Focusing on coverage of key events in Iraq is a great way to identify bias. The point isn't to criticize coverage; many initial reports are incomplete and made under duress. In time, facts can be better assembled. Yet most stories are told in such way to reach conclusions that simply cannot be made.
Reviewing coverage of Iraq news in the Mainstream Media can show which methodologies are used to build support for the war and maintain key themes in the War on Terror. The MSM maintains a public narrative on Iraq. In the course of reporting, certain themes become self-evident. Applied over time, bias can be instilled in the domestic audience by a compliant Media.
Propaganda is an ugly word. We'd like to think of our society as free, and the flow of information unrestricted. Yet we Americans have become complacent with our Media. Most of us accept unconditionally what we are told. And there is much that isn't said, to the detriment of an informed--and thereby empowered--populace.
I see it as one of the foremost purposes of this blog to inform Americans of the truth. The world is complicated and doesn't organize itself along neat themes. Media hand-holding simply can't substitute for the real work of learning about others, and expanding our horizons beyond our cultural assumptions.
I'd like to be able to say that Americans have it in their heart to know more and to learn more about their world. 9/11 did prove that what happens abroad will affect us here, so we cannot escape the consequences of ignorance.
Can Americans afford ignorance on international issues? Far more costly than Vietnan is the prospect of future repititions of open-ended wars in Asia to support corrupt proxy regimes. Americans seemed doomed to repeat the predictable result of being underinformed--which is to be lied to and misled, and have opinions shaped by dark forces which determine what they hear, see, and think.
Below I give some examples of stories which provide good examples of Media messaging. Rather than report, the Media maintains key themes for domestic popular consumption. Rather than let the true situation in Iraq be known, the Media is content to rely on government press releases which better rationalize why Americans are fighting and dying.
Exposed to the clear truth, the statements of pundits and policy-makers reveal just how dangerous and short-sighted our military intervention has been. As the costs of the Iraq intervention rise, Americans increasingly look for reasons why our policy has failed to achieve any results. Eventually Americans will blame the Media, for its complicity in failing to question any of the President's justifications for going to war. Of recent debate is the need to continue the occupation, which is now being justified by the consequences of what could go wrong should we leave.
Example I: Incident in Irbil
Iranians were arrested in an Iran consulate in Irbil (Erbil). Six were captured Jan. 11, with five believed still in US custody, according to AP
Troops marching into a foreign embassy or consulate and removing nationals presents a serious challenge to international law. The US, meanwhile, seems to have no problem with violating sovereign Iranian diplomatic territory. Post facto, the Iranians taken away were found to be complicit in supporting terrorism. Apparently the Media has been content to accept the position of our government that the Iranians were "up to no good."
Like those incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay and secret dungeons of the CIA, Americans are led to presume guilt before innocence. And the violation of Iranian sovereignty is not made into that big a deal, when that act in fact constitutes an act of war, regardless of the guilt or innocence of the Iranians inside.
Another raid, on December 21st, saw the arrest of Iranians in a private Baghdad compound belonging to a militia loyal to Iran. The apprehended Iranians have been accused of plotting acts of terror.
The Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, Qumi, recently spoke to the press. Here he is, quoted in Der Spiegel
"Although the Americans have suggested that the Iranians were providing support for militias like the Badr Organization, Mr. Qumi said that his countrymen were dealing with Mr. Ameri in his government capacity.
The Iranians would not even have stayed the night in the compound except, in a situation faced by many Baghdad residents, their business lasted beyond the early-evening curfew and they were forced to spend the night, Mr. Qumi said.
Mr. Qumi also warned the United States against playing out tensions in what he called 'the nuclear file' in Iraq. 'We don't need Iraq to pay the cost of our animosity with the Americans,' Mr. Qumi said."
To many unsuspecting news consumers, the incidents may add up to a cohesive plan of interdiction targetting agents of Iranian influence.
Bush has declared open season on Iranians in Iraq. He's said that Iranians who bear weapons or pose a threat could be shot on sight. Bush's bellicosity is reinforced by reports from Iraq which hold Iranians guilty on the basis on conjecture.
We now see similiar verbal attacks on Iran where there may be inadequate evidence. Evidence--flimsy or not--receives inordinate attention and prominence in the Media. It is, in a word, "Hyped."
Recently, Israel's Prime Minister toned down his rhetoric against Iran. It may be a while yet before the US chases its tail.
Example 2: The Najaf Incident
Iraqi government officials have claimed a victory over a splinter Shia cell in which 250, then 200 were claimed killed. Audaciously, the Iraq provincial government claimed that women and children were among the attackers. The reports have not been verified, but the MSM spent no time dispensing the government's explanation to all available outlets.
The story, after all, did seem to justify the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis, whether or not they were planning an attack or not. The facts of the story have been made secondary to the message, that the government is serving the interests of peace and stability.
An alternate explanation follows:
A mourning procession of 200 pilgrims from the Hawatim tribe...arrived at the Zarga area at 6 a.m. Sunday. Hajj Sa’ad Nayif Al-Hatemi and his wife were accompanying the procession...They reached an Iraqi Army checkpoint, which suddenly opened fire against the vehicle, killing Hajj Al-Hatemi, his wife and his driver Jabir Ridha Al-Hatemi. The Hawatim tribesmen in the procession, which was fully armed to protect itself in its journey at night, attacked the checkpoint to avenge their slain chief. Members of the Khaza’il tribe, who live in the area, attempted to interfere to stop the fire exchange. About 20 tribesmen were killed. The checkpoint called the Iraqi army and police command calling for backup, saying it was under fire from Al-Qaeda groups and that they have advanced weapons. Minutes later, reinforcements arrived and the tribesmen were surrounded in the orchards and were sustaining heavy fire from all directions. They tried to shout out to the attacking security forces to cease fire but with no success. Suddenly, American helicopters arrived and they dropped fliers saying, “To the terrorists, Surrender before we bomb the area.” The tribesmen continued to fire in all directions and in the air, but they said they didn’t know if the helicopter crash was a result of their fire or friendly fire from the attackers. By 4 a.m., over 120 tribesmen as well as residents of the area had been killed in the U.S. aerial bombardment.
The imagery of a group of tribesmen simply trying to defend themselves, and being pulverized from all sides, as air strikes are called in, epitomizes the madness of war.
If the alternate scenario is accurate women and children were slaughtered not because they planned to participate in the attack, but rather because entire families were on their way to the important religious city.
Coincidentally, writing for The Independent
, Patrick Cockburn's article "US 'victory' against cult leader was 'massacre'" uses the same Web source as I found, healingiraq.blogspot.com
Cockburn does clarify the situation by saying:
"This account cannot be substantiated and is drawn from the Healing Iraq website and the authoritative Baghdad daily Azzaman. But it would explain the disparity between the government casualties - less than 25 by one account - and the great number of their opponents killed and wounded. The Iraqi authorities have sealed the site and are not letting reporters talk to the wounded."[link
Healingiraq.blogspot.com talks about the leader of the religious sect and pre-existing motive for the attack:
"I doubt that he would come up with something as foolish as attacking Najaf, because actually it was his movement that has been under attack lately by Iraqi security forces, heavily infiltrated by SCIRI in the south. Last week, his main office and husseiniya in Najaf was raided and destroyed with several of his followers detained by the Aqrab (Scorpion) Brigade of Interior Ministry Commandos. The same happened to his offices in Basrah, Amara and Karbala, days ago. Al-Hassan himself was placed under house arrest in Tannumah, Basrah, by the Iraqi government some months ago."
The Scorpion Brigade of Interior Ministry Commandos has been villified by some Sunnis, who believe it to be infiltrated with Shia militiamen. Actually, the Aqrab Brigade had come from Hilla, and been led by a Colonel who vigorously fought against the influence of the militias. The Hilla SWAT, as it was referred to by US Marines, was well-trained and impartial in administrating justice. Last October its leader was assasssinated. Since then, the unit may have been infiltrated by militiamen loyal to SCIRI.
The issue of control over Iraqi government police and paramilitary units has been a crisis in the making. Often soldiers are selected for inclusion into a specific unit because of their affiliation with a particular militia.
This wasn't always the case in the Iraq outside the southern part of the nation, which is almost entirely Shia and quickly capitulated to militia rule. As a matter of fact, Iraqis have been working and living with other Iraqis without regard to race, religion, sect, or ethnicity, for years. It's only recently--post-invasion--that pluralism has been crushed; not coincidentally the upswing in divisiveness has coincided with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism brought on by Saddam's ouster.
In Najaf, intervention by the US may have been used by the Iraqis to crush a faction which more mainstream Shia fundamentalist groups disliked. Firing down indiscriminately from above, how is the US to know who they're killing and why? This Iraqification bodes badly for any future integration of US and Iraqi forces--how can terrorists be distinguished from the targets of ethnic cleansing?
This from The Guardian
"...Colonel Ali Jirio, a spokesman for the Najaf police, told the Guardian the group which calls itself Army of Heaven had established itself two years ago in farms near Kufa. But it ran into trouble with the Jaish al-Mahdi militia loyal to Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who has a base in Kufa and who regards the group as heretical."
Saddam was an enemy of Sadr's as well. We all know how that story ended--not just with Saddam's death, but his humiliation and the chanting of "Muqtada, Muqtada, Muqtada." In that episode we saw the takeover of the Iraqi government by Al-Sadr in full bloom. Like the subsequent transfer of Judge Bandar, Saddam was delivered by the US into the hands of his executioners, al-Sadr's men.
The Media, meanwhile, would have us believe the sectarian divisions are the chief reason Iraq has disintegrated. The Sunni-Shia divide has formed an overlay for the carnage, to focus the scope and scale of violence on naturally occurring divisions that were destined to boil over, like the former Yugoslavia. This Media theme has presented self-destruction as inevitable and almost natural, which helps package the news, and dehumanizes the suffering our invasion has brought.
The real issue of violence in Iraq may be how the US has facilitated the removal of secular government. By establish democracy, the US has opened a window of opportunity for a purge of Sunnis and all those who would stand in the way of Shia domination or, more specifically, control by al-Sadr's faction of political power in Baghdad.
The Mainstream Media's unrestrained regurgitation of official press release as sources of information provides a well oiled insertion point for propaganda, or whatever else the Shia-dominated government would want said. The Media is co-opted by the process, as they must report what the Iraqi government says unconditionally. And the US military has an interest in sugarcoating any transgression by the Iraqis, if our forces are in fact working in tandem with theirs.
Fortunately for the cause of truth, the initial lies and distortions can be quickly revealed in what is said and done afterwards.
In this case, the dead needed to be retrieved; the victims of the battle needed redress. As is their custom, relatives of the victims demanded the prompt return of the bodies. This from healingiraq.blogspot.com:
"A delegation from the Hawatim and Khaza’il tribe are allegedly negotiating with the Najaf governor to retrieve the corpses of 70 tribesmen, including women and children, still kept at the Najaf Hospital."
According to one Iraqi official, the women and children were active combatants, planning to participate in the ambush. The dead cannot talk, so we can only guess at their culpability. The US has admitted using 500 pound bombs in the incident. Munitions of this size will cause massive loss of life within its radius of destruction, distinguishing neither child nor innocent from combatant.
Sometime the news is so positively horrible as to almost demand a more pleasant description. Often, errors in the press are allowed to go uncorrected. The New York Times has yet to issue any retractions related to the any specific Judith Miller article. Miller was the journalist held in prison for failing to testify in US Attorney Fitzgerald's investigation of the leak. She's testified recently in the Libby trial. To date, the Libby trial is the only step taken related to the exposure of Valerie Plame's secret identity.
Example III: The Karbala Raid
Media coverage distorts the truth is by drawing truth from conjecture and guilt by association. In cases like that of Kabala, where US soldiers die, propagandists have an interest in glazing over the truth. The Media meanwhile has no desire to reveal the horrible details.
Usually there is no effort to follow up and correct whatever mistakes are made, so when they are made they are brutal and direct, like this one:
"Contrary to U.S. military statements, four U.S. soldiers did not die repelling a sneak attack at the governor's office in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last week. New information obtained by The Associated Press shows they were abducted and found dead or dying as far as 25 miles away."[link
Another approach used by the Media is to frame stories with conjecture dispensed by anonymous officials, either Iraqi or our own. In regard to the Karbala attack, one mainstream article blames Iran:
"On Jan. 20, militants kidnapped and killed four American soldiers in a raid in Karbala, and a fifth was killed in the firefight. A U.S. defense official said one possibility under study is that Iranian agents either executed or masterminded the attack, a suspicion based on the sophisticated and unusual methods used in the attack, including weapons and uniforms that may have been American.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because the probe is ongoing."[link
Unlike the Najaf incident, I don't believe anyone would question the facts of the event on January 20th. Ostensibly the need for anonymity is pursuant to the fact an investigation is ongoing. Yet despite the need for secrecy, one anonymous official was apparently willing disclose the possibility Iran was involved, despite the fact the ongoing probe--which is apparently secret enough to warrant anonymity but not total discretion--had failed to provide any evidence. Apparently the only reason to blame the Iranians for the attack were the "sophisticated and unusual methods used."
The article continues to speculate on Iranian involvement:
"There has been speculation that the Karbala assault may have been in retaliation for the arrest of five Iranians by U.S. troops in northern Iraq.
Those five Iranians, who were arrested in the northern city of Irbil, included two members of an Iranian Revolutionary Guard force that provides weapons, training and other support to Shiite militants in the Middle East, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said last week. Iraqi and Iranian officials maintain the five were diplomats."[link
Neatly, speculation manages to link Iran to an infiltration mission where US soldiers were abducted, tortured, and murdered.
When speculation is farmed--anonymity is a red flag--anything is possible. Not only were Iranians cultivating terror, but they were apparently acting in revenge, so the conjecture goes. The Media's willingness to embrace wild hypotheses and shield speculators with anonymity leads to an fertile ground for propaganda, or speculation which serves to justify the use of military force against Iran and Iranians, which just so happens to be Administration's approach.
With just a little time and effort, a conflicting and much darker apect to the story can be revealed. Unfortunately, most Americans rely on truncated news shows for the truth, and can't afford the time to independently verify the facts. It is far easier for Americans to assume they are being told the truth than questioning what they are told. As a matter of fact, the notion of confirming what they are told is alien to a majority of Americans, who not only don't possess the curiousity needed, but tend not to really care.
Framing the War
Sam Gardiner, in his 2003 "Truth From These Podia
", describes the truth as our government laid it out:
"The major thrust was to make a conflict with Iraq seem part of a struggle between good and evil. Terrorism is evil. We are good. The axis is evil, and we are the good guys."
The war on terror has been constructed around a Hollywood-style plotline. The message has become more important than performance, as Gardiner puts it.
Gardiner's essay identifies the main stories which fed the broader strategic imperatives managing coverage of the war. Media managed the stories, selecting some, blowing some out of proportion, and ignoring others, Gardiner providing a multitude of examples. [Norm Solomon's novel War Made Easy; How Presidents and Pundits are Spinning Us to Death
also provides plentiful examples of how distortions are fed to and echoed in the Media as well.]
As we are seeing with a war being waged at a costs of ever more lives, ignorance can be quite pricey, particularly for those who believe everything their government says. As the real story of a long war with rising casualties emerges, rosy predictions of victory fade, like trumpets of war which had so proudly sent forth the dogs of war.
Those whose loved ones are serving in Iraq treat the news quite differently than the unaffected. Like Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July
, the conversion to the truth may come only at a cost of revulsion and horror caused by debilitating injury. In that movie, Kovic questions his patriotism and grows cynical and bitter. The physical pain Kovic suffered was surpassed by the emotional trauma caused by confronting those he loved over their opinions on the Vietnam War.
Considering himself patriotic, Kovic was reluctant to oppose the war, at first. Forced to confront his physical and psychological conditions, angry, and alienated, Kovic went off to Mexico with other veterans to booze it up. Kovic comes to realize that he'd been crippled by the government's false reasons for why were fighting in Vietnam. He went on to protest, outraged that still more would die and be maimed despite the inevitable prospect of defeat there.
Going into battle, loyalty was needed, a patriotic prerequisite alongside their unconditional support. On the back end, bodies used and abused, veterans may question why they fought and gave so much.
If support for the troops were as fragile as we are led to believe, any information that contradicts the official explanation over why we had to fight represents a threat. In other words, the Right-wing and war apologists demand total acceptance of the cause of war without a commensurate understanding of why we need to fight. To these people, trust is a prerequisite of loyalty, and therefore loyal American must trust their leaders, in this case George W. Bush.
So when Americans die in combat, naturally their loved ones want to know how and quite possibly why. If there is confusion over the circumstances of their loved one's death it often serves as a valuable first crack in the ice of blind loyalty to their leader's cause. The gravity of the loss opens a new window of insight into why our soldiers are dying, and how the Pentagon wages war, and forces real inquiry into the worthiness of their sacrifice, or the results of the loss in the aggregate.
In "Defend the Press and Sarah Olson
", John Stauber explains:
"The Bush Administration wants the American people to think we are receiving the viewpoint of typical military families and soldiers when we hear or read a statement from the Republican front group Vets for Freedom, or the hardcore rantings of PR maven and talk show host Melanie Morgan and her Move America Forward campaign. But those are PR-driven efforts, propaganda campaigns for Bush's war. The real story of military families and soldiers is being told in indy films like The War Tapes and The Ground Truth, by military families themselves who are organizing at the grassroots against the war, and in the reporting of journalists not afraid to interview soldiers who themselves are not afraid to publicly dissent.
"the views and reports of the independent press were not what the vast majority of the American public was receiving. The independent press was interviewing the war critics, pointing out the lies and fallacies that were being reported as fact or truth on the mainstream TV networks and in the front pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post. It is the reporting and opinions expressed in the independent press that could have prevented the war, had the public heard, seen or read their reports."
"The critics, dissenters, peace activists and independent voices that were right in opposing the war, are still today mostly left out of mainstream coverage of the war and US foreign policy. The talking heads dominating the TV, the media source of most news for most Americans, are still primarily from corporate and right wing think tanks and academia that supported the war."."[Source, see embedded links there]
Shaping the Media Environment
The point isn't whether 100 were killed or 200 captured. The real question is how easily the Mainstream Media accepts what they are told. Inconsistencies in media reports attest to the inaccuracy of initial reports. While much of this is attributed to the sketchiness of the situation, whatever confusion emerges often is used as a smokescreen by media handlers.
Gardiner in his essay "Truth from These Podia
" explains how government can take advantage of ignorance and confusion to sow anger and mistrust of a particular foe.
"if you don’t know the truth, fill the vacuum with speculation that would support policy. That certainly was true during the period of anthrax uncertainty; US and UK “intelligence sources” told the press that everything pointed to Iraq."
By "shaping the environment", the Pentagon--like every other major military in the world--tries to influence public opinion through manipulating the facts reported in the Media.
The US Military has entered American newsrooms in the not too distant past, according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
False information routinely appears in our newspapers and TV's and we rarely find out about it.
While "shaping the battlefield" might have once meant eliminating command and control facilities, cutting off enemy movement, and dropping leaflets, 21st century warfare addresses every source of potential influence, including public opinion. In the convulted reasoning of the militarist, anything which can stop the application of military force--presumably leading to victory over an enemy--presents a threat.
Thus war protesters assembling peacefully back in the US are seen to be on the side of the enemy. Militarists see lending moral support to the cause of peace as a potential cessation of conflict (which in turn inhibits them in their goal of victory.) Presenting a threat not to the troops but to the continued exertion of military force, antiwar Quakers, like other peace groups, are watched and monitored closely by the military.
While presenting no direct threat to our forces--many peaceniks are practitioners of non-violence--the ability of antiwar factions to mobilize Americans against military force represents a real threat to end the war. Overdosed on nationalism, war apologists outwardly presume victory is inevitable. Inwardly they may have doubts, yet they been brought up to believe that US is unbeatable.
Scholars of the Holocaust, neocons are well versed in Nazi propaganda. Likewise, they feel that democracies are justified in taking any action whatsoever in fighting the rise of modern-day Hitlers, as Saddam was described.
By denouncing those opposed to the war as being too soft against the threat--right out of Goering
--they can both justify a state of ongoing war regardless of its true winnability.
Hitler's propaganda was perhaps the best, leading me to refer to Goering repeatedly here on this site. A study of propaganda is vital to understanding the modern State, and the mechanisms it chooses to build support for its agenda.
Propaganda was vital in the Nazis' aspirations for war and conquest.
Hitler and Goering were master farmers of fear; so essential to the Nazi state were defining events like Krytselnacht
(Jews), the Reichstag Fire
(Communists, Left) and "Night of the Long Knives
"(Brown Shirts.) The events defined the scope of threat posed, and the strong actions taken, with their corresponding solutions, demonstrated the role of the State as defender of the people as framed in Nazi propaganda.
Larry Chin looks back at the vertical integration of propaganda into the State spin machine from the days of the Third Reich:
"...Hitler’s final act was to manufacture a "deliberate and cold-blooded provocation", to be blamed on the Poles, which would bring down the vengeance of German armed forces. He accomplished this by putting drugged prisoners from a nearby concentration camp into Polish uniforms and shooting them near a radio station inside the German border. The "Polish attack on the Gleiwitz transmitter" marked the official start of World War Two.[link
Looking at the Nazi mastery of propaganda, a whole new level of subtlety entered. Film-making and cultural arts were used to reinforce a vast array of stereotypes and manipulate nationalism to the benefit of the party.
In the not-so-distant future, a world like Orwell's 1984
, technology facilitates the delivery of propaganda. Continually delivering propaganda, government in the form of Big Brother involves itself in the lives of its citizens.
Propaganda is typically a term reserved for undemocratic regimes, yet has been used by our countries and our allies as well.
Propaganda is nationalistic and serves a bonding function: propaganda released by the other country is lies, our are simple bendings of the truth.
The impact of propaganda is mistrust and hatred for our enemies; in designing propaganda, governments chooses our enemies for us. We Americans don't get up in the morning with the urge to hate and possibly killed, it must be fed into our psyche gradually, so we don't notice changes in our attitude towards one group of people. In this sense, the government can make an impact without being noticed, without their information being revealed as government propaganda, and promptly ignored or showered with Media attention.
The greatest challenge posed to the credibility of any new propaganda is inconsistencies and contradiction with older information--former lies packaged as the truth and sold to the public. The bulk of propaganda work is devoted to covering up earlier falsehoods which were proven to be lies by some subsequent unraveling.
Nixon's White House offers the best example of this. In trying to cover up the Watergate break-in, the President and his circle committed more illegalities. In the end the cover-up effort did more damage than the actual crime, a simple burglary.
Orwell's government has a method for managing inconsistencies in "the truth". References to individuals who've been renounced find their way into the Memory Hole, where they are purged from every historical record. In an age without books, deletion may require nothing more than the stroke of a key.
Orwellian propaganda requires direct censorship; newer forms may be content to simply limit information. Propaganda masquerading as news helps to assure obedience from the masses, and conflicting information would undermine that goal, if it were available.
Furnished by government, direct propaganda suffers greatly from lack of a better delivery system. In Orwell's 1984
, from giant omnipresent screens Big Brothers issue streams of half-truths.
Forced propaganda lacks any entertainment value and is unbelievable as a result. Forced participation comes at the cost of effectiveness. It's not long before people simply ignore what is said, accepting it in the most superficial sense only. While the invasion of screens, and monitoring cameras can force the citizenry to attention, it can't sell the information--it seems to contrived.
To be effective, hard propaganda needs an enforcement arm. So in Orwell's world, two-way monitors allow proctors to look in on people as they watch the screens. In Soviet Russia, commissars monitored political compliance with central Communist Party directives. Just recently, the Bush Administration has demanded that Cabinet agency must each accept political appointees, to act as gatekeepers to confirm that federal bureaucracies followed White House [link
While each State will seek to control the flow of information, far better is the fine art of the soft sell. Propaganda, being something which is inherently hard, and hard to swallow, is better sold in a softer form. Delivery is likewise better through a proxy, a compliant Media--framed as a benign message wrapped up in patriotism.
Governments have used propaganda in the past. Yet propaganda is too obvious; instead, post-9/11 the US government has masterfully managed the press in a series of well-choreographed events designed to capture the public's imagination, and bind them to the President through patriotism and jingoism. Media complacency played a vital role. The Media's failed to contest the basis for war and the neocons' argument.
Propaganda is typically released from the government; in its purest form it has a hard time attaching to the conscience of the masses. Propaganda's effectiveness is in relation to how real it seems; the less noticed, the more the impact.
While the impact of propaganda messaging in individuals may be minimal, and perhaps immeasurable, in a society, entire attitudes can be formed. Mixed with emotions in the subconscious, propaganda can stick.
Zamparini quotes Hitler:
“(…) the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation.”[link
The key to overcoming propaganda is knowledge. To be disseminated, knowledge requires an objective Media. A free and independent Media has long been considered a hallmark of democracy.
Yet to be effective, information must be welcomed by a receptive and concerned audience. An informed citizenry will never come into existence without widespread acceptance of the civic obligation to stay informed and demand truth from Media and government.
Propaganda by Omission
The simple removal of information can serve a function of propaganda. More intelligent and subtle, key sources and bits of information which contradict the government's case are not communicated. Straight propaganda--lies and obvious recitations of dubious origin--is strengthened by the removal of any such information unfavorable to the State.
Propaganda can also be describe as a war against the truth. Writing on his blog
, Gabrielle Zamparini quotes Goebells:
"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."
Rather than controlling the flow of information themselves, governments need compliant Media. Omission replaces outright censorship dating from the antiquated days of the failed Nazi era or Orwell's theoretical future.
Ultimately, a fascist state will ally itself with the corporate interest through strategic business relationships, like the Nazis were wedded to the industrialists of their day (with whom Prescott Bush, George W. Bush's grandfather, once did business.) As the goals of that Corporate cabal and the government in power merge, the fascist state assumes greater control of the media, and drives aggressive militaristic policies to benefit the military-industrial complex and Right Wing ultra-nationalists.
While the US doesn't see fascism in the present, a number of changes have come to weaken independent media access. The government also has an interest in seeing larger conglomerates control the airwaves. Since taking office, the Federal Trade Commission has allowed more and more media outlets to be controlled by fewer and fewer companies.
By forcing profitability on its news dvisions, Mass Media conglomerates have gradually abandoned any core non-monetary values associated with news, de-localized, and neglected the public interest. Similarly many corporations hype socio-cultural, entertainment, and celebrity worship, while more meaningful issues are ignored.
Recently, the Mainstream Media has become a liability for those who support a continuation of the war, and is coming out against unrestricted Presidential authority. Yet the window for abusing the public trust opened through Corporate media after 9/11. Perhaps the opportunity to disseminate biased information through the Media has begun to close, at least for this Administration.
Due diligence functions have clearly been neglected by Mainstream Media. Through more open debate, antiwar interests have been able to challenge government policies, who have a an interest in promoting cooperation with their market by performing due diligence. The US government cannot own the Media, despite continuing efforts to try and control the narrative along established themes.
Through the advertising mechanism dominating our Media, Americans are encouraged to simply consume, as if shopping for cereals in a grocery store. Dispensing unbiased media information may simply be incompatible with economies of scale and the capitalist model.
To date, Iraq's impact on most of the American public has been minimal. A conflict with Iran would greatly increase the truth premium.
Media reports are forced to bend the truth to avoid showing that our policies are failing. Media manipulation is one tool which can serve to provide propaganda either directly, by omission, or by confusion. Reports from Iraq may help disguise the truth, but inevitably the public's trust will fail in proportion to reality and events on the ground.
As I've shown on this blog, the military, geopolitical, legal limits are confounding Bush's War on Terror. The Media is failing to deliver a message capable of overcoming skepticism as image and reality collide. Stormclouds of an upcoming showdown over Constitutional limits on the power of the Presidency are forming over Congress.
Political defeat for Bush could mean an end to the War on Terror, or the conversion of Bush's crowning achievement to a hollow and meaningless legacy. Meanwhile Iraq will drag on, combatants oblivious to our inevitable withdrawal.