Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 15, 2008

War Sells

This site does not have any advertising and I do not make any income writing here. I do not even care much about how many people read what I write. If I would certain issues and opinions would be off limits because they turn away part of the potential readership.

I hate wars. But any media that depends on circulation numbers and advertising revenue has reason to love them. Especially "splendid little wars" like the one we witnessed over the last week.

Here is why:


War sells.

And to cover small wars is easy and cheap as long as one does not bother to dig into the backgrounds.

One takes the melodramatic propaganda of the 'good' side, adds a nasty statement from the 'evil' one and mixes in some of the usual partisan 'expert' voices. Arrange some dubious but symbolic agency pictures with the story and there is 'news fit to print.'

I tried to do different and hope it is that what doubled the visits here. But having worked in several (new) media business, I can assure you that every news-site, no matter badly it covered the war, got some bump out of this.

Is there a human desire to read about inhuman stuff?

MoA coverage of the 2008 war over South Ossetia:

August 8
Saakashvili Wants War - He Will Get It
The South Ossetian War
August 9
Endgame Plans for South Ossetia
August 10
Wrap Up - For Now
August 11
Sack Saak
August 12
Israel Trains Quad Bikers?
Between Two Empires
August 13
Caption Contest - Tbilisi Version
Doubling Down?
August 14
Pressing Russia? How?

Posted by b on August 15, 2008 at 8:13 UTC | Permalink


The Echo Chamber ProjectThe Echo Chamber Project is an open source, investigative documentary about how the television news media became an uncritical echo chamber to the Executive Branch leading up to the war in Iraq.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 15 2008 8:42 utc | 1

Perhaps you're correct b. Wars to sell papers but I think you may be selling yourself short. The peak in here coincides with your excellent analysis of the sequence of events in Ossettia. The article clarified exactly what happened in a way nothing else I've seen in the english language media anywhere has. That meant peeps referred others back to it which caused the spike. True if you had been that on song about tower cranes you may not have attracted such an audience but war is news and having a site which explains something as raw as war clearly when no one else is, was bound to 'spike'.

Posted by: Debs is dead | Aug 15 2008 8:43 utc | 2

My best bet is mostly that the Moon got linked in the comments sections of several blogs, like Group News Blog (blog by friends of late and sadly missed Steve Gilliard, and some of the top commenters at his blog) and, if I remember correctly, Eurotrib and even Dailykos (and when you're linked in comments of a top-10 rec diary there, you obviously get a sizable chunk of new hits).
So I'd say it's first of all the wider visibility of MoA in other blogs, and readers of said blog-comments coming back for more. All in all, it's mostly a comment on the great hard work you do here, and particularly all that you've been able to dig up on this Caucasian war, more than a comment on human's interest in murder and bloodshed. The overall interest of people in *any* blog dealing with this war, on the other hand, might be an indication of this bloody war-porn tendency - the peak in MoA is a side-effect, in my opinion.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Aug 15 2008 8:53 utc | 3

I have been watching the BBC and n-TV (German) news, what a contrast on the BBC there is so much bias, repeat and hype, on n-TV the conflict is hardly being reported. As a person living in Germany what is the take on the reason why the conflict is so little reported?

Posted by: peace | Aug 15 2008 9:02 utc | 4

the Russophobe Army?
La Russophobe Uncovered?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Aug 15 2008 10:34 utc | 5

Speaking for myself, the first thoughts going through my head when I heard about the war was something along the lines of "oh, shit!". Then I went searching for more information.

Questions I in retrospect wanted answered was: What is happening (to be able to valuate future information from the MSM)? Is there a risk of the war spreading (and from comments in different places this was a common question)? What can be expected to happen next/how does this affect the world-politics?

I would say that war sells because it creates a need for quick orientation, to learn new things. And then there is the war porn which probably sells even better.

Posted by: a swedish kind of death | Aug 15 2008 11:21 utc | 6

All I can say is thank you for giving an accurate perspective. People just want the truth.

Posted by: beq | Aug 15 2008 11:21 utc | 7

Is this a rhetorical question or what? War sells. The first Iraq war was exclusively "video games" for TV. The 2nd one, well, it started off well. But the protagonists too are getting killed and there is little ability to respawn.

That's a bit of a dampener. No matter.

The show must go on.


Posted by: shanks | Aug 15 2008 12:09 utc | 8

peace @ 4

on n-TV the conflict is hardly being reported

I posed your question to my German spouse who replied without hesitation: it's CNN owned.

Here's wiki (based on translations from German wiki

n-tv has an unusual history. It began as a business development project at Time-Warner International which, under the leadership of then chairman Steve Ross, was looking for ways to grow its businesses internationally. Time-Warner at the time was a major shareholder in Turner Broadcasting, parent company of CNN (both now subsidiaries of Time-Warner) and began looking for ways to get into the news channel business internationally. In 1991, under the direction of Tom McGrath then the president of Time-Warner International Broadcasting, the company developed a strategy for Austria, Germany and the German speaking territories of Switzerland.
This in time led to the launch of the VIVA music TV channel, VOX network and several local TV stations. One of McGrath's pet projects was a German language 24-hour news channel. CNN International declined to partner with Time-Warner and eventually went ahead with their own channel. McGrath secured the last available transponder on the Kopernikus satellite and secured several terrestrial TV licenses for transmission of what would became n-tv. McGrath then recruited several German companies as partners including the Otto Group, APAX Partners and recruited Karl Kuhlo, an experienced German broadcaster as the CEO.
Although CNN declined to partner initially, when it became clear that n-tv was going to launch CNN joined as managing partner.

Wall Street coverage
In Germany, n-tv is the most important TV source for financial and stock market news.

Spouse says cursory viewing of German news seems to depict Georgia as poor little victim.

Posted by: Hamburger | Aug 15 2008 12:23 utc | 9

Gorbachev on Larry King


King: The president of Georgia told CNN yesterday that we've been witnessing the past few days "the brutal, calculated, cold-blooded, premeditated murder by Russia of a small democracy."

How do you respond?

GORBACHEV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Well, this is all lies from beginning to end. And I am -- really, I really think this is really beyond comprehension. I have heard the opinion of Eduard Shevardnadze. He knows what the situation is on their side.

So it was all at night, a little past midnight, when the city was asleep. Then from all sides, it was shelled with shells of enormous power. They used artillery. They used aircraft. They used all weapons of killing. And this is really amazing.

Unfortunately it is not perfectly clear to the casual listener which city Gorby is referring to, until:

Tskhinvali, in fact, was devastated by fire from multiple rocket launchers against people, against housing, against hospitals, against water and sanitation, against the energy and communication infrastructure. All of that was destroyed. The old monuments were destroyed. And they were among the oldest in the Caucasus. The ancestral graves were ruined -- were then trampled by tanks.

KING: Mr. President, excuse me, you are saying that Georgia started this?

GORBACHEV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Yes, indeed. There is no doubt about it.

What is more, the response required the movement of additional forces into South Ossetia because Tskhinvali was attacked by a powerful force, by an armada. And I remember the Second World War. I remember the front. I remember the occupation. I saw terrible weapons used. But this was the use of sophisticated weapons against a small town, against sleeping people. This was a barbaric assault.

King fails to follow up on this apparently to him surprising assertion and turns the topic:

KING: One of our candidates, John McCain, the senator, I'm sure you know, he calls this regime change. He said Russia's true objective is to change regimes.

How do you respond to that charge?

Gorby stays with the issue of the initial Georgian assault:

GORBACHEV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): No. Russia was responding to what happened in Tskhinvali. Russia needed to address this. Russia could not avoid addressing this assault and this devastation and the killings of people, the devastation of the city. The peacekeepers had been there for some time. There were all kinds of things happening. But there were still possibilities for dialogue. And there was some dialogue going on and they were considering certain options and possibilities.

So Russia was ready to continue to fulfill its functions. There is just no doubt about it. And I don't know why it's happened that it has been presented that Russia invaded Georgia. This is really disinformation. This is all lies. It means that this plan -- there was a plan to attack Ossetia...


GORBACHEV (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ...and also to misinform people. It's a kind of information war. I think now that they are showing the city, it is becoming clearer what happened.

Yeah except when they show the photos of the bombed S. Ossetian city Tskhinvali and identify it as the Georgian city of Gori.

Unfortunately Gorby fails to set out the sequence of events as clearly as Bernhard has done in his many excellent posts. King fails utterly to set the record straight and of course the "balance" follows with Saak railing on about the KGB KGB government meme in his "response".

No longer on the NYT front page was an earlier article beginning "Russia's invasion of Georgia..." 10 grafs later was a reference to the prior Georgian incursion into S. Ossetia.

Posted by: Hamburger | Aug 15 2008 12:50 utc | 10

Helena Cobban linked to MOA on the 10th. That's probably your spike right there.

Posted by: L'Akratique | Aug 15 2008 13:25 utc | 11

Well, I for one just happened to be surfing past the Moon the day this started, and I immediately let some friends know about it. They're kind of hippies, I guess you might say; vegan, educated, very good tolerant people (not like me at all, really). I'm quite sure they linked you to others as well, but of course that doesn't really account for many hits. The thing is we have all learned to take anything coming from the mainstream media with a truckload of salt, especially when it's in support of the Bushies or about oil. Along comes someone with a different perspective (MoA) and links to verify that, and we'll jump on board for a while. Don't worry though, I'm sure in six weeks you'll be back to normal. And your typical American is WAAAAY too fucking stupid to even notice there's a country named Georgia. I liked what someone here said about all the rednecks around Atlanta gettin' their 30-30s out and heading down to Peachtree Street to defend it against the Russkies.

Posted by: JimT. | Aug 15 2008 13:28 utc | 12

Georgia Crisis Vaults McCain Into Top Media Exposure, or as MoA's have dubbed it, the
"October Surprise in August". Now whether or not the US can afford carbon neutrality,
free education, healthcare vouchers, childcare, equal pay for equal work (they can't),
next week's Democratic Convention will hinge on empire and colonialism, terrorism
and communism, Fossil Fuels and Global War of Terror.

Fewer words? "Defense", and "Prisons". Behind the scenes, the greatest transfer of
public wealth into private coffers in world history continues unabated. The Fed will
bail out the financial banks and brokers, and Treasury will bail out Fannie/Freddie.
All our future tax revenues will go towards a NeoZi entitlement program, dedicated
to Exceptionalism for the "well-intentioned and deserving".

For the rest of US, the zeks, welcome to the gulag, comrades.

Posted by: Peris Troika | Aug 15 2008 14:36 utc | 13

ditto beq #7

Posted by: annie | Aug 15 2008 15:27 utc | 14

saakashvili & rice press coference cobfederacy of dunces. if you read yr history - the campaign of the media is very close to that of beaverbrooks at the time of the civil war in russia at the beginning of 21st century - an anti soviet hysteria which permitted mercenaries to attack the soviet union. the white armies failed that time. an american presence in georgia will fail also

saakashvili is foaming at the mouth just like another tyrant - even the bush concubine rice seems a little bored

& then she speaks her threats in that peculiar little voice

they are truly monsters. when they are revealed for what they are, must excite interest & an expression of that interest is witnessed in the spike, here

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 15 2008 15:31 utc | 15

Me, too, B (the war bump.) I think there is both a fascination with war and suffering but also a concern about consequences for people like 'us'. Hence, not much interest in war & suffering in e.g. DRC, where it['s on as vastly larger scale.

Just World News's numbers are generally a bit lower than yours. I try to keep my visitor envy in check because I think you do a great job that helps us all!

Posted by: Helena | Aug 15 2008 15:41 utc | 16

Also, me too on the no advertising, no income from the blog.

Posted by: Helena | Aug 15 2008 15:42 utc | 17

it's a big deal in geopolitics & it's natural to want to find out what really is going on. throw in the egregious disinformation campaigns permeating even into the ranks of the 'progressive' blogosphere, and there's a larger demand for accurate information. b has been on top of this since friday morning w/ a clear perspective & analysis (as usual). the commentators have stepped up w/ useful links & perspectives. i know i've been visiting over the last week even more than regular, which was already alot.

Posted by: b real | Aug 15 2008 15:56 utc | 18

peter weiss in his great masterwork - marat/sade - said that it is necessary to turn your eyes inside out & see the world through different eyes

moa helps us to do that

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 15 2008 16:00 utc | 19

The hits spiked at the Bar because truth gets hidden in a time of war. But, even more so in the United States when the government and corporate media suck up to the Leo Strauss neo-conservatives and lie to the hoi polloi.

The newest best quote on the Bush/McCain White House: "The president was writing checks to the Georgians without knowing what he had in the bank," said a senior administration official; also, an apt description of Iraq, the federal budget and the Bubble Economy.

Posted by: VietnamVet | Aug 15 2008 16:05 utc | 20

I try to keep my visitor envy in check because I think you do a great job that helps us all!

it takes a village Helena. i love your blog, and it's excellent having an expert strong woman's voice out there.

Posted by: annie | Aug 15 2008 16:07 utc | 21

Bit OT.

The attention wars gather is tied to their cost, financial amongst *others.*

Recently I looked for some simple exposé that would tie in the ‘economy’ with various other matters, such as debt, money creation, war, etc. for a family member - you can imagine. This short (2.5 hr) crash course is worth passing around. It is not finished yet, and one might quibble / disagree, etc. with this or that, but as an introduction and a start for discussion and thinking it is good. The young people coming up, the future rebels, leaders, or slave drones, need information..
.> chris crash course

@ peace, the BBC is the absolute pits, in all its smallest details. CNN Europe is a shining light of transparent info. in comparison, and that is saying a lot. (Ok not the same type, etc.)

- looking for some TV footage this site offers for free 5 Russian channels, RT is in English:>TVweb360

@ rgiap I caught Condi as I was doing the laundry, my god.

Posted by: Tangerine | Aug 15 2008 16:14 utc | 22

the metaphor my dear tangerine is not inexact

when the mass media is trying to cover us in shit & blood - one goes to where you can be cleaned - by real information & as i sd to dan of steele - even acknowledging bia - rt or press tv are relatively free of the hysteria that feeds the west constantly

i hope you didn't spill anything with the concubine rice vomiting her bile in georgia with the hack saak

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 15 2008 16:32 utc | 23

I don't know whether this has been mentioned here yet. A few folks with "inside info" are warning that this Georgia/Russia fiasco is intended as the beginning of that ever dreaded WWIII. Or maybe not. But certainly orchestrated somehow to create a desired end, as was Iraq etc.

I personally doubt that enough leaders are stupid enough to go along with such a plan, no matter how cleverly crafted and disguised it may be. But then, one thing we do know about these reptiles is that they are persistent, single-minded, unswayed by setback, ruthless and too clever by half.

Posted by: rapt | Aug 15 2008 16:37 utc | 24

No WW 3, just a paid up proxy poking the bear (Russia), and extravagantly debilic (wd, sp) media hype. Minor actors have to show their mettle!

Otherwise the funds are cut off, they are no longer persona grata and can go back to growing root vegetables, cavorting to folk music, getting their pics in local news; dead plucked chickens delivered gratefully to their door. Their wives doing paid seminars on women power, ribbon making, make up for TV, etc. Dire!

Posted by: Tangerine | Aug 15 2008 17:43 utc | 25

Tangerine @ 22
THANKS for the Chris Crash Course! I love it. I've watched it all, and will post a link to it for my geography students. This kind of basic primer is hard to find in a usable format.
Thanks again! Great stuff!

Posted by: Jake | Aug 15 2008 17:52 utc | 26

al jazeera ought to be ashamed of themselves & they should do the logical thing & become an affiliate of cnn or be integrated into pentagontv

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 15 2008 18:16 utc | 27

new world/order

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 15 2008 18:48 utc | 28

Why should al Jazeera be ashamed? They are, in their own way, a corporate media too, not a martyr to absolute "truth." They know their market, specifically that most Arabs distrust Russia. It makes no sense for a corporate media to try to lecture their audience about things they don't care to know.

Posted by: kao-hsien-chih | Aug 15 2008 19:21 utc | 29

Congratulations, b, Moon is definitely the blog to read on the Ossetian crisis, well ahead of the media.

Posted by: Alex | Aug 15 2008 19:33 utc | 30


i suppose i expect a propaganda a little less pornographic, a little less obsene & i supppose being 50 - i have witnessed more subtle liars

& yr right - corporate enities such as aljazeerabbccnnskyetc have never had any obligation to the truth. i suppose i wish they would lie better - its the crudeness of it all - saakashivili is now on al jazeera thanking them for their 'courageous' reporters - as i've said even presstv & russia today show a little more subtlety in their delivery

as time goes by, ideological & cultural domination are expressed in such a vulgar way - that i am offended in lu hsun - proletarian sort of way

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 15 2008 20:12 utc | 31

& all i need now is for that cretinous fat fuck john simpson of the bbc to lead a heavily armed band of crusaders into ancient gori holding aloft icons in their little ol' holy war

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 15 2008 21:24 utc | 32

Is there a human desire to read about inhuman stuff?

yes, that too, sometimes, but in this case I believe the increase reflects genuine interest in getting the best researched articles with lots of facts that aren't covered in the US press and that one would find elsewhere only after reading through many web-sites, links and hundred of comments.

I so much would like to learn how professional journalists organize their searches and reading material to come up with so many facts from so many sources summarized in an understandable and interesting format, and all of it always on time.

b does an amazing job.

Posted by: mimi | Aug 16 2008 18:51 utc | 33

@mimi - thanks - I am NOT a professional journalist, so I also wonder how they do it. It must be some strange way because they screw up the story quite often.

Posted by: b | Aug 16 2008 18:53 utc | 34

" i so much would like to learn how professional journalists organize their searches and reading material to come up with so many facts from so many sources summarized in an understandable and interesting format, and all of it always on time."

mimi, quite simply 98% of the mass media don't - as the documentary on roger ailes makes clear - they are given talking points by their bosses & they follow them

real journalists are a rare species, indeed

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Aug 16 2008 18:58 utc | 35

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