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Jim Jatras, a former US diplomat, foreign policy adviser to the Senate GOP leadership, and lobbyist comments on financial and foreign policy topics and on U.S. politics in his publication TheJIM!gram.

Jim’s views may not appeal to everyone, to put it mildly, and that’s exactly why we like him here at Washington Babylon. He’s smart and funny and better informed than most people out there and we’re not going to blacklist him just because his views — and good luck trying to categorize them — fall outside the official mainstream foreign policy consensus the media is so enamored of. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Q1: A few weeks ago, the story of “Aleppo Boy” went viral in the media. Who was “Aleppo Boy” and why do you think the media covered the story so intently?

A1: Reportedly he was a five-year-old named Omran Daqneesh, pulled from the rubble of Aleppo after his home and family were crushed in what was dubiously reported as a Russian airstrike. According to the New York Times  — which means it has to be true — “some images strike a particular nerve, for reasons both obvious and unknowable, jarring even a public numbed to disaster. Omran’s is one.” Bunk. There are tons of images from conflict zones, each more horrible than the next. Yet some, like Omran’s, are picked up as a “symbol.” Others, like another Aleppo boy, Abdullah Tayseer Al Issa, are not, as I’ll explain shortly.

The mainstream media herd instinctively picks for saturation coverage stories and images that “justify” military intervention. We’ve seen this movie before: incubator babies (Kuwait/Iraq — see image above and click here for more info); the Racak massacre (Kosovo); the Markale marketplace bombings, Omarska “living skeletons,” and the Srebrenica massacre (Bosnia); rape as a calculated instrument of war (Bosnia, Libya); and poison gas in Ghouta (Syria). Never mind that the facts, to the extent they eventually become known, later turned out to be very different from the categorical black-and-white accusations on the lips of Western officials and given banner media exposure with hours if not minutes of the event in question.

Q2: You mentioned that another young boy was recently killed near Aleppo, but Western news consumers didn’t hear much about that case. What happened?

Not long before the Aleppo Boy picture went viral, another little boy, Abdullah, about 12, was beheaded near Aleppo on video by the “moderate” U.S.-supported jihad terror group Harakat Nour al-Din al-Zenki. The images of his grisly demise received far less media attention than those of official Aleppo Boy. This other kid received no catchy moniker. No one called for anyone in power to “do something.” In fact, Western support for the al-Zenki jihadists – which the Obama administration refused to disavow even after the beheading and allegations of chlorine gas use by al-Zenki – is framed as being part of “doing something” about evil, evil Assad.

Another small detail readily available in “alternative media” but almost invisible in the MSM: Mahmoud Raslan, the photographer who took the picture of Aleppo Boy and disseminated it to world acclaim, also took a smiling selfie with the beaming al-Zenki beheaders of the other kid. But, hey, says Raslan, I barely know those guys. Now let’s move on…

For those paying attention to the past few decades of official propaganda, Aleppo Boy is a familiar example of what is known as “atrocity porn.” Atrocity porn has been essential for selling military action in repeated “wars of choice” unconnected to the actual defense of the U.S.

Q3: What do you mean by “atrocity porn?”

A3: The purpose and effect of atrocity porn is to titillate (like its sexual counterpart) the audience through horror and incitement to hatred of the presumed perpetrators. It’s a way to nullify critical thinking by a consuming public that doesn’t have much of a handle on the facts anyway. Don’t think, feel!

In the Syrian context, Aleppo Boy symbolizes the “need” for us – the “international community,” “the Free World,” the United States, you and I – to “do something” to stop Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his main backer and fellow Hitler clone Vladimir Putin. Also, as I explain in my study, “How American Media Serves as a Transmission Belt for Wars of Choice,” the idea of the “CNN Effect” — that reluctant governments are spurred to action by media images — is backwards.

Generally, governments – and here we are invariably talking about the U.S. government and our allies and satellites – often have already signaled their readiness to act, once a “trigger” is provided. On cue, the MSM provides it. Whenever a U.S. president, whether Democrat or Republican, plots a military intervention in another country, media dutifully parrot government-provided content, acting in effect as a transmission belt for the war agenda.

Q4: Define the Deep State and the media’s role in it?

A4: The media’s acting as a transmission belt for war is best understood by seeing the MSM itself as an integral part of a multifaceted, hybrid public-private entity encompassing an astonishing range and depth. Centered in Washington with secondary concentrations in New York and Silicon Valley, it is variously known as the Establishment, the Oligarchy (as called by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions), or the Deep State, as analyzed in depth by my longtime Congressional colleague Mike Lofgren.

This entity includes elements within all three branches of the U.S. government (especially in the military, intelligence, and financial sectors), private business (the financial industry, government contractors, information technology), think tanks, NGOs, the “Demintern,” both political parties and campaign operatives, and an army of lobbyists and PR flacks. Students of history will note a startling resemblance to the old Soviet nomenklatura.

The Deep State is not just Dwight Eisenhower’s “Military-Industrial Complex.” Compared to these guys, Curtis LeMay was a peacenik. The Oligarchy’s propensity for war is inseparable from its media falsehood-generator. As Solzhenitsyn observed: “Anyone who has proclaimed violence his method inexorably must choose lying as his principle.” Both have become deeply engrained in our public life and especially in our foreign and military policies.

Q5: OK, Jim, this is a pretty grim scenario, even by your own generally pessimistic outlook. Is there anything encouraging going on? Is anyone challenging the Deep State?

A5: Under assault from this year’s anti-Establishment challenges from Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, the failure of Barack Obama’s policies in Syria and Ukraine, and boiling anger from a shrinking American Middle Class, both the Oligarchy and its media component show signs of losing their grip. Of particular note is growing public skepticism of the MSM in favor of digital “alternative media” across the political spectrum.

Some other publications are open to alternative views and serve as conduits to more mainstream opinion, such as Chronicles magazine on the (genuine, not Neocon) Right, The Nation on the Left, the libertarian Reason, and the foreign policy realist publication The National Interest.

At the same time, the MSM increasingly must take note of “alternative” information in an attempt to preserve some of its diminishing credibility. A growing segment of the American public is discovering a skill once well-honed by the citizens of the former communist countries: reading between the lines of the official media — which is assumed to be full of lies — and making informed comparisons to samizdat alternative media, foreign sources, and the rumor-mill to guess what the truth might be.

An encouraging sign is Obama’s failure to herd the country into the Syrian war in 2013 in the face of an outpouring of public opposition across the political spectrum. The possibility exists for a peaceful evolution over the next few years to a less warlike posture that would refocus on America’s domestic needs.

Q6: And the danger?

A6: That’s the scary part. While the Oligarchy seems to losing its grip, its death throes may yet prove fatal – for all of us. Its servitors and beneficiaries could risk a major war in a desperate bid to save their wealth, power, and privileges – with dire consequences for America and the world.

Most people may be inclined to dismiss the idea of “kickstarting World War III” as alarmism, if not conspiracy-mongering. Maybe that’s the case. On the other hand, such speculation isn’t entirely baseless in light of the willingness of some American politicians, including some who aspire to the Oval Office (and one who might actually get there) to impose a no-fly zone or “safe area” in Syria, and threaten to shoot down Russian aircraft to do it; give lethal aid to Ukrainian forces, along with putting American and other NATO advisers’ and trainers’ “boots on the ground;” or directly challenge Beijing’s claim of sovereignty over rocks in the South China Sea through U.S. and allied air and naval transit despite Chinese warnings of a military response. If such a confrontation were to get out of control, the resulting conflict could assume unexpectedly catastrophic proportions.

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  • TheaterGeek

    This all sounds great, and is one of the best things yet on WB. Lofgren is a treasure, and we eat up everything he writes. But 1 minute of research reveals Jim! Is in the bag for Trump, and has a lobbyist-like preoccupation with the obscure-to-all-but-a-few foreign tax issue of FATCA.

    Ken, ‘splain!