Tuesday, October 31, 2006



The Pentagon and propaganda

The US military has set up a new unit to "promote its mesage" in the media and on the internet. While being sold as correcting "innaccurate" stories (such as those saying that the US is losing the war), the purpose is clearly domestic propaganda. While part of the operation will focus on official spokespeople, there's also a heavy emphasis on "surrogates" - "unconnected" third parties whose job is to echo the official line, giving it a veneer of independence.

This sort of domestic propaganda operation simply has no place in a democracy. Democracy is supposed to work by public debate and the consent of the governed - but what the US government is saying is that it should use deceit to shape that debate, in effect manufacturing that consent. That sort of behaviour is more reminiscent of totalitarian governments like North Korea, or Stalin's Russia, than a democracy like the United States.

12 comments:

I see they've made an early start in this neck of the forest with Sir Humphrey's.

Posted by Sanctuary : 10/31/2006 07:13:00 PM

Lest we forget: Iraqi troops stole incubators from Kuwaiti hospitals and left the babies to die ... until after the frist Gulf war that was found to be a complete lie. Sorry, psychological warfare.

And that is exactly the problem with US foreign (and increasingly domestic policy). The ends justify the means, and ouright lies are as good a method of political management as any. This is also why I have been so worried about developments on the NZ political scene recently - although hopefully, we have now turned the corner on that.

Posted by kiwi_donkey : 10/31/2006 07:52:00 PM

still - it is in a sense free speach.

On what grounds can you say "the government should not be able to promote its own view" or "what it percieves to be the truth" without effectively shooting yourself in the foot?

we may be in danger of defining free speach as speach that we agree with.

Posted by Genius : 10/31/2006 08:01:00 PM

An interesting point Genius. However, it is also, in a sense, fraud.

Posted by kiwi_donkey : 10/31/2006 08:36:00 PM

Of course a government should be able to promote its own views but if it has to lie in order to do so then those views ought to be treated with scepticism.

Posted by Gary Young : 10/31/2006 09:44:00 PM

yes I agree with you Gary
we are also free to be sceptical.

Posted by Genius : 10/31/2006 11:19:00 PM

ICCPR Article 20:

"1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law."

From the BBC: "Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said earlier this year the US was losing the propaganda war to its enemies."

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 10/31/2006 11:52:00 PM

So what do any of you make of this then? 8th para:

>>For example, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed described the design of planned attacks of buildings inside the U.S. and how operatives were directed to carry them out. That is valuable information for those of us who have the responsibility to protect the American people. He told us the operatives had been instructed to ensure that the explosives went off at a high -- a point that was high enough to prevent people trapped above from escaping.<<

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2006/09/20060915-2.html

Uh???

Posted by RedRag : 11/01/2006 07:04:00 AM

genius, yeah but this kind of acts contrary to the purpose of free speech, to allow the powerless to speak out against the big players.

what we have here is an abuse of governmental trust. people more often than not don't question their governments, as the kuwaiti baby lies show, and as the WMD lies also show.

the government in this case is manipulating the truth in full knowledge that mainstream public doesn't have the time, inclination or education to question. so you and i can see through it, but a few million hill-billies?

it is "four legs good, two legs bad".

Posted by che tibby : 11/01/2006 07:15:00 AM

"we may be in danger of defining free speach as speach that we agree with."

What tosh. The concept of free speach isn't some magical principle you can invoke to shutdown criticism of speach and actions like garlic to a vampire..

A democratic government plainly does *not* have the right to lie to it's populace, or to use the population's own taxes to finance that lying.
The fact that it's even raised in debate is an excellent indication of just how broken the moral compass has become in some quarters.

Their may be occassions where the military has it's facts wrong, but psy-ops has nothing to do with mistaken facts - it's barefaced lying, pure and simple.
Consideration of the Pentagon and CIA's vast psy-ops budgets should be genuinely chilling for anyone considering the effects on real democracy.

Posted by Huskynut : 11/01/2006 08:58:00 AM

Presumably Rumsfeld et al justify this to themselves by claiming that everything the media says is a lie (he's announced that the only thing keeping him awake at night are the lies the media tells the US public, presumably the bloodbath in Iraq doesn't feature very prominently in his conscience). So it's only fair for them to set up an organisation that tells the US people 'the truth' about whats happening.

Posted by danyl : 11/01/2006 10:49:00 AM

Graeme may have a point regarding it falling under international laws against free speach (although I imagine that it would be defined fairly narrowly).

> genius, yeah but this kind of acts contrary to the purpose of free speech, to allow the powerless to speak out against the big players.

To me that is not the purpose of free speach. Free speach is neutral to how powerful you are or anything like that. It would be contrary to free speach IF they PREVENTED the other side from saying what they have to say (which is possible but isn't required of a 'govt information department').

> so you and I can see through it, but a few million hill-billies?

we are now making a call about how the public needs to be protected from the wrong answers because they are 'hill-billies' (and I accept we probably are a fair amount smarter than the average american). But it is rather the same logic behind the Government wanting the more insidious forms of 'information departments'.

I do have a little sympathy for that, but it is a can of worms.

> A democratic government plainly does *not* have the right to lie to it's populace

as above - if we are going to say that then we should have concequences for lieing to the public. But then if there are concequences for, lets say 'joe' the labour party memeber lying to the public why not 'fred' the media spokesman for a cheese company or bill the crazy bloke on speakers corner?

> or to use the population's own taxes to finance that lying.

that is just like any other use of funding. If it exceeds the 'communicating to the public fund' you could complain about misallocation of funds. Otherwise as per above.

Posted by Genius : 11/01/2006 07:25:00 PM