29 March 2012

Creel Commission and War Public Relations

Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann, 1921, Excerpts 
Mr. Creel assembled machinery which included a Division of News that issued more than 6000 releases, had to enlist 75,000 Four Minute Men who delivered at least 750,000 speeches to an aggregate of over 300,000,000 people. Boy scouts delivered annotated copies of President Wilson’s addresses to the householders of America. Periodicals were sent to 600,000 teachers. 200,000 lantern slides were furnished for illustrated lectures. 1,500 different designs were turned out for posters, window cards, newspaper advertisements, cartoons, seals, and buttons. The chambers of commerce, the churches, fraternal societies, schools, were used as channels of distribution. This was the largest and the most intensive effort to carry quickly a fairly uniform set of ideas to all the people of a nation.
Media Control by Noam Chomsky, 2002, Excerpts 
Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform “Peace Without Victory.” That was right in the middle of the World War I. The population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European war. The Wilson administration was actually committed to war and had to do something about it. They established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world. There was a good deal of fabrication of atrocities by the Huns, such as Belgian babies with their arms torn off.
Father of Spin by Larry Tye, 1998 
The selling of America on the Persian Gulf War was a public relations triumph. Its leading man, Saddam Hussein, was cast as pure villain complete with menacing leer and malevolent mustache. It had Iraqi soldiers snatching infants from hospital incubators and leaving them on the floor to die while Iraqi helicopters hovered over Kuwait City and Iraqi tanks rolled down the streets. One detail was left out of that version of the war, however: the fact that it was crafted by one of America’s biggest public relations firm, Hill and Knowlton, in a campaign bought and paid for by rich Kuwaitis who were Saddam’s archenemies. Hill and Knowlton’s war against Iraq was hardly a PR first.

Forty years earlier Bernays had designed an almost identical campaign in Guatemala, one where Guatemala’s socialist leader Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was demonized much like Hussein and where the U.S. public was made to believe it was fighting against tyranny. That was a major achievement, and it led to a further achievement. After WWII, the same techniques were used whip up a hysterical Red Scare, as it was called, which succeeded pretty much in destroying unions and eliminating such dangerous problems as freedom of press and freedom of political thought. There was strong support from the media and from the business establishment.

Pentagon and Bogus News
05 Dec 2003
Early last year Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disbanded the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence after it became known that the office was considering plans to provide false news items to unwitting foreign journalists to influence policymakers and public sentiment abroad. But a couple of months ago, the Pentagon quietly awarded a $300,000 contract to SAIC, a major defense consultant, to study how the Defense Department could design an ''effective strategic influence'' campaign to combat global terror, according to an internal Pentagon document.

US closes 'disinformation' unit
26 Feb 2002
The US is closing down an information unit of the defense department which was set up to project a favorable view of US military activity abroad and influence public opinion. The move follows reports in the media that the controversial Office of Strategic Information might start planting false stories among foreign journalists and spreading disinformation. The office was created following the 11 September attacks on America as part of efforts to combat international terrorism.

Pentagon plans propaganda war
20 Feb 2002
The Pentagon is toying with the idea of black propaganda. As part of George Bush's war on terrorism, the military is thinking of planting propaganda and misleading stories in the international media. A new department has been set up inside the Pentagon with the Orwellian title of the Office of Strategic Influence. It is well funded, is being run by a general and its aim is to influence public opinion abroad.

The most controversial suggestion is the covert planting of disinformation in foreign media, a process known as black propaganda. All this has sparked off a fierce debate within the Pentagon. The options range from "the blackest of black programs to the whitest of white," one official told the New York Times. Some generals are worried that even a suggestion of disinformation would undermine the Pentagon's credibility and America's attempts to portray herself as the beacon of liberty and democratic values.

28 March 2012

Anti-Communism Anti-Terrorism

Manufacturing Consent by Herman and Chomsky, 1988, Excerpts
[substituted “Terrorism” for “Communism”]

A final filter is the ideology of anti-terrorism. Terrorism as the ultimate evil has always been the specter haunting property owners, as it threatens the very root of their class position and superior status. The ongoing conflicts and the well-publicized abuses of Terrorist states have contributed to elevating opposition to terrorism to a first principle of Western ideology and politics. This ideology helps mobilize the populace against an enemy, and because the concept is fuzzy it can be used against anybody advocating policies that threaten property interests or support accommodation with Terrorist states and radicalism.

27 March 2012

Media Flak

Manufacturing Consent by Herman and Chomsky, 1988, Excerpts

“Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program. If flak is produced on a large scale by individuals or groups with substantial resources, it can be both uncomfortable and costly to the media. Positions have to be defended within the organization and without, sometimes before legislatures and possibly even courts. Advertisers may withdraw patronage. Television advertising is mainly of consumer goods that are readily subject to organized boycott.

The ability to produce flak that is costly and threatening is related to power. Flak from the powerful can be either direct or indirect. The direct would include letters or phone calls from the White House or from the FCC to the television networks asking for documents used in putting together a program, or from irate corporate sponsors asking for reply time or threatening retaliation.

26 March 2012

News Experts

Manufacturing Consent by Herman and Chomsky, 1988, Excerpts

The media need a steady, reliable flow of the raw material of news. They have daily news demands and news schedules that they must met. They cannot afford to have reporters and cameras at all places where important stories may break. Economics dictates that they concentrate their resources where significant news often occurs, where important rumors and leaks abound, and where regular press conferences are held. The White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, in Washington, D.C., are central nodes of such news activity. The large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring the raw materials of, and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become “routine” news sources and have privileged access to the gates.

The media incorporates “proper-thinking experts” to confirm ideologies that are taken for granted. Censorship is largely self-censorship by the pre-selection of right-thinking people - reporters and commentators - who have internalized the constraints imposed by centers of power. Another reason for the heavy weight given to official sources is that the mass media claim to be “objective” dispensers of the news. Partly to maintain the image of objectivity, but also to protect themselves from criticisms of bias and the threat of libel suits, they need material that can be portrayed as presumptively accurate.