The Propaganda of the Word

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.

Pat Lang,0,5176582.story?coll=la-home-headlines

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8 Responses to The Propaganda of the Word

  1. bygraves says:

    yes Michael and I wish you could get Bush and the rest to listen. We can not afford this war. We can not win it. A dear friend middle aged and a father is being sent back on the 3rd. He is needed here at home.

  2. Anon says:

    You should retitle this excellent post – “Back to Black”

  3. a bit off topic says:

    I was wondering if you have any opinion on this rather pessimistic view by Israeli strategist Martin Van Creveld which is currently making the rounds:

  4. Curious says:

    Isn’t it cheaper and easier to tell the truth in the long run? Everybody knows Iraq is a bloody mess, so why bother lying. Might as well tell the truth so a real solution can be found.
    (Yes. I know I am stating the obvious.)

  5. Curious says:

    There is an entry in TPM about propaganda in Iraq vs. regulation
    Many military officials, however, said they were concerned that the payments to Iraqi journalists and other covert information operations in Iraq had become so extensive that they were corroding the effort to build democracy and undermining U.S. credibility in Iraq. They also worry that information in the Iraqi press that’s been planted or paid for by the U.S. military could “blow back” to the American public.

    Moreover, the defense and military officials said, the U.S. public is at risk of being influenced by the information operations because what’s planted in the Iraqi media can be picked up by international news organizations and Internet bloggers.
    …there is more

  6. Norbert Schulz says:

    Anyone who ever read that Chrenkoff’s ‘blog’ on WSJ where he summarises the ‘good news from Iraq’? Chrenkoff claims to be a ‘journalist’ – for trawling the web for exclusively good news from Iraq. Suuuuure. Why, oh why, I wonder, did they place him on the *opinion journal* then …
    Prominent among his sources are Iraqi newspapers and blogs. And there the circle closes.
    When U.S. military payes Iraqis for publishing ‘good news’, err, the truth and nothing but the truth, and they appear online, Chrenkoff’s is the place they pop up first – only to be relinked by angry GOP loyalist throughout the blogosphere, engaged in fighting the evil *liberal media bias*. Poor persecuted souls they are.
    So, propaganda payed for by U.S. taxpayers already blows back.
    And anyone who has the pathetic charade about GOP prostitute Jeff Gannon in memory, knows the Whitehouse just operates the same way.
    Same with Judith Miller and her reporting on Saddams remarkably elusive WMD. Fed by sources payed for by U.S. taxpayers money (Pentagon -> INC -> ‘defector’), she stenographed, and was then quoted by the warmongers. Condi Rice went along the line “As we all know from the NYT …”
    Insofar, it’s nothing new.
    Is it damaging, undermining U.S. credibility, stupid and shortsighted – cerainly. But that’s, as well, Bush administration SOP.

  7. Kurt says:

    Doesn’t this make the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi captured letter less credible?

  8. Curious says:

    This is amazing,
    so the ‘Victory plan’ turns out to be a pure fiction writing done just for the propaganda event. It has nothing to do with Iraq or strategy in Iraq.
    Computer Outs WH: Poltical Hack wrote victory Plan

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