As the world watches events unfold in the Middle East from the comfort of their living rooms, evidence is mounting that Hezbollah is using the media in a fashion that would make Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels extremely proud. Such an assertion has far reaching implications to be sure, as it points an accusatory finger at the behavior of the American press as well.
Supporting this contention is a paper written in 1948 by Yale psychology professor Leonard W. Doob entitled “Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda.” In it, Doob enunciated the famed Nazi’s nineteen-point plan for the effective use of the media to advance Germany’s goals.
Fifty-eight years later, a Haaretz article published Thursday outlined the power of the Hezbollah propaganda machine. So coordinated are these efforts that it is easy to imagine the terrorist organization using Goebbels’ principles as a virtual playbook while it molds events and news reports to impact international opinion. The article began:
If Hezbollah-run media are to be believed, then 35 Israel Defense Forces soldiers were killed or wounded in Aita Shaab, militants downed an Israeli helicopter and destroyed a house in which IDF soldiers were hiding, and IDF troops are always hit in the back because they are running away.
All these statements are baseless because - despite the impression Hezbollah has made for straight talk - credibility is not its strong suit.
To be sure, this is an Israeli news agency talking about its country’s enemy, and, like any publication, Haaretz has its biases. However, couldn’t this statement concerning a lack of credibility be made about any number of mainstream media outlets in America? For instance:
- The New York Times releasing highly classified espionage strategies
- The Washington Post revealing the existence of secret terrorist detention centers
- Newsweek’s Koran-flushing story
All three media outlets followed a number of Goebbels’ principles as described by Doob:
- Propagandist must have access to intelligence concerning events and public opinion
- Propaganda must affect the enemy's policy and action
- To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium
- Credibility alone must determine whether propaganda output should be true or false
- Propaganda to the home front must create an optimum anxiety level
- Propaganda must facilitate the displacement of aggression by specifying the targets for hatred
Obviously, the Times, the Post, and Newsweek all had access to intelligence to produce their respective reports. In all three instances, the articles in question evoked enough “anxiety” on the home front to produce a reaction from the American public as well as the international community that impacted the behavior of the Bush administration, which, of course, is the “target for hatred.” And, in the case of Newsweek, its perceived credibility afforded it the luxury of publishing an article with questionable accuracy.
According to Haaretz, Hezbollah is also using these tactics:
On Monday, Al-Manar television - the central component of Hezbollah's well-oiled media empire - reported that the organization had destroyed an Israeli ship off the coast of Tyre, which had some 50 sailors aboard - a charge the IDF dismissed completely.
Just how wild was Al-Manar’s claim?
It's not clear what incident, if any, the report was referring to, and the Arab world has been asking questions. Al-Arabiya television asked Mahmoud Kamati, a member of the Hezbollah political bureau, about the Hezbollah claim and he repeated that an Israeli ship had been hit, but said no pictures were broadcast because visibility was poor.
Does this ring any bells about other recent fallacious reports filed by the American media? How about a CBS “60 Minutes II” installment that included forged documents about a sitting president? Or, a high profile farce purported by the media in October 2004 concerning missing munitions at the al-Qa’qaa weapons facility in Iraq?
Apparently, America’s media are also willing to falsify information when they deem it necessary. And, much like the left-wing in America, the Lebanon-based terrorist group has vast control over news outlets in the Mideast:
Hezbollah's media empire - which includes the Al-Nur radio station and the Web site moqawama.net - has been an inseparable part of the psychological war. Sometimes, Hezbollah also transmits its messages through other media, such as the Iranian television station Al-Alam. The crown jewel of the empire, Al-Manar, is broadcast in Lebanon and throughout the Arab world, by satellite.
Of course, even the liberal domination of America’s press can’t equate the limitless impact of Hezbollah on Arab media:
At every stage of the fighting, Al-Manar was the station that broadcast Hezbollah's messages. Its role in the war began the morning of July 12, when Hezbollah abducted IDF soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser. Al-Manar was the first station to report the kidnapping, about two hours after it took place. Since the fighting began, the pronouncements of Al-Manar have had a major influence on other media.
"Al-Manar has had an enormous impact on all the Arab press, and in effect on the Hebrew press as well," said Amir Levy from Satlink Communications, which monitors Arab-language media.
As such, in light of the speculation that the residential building destroyed by the IDF in Qana, Lebanon, last week might have been staged by Hezbollah to foster anti-Israeli sympathy across the globe, it seems prudent for citizens of the world to understand what this terrorist organization is willing to do to win. This is important not just for Israel, but for western civilization as it engages in the war on terrorism.
Yet, there is clearly a larger issue here. As the American press have routinely demonstrated a proclivity to paint the most negative portrait of what is going on in Iraq – while normally ignoring or downplaying any and all successes – one has to wonder just how much the media are behaving like Hezbollah. Such were the sentiments of radio talk show host Michael Reagan when he referred to CNN as the “Terrorist News Network” in a July 27 op-ed.
With polls suggesting that the majority of Americans now believe it was wrong to go into Iraq regardless of how diametric this consensus was in March 2003, don’t the media share some responsibility in this dramatic change of heart by so many millions of people?
If the answer is “Yes,” have press representatives been truly impartial and honest disseminators of facts in the past 41 months? Or, have their anti-war proclivities clouded both their judgment of events in Iraq and, unfortunately, their depiction of them?
Maybe more important, if the latter is true, have the media interfered with America’s ability to prosecute the war in Iraq, as well as the war on terrorism? Michael Reagan certainly believes they have:
Thanks to the mainstream media’s constant carping about alleged U.S. or Israeli “brutality,” the hands of the American military in Iraq and the Israeli’s in Lebanon are tied up in all sorts of politically correct handicaps that prevent them from taking decisive action when that’s what is required to win.
If this is the case, and Haaretz is correct about the Hezbollah propaganda machine, what does this say about the role of the media during wartime? Should America expect her press outlets to voluntarily change their behavior when national security interests and logic appear to so dictate, or is legislation required to somehow ensure media compliance when the nation is under attack?
Scary questions to be sure, but certainly less frightening than the propaganda and classified intelligence information that have been presented as news by the drive-by media in recent years as the nation fights for its very survival.