Building Agendas for War

[Editor's Note: This speech was recorded and edited by Charlotte Hatch for San Francisco Liberation Radio and is posted here with her kind permission.]

At the end of July, longtime AlterNet writer and respected media critic Norman Solomon gave a talk at the Women's building in San Francisco to promote his new book, War Made Easy.

The premise of the book is disturbingly simple: There are at least 17 standard justifications that the government uses to send the country war, over and over. Even more disturbingly, the media parrots these justifications until they are established as fact through sheer force of repetition.

In his wide-ranging speech, Solomon recounts some of his personal encounters with the anti-war movement and the media's attempts to discredit them. He also touches on each of the well-worn justifications for going to war:

  • America Is a Fair and Noble Superpower;
  • Our Leaders Will Do Everything They Can to Avoid War;
  • Our Leaders Would Never Tell Us Outright Lies;
  • This Guy Is a Modern-Day Hitler;
  • This Is About Human Rights;
  • This Is Not at All About Oil or Corporate Profits;
  • They Are the Aggressors, Not Us;
  • If This War Is Wrong, Congress Will Stop It;
  • If This War Is Wrong, the Media Will Tell Us;
  • Media Coverage Brings War into Our Living Rooms;
  • Opposing the War Means Siding With the Enemy;
  • This Is a Necessary Battle in the War on Terrorism;
  • What the U.S. Government Needs Most Is Better PR;
  • The Pentagon Fights Wars as Humanely as Possible;
  • Our Soldiers Are Heroes, Theirs Are Inhuman;
  • America Needs the Resolve to Kick the "Vietnam Syndrome";
  • Withdrawal Would Cripple U.S. Credibility;


After listening to Solomon's speech, you can also download the 30-minute question and answer session.
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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

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