There is an eeriness about reading a book on media and politics from 1988 and coming across sentences accurately describing today’s situations to a T.
The refusal of the rebel opposition to participate in the election is portrayed as a rejection of democracy and proof of its antidemocratic tendencies, although the very plan of the election involves the rebels’ exclusion from the ballot. The sponsor government also seizes upon any rebel statements urging nonparticipation or threatening to disrupt the election. These are used to transform the election into a dramatic struggle between, on the one side, the “born-again” democratic army and people struggling to vote for “peace,” and, on the other, the rebels opposing democracy, peace, and the right to vote. Thus the dramatic denouement of the election is voter turnout, which measure the ability of the forces of democracy and peace (the army) to overcome rebel threats.
Official observers are dispatched to the election scene to assure its public-relations success. Nominally, their role is to see that the election is “fair.” Their real function, however, is to provide the appearance of fairness by focusing on the government’s agenda and by channeling press attention to a reliable source. They testify to fairness on the basis of long lines, smiling faces, no beatings in their presence, and the assurances and enthusiasm of U.S. and client-state officials. But these superficialities are entirely consistent with a staged fraud. Fairness depends on fundamental conditions established in advance, which are virtually impossible to ascertain under the brief, guided-tour conditions of official observers. (p 89, Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent [New York: Pantheon, 1988]) (italic emphasis in original, bold emphasis mine.)
Despite the fact this was originally written during the Cold War and was illustrated with examples from three Central American countries from 1980-85, this excerpt could easily be applied without change to Iraq. The even have the “official” military terrorizing the population with torture and murder. And, like in Central American in the early 1980s, the media downplay the blatant evidence of systemic “official” Iraqi military torture and murder. The latest “insurgent” explosions and victims get full play because those are more likely to cause American casualties. Thirty civilians found in a mass grave, dead from bullets fired only from high priced and unique guns only available to Iraqi police, not so much.