Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Webster's Dictionary defines propaganda as "information or ideas spread to promote or injure a cause, movement, etc." There's certainly nothing wrong that. This entire website is propaganda, as is any newspaper editorial or political campaign. But covert propaganda, or "grey propaganda", is the spreading of such information while concealing its source. If President Bush appears in an ad on television to promote his prescription drug plan, it is straightforward propaganda.
If instead the Bush Administration produces a video segment praising the plan which has all the appearances of a news report, and distributes it to television stations across the country with the intent for it to be played as real news, it is an attempt to convince people that the favorable report they're seeing on Bush's drug plan is not from the Bush Administration, but from an independent news organization. That particular example actually occurred and is a perfect example of covert propaganda.
While covert propaganda is a staple of foreign policy for any number of nations including the United States, the Bush Administration has racked up an impressive list of covert propaganda operations perpetrated domestically on the America people (and paid for with our tax money). The following examples are given in an effort to keep track of the covert propaganda operations that have been discovered to date. Some of the instances below may not be consistent with a strict definition of covert propaganda, but are listed because of their intent to spread information in a deceptive way.
Saving Private Lynch
Remember Jessica Lynch? She was the soldier who was captured when her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi soldiers early in the war. With U.S. military and Pentagon sources as their guide, the press told a made-for-Hollywood story of a young, attractive female soldier from Smalltown, USA who was ambushed by the enemy, shot, stabbed, who fired until her weapon was empty, endured sexual assault, was spirited away by dark forces to be interrogated, slapped around, and even tortured. And then, like guardian angels, in swoop special forces with guns blaring, blowing down doors, taking fire from the enemy, and stealing her away to safety.
Every single one of these reported events, after "ambushed by the enemy", happened to be pure fabrication. PFC Lynch would later acknowledge that she was used by the Pentagon for PR. And don't forget about the eerie Pentagon claim that Lynch had amnesia upon her return, when her memory was perfectly fine.
For more, see "Jessica Lynch: Media Myth-Making in the Iraq War," Journalism.org.
The Fall of Saddam (the Statue)
Remember when thousands of Iraqis took to the streets after the U.S. military occupied Baghdad in an impromptu celebration of freedom and razed one of Saddam's many statues - this one in Baghdad's Firdos Square?
That gathering of Iraqis wasn't exactly random. The people cheering at the statue's fall were a few dozen members of the Iraqi National Congress, an Iraqi opposition group slated by the Bush Administration to replace Saddam and flown in for the occasion. The square was populated far more by U.S. military personnel and reporters than Iraqis. The statue was not pulled down by newly freed citizens, but by a U.S. mechanized infantry vehicle. This particular statue of Saddam was conveniently located across the street from a hotel housing several journalists. And the square containing the statue was actually cordoned off by U.S. forces to keep the photo op under control.
Completely fake? Yes. But it sure looked good on CNN. Fox News Anchor David Asman said, "If you don't have goose bumps now, you will never have them in your life."
For more, see "Toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein," Center for Media and Democracy, and "How to Sell a War," In These Times.
"In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan Reporting"
Surely President Bush and the Republican Party commanded adequate credibility to sell their prescription drug benefit to senior citizens. Just in case they didn't, the Bush Administration produced fake news segments featuring actors posing as journalists, citizens, and a pharmacist describing Bush's plan as "a very good idea," and included footage of President Bush receiving a standing ovation when signing the law.
These so-called video news releases (VNRs) were distributed to television stations around the country to be played as real news stories without any indication of their source. And they were indeed. With the cost-cutting furor going on in our nation's newsrooms, a prepackaged news story is always welcome. Why spend money keeping the public informed, when the Bush Administration can do it for you?
For The Republican Dictionary, I'm Ian Watson reporting.
For more, see "Bush administration hired fake reporters to "report" on Medicare bill," New York Times.
"This is Mike Morris reporting"
Karen Ryan isn't the only fake reporter keeping the public informed. Similar to the video news releases lauding President Bush's prescription drug plan, segments produced by the Bush Administration's Office of National Drug Control Policy were distributed to television stations around the country to be played as real news without any indication of their source.
For more, see "Drug Control Office Faulted For Issuing Fake News Tapes," Washington Post.
From the Ministry of Truth, This is Big Brother Reporting
Karen Ryan and Mike Morris are just two fake reporters in an enormous initiative by the government to produce fake news. The Bush Administration has unapologetically produced hundreds of these video news releases that deal with dozens of government policies.
Whether praising Bush's airport security changes as "one of the most remarkable campaigns in aviation history," celebrating the liberation of women as a tangible benefit of the war in Afghanistan, or featuring Iraqi Americans saying "I love Bush, I love U.S.A.," these VNRs are perhaps the flagship of the Bush Administration's domestic covert propaganda operations, reaching millions of Americans who believe they are watching independent reports.
So, where does your television news come from? Are you sure?
For more, see "Under Bush, a New Age of Prepackaged Television News," New York Times, or watch the broadcast of this story on Democracy Now! (segment begins at 36:00).
When the Bush Administration wanted to boost public support for the No Child Left Behind Act, they paid $240,000 to TV and radio pundit Armstrong Williams to promote the law. The deal between Williams and the Bush Administration was never known to his audience.
Williams said that he didn't believe it was unethical because he would've happily done it for free. If true, then why was he paid? As a reward for being fair and balanced?
For more, see "Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law," USA Today.
National Review Online columnist Maggie Gallagher could always be counted on to support President Bush's initiative to encourage marriage, as it could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."
Speaking of big payoffs, Gallagher kept forgetting to inform her readers that she was under a $21,500 contract with the Bush Administration to promote the initiative - practically charity when you consider the cool quarter-million paid out to Armstrong Williams. If I were her, I would've held out for more. Gallagher later said that she didn't remember receiving the payment. This is credible - I probably wouldn't consider a twenty-thousand dollar boost in my checking account a big deal either.
For more, see "Writer Backing Bush Plan Had Gotten Federal Contract," Washington Post.
Ethics and Religion
Maggie Gallagher may have been getting peanuts compared to Armstrong Williams, but she was getting double what poor Michael McManus was being paid. McManus was the third journalist discovered to be receiving payments from a department of the Bush Administration while praising that department's activity. In this case, it was for the Department of Health and Human Services to promote Bush's marriage initiative for approximately $10,000.
McManus used his syndicated column "Ethics & Religion" to fulfill his contractual obligations while failing to inform his readers of the deal. I'm sure McManus' take on ethics is no less than riveting. I can only assume his wisdom on religion is equally enlightening.
For more, see "Third columnist caught with hand in the Bush till," Salon.
How does a man using a false name gain regular access to the White House? And how does a man with no journalistic experience become a fixture in the White House press room? And when someone within the White House exposes the identity of a covert CIA agent to nationally-known journalists to punish her husband for criticizing Bush, why do they call a little-known fake journalist as well?
Because James Guckert (aka Jeff Gannon) was no ordinary fake journalist. He was a fake journalist who could be counted on to ask favorably loaded questions to Press Secretary Scott McClellan and President Bush without fail, while working for an equally fake news site called Talon News. Talon News was run by Texas Republican organization GOPUSA, and issued reports that often bore an uncanny resemblance to White House press releases.
Yes, Gannon was a White House plant, inserted into the press corps to facilitate favorable sound bites and take heat off of McClellan and Bush. The embarrassing discovery that he also happened to be an "8+ cut!" gay prostitute with the alias "Bulldog" shows that President Bush has no prejudices whatsoever, including those against prostitutes, as long as they're prostituting themselves for the Bush Administration.
For more, see "The Jeff Gannon Experience," Truthout.org.
Cut! Take Two!
President Bush's "town hall" meetings are a necessity for Bush to deliver his candid and honest message directly to the American people in order to avoid the filter of the liberal media. Right?
So candid and honest in fact, that they require a script. President Bush is a talented young man, but even the greatest actors miss their cues every now and then.
MS. STONE: I would like to introduce my mom. This is my mother, Rhoda Stone. And she is grandmother of three, and originally from Helsinki, Finland, and has been here over 40 years.
THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. Same age as my mother.
MS. STONE: Just turned 80.
Oops, President Bush knew how old her mother was before she told him.
From "President Participates in Conversation on Social Security Reform," White House Transcript.
The Show Must Go On, But Only With a Script
President Bush loves his town hall meetings so much that he decided to hold one in Germany. Y'know, to sit down and have a genuine conversation with real everyday Germans.
Unfortunately, when the German government refused to cooperate in a scripted event with all the questions approved in advance by Bush's team, the president all of a sudden didn't have time for it.
For more, see "With a Hush and a Whisper, Bush Drops Town Hall Meeting with Germans," Der Spiegel.
All the News That's Fit to Print
In the run up to war, the Bush Administration's golden boy Ahmed Chalabi fed lies to the media about his knowledge of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. These bogus claims found their way into the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other media outlets. The Bush Administration was then able to point to these supposedly independent reports as vindication of their claims of Saddam's weapons.
Chalabi was the Bush Administration's pick for ruling Iraq after the occupation. That is, until he was suspected of working for Iranian Intelligence to convince the Bush Administration to remove their enemy Saddam Hussein. As Chalabi was feeding Bush Administration lies to the media, he also may have been feeding Iranian Intelligence lies to the Bush Administration. I smell a movie.
For more, see "Chalabi, the Washington Post & the New York Times," Undernews.
So Was it a Wire, or Not?
This would not be propaganda if true, covert or otherwise. But Bush was wearing something under his jacket when debating John Kerry, and perhaps at other occasions as well. An explanation has never been given besides ludicrous statements that it was a poorly tailored jacket.
For more, see "Was Bush Wired? Sure Looks Like It," Mother Jones, or "NASA photo analyst: Bush wore a device during debate," Salon.
by Ian Watson at Republicandictionary.com an absolutely fantastic site!
Editors note: Just in....
August 17, 2005
A mystery woman of sorts appeared recently on Harball with Chris Matthews to act as a counterpoint to the protest headed up by Cindy Sheehan near Bush's ranch in Crawford, TX. May Hasan Lamotte claimed to be an Iraqi woman and expressed the opinion that Sheehan's son died for the noble cause of freedomtm in Iraq.
Something smelled fishy to a few bloggers, including Sharon Jumper at the venerable DailyKOS. Perhaps it was her makeup, tank-top, and Bush-style freedom-talk. Anyway, it turns out that Lamotte is married to American Greg Lamotte, who works for ... wait for it ... Voice of America. Voice of America, of course, is the famous propaganda organization charged with spreading a favorable image of the United States throughout the world.
At the very least, this is a blatant conflict of interest that requires a disclosure by MSNBC to its viewers. At most, it is yet another example of government covert propaganda perpetrated on the American people by the Bush Administration.