Tue Apr 22 17:02:51 2003

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U.S. Prosecuted Nazi Propagandists As War Criminals
The Nuremberg tribunal and the role of the Nazi media

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U.S. Prosecuted Nazi Propagandists As War Criminals
The Nuremberg tribunal and the role of the media
16 April 2003


The ongoing US aggression in the Middle East raises the most serious
questions about the role of the mass media in modern society. In the
period leading up to the invasion, the American [corporate] media
uncritically advanced the Bush Administration's arguments, rooted in
lies, distortions and half-truths, for an attack on Iraq. It
virtually excluded all critical viewpoints, to the point of blacking
out news of mass anti-war demonstrations and any other facts that
contradicted the propaganda from the White House and Pentagon.

The obvious aim was to misinform and manipulate public opinion, and
convince the tens of millions within the US who were opposed to the
Administration's war policy that they constituted a small and
helpless minority.

Now, as if on cue, the US media has obediently turned its attention
to Syria, evidently the next target of the US military. If the focus
of the White House and Pentagon should shift to North Korea or Iran,
the appropriate items will begin to appear about the dire threat
represented by those regimes to the security of the American people.

In the American media, there is barely a trace of serious analysis
concerning the political and social realities of the Middle East. It
long ago abandoned any sense of responsibility for educating and
informing the public or carrying out the critical democratic function
traditionally assigned to the "Fourth Estate," i.e., serving as a
watchdog and check on government abuses and falsifications. Instead
it slavishly carries out the function assigned it by the ruling
elite: to confuse, terrorize and intimidate the American public,
rendering it less able to resist the reactionary program of the right-
wing clique in Washington.

The television networks and leading newspapers are the prime source
of news and information for tens of millions of people in the US.
However, these public resources are in the hands of giant firms,
controlled by fabulously wealthy individuals who will stop at nothing
to defend their profits and property. The corpses of thousands, or,
if necessary, millions of Iraqis, [Afghans], Syrians, Iranians and
others are a small price to pay, as far as the media billionaires are
concerned, for achieving American military and economic domination of
the globe.

This makes the US media an accessory before and after the fact to
crimes carried out in Iraq and future crimes against other peoples in
the region and around the world. Sitting far from the ravaged Iraqi
cities, in well-appointed boardrooms, the media moguls may believe
they will never face such charges. There are, however, historical
parallels and precedents to the contrary.

The Nuremberg Precedent

The role of propaganda and propagandists figured prominently at the
Nuremberg war crimes tribunal, convened to render judgment on the
Nazi leaders following World War II. The tribunal was an institution
organized by the victorious Allied governments, serving in the final
analysis the ruling classes of those countries.

Nonetheless, in their arguments US prosecutors set forth a democratic
legal principle derived from the international experience of a half-
century of carnage: that planning and launching an aggressive war
constituted a criminal act and that those who helped prepare such a
war through their propaganda efforts were as culpable as those who
drew up the battle plans or manufactured the munitions.

The case made against Hans Fritzsche, one of the individuals chiefly
responsible for Nazi newspaper and radio propaganda, is particularly
significant. Fritzsche, born in Bochum, Westphalia in 1900, served in
the German Army in World War I and studied liberal arts at
university, but left without a degree. He began a career as a
journalist working for the Hugenberg Press, a newspaper chain that
supported the right-wing "national" parties, including the Nazis.

Fritzsche began commenting on radio in September 1932, discussing
political events on his own weekly program, "Hans Fritzsche Speaks."
That same year the regime of Franz von Papen appointed him head of
the Wireless (Radio) News Department, a government agency. Fritzsche
was generally sympathetic to the Nazi cause, but not a member of the

Underlining the importance with which the Hitlerites viewed radio as
an instrument of propaganda, on the evening that the Nazis came to
power, January 30, 1933, two emissaries of Joseph Goebbels, soon to
be minister of propaganda and enlightenment, paid Fritzsche a visit.
The latter was allowed to stay on as head of the Wireless Radio
Department despite his rejection of certain conditions set by
Goebbels, including the immediate firing of all Jews and all those
who refused to join the Nazi Party.

The Nuremberg prosecution case against Fritzsche notes: "Fritzsche
continued to make radio broadcasts during this period in which he
supported the National Socialist [Nazi] coalition government then
still existing."

In April 1933, Goebbels paid Fritzsche a personal visit and informed
him of the decision to place the Wireless News Service under the
jurisdiction of the newly created Propaganda Ministry as of May 1,
1933. Apparently satisfied with the results of the first meeting,
Goebbels arranged a second at which Fritzsche informed the propaganda
minister of the steps he had taken to "reorganize and modernize" the
agency, including ridding it of Jewish employees.

"Goebbels thereupon informed Fritzsche that he would like to have him
reorganize and modernize the entire news services of Germany within
the control of the Propaganda Ministry. ... He [Fritzsche] proceeded
to conclude the Goebbels-inspired reorganization of the Wireless News
Service and, on 1 May 1933, together with the remaining members of
his staff, he joined the Propaganda Ministry. On this same day he
joined the NSDAP [Nazi Party] and took the customary oath of
unconditional loyalty to the Fuehrer."

After entering the Propaganda Ministry, Fritzsche went to work for
its "German Press Division." From 1933 to 1942 Fritzsche held various
positions in that department, heading it for the four years during
which the Nazi regime launched its invasions of neighboring
countries. The Nuremberg prosecution argued: "By virtue of its
functions, the German Press Division became an important and unique
instrument of the Nazi conspirators, not only in dominating the minds
and psychology of Germans, but also as an instrument of foreign
policy and psychological warfare against other nations."

According to Fritzsche's own affidavit: "During the whole period from
1933 to 1945 it was the task of the German Press Division to
supervise the entire domestic press and to provide it with directives
by which this division became an efficient instrument in the hands of
the German State leadership. More than 2,300 German daily newspapers
were subject to this control. ... The head of the German Press
Division held daily press conferences in the Ministry for the
representatives of all German newspapers. Hereby all instructions
were given to the representatives of the press."

The Prosecution Case: Propaganda as an Instrument of Aggression

The prosecution case, argued by Drexel Sprecher, an American, placed
considerable stress on the role of media propaganda in enabling the
Hitler regime to prepare and carry out aggressive wars. "The use made
by the Nazi conspirators of psychological warfare is well known.
Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on
expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken
their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for
the attack. They used the press, after their earlier conquests, as a
means for further influencing foreign politics and in maneuvering for
the following aggression."

Fritzsche was named head of the German Press Division in 1938 after
the "primitive military-like" methods of his predecessor, Alfred
Ingemar Berndt, created "a noticeable crisis in confidence of the
German people in the trustworthiness of its press," in Fritzsche's

The Nuremberg prosecutor detailed the propaganda campaigns taken up
by the German media, under Fritzsche's immediate supervision, in
relation to various acts of foreign aggression, including the
incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia (1939) and the invasions of
Poland (1939) and Yugoslavia and the USSR (1941).

The Nazi press propaganda campaign preceding the invasion of Poland
involved manufacturing or manipulating complaints of the German
minority in that country. Fritzsche explains: "Concerning this the
leading German newspapers, upon the basis of directions given out in
the so-called 'daily parole,' brought out the following publicity
with great emphasis: (1) cruelty and terror against Germans and the
extermination of Germans in Poland; (2) forced labor of thousands of
German men and women in Poland; (3) Poland, land of servitude and
disorder; the desertion of Polish soldiers; the increased inflation
in Poland; (4) provocation of frontier clashes upon direction of the
Polish Government; the Polish lust to conquer; (5) persecution of
Czechs and Ukrainians by Poland."

In regard to the Nazi propaganda surrounding the Yugoslav events, the
prosecutor noted the "customary definitions, lies, incitement and
threats, and the usual attempt to divide and weaken the victim."

Fritzsche describes how he received instructions on the eve of the
invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941: "[Foreign Minister Joachim
von] Ribbentrop informed us that the war against the Soviet Union
would start that same day and asked the German press to present the
war against the Soviet Union as a preventative war for the defense of
the Fatherland, as a war which was forced upon us through the
immediate danger of an attack of the Soviet Union against Germany.
The claim that this was a preventative war was later repeated by the
newspapers which received their instructions from me during the usual
daily parole of the Reich Press Chief. I, myself, have also given
this presentation of the cause of the war in my regular broadcasts."

Thus, the presentation of an illegal invasion of a foreign country as
a "preventative" or pre-emptive war did not originate with Bush,
Cheney or Rumsfeld.

The prosecution in the Fritzsche case raised an issue that is of the
greatest relevance today: the role of Nazi media propaganda in
inuring the German population to the sufferings of other peoples and,
indeed, urging Germans to commit war crimes. It argued: "Fritzsche
incited atrocities and encouraged a ruthless occupation policy. The
results of propaganda as a weapon of the Nazi conspirators reaches
into every aspect of this conspiracy, including the atrocities and
ruthless exploitation in occupied countries. It is likely that many
ordinary Germans would never have participated in or tolerated the
atrocities committed throughout Europe, had they not been conditioned
and goaded by the constant Nazi propaganda. The callousness and zeal
of the people who actually committed the atrocities was in large part
due to the constant and corrosive propaganda of Fritzsche and his
official associates."

The American media today reports poll results indicating that 60 or
70 percent of the population supports the war against Iraq. Such
polls are not conducted by disinterested bodies for the purpose of
advancing sociological knowledge. The manner in which the
interviewees are selected and the questions formulated has a
considerable impact on the results obtained. The powers that be in
America have every interest in maintaining the fiction of a nation
united behind its president and armed forces. In reality, there is
widespread hostility and opposition to the war and to the Bush
administration, which finds no expression in the media, the
Democratic Party or any other official American institution.

Nonetheless, there is a constituency for war among the more backward
layers of the population. Aside from the relatively small number of
right-wing fanatics, who would be in favor of war against almost
anyone, including a good section of their fellow Americans, those in
favor of the assault on Iraq believe a) that the Saddam Hussein
regime had a hand in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New
York City and Washington; b) that the Iraqis possessed "weapons of
mass destruction," which they intended to use against their neighbors
or the US at some future point; and/or c) that the Iraqi population
desired "liberation" at the hands of the US military.

While it is outside the scope of this article to expound on this, all
three claims have been proven to be lies by the events of the war
itself and will be further exposed by future developments. If many
Americans, however, believe these arguments, with all the tragic
consequences for the Iraqi and other peoples, how is that to be
accounted for? Clearly, by "the constant and corrosive propaganda" of
the US media over the course of months and even years, dating back to
the first Gulf war. The media's very success in manipulating public
opinion is one of the strongest proofs of its culpability in the
commission of war crimes.

It is worth quoting extensively from the Fritzsche prosecutor's
conclusion, for it sheds considerable light on the role of the media
in the modern age, as well as the democratic sensibilities of those
pursuing the Nazi war criminals, sensibilities that no longer carry
any weight within US ruling circles.

"Fritzsche was not the type of conspirator who signed decrees, or who
sat in the inner councils planning the overall grand strategy. The
function of propaganda is, for the most part, apart from the field of
such planning. The function of a propaganda agency is somewhat more
analogous to an advertising agency or public relations department,
the job of which is to sell the product and to win the market for the
enterprise in question. Here the enterprise was the Nazi conspiracy.
In a conspiracy which depends upon fraud as a means, the salesmen of
the conspiratorial group are quite as essential and culpable as the
master planners, even though they may not have contributed
substantially to the formulation of all the basic strategy, but
rather concentr

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