Fake News: Dead Babies
In many democracies, people hold dear the freedom of speech that they are supposed to have. Yet, propaganda is to democracy what violence is to totalitarianism, notes Noam Chomsky.
In 1921, the famous American journalist Walter Lippmann said that the art of democracy requires what he called the manufacture of consent. This phrase is an Orwellian euphemism for thought control. The idea is that in a state such as the U.S. where the government can’t control the people by force, it had better control what they think. The Soviet Union is at the opposite end of the spectrum from us in its domestic freedoms. It’s essentially a country run by the bludgeon. It’s very easy to determine what propaganda is in the USSR: what the state produces is propaganda.
Power must be held accountable. The mainstream media is a pillar of a functioning democracy, and one of its roles therefore, is to hold power accountable.
Guiterrez, mentioned much further above, also interviews Dr. Nancy Snow, (once a propagandist for the U.S. Information Agency as she admits in her 1998 book, Propaganda Inc; Selling America’s Culture to the World). Snow suggests that you don’t need facts, just the best facts:
Given all the revelations discrediting Bush’s reasons for war with Iraq, You may wonder why it is that a majority of Americans still link Saddam to 9/11, says Snow. The reason for such a belief is because the American people were repeatedly told by the President and his inner circle that Saddam’s evil alone was enough to be linked to 9/11 and that given time, he would have used his weapons against us. With propaganda, you don’t need facts per se, just the best facts put forward. If these facts make sense to people, then they don’t need proof like one might need in a courtroom.
According to Snow, the U.S. government succeeded in driving the agenda and milking the story (maximising media coverage of a particular issue by the careful use of [media management].)
Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. … Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
General Herman Goering, President of German Reichstag and Nazi Party, Commander of Luftwaffe during World War II, April 18, 1946. (This quote is said to have been made during the Nuremburg Trials, but in fact, while during the time of the trials, was made in private to an Allied intelligence officer, later published in the book, Nuremburg Diary.
Here is what American propaganda / double-speak looks like:
I want to digress here and mention that just months before this article was written, Ronald Reagan took to the public airwaves and gave a big speech condemning the Sandanistas, the communist government of Nicaragua. He stated: “Now they're exporting drugs to poison our youth and linking up with the terrorists of Iran.”
When in reality it was the Contras, our allies, exporting drugs into our country and it was America who was covertly facilitating arm sales in Iran, at the same time we were publicly supplying arms to Iraq, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war!
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Statement by President Trump on Syria
9:40 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: My fellow Americans: On Tuesday, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians. Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.
Tonight, I ordered a targeted military strike on the airfield in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched. It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons. There can be no dispute that Syria used banned chemical weapons, violated its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention, and ignored the urging of the U.N. Security Council.
Years of previous attempts at changing Assad's behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically. As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize, threatening the United States and its allies.
Tonight, I call on all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria, and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types. We ask for God's wisdom as we face the challenge of our very troubled world. We pray for the lives of the wounded and for the souls of those who have passed. And we hope that as long as America stands for justice, then peace and harmony will, in the end, prevail.
Goodnight. And God bless America and the entire world. Thank you.
9:43 P.M. EDT
No matter how it is spread, propaganda comes in four basic varieties, said Arthur Siegel, social science professor at York University in Toronto, whose 1996 book Radio Canada International examines World War II and Cold War propaganda.
The first level is the Big Lie, adapted by Hitler and Stalin. The state-controlled Egyptian press has been spreading a Big Lie, saying the World Trade Center was attacked by Israel to embarrass Arabs, said Siegel.
The second layer says, It doesn’t have to be the truth, so long as it’s plausible.
The third strategy is to tell the truth but withhold the other side’s point of view.
The fourth and most productive is to tell the truth, the good and the bad, the losses and the gains.
Governments in Western society take the last three steps. They avoid the Big Lie, which nobody here will swallow, Siegel said.
Ottosen identifies several key stages of a military campaign to soften up public opinion through the media in preparation for an armed intervention. These are:
The Preliminary Stage—during which the country concerned comes to the news, portrayed as a cause for mounting concern because of poverty/dictatorship/anarchy;
The Justification Stage—during which big news is produced to lend urgency to the case for armed intervention to bring about a rapid restitution of normality;
The Implementation Stage—when pooling and censorship provide control of coverage;
The Aftermath—during which normality is portrayed as returning to the region, before it once again drops down the news agenda.
O’Kane notes there is always a dead baby story and it comes at the key point of the Justification Stage—in the form of a story whose apparent urgency brooks no delay—specifically, no time for cool deliberation or negotiating on peace proposals. Human interest stories … are ideal for engendering this atmosphere.
Award-winning investigative journalist, Phillip Knightley, in an article for the British paper, The Guardian also points out four stages in preparing a nation for war:
1.) The crisis
The reporting of a crisis which negotiations appear unable to resolve. Politicians, while calling for diplomacy, warn of military retaliation. The media reports this as We’re on the brink of war, or War is inevitable, etc.
2.) The demonization of the enemy’s leader
Comparing the leader with Hitler is a good start because of the instant images that Hitler’s name provokes.
3.) The demonization of the enemy as individuals
For example, to suggest the enemy is insane.
Even making up stories to whip up and strengthen emotional reactions.
The military often manipulates the mainstream media, by restricting or managing what information is presented and hence what the public are told. For them it is paramount to control the media. This can involve all manner of activities, from organizing media sessions and daily press briefings, or through providing managed access to war zones, to even planting stories.
Information is the currency of victory an August 1996 U.S. Army field manual. From a military’s perspective, information warfare is another front on which a battle must be fought. However, as well as needing to deceive adversaries, in order to maintain public support, information to their own public must no doubt be managed as well. That makes sense from a military perspective.
Shortly after the end of the American Civil War, journalist F. Colburn Adams wrote, The future historian of the late war will have [a] very difficult task to perform … sifting the truth from falsehood as it appears in official records.
Similar to the oft-repeated axiom that truth is the first casualty of war, Adams’ observation succinctly summarizes the nub of the conflict between the military and the news media. The military’s mission is to fight, and to win, whatever conflict may present itself-preferably on the battlefield but certainly in public opinion and the history books. The journalist, on the other hand, is a skeptic if not a cynic and aims to seek, find and report the truth — a mission both parties often view as incompatible with successful warfare, which depends on secrecy and deception as much as superior strategy, tactics, weaponry and manpower.
Atrocity stories have been debased currency in the war of words. The other side’s are propaganda and should be ignored or discredited by patriotic correspondents; ours are an integral part of the cause, and should be propagated with conviction, uniting people in vengefulness for a cause higher than pedantry. Only after the conflict, the zealots’ argument runs, is there time enough to sift the ashes for truth. History knows now that the Germans did not, as charged in World War I, toss Belgian babies in the air and catch them on bayonets, nor boil down German corpses for glycerin for munitions—a story invented by a British correspondent being pressed by his office for news of atrocities. The French did not, as the German press reported, routinely gouge out the eyes of captured German soldiers, or chop off their fingers for the rings on them. Iraqi soldiers invading Kuwait did not toss premature babies out of incubators, as The Sunday Telegraph in London, and then the Los Angeles Times, reported, quoting Reuters. The story was an invention of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait lobby in Washington and the teen-age witness who testified to Congress was coached by the lobby’s public relations company. It was only two years later that the whole thing was exposed for the fraud it was. But the myth galvanized public opinion at a critical moment on the need to go to war, as it was intended to.
It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attach and expose corporate and government malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques, as well as the huge inequality of the command of resources, and its effect both on access to a private media system and on its behavior and performance.
Labeling people, groups, institutions, etc in a negative manner
Labeling people, groups, institutions, etc in a positive manner
Words that pacify the audience with blander meanings and connotations
Using symbols and imagery of positive institutions etc to strengthen acceptance
Citing individuals not qualified to make the claims made
Leaders appealing to ordinary citizens by doing ordinary things
The everyone else is doing it argument
Heightening, exploiting or arousing people’s fears to get supportive opinions and actions
Since war is particularly unpleasant, military discourse is full of euphemisms. In the 1940’s, America changed the name of the War Department to the Department of Defense. Under the Reagan Administration, the MX-Missile was renamed The Peacekeeper. During war-time, civilian casualties are referred to as collateral damage, and the word liquidation is used as a synonym for murder.
Focusing on leaders’ thoughts is often a kind of propaganda. It involves repeating the government line without comment, thereby allowing journalists to claim neutrality as simple conduits supplying information. But it is not neutral to repeat the government line while ignoring critics of that line, as often happens. It is also not neutral to include milder criticism simply because it is voiced by a different section of the establishment, while ignoring more radical, but perhaps equally rational, critiques from beyond the state-corporate pale. A big lesson of history is that it is wrong to assume that power, or respectability, confers rationality. Media analyst Sharon Beder describes the reality of much mainstream reporting:
Balance means ensuring that statements by those challenging the establishment are balanced with statements by those whom they are criticizing, though not necessarily the other way round.
One of the secrets of media manipulation is to report the horror and strife of the world as though Western power, interests and machinations did not exist. Vast poverty, injustice and chaos in the Third World are depicted as unconnected to the cool oases of civilization in Europe and the United States, which look on benignly but helplessly, or pitch in heroically to right wrongs as far as they are able. The idea, for example, that the vast economic and military might of North America might in some way be linked to the vast poverty and suffering of neighboring Central and South America is unthinkable.
The Gulf War in Iraq, 1991, highlighted a lot of PR work in action. Founder of the Washington PR firm, The Rendon Group, John Rendon told cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1996:
I am not a national security strategist or a military tactician, Rendon said. I am a politician, and a person who uses communication to meet public policy or corporate policy objectives. In fact, I am an information warrior and a perception manager. He reminded the Air Force cadets that when victorious troops rolled into Kuwait City at the end of the first war in the Persian Gulf, they were greeted by hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags. The scene, flashed around the world on television screens, sent the message that U.S. Marines were being welcomed in Kuwait as liberating heroes.
Did you ever stop to wonder, Rendon asked, how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American, and for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries? He paused for effect. Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs then.
… Public relations firms often do their work behind the scenes…. But his description of himself as a perception manager echoes the language of Pentagon planners, who define perception management as actions to convey and (or) deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning. … In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover, and deception, and psyops [psychological operations].
In March 2005, the New York Times revealed that there has been a large amount of fake and prepackaged news created by US government departments, such as the Pentagon, the State Department and others, and disseminated through the mainstream media. The New York Times noted a number of important issues including:
The US Bush administration has aggressively used public relations to prepackage news. Issues with this have included that:
A number of these government-made news segments are made to look like local news (either by the government department or by the receiving broadcaster);
Sometimes these reports have fake reporters such as when a reporter covering airport safety was actually a public relations professional working under a false name for the Transportation Security Administration;
Other times, there is no mention that a video segment is produced by the government;
Where there is some attribution, news stations simply rebroadcast them but sometimes without attributing the source.
These segments have reached millions;
This benefits both the government and the broadcaster;
This could amount to propaganda within the United States as well as internationally.
Effectively, American tax payers have paid to be subjected to propaganda disseminated through these massaged messaged.