Propaganda and the People

Propaganda has been around since human beings began habituating the earth at it existed in the simplest of forms: the spoken word or the painted picture. But, over time as people have grown more sophisticated so has propaganda and how it is delivered. As the average person has moved away from receiving their news in the printed form to relying on the broadcast media the sound byte has become the outlet of choice for the delivery of propaganda. Considering the power of that medium and the presentation of the news its not surprising then that large majorities would come to believe what was being delivered as news was the truth because no one chose to refute it.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001 it became the mantra of the Bush administration “That everything had changed.” which in fact was the truth in that no single terrorist attack had ever killed so many and the method used to carryout the attacks was also a first. Given those truths along with Al Qaeda taking responsibility for the attacks the propaganda machinery quickly spun to life except there was something wrong the enemy being created wasn’t from Afghanistan where Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were headquartered and protected by the Taliban its geographic location had shifted about a thousand miles west to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
America did in fact send its military into Afghanistan a little over a month after the attacks had taken place and drove the Taliban government from power.

At one time the government of Iraq had possessed chemical and biological weapons and had used them: First during the Iran-Iraq war and then in 1988 against the Kurds living in Northern Iraq. In August of 1990 the armed forces of Iraq invaded Kuwait on the pretext of a boarder dispute when the real intent was to steal Kuwait’s oil reserves. The first Gulf War ended with Saddam’s forces almost being completely destroyed and under terms of the agreed upon ceasefire Iraq would dismantle and destroy all of its capabilities for producing weapons of mass destruction along with the weapons systems which could deliver them and Iraq would  be subjected to UN weapons inspections to insure their compliance with the treaty terms as worked out the with the forces of the international coalition. Those inspections lasted until 1998 when the Iraqi’s finally kicked them out of the country and resumed again in late 2002. Even though Saddam Hussein wished to possess these weapons again the inspectors were never able to find any credible evidence that Iraq had managed to restart its weapons program.

Helping the Bush administration to create this shift away from those who had committed the attack to those who had nothing to do with these attacks was the use of Cold War propaganda: Fear of a nuclear, chemical or biological weapons attack. Propaganda on this scale requires a partner and they had a very compliant one in the American mainstream media. There needs to be a head cheerleader and Judith Miller of the New York Times was it.

Her reporting on Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction information given to her by senior members of the Bush administration would be one the driving forces in justifying America’s invasion of Iraq in on March 17, 2003. One of her best pieces of propaganda involved those now famous aluminium tubes which were, according to Judith Miller to used for:

“American officials” and “American intelligence experts” who said the tubes were intended to be used to enrich nuclear material, and cited unnamed “Bush administration officials” who claimed that in recent months, Iraq had “stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb.”

Using that story as a backdrop Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld appearing on various Sunday Talk Shows pointed to Millers front page story as a justification for the invasion of Iraq.

She would also report this

Miller would later claim, based only on second-hand statements from the military unit she was embedded with, that WMDs had been found in Iraq.[10] This again was widely repeated in the press. “Well, I think they found something more than a smoking gun,” Miller said on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. “What they’ve found is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we’ve called him, who really worked on the programs, who knows them, firsthand, and who has led MET Alpha people to some pretty startling conclusions.” This story also turned out to be false.

President Bush had his own moment of glory in this propaganda parade: Landing of the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln with this banner strung across the aircraft carriers bridge Mission Accomplished President Bush proceeded give his now infamous Mission Accomplished speech in which he stated “Major Combat Operations” have come to an end in Iraq. Its a shame that like almost everything else this administration has said about Iraq it just wasn’t true. 

A more recent example involves the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)

President Bush last week vetoed the children’s health care bill known as S-chip even though it had broad bipartisan support. Here is the reason he gave for doing so.

The president has complained that the bill that emerged from Congress would steer the S-chip program away from its core purpose by expanding the program to cover some middle-class families, including some with annual incomes as high as $83,000, while failing to cover some deserving children.

“I want you to think about that,” Mr. Bush said. “If you’re making up to $83,000 in certain states, you’re eligible for the program, and yet half a million poor children aren’t being helped.”

This is not true. Because of the power of the Presidency and the need for news his statements on S-chip were widely broadcast in edited 2 minute reports that failed to give the true intent of the S-chip program. Meaning anyone watching a network news program in the United States would have been lead to believe that what George Bush had said was true and of course they would be outraged.

President Bush wasn’t the only politician going along with the lies not only about the program its self but about those who received care through the SCHIP. Senator Mitch McConnell(R)Kentucky and the Senates Minority Leader when it was revealed that a member of his staff had altered the through an e-mail media about Graeme Frost and his family after a group of Right Wing bloggers lead my Michelle Malkin tried to imply that the Frost’s where ineligible for assistance under the SCHIP program because they were wealthy. Which of course wasn’t even close to the truth.

In the case of Graeme Frost and his family it took less than a week for the propaganda to be exposed for what it was misinformation presented to public in the belief that the program would be discredited and the public  would go along with the lie. For some reason 81% of the American people just didn’t take the bait and wholly support the expansion of the SCHIP program.

This is in complete contrast to the events leading up to and the aftermath from the invasion of Iraq. For more than two years after the invasion a majority of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein and Iraq  participated in the attacks of September 11, 2001. People believed this because the Bush administration in conjunction with the American media sold the American public a lie so large that almost 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq for that was neither necessary nor warranted under any pretext provided by the Bush administration.

The point to this and yes there is a point, is this. Propaganda put into the hands of skilled operators becomes a weapon. A weapon so dangerous that it can lead nations to the abyss if not a direct plunge into a vast black hole. Obvious examples are the Nazi’s in 1930’s Germany , the Soviet Union at the height of Stalin’s purges, China during its Cultural Revolution, Cambodia under the rule of Pol Pot and Rwanda and the mass killings of the Hutu’s. Propaganda doesn’t need to involve the killing of hundreds of thousands to be just as effective. Just look at America post 9/11. When through the use of fear and intimidation the Bush administration was able to make a nation cower before it in the belief that they and only they could spare America another 9/11 and keep it safe from terror and terrorists. America and its citizens really needed protection from the Bush administrations rush towards an openly authoritarian government under the useful guise of a party once called the Republicans.  If they had succeeded in establishing permanent party rule the United States would’ve ceased being a Republic founded on the rule of law and become just another dictatorship.

1 comment

    • RiaD on October 19, 2007 at 11:32 am

    You are exactly correct:

    “Propaganda put into the hands of skilled operators becomes a weapon. A weapon so dangerous that it can lead nations to the abyss if not a direct plunge into a vast black hole.”

    Thank you for taking the time to write & post this. I truly enjoyed reading it.

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