They Work So Hard To Manufacture Our Consent Because They Absolutely Require It

Caitlin Johnstone
7 min readMar 9, 2023

Listen to a reading of this article:

Australian media are awash with reporting on the war-with-China propaganda series by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that I’ve been writing about for the last few days. Which is really quite extraordinary, because it’s not an actual news story.

It really isn’t. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age just asked five warmongering China hawks what they think about war with China, wrote down their very predictable answers saying Australia must prepare for war with China within three years, and then passed it off as journalism. Obviously if you ask a bunch of China hawks if they think Australia should prepare for war with China they’re going to tell you yes; that’s not news, that’s just you reporting that five random warmongers think warmongery thoughts.

Yet SMH and The Age stretched this ridiculous non-story into a multi-part series titled “Red Alert” — all without ever noting the massive conflict of interest posed by the extensive ties its “panel” of “experts” have to US-aligned governments and the military industrial complex — and now it’s being covered like a real news story by the rest of Australian media. TV news segments have filled the airwaves reporting on the opinions of the most wildly biased people you could possibly find on this subject, the most appalling of which appeared on the Australian government’s ABC.

Sydney Morning Herald editor Peter Hartcher, who helped put together the “Red Alert” series, was given a fawning, slobbering rim job of an interview from the ABC’s Beverley O’Connor where everything he said was received as gospel truth and not a single critical question was asked. When former prime minister Paul Keating’s scathing criticism of Hartcher’s war propaganda was raised, Hartcher was permitted to call Keating a CCP crony, completely unchallenged.

Hartcher claimed that Keating’s criticisms were “talking points that I think the Beijing government would be pretty satisfied with,” adding that “in recent years Keating has emerged as the leading defender of, and apologist for, the Chinese Communist Party in Australia.”

This type of rhetoric is familiar to anyone who’s been following US politics the last few years, where anyone who criticizes American foreign policy has been branded by empire loyalists as an apologist for the Kremlin. The fact that we are now seeing this mind virus take hold in mainstream Australian discourse with regard to China is both disgusting and disturbing.

The latest installment of the “Red Alert” series is titled “Australia has an urgent security problem. These confronting ideas can help solve it,” and it is the most incendiary of the bunch. The “experts” suggest rolling out mandatory national service to prepare Australians for war with China, as well as “basing US long-range missiles armed with nuclear weapons on Australian territory.”

As has been the case for the last two “Red Alert” installments, this one again speaks of the need to psychologically shift Australians into support for war preparations, saying that “Australia’s critical threshold change must be psychological,” and that it must take place “across society.” They don’t say it directly, but what they are advocating here is copious amounts of domestic war propaganda.

After receiving a deluge of angry social media comments decrying the article, The Sydney Morning Herald took the extraordinary step of banning replies. On Facebook, the “Australia has an urgent security problem” article now has a notification which reads, “The Sydney Morning Herald limits who can reply to this post.”

None of the other articles on The Sydney Morning Herald’s Facebook page have this notice:

On Twitter, The Sydney Morning Herald shut off comments on the article and hid the replies people had made to it. To find the hidden replies you have to know to click on a small button on the bottom-right corner of the tweet, but if you do you can read through the many negative comments the article was getting before the SMH Twitter account shut them down.

Here are some quotes from a few of them:

“What is the SMH doing? Stop with this alarmist rubbish. Thought you guys were better than that.”

“Oh for the love of God. Just stop already. We know exactly what the SMH is doing, who’s behind it & what a great distraction it is.”

“Australia’s biggest security problem is that our government and media have been captured by the US military industrial complex.”

“China has absolutely no interest in Australia. We are so minor and unimportant that trading with us is enough. If you losers could stop creaming yourselves at the idea of war you’d understand that, you weird, weird losers.”

In response to this latest wave of war propaganda, Declassified Australia published an article titled “Majority Oppose U.S. War On China,” which cites a 2022 poll by the Lowy Institute think tank saying that a 51 percent majority of those surveyed believe Australia should remain neutral in the event of a US military conflict with China over Taiwan.

It’s a point that’s worth making, but Declassified also notes that the 51 percent majority is down from 57 percent the last time the Lowy Institute took that poll in 2020. Why did six percent of the population change their minds about war with China in just two years? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that Australia has been slammed with propaganda about war with China during that time.

Propaganda works. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t pour so much energy into doing it. The empire churns out propaganda for the same reason advertising is on track to become a trillion-dollar industry in the next couple of years: because it is possible to manipulate people’s minds at mass scale using media.

They generate propaganda because it’s an effective way to manufacture consent for the agendas of the powerful, and they manufacture consent because they have to. If our rulers just started acting directly against the will of the people without first psychologically pulling the wool over our eyes using propaganda, they’d have a revolution on their hands in short order. Doing something huge like waging a war with China — with all the death, suffering, impoverishment, and risk of nuclear annihilation that goes with it — without the consent of the people would quickly lose public trust in all the ruling institutions which keep us marching to the beat of the imperial drum.

They don’t work so hard to manufacture our consent because it’s fun for them, they work so hard to manufacture our consent because they require our consent. So it’s important that we don’t give it to them. It’s important that we forcefully oppose the global conflict the US-centralized empire is pushing us all toward, and that we vocally decry the propaganda that’s being used to grease the wheels of that depraved agenda.

Ultimately the powerful have no answer to the problem that there are a whole lot more of us than there are of them and that there’s really nothing they can do if we decide not to be ruled by them anymore. All they have is little work-arounds for that problem that they have to continually use day in and day out, in the same way we’ve designed work-arounds for the problem of gravity so that we can temporarily fly through the air.

But gravity always wins, and sooner or later the giant that these monsters have been keeping in a propaganda-induced coma is going to start stirring. We’re going to have to wake up sooner or later, and because of the stakes involved it is very important that we do everything we can to try and make sure that it is sooner.


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