Do We Color It 'Propaganda'?

It was only a small item carried on the headline banner of Fox News Channel March 25. The report told newsreaders that in Cheshire, Massachusetts, and unknown anti-war protesters had sprayed painted graffiti across a memorial honoring a soldier who died in the first days of the war in Iraq. This incident was not even worthy of a mention in any major media print publication or on other television outlets.

Any report showing the gross inappropriateness of the anti war movement is generally ignored by the mainstream press today. One would be required to search long and hard to find any coverage reflecting either a distortion of facts or distain for anti war actions. In reality, the traditional media outlets of this country are more than supportive, if not encouraging of the movement.

Those who take the time to search out media coverage of Iraq, starting with the invasion, can uncover some very interesting numbers. There have been more than 35 million Google entries related to military war dead. Almost 46 million entries can be found reporting on civilians killed in the war. Twenty million, 700 thousand accounts of bombings are on file, along with another twenty million, 700 thousand reports of anti-war protests.

Now contrast those numbers with the accounts you have read about battles won, courageous acts, restored medical care, business openings, or construction completions.

As Americans follow the daily news, they learn more about Pat Tillman than they do people such as Paul Ray Smith, Joseph Perez, and James H. Coffman, Jr. or Leigh Hester.

Corporal Pat Tillman was the former National Football League star that joined thee Army, went to Iraq, and was serving in Afghanistan when he was killed by friendly fire. This has been widely reported, and even now there are accounts of follow-up investigations.

Sergeant First Class Paul Ray was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for valor in Iraq, Lance Corporal Joseph B. Perez was awarded the Navy Cross for extraordinary heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Colonel James H. Coffman, Jr. earned the Distinguished Service Cross for leading Iraqi forces in a five hour battle against insurgents and Sergeant Leigh Hester was presented the Silver Star for heroism during an ambush. She was the first woman to receive such an award since World War II. Readers don’t recognize the names of these heroes because none of the stories were reported in any depth.

The over reporting of bad news and the lack of coverage about positive outcomes leads many people to believe the traditional press is following its own agenda. There are strong arguments being made that the American mainstream media is engaging in a propaganda war against the Bush Administration and the War in Iraq.

To understand propaganda, one must recall the techniques used so successfully by the Nazis in World War II. Boiled down to simple terms, propaganda is the act of repeating a story so often, that in the public mind, it becomes truth. The tools used to reach this objective are “name calling”, “generalities”, “euphemisms”, “transfer”, “testimonials”, “plain-people”, “fear” and “the bandwagon”.

Is the media using the “name calling” technique in telling the war story? When there is a continuing barrage of comments on the intelligence of the president, the health of the vice president, the competence of our congressional leadership, plus the same dialog in the humorous presentations of late night comics, attitudes reflecting public confidence in the abilities of those subjected to a litany of bad names is diminished.

Those glittering “generalities” are another propaganda devise used as the reverse of name-calling. This is using words to present something in a more favorable light. News reports that call war participants “freedom fighters”, “insurgents”, or “religious factions” and refusing to use the term “terrorist” are engaging in a glittering generality. It should be noted that the word “terrorist” is also one of those generalities used by the opposing faction.

The use of a “euphemism” is often employed to make one side’s position seem more palatable to the general public. By referring to groups instead of specific people that objective is reached. By calling things by a milder name such as never referring to a reinforced and heavily armed building as a fortified enemy emplacement, but a “mosque” the euphemism is employed.

The art of “transfer” is very important to those who practice propaganda. In the transfer device, symbols become very important. For example the American Flag or a picture of the President represent the United States. When mobs or rioters burn these, they become symbols used to stir emotions. The cartoons of Muhammad that caused such turmoil among Muslims are another example of “transfer”.

“Testimonials” are high on the list of propaganda tools. Every time there is a media report from a disgruntled former uniformed serviceman, it meets to propaganda objective. A formerly pro-war official who now takes the opposite point of view is another use of the testimonial tool.

Within the circles of those who practice this craft are what is called the “just plain people” technique. The media always reports on congressmen and women who cry out against “tax cuts for the rich”. Not mentioned in the reports is the fact these same people are also quite wealthy. When a political leader picks up a hammer and drives a nail into some new housing for the poor, or when they walk around in their shirt sleeves it is all for show and to let you know they are just plain folks.

Using the “fear” device should be right at the top of the propagandists list. The constant reports of IEDs, suicide bombers and body counts are all part of the attempt to create fear. And remember there have been millions of these reports.

Finally, the propagandist uses the “bandwagon” to support an agenda. Rallies, opinion polls, colors, music, crowds, masses of marchers are all used to present the illusion that “everybody is involved. These elements constantly used to pull those who were formerly not involved into the ideology of the group.

Those are the methods employed by the propagandist. Are those by media not supportive of the War on Terror using them? You be the judge.