Propaganda


Remember that "public relations" was a phrase invented by Bernays to replace the unpopular word "propaganda."


Advertising Definition "Each year, U.S. businesses spend $135 billion dollars on TV, radio, and print ads. About one fourth of every television hour consists of advertising, and over 50% of most magazines and billboards consist of advertising. Advertising appeals to the general fantasy of the consumer.. It helps us attain feelings of youth, social acceptance,intimacy and power. It uses images and words to get these themes across.."


Another example that the Bush Administration is using the propaganda, instead of the democratic, model: "..the more than 400 coffins that have come back to our country from George W.'s war in Iraq. Bush handlers say they don't want him seen with the coffins of our dead soldiers, for that would be "off message"" (Jim Hightower. "Bush's Bubble." Texas Observer, 12/19/03: 15).


"...our leaders constantly use fear to control us...

"..propaganda consists of two parts. One part is on the public stage that everyone's supposed to see. The other is the part that you're not supposed to see, like who's funding them...

"A lot of the propaganda around the war in Iraq has been specifically aimed at keeping people from talking about Saudi Arabia" (Jessica Chapman. "Interview With the Flak Watcher." Texas Observer, 2/13/04: 26).


"It is, or ought to be, so obvious that violence and chaos in the streets works to Bush's advantage that not a few oppoisitionists worry about the Republicans planting their own provocateurs in the protest... In 1968 a substantial number of the toughs who surged through the Chicago streets, inciting the police to riot, were later revealed to be police and intelligence agents... most spectators who watched the clashes on TV sided with the police. Richard Nixon's people knew what use to make of the footage. They strengthened their hold over the law-and-order vote" (Todd Gitlin. "No Bush, No Chicago '68." The Nation, Aug.30, 2004: 5-6).


"...elections are run by the PR industry. Its guiding principle is deceit... it is called upon to undermine democracy... businesses spend vast sums to delude consumers, not inform them" (Noam Chomsky. "The Elections." The Nation, Dec. 20, 2004: 20).


Excerpts from book: Mickey Z. The Seven Deadly Sins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2004.

"...the many distortions and misrepresentations used to justify U.S. wars...

"...deconstructing our national myths...

"...the mainstream glorification of all things military...

"Thick Nhat Hanh: "We are taught to think that we need a foreign enemy. Governments work hard to get us to be afraid and to hate so we will rally behind them"...

"The purpose of U.S. war misinformation:

  1. "Portray U.S. leaders as moral.
  2. "Garner support for those leaders regardless what actions they may take.
  3. "Lay the foundation for future wars and military interventions...

"...seven techniques are regularly employed to achieve these three goals (5)...

"Noam Chomsky: "To liberate yourselves from these misconceptions and perspectives is to take a long step toward overcoming oppression"...

"In affluent societies, one should expect a lot of "willed ignorance" from people... If one's privelege is based on maintaining the empire, it's not surprising that some people won't want to know about what the empire really does (5)...

"...public opinion can... end or prevent wars... To do so requires rebuttal, i.e., information that challenges the myopia and amnesia cultivated by State and corporate propaganda...

"Making us forget is what spin is all about (6)... [/] THE SEVEN SPINS or excuses for war:

Spin #1: The Sleeping Giant . "The U.S. minds its own business but the sleeping giant is endlessly awakened or has its patience tested by surprise events and unprovoked hostilities.

Spin #2: Good Wars. "Once forced into war, the U.S. only does so in the name of democracy, freedom, and justice.

Spin #3: U.S. vs. Them. "Godless communists, subhuman (and superhuman) Japanesse, gooks, chinks, butchers, terrorsts, evildoers, and the next Hitler--the U.S. always opposes the worst humanity has to offer.

Spin #4: Support the Troops. "No matter what we think or how we feel, we all unite behind our troops once the fighting starts.

Spin #5: The Devijl Made the U.S. Do It. "During war, even the U.S. has to sometimes play a little rough.

Spin #6: Surgical Strikes. :We have good intentions and smart bombs; those billion-dollar weapons can differentiate between the guilty and the innocent.

Spin #7: Only Losers Commit War Crimes. "For doing what we would never do, vanquished enemies of the U.S. must be brought to justice in war crime tribunals...

SPIN #1: THE SLEEPING GIANT

"It's an excuse we all learn in childhood: "He started it" or "She hit me first." From this rudimentary alibi grows the myth of the sleeping giant. By portraying oneself as the target of an unprovoked sneak attack all bases are covered. Not only are you claiming innocence and the role of a victim, you might even be excused for responding angrily... maybe even with a little too much force(9)...

EXAMPLE: The battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana bay in 1898. We blamed Spain and started the Spanish American War. The Maine's boiler simply blew up; it was an accident. The U.S. administration lied, an excuse to start a war.

EXAMPLE: President James Polk sent troops into Texas, crossing the border, "creating a pretext to stir Americans into action against Mexico." When the U.S. troops were attacked by Mexican troops (who were defending their country), Polk used it as an excuse to declare war on Mexico.

EXAMPLE: "The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 is the mother of all sleeping giant spins. In July, 1941... "the U.S., Britain, and the Netherlands instituted a total embargo on oil and scrap metal to Japan... tantamount to a declaration of war. This was followed soon after by the U.S. and the U.K. greezing all Japanese assets in their respective countries... The U.S. had clearly provoked the war with Japan... the embargoes [were] a clear and potent threat to Japan's very existence (17)...

EXAMPLE: The 1964 Bay of Tonkin incident was concocted to start a war in Vietnam. "...there was no reason to believe the Maddox was fired upon... a navy pilot flying over the Gulf of Tonkin that night [said] "our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets -- there were no PT boats there... There was not a single intruder" (19)...

The book gives more than a dozen more examples, most in Central and South America...

SPIN #2: GOOD WARS

Justification #2: "We can't sit back and allow bad guys to thrive. Sometimes we must commit violent acts to stop other, more violent acts from taking place (31)...

""While we claim to be a generous, humane society, I see us as a cold-blooded, selfish, increasingly narcissistic and out of touch with a broader reality," Atwood declares (32)...

EXAMPLE: WWII -- U.S. "investment [in Germany] increased by some 48.5 percent between 1929 and 1940... Western collaboration with both Germany and Italy in the years leading up to WWII abound but remain obscured through the magic of spin. This allows the Good War afterglow to shine six decades later (34)...

EXAMPLE: U.S. "humanitarian" intervention in Somalia in 1992-3. "Sold to the public as an act of U.S. philanthropy with images of malnourished African children and stories of evil Somali warlords, little of the nation's history was allowed to get in the way...

"From the late 1970s until just before Siad Barre's overthrow in early 1991, the U.S. sent hundreds of millions of dollars of arms to Somalia... Of course, chaos and famine ensued... creating ideal conditions for U.S. exploitation and whitewashing (36)...

"President Clinton... ordered the bombing of civilian targets (37)...

EXAMPLE: Yugoslavia in later 1990s. "...since an actual Somalia-like crisis did not exist, [the U.S.] simply fabricated one (38)...

"...a 78-day, U.S.-led NATO air assault was initiated in the name of humanitarianism. "The humanitarian justifications are ludicrous," says Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. "The casualties among Serb civilians in the first three weeks of this war [were] higher than all of the sacualties on both sides in Kosovo in the three months that led up to this war (39)...

"NATO killed more civilians than soldiers, accelerated the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees, destroyed the infrastructure and poisoned the environment of southeastern Europe (40)...

EXAMPLE: Does the U.S. ever intervene with legitimate humanitarian purposes?... the U.S. failed the ultimate litmus test: intervening in the Nazi Holocaust. Besides collaborating with Germany before, during, and after the war, U.S. leaders demonstrated indifference to the looming genocide...

"When a resolution was introduced in January, 1934 asking [FDR] (and the Senate) to express "surprise and pain" at the German treatment of the Jews, that resolution never got out of committee (41)...

EXAMPLE: Rwanda -- "Nearly a million Tutsis were massacred in Rwanda in 1994... one-seventh of the population became corpses. The U.S. response: "...we don't care... U.S. national interest is not involved... we can't put all these silly humanitarian interests on lists"... Clinton ordered that America do nothing to stop the killing (43)....

More examples are given in the book. "The United States, like all nations, operates out of self-interest but paints its behavior in broad strokes of selflessness as no other country does (44)...

SPIN #3: U.S. vs. THEM

"...it is easier to kill a subhuman thing than it is to kill a mirror image of yourself... [so we call our enemies] savages, gooks, chinks, butchers, terrorists, evildoers... Spin #3 plays into our worst fears--the bogeyman...

EXAMPLE: We killed off almost the entire population of native Americans... "people like George Washington... describing Indians as "wild beasts of the forest" and "savage as the wolf" (50)...

EXAMPLE: "...a similar strategy was employed to justify the African slave trade (50)...

EXAMPLE: WWI and the Creel Commission which spread rumors that "double rewards were paid to German submarine crews for sinking ships carrying women and children... inducing a fever pitch of so-called patriotism (51)...

EXAMPLE: "...the all-purpose Red Menace... the United States convinced much of the world that there was an international conspiracy out there...

""...the cry of national security stills criticism, rationality, and decency," says author Edward S. Herman (52)...

"More than a decade after the fall of the Iron Curtain, U.S. propagandists continue to rely on red-baiting as a method of silencing dissent...

"The entire "red scare" was blatant hypocrisy...Corporate America was... deeply involved in the soviet economy (55)...

Many other examples are given in the book.

SPIN #4: SUPPORT THE TROOPS

"No matter what we think or how we feel, once the actual fighting begins, all Americans must unite behind our troops to insure their safety through victory... [This amounts to] squashing dissent through the cultivation of patriotic fervor (73)...

"Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders... All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country" (Hermann Goering, Hitler's Deputy, at his 1946 Nuremberg War Crimes trial).

EXAMPLE: WWI -- "Woodrow Wilson announced, "conformity will be the only virtue and any man who refuses to conform will have to pay the penalty" (75)...

"The Creel Committee published 75 million books and pamphlets, had 250 paid employees, and mobilized 75,000 volunteer speakers known as "four minute men," who delivered their pro-war messages in churches, theaters, and other places of civic gatherings.

"Hitler was very impressed by the successes of Anglo-American propaganda during World War I (74)... EXAMPLE: WWII -- "...posters demonized the enemy, canonized "our boys," and helped restore the tattered image of corporate America... putting a positive spin on the war...

"Battlefield casualty images were banned and any labor-management tensions were glossed over... consciously fabricated... patriotism (76)...

EXAMPLE: Gulf War I -- "The media are completely unabashed in allying themselves with the administration, being a mouthpiece for the war machine...

"What the media do nationally is to imperceptibly create an amnesia-like feeling... There's no context for actions, there's no background; there's no history. Things just happen (78)...

"One would never be able to guess from public discourse that for every American veteran of combat in Vietnam, there must be twenty veterans of the antiwar movement. One reason for this is the media distortion of who opposes war...

"Schechter says, "Hawks rule the TV studios even as doves line the streets"... It's difficult to discover much of anything about the peace movement from a corporate media that relies almost entirely on retired military men as wartime commentators (81)...

"The "support the troops" mantra specifically ignores any real examination of who those troops are, what those troops are doing, and why someone might not want them waging war...

"Putting the troops in a position where they must commit atrocities and where they could get killed or injured is not "supporting" them (89)...

SPIN #5: THE DEVIL MADE U.S. DO IT

"During the war, even the U.S. has to sometimes play a little rough and sometimes the good guys get their hands a little dirty... in the name of freedom...

"Still, no matter how hard it tries, the Fifth Deadly Spin cannot explain away America's long criminal legacy...

EXAMPLE: "The first "devil" to drive god's country to commit atrocities was, of course, the indigenous population... broken treaties... innumerable massacres... forced marches... federally sanctioned dehumanization...

"...Adolf Hitler "used the [American] treatment of the native people... as a model... displacing, relocating, dramatically shifting or liquidating a population to clear the land and replace it with what he called superior breeding stock" (94-5)...

EXAMPLE: "...it was "necessary" to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki... Americans conditioned to perceive the Japanese as inhuman found it easy to hate. As a December 1945 Fortune poll revealed, twenty-three percent of those questioned wished the U.S. could have dropped "many more [atomic bombs] before the Japanese had a chance to surrender." Such fervor for slaughter was dultivated through a massive public relations effort to demonize the Japanese, e.g., the New York Times ran a photo showing a flamethrower being used to kill Japanese with the headline: "Clearing Out A Rat's Nest." (95)...

The U.S. history of "international terrorism... has no counterpart... attacking civilian installations, bombing hotels, sinking fishing vessels... poisoning crops and livestock (100)...

"Immediately upon the defeat of Germany, the United States went about recruiting Nazis to help with the next good war (103)...

"The impact of former Nazis ratcheting up the Cold War rhetoric can be measured in number of humans who suffered and died as pawns in the game... Millions were killed... thanks to Hollywood hagiography and useless history text[books], World War II remains as the example of U.S. high-mindedness (105)...

SPIN #6: SURGICAL STRIKES

"We have good intentions and smart bombs. Those billion-dollar weapons can differentiate between the guilty and the innocent...

"...an estimated 90 million civilians lost their lives during war in the twentieth century. Today, nine out of ten wartime deaths are civilians...half of those are children...

"The United States spends more than one million dollars per minute on war (119)...

EXAMPLE: "...the General Accounting Office released a study that found the claims made by the Pentagon and its principal weapons contractors concerning the pinpoint precision of the Stealth fighter jet, the Tomahawk land-attack missile, and laser-guided smart bombs "were overstated, misleading, inconsistent with the best available data, or unverifiable" (120)...

"The stealth systems didn't work in cold weather or heavy winds... the smart bombs hit their targets only about 30 percent of the time (122)...

"Even [the] Secretary of Defense... eventually admitted, "The Patriot [missile] didn't work." (124)...

"...military policies... often involve massive civilian casualties (126)...

SPIN #7: ONLY LOSERS COMMIT WAR CRIMES

"Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in the newspapers" (George Orwell) (118).

"Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit atrocities" (Voltaire) (128).

"I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal. Fortunately, we were on the winning side" (U.S. General Curtis LeMay [after WWII], p. 128)....

"...the issue of U.S. war crimes is rarely if ever broached (129)....

"The U.S. has almost always ended up on the winning side... and therefore hasn't had to accept responsibility for more than two centuries of its own atrocities (130)..

"...the U.S. commits war crimes with alarming frequency (131)...

"The International Criminal Court (ICC)... is the "first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished." The United States is not happy about the ICC and Human Rights Watch explains why:

"The Bush Administration is attempting to negotiate bilateral impunity agreements with numerous countries around the globe. The goal of these agreements is to exempt U.S. military and civilian personnel from jurisdiction of the ICC" (139).


"The [Bush] Administration's obsession with "staying on message" is.. reflected in Bush's reluctance to hold press conferences and its insistence on tightly scripting those few conferences it does allow" (Phillips, Peter, and Project Censored. Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Stories. NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003: 234).

"All of these tactics fall within the framework of a "propaganda model" of communication, whose strategies and assumptions are fundamentally contrary to a democratic model. Propaganda consists of attempts to manipulate or coerce the thinking of an enemy or captive population. Some scholars refer to propaganda as a "hypodermic approach" to communication, in which the communicator's objective is to "inject" his ideas into the minds of a "target population." This is quite different from the democratic model, which views communications as a dialogue between presumed equals" (235).

"One of PR's dirtiest little secrets, however, is that it often fails... In fact, propaganda is often more successful at indoctrinating the propagandists themselves than it is at influencing the thinking of others" (237).

"Following World War I, Austrian journalist Karl Wiegand made an interesting observation: "How are nations ruled and led into war?" he asked. "Politicians lie to journalists and then believe those lies when they see them in print"" (Phillips, Peter, and Project Censored. Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Stories. NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003: 238).

Disinfopedia collects information on government and industry propaganda campaigns


"Like any government rallying a country for war, the Bush Administration is engaged in a massive propaganda campaign... U.S. corporate media.. see their role as supporting the government at the expense of wide debate [ie., democracy] and fair treatment of dissent...

"[For example] Juan Gonzalez recounts the difficulties he encountered at the paper while investigating the environmental consequences of the World Trade Center disaster. While most mainstream media were uncritically repeating the assurances of officials, Gonzalez was breaking stories about toxins in lower Manhattan that far exceeded safety levels. The backlash was intense; complaints about Gonzalez came rolling in from one of Rudolph Giuliani's deputy mayors, the head of the N.Y. City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce, and EPA administrator Christine Whitman.

"Subsequently, Daily News editors "showed a marked reluctance" to pursue the story. "One courageous editor at the News, however, refused to buckle under the pressure," writes Gonzalez... "within days of forming the team," Pienciak "was removed from his post without explanation"" (Phillips, Peter, and Project Censored. Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Stories. NY: Seven Stories Press, 2003: 293).


A review of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, by David L. Robb...

"When the Department of Education secretly paid a pundit, Armstrong Williams, $240,000 to shill for No Child Left Behind, it was not the first time that the United States government engaged in covert domestic propaganda. For more than 50 years, the Department of Defense has been examining and altering movie scripts prior to production...

Robb argues that the Pentagon's influence has been insidious and invidious and that the movies it shapes have been making our culture increasingly militaristic...

"To understand their efforts, consider Top Gun, a triumph of military advertising, if not cinematic art. Following its release, recruitment to the Navy increased 500 percent...

"...John Wayne, whose hawkish tract The Green Berets, made with DOD assistance, so slavishly followed the Pentagon's line that he was asked not to thank it in the credits, lest he give the game away" (Steven G. Kellman. "Winning the Next War at the Multiplex." Texas Observer, Feb. 4, 2005: 22-23).


"If you saw a news report on your local television station, then later you learned the report had actually been written by the federal government... might that affect the report's credibility in your mind? And might it affect the credibility of your local TV station, as well? Nonsense, you say, this is the Land of the Free, we don't allow government-scripted news in America! No? Well, maybe you've seen some recent news reports touting the benefits of George W.'s new prescription drug law for Medicare patients...

"Nowhere is it mentioned that Bush's law is an exorbitantly expensive program that will benefit the drug company gougers more than senior citizens, or that the Bushites lied about the price tag to push it through Congress. That's because this news bite was produced and distributed to TV stations nationwide by Bush's own Department of Health and Human Services.

"Your tax dollars at work! The agency will spend some $50 million this year on its advertising campaign to glorify the program" (Jim Hightower. "Government Scripted 'News'." Texas Observer, 4/23/04: 15).


Another example that the Bush Administration is using the propaganda, instead of the democratic, model: "..the more than 400 coffins that have come back to our country from George W.'s war in Iraq. Bush handlers say they don't want him seen with the coffins of our dead soldiers, for that would be "off message"" (Jim Hightower. "Bush's Bubble." Texas Observer, 12/19/03: 15).


"No joke. This is serioiusly creepy: The US government is in the covert propaganda business, and it's not aiming this stuff at potential terrorists, it'a aiming it right square at your forehead.

"The New York Times did a huge Sunday take-out on the practice of "pre-packaged news" by government agencies. "The government's news making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration."

"The Bush administration did not invent this practice--it's an adaptation of a corporate public relations ploy. PR firms make what look like normal news segments designed to fit into regular news broadcasts, but they are actually sales pitches...

"It's bad enough that corporate shills burn up journalistic credibility with this cheap trick, but the government has produced hundreds of these fake news segments. The Clinton administration started this vile practice, and the Bush administration has doubled it, spending $254 million on public relations contracts in its first term, twice what the last Clinton administration spent. I suspect it is part and parcel of Karl Rove's mania for "message control."

"So how did something this sleazy become so common? Money. The Times reports: "It is... a world where all participants benefit. Local affiliates are spared the expense of digging up original material. Public relations firms secure government contracts wirth millions of dollars. Tha major networks, which help distribute the releases, collect fees from the government agencies that produce segments and the affiliates that show them. The administration, meanwhile, gets out an unfiltered message, delivered in the guise of traditional reporting."

"The only patsy in the set-up is you, sitting there thinking you're seeing something real AND paying for the fake news with your taxes...

"...the Government Accountability Office...has held that the government-produced "news" segments may constitute "covert propaganda"" (Molly Ivins. "Stench of Rotting Ethics." Progressive Populist, April 15, 2005: 22).


"Government-supplied propaganda has become pervasive in mainstream media, from hiring journalists to write puff pieces to credentialing fake reporters to fawning reports from embedded reporters in Iraq. Where is independent media?" (Amy Goodman and David Goodman. "Un-Embed the Media." AlterNet. Posted April 8, 2005)


"...the military has gotten in on the production side of some of the best-selling games available.

"Take America's Army, a game created with about 6.3 million in tax dollars and used as a recruiting tool to lure young people into the US military...

"One of the newest releases in the theater of war games is Close Combat: First to Fight, "a tactical first-person shooter so real, the Marine Corps will use it for training, according to the game manual...

"The game play of First to Fight is a synthesis of high-tech militainment and Marine Corps glorification" (Andrea Lewis. "Virtual Combat." The Progressive, July 2005: 32-33).


"...on the issue of disinformation, resolving that ALA "go on record as being opposed to the use by government of disinformation, media manipulation, the destruction and excision of public information, and other such tactics." The resolution also called on ALA to "teach and nurture 21st century information literacy skills among the American public to help them detect disinformation, media manipulation, and missing information"" (LJ Academic Newswire, Sent: Tuesday, July 05, 2005 via email).


Colby Glass, MLIS