19 April 2008

Our Propagandists

"Propaganda is a concerted set of messages aimed at influencing the opinions or behavior of large numbers of people. Instead of impartially providing information, propaganda in its most basic sense presents information in order to influence its audience. The most effective propaganda is often completely truthful, but some propaganda presents facts selectively (thus lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or gives loaded messages in order to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the cognitive narrative of the subject in the target audience ." *
Main Entry: pro-pa-gan-da
Pronunciation: \prä-pa-gan-da, pro--\
Function: noun
Etymology: New Latin, from Congregatio de propaganda fide Congregation for propagating the faith, organization established by Pope Gregory XV died 1623
Date: 1718

1capitalized : a congregation of the Roman curia having jurisdiction over missionary territories and related institutions
2: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
3: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect

— pro-pa-gan-dist \-dist\ noun or adjective
— pro-pa-gan-dis-tic \-?gan-?dis-tik\ adjective
— pro-pa-gan-dis-ti-cal-ly \-ti-k(a-)le-\ adverb **
Today The New York Times is running this long investigative report on the Pentagon "message machine." The story focuses on the ways allegedly expert analysts - typically retired military officers - fanned out across major media outlets in an orchestrated campaign to discredit critics of then Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld specifically and his ill-considered, ultimately failed policy in Iraq more generally. According to the reporter David Barstow:
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.
Not only did many of these "analysts" receive talking points in Pentagon briefings, many too had financial interests in dealings with the military. The conflicts of interest (and the way the putative "analysts" disparage any notion that they even exist) are appalling. What is more appalling still is that the mainstream media- you know, the one typically thought of as "liberal" - has not bothered to so much as check relationships, financial and informational, that their "analysts" have with the Pentagon. This is simply a reprise of what we witnessed in the run-up to the war - the abject failure of the American press to maintain anything resembling independence. If Bush and his minions are prosecuting a set of criminal policies in Iraq and elsewhere, the media seem to be functioning primarily as enablers.
* Wikipedia
** Merriam-Webster Online

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Blogger Stan B. said...

I remember telling my father when I was in sixth grade or so that we had learned in school that the United States was one of the few countries that didn't have propaganda- and not understanding why he just sat there and laughed.

20 April, 2008 22:27  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think this might be the best example of investigative journalism over the past year. Too bad it took so long. I'd liek to point out that NBC, CNN reported on this, yet FOX was "oddly" silent on the matter, as if it never happened.

24 April, 2008 03:08  

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