ever present sources of social conflict and threat of anti-social behavior. Yet there was a perplexing paradox at the heart of Americans attitudes to the use of force: As a right of self defense and guarantor of economic expansionism, Americans had long prided their military prowess, celebrating in popular culture heroic males imbued with bravado and guns.

Although crime has long been a prominent public concern in the USA throughout its history, after the second world war, rising youth crime rates placed the socialization of aggressive on the front pages. Sociologists interested in crime and antisocial behaviour in America framed violence as a generational phenomenon associated with juvenile delinquency (Becker 1961) "fearing the moral mechanisms and norms that had maintained public order in the past had been eroded in the post-war generation (Goodman 1956, Reisman 1952). As a perceived threat to law and order in our communities, aggression and crime are the lifeblood of contemporary journalism, for they manifest concretely the social forces undermining civil society ”the symptoms of a rampant sickness of an otherwise democratic culture.


The media"s growing role in the intensifying anxiety about youth delinquency and generational conflicts was itself formalized into an analysis of cultural regulation by sociologist Stanely Cohen (1972). 'Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic" he wrote. Cohen suggested that the media"s labelling of youth counter-culture movements as "deviant" was the first step in a discursive process of social control. His book drew a parallel between the hyped up media coverage of the mods and rockers and anthropological accounts of collective social phenomenon like witch hunts, inquisitions, public hangings which were also propelled into hysteria on a wave of public anxiety. His book documents a general process underlying these panics: "A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylised and stereotypical fashion.......;the moral barricades are manned......; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible.' (Cohen 1972, 9)

Panic is the quasi- social psychological term which Cohen uses to characterize the "sudden and overwhelming fear or anxiety" which seizes public discourses. The word panic itself derives from the god Pan who the Greeks imagined unleashed the powers of irrational fear. So too, argued Cohen, public anxiety fed by news reportage which was governed more by false accusations and hysteria, than a reasoned concern with impartiality, prompted a social control discourse mobilizing an strong reaction within the justice community and those sensitive to threats to the moral order. As experts were called in to explain the threat, youth cultures were interpreted as deviant, and a threat to the whole social order..

Cohen"s media analysis of the language of panic during the mods and rockers conflicts emphasized the media"s role in both the interpretation and prompting of a broader societal reaction. The journalists didn"t create these anxiety attacks of course, but Cohen believed that media were responsible for the amplification of anxiety which led to calls to control youthful opposition to the normative order. The same he said could be said for the media coverage of youth drugs, hair styles, and rock and roll. Cohen felt this process of panic amplification amounts to a hysterical over-reaction – an "irrational" response to a magnified threat of violent disruption. Cohen was concerned that the social anxieties prompted about youth culture, was actually a new form of ideological social control of working class sub-cultures.

Cohen"s theory of moral panic was therefore picked up by British Cultural Studies as one of the pillars of their theorization of subculture as resistive movements of the working class youth. The term media panic became widely used to describe the various public over-reactions to counter-culture tastes and youth pleasures – whether it be swastikas, reggae rhythms, rap lyrics, gay lifestyles, raves or playing Carmaggedon. Cultural studies scholars imagined themselves on the side of liberating youth from the oppressive censorship of their attempts to appropriate culture. In this sense they became defenders of the youth oriented sectors of the cultural industries, arguing that violence was simply a manifestation of youths rejection of bourgeois taste.

Media Affect

Because of the seeming link between endless symbolic killings, rising crime rates, and disobedient children, academics have from the beginning of the 20th century debated the contribution of popular culture to issues like delinquency and disruptive youth behaviour. But the scholarly debates about the anti-social behavior of the television generation grew load enough that they echoed through the corridors of power: increasingly scientific researchers and psychologists were drawn into the ever expanding controversy over media effects. For example, giving testimony at the Kefauver inquiry (1954), Paul Lazarsfeld claimed, there simply wasn"t sufficient scientific research to determine the impact of TV violence on children. In the angst filled days of the cold war, more and more psychologists set out to address the question in their laboratories. Prompted by repeated instances of spectacular youth violence (the Charles Manson killings for example) the study of media violence and its effects moved out of the labs as it became the central question of media effects research. (Huston et. al. 1992) Anyone interested in this topic must now confront shelves of books, studies and reports pertinent to the impact of media on children"s learning of aggressive and anti-social behavior. This literature is not only substantial, but varied in perspective and conclusions. The majority of it, as the Psychological and Pedaediatrics Society (2001) and Surgeon General"s (2000) review all conclude, although effects are small and difficult to specify, they are significant for some children in some circumstances. Yet from the 1980"s onward, others broke rank and rejected this growing concern about television"s impact on anti-social behavior. These critics argued that the evidence of televisions impact was being blown out of proportion (McGuire 1986, Freedman 1984) It is foolish therefore, to attribute to television all the social disturbances encountered in American postmodern culture to television. (Fowles 1999). Besides which, its guns that kill people and not TV, argued Todd Gitlin (1995): so if a solution is to be found to America"s high youth homicide rates, then it should be through gun control and social welfare policy, and not through censorship.

In Britain too, in the wake of the Jamie Bulger murders, the question of media violence moved to centre stage too as psychologists anxiously pointed to television to explain the seeming crisis in contemporary childhood. Children"s advocacy groups rose up and calling once again for regulation of media violence. A group of British cultural studies scholars took offence, and reinterpreted Stanley Cohen"s account of "moral panic" to attack on the very idea that media effect children. Against the threatened censorship of children"s culture, these scholars ridiculed the abreaction of those that were "panicked" by this brutal act. They also challenged the validity of the scientific evidence which "proves" media effects, and called into question the motives of those social scientists which supports the social regulation of media violence. Their objections were to both the assumptions about well-being, and normal development implied by psychology, and to the science they used to justify it. Guy Cumberbatch for example, scoffed at the underlying moralism of these child protectors who forgot their own youthful resistances, and wrongly laid the blame on the media. He equated their claims with earlier generations of censorious prudes who have sought to protect children from the evil influences of idleness, comics, or video nasties and to sanitize children"s media. (Cumberbatch, 1993). So what if children were fascinated with mature and adult themes? The importance of popular media within children"s cultural is itself evidence that media provide a discursive zone that children recognize and talk about as their own – and wherein they meet their own needs.

David Buckingham, too asserted that not only are the anxieties misplaced, but that the effects researchers have failed to respect children" genuine quest for more varied and less conventional forms of re-creation and amusement. TV is after all only story-telling, a fantasy resource which children choose willingly, and accordingly should be a matter of "taste" and not regulation. However ribald and aggressive popular cultural products are, what children watched reflected their own values, tastes and needs. Psychological theories of media effects simply failed to understand the robustness of children"s culture he argued, or acknowledge that children are active and savvy audiences who can tell the difference between fictional violence and news, play and reality -- even if their parents can"t. (Buckingham 1997). Buckingham goes on to critique both the bourgeois elite who programmed and regulated children"s television, and media effects academics who studied it, as if children were helpless victims of the media. "Ultimately, there is a denial of children"s agency at the heart of this approach; and these criticisms apply just as much to more apparently "critical" research about the effects of advertising or consumer culture as they do to research about media violence." (2001). They advised adults to lighten up a bit, preferring to grant to children"s cultural industries more autonomy to serve their child audiences free from the invasive interference of the moralizers. At least the commercial producers didn"t talk down to them in nannyish tones of bland traditionalism.

David Buckingham also noted the cultural studies opposition to the science underlying the claims about effects:

"The media effects industry is, of course, largely driven by moral and political panics about the harmful influence of media on children. Within Cultural Studies, there is a long tradition of damning this work, not just as positivist and empiricist, but also for conceiving of children (and audiences generally) as merely passive victims of the media."

He is referring to a collection of essays edited by Barker and Petley which called for an end to the panic becausethere are no "ill effects" of media violence . The evidence that childhood is in crisis, or that TV influences aggression is weak and based on mindless positivistic effects theory that fails on close examination to demonstrate that media are to blame, they claim. Youth crime rates and violence are falling, even in the USA, as the use of computer games increases. (David Gauntlet, 2002). Based on these arguments cultural studies scholars dismiss the fifty year long study of media effects as moral panic rather than a scientific theory. They argue that a cultural studies perspective can see through the media panic by recognizing the diversity of media representations, that audiences actively seek pleasure in interpreting conflict, and especially that young people possess the ability to distinguish real violence from fictional conflict.

Barker and Petley"s book dismisses the whole effects project on the grounds that psychologists are asking the wrong questions and using the wrong methods. In so doing they assert the superiority of their culturalist perspective over those deterministic psychologists, educators and sociologists that narrowly study only the media"s effects on children. The public"s fears arise from their reactionary traditional values and not fromreal effects of media. (Barker and Petley: Ill Effects 2002). Citing scientific critiques of the effects science they argue that a varied diet of popular entertainment has never been shown to be harmful to children. So the moralizing claims of the effects brigade is not only "false and misleading" but also "daft" and "mischievous". It is false because there is "no such thing as violence in the media" which can have either harmful or beneficial effects" in the first place. Mischievous because culturalist scholars believed the "alarmism" precipitated by "effects science" contributes to public censorship of children"s culture by pumping up the anxiety of parents.

Politics of Digital Panic in America

Given evidence of children"s' avid domestic use of video games and the internet for accessing violent content -- it is not surprising that the question of the new media"s impact on youth aggression added to the growing controversy over children as "consumers /audiences/users" of media (Livingstone 2002). Especially since 1992 as fighting video games like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Doom first hit the market, digital media too began to feature prominently in the public battles over children"s media saturated lives. In this changing media environment, public anxieties began shifting from the TV and films to digital entertainment. Yet in America, the media producers have long opposed encroaching government regulation: rallying under the twin flags of freedom of expression and corporate responsibility they have worked hard to mollify parental concerns. Under the threat of regulation by Congress, the video game industry protected itself by putting on the mantle of self regulation: they developed an age related code similar to that for films, and a body called the ESRB which classified games according to their violent and anti-social themes.

But the regulatory pressure returned when a particularly nasty school massacre at Jonesboro, brought the issue of media violence back to the front pages: America seemed to once again be in the throws of media panic. On the screen children"s advocates were blaming, drugs, parents, families teachers and of course video games for the rise of school shootings. Perhaps not coincidentally Jonesboro was also the place where Dr. Dave Grossman author ofOn Killing (1995) and a leading critic of violent video games had retired. Grossman had been a lieutenant colonel who had built a career figuring out how to train soldiers to kill. As a retired US army officer, Grossman seems well positioned to comment on the similarity between the tactics used in the army to train soldiers and they use of violent video games among children today. The US military has long used simulation training for its soldiers because the "repetition and desensitization" of simulated killing effects kill rates (the actual percentage of soldiers that will pull the trigger in real life combat). Recently he has become a leading US advocate of restraining the American entertainment industries arguing that "the main concern is that these violent video games are providing military quality training to children". Like the training of these soldiers, Grossman believes that violent video games may have a similar effect on young people who play them a lot, not because they create models or templates for children"s behaviour, but because they help break down the psychological barriers that prevent killing: "children don"t naturally kill; they learn it from violence in the home andâ€Ã‚¦from violence as entertainment in television, movies and interactive video games". Grossman has persuaded many Americans once again that its time to do something about the "virus of violence" infecting America resulting in renewed calls to regulate video game violence just as it had film and TV.

After Littleton, Congress was prodded by the growing public outcry to hold new hearings on media violence. Grossman expressed his strong views to the committee. So too did a number of psychologists summarized the scientific evidence proving video games were harmful. The ISDA president submitted the industries view that video games did no harm to children. In the course of these hearings Jeffrey Goldstein Funk and Anderson"s all offered their expert opinions on whether video games effects on children"s behavior have been proven.

Headed to Washington to testify too, cultural studies scholar Henry Jenkins feared that the scientific debate had turned into a right wing witch hunt mobilized by a deep fear about young people which is intensifying the surveillance and monitoring of children"s behavior. Jenkins articulated for the committee the cultural studies scholars opposition to the effects research tradition, ridiculing those researchers who study media violence in laboratories by counting how many times a child hits a bobo doll. He articulated cultural studies argument that social science was not only misleading, but exaggerated maliciously to scare the trusting public into accepting more regulation of children"s media: lambasting the social science critiques he argues that their research evidence is not strong or consistent enough to sustain their attack on the media industries. Is it not far better to recognize that the roots of aggressive behavior lie with dysfunctional families, drugs and impoverished communities, more than media violence.

Jenkins rejects the simplistic media effects model arguing that rather than harm, media provide children with a rich cultural "resource" that they explore and interpret in their own way. Moreover, it is wrong to expect the imaginary worlds of children"s media to conform to parental ideas about morality and order. And in a society traumatized by rapid social change parents had been gulled into panic by the coalition of right wing moralizers and effects psychology: "Suddenly, we are finding ourselves in a national witch hunt to determine which form of popular culture is to blame for the mass murders and video games seemed like a better candidate than most" he says. Jenkins rebuffs the growing hysteria about video game violence arguing: "We are afraid of our children. We are afraid of their reactions to digital media. And we suddenly can"t avoid either". Eliminating violence from the screens will have absolutely no impact on aggressive and antisocial behavior he argued.

Welcome to the Risk Society

Afraid of our children or for them? In the 1970"s, the growing awareness of unforeseen social and environmental disruptions associated with post-industrial life generated a growing sense of crisis. Ulrich Beck"s theorization of the "risk society" made the emerging politics of anxiety into a critical sociology of modernization. Beck"s critique exposed both the complexity of the global environmental crisis and the limits of contemporary sciences to deal with the new technological risks produced by modernization. Anthony Giddens (1994) added to Beck"s critique of state and corporate mandated sciences, the obvious corollary that the market had become the paramount system for distributing both well-being and risks. Giddens' account of the politics of risk therefore highlights the problems of identity construction and life management that confront contemporary consumers. In the risk society, science is not just narrowly politicized but essential to the whole citizenry of modernizing nations for their survival. In the shadow of terrorism, tormented by global strife, plagued by a post-bubble economic recession and facing a burgeoning environmental crisis, the understanding of risk sciences have become essential to ordinary citizens pondering the complex tradeoffs they must make between the anticipated social benefits and threatened perils associated with the modern ways of life. The crisis of modernity, therefore is also witnessed in the public anxiety and confusion as consumer-citizens are required to manage their daily lives in the face of increasingly complex scientific discourses on risks and benefits of contemporary lifestyles.

In the context of this theory of a risk society, moral panics about youth violence appear to be only one of the many modernization anxieties. Anxiety pervades most aspects of youth lifestyle choice from fast food to pokemon – leaving parents hard pressed to do their best for their children in an increasingly complex world. Unfortunately, those interested in risk society are only beginning to pay attention to the role that mass media play in the politics of anxiety within risk society (Ferudi 1997). Cohen"s theory of moral panic can therefore be read as an instructive case study of the role that media play in the political dynamics of the risk society. Cohen"s account highlights the medias role in the distribution of information, in the sensitization of public opinion, in the dynamics of attribution of cause and blame, and their consequences for social control of the threat. As Cohen"s case study so clearly illustrated media do play an important role in setting the moral agenda and mobilizing the publics reactions to youthful disruption of social order. It is ironic therefore that the critics deny evidence of media effects – and in so doing ignore the journalisms role in the amplification of media panics.

Given journalisms position within the commercial media system it is hardly surprising that dramatic news stories involving sex, violence and crime feature prominently in our media. (Sorenson, S. B., Peterson Manz, J. G., Berk, R. A. (1998).2 These researchers investigated the degree to which newspaper stories about homicide correspond to actual patterns of homicide victimization" finding that "although homicide constitutes the least common form of crime, it receives the largest share of television and newspaper coverage of crime" (p. 1510). In another recent study, Maguire, B., Weatherby, G. A., & Mathers, R. A. (2002)3 suggest that "that news coverage of crime tends to be driven by the tenet, "If it bleeds, it leads" and that media coverage of news is characterized by a "herd mentality."

Close examination of the coverage of journalistic coverage of youth violence in America, indicate that the anxieties may arise from sensationalistic news values, more than it does from the balanced accounts of crime. For example Dorfman, L., Woodruff, K., Chavez, V., & Wallack, L. (1997).4undertook a content analysis of 214 hours of local television news from California. They found that for 1721 stories that violence dominated local television news coverage of youth, that over half of the stories on youth involved violence, while more than two thirds of the violence stories concerned youth. The episodic coverage of violence was five times more frequent than thematic coverage, which means that references to any links to broader social factors, or causes including media, are rare.

Although I think they wrongly blame the mischievous "effects researchers" for precipitating the media panic, these culturalist critics have raised a number of interesting questions about the role of media in the public perception of risks to children. So do these scientific discourses actually galvanize the media into a frenzy? It is hard for me to believe in the light of those content analysis of violence news that the scientific debates about media violence play much of a role in the panic coverage, other than consolidating already established opinion of the journalists.Have the journalists covered the scientific debates fairly? As Murray (2001) suggests, rather than feeding a media panic, American news reporting of the scientific findingshave consistently understated the evidence of risks. Perhaps because the media industry has something at stake, or perhaps because they apply a simplistic and non-scientific understanding of research evidence which fails to contextualize it, they often air on the side of caution when reporting science and sensationalism when reporting crime. If so perhaps the cultural studies scholars should be putting the blame for panic on the shoulders of the journalists and not the effects researchers.

So does this overblown news coverage scare parents into blaming the media? It is fair to say that many parents are troubled by their children"s use of media. Lets face it, parents have always been worried about their kids: we are raising our children in a risk society after all.Do they blame media more now than before? I doubt it. Surveys show that many parents agree that media are partly to blame for violence in society (65%): Yet, the percentage of parents that think media are the main cause is as low as 10%. So the public seems sensible in this case: they believe that media may be one of the contributing factors in the socialization of aggression, but certainly not the only one. Moreover, they have more than media to ground their anxieties: From our interviews conducted with mothers of young boys, I found their concerns about "boy culture" are based both on ideology and experience of childrearing as much as news. (Kline 2000) As parents watched their children using popular media in the nursery schools and fantasy play at home , many became convinced that TV and video games did contributed to some children"s aggression, and particularly to the problems their youngsters experienced in the playgrounds. So do kids. Recent surveys show they too believe that media are addictive, harmful to some, and that their younger siblings should not be exposed to sex and violence. (Kline 2001)

In fact, in the introduction to a later edition of his book Cohen (1987) rejected the appropriation of his study of moral panic by cultural studies to counter all concerns about violence and anti-social behaviour among youth. These scholars, he felt, were in danger of reducing his complex discussion of class conflict to matters of taste and style. It"s original intent was simply to de-legitimate the interpretation of working class youth movements as deviations from bourgeois norms and to reveal how reactionary forces mobilized around media panics in response to them. Cohen was aware that media panic mobilized all social agencies with a stake in the youth culture issues: some progressive and some less so. He noted that the public struggle over youth violence and anti-social behaviour, increasingly aligned the cultural industries with youth counter culture movements that used their products: This is what Cohen refers to as the exploitation of panic – which in his mind included both the justice system and the commercial enterprises that can profit from youth subcultures who began to assert their own interests. And Cohen was right: for nowhere is this mobilization more in evidence than in the media industries: Faced with public outcry industry representatives have increasingly intervened at the public hearings, in community enquiries, in the courts, in the legislatures and the scientific arena"s – where-ever the effects of violent media were being debated.

Disciplinary Powers: Panic Theory Goes to Court

An example is the contested St. Louis ordinance which would restrict the sale of violent video games to children.5 A similar ordinance had been successfully defeated in Minneapolis when the ISDA convinced the judge to declare that since violence has been part of children"s literature throughout history that it "would not only be quixotic, but deforming to shield children from the very graphic violence in new media like television and video games." Needless to say, the ISDA intervened again in St. Louis to prevent legislated restrictions on the sale of video games to children there. What is different in this instance, is that the ISDA have now been willingly assisted by some academic friends of the court – including prominent cultural studies scholars Henry Jenkins, Jib Fowles, Todd Gitlin, and David Buckingham – who have taken up the cudgel against a local community whose elected officials are trying to place legal restrictions on the sale of violent and horrific media products to children (to whom the industry itself claims not to be selling them).

These Amici curiae acknowledge that "the relationship between entertainment and human behavior is multi-faced and complex". But in their brief, they protest that the St. Louis County Council"s Ordinance implicitly relied on simplistic "assumption that video games containing graphic violence cause violent behavior". Their submission is intended therefore to "assist the court in understanding the media effects debate" because they fear that the courts have unwittingly succumbed to the "commonly held but mistaken beliefs about a proven causative link between violent entertainment and violent behavior to uphold a censorship law." In what follows I want to contest the cultural studies scholars completerefusal of the proof offered by the media effects scientists.

Proof

It remains unclear to what extent the Minnesota judge ruled against this so-calledcensorship ordinance on the assumption of proof of harmful effects of video games. Yet the Amici worry that the St. Louis court will believe that the "effects hypothesis" is proven on the basis of Dr. Craig Anderson"s testimony of the scientific evidence. Anderson "s review summarized both his own views, as well as the scientific opinion expressed by other psychologists and sociologists who have been researching media effects for fifty years both in the laboratory and in the field (Anderson and Bushman Murray, Paik and Comstock etc.). The OED states that a modern science is " a branch of study which is concerned either with a connected body of demonstrated truths or with observed facts systematically classified and more or less colligated by being brought under general laws and which includes trust worthy methods for the discovery of new truths within its own domain" OED. This definition rightly describes science as a discursive social body of knowledge which is methodologically disciplined by two specific rules of evidence. The first rule concerns empiricism: the hypotheses must be demonstrated by gathering and evaluating evidence. The second criteria is that science establishes "trustworthy methods" to ensure that evidence can be agreed upon by the community of scientists who evaluate each others findings (Schroder et al. Forthcoming). In this sense a science never proves anything. The evaluation of scientific evidence always hinges on the rejection of a "null hypothesis" represented by the proposition that there are "no effects". One never proves significant effects, but rather finds reasons to reject the no-effects proposition. A science therefore is nothing more than a self-regulating debate among scientists about the best explanation of observed events. But in a risk society, science politics is governed by what Tinsdale calls the Panglossian principle: Unless it can be categorically demonstrated that something is wrong, we will assume that all is well" which means that "the burden of proof is with those trying to prove that there is a risk" (1998:59) This imposes legal rules of evidence on scientific debate, that current practice of risk is assumed innocent until proven guilty. It may be a small point, but by overlooking this fundamental epistemological point the Amici are revealing their deep hostility the scientific method and its underlying procedures for discussing the weight of evidence.

The Amici"s submission contends that the weight of evidence has not supported the assumption of a causal relationship. They do so by citing scientific views of psychologists like Kevin Durkin, Mallory Wober, Jeffrey Goldstein, Mark Griffith and Jonathon Freedman which in their view suggest that experimental studies have not in fact proved "adverse effects" from playing video games; that the positive results are small, that the measures of aggression used are "dubious", and that ultimately the effects researchers have failed to prove that violent entertainment "causes – or is even a risk factor for actual violent behavior".

Questioning the Evidence

The Amici are right when they call into question the validity of psychological research into the relationship between media violence and aggression / anti-social behavior. Although trained as a psychologist I too find this literature both confusing and frustrating to read because of the very different ways its key constructs, "media violence" and "aggressive behavior", have been defined and operationalized. Does watching a killing mean the same thing when it is situated within a cartoon, a news story or a horror video? Does aggressive behaviors refer to hitting and fighting, to bullying verbal taunts, to feelings of hostility, or to our moral attitudes expectations and responses in social situations of power? Moreover the design of laboratory experiments with a 10 minute exposure to a violent scene or studies of undergraduates in lecture halls are particularly suspect as explorations of these complex processes.

Goldstein (1999) maintains that all these studies show is that boys enjoy playing in and watching action adventure fantasies. Since male aggression is so deeply embedded in contemporary culture, correlations are best explained by the tendency of those predisposed to aggression watching more violent TV. Unless experiments show consistently, that after watching or playing a violent programme or playing a murderous video game (the stimulus), a significant number of children jump up and kick or hit another child (the response), the researchers cannot claim there is an effect on behavior. Since many experiments in the effects literature are faulted, there is no reliable evidence to prove the causal hypothesis over and above this male fascination (Goldstein 2002).

Insofar as Goldstein is pointing out the inconsistent frameworks, dubious findings and methodological short-comings of the behavioral psychology literature on video gaming, particularly the experimental studies conducted in labs on space invaders, I can only agree with his doubts : many of the video game studies are so badly designed that one wonders why they are still being discussed. Goldstein also criticizes the research for only showing that video games at most, influence the way children talk and play: Since boys are also more likely to engage in both playful and hurtful aggression it cannot be claimed that video games cause that behavior. But can lab experiments ever find evidence that by changing the way children play media contribute indirectly to their aggressive attitudes and actions.

Yet the Amici intimate that most reviewers of the video game literature agree with Durkin, Wober and Goldstein that there is no evidence of effects in the video game research reviews. My own reading of Griffiths (1999) review is rather different than the Amici"s. Like Goldstein, he is of course scathing about the design and measurement issues plaguing the video game literature: "all the published studies on video game violence have methodological problems and that they only include possible short-term measures of aggressive consequences". Griffith is concerned about lumping together cartoon like violence and more realistic games (as in TV shows) and also between games where conflict is competitive hostility (sports or racing) as opposed to aggressive contest (fighting, shooting). There is therefore "a need for a general taxonomy of video games as it could be the case that particular games have very positive effects while other types are not so positive". I totally agree: of the 25 or so studies, at least half are out of date: experimental comparisons of playing Space Invaders for 10 minutes can provide no insight into the consequences of playing Soldier of Fortune for 10 hours a week in the course of one year. (Kline 2001)

Yet Griffith goes on to say that "one consistent finding is that the majority of the studies on very young children – as opposed to those in their teens upwards-tend to show that children do become more aggressive after either playing or watching a violent video game" when the research observes children"s "free play". Although there are too few studies to saywith confidence how much video games contribute to aggressive play and antisocial behaviours in the long run. (1999: 210) Which is why Griffith concludes his review: "the question of whether video games promote aggressiveness cannot be answered at the present because the available literature is relatively sparse and conflicting, and there are many different types of video games which probably have different effects". That is entirely reasonable given the dearth of studies. First person shooter games and those which feature extremely graphic violence (Soldier of Fortune) have not been around long enough for longitudinal research, to have properly identified the risks to very young children associated with playing them regularly over the years.

Yet Griffith has been convinced that video games can have both positive and negative consequences for children"s learning: "If care is taken in the design, and if games are put in the right context, they have the potential to be used as training aids in classrooms and therapeutic settings, and to provide skills in psychomotor coordination in simulations of real life events, for example, training recruits for the armed forces". (1999) In short he believes their effectiveness as learning environments has been demonstrated, but not precisely enough to specify the consequences of playing a particular game on different kinds of children. Pace David Grossman. Isn"t that exactly what he is saying. And is that what Anderson means when he suggests that"video games provide a complete learning environment for aggression".Maybe in another 20 years we will have the proof that video games supplement TV as environments for learning aggressive attitudes and weapons skills, but should legislation await the proof of specific harms done by specific games? In most risk controversies, we adopt the precautionary principle. Do we only ban a drug after its side effects have killed someone?

Whose Hypothesis?

Because their submission relies so heavily on Jonathon Freedman"s (2002) recent book length review of the media effects literature I will discuss it at length. Freedman argues forcefully both that the amount of research has been exaggerated and that the evidence proving effects has been overstated. His arguments are substantial, complex and methodologically cautious. In their reviews, both Freedman and Goldstein acknowledge that there is adequate evidence to say that relationship exists between preferences for violent entertainment and aggression. This relationship they say at best explains 10% of the variance of aggressive behavior. But they don"t accept that there is proof that video games do any harm. Both maintain that without experimental proof, correlations found in the literature tell us "absolutely" nothing about causal relations.

Freedman, like Goldstein is psychologist who is familiar with the enormous difficulties and expense of good psychological research. Yet I still have deep concerns about the way Freedman evaluates the weight of scientific evidence about the relationship between violent entertainment and anti-social behaviour. Having just read much of this literature, I disagree with the criteria for proof he establishes, the kinds of evidence he excludes, and the way he accounts for each studies relative contribution to understanding the relationship between violent entertainment and aggression .

Firstly Freedman assumes that there is only one kind of proof of the causal hypothesis namely that children watching more violent entertainment should be predisposed to acting aggressively. Although the question of direct stimulation or imitation of violent media did dominate the research paradigm early on, the thinking in this field abandoned behaviorism for a more complex social learning approach during the 1960"s. In fact, I can"t think of many researchers who have pursued such a simplistic version of the causal hypothesis , at least since Bandura"s bobo doll experiments. This is what I object to most in this assessment of proof: Freedman"s imposition of behaviorist criteria of a direct causal relationship between media representations and aggressive behaviors as the benchmark.

Most contemporary psychologists do not theorize aggression as a direct imitation of the programme but as a learned social behavior that becomes enacted by individuals in different situations which have implicit rules and sanctions. Psychologists know that there are many things besides media which also contribute to children"s learning about conflict and the role of aggression in social relations. Personal experience, peer relations, identification with role models, intelligence, sex roles, and parenting styles are obviously important factors in the development of social skills and aggressive dispositions. The propensity to act aggressively therefore will vary across individuals depending on their experience and circumstances, their peer relations, and communities. But many also believe that media representations of conflict and interpersonal aggression can make a contribution to the cumulative formation of those mental constructs and representations which prevent or privilege aggressive behavior. What is learned from media will depend on children"s interest in, patterns of use, identification with and interpretation of the violent narratives.

Unfortunately, Freedman ignores the actual hypotheses of investigators like Bandura, Stein and Huessman and evaluates their conclusions according to his own simplistic causal hypothesis. For example his behaviorist criteria leads him to dismiss all evidence of intervening and interacting processes involved in the medias role in the development of aggression. He is particularly derisive of the experimental Bobo doll studies because he claims that hitting one is "not a measure of real aggression". So he dismisses all studies which show watching violence can influence either their social preferences for toys, to their attitudes or play. But if watching WWF leads some boys or girls to play more aggressively, and if, peer groups that engage in aggressive play establish norms that accept bullying and teasing, then it seems reasonable to study play as an intervening variable. Freedman would say that this study provides no evidence for a direct causal relationship.

Their interest in the mechanisms of learning lead many researchers to use indirect measures of the effects of violent programming. Take for example, Bandura"s (1963) study. Is it correct to read this as a test of the causal hypothesis that media violence causes aggression , or as Bandura proposes, as a study of the mechanisms of observational learning through which children imitate adult models, whether they are on television or not. As he points out peer aggression is not that frequent; and certainly less likely in adult supervised situations like the nursery school environments these studies were conducted . It makes sense to use a measure that reflects the learning rather than the aggression. Hitting of the Bobo doll is never interpreted by Bandura as a measure of aggression per se. Rather the hitting of Bobo indicates the degree to which the child, having observed the particular pattern of modeled behavior, incorporate that behavioral construct into their play routines.

Secondly, in doing so Freedman dismisses all arguments about intervening or mitigating variables moderating psychologists expectations of universal effects of violent entertainment on all children. We know aggressive and anti-social behavior is not distributed equally in populations, differing between genders, between classes, and educational levels. Aggression and crime rates vary depending upon the family background, peer experience and community the child grows up in. It is not far fetched to think that media use interacts with these situational sociological factors such as family regulation of media use, in contributing to the learning of aggressive and anti-social behaviour in children and youth.In longitudinal field research it is especially important to control for these interaction effects because we have evidence that family background, preferences, interests and social circumstance which shape both the preferential patterns of TV viewing and potentially contribute to the media"s impact on at risk children.

Although Freedman acknowledges that naturalistic experiments and longitudinal research should provide some of the most convincing evidence of effects, his simplistic reading of their results finds they don"t. But this conclusion depends on how you add up the weight of evidence: For example, he sometimes tallies each condition in the research design asa separate test of the behavioral hypothesis, as if all research is designed to prove whether media violence directly causes aggressive behaviors in all children in all situations. Knowing that real aggression is a rare event in the nursery school, Stein and Freidrich (1973) decided to observe the gamut of aggressive behaviour including threats, taunts and playful tussling as well as hitting as indicators of the differential learning from a diet of violent, neutral and pro-social programmes. Freedman counts this classic study as two failures because the researchers failed to demonstrate a significant difference on the behavioral level between both neutral and pro-social treatments and aggressive behavior. It"s a bit more complex than that.

It does take a rather complex analysis to tease out the mechanisms involved in the children"s differential assimilation of these three media diets which is why this study is regarded as a classic. But does Stein and Freidrich"s finding that it is only once we control for aggressive predisposition and preferences for violent or anti-social media at home that we can understand the aggression, lead us to reject or refine the effects hypothesis. I certainly wouldn"t discard this "hypothesis" when so many studies reveal that TV can effect children"s learning as registered in children"s language and play. Nor is it insignificant to find that the effects of the cartoon aggression diet are only found in boys once we control for aggressive predisposition and what they watch at home as well. The reason these researcher constructed three treatments and employed multiple measures was not because they expect every one to be different, but rather to help them explore the various mechanisms of learning mediating the acquisition of social behavior including cooperation as well as conflict. As Stein and Freidrich explain, children"s intelligence and aggressive dispositions, their family backgrounds and ways of orienting to television, as well as the children"s social skills all interact with patterned media use, and its expected effects.

For example, Freedman also argues that Milavsky" et. als longitudinal study which revealed that preferences for violent programming in childhood predicted subsequent aggressive behavior can"t be included as evidence. He rejects this finding by pointing out that a preference for violent media is not the same as exposure to it. Unless you measure actual exposure (stimulus) the evidence must be doubted. So if the study provides some evidence of some other intervening factors, he considers it as lessening the weight of empirical evidence. This is like arguing that preferences for cigarettes don"t kill people only cigarettes can. Yet enjoying cigarettes is part of the process of developing a patterned use of cigarettes – an aspect and indicator of the psychological process that contributes ultimately to higher rates of cancer. There will be some people who once smoked , liked to smoke , but no longer do, who might respond to a questionnaire that they have a preference for cigarettes, but this is hardly reason to discard sound evidence of a relationship between preferences and health outcomes. Moreover, in the case of both cigarettes and violent entertainment the fact that some forms a strong preference for the activity, implying enjoyment and pleasure, might be an important difference in the pattern of use. For example the smoker who enjoys a cigarette may take deeper guilt free puffs, and the boy who plays Duke Nukem, may enjoy the sexist connotations in ways that a girl doesn"t.

Although Freedman agrees that field studies have provided the most interesting evidence concerning the effects hypothesis: Yet by ignoring explanations based on intervening variables, he has discounted much of what we know about television as a learning environment for aggression. For example, he discounts Heusmann"s (1986) finding about identification with violent heroes because it is not uniformly related to subsequent increases in aggression scores for all subjects in all nations. Not only are the findings weak and inconsistent for genders he argues, but also the results from Holland and Finland failed to produce the same increasing correlations as the American results, and only for girls.

I have some knowledge of the kinds of programs that the American kids saw, but little of the kinds of violent programmes broadcast or family practices of Holland, Finland, Poland or even Israel to watch with the same frequency and duration please let me know. It is not unreasonable to suspect that developing preferences for violent programmes with action hero characters, might be part of a patterned use of violent entertainment that can contribute to the socialization of aggressive and antisocial children, in some cases. The evidence from these longitudinal studies is modest but not vanishingly so. Given the range of circumstances children grow up in, the differences in their preferences, and the variety of mitigating factors, if what children identify with violent heroes at 6 predicts any anti-social behavior at 15 in America -- even marginally, I think it is reasonable to read it as a rejection of the null hypothesis.

And until I am confident of that their experiences were similar, I would not reject the US finding, because the European lack thereof. I suspect the results of cross national studies might now be different given the presence of American programming in the global television market. Take for example Grobel's (2000) recent finding that 13 year old boys across Europe develop strong preferences of action hero programmes. Unfortunately, because longitudinal studies are expensive we are only beginning to understand o how these various intervening variables contribute to children"s social development – both positive and negative.

Not all of the psychological accounts of media effects expect young people to commit aggressive acts immediately after watching. Media can contribute to that process both directly impacting attitudes and by interacting with other risk factors experienced within peer groups, schools, families, communities. Mitigating factors in this socialization of aggression range from family modeling and regulation to laws and public advocacy programmes. This is why most effects researchers do not expect every single child will be influenced by media violence in the same way. For example, the desensitization hypothesis implies that the more children watch, the less violence disturbs them. Habituation and desensitization may well explain why as some children grow up they become bored with violent games. Or alternatively why they seek out more aggressive fantasy experiences to overcome that boredom. Displacement theories imply that the harm to children may derive from what they give up in order to watch , such as healthy social play and reading.

Some of these hypotheses seem tangential to the behaviorist insistence that after playing games children should feel more hostile or act more violently. Yet psychologists understand that these factors constitute developmental assets which may help children cope with ever present media violence. Garbarino for example has noted that once the researcher accounts for these "developmental assets" the media"s influence becomes clearer. Among asset-rich children the rate of violence is low while among asset-poor children the rate is high. "Assets are found throughout the social ecology of the child—family, school, neighborhood, and community. The rate of demonstrating significant violence is 6% for kids with 31 to 40 assets bracket, 16% for those with 21 to 30, 35% for those with 11 to 20, and 61% for those with 0 to 10. Risk and opportunity accumulate." Which is why, he says "an accumulation-of-risk model is essential if we are to understand where televised violence fits into the learning and demonstration of aggressive behavior." Aggressive individuals or those who experience abusive, or brutal family and peer relations may develop a preference for violent entertainment, which in turn confirms templates of human relations which reinforces their understanding of conflict in their lives. Other families monitor, limit and co-view media, exerting a moderating influence over the way children use and interpret media. It all depends. Rather than the causal hypothesis, the driving force behind the psychological research enterprise is To determine what it all depends onbecause accounting for mitigating factors may help us understand why, heavy consumers of violent entertainment do not always grow up to be aggressive and anti-social.

Thirdly, and most problematically Freedman"s review exclusively deals with studies of TV violence and aggressive behavior. Dill and Dill observe that many of the problems in the video game literature arise from limited theorization of the differences between video game play and television watching. Although video game use patterns vary they are not chaotic or unpatterned. But surveys reveal that more so than television, boys are different than girls in their preferences, use and pleasures derived from game play. Boys not surprisingly prefer violent games and value elements that make games violent more. (Kline 1998)The preference for violent video game play is related to the amount of overall time spent and the preference for video gaming as a leisure activity. These heavy players are more likely to have game machines in their rooms, and to be less supervised in their game play.

These are some of the reasons we should not use Freedman "s judgment of limited effects review to the evaluate the learning from video games. Although I believe there are important similarities between these screen media, there is as Bandura (1986) speculates , also good reason to believe that the learning mechanisms invoked by video games will be stronger than with TV:

interactive nature of video games may increase the learning of game playing behaviours, including aggression, especially considering the move towards real-life action and actors in the newer generation of video games. This increasing realism might encourage greater identification with characters and more imitation of the behaviours of video game models.

Dill and Dill also note, as cultural studies scholars have insisted, that the active participation of video game play -- where players choose and then manipulate characters from first person point of view, may accentuate their identification with the characters and narrative: "Identification with the video game character may be stronger than identification with television or movie characters, in part because players choose a character and play the characters role in the video game scenario" (1998: 413). For this reason desensitization effects may be accentuated: "Empathy has been found to be low among known aggressors than non-aggressive and the degree that plots justify the aggression "if violent video games depicts victims as deserving attacks and if these video games tend to portray other humans as targets then reduced empathy is likely to be a consequence of violent video game play".

And finally, I believe that Freedman"s review has passed its best by date: Although it was published in 2002 he provides no account of empirical studies of media and aggression after 1992. It is too bad that Freedman has not kept up with the research literature when he claims that once other factors have been considered in those longitudinal studies, the variance explained by violent media preferences is negligible. ? For example, in a recent longitudinal study published inSciencethis year and undertaken in the USA, Johnson et al. (2002) report that even after controlling for other factors known to contribute to aggressiveness in young people"like childhood neglect, growing up in an unsafe neighborhood, low family income, low parental education and psychiatric disorders" there remain"significant associations between television viewing during early adolescence and subsequent aggressive acts against other persons" later in life. Their data show for example that young boys who watch more television are particularly at risk for aggressive behavior media: whereas 45% of the boys who watched television more than 3 hours per day at age 14, subsequently committed aggressive acts involving others, only 8.9%, who watched television less than an hour a day were aggressive later in life.

So too, in Daniel Anderson et al."s recent reporting of their recontact study, the two teams found " a much stronger support for content-based hypotheses "â€Ã‚¦ Viewing educational programs as preschoolers was associated with higher grades, reading more books, placing more value on achievement, greater creativity and less aggression. These associations were more consistent for boys than for girls. By contrast, the girls who were more frequent preschool viewers of violent programs had lower grades than those who were infrequent viewers." (pg vii) Using sophisticated statistical techniques the researchers found that when they controlled for an intervening variable called television focus (defined by the degree to which children talk about violence and use television themes in their play) there were strongly significant differences between correlations for viewing preferences at age five for violent programmes and aggression during their teens. Those with low television focus had negative -.12 correlations while those medium and high focus had +.24 correlations. Again evidence not of simple direct effects, but of an growing understanding of how children"s patterns of media use can influence their social behaviors.

This brings me to the crux of a perspectival paradox buried in the Amici Curiae"s submission. In their submission the Amici draw attention to both fact that media consumption is a voluntary behavior, and that playing violent games is much enjoyed by young people. This is why they see the legislation as censorship of children"s pleasure. Children are especially active audiences with interactive media, they claim, which is why their media use cannot be understood as a passive assimilation of contents: Children know that video games are simply environments for playful exploration of a sometimes difficult "adult" world. Moreover children"s play, and game play especially is a very complex learning process because it is imaginary: we can "t assume children make literal sense of the violence in their video games. They choose to watch horror films or play video games for many reasons including the potential to fantasize "empowerment" and transgression" and to experience "intensified emotions" or reinforce "ideological" understandings of the grown up world (Buckingham 2001).

All of these arguments are valid; but when the Amici go on to assert that the effects research has not acknowledged them, I must disagree. These cultural studies scholars have in the past ridiculed quantitative effects research for its positivism and failure to appreciate the complexities of children"s relationship to the media. Their underlying objections to quantitative evidence is that "effects are much more diverse and difficult to quantify than believers in the causal hypothesis generally acknowledge". Yet it is not the effects tradition which has been "driven" by a unproven "causal hypothesis" but the cultural critics who read the media effects literature through the lens of the causal hypothesis who see children as only "passive victims" of mediated entertainment.

Every media analyst is acquainted with the complexity of studying the relationships between entertainment and human behavior: So why utilize simplistic behaviorist critiques to call into question the evidence these researchers have gathered that leads them to believe that media can contribute to aggressive and anti-social behavior. This is why I find it so curious that these scholars have relied on the opinions of behavioral psychologists like Goldstein and Freedman, whose industry supported readings of the accumulated evidence are purposive. Freedman and Goldstein are reviewers with a political agenda: both are self confessed "hired guns" who are supported by industry for their reviews of the video game literature. I propose the Amici actually read this literature themselves, for I believe they will find that some of these researchers have thought deeply about how children learn while using media, and report their conclusions honestly.

Cause for Concern: Researching Determinacy in a Complex Social World

The Amici accept this interpretation but have antipathy to the use of probability statistics in the empirical sciences: "significant" they argue does not mean "important". It means simply "not likely to happen by chance." I think it is unfortunate therefore that in their rush to condemn all quantitative research that they fail to distinguish between the use of inferential statistics to prove cause s in laboratories and its use to identify risk factors in studying the effects of media in populations. of the effects literature without understanding the .

I have suggested that it is a learning model not a causal model which drives this field of research. The theories of learning proposed by both the medical and psychological associations suggest that video games can be a risk factor, if a not a cause, which in addition to and interacting with many other factors contributes to socialization (Huesmann 1997). This is why the Amici"s elision of the difference between the causal hypothesis and risk analysis is fundamentally mistaken. The causal hypothesis of the behaviorists critics, and the theories of social learning of risky behaviors employed by the psychologists are radically different conceptions of determinacy in social behaviour: In the history of science this difference is akin to those between biology and ecology in the natural sciences, between a mechanical Newtonian physics and systems quantum science. Underlying both is the rejection of Aristotelian notions of isolatable and necessary precursors of a subsequent effect, to be replaced by a multi-dimensional and probabilistic account of mutually interacting systems of dynamic relationships between variables. It is for this reason that the Surgeon General's (2000) asserts that media violence can be viewed as a risk factor in youth aggression. The report summarized the controversial evidence concerning the media's contribution to youth aggression in the following way:

"Research to date justifies sustained efforts to curb the adverse effects of media violence on youths. Although our knowledge is incomplete, it is sufficient to develop a coherent public health approach to violence prevention that builds upon what is known, even as more research is under way. Unlike earlier Federal research reports on media violence and youth (National Institute of Mental Health, 1982; U.S. Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, 1972), this discussion takes place within a broader examination of the causes and prevention of youth violence. This context is vital. It permits media violence to be regarded as one of many complex influences on the behavior of America's children and young people. It also suggests that multilayered solutions are needed to address aggressive and violent behavior."

Risk analysis does not assume that there is one singular and overriding effect. Nor are all of the expected mechanisms related directly to media content. A growing body of research has suggested that an array of psychological mechanisms (social learning, mean world, desensitization, role modeling) are involved in the socialization of aggression. So to the indirect effects of having other kinds of activities displaced (homework, reading for pleasure, social play) and by becoming habitually linked to unhealthy lifestyle practices (eating while watching, inactive pleasures) are widely accepted.

The process of learning to be aggressive and antisocial, involves the development of attitudes and emotional responses to social situations over the course of a lifetime: In the course of daily life it is reasonable to hypothesize that both violent content influences aggressive attitudes and predisposition to aggression can contribute to the preference for violent entertainment. What matters in the long run is whether the patterned use of media contributes to their attitudes to aggressive and anti-social behavior. This is why the video game industry is often compared with the Tobacco industry for promoting a risky behavior. Murray as well as Anderson (refs.) , have suggested that the "risks" associated with violent media use approach those which link smoking to lung cancer: that would mean that 10-20% of teen anti-social behavior can be attributed to their television viewing. Freedman"s estimates are closer to 10% of the variance explained and I support his estimates. Yet remember, those are estimates for the whole population. The correlations are higher for some "at risk" populations – that is children growing up poor, in abusive homes , hanging with aggressive peers and growing up in high crime neighbourhoods.

In epidemiological science the relationship between two variables – for example watching television and obesity -- is established empirically by careful analysis of interacting risks. Since not all smokers get lung cancer, nor do all heavy consumers of violent media become instant killers, these relationships are represented statistically in terms of the probabilities of their concurrence. The statistical tools for assessment of risk are correlation, covariance and regression analysis. In epidemiological research a correlation with a risk indicates that a variable might be a risk factor. It does not matter whether the smoking cause d the cancer, or that those predisposed to cancer smoked more. Nor does it matter that medical science has not yet established exactly which of the chemicals in the smoke actually precipitates the disease process or why individuals predisposed to cancer, smoke. Yet to scientists, the assessment of risks is an important step in the developing a better understanding of the mechanisms of risk reduction. (Hill 1965) For example an analysis of the Youth Risk Behaviour Surveillance data for 2001 show that heavy viewers of TV are 7% more likely to get in a fight during the prior 30 days, than light viewers. The same survey estimates that 33 % get in fights during a year, so when used to estimate the implications of a determinant relationship for a population the size of America, a 7% of the difference implies that hundreds of thousands of children could be put at risk of bullying and teasing from television.

    % of US population under 20 = 30%

    size of youth and child population = 30% x 276 million = 82 million

    33 % of teens reported getting fights in 2001 = 27,324,000 fights in America each year.

    7% difference implies that in the order of 1,912,000 fights that might be attributed to heavy television viewing.

Risk analysis acknowledges that media use, like cigarette smoking and wearing of seat belts is a matter of lifestyle choices that become patterned in the course of development. Contributing factors can be explored by comparing the correlations between media use and aggression within specific populations such as boys and girls. If there is evidence that more boys who regularly play violent games are also more likely to be anti-social and aggressive than a comparable population of then media can be said to constitute a lifestyle risk to children in the same way that starting to smoke does. Because viewing is voluntary, does not imply it is risk free. In the face of similar evidence the cigarette companies have demanded definitive proof of a causal mechanism too, in courts where they defend their right to sell this "legal" product. Their insistence on proof of a direct causal relationships in both cases is at odds with scientific judgment of the multiple and mutually interacting risks of aggression that children encounter in the course of their lives.

Children use and interpret video games in different ways. We know that boys , far more than girls are likely to play them regularly, and also to develop stronger preferences for violent games. Moreover, their video game play will itself be sanctioned and negotiated differentially within families, within communities, and within cultures. Perhaps boys identify more with powerful characters, with situations of power and conquest, or perhaps they become habituated to or catharcized by repeated acts of killing. It all depends on a variety of psychological and social forces than can be identified statistically. So why worry about the absolute proof of a generalized causal mechanism if we have strong evidence suggesting particular children will be influenced more by playing violent video games. Acknowledging this, risk analysis suggests that we don"t need to worry about each and every child – only the ones that put themselves at risk because of their particular interest in and preference for violent video games.

The Amici suggest that since harm has not been proven, that we can expectno positive outcomes from the regulation of media. Yet risk analysis of media use has helped us focus on the many things in children"s lives which can moderate the impact of a steady diet of aggressive entertainment. The risk approach suggests that a better understanding of their distribution provides new insights into the possibility of mitigating those risks associated with heavy media consumption. This has been nicely illustrated by two recent field experiments undertaken at Stanford by Robinson and colleagues which demonstrated that reducing young children"s overall exposure to media (TV and video games) can have very positive effects on their health and aggressive behavior. Robinson points out that correlational evidence indicates that avid TV viewers, especially girls, are at risk of obesity and boys of violence. It is true that these correlations don"t tell us whether aggressive and fat children watch more TV, or whether heavy TV viewers fight and eat more and exercise less. But since we are interested in reducing obesity and anti-social behavior it is possible to test these directional relationships by reducing the risks associated with heavy TV viewing.

Applying Bandura"s social learning models, Robinson reasons that reducing children"s media exposure could lessen their identification with aggressive heroes and reduce their enactments of domination scripts in their playground interactions. In the case of obesity three media related mechanisms have been found in the literature: First that children substitute watching TV for more active play; second that in watching more TV children will be exposed to more snack and fast food advertisements; and third, that children develop a particular habit of eating while they watch. Robinson developed a schools based programme for reducing that risk through media education program. At the test school researchers found children in the media risk reduction intervention had reduced their TV viewing by about one-third. They also found that after six months the weight gain in the treatment schools was significantly lower. Moreover, based on ratings of playground aggression, frequencies of bullying and rough and tumble play were about 25 percent lower in the treatment school, than those at the control school.

Conclusion: Rethinking Panic Culture?

Peter Horsfield (1997) has pointed out, the idea of media panic, is now also "invoked by those in positions of power in society and in situations where it doesn"t apply, in order to discount and defuse legitimate challenges to their power" and interests. The Amici curiae are a group of international cultural studies scholars who as "friends of the court" believe that"efforts to address real–world violence by censoring entertainment are profoundly misguided." I highlight this point because it seems to me that the Amici"s intervention is more about the politics of free speech than it is about understanding the role played by media in the socialization of aggression. The Amici are intervening on the side of an industry which has lobbied hard for more than 10 years to resist having any kind of legislation imposed on the promotion, sale and distribution of digital entertainment, against the general drift of American popular opinion. They have put their names, and their scholarly reputations behind the ISDA"s controversial legal claim that any legislation attempting to deal with marketing and sale violent entertainment to children is tantamount to censorship. Unfortunately they never discuss why they think censorship of children"s culture by parents is wrong: And so the cultural studies attack on media effects researchers ends up being political intervention based on challenging the views, and the motives, of effects scientists.

I am not a lawyer nor am I familiar with the St. Louis ordinances exact provisions. Yet from their defense it is clear to me, that like the V-chip, the ratings legislation seeks to consolidate the parental "filtering" of all media in accordance with generally held community standards, rather like a net nanny. Ratings place restrictions on the sale of only those video games which are not intended for, and are deemed inappropriate for children of an age by the industry itself. When, the ISDA funded the rating of these games as 17+ under the ESRB did they not implicitly accept that there are social values and community standards pertaining to all media (TV and Films); that some parents have concerns about the risks associated with video games because they felt they were unsuitable for children. As the ESRB web site claims, these ratings are advisories intended to help parents make appropriate choices for their children: ""We want to make sure that parents and consumers have the tools that they need to monitor which computer and video games their children play," said Dr. Arthur Prober, President of the ESRB." When parents check the rating, the control is in their hands - right where it should be." Since the legislation does not put a ban the sale of video games outright, the legislation hardly merits being called censorship. It is not draconian in its spirit or its intent. Its intent is to help parents prevent their children"s inadvertent exposure to violent, sexual and terrifying experiences. So why is it, that in every jurisdiction that begins to enforce stronger media regulations, the media industry"s P.R. flacks intervene? In the political struggles over children"s entertainment cultural studies has become aligned with an industry which insists any ordinance controlling the children"s marketplace is a censorship law, rather than an aid to families trying to raise their children in difficult circumstances.

These politics of media censorship in America are part of a much broader struggle over what that society considers good or harmful for its children in market society, and who has what rights to communicate with them. I am aware that media panic can be used to promote zero tolerance. But I am also wary of pathologizing American parents and educators for their concern about youth violence. To some degree there is evidence that the gun panic, though not changing the constitution, has to some degree pacified the schools, where the number of weapons and frequency of fighting seems to be falling given the zero tolerance policies. Yet it is also important to remember that the political struggles over youth aggression, are complex and different, in Canada , Britain Sweden and France. In the States freedom of speech and of the press has become equated with freedom for corporations to dominant public discourse. The point I am making is simple, legal and political: the administration of ratings everywhere, including the U.S.A, is generally regarded as a legitimate and helpful mechanism for market regulation designed to maintain community standards and values. This judge in St. Louis felt that the state should play a role in cultural markets by assisting parents to be effective guardians – perhaps so that they don"t have to engage in constant surveillance of their children.

It is true that we don"t know very much about how video game violence will impact children"s culture in the long run. But certainly the optimists are wrong: like television, video games have not brought about a new age of enlightenment. The evidence seems to show, that some children who play them intensely over a long period of time may be more predisposed to aggressiveness in their play preferences and social interactions. They also give up sports and social interaction to play them. They may also less likely to be fit, to sleep less, and often do worse at school because of the time they spend playing them and not doing their homework. Perhaps we shouldn"t be panicked. But neither should we deny the possibility that they provide learning experiences to the children that play them – some that we sanction and celebrate and others that we don"t. The media effects controversy therefore, is not so much about whether there are effects, but how we evaluate them.

War and Peace in the Hallowed Halls

Cultural historians like Brian Sutton Smith have reminded us that both aggressive play and gruesome folktales have long been a facet of children"s culture. This is obvious. But does that mean nothing has changed when the video game industry has developed games which accentuate brutal retribution and justifies the use of force which can be experienced as entertainment – as fun -- by those that choose to play them. Does the longevity of conflict in life and art mean that new media have not altered the environments of story telling, the quantity and brutality of conflicts" representation, and thus contribute to what and how children learn while using them?

The cultural studies scholars have voiced their strong challenge to researchers who claim that media can influence what children learn while playing with video games. Having slogged through this research I am left wondering why cultural studies scholars have declared war on media psychology. Under the banner of media panic they have dismissed its claims, and questioned their motives. Their strongest words are directed against psychological researchers who have tried to gather evidence about what children learn. These cultural critics have public ally condemned these effects psychologists in the courts of America as both false and mischievous because they believe scientific research fans the flames of public anxiety. They advocate an end the censorship of children"s culture, granting total freedom to the media industries get on with their business of entertaining children without reference to community standards. In so doing they have exposed the fundamental disciplinary and epistemological divides that separate these two ways of thinking about media.

I have tried to point out that in respect to method, that the discourses of science are differentiated from other ways of apprehending of our world -- intuition, journalism, divine inspiration, common sense and risk panic -- all of which it is sometimes at odds. As Michele Foucault has so ably noted all sciences are social discourses of knowledge embedded in the struggles over social power in a politicized world. As Foucault concludes: "In societies like ours, the 'political economy' of truth is â€Ã‚¦centred on the form of scientific discourse and the institutions which produce it; it is subject to constant economic and political incitement. Pg. 131-132.Yet as he goes on to suggest it is " the problem does not consist in drawing the line between that in a discourse which falls under the category of scientificity or truth, and that which comes under some other category, but in seeing historically how effects of truth are produced within discourse which in themselves are neither true nor false. " pg. 118. This is because a science in our modern lexicon subsumes a self-critical discursive practice -- that is, a social body of experts or specialists who research and debate the results of their investigations. In the twentieth century the sciences emerged as a critical social enterprise whose method of inquiry and its epistemology established careful rules of evidence for argument.

During the twentieth century as our interest in researching public communication grew, the methods of studying communication diverged: on one side, stood the hermeneutic traditions of arts and humanities who interpreted texts in isolation. On the other, stood the social sciences, especially developing in North America, who emphasized the generalizable effects of mass-mediated content. Raymond Williams was worried by this ever-widening divide in post WW II communication studies between social scientific and humanities communities. Media studies especially the study of audiences, he argued, was being bifurcated by these epistemological and methodological rifts.

I believe Williams fully understood the fundamental differences underlying the theories, interests, research methods and philosophies in the divergent streams of communication studies. The humanities had evolved its critical "interpretive" approach from methods of the exegesis of texts which emphasized the insightful interpretive analysis of specific cultural artifacts, and from the detailed historical analysis of documentary evidence situated in specific socio-historical contexts. These scholars contributed "sustained and detailed analysis of actual cultural works" he argued, but "what was much more open to question was the extension of this kind of analysis and insight to matters of cultural and social generalization." The social scientists on their part, seemed to Williams to be reductionist and a-historical in the general laws, structures and impacts of communication processes they espoused. American social sciences were especially steeped in quantitative behaviorism and operationalism, all too often narrowing their empirical inquiry to questions which were easily "observable" rather than critical challenges to prevailing ideology. Each epistemological community tended to police its disciplinary boundaries more vociferously, avoiding dialogue about complementary methods, or fundamentally misunderstanding the dialectical logic at the heart of qualitative and quantitative methods.

Yet Williams worried that culturalist approach had become naively opposed to the social science method. They also stopped taking the idea of determinacy seriously. Williams himself refused to reject completely the value of the American "effects research tradition, indeed stated clearly that he found much of it "useful". His proposal of a hybrid discipline called "cultural science" was based on his hope that by entering into a dialogue there would be a healing of the epistemic fissures in communication research. He believed that it would only be through such a dialogue that this new discipline would be able to keep social structure and "determinacy" relationships in full view while acknowledging the 'agency' of audiences that chose to use and consume them.

Beneath the epistemic divide between cultural studies and psychology however, lie divergent valorizations of childhood itself. Cultural studies has documented the resourceful child who always copes with what the market offers. Concerned with the problem of well being, the psychologists documented the vulnerable child, at ever greater risk in our risk society. Both of these perspectives are important ways of thinking about the situation of the media saturated childhood. I share Williams dream of a unified cultural science, but fear that his "politics of hope" has been forgotten in the disciplinary struggle over how we should interpret the media risks in America and Europe.






References:

NIMH (1972). Television and growing up: the impact of televised violence; report to the Surgeon General, United States Public Health Service. Rockville, Md.,, National Institute of Mental Health.

Kaiser Foundation (1999). Kids and Media at the New Millennium: A Comprehensive National Analysis of Children"s Media Use, Kaiser Family Foundation. 2003.

American Academy of Pediatrics (2001). Media violence. Committee on Public Education. Pediatrics 108(5): 1222-6.

Surgeon General of the USA (2001). Youth Violence: A Report of the Surgeon General. 2003.

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Categories
All in the Mind

Prescience from January 2002: The Myth of Autism

In Leo Kanner's now classic 1943 paper he outlined the behavior pattern, present from early in life, which he named 'early infantile autism'. Prior to this, there were, in the literature, occasional accounts of individual children whose behavior fitted the picture Kanner later described. Kanner described only the autistic children referred to his clinic and, later on, those attending a particular special school (Kanner,1973). He made no estimates of the numbers in the general population, but thought that his syndrome was rare.

Later on Kanner and Eisenberg (1956) discussed Kanner's original conception of autism and the five features he considered to be diagnostic. These were, a profound lack of affective contact with other people; an anxiously obsessive desire for the preservation of sameness in the child's routines and environment; a fascination for objects, which are handled with skill in fine motor movements (an area of actual weakness in many of the children being diagnosed today); mutism or a kind of language that does not seem intended for inter-personal communication; good cognitive potential shown in feats of memory or skills on performance tests, especially the Séguin form board. Kanner also emphasized onset from birth or before 30 months.

In the same paper, Kanner and Eisenberg modified the diagnostic criteria by selecting two as essential.

These were:

  1. a profound lack of affective contact
  2. repetitive, ritualistic behavior, which must be of an elaborate kind.

They considered that, if these two features were present, the rest of the typical clinical picture would also be found THEN: 1 – 2 children / 10,000

Now: 1 child / 500, with much higher numbers being quoted routinely. So, how can so many children now have such a previously rare disorder? How can a rare, almost unheard of “severe mental dysfunction†become something every pediatrician is seeing, something every parent is concerned about? How can we now have this rare misfortune become an epiphenomenon threatening to overwhelm our school and social systems, while destroying families across this country, and around the world?

To understand this, one needs to go back to the beginning. Per above, Kanner (1943) described a disorder by its “behavioral†features. Needless to say, “behavioral†dysfunction can be caused by many factors, NOT just the idea of a developmental or psychiatric dysfunction, as held forth, for so many years. Think of it, an idea, literally now dictum, held forth over decades, with ONLY a “behavioral†pattern for diagnosis, not one objective or consistent physiologic dysfunction or finding required to prove or disprove this “disorder / diagnosis,†(but “somehow†all these children have it FOR LIFE). In fact, over the years, to this day, health professionals have had no idea what causes this disorder. Explanations have ranged from childhood schizophrenia to bad parenting to “something†biologic, all with the underlying concept that “something†must have happened “developmentally.â€

Somehow (mechanism unknown) the brain was “miswired,†these children were not okay, COULD NOT be okay (but with NO idea of what was happening, WHY it happened, even HOW it happened).

Graduating medical school (UCLA) I was told that IF I saw one Autistic child in my entire lifetime of practice it would be “one too many.†Over the last 10 – 15 years that is sadly no longer true for myself or many other pediatricians. How can this be? Scientifically (logic not myth) how can this be possible?

Since “developmental†disorders were NOT considered “medical†disorders, medical doctors were not the primary physicians consulted or involved with their management. Likewise, the brain was essentially a “Black Box,†with essentially no real evidence allowing study or insight into what was really happening with this or most “neurological†or “psychological disorders. If there was NO definable objective reason for what was happening, “it must be psychological†seemed the standard cry of medicine. Therefore, as Psychologists and Psychiatrists rapidly expanded the above definition to include all the children appearing with “spectrum†dysfunction, the first large mistake was made.

Suddenly (mid - late 80's / early 90's) there were a lot of children appearing that did NOT fit “classic†Autism. This should have created appropriate questions and initiated scientific, medical investigations.

“What's going on? Why are we suddenly seeing so many dysfunctional children? Maybe something is wrong here? MAYBE this is not Autism? Instead, literally the “definition†just kept being expanded, modified, and ALL the new children were just put into a variation of the OLD basket. It is very likely, children and society itself would be way ahead IF instead of expanding the “basket†enlarging the alphabet soup of Autism (PDD, Aspergers, Autistic spectrum, LKS variant, etc.), experts had said,

maybe this is NOT Autism, maybe we have another problem (with some “Autistic†like symptoms) occurring. Instead they (the “expertsâ€) just kept expanding the definition, expanding the “basket†but NEVER asked the critical question, do these children even belong in this basket? How many parents (often against their own belief) presently are being told their children have this strange disorder (or are on the spectrum) and they must learn to live with it, accept it? How many parents think their children even come close to meeting Kanner's main criteria “a profound lack of affective contact and elaborate repetitive, ritualistic behavior?â€

The good news is science is finally on the children's side, but sadly it appears the old logic and system are many years away from changing or waking up. A cold, hard fact of science says “You cannot have an epidemic of ANY type of genetic or developmental disorder†It is impossible, cannot happen, there are NO exceptions!! And yet, the vast majority of the researchers in this country, the world, are still studying these children as if they truly had some undefined, unknown “developmental†disorder.

Instead of looking for the correct answers, instead of focusing on at this point what can ONLY be understood as a DISEASE (not developmental) process, the “system†continues to fund researcher's trying to figure out and understand “Autism†(as a developmental disorder). This is why so little progress has occurred in spite of millions of dollars being spent. Researchers are being funded to study what 99.9% of the children appearing today CANNOT have. IF this process continues,

EVERYONE will lose (except the researchers and universities receiving mass amounts of funding and the “industry†of “alternative therapists†helping to try and “treat†these sadly dysfunctional, “special needs†children).

As noted, it is blatantly obvious to all but the “system,†99.9% of your children do not come close to meeting Kanner's definition of Autism. It has become absolutely safe to say, 99.9% of children being diagnosed as “Autistic†do not have Autism (as the term is understood or used), but rather reflect a disease state, a CNS dysfunction, manifested by many Autistic symptoms, but unlike a developmental disorder, treatable, changeable IF we act quickly enough. But, how many of the present “leaders,†how many of the existing “Autistic†groups are questioning present funding, present efforts? How many are going before congress saying we have a large group of children that IF helped, IF treated might grow up to be productive citizens, might pay taxes (rather than utilize tax services) one day? Why NOT?

That is the “myth†of Autism. Children are being “labeled†with a disorder they DO NOT really have. Parents are being told there is little hope, when there should be a lot of reasons for hope. As long as we continue to “label†so many children / families with this “undefined,†“unexplained†disorder, few physicians, parents, or congressman EXPECT these children could ever really recover, really regain regular function. In the “myth†of Autism, many dangerous or partially successful therapies abound,

with “some success (often with large risks) being better than nothing.†Think of the difference, if physicians, therapists EXPECTED a child to recover, were focused on finding answers to fix this now, for this generation of children, rather than accept any degree of “minute†improvement as “wonderfulâ€.

It has become obvious, that “neuro-immune,†and / or chronic viral connections are the only pathways,

the only “proposed†mechanisms that have NO scientific contradictions, and an ever-enlarging compendium of articles in support. While many will pose the questions “where are the controlled studies,†EVERY medical fact and recent discovery helps substantiate the likelihood of an autoimmune, “neuro-immune†related process. Perhaps it's time this question / challenge should be turned around.

WHERE are the studies, where is the data showing all these children, all these families have to resign themselves to some permanent dysfunction, incurable disorder? Based on what “objective†data,

based on what “objective†studies are we committing so many children and families to this bleak prognosis, a very bleak future?

We ARE presently at a major crossroads. Are we going to continue to follow (blindly) OLD logic, OLD thinking with NO consistent physiologic dysfunction measurable / documented; OR can we unite behind scientifically sound data, more than “reasonable medical probability,†and clinical logic before we lose forever the chance to help THIS generation of children. There are excellent researchers, clinicians, and scientists ready to focus on solving this disease NOW, rather than study the “myth,†but this effort

(NIDS) remains buried under the wall of “controlled†misinformation. Unless, we all step up now to change this, to demand clinical science and logic, not “mythology†be applied to these children, the “system†could easily take another 10 – 15 years (or longer) to come around to the right answers. How are ready to step up and say, “enough is enough� How many millions of dollars have been spent (particularly in the last 6 – 7 years) with NO answers, NO new hope? Are we all going to wait another decade (or longer as many researchers predict) for possible answers or are we going to help solve this NOW? The NIDS effort was formed to help look at this crisis appropriately scientifically,

logically, MEDICALLY. Many parents are working hard to help make a real future for their children. It is up to all of you to decide if that effort is going to get a chance to succeed NOW for your children. Do we continue to follow “mythology†or do we turn to clinical logic and a true scientific understanding of your children's dysfunction / disease??

Respectfully submitted for consideration of all parents, educators, therapists, and health professionals being overwhelmed by “The Myth of Autism†(perhaps its time to change the focus, maybe really change the future for this generation of children and families)

PS: This was authored 8 years ago, shortly after I has received an odd ASD diagnosis, but 3 years before I reached the same conclusion and contriibuted to a book of the same the name, fimally published in November 2010.

Categories
Power Dynamics War Crimes

Free Speech and Hate Speech

False and ridiculous charges are no real problem. It is the unconscionable critics who reveal unwanted truths from whom society must be protected" Noam Chomsky in Deterring Democracy

A False Sense of Self-Righteousness

Intellectuals in the public eye remind us how we should thank our lucky stars for our democratic system with freedom of speech and press. Not only should we cherish this relative freedom, but we should ensure our high standards are met elsewhere through economic or military intervention.

All things considered our model of democracy is largely a farce reduced to occasional opinion polls and popularity contests, while our wonderfully free media is in the hands of a corporate and state bureaucracy. Without advertising revenues or state subsidies, independent outlets do not stand a chance. Nonetheless some journalists committed to the truth and genuine debate have allowed some dissident views to surface through excellent documentaries, reporting and live discussions. When the My Lai massacre appeared on American TV screens, the Vietnam War soon turned into a public relations disaster. This did not stop General Wesley Clark from defending the US Army's record or from directing air strikes over the Balkans 30 years later. However, most off-message views have been neatly confined within a range of legitimate dissent.

Increasingly news reports appeal to the wishful thinking professional classes and armchair activists, horrified by alleged abuses of human rights attributable to inhumane foreign leaders or lower class louts.

Three main objections are raised against free speech:

  1. False or embarrassing allegations may slander otherwise defenceless individuals and stir irrational public contempt.
  2. Some views, especially when expressed in overt language, may offend certain sections of the community.
  3. Some views may challenge the ideological supremacy of the ruling class and incite rebellion.

The first objection may seem tenable at first as the recipients of any media hate campaign know all too well. We might wonder how the press, controlled by corporate interests, chooses which celebs, politicians or foreign leaders to demonise. However, we need not limit freedom of speech to protect defenceless individuals against unjust attacks, merely allow the right of reply and fairer libel laws accessible to all irrespective of financial means, so that newspapers would be forced to compensate the victims of deliberate misinformation. In a civilised society media outlets would stick to the facts that concern us. If we had a diverse media interested in genuine problems affecting millions of ordinary people, we would not be obsessed with the private lives of public figures, but rather debate how the actions of the powerful affect us.

The second objection is very much in vogue and usually applies to remarks or views deemed racist, otherwise xenophobic, sexist or somehow prejudicial to the interests of a given group. To some the current obsession with political correctness may seem a sign of progress. Personally I have never liked remarks and opinions disrespectful of members of other ethnic groups, especially deprived immigrant communities. But a closer look at the facts reveals a different picture as the gap between rich and poor has demonstrably never been greater. Indeed political correctness masks the real intents of politicians, while the focus of media attention is on the choice of words rather than on the repercussions of policies. Moreover, who decides what is racist, xenophobic, sexist or, to use a newly coined term, homophobic? For instance a British anti-nuclear protester was recently charged with incitement to racial hatred for dragging a US flag on the ground during a demonstration against the deployment of the multi-billion dollar Star Wars project (as originally reported in the Independent).

Foreign Office spokespeople dress their briefings up in diplomatic Newspeak. Someone who plants a bomb outside a gay pub killing two people is a dangerous mentally deranged neo-Nazi admirer of both Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin, while the UK government's feeble excuses for violence on a much greater scale over the Balkans and Iraq may only be criticised tactically and former UK support for Iraq is a mere strategic mistake. Yet were we to adopt the lynch mob tactics of the press, we'd brand Tony Blair a rabid racist and send him to the European Court of Human Rights. As Mr Blair's rhetoric is strongly against nominal racism and new concepts such as ethnic cleansing (formerly known as colonisation and mass deportation), we have internalised the notion that New Labour seeks to uphold the human rights of all. The very same government approved export credits for the sale of arms to Indonesia and Turkey, responsible for human rights abuses on a massive scale, and feels it has the moral authority to smear all opponents of aerial bombardments over Iraq and the Balkans as apologists for totalitarian regimes.

On a purely rational level openly xenophobic speech need only worry us if it can attract widespread public support. First we may ask why ordinary people are susceptible to xenophobic propaganda, but it seems elementary that those with a wider reach can more easily sway public opinion, e.g. if a man in a pub tells his mate a horror story about a gypsy who mugged his mother, only his mate knows and can judge for himself whether the story is true or representative of Roma as a whole. However, were widespread media outlets to run stories about gypsies mugging women, it could reinforce deep-seated prejudices and incite ethnic hatred. By contrast, were such propaganda targeted at communities who had lived together peacefully and intermarried for generations, the media might face serious opposition. Xenophobia is not based so much on ignorance as on preconceptions. Over the last century British propaganda has evolved from blatant nationalism, to subtle moral superiority. A hundred years ago our rulers colonised 1/4 of the world's land to civilise inferior cultures and empower the empire, we had a God-given right to enslave other peoples in all but name and to destabilise their governments.

Today the UK intervenes to support the international community's desire to teach a lesson to foreign leaders accused of heinous crimes against humanity and enforce business-friendly democracy. In contrast with the imperial heyday the UK is a faithful lieutenant of a transnational Anglo-American Empire and public relations dictate that imperialist wars be sold on humanitarian grounds.

In the 1990s the media tried to persuade the public that Serbs are bloodthirsty ethnic cleansers. People's experiences in the British Isles could hardly confirm such prejudices as the British actually sided with Serbia against Albania in WW1. As the Croatian Usta�e collaborated with the Nazis, official British propaganda had at least until 1948 been favourable to the Yugoslav cause. In 1916 the Daily Telegraph reported gas vans were deployed in Kosovo to murder Serbs. Even as the conflict broke out after Tito's death, many eminent voices on the BBC spoke of the benefits of a multiethnic federation. Had only politicians associated with the nationalist right on TV ranted about subhuman Serbs, some liberal commentators might might have accused them of racism. Instead morally superior journalists and so-called human rights campaigners exposed the alleged Nazi tendencies of a regime that had bedevilled large sections of the Serb population. Mainstream media reports portrayed Serbs as aggressors and ethnic cleansers, a term that gained currency in the Yugoslav conflict, while Croats, Bosnian Muslims and Albanian Kosovars were considered victims. The facts paint a very different picture. Good and bad guys were on all sides and the underlying causes of the rekindling of the old ethnic disputes were economic.

If we were momentarily to accept the genetic determinist explanation for ethnic hatred, we could reach some illogical conclusions. Propaganda over the last century has portrayed the Germans first as expansionist huns, although the British had beaten them to it by 200 hundred years or so, and then as willing executioners in the greatest insanity that has ever beset mankind. But who are the English as opposed to the native Celtic and Pictish peoples of the British Isles? Germans, of course. Who are the upper middle class US citizens entrusted with the envious role of world cop? The core of the US's ruling class stems from recent immigrants from the British Isles and mainland Europe. So surely any hereditary markers for xenophobia in Germans are just as likely to surface in their close cousins across the North Sea and Atlantic. The same nonsense is applied to the bloody civil wars between Tutsis and Hutus in Rwanda and Burundi.

All forms of xenophobia are clearly not equal. Even compared with the worst verifiable accusations held against Serbs, Israel has been guilty of much more heinous atrocities against Palestinians both in the occupied territories and Southern Lebanon. The only two possible excuses presented are Arab terrorism threatening Israel security and the Shoah. After displacing 780,000 Palestinians in 1948 and forcing 1.5 million Palestinians to crowd into the least fertile patches of land, one need not be surprised at Arab retaliation. Israel is in all but name a ruthless Apartheid state complete with homelands and rigorously enforced segregation of undesirable Palestinians. As for the second excuse, the Serbs were also victims both of Usta�e shootings and maltreatment in concentration camps during the Second World War. Unlike the Israelis, the Yugoslavs attempted to form a federation and bury their differences for nearly 40 years. Journalists may fabricate lies about alleged Serb atrocities without being dubbed xenophobes, but dare not speak out against Zionism for fear of being branded anti-Semites.

The truth is many people regulate their own hatred within the confines of acceptable contempt. Mainstream propaganda encourages us to reserve a healthy dose of hatred for official enemies and demonised groups such as Serb ethnic cleansers, Arab fundamentalists, Hutu extremists, Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime, homophobes, paedophiles, muggers and nail bombers. Indeed the media often lumps these groups together indiscriminately, e.g. Serbs have been accused of raping Muslim women in Bosnia Herzegovina and Kosovo, reinforcing the public perception that Serbs and rapists are of the same ilk. A closer analysis shows that since NATO moved in to Bosnia and Kosovo the sex industry has blossomed supplying NATO personnel and NGO workers with mainly Slavic women.

In May 2000 a group of German teenagers on a school holiday walked along a Cornwall beach. A group of local teenagers and adults chanted "Nazis, Nazis, We won the War" and started throwing stones. If Nazi means someone who condemns others based on their ethnicity or religion, then we might wonder who the real Nazis were in this case.

Another topical case is Edinburgh psychology lecturer Chris Brand who published a book, The G Factor, about the relative intelligence of different racial groups, notably concluding that Black Africans have on average scored lower in IQ tests. While Professor Brand's evidence may seem compelling to many willing believers, he fails to empirically link general intelligence with IQ tests and ignores the Flynn effect, showing how the social environment can raise IQ levels by 15 points per generation, the vast divergence of IQ scores among members of the same racial groups and the reappraisal of the genetic significance of aesthetic racial features. Moreover, IQ tests tend to be culturally biased and one can be trained to achieve higher scores. Self-styled anti-racists rallied behind the Anti-Nazi League's call to ban the book. They succeeded as publisher John Wiley withdrew it. However, The g Factor merely articulated in pseudo-scientific terms what millions had long privately suspected. Banning the book not only affords it more credibility, but denies others the opportunity of challenging its arguments one by one. Indeed Chris Brand's thesis differs little from Charles Darwin's musings on the genetic superiority of the white race, so why not ban his epic work On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection? Some religious fundamentalists certainly would ban it citing racism as an excuse for the imposition of Biblical creationism, however modern criticisms of Darwinism based on a more Lamarckian symbiotic evolution may counter Darwin's racist assumptions more convincingly.

So should we ban potentially xenophobic speech? My answer is clearly no, because ethnic prejudice stems not from overt or offensive language, but from generations of subtle propaganda and a sense of cultural and moral superiority.

Case Study: The Suppression of Historical Revisionism

One cannot fail to notice the news media's growing obsession with the Nazi holocaust. Atrocities in Nazi concentration camps and organised shootings on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1944 serve to justify new wars against rogue leaders who have fallen out of favour with the United States, while the purported uniqueness of these events affords the state of Israel special treatment and impunity for its crimes against Palestinians deported from Israel to the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Southern Lebanon and Golan Heights.

Not only were most Germans unaware of the scale of the Shoah, but all the other main powers involved in the Second World War practised and fomented ethnic discrimination in one form or another. At stake are clearly three issues:

  1. Historical exactitude.
  2. Our collective memory of the victims of all horrors of war, exploitation and repression.
  3. The instrumentalisation of past events for which ordinary folk bear no responsibility and the deliberate falsification of the historical record to advance a given geopolitical agenda.

All three issues cry out for free speech and fearless open debate, without which only powerful media outlets and authoritarians can impose their warped view of history.

Since the late 1960s, a flurry of movies, documentaries and books have convinced the European and North American public mind that the Nazi holocaust represents not only a monocausal and systematically planned singularity, but an absolute evil against which all other atrocities should be measured. We may talk of a nuclear holocaust, which befits the core meaning of death by fire, but the capitalised Holocaust always signifies the Nazi judaeocide, more aptly called Shoah after the Hebrew word for disaster. The 1917-18 Armenian genocide that erupted out of a fierce civil war as the Ottoman empire collapsed, US napalming of Vietnamese villages, Allied saturation bombing of central European cities etc. do not qualify for this unique term. The enslavement of Africans with countless millions of unnatural deaths is dismissed as the acts of primitive European colonialists, such as the Portuguese (1), rather than a systematic policy of the greatest empire before the advent of US hegemony.

In NewSpeak historical revisionism means denial, the minimisation of the unparalleled crimes of a past dictator and his willing executioners with the implicit intent of restoring the credibility of Nazism. Of course, if we believe all we read in the mainstream press, such crimes may not be so unparalleled after all. Standard accounts of the 1994 Rwandan bloodbath show the Tutsis as victims and the Hutus as subhuman perpetrators. Likewise no exaggeration seems too great to describe the atrocities attributable to Serbs in the Yugoslav civil war.

On paper historical revisionism is a method to ascertain historical truth through critical examination of factual evidence. This is standard practice in any scientific inquiry. Only by allowing variant and contradictory theses to stand the test of empirical scrutiny can we begin to separate fact from fiction. Preconceived conclusions should be alien to serious historical research and simply replacing one biased account with its antithesis defeats the purpose, which is to correct partisanship. The recent book "Day of Deceit : The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor" by Robert B. Stinnett, claiming President Roosevelt had foreknowledge of the events, is revisionist, but should be analysed on its merits. Likewise it may be hard to deny the World Trade Center attacks occurred or many thousands died, but who did it?, who funded and manipulated the suicide bombers, were there secondary explosions in the Twin Towers? Did senior US and Israeli intelligence personnel know about the attacks beforehand? These too are revisionist questions because they challenge orthodoxy.

The genuine victims of state-perpetrated violence need not fear open debate if we agree that murder, especially systematic murder, is inherently evil. Regrettably historical revisionism is increasingly associated with one issue, the Shoah, but may be applied to the orthodox accounts of any historical event and allow antithetical conclusions.

Numerous orthodox accounts, i.e. reports popularised by the mainstream media, have frequently been proven wrong or fundamentally flawed under closer examination. Claims made about the war over Kosovo are just some of the most recent examples in a long string of war propaganda. Phillip Knightley's updated and revised "The First Casualty of War" is a must read for anyone interested in the veracity of the mainstream media. Do we really believe the Romans conquered most of Western and Southern Europe as well as much of North Africa and the Middle East without slaughtering hundreds of thousands, and subjugating millions in slavery and serfdom? However, much of modern history about the era has been sanitised by Roman accounts of barbaric Germanic, Celtic and Berber tribes.

One key factor in the historiography of any event is Cui bono? Should empirical research ever conclusively refute key tenets of the orthodox version of the mid 20th century Jewish genocide, it may be perfectly legitimate to ask who benefits from the inflated accounts of systematic slaying by industrial means attributable to the Nazis, and consequently to the Germans who let them rule? In this hypothesis a quick answer may be Expansionist Zionism, interpreted as unconditional supporters of an all Jewish State in Israel, the Western Allies and the former Soviet Union, because the unique evil of the Nazis overshadows any crimes attributable to the victors of WW2. While Soviet interpretations emphasised Slav victims (e.g. elevated deaths in Auschwitz to 4 million to include 3 million Slavs), the US emerged from WW2 as the world's main economic power, much richer than the Soviet Union ravaged by the wanton slaughter of WW2, and had the task of resuscitating Western European capitalism within its post-war world order. It faced a stark choice between the Morgenthau plan to convert Germany to an agrarian society and the need to build a strong powerhouse economy fully integrated with the rest of Western Europe and North America. After 3 years of partial deinstrialisation between 1945 and 1948 triggering a mass famine with as many as two million deaths, the Marshal plan rebuilt Germany in America's image and, apart from a few show trials and kangaroo courts, its ruling class remained intact. Ironically the US quite happily funded social democratic governments eager to build a prosperous Europe with some degree of social cohesion via the welfare state. The alternative would have been revolution and civil war. What's more many former Nazi collaborators switched overnight to the Americans. As early as 1943 the CIA hired former SS officers such as Reinhold Gehlen with in-depth knowledge of Eastern Europe to form Pol Gehlen, which later became the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) the German sister organisation of the CIA. This explains at least in part why the Shoah did not acquire its current status until the 1967 six-day war at the same time as the US began to rely heavily on Middle East oil reserves as its own began to dry up. However, there might be some more sinister reasons. Would West Germans, whose constitution theoretically protects freedom of expression, have willingly believed claims that unbeknown to them the Nazis had murdered millions in gas chambers? Thousands had worked and many Germans had actually been interned in Nazi concentration camps, but only a select few had testified to mass gas chambers at the Nuremberg trials. In East Germany they had no choice, Stalinism replaced National Socialism overnight and anti-nazism soon became a state religion.

When German Green Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, attempted in 1999 to persuade his party (who used to oppose NATO and nuclear weapons and favour peaceful solutions to ethnic disputes) of the necessity for air strikes to forestall a genocide, he re-evoked the Shoah in the full knowledge that nobody could dispute any events associated with it or even dare to suggest bombing might make such events more and not less likely. He narrowly won the vote claiming Operation Horseshoe was a masterplan for the final solution of the Albanian problem. A subsequent German report showed the operation was a hoax and no plan existed for the systematic deportation of 90% of Kosovo's population. However, the analogy ends there. The CIA and German BND merely formed a temporary alliance with the KLA. The Albanian mafia may control much of the heroin trade passing through Southeastern Europe, but their influence and strategic importance cannot be compared to that of Israel.

Let us be in no doubt, those who publicly dispute the scale and systematicity of the Shoah have been subjected to intense vilification and associated with the xenophobic right. Indisputably some on the Judaeophobic right sympathise with and manipulate the findings of revisionist research. However, most serious holocaust revisionists are fierce critics of authoritarianism. While many expose and criticise the disproportionate Jewish influence in the mass media and movie business as well as in international finance and American politics, only a minority believe in an international Jewish conspiracy against Gentiles or Goyim as foretold in the rather outlandish, hateful and largely discredited Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Moreover, the East German Stasi and Israeli Mossad have actually set up and manipulated so-called Neo-Nazi grouplets. Even Combat 18 in the UK, allegedly formed as a breakaway from the BNP, was a front for MI5's special operations. The so-called left tends to ignore two essential questions. Should we rely on state-sanctioned truth?

Anti-imperialists tend to dismiss revisionist accounts of Nazi war crimes as wild fantasies of neo-fascists, intent on rehabilitating the honour of the short-lived Third Reich. One valid criticism that may be lodged against some holocaust revisionists is a tendency to make far-fetched claims against Stalinism, claiming that the 6 million figure may be an exaggeration in connection with the Nazi-perpetrated Shoah, but Stalin was responsible for as many as 60 million deaths, figures taken straight from 1950's McCarthyite propaganda. While the former Soviet Union can be indicted with atrocities on a massive scale and economic mismanagement certainly led to millions of deaths, the same could be said of India and Pakistan. Coincidentally many former hardline sympathisers of the former USSR minimise the crimes attributed to the NKVD (later KGB) and Bolshevik Party apparatchiks under Stalin's command, denying Stalin bore any responsibility for the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine, and bewail the demonisation campaign against him by the capitalist press and liberal left.

The British Anti-Nazi League started by fighting the racism of the National Front in the late 1970s, but failed to attack head-on the politicians likely to influence the immigration and social policies that most affect ethnic minorities. The National Front benefited from working class disillusionment in the then Labour government, but never stood any realistic chance of gaining a single seat in Parliament. The NF were basically politically incorrect Tories who appealed to the gut instincts of many workers raised on rule Britannia propaganda. No party that challenged the necessity for British participation in the Second World War could ever win without the thorough re-education of the masses, but could urge a halt to immigration from poor countries and even repatriation. After massive Rock Against Racism concerts and Anti-Nazi League demos in 1978 (being an Anti-Nazi in Britain is like declaring one's opposition to Attila the Hun in Rome), what did we get? The 1979 Tory landslide, record unemployment with the demise of unprofitable inefficient manufacturing, tough talk on immigration, followed only two and half years later by a bout of jingoism over the Argentinian invasion of the British Falkland Islands, all dressed up in anti-fascist rhetoric. But what did the ANL really oppose? Free speech on Nazi historiography, the very notion that National Socialist régime had not landed on Earth from Mars, but was entirely comparable to numerous governmental systems world-wide. The main source of anti-fascist information is inevitably Searchlight run by MI5 collaborator and former CPGB member Gerry Gable, whose anti-Nazi antics include planting former British National Party members in anarchist groups and animal liberation fronts, so the press can later smear them with rightwing extremism. For instance in March 1993 the ANL staged a 300 strong demo against the desecration of graves at the Brighton and Hove Hebrew Congregation's Florence Road Cemetery, although the Jewish Chronicle later reported no tombstones had been daubed with swastikas and no gardener was employed to remove such grafitti. For alternative views about MI5 involvement in both extreme right and self-styled anti-fascist groups, visit Lobster Magazine or Paul Cox's Mere Pseud site with insider info from both sides.

French anthropologist and Indochina expert Serge Thion, American writer Bradley Smith of the Campaign for Open Debate On the Holocaust hardly conform to our perception of neo-Nazi thugs, but do not buy the orthodox account and expose Holocaust swindlers and false witnesses. Even English historian David Irving, who has long been target of a concerted press smear campaign but airs his strong anti-immigrant views freely on his Web site, has written at length on verifiable Nazi crimes. Indeed the 1977 edition of Apocalypse 1945, The Destruction of Dresden was not only available in public libraries, but on recommended reading lists compiled by my anti-imperialist History teacher, a bit of balance for William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich . Also recommended was AJP Taylor's The Origins of the Second World War, which suggests the rather heretical conclusion that a bellicose elite within the Anglo-American establishment unleashed the gates of hell by provoking Nazi Germany. In the mid 1990s Raeto West analysed variant revisionist theories and the holocaust promotion industry as an integral part of his site about humanism, bad science and common myths.(NB 27/12/2009: Raeto West's site went offline over 8 years ago and has since joined the white-supremacist BNP, a rather sad end for a disciple of Bertrand Russell.) Another sceptical analysis of interest is New Zealand historian's Joel S. A. Hayward's thesis "An Historical Enquiry into the Development and Significance of Holocaust Revisionism", which the author had to withdraw under enormous pressure. Indeed the latter has since converted to Islam and been appointed Director of the Royal Air Force Centre for Air Power Studies.

However, a thorough revision of the received wisdom on the Second World War would go much further. Some revisionist historians fall into the trap of viewing German National Socialism and Anglo-American corporatism as competing ideologies. So within the myth of the uniqueness of Nazi crimes lies the myth of British and American appeasement of Hitler's Germany. Voluminous evidence suggests that British, American and Dutch big business did not appease Nazi Germany at all, but positively encouraged it, bankrolling the German National Socialist Workers Party and continuing production in their subsidiaries right through WW2. The collaboration of many leading Zionists such as Ben Gurion with the Nazi régime and Hermann Göring's professed sympathies with the cause of the Jewish homeland cannot go unnoticed. Neither can we ignore the blatant fact that the Second World War saw the invasion and humiliation of France, the end of the bankrupt British Empire controlled centrally from London, massive destruction, murder and famine in much of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the ultimate defeat and destruction of the US's two main technological rivals, Germany and Japan. Indeed we may even consider if the division of Germany and the erection of the Iron Curtain served the long-term interests of the United States. West Germany bounded by hostile states to the east and integrated in an economic union with its other European neighbours, a military Alliance with the US and dependent on US aid and inward investment, would soon prove a loyal partner and a powerhouse of the post-war boom. The US bailed out Western Europe only after overseeing its destruction.

It may have rationally been in the geopolitical interests of the German government in 1938 to recapture territories lost in the 1918 Treaty of Versailles and to seek the economic domination of Eastern Europe as well as the collaboration of the Low Countries and accommodation with France, whose imperial interests conflicted with the US and British Empires. All-out war with the Soviet Union and Great Britain, which would inevitably draw the US into the fray, would have been highly inadvisable. Indeed in August 1940 Germany sought peace with Churchill's Britain on this basis. When the United States entered the war in December 1941 and especially after the fall of Stalingrad (now Volgograd) in February 1943, the Third Reich was doomed. As the Allies landed in Southern Italy in August of the same year, the defeat of the Axis powers was a foregone conclusion. Yet the worst crimes against humanity attributed to the Nazi regime reached their gernocidal climax between mid 1942 and late 1944, while Hitler's overstretched armed forces were battling to defend strategic positions on all fronts. By January 1945 all concentration camps in modern Poland, responsible for the lion share of systematic industrial killing, had been liberated. Would the United States be so dominant today if a united and peaceful Europe counterbalanced its hegemony?

We may also debate whether Nazism, Fascism or Francoism were unique or merely localised means of ensuring the supremacy of corporate and state power. It may seem ironic that many militant anti-Fascists favour the suppression of free speech and restriction of democratic rights to stop the re-emergence of alleged fascists. However, who defines fascism? Should we not talk instead of authoritarianism? Not only did many Nazi collaborators adapt very quickly to the New World Order under US hegemony, but many population control techniques pioneered under the Nazi régime were adopted and remodelled by big business, especially in the advertising and public relations industries. Joseph Goebbels based his WW2 information campaign on British WW1 propaganda. According to Goebbels, Germany didn't invade the Sudetenland, it liberated ethnic Germans persecuted by bloodthirsty Slavic nationalists and it didn't invade the Soviet Union, but liberated Ukrainians from Bolshevik tyranny. By the same token we could claim, Britain didn't conquer and exploit the Indian Subcontinent and half of Africa, but spread civilisation and democracy.

Until Norman Finkelstein, son of survivors of the Treblinka and Majdenek concentration camps, wrote A Nation on Trial and The Holocaust Industry, few analysts considered one truism: The more the mainstream media and entertainment industry push the orthodox version of the Nazi holocaust, the more a radical fringe will disbelieve any of their claims and harbour a growing sense of Judaeophobia. Israel's oppression of Palestinians makes an Anti-Jewish backlash almost inevitable. The purported uniqueness of Jewish suffering explains the hackneyed phrase "racism and Anti-Semitism". Surely, anti-Semitism should apply to prejudice against all Semites and Israel would thus be labelled an anti-Semitic régime. But why not specify Serbophobia, Germanophobia, Russophobia etc.? Why is prejudice against Jews different?

It comes as some comfort that a handful of Jewish intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Israel Shahak have attempted to answer this thorny question. Judeaophobia stems not from irrational beliefs in the racial inferiority or superiority of Jews, but rather from resentment against Jewish power and their in-group loyalty. Would a German critic of Nazi abuse of power be called a self-hating German? But Jewish critics of Zionism are frequently denounced as self-hating Jews. Would it be too radical to describe Nazism as German Zionism?

It thus follows that rational debate protects the true victims and exposes hoaxers separating fact from fiction, while exaggerated claims trigger exaggerated counter-claims, hence the Holocaust lobby's insistence that there are no numbers between 0 and six million. Challenging the capitalised Holocaust â„¢ is tantamount to heresy. Instead some of the wilder claims will be inconspicuously dropped, while revisionist historians continue to be ritually condemned. At stake are not the genuine victims of Nazi terror, but the credibility of war propaganda.

Twenty five years after the Vietnam War the chief architects of US atrocities such My-Lai denier Wesley Clark and Iraqi Highway Massacre Denier General Barry McCaffrey (100,000 - 250,000 dead) are not only walking free, but are advising the current US régime on its new military endeavours.

The solution to this dilemma is simple: free speech and fearless open debate. Only then will we know who is lying. I for one will reserve my utter condemnation both for all perpetrators of verifiable atrocities and for all those who manipulate war propaganda for their own purposes. You have lost the argument from the outset, if you refuse to debate an issue, whether it is the big bang theory, global warming, the AIDS=HIV hypothesis or the veracity of alleged atrocities.

Readers are free to make their own minds up. Most orthodox Nazi Holocaust and anti-revisionist information can be accessed from the Nizkor site, but if you're in any doubt take the time to read what dissidents say on the matter.

Why the Shoah Revisionists are Wrong

David Irving once claimed that it's hard to prove a negative, but the same controversial historian has freely admitted voluminous hard evidence of Nazi crimes. The fact that many European governments are actively pursuing and jailing prominent holocaust deniers should ring alarm bells. One may reasonably wonder who's next on the verboten list. 9/11 revisionists, Balkan war revisionists, Saddam Hussein sympathisers, opponents of US, UK and Israeli military operations in the Middle East? So are holocaust revisionists just an easy target or do they actually have a point? With the media beating the drums of war in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, it is essential for us to maintain the freedom to challenge the extreme bias and sometimes pure fabrications of our main media outlets. However, by focusing narrowly on the scale of crimes committed by an authoritarian regime over half a century ago, holocaust revisionists risk serving as useful idiots ready to perish in jail purportedly to save the honour of the German people or combat Zionism in the name of Palestine. Were they to focus instead on disinformation about recent events, we might stand a better chance of safeguarding freedom of inquiry in order to guard against the very totalitarian bellicosity that has traditionally presaged mass murder.

The Real Deniers

Wesley Clark General Wesley Clark denied US culpability for the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. 30 years later he defended NATO air strikes over the Balkans Lord George Robertson Lord George Robertson denied the widely documented after-effects and deliberate use of depleted uranium both in Iraq and the Balkans. Currently NATO's Secretary General. He also once referred to Serbs as Siberians.
Henry Kissinger Henry Kissinger denied his role in the Vietnam War, 1968-72 bombing of Cambodia, Pinochet's Chilean coup d'état, the 1975-79 massacre in East Timor among other crimes Ariel Sharon Ariel Sharon denied Israeli guilt for the Sabra and Shatila massacre although at the time he was only 200 metres away from the scene. Currently Israeli Prime Minister responsible for human rights in the West Bank and Gaza

If denial of verifiable crimes against humanity is a problem, it should concern us most when the mainstream media denies or downplays atrocities, while dissidents upholding the veracity of such events, are silenced, sidelined or ridiculed. Challenges to official claims should always act as a stimulus for empirical research.

The British Foreign Office has a long history of denial, from its scorched earth policy and concentration camps in the Boer War to the Bengali Famine, bombing of Kenyan Mau Mau freedom fighters, arming of Indonesia while it presided over the slaughter and starvation of as many as 200,000 East Timorese between 1975 and 1979, its support for Turkey and Israel, the media's almost total silence over the massacre of 250,000 retreating Iraqi troops and guest workers fleeing Kuwait after the US and other Allied forces reclaimed the territory for the Kuwaiti royal family and oil multinationals. It took a book by revisionist historian David Irving for the Allies to admit (and subsequently downplay) the scale of the wanton slaughter of civilians during airstrikes over Dresden, while other equally ferocious bombing missions over Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Pforzheim are mere historical footnotes. The post-war famine with as many as 2 million deaths in occupied Germany on top of tens of thousands of German fatalities in Allied and Soviet post-war rehabilitation camps are routinely dismissed as regrettable legacies of Nazism.

When a major newspaper claims 250,000 died in the Vietnam War, how many readers write to complain that the figure excludes Vietnamese victims? Similarly figures for Vietnamese fatalities may vary from 1 million to 3 million. Should we not accuse those who insist on the lower figure of being deniers eager to resume napalming over North Vietnam? In his epic Manufacturing Consent Noam Chomsky distinguishes worthy from unworthy victims. Victims of Pol Pot's massacre between 1975 and 1979 are worthy victims because the US benefited from anti-Communist propaganda that could overshadow its own crimes in the region (US bombing of Cambodia between 1968 and 1975 led to 500,000 to a million deaths), while victims of the East Timor tragedy are unworthy because the US was arming their oppressors. However, subsequent US support for the Khmer Rouge and sanctions against Cambodia after the 1979 Vietnamese invasion, leading to more starvation, make it hard to give reliable statistics for deaths attributable to Pol Pot's government when the US did not back it. The death toll varies from 250,000 to 2.5 million, though most starved. Likewise official anti-Saddam propaganda now includes the Iraqi airforce's 1988 aerial gassing of 5000 Kurds. However, they forget to mention that at the time the Iraqi régime was armed by the US and its allies and deployed US-made chemical weapons. Similar attacks against Kurds by the Turkish armed forces have gone unpunished.

Another topical atrocity was the 1994 Rwandan civil war. The Western media unanimously reported marauding Hutus killing their Tutsi cousins with machetes. In one respect this is much a more serious allegation than those levelled against Germans during WW2. In 1945 most ordinary Germans knew little of events either in concentration camps or on the Eastern Front. Indeed much of what they did know they had learned through German-language Allied broadcasts, rumours and post-war propaganda. Whether hundreds of thousands perished in mass gas chambers or not, most ordinary Germans did not rampage the streets wielding machetes against Jewish neighbours (The total death toll of Kristalnacht was around 90). Lamentably an awful lot of dead bodies laid strewn all over Rwanda by the time Western reporters could return and formerly exiled Rwandan Patriotic Front soldiers had recaptured the capital Kigali. Based on verifiable evidence it is much harder to refute the Rwandan massacre than mass gas chambers in Nazi-occupied Poland. However, many thoughtful observers have missed two critical and related factors: economics and environment. What was billed as a systematic genocide was in fact a food riot that quickly turned into a collective frenzy of internecine slaughter.

Journalists and foreign Africanists are unanimous that the West failed to take pre-emptive action against the Rwandan genocide, but too many assume such action need be military. Unconditional economic aid to ensure Rwanda could be self-sufficient in essential foods, writing off the country's debt, the provision of vital health and transport infrastructure etc. would have done much more to help Rwandans overcome their past internecine conflicts than any so-called peace-keeping mission. Also see Michel Chossudovsky's article on the IMF and Rwandan Holocaust

Sanitised Genocides and Ethnic Cleansing

Genocide means the extermination of a people with a distinct cultural heritage either by ruthless colonial expansion or by systematic slaughter. Whether a given massacre qualifies for this term depends largely on its scale and ethnic specificity. By contrast the newly coined term ethnic cleansing means systematic deportation or forced cultural assimilation. Ethnicity begs definition, but usually implies a deep-rooted cultural identity passed through successive generations of a close-knit community. Historically ethnic groups acquire uniform physiognomic traits through many generations of interbreeding. Language, religion, diet, dress code, sexual morality and other customs are cultural characteristics linked to one's ethnic identity. Absolute genocides are thankfully relatively rare events, although the rapid depopulation that followed European colonisation of the Americas, Africa and Australasia succeeded in eradicating indigenous civilisation and annihilating vast swathes of their peoples through war, disease and starvation. At the time of the great European conquests very little prime agricultural land was virgin territory. Who would believe native Australians only inhabited the outback before Dutch and predominantly British colonisation? The Boer War saw the almost complete extermination of the Khoi-Khoi (aka Hottentot) people of the Northern Cape as a result of the British scorched earth policy. Even the world's first war sold on humanitarian grounds, the 1898-99 Spanish-American WAR over the Philippines ended in a brutal massacre.

Most countries in the New World were founded on genocidal colonisation followed by systematic ethnic cleansing. In the first fifteen years of Belgian colonial rule of the Congo under King Leopold the rubber trade's ruthless exploitation of land and inhabitants alike caused the country's population to fall from around 20 million to just 9 million, yet another tragic tale erased from mainstream history books.

The Hidden Democide

Sadly but patently, abject poverty, malnutrition, child labour, unreported internecine and gang warfare are rife. Unedited video footage of armed gangs severing the limbs of a nine-year old boy because he fought for a rival gang intent on control of diamonds is considered unfit for public consumption, while Hollywood churns out movie after movie replete with gratuitous fictional violence. Millions of dollars are spent to simulate terror, while thousands of real pictures of US-perpetrated or funded warfare across the globe would suffice to horrify all but the most callous individuals. Very different standards are set for the relative importance of deaths. Quality newspapers targeted at intellectual readers devote just a few paragraphs to a WHO report estimating that 15 million children die every year from easily preventable diseases on top of 7 million child deaths due to malnutrition, while atrocities that can be blamed on an official enemy are widely publicised. When was the last time we read sensational headlines about real horrors, of which our rulers are guilty?

Headlines you won't read in Murdoch's Press

Online Sun Iraqi Child Exclusive: UK Sanctions Kill 500,000 Iraqi Kids

Oil-hungry control freaks want these kids to die, so evil multinationals can get their greedy hands on the guey black stuff. Sex-crazed Bill Clinton and ballot rigger Blair deny their hideous crimes, but the Sun reveals the horrible truth. Saddam Hussein is their best friend and ten years ago agreed to be Global Demon Number One as long as he could keep his marble palaces. As Blair gears up for his re-election campaign, Iraqi children are dying of leukaemia thanks to depleted uranium strewn over their land by US and UK bombers.

Online Sun Emaciated Children Y2K Shock Horror! 12,000 children starved yesterday

12,000 kids died yesterday because their mums and dads could not make ends meet without work, fertile land or a social safety net to fall back on. Tony Blair said Third World countries need a competitive labour market and more deregulation.

That's right more children starve either due to undernourishment or severe malnutrition every day than NATO claimed the Yugoslavs killed during the Kosovo war. Few of us would be surprised to read "Rock Star Kills Fiancé" or "Serbs Murder More Albanian Kids", "Internet Paedophiles on the Rampage", "Germans Want To Ban British Pint", "Blair Slams Media for Invasion of Privacy", "Don�t Miss Our Pics of Prince Eddie at Nudist Camp" etc.

As the world's population passes the psychological 6 billion barrier, life expectancy in much of Sub-Saharan Africa is falling in the age of computers, mobile phones, suburban off-road cars and supermarkets packed with goodies, 2 billion suffer from malnutrition.

Should we Fear Hate Speech?

The short answer is no, provided we retain the right to challenge it. Some propaganda can be very hateful and even incite frenzies of xenophobia, especially if it comes from the mainstream and builds on generations of subtle indoctrination. Sometimes hatred can be engineered gradually over a few years as in the case of Serbs.

If the Sun could headline "Gotcha!" when the Royal Navy needlessy sank the General Belgrano killing 400 Argentinian sailors in 1982 or condones the bombing of some of the world's poorest in Iraq, the Balkans and now Afghanistan, surely we need not fear irrational outbursts from fringe propagandists. The real danger is mainstream hate speech legitimised by our government and establishment intellectuals. More important who defines hate speech? Is hate speech language that can incite violent attacks or is it propaganda that justifies state terrorism? Increasingly hate speech is a byword for unacceptable opinions and unmentionable controversies.

As Noam Chomsky said in defence of his decision to write a foreword in favour of the free speech of French holocaust revisionist Faurisson "It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers".

The restriction of free speech has always benefited those who control the means of mass communication. No precedents exist for laws passed to ban proven lies, but plenty for laws crafted to stifle debate on issues that may expose the duplicity of the establishment or challenge the founding myths of the ruling class.

Free Speech Links

1) Authoritative estimates place England (and after 1707 Great Britain) a close second in the slave trade.

Categories
All in the Mind

Denying the Effects of Violent Video Games

As a result of the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act the UK government has recently given the police new powers to monitor e-mails and web sites. The pretext is to fight terrorism, political extremism and Internet paedophilia as sensationalised in the mainstream media, but the real purpose is to crack down on subversion. Tabloids spread rumours about paedophiles prowling 10 year olds in chat rooms. While such an invasion of privacy will not stop child abuse, it will curtail the free speech of all but powerful corporate and state organs.

By contrast the same media outlets not only sport high-profile advertisements for violent video games such as Tomb Raider, Quake III, Half Life, Soldier of Fortune etc. to name but a few, but hail them as cool pastimes, praise the developers as talented export-oriented entrepreneurs and review accompanying movies as works of art. Meanwhile the corporate PR machine via the computer press is busy proving such games not only appeal to young and old alike, but teach co-ordination skills and help to channel our anger in a safe virtual medium.

Genetic vs Environmental Causes

The video games lobby's chief argument is that other factors such as genetic predisposition to aggression play a much greater role than mass media violence in determining violent outcomes to conflicts. Many like to quote Adrian Rain from the University of Southern California, who has undertaken extensive research into genetic markers for violence in psychopaths. However, in a June 2001 TV debate he did not deny that social factors also play a role in determining how neurologically diverse individuals channel their innate aggressiveness. In all but the most extreme cases people are not born killers. The nature versus nurture debate could be widened to consider the other effects of pervasive media. To what extent does advertising, merchandising and corporate sponsorship encourage the masses to squander hard-earned cash on designer clothes and other superfluous consumer goods that will soon be superseded anyway? Would advertisers be wasting billions of dollars, euros or pounds to persuade us to buy more if purely genetic factors determined prodigality too? Violent media may not change our natural propensity to aggression, but they can channel our natural urges for revenge, communicate with our subconscience and justify violence as a means of conflict resolution.

Video Violence Threat is just a Media Scare

A classic tactic employed by lobbyists ever since the American free speech movement of the 1960s is to dismiss a problem as a mere mass media scare. In recent years global warming, the ill-effects of factory farming (e.g. BSE, foot and moth disease, salmonella, E-coli, overuse of antibiotics in animal husbandy weakening our immune system), the big-business-friendly corruption of most world governments, the imminent end of the oil age, the mass extinction of many large wild animal species outside zoos etc. have all been dismissed by various lobbies as media scares. Ironically they have a point. Mass circulation newspapers and popular TV channels in countries with nominal democratic institutions repeatedly launch scare campaigns, which are later revealed as either unfounded or taken out of context e.g. paedophilia is nothing new and its apparent rise may owe more to children's exposure to media and peer pressure that promote sexual promiscuity among young teens as well as early onset puberty. However, only 40 years ago the establishment ritually condemned all sexual practices out of wedlock as buggery. Everyone knows the way in which children discover their sexuality will affect an important part of their adult lives, but any attacks on media's role in teenagers is almost off-limits, so public anger is simply channelled against paedophiles, convenient scapegoats for society's ills. So intent is the government on curtailing personal liberties in the cybernetic age that is now offence to own digital paedophile imagery, as according to the government someone who would pay to view such picture may abuse children. Indeed such an assumption may have some truth in it, but without proof of sexually motivated physical contact with children, conviction under this law would like arresting Playboy subscriber for rape - offering the magazine as the sole piece of evidence. As many owners of e-mail accounts are aware without prudent spam filtering measures, one's hard drive can fill with explicit pornography, including kiddy porn, in no time simply by clicking on an HTML-enabled e-mail. By the same logic someone who pays to engage interactively in a simulation of a mass murder might want to reenact the scenario in real life against perceived enemies. Luckily most know that they would never get away with such wild fantasies, until they find themselves in a new position of power over defenceless individuals, e.g. in a war zone or in counter-insurgency operations. However, the former group don't have a multibillion dollar industry behind them yet.

Let's take a look at another analogy. If global warming is caused by a massive rise in human depredation of the earth's resources over the last century, then major multinationals stand to lose billions as we lower consumption. The best counterclaim the oil lobby can make is dismiss global warming scientists as green fascists intent on denying ordinary working people the right to drive gas guzzlers on multilane highways. Likewise if violent video games do adversely influence kids' behaviour, the entertainment industry will be held responsible for destabilising communities. In the same way as some lobbyists claim ecstasy is a relatively harmless recreational drug, they claim Quake III Arena is just fun. If you read computer magazines you've probably encountered the well-rehearsed line "I play violent video games, but I don't feel like killing someone afterwards".

That's because everyone knows murder is morally reprehensibe, but can be strategically justifed in self-defence or to fight a greater evil. Brainwashed youngsters do not consider themselves potential killers, just liberators or protagonists in an exciting adventure that bears little semblance to real life situations. Be honest! Outside the makebelieve world of Hollywood movies, how many Lara Crofts successfully fight off enemies single-handedly at gunpoint while flaunting their sexual prowess?

Re-enforcing Self-righteous War Propaganda

Video-games come in two varieties: Glorified violence and liberating force. In the first genre à la Tomb Raider, gamers play sexy or muscular role models ready to fight off evil or unwtiting rivals. In the second genre à la Wing Commander, gamers play their heroic role in the battle against murderous enemies, reinforcing mainstream war propaganda. Both forms cheapen life and stress the self-righteous may murder with impunity. Gaming is also a highly addictive lifestyle and is actively promoted by the same corporate machine that brought neoliberal governments such as New Labour to power. European age certificates are meaningless. Theoretically recommended for 15+, Tomb Raider is advertised on kids TV and played by six and seven year olds. Even children's shows on the BBC offer Play Station ® consoles as prizes. Anyone who thinks 8 to 10 year kids will play The Tweenies and Winnie The Pooh on their consoles, or be contented with Colin McCrae's Rally or Driver 2 are seriously mistaken. Besides even many racing games contain elements of violence and promote a high-consumption lifestyle with minimal effort and maximal thrills.

Meanwhile the devious youth press spreads rumours that the government plans to ban such games and thus crush a multibillion-dollar industry. Such logic is perverse. Not surprisingly the same Labour government is quietly deregulating the gambling industry, something else that may appeal to vast swathes of the public. We'll see entertainment complexes with 24-hour casinos and virtual shooting ranges. We need not worry much about the free speech of violent game developers, they can hire the best PR firms and lobbyists in the world, nor will the current government stop anything that not only earns billions but also plays a key role in conditioning millions of future adults.

The current ethos is anything that seems fun and boosts business must be good, unless officialdom deems it politically incorrect. With the right marketing the games industry could effortlessly sell virtual rape games or simulations of Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory with graphic detail of wanton butchery. Indeed such games have already been developed. With the release of Flashpoint Kosovo and Operation Desert Storm, computer games are reinforcing media-fed misconceptions. If killing Serbs is okay, it only takes a small leap of imagination to slaughter minority groups in one's own backyard. A seven-year old Tomb Raider fan could soon be saving the Western world from the yellow peril by nuking Shanghai, petrol-bombing alleged paedophiles or sinking ships carrying desperate Afghan asylum seekers. Freedom is no longer seen as the universal right to nourishment, clean water, shelter, peace, education and gainful employment, it is freedom to protect one's living standard from the marauding masses, whoever they may be.

The intellectuals behind the current neoliberal governments of Western Europe and North America know these self-evident facts only too well. Neoliberalism has a liberal attitude to corporate power and people's freedom to indulge corporate-sponsored activities, but a restrictive attitude to ideas that may challenge corporate hegemony. As a result emotive epithets like fascist or Stalinist are liberally employed to describe opponents of NATO bombing over Kosovo, as such a pacifist stance would have allegedly given Demon Milosevic a green light to execute a systematic genocide. All well-meaning individuals had to back the good guys, in this case NATO, against the forces of evil personified in the late 1990s by the mass media's caricature of Serb nationalists. In the current propaganda offensive against the perpetrators of the horrific terror attacks killing thousands in Manhattan and Washington DC, the new bad guys are Islamic suicide pilots trained on Microsoft Flight Simulator, which featured the World Trade Center.

Opium of The Masses

After a lone gunman entered a Scottish nursery school in Dunblane and shot dead 16 toddlers in April 1997, the UK government proceeded to ban handguns in marked contrast with gun laws in most American states. Handguns are designed to kill, no doubt about that, but may also serve as the ultimate defence against armed intruders, whether burglars, gangsters or police officers raiding the wrong house. However, firearms have not disappeared from British TV screens, computer simulations of gun battles are forever more realistic and criminals have encountered few obstacles in importing weapons. Despite a media frenzy the frequency of armed robberies and street shootings actually continued to rise in the first two years after the handgun ban, as have police the deployment of firearms and the shooting of unarmed citizens.

While making ordinary citizens less able to defend themselves in an increasingly atomised world, the root causes of violence have actually worsened: More violence on more TV channels at any time, more shoot-'em-up video games and a greater social and educational divide.

The last factor is usually overlooked, but Play Stations, X-Boxes Nintendo Gamecubes and Gameboys are clearly aimed at the mass market. Leading kids titles such as Buzz Lightyear, Dexter's Laboratory or Power Puff Girls are often based on cartoons with proven antisocial effects, i.e. they actively encourage teasing, bullying and attacking baddies or weirdoes, whoever they may be. As a result the main role of the police is now to contain the masses adversely effected by the wares distrubuted by the corporate machine, whose interests the police are also required to defend. As big business promotes the scourges of booze, drugs, late night discos and video violence, the forces of law and order sweep up the mess.

Sowing the Seeds Of Hatred

While we should not dismiss the disruptive effects violent video-games have on many vulnerable minds, they play a greater role in re-enforcing existing prejudices and triggering ingrained aggressive responses. They effects may in some respects be likened to addictive and hallucinogenic drugs. The big question is whether violent video-games merely reflect society's warped values or amplify the agressive side of human nature i.e. are they incidental or causal? Their effects are greatest on teenagers and young adults raised on violent media from an early age. It is the combination of passive TV violence, rampant consumerism, neighbourhood and school violence and interactive electronic violence in the absence of dependable role models that is most lethal. By contrast the effects are probably limited on adults deprived of violent electronic media in their formative years.

The gaming lobby maintains that sex and violence have always aroused intense interest. Only the medium has changed. Literary portrayals of gratuitous violence can be both gruesome and educational. Even documentaries and movies may highlight the horrors of war, persecution, slavery or gangland fighting, but may also glorify the aggression of one side or demonise the other side to justify a given political agenda. The same can equally apply to the print media, but the reader's experience is never the same as a passive viewer's or an interactive gamer's. In truth only in recent decades have most people had so much leisure time to devote to such trivial pursuits and 3 to 4 generations ago few had time to read or the means to listen to the radio. For most of human history we learned about violence the hard way in real-life situations. Knowing how and when to fight was a matter of life or death. Today street violence is greatest in unequal societies, where the poor enviously watch the opulence of the consumerist classes. What will happen when the Quake II and Doom generation join the jobless masses in a future recession? Will they seek to rebuild their local communities, stay at home addicted to their aging game consoles or reenact their fantasies on the streets?

Is Censorship the Answer?

Censorship has always benefited the ruling classes. Time and again the surest way to guarantee the cult status of many books, films or video games has been to ban them, assuming a little prior publicity. Corporate lobbies like to talk of regulation, in the full knowledge that big business can always buy its way through hundreds of loopholes. Having popularised violent video-games through multimillion dollar advertising campaigns with Tomb Raider featured on the back of cereal packets, the gaming industry, almost inextricably linked to the movie and TV business, would seek new devious means to distribute its wares if tighter controls were introduced, while the state would be delighted to apply new restrictions to clamp down on dissent e.g. video footage of real violence perpetrated by a superpower or friendly militias could be banned.

Not only is censorship both impractical and counterproductive, it is also only conceivable because our consumerist society plays on people's basest instincts, but as usual we need to attack the root causes. In the short term we may need to campaign to stop schools or libraries distributing such poisonous games, but the emphasis should be on raising awareness of the harmful effects that exposure to violent propaganda has on young kids. However, in the long run we should strive to replace the greed and mindless self-indulgence of today's consumerist society with peaceful, playful and constructive activities in a socially coherent and sharing community. Sport offers a much better outlet for our pent-up frustrations. Parents of shy kids may be better advised to enrol them in karate lessons, teaching practical self-defence and co-ordination skills, than let them undergo premature military brainwashing.

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Power Dynamics

Trendy Lefties – The No-Logo Generation

Over the last 30 years middle-class students have embraced a series of cultural fads, some pure commercialism and others worthwhile causes, which later sold out to commercialism. Beatlemania, anti-Vietnam War protests, Punk Rock, Rock Against Racism gigs, CND demos, gay pride marches, Reggae music, politically correct speech, MTV and anti-WTO demos. Wow, so it's now cool to join the international campaign against globalisation, boycott brands and recycle environmentalist rhetoric - before we settle down to the serious business of earning a living in the rat race.

In the same period much of the world has undergone the most thorough transformation of the economy, environment and lifestyle ever. After a crippling war Vietnam now hosts sweatshops with some of the world's lowest wages. Former CND members are now prominent Nu-Lab politicos advocating humanitarian militarism and slandering opponents as fascists. Homosexuality is a big business and homophobes are vilified as outmoded bigots, while politically correct speech masks real intents. Secret services plant agent provocateurs and assorted troublemakers at anti-WTO demos to trigger violent police repression. Neoliberal intellectuals appear on TV voicing doubts on the extent of globalisation with platitudes about a greener future. Multinational PR executives promise their goods are not made by child labourers and their involvement in Public Private Initiatives will help to pay for school sports facilities in socially deprived neighbourhoods. MTV shows multicoloured faces with captivating views of African village life interspersed with Black American rappers jumping on gas guzzlers.

What do young nologoers want? ask vote-hungry politicians. Walmart-style hypermarkets with unbranded consumer goodies? Trendy mountain bikes with child seats to replace the Land Rover or Grand Cherokee on the school run? Neatly packaged documentaries on Discovery channel? Holidays in Kenya? Volunteering to raise funds for Oxfam? Food labelled "organic" with a 50% price markup?

Think of the coup they'd achieve, if they could persuade a personable Irish musician to hail Nu-Labs third-world debt-relief scheme.

Mass marketers know what the affluent trendy wishful-thinking middle class really wants. They want to indulge, but be seen to care. They need their safe homes with all mod cons, cars complete with bike carriers and dinghy trailers, computers, mobile phones, foreign holidays, rewarding jobs and social life - or in its absence soap operas, Hollywood movies and pulp fiction. The better educated want better, environmentally friendly and socially conscientious food.

Affluent teenagers see the English language, rock music, international (i.e. mainly US) movies and video-games as liberating forces that will let the world live as one to paraphrase John Lenon. Out with the old and in with the new, let's embrace the multicoloured harmony of Coca Cola ads set in Zambia and IBM think pad spots filmed in Tibet. The more educated will later backpack across Africa, South America, the Indian Subcontinent and South-east Asia before commencing their careers in web-design, PR, advertising, law, insurance, business intelligence, HR management, public services admin, education etc.

The big question is why so few stop to ponder if and why the globalisation of transnational corps with their brands and logos is necessary to save capitalism? All too often we tend to look at symptoms rather than root causes. Global brands and sweatshops are symptoms. Greed and capitalism's innate need for constant growth with diminishing returns (the bit Marx got right) are the causes and explain why capitalism can no longer grow in protected national markets.

There is only one thing worse than narrow-minded nationalism: Internationalism controlled by an oligarchy of corporate and superstate interests.

If we were to implement the far-reaching structural changes required to bridge the north-south and rich-poor gaps, divert resources away from opulence and hedonism to nutrition, sustainable farming, environmental renewal and education, most service sector jobs in post-industrial states such as Britain would disappear overnight. More significantly most residents of wealthy countries would have to accept a lower material standard of living with car dealerships, filling stations, advertisers, law firms (largely dependent of corporate greed), high street and Internet retailers going bust. Indeed with the bankruptcy of all businesses reliant on the Stock Exchange and the abolition of the arms trade, Britain would no longer earn all the extra revenue it needs to import goodies from the rest of the globe.

In the near future we will see two alternative reformist solutions to world's ills. The neoliberal intelligentsia will advocate benevolent globalisation coupled with foreign aid linked to IMF and WB economic diktats and humanitarian intervention to solve ethnic disputes caused by economic woes and covert destabilisation. Charities and NGOs will be taken on board to sell these policies and reassure doubters of their harmful effects.

The alternative, unthinkable to neoliberal globalisers and internationalist Marxists alike, is a return to national pre-colonial economies centred around farming, essential raw materials and natural renewable energy sources, in which self-sufficiency in staple foods and energy represents a prerequisite for a sustainable economy and for independence from unaccountable global institutions and multinationals. Trade would still take place, but among equals, and governments, freed from the restraints of international capitalism, would be more accountable. Technological advances would not be abandoned, but harnessed for the good of all and not for profits of the few. It is only by decentralising government and giving people the means to determine their own future, that we can see the evolution of a fairer low-impact society that values long-term sustainability and social cohesion more than fashions, consumption and indulgence.