There’s Only So Much Propaganda Spin You Can Put On The Murder Of Thousands Of Children

Caitlin Johnstone
5 min readOct 29, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article (reading by Tim Foley):

The thing is there’s only so much propaganda spin you can put on the murder of thousands of children.

With other imperial military actions the propagandists had an easier time spinning things. Oh no those evil communists are taking over South Vietnam, we need to stop them! Oh no Saddam’s got WMDs, we need to get him! Oh no Gaddafi’s gonna rape and kill all those Libyans, we have a responsibility to protect them!

In Gaza, Israel and its western backers are massacring children by the thousands with a shockingly vicious bombing campaign that is turning entire neighborhoods into gravel. They’re raining down military explosives on a giant concentration camp that is densely populated by children.

There’s only so much a propagandist can do with that.

They can talk about the killings on October 7 til they’re blue in the face, but people are going to object that nothing Hamas did makes it moral or acceptable to murder children by the thousands.

They can say “Israel has a right to defend itself” as much as they want, but people are going to object that murdering children by the thousands is not actually defending anything from anyone.

They can bleat the phrase “human shields” over and over again, but eventually people are going to start saying “Okay but even if they are human shields, could we please stop murdering children by the thousands? I know I wouldn’t want my children to be murdered just because they were being used as human shields.”

They can say every death is the fault of Hamas, but more and more people are going to start saying “Okay blame whoever you want, but can we please stop murdering children by the thousands right this very instant?”

They can say “Well what do you expect Israel to do?”, and people will respond “Stop murdering children by the thousands for starters, please and thank you.”

Imagine you’re a mass media propagandist trying to frame all this in a positive light. How would you do it? Would you be able to make it believable?

Propagandists are used to having a lot more wiggle room to work with than this. They’re used to interfacing with a complex matrix of narrative and manipulating it to distort the public’s understanding of what’s going on. But raw video footage of a mother clutching the tattered remains of a child is not narrative. Satellite images of powdered city blocks are not narrative. It’s just reality. Right there in your face.

Western civilization is dominated by propaganda. The “freedom” and “democracy” we think we have is an illusion that has been carefully cultivated by those who manipulate the way we think, speak, act and vote by mass-scale psychological manipulation — as Chomsky says, propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state. A mind-controlled dystopia is not some dark future that awaits humanity if things go terribly wrong for us; it is already presently the case.

Propagandists are able to control civilization so effectively because they understand that humans are storytelling creatures whose lives are dominated by mental narrative, so if you can control the narratives the humans are telling each other, you can control the humans. A globe-spanning empire centralized around the United States depends heavily on its ability to indoctrinate us with subtle mass media messaging from a very early age.

The Gaza massacre throws a big fat monkey wrench in all that, because the raw data coming out of it is so transparently horrifying that no amount of narrative spin can make it look acceptable. The fact that the US and its allies are helping Israel murder children by the thousands is a giant glitch in the narrative matrix.

The longer this continues, the more people are going to wake up out of the propaganda-induced coma the empire has had them in all their lives. The more people are going to realize that their government is not what it has been pretending to be and the media have not been telling them the truth about the world. As the western empire backs the slaughter of thousands of children, the discrepancies between what the propaganda tells us about our society and what our society actually is are being brightly illuminated.

By murdering thousands of children in Gaza, the empire has exposed its true face in front of everyone. And the people aren’t liking what they see.

Eyes are opening everywhere. People are being radicalized in record numbers. The streets are being flooded with protesters. Very inconvenient questions are being asked. Rigorous scrutiny is being applied in places it was seldom applied before. Light is shining in through cracks that weren’t there before.

This is all so, so horrible and so, so painful to watch day in and day out. But something is moving underneath it all. Something big. The empire has done irreparable harm to its ability to keep everyone sleeping and complacent going forward. A healthy world may be in our future yet.

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Featured image via Socialist Appeal (CC BY 2.0 Deed)

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