There are Public Information Officers (PIOs) and then there are propagandists. The two are not the same.
PIOs have the job of releasing what is thought to be the truth to media outlets. The information is often laden with the values, point of view and hopes of the releasing headquarters but it is, nevertheless, not a deliberate attempt to deceive. Those who have seen Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece "Full Metal Jacket" have seen this in action. (Yes. Yes. I know. This is not really the Marine Corps) In the film the "Joker’s" boss, a bureau chief for "Stars and Stripes" tells Joker to write more positive stories because the troops "need it." This is stupid but not propaganda. (In fact, the troops don’t need or believe any of that crap)
Propaganda is different. It involves the dissemination of information not intended to inform, but rather to influence. It comes in three varieties:
– White. This is propaganda which is clearly identified as to source. The Voice of America, Sawa Radio, Al-Hurra TV. These are White propaganda outlets. Harmless, if often inept.
– Grey. Propaganda not clearly identified as to source. A wire service, TV station or publishing house which does not identify its ownership.
– Black. Propaganda which seeks to deceive as to source, In "normal" (non-wartime) times this is by law the domain of the CIA. In wartime it is equally the realm of the military (to the chagrin of the CIA). Propaganda directed against foreign audiences has not been thought "out of bounds" in the USA since the end of WW2. It is a fundamental principal of such action under American law that it should not be directed at the American electorate.
We must ask if this principle has been adhered to, not by the CIA, but rather by political enthusiasts and "cultists" within the "information operations" and "psychological warfare" area of military activities.
Beginning with the trauma that followed our defeat in Vietnam, there arose in the US Army a "movement" which sought an answer for the question of why our long and painful struggle had led to nothing but masses of refugees seeking refuge from the prospect of communist government. Various strange studies were funded for several years seeking answers which would not be too personally painful. Telepathy, telekinesis, firewalking, spoonbending, distant viewing, political warfare and propaganda against both hostile and friendly targets were all studied and experimented in by men who under normal circumstances were more stable and certainly less imaginative. (See the interesting work, "The Men Who Stare at Goats") In the end the Army rejected all this and returned to its usual preoccupation, but the tendency survived in the persons of several officers who have risen to high rank. Some have been high officials in the counter-terrorism and homeland defense fields. Some are now major media figures and others officials of the Department of Defense, but outside the "mainstream" of the Army. None are in the intelligence business.
As a result of the continued existence of this"tendency," the Bush Administration has been influenced in the direction of manipulation of public opinion here and abroad as an instrument of warfare.
We are now beginning to witness the results of such foolishness.