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Global Communication, and Propaganda

Global Communication
and Propaganda
Richard C. Vincent (PhD, 1983, University of Massachusetts-Amherst)
is Professor of Communications at Indiana State University. His previous
position was at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He is author of five
books and monographs, and numerous articles and chapters. His research
has been an exploration of various aspects of communication equity or
freedom, including the construction of meanings and alternate meaning
in communication practices. Such work has centered on the eras
of International Development and Post-Development. He does political
economic analyses and the measure of applied communication practices.
Vincent is past president of the MacBride Round Table, an international
communication rights advocacy group, and is currently a participant
in the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). He was
a Fulbright Scholar at Dublin City University, Ireland, during
19941995. He has spoken in more than 20 different countries.
American traditions and the American ethic require us to be
truthful, but the most important reason is that truth is the best
propaganda and lies are the worst. To be persuasive we must be
believable; to be believable we must be credible; to be credible we
must be truthful. It is as simple as that.
For additional online resources, access the Global Media Monitor website that
accompanies this book on the Wadsworth Communication Cafe website
. . . the cosmopolitan turned on his heel, leaving his
at a loss to determine where exactly the fictitious character had
been dropped, and the real one, if any, resumed.
Propaganda is one of the oldest terms that we associate with global communica-
tion. It has been in use for centuries and affects communication both domestically
and abroad. With advances in communication technologies, propaganda has
become increasingly important, even dangerous, in this modern day.
Propaganda has to do with the use of communication channels, through
known persuasive or manipulative techniques, in an attempt to shape or alter
public opinion. In international communication spheres, propaganda is used in
three ways. First, government leaders, with intent to mold public opinion on
international issues that have bearing on a country and its people, often use its
techniques. The second use of propaganda is in attempts to influence matters
abroad, normally to reinforce a country’s public actions or policies, or perhaps to
change or reinforce perceptions of a country, its citizens, or its reputation among
individuals elsewhere in the world. Finally, nongovernmental entities may seek
access to global communication channels in order to sway public opinion or
affect public policy formation.
Sometimes the term propaganda is a bit deceiving. When we hear the word
propaganda, it is likely we think of dominant, devious world leaders who spread a
campaign of lies and intimidation, so they might manipulate or brainwash a
public. The horrors that were possible under the reigns of Stalin, Mussolini,
and Hitler may quickly come to mind. Yet, rarely would we think of our own
country and its leaders and institutions being equally cunning and scheming in
the management of its information campaigns. All nations conduct propaganda
campaigns, however, on both the international and domestic levels. We are all
affected, and it happens much more than we may realize. Highly persuasive
messages are designed to support public policies, nurture feelings of patriotism,
or just convince us that certain activities, situations, or products will serve our
best interests if engaged in, consumed, or embraced.
The term propaganda is not that simple to define, nor is it always easy to
identify. Activities traditionally referred to as propaganda today may further be
labeled as public relations efforts, image consulting, the news, and information
sharing by organizational spin doctors. Even advertising may be considered
propagandistic in nature. Simply put, the purpose of propaganda is to persuade
and convert by using intentionally selective and biased information. Examples
of propaganda use are widespread and include Napoleon’s use of the press,
paintings, and even his image on china in the early 19th century; efforts to
dissuade U.S. entry into World War II because of extensive business holdings
with Germany; false news items placed in the international press by both the
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CIA and KGB during the Cold War; dropping leaflets behind enemy lines
during military conflicts; use of a professional golf pro to ease relations between
the United States and South Africa during Apartheid; the hiring of a public
relations firm to help sway U.S. public opinion in favor of Kuwait during the
Persian Gulf War; and the very recent employment of high-profile news
commentators in the United States to promote a number of presidential initia-
tives without disclosure that public money had been used to build and dis-
seminate such persuasive campaigns. Most of these examples will be discussed
later in this chapter.
The origins of the term propaganda may be traced to the 17th century. At that
time, many people were leaving the church. A group of cardinals was given
control over all Catholic Church missions abroad (Congregatio de Propaganda Fide;
Society for the Propagation of Faith, the Jesuits) by Pope Gregory XV in 1622.
The purpose was to supply a unifying effort over the church’s foreign mission
activities and doctrine. A propagation of the faith was the result. To more fully
understand the period, also recall that it was during this time that Galileo was
convicted of heresy because of his thesis that the earth was round. The church
was trying to standardize its teachings and beliefs in light of the emerging
Reformation period. Within a century, the term propaganda was used in con-
demnation of clandestine organizations that attempted to undermine or influence
foreign affairs. It was not used to refer to communication media per se until the
20th century.
Propaganda is thought of negatively in that it involves a determination of
what degree of truth shall be shared. While the perpetuator of propaganda
believes the ends justify the means, the mere fact that someone makes a conscious
decision for others underlines the sensitive and potentially questionable nature of
propaganda. In the end, it may depend on your personal political, social, and
economic beliefs as to whether you find a given propaganda campaign acceptable
or not.
When compared to other countries, propaganda came rather late to the
United States. The prevailing feeling is that it emanated from Europe where
rulers were engaging in what appeared to be constant war. Propaganda was used
to recruit the large armies necessary for fighting in World War I, for example, and
United States government officials also became concerned about the potential
impact if some crazed European leader was to turn his trickery on Americans.
The newfound power of motion pictures and radio contributed to the notion
that the United States had to become more involved in this new war of words.
After World War I, communications researchers such as Walter Lippmann
and Harold Lasswell pioneered the study of propaganda techniques. They sug-
gested that manipulation was necessary for managing individuals in democratic
societies. Lippmann (1922) argued that leaders must master the knowledge of
consent creation so they might alter every political calculation and modify every
political persuasion. Lasswell went further in Propaganda Technique in the World
War (1927), detailing how exactly such manipulations might be implemented and
noting that public opinion control was essential to support demands for justice
and majority rule. He was essentially discussing propaganda’s use during wartime.
Later (1941), he clarified some of these thoughts. Lasswell summarizes that ‘‘[t]he
enemies of America will wage war for the capture of American opinion, and we
may safely predict that this campaign will proceed by other measures than frontal
attack’’ (p. 175). He therefore rationalized the use of propaganda in order to mold
public opinion for the support of a democratic society. Someone from a different
political persuasion, obviously, might well conclude just the opposite, pointing
to the inherent danger implicit in any propagandistic message. Consequently,
propaganda is a phenomenon of media discourse guidance or coercion that is not
always immediately recognized as harmful.
Propaganda is not easy to define. Some hold it must involve a specific individual
or group. Others contend it must comprise an activity that is secretive, sinister, or
deceitful. Doob (1948) concluded, ‘Propaganda can be called the attempt to
affect the personalities and to control behavior of individuals towards ends
considered unscientific or of doubtful value in a society at a particular time
(p. 390). Linebarger (1948), on the other hand, posits that ‘‘propaganda consists
of the planned use of any form of public, or mass-produced communication
designed to affect the minds and emotions of a given group for a specific purpose,
whether military, economic or political (p. 39).
As noted earlier, public opinion theorist Harold Lasswell (1941, p. 16) argued
that control of public opinion was essential to support the essence of ‘‘justice
and majority rule.’’ Lippmann (1927) echoes similar feelings when he notes that
‘. . . the public must be put in its place . . . so that each of us may live free of the
trampling and roar of a bewildered herd. Only the insider can make decisions,
not because he is inherently a better man but because he is so placed that he can
understand and can act. The outsider is necessarily ignorant, usually irrelevant,
and often meddlesome’’ (p. 47).
Someone from a different political persuasion or in a different time might
have very well concluded just the opposite, pointing to the inherent danger
implicit in any propagandistic message. Consequently, propaganda is a pheno-
menon of public discourse guidance or coercion that is not always immediately
recognized as harmful by everyone. Propaganda might be spread through movies,
comics, leaflets, broadcasting, or the Internet. It is found in everyday coverage of
events in the national media, conservative talk radio hosts, commonplace broad-
cast and print media advertising, and radical hate group publications.
Our definition of propaganda was noted at the outset of this chapter, but we
repeat it here within this broader discussion. Propaganda has to do with the use of
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communication channels, through known persuasive or manipulative techniques,
in an attempt to shape or alter public opinion.
In the United States today, the term propaganda has become unpopular in daily
rhetoric. Instead of propaganda, many prefer to use terms such as public relations
(PR), publicity, promotion, marketing, public affairs, and advertising. These are often
no more than modern-day synonyms. With a tendency to frame propaganda as
something more palatable and acceptable, a great deal of confusion has emerged
over what exactly comprises a propagandistic campaign. Further, the constant use
and misuse of the term has led to further confusion so that today the term has
diminished importance and impact.
It was the German philosopher Georg Hegel who was among the first to
demonstrate that even democratic societies might be controlled through hidden
persuaders and manipulators. In The Philosophy of Right (1821), he noted that
influence by commercial interests was a form of public manipulation.
During World War I, Edward L. Bernays, an entertainment industry pub-
licist and nephew of Sigmund Freud, did propaganda pamphlet development for
the Committee on Public Information. The group was lead by George Creel.
Bernays’ 1928 book, Propaganda, maintained that propaganda was in fact a useful
tool for democratic government. As he observed, it was only natural, after the
war ended, that intelligent persons should ask whether it was not possible to apply
a similar approach to the problems of peace.
Bernays is credited as the father of public relations. His earlier work, Crystal-
lizing Public Opinion (1923), set forth the philosophical foundations for public
relations. ‘If we understand the mechanisms and motives of the group mind, it is
now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without
their knowing it’’ (p. 83, as qtd. in Ewen, 1976). Today, public relations is a huge
industry that does more than $1 trillion in business annually and is estimated to
influence some 40 percent of everything that Americans see or read. Bernays’
greatest achievement is said to have been a campaign to convince American
women they could ‘‘emancipate’’ themselves by smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes,
a product he promoted as ‘‘torches of freedom.’’
Writing in the New Republic, however, John Dewey (1928) questioned under-
lying assumptions that propaganda could be camouflaged as news. ‘‘Paternalistic
care for the source of men’s beliefs, once generated by war, carries over to the
troubles of peace’’ (pp. 910). Dewey made a particularly strong case that the same
type of information manipulation was evident in news coverage found in post-
Revolutionary Russia. Similar sentiments were expressed by others of the day.
Interestingly, at the start of 2005, United States President George W. Bush
came under fire for excessive White House use of public relations firms to
promote administration agendas. The administration was reported to have spent
at least $88 million in fiscal 2004 alone. In early 2005, USA Today broke the story
that the Education Department paid conservative commentator Armstrong
Williams some $240,000 to promote president’s No Child Left Behind education
campaign. Shortly after, The Washington Post reported that syndicated columnist
Maggie Gallagher, received $41,500 for work in support of the White House
marriage initiative, although she claimed the government work did not influence
what she wrote in her columns (Kurtz, 2005). In this case, the White House
sought to redirect welfare funds to premarital counseling and abstinence educa-
tion. More recently, the Defense Department acknowledged it had almost 3,000
PR contracts, according to its response to a FOIA (Freedom of Information)
request (Eggerton, 2005). While no laws were broken, these incidents once again
fueled the debate over how appropriate such expenditures of taxpayer dollars
may be and whether such blatant use of propaganda techniques are appropriate
at this level. In fact, estimates show that public relations personnel activities are
very pervasive and may in fact account for 3040 percent of what we see, hear, or
read as ‘‘news.’ Clearly, the definition of propaganda often depends on the
perspective of the beholder.
These matters, of course, involve White House domestic issues. Nonetheless,
with indication of such widespread management of public opinion formation
in the domestic market, we are reminded of how fine a line exists between
propaganda and public relations efforts generally. Next we will see how the
United States has recast efforts to massage certain international relations activities
by recasting the notion of propaganda in more positive terms.
One area of government communication campaigns that raises questions today is
that referred to as public diplomacy. This term is closely related to propaganda and
originated as a more acceptable alternative for some. Essentially, public diplomacy
refers to so-called truthful propaganda. The key here is the communicator’s
intent in such a process. Public diplomacy is therefore nothing other than
public relations.
The term itself first appeared in the 1960s and was used by then-Dean Edward
Gullion of the Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
Writing in 1967, Gullion noted:
Even beyond the organ of the Government set up to handle information
about the United States and to explain our policies, what is important
today is the interaction of groups, peoples, and cultures beyond national
borders, influencing the way groups and peoples in other countries think
about foreign affairs, react to our policies, and affect the policies of their
respective governments. To connote this activity, we at the Fletcher
School tried to find a name. I would have liked to call it ‘‘propaganda.’
It seemed like the nearest thing in the pure interpretation of the
word to what we were doing. But ‘‘propaganda’’ has always had
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a pejorative connotation in this country. To describe the whole range of
communications, information, and propaganda, we hit upon ‘public
diplomacy. (p. 31)
While the term propaganda does not address the truthfulness of a matter or
position being espoused, public diplomacy, at least in principle, does. Since the
term propaganda has in recent years increased in terms of negative connotations,
this further fueled the move to embrace ‘public policy’’ in place of ‘‘propa-
ganda.’’ In fact, in 1948, driven by the concern that the U.S. public might fall
victim to propaganda produced by Washington, Congress passed the Smith-
Mundt Act, forbidding the domestic dissemination of its government’s materials
designed for audiences abroad.
Public diplomacy became very closely associated with activities emanating
from the United State Information Agency (USIA) since that organization used
the term when describing its mission. Its activities included production of
informational and educational films plus international interactions, including
academic exchanges such as the esteemed Fulbight scholarship program as
well as other academic and business community interactions. The late Senator
J. William Fulbright, after whom the scholarship program was named, often
defended the program as a vehicle for increasing mutual understanding between
the United States and other countries rather than as another act of propaganda. In
1999, the USIA was disbanded; however, the concept of public diplomacy
continued and is largely embraced in the United States Department of State.
The objectives of those involved in public affairs communication are to
inform and influence public opinion internationally. At times, this is referred to
as the effort to win the international publics hearts and minds. The Department
of State still uses publications, broadcasts, and cultural exchanges to cultivate
goodwill toward America generally, as well as its interests and policies. Public
diplomacy abroad also involves monitoring global opinion and engaging in
dialogues with international audiences. Essentially, these activities seek to influ-
ence key international audiences as an extension of traditional diplomacy in
order to advance U.S. interests and security and provide ‘‘the moral basis
for U.S. leadership in the world.’’ The Department of State continues
educational and
business exchanges previously orchestrated under the USIA.
Propaganda research originated near the end of the First World War and was
concerned with understanding the effects of mass media propaganda upon popu-
lations subjected to it. As such, propaganda research can be said to be the first
major body of work concerned with mass media/mass communications research.
In persuasion studies, the literature tends to be differentiated between one-
sided messages that offer arguments in favor of the perspective being promoted
and two-sided messages where both favorable and bipolar sides of an argument
are given. Many of the early studies were on films used in the American and
Japanese soldier studies conducted under the leadership of Hovland (Hovland,
Lumsdaine, & Sheffield, 1949).
Research found that communication campaigns could indeed have a positive
effect regarding general knowledge on the war. The research did not necess-
arily follow through in support of U.S. involvement and its justifications for
war, however.
Specifically, two-sided arguments were found to be more effective than one-
sided approaches when the communication recipients were initially opposed to
the viewpoint or if they would likely be exposed to counterarguments at a later
point in time. If the subject already held a point of view, and that opinion was
positive, one-sided approaches worked best as reinforcement to the held position.
One important finding was that prolonged and repeated exposure to specific
forms of propaganda might have a marked effect on basic core values held by
subjects. This notion was further advanced by Gerbner’s (1976a) enculturation
research many years later.
Another conclusion drawn by researchers is that when subjects possessed
greater knowledge on a topic, the one-sided and two-sided approaches were both
less effective in enacting attitude change. Regarding education levels, those with
lower education were most influenced by one-sided messages, whereas two-sided
campaigns were most efficient with the better educated.
Regarding the advertising literature, we find that when subjects possess
greater knowledge on a topic, both the one-sided and two-sided approaches
are less effective in producing attitude change. However, if a subject was already
the user of a competing brand, a two-sided ad was still effective, particularly
when repeated a number of times. Overall, greater change could be expected
with either argumentative approach with smaller everyday purchases as opposed
to more expensive occasional buys.
Several later propaganda theories should also be mentioned here. One is
Burlo’s Hypodermic needle theory that is additionally at times referred to, after
Schramm (1982), as the Silver Bullet Model. This theory espouses the notion that
the mass media are so powerful that they can inject messages into an audience
who then fall down as if hit by a bullet. Bullet theories therefore argue that
subjects cannot resist the mass mediated manipulation because of its innate appeal.
In essence, it is an acknowledgement that media messages can produce pheno-
menal change and essentially get us to do whatever they wish. Because of its
fatalistic view, media theorists have never widely embraced this as a theory per se,
and it has been relegated more or less to the level of folk belief. Nonetheless,
often when an unusually grotesque crime occurs, politicians and the general
public will center debate on the excessive sex and violence found in the mass
media. Appeals for greater control of media and its output then typically ensue.
Folk theory or not, this serves as a good example of how individuals are
motivated by a truly stunning media event.
This research often suggests that media has a powerful and direct effect on
the public. The magic bullet or hypodermic needle theory is a fairly basic
stimulus-response approach to media influence. Because of its latent assumptions
and subsequent fears that audiences were helpless when faced with media
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campaigns, this audience was at the mercy of the mass media. Later theories
tended to focus directly on individuals such as opinion leaders, who reinforced
the status quo.
Social context became significant in work by Klapper (1960). He proposed a
model of so-called limited effects where social relationships proved more influ-
ential than direct psychological influences. According to Klapper, this constituted
the environment in which an individual lives as well as relationships to the groups
to which she or he belongs. In such a context, attention is directed to items the
individual finds interesting, and this then leads to reinterpretations of messages
vis-a`-vis one’s held attitudes, experiences, and knowledge.
Since 1967, George Gerbner has been involved in research on the impact of
media, particularly the long-term effects of television violence. His Cultural
Indicators project (1976a), concerned with tracing ways the mass media depicts
the U.S. cultural environment, has been a study of more than 3,000 television
programs and 35,000 characters. His research has demonstrated that individuals
grow up with an unprecedented diet of violence that has severe consequences.
This ‘mean world syndrome as he calls it, reinforces the worst fears and
apprehensions and paranoia of people. Gerbner concludes that those who con-
sume greater levels of television tend to believe the violence portrayed on
television is normal and that it is a good and effective way to solve problems.
He further believes that heavy exposure to television desensitizes viewers, and
they lose the ability to understand the consequence of violence, as well as the
ability to empathize, to resist, and to protest its occurrences. Finally, Gerbner
argues that the result of heavy television viewing is a pervasive sense of insecurity
and vulnerability that results in individuals who are more likely to be afraid to go
out on the street in their communities, especially at night. They fear strangers
and meeting other people and lose the ability to be kind to strangers.
Gerbner’s research offers a twist on the traditional propaganda perspective.
Propaganda customarily was attributed to state players or at least those working
for government entities. With Gerbner, we have a media industry, part of the
much larger transnational industry structure, crafting its messages for the maxi-
mization of profits and industry control. Gerbner argues that transnationalism or
big business is extremely powerful and spreads its clout internationally by
attempting to homogenize culture through its Western dominated film and
television programming. More recently, Gerbner has been critical of both sex
and violence in our media.
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman (1988) make comparable arguments
but, instead of sex and violence, argue that certain media entities ‘propagandize
on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them’’ (p. xi).
They refer to the elite media, arguing that the other outlets simply follow their
lead. The entire process where media accepts the government framework and
supports its policies is one they call ‘‘media subservience.’’
Here and elsewhere (Chomsky, 1994; Herman & Chomsky, 1988), Chomsky
argues that U.S. media’s ultimate purpose is to divert public attention away from
important political issues. This is done through media programming that places a
high priority on promoting essentially mindless entertainment. Chomsky thus
acknowledges an even greater role of the political-military-economic complex,
suggesting its real goal is to marginalize the citizenry in national dialogues and
decision making. He further fuels this argument by going back to positions
expressed by some of the country’s founding fathers: John Jay, for one. Uncon-
scious participation in support of the system may involve activities by stake-
holders who are just trying to preserve the institution that they work in and
embrace. This is typical behavior in an institution or organization. Conscious
participation involves more direct forms of collusion between industry and
governance. Chomsky considers U.S. media responsible at various levels, includ-
ing what he considers to be the press’s poor record when covering world issues.
When Chomsky discusses media’s control of issues as well as its news flow
record, he incorporates ideas commonly associated with both the gatekeeping
theory of news (McCombs & Shaw, 1972) and agenda setting (White, 1950).
Gatekeeping refers to decisions concerning which stories are covered by the
media, which are not, and ultimately who makes the decisions for inclusion or
exclusion. It acknowledges that news organizations constantly filter news events
and determine which stories are appropriate for their given audiences. Agenda
setting acknowledges that issues become a part of the public agenda and that their
importance is essentially ranked when covered by the media as to perceived
importance. The top story in a news broadcast or front page positioning, as
indicated by being placed above the fold or at top of the program, are ways the
media assigns importance. In other words, agenda setting tells us what we as
viewers should ‘‘think about.’’ Issue awareness is only possible, obviously, when
issues are covered, and this loops matters back to the realization that gatekeeping
is a pervasive force of power brokering by the news industry.
Gerbner and Chomsky each embrace a modified version of the hypodermic
model or magic bullet theory. Nonetheless, unlike the earlier research, both
Gerbner and Chomsky argue that such effects may be combated through greater
awareness and public activism. Under such perspective, the media industry or the
larger political-military-economic complex is only effective when individuals fail
to be aware of the system and attempt to do nothing about it. Progressivism is the
key to combating potential effects as citizens take back their society through
proactive behavior. This research generally embodies the principles of civil
society that relate to the writings of Locke (1728), Rousseau (1755, 1985), and
Mill (1860, 1862), as well as more contemporary thoughts on social empower-
ment and communication by Habermas (1970), Foucault (1988), and Giddens
(1981, 1984).
In support of a nation’s wartime effort, the use of propaganda was fairly simple.
According to Lasswell (1927, reprint 1938), propaganda was important to
mobilize hatred of the enemy; (2) preserve friendship of allies; (3) procure
the cooperation of neutral nations, if possible; and (4) demoralize the enemy. In
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Propaganda Technique in the World War (1927), Lasswell closely analyzed propa-
ganda campaigns used by Central and Allied powers during the First World War.
The blatant use of propaganda had become widely practiced by World War II,
with many countries, including Germany, Japan, Great Britain, the United States,
and Australia, producing extremely effective documentary films promoting
national agendas.
The highly nationalistic and persuasive documentaries and newsreels by
German filmmakers, like Die Deutsche Wochenscha (The German Weekly Newsreel),
the anti-Semitic Der Ewige Jude (Eternal Jew) (1940) directed by Fritz Hippler, the
Marsch zum Fuhrer (March with the Fuhrer) (1938, 1940) on the Hitler Youth
movement, and Fuehrer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt (The Fuehrer Gives a City to the
Jews) (1944), that attempted to portray Jews as well-treated in German concen-
tration camps, are examples of the Nazi propaganda effort.
One of the most frightening of these films was Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph des
Willens (Triumph of the Will) (1934), the official record of the Nuremberg Party
Rally of 1934, as well as her much more subtle Olympia: The Festival of Beauty
(19361938), a very artistic portrait of the Berlin Olympics. Whether her films
were of Nazi Rallies or the Berlin Olympiad, she always provided skillfully
crafted films glorifying Hitler and Germany.
In response, some of the United States’ best film directors, such as Frank Capra,
John Huston, John Ford, William Wyler, John Sturges, Walt Disney, Chuck Jones,
Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss), and others, joined the war effort for their country.
Capras Why we Fight series (19431945) were poignant films that helped spread
propaganda for the allied effort. Great Britain and others also produced highly
effective documentaries and entertainment films during the period.
Among the titles found in United Statesproduced films of the period were
Bugs Bunny in You’re a Sap, Mr. Jap (1942) and Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips (1944).
Other titles included Daffy the Commando (1943) and Fifth Column Mouse (1943),
all by Warner Brothers’ Chuck Jones. Walt Disney’s Donald Gets Drafted (1942),
Private Pluto (1943), and Commando Duck (1944) are other titles produced for
the war. Among the live action films were Japanese Relocation (1943), the official
U.S. documentary that played down the internment of some 110,000 Japanese,
mostly U.S. citizens; and Otto Brower and John Ford’s Sex Hygiene (1942) and
Pickup (1944), titles that warned military personnel about the dangers of vene-
real diseases.
These titles were often produced for screening to U.S. troops. Most soldiers
were not well versed on public affairs and were therefore perceived to be in need
of attitude and motivation change. Hence, a film such as Jap Zero (1943), starring
Ronald Reagan, proved very popular and effective. The films were also directed
to the general public, and these addressed the need to accept sacrifices of
consumer goods such as nylons and tires, when raw materials were needed for
the war machine. Furthermore, civilians, particularly women, were encouraged
to join the war effort. One cartoon had Bugs Bunny singing in Any Bonds Today?
(1942), and live-action dramas included You, John Jones! (1944) that starred James
Cagney, Ann Sothern, and Margaret O’Brien in a promotion for homefront
patriotism and duty. Many other Hollywood stars, such as Lucille Ball, Henry
Ford, George Reeves, Lionel Barrymore, Walter Brennan, Katharine Hepburn,
Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Alan Ladd, Barbara Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogart, and
track star Jesse Owens, were recruited for the campaign. World War II marked a
true sophistication in psychological warfare.
The Second World War was the last time we saw such a strong public
consensus in the United States for a national war effort. Researchers such as Carl
Hovland’s Yale University team (Hovland, Janis, & Kelley, 1953) spent vast time
and energy studying the mass media campaign, particularly as directed to soldiers.
The research found marked gains in transmission of factual material, although a
lesser impact on attitudinal and motivational levels. The focus of the research
activities was largely based on interests in the medium’s power of mass persuasion
rather than any considerations for larger audience ramifications.
The year 1937 saw the creation of the Institute for Propaganda, performing
analysis headed by Edward Filence and designed to educate Americans about
propaganda techniques, particularly the dangers and pervasiveness of political
propaganda. While the Institute released a series of books, The Fine Art of
Propaganda, edited by Alfred McClung Lee and Elizabeth Briant Lee (1939),
was perhaps most influential. While there are many techniques of propaganda,
the book identified seven frequently found devices, or ‘‘tricks of the trade.
These seven common ‘devices’’ were so artfully articulated that they are taught
in schools and used in communication textbooks to this day. The seven instru-
ments in the ‘‘ABCs of propaganda analyses are name calling, glittering generality,
transfer, testimonial, plain folks, card staking, and the band wagon effect. We review
these seven concepts here.
Name Calling
Name calling involves the use of labels to project an idea in a favorable or
unfavorable light. The latter is likely the scenario most recognize, however. Its
purpose is also to discourage individuals from examining substantive evidence on
an issue.
One frequent use of name calling comes when stereotyping is employed to
paint a negative image of the opposition or enemy. The intent may be to suggest
major political or ideological differences, real or imagined. Name calling employs
emotional reactions and encourages the public to draw hasty conclusions with
only a cursory examination of issues.
Individuals, ethnicities, and national groups have often been disparagingly
labeled. In modern society, many examples abound. During the Cold War,
Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an ‘Evil Empire. In the course of
recent Gulf Wars, President Bush labeled Saddam Hussein another Hitler, and
Hussein painted the United States as the ‘Great Satan. Several countries were
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named as members of the ‘‘Axis of Evil. In other conflicts, the enemy has been
called ‘‘Commie,’’ Gooks,’ ‘‘subversive,’’ ‘Pinko,’’ and ‘‘Red.’Today the
opposition are often labeled ‘‘terrorists. In fact, when launching the Crusades in
1095, Pope Urban II is said to have referred to the Muslin nation as despised, an
‘accursed race, ‘‘unclean nations, and one people that worship demons (Sardar &
Davies, 2002, p. 147). Whether in conventional or terrorist war, or simply a war of
words, painting the opposition in a derogatory manner provides vast power.
In 1951, the new democratically elected president Arbenz of Guatemala
announced a program for land reform by returning large tracts to the people.
One large landholder was the U.S.-owned United Fruit Company (UFA)
(known as United Brands since 1975) that stood to lose a portion of land it
never developed. This land was valued at $525,000 in its own tax statements, but
UFA insisted it be paid $16 million. UFA flooded media with their version of the
facts and data and began circulating a report that Guatemalan activities were
‘‘Moscow-directed. UFA also arranged for trips for U.S. journalists and lobbied
members of Congress. Using UFA vessels and facilities, the CIA was sent to
overthrow the legitimately elected government. A violent civil war ensued, and
the situation remains problematic to the present day, claiming more than 100,000
lives since it began. Furthermore, right-winged repression continues, along with
gross imbalances in national wealth.
Recently we saw another orchestration of public opinion. This time it came
in the days just prior to the U.S.-led Allied involvement during the First Persian
Gulf War. Soon after Iraq invaded Kuwait, the PR firm Hill & Knowlton was
hired, with funding almost exclusively coming from the Kuwaiti government.
The agency was charged with helping to improve Kuwait’s image in the United
States. An existing image at the time was that young Kuwaitis had fled to Cairo
and were dancing away in its discos (Kunczik, 1997). The firm organized a
variety of media interviews and other information programs to counter the
image of a mass exodus (Trento, 1992). The most controversial story, though,
involved a report that Iraqi soldiers were going into Kuwaiti hospitals and
throwing babies onto the floors to die as they took the incubators back to
Baghdad. President George H. W. Bush even referenced this allegation in a
speech. Hill & Knowlton orchestrated testimony of an alleged 15-year-old
Kuwaiti girl, Nayirah, relaying the incidents. Testimony took place before an
October 1990 U.S. Congressional Human Right’s Caucus hearing, and media,
including ABC’s Nightline, were persuaded to run the story. In retrospect, it was
discovered that Congress and audiences were never told that the girl, who said
she volunteered at al-Addan hospital and witnessed the atrocities, was in fact
the Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter and was living in Washington at the time of
the alleged incidents. Because Nayirah’s surname was withheld, supposedly to
protect her family back in Kuwait, Nayirah’s whereabouts were never ques-
tioned and collaboration was not sought. In defense of the interview, Hill &
Knowlton responded that the testimony was true in substance and that the
use of Nayirah as a witness was stylistic in nature. The firm Hill & Knowlton
had been previously associated with defending human rights records in Turkey
and Indonesia.
As noted, the name-calling spin may be positive or negative. Yitzhak Shamir
was a guerrilla fighter against the British and was dubbed a Freedom Fighter in
Israel. He later became Israeli Prime Minister. Likewise, Northern Ireland’s
Gerry Adams was labeled a terrorist by the British and Unionists but later was
named leader of the Republican arm party, Sinn Fe´in, and he became a lead
negotiator in Ulster peace talks. Throughout history, name calling has often been
used as a one-sided attempt to dismiss the opposition on the basis of emotionally
laden but logically unsound arguments.
Glittering Generality
The tendency to associate an issue or image with a noble or virtuous term is
known as a glittering generality.
This use of vague terms, typically with high moral connotations, is the
key to the glittering generality. The device is intended to arouse both faith
and respect in listeners or readers. The exact meanings of these glittering
terms as presented are literally impossible to define, hence the vagueness of
the generalities.
When former President George H. W. Bush announced his ‘‘new world
order,’’ he was using a glittering generality. The difficulty was that there was
never great clarity of exactly what the world order was. John Steinbruner (1991)
likened the Bush-inspired new world order to Voltaire’s sarcastic remarks on the
‘‘Holy Roman Empire,’’ ‘neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire’’ (p. 20). The
best Bush could do was the following:
What is at stake . . . is a big ideaa new world order, where diverse
nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal
aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule
of law. Such is a world worthy of our struggle, and worthy of our
children’s future . . .
The world can therefore seize this opportunity to fulfill the
long-held promise of a new world orderwhere brutality will go
unrewarded, and aggression will meet collective resistance. (George
H. W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 29, 1991)
The difficulty is that his new world order evolved into nothing more than a
euphemism for political supremacy, where issues of democracy and human rights
have gone largely ignored. In recent years, the make-up of a new world order
appears to have meant that certain nations and people were at the top,
while a system of second-class societies and economies was still perpetuated.
The so-called ‘‘new world order’’ advocated by the president and promoted by
late-20th-century United States, Western, and even United Nations policies failed
to provide many answers that were initially expected of the staggering label. In
the postCold War era, a new world order is essentially a world system largely
led by the one remaining superpower.
The terms freedom and democracy are also examples of this propaganda
approach and in fact are cited in the same Bush address.
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For two centuries, America has served the world as an inspiring example
of freedom and democracy. For generations, America has led
the struggle to preserve and extend the blessings of liberty. And today,
in a rapidly changing world, American leadership is indispensable.
Americans know that leadership brings burdens, and requires sacrifice.
(George H. W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 29, 1991)
As has been noted elsewhere, one person’s freedom may very well be
another person’s idea of slavery. Consider that even in the United States, freedom
is not always the same. The likelihood of criminal imprisonment and harsher
penal sentences is much greater for the lower classes, as the more affluent can
effective legal defenses. We also see a decline of personal freedoms in
the post-
9/11 United States, particularly for those of Arab descent. In the post-
environment, many were glad to sacrifice long-held human and personal
in favor of promises for greater security and safety. The question remains,
however, as to whether the risks were ever real or were simply manufactured
rhetorically by political leaders seeking other objectives
Robert Gates, Deputy National Security Advisor during the First Gulf War,
has confirmed that when it was time to end that short battle and announce a
cease-fire, General Schwarzkopf requested the decision to end the war be
extended several hours in order to allow for the label, the ‘‘hundred-hour
war.’’ The reported purpose was so that it might play better on American
television. Furthermore, intentional or not, Israel launched a memorable military
activity in 1967 that is labeled the ‘‘Six Day War’’ after increasing terrorist attacks
by Syria over the Golan Heights and the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and
Lebanon were poised at Israel’s borders, directing their sights on Sinai. While the
Israeli victory was quite a surprise to the world community and thus holds
meaning, the brief encounter in Iraq has seemingly much less meaning, given
the grossly outmatched opposition encountered by the United States.
Finally, Gerbner (1996, 2000) has pointed out that certain communication
industry terms, such as broadband, or the ClintonGore campaign promoting the
construction of an information superhighway, are in themselves all meaningless
terms. The debate around them, argues Gerbner, essentially hides the content
standardization campaign that industry or government leaders wish to assert over
the public’s communication channels.
We would add the most unfortunate term, collateral-damage, that came out of
the Vietnam War and has the effect of playing down, even eradicating, the
terrible notion that innocent civilians are injured and killed as a result of being
in the general area of an attack or because our weapons systems and ‘‘smart
bombs’’ are not as sophisticated as we may pretend. The use of collateral damage is
at times likely used as a way of circumventing issues of misdirected attacks where
weapons totally miss their intended mark.
Both of the Gerbner-cited terms, broadband and information super highway, plus
smart bombs and collateral damage, are examples of glittering generalities. Such
generalities tend to be accepted placebos by the communicators, the media,
and the audience. These short yet captivating phrases reduce matters to systematic
maneuvers, thus creating a level of comfort and audience acceptance of informa-
tion. They can be a powerful tool by maintaining a semblance of valid informa-
tion flow.
These generalities present information with minimal details camouflaging
contentious ideas and possibly distorting facts. These may be used too by people
who seek to muzzle freedoms and democratic governance.
Image Transfer
When one takes the power, respect, or good reputation bestowed on an existing
entity or concept, and then attempts to share these positive qualities through
association with a product, individual/group, or position/program, the perpe-
trator is hoping to benefit through the phenomenon known as image transfer.
In transference, the use of images is the key. The cross seen in Christian
churches is omnipresent and immediately symbolizes Christianity along with the
many teachings and the power of the church. The use of the cartoon character
Uncle Sam represents a consensus of public opinion by Americans. Both symbols
stir emotions. Immediately one thinks of a complexity of feelings we have with
respect to church or nation.
One example of transference involved an internationally renowned profes-
sional golfer and a heart surgeon. During the 1970s, South African leaders wished
to boost their international image and to combat effects of apartheid. Several
public relations firms were employed for the task. One result was that
Dr. Christian Barnard was used as a go-between in a labor dispute between
South Africa and the American AFL-CIO. Barnard argued for compassion, and
his presence is attributed as having led to a solution to the problem via new South
African business opportunities. And, during the same period, golfer Gary Player
was asked to write letters to U.S. corporate executives concerning declining
interest in continued investments in South Africa. Player wrote to Bank of
America, McDonnell Douglas, and Union Carbide offering corporate officers a
week with him in South Africa. The notion of playing golf with Player was
attractive. Player, in turn, was compensated for the time he wasn’t on the pro golf
tour. While both Barnard and Player were critical of apartheid, they allowed
themselves to be used in their country’s propaganda campaign.
Another area where transference often takes place is in advertising. At the
global level, product country of origin often affects image. This is the case with
U.S. cultural products today. For motion pictures, television programs, rock
music, and fashion, American-style has become somewhat of a fascination among
young people worldwide and dominates many cultural and commercial trends.
We saw criticism against the United States, however, as cultural hegemony
was being threatened by this global spread of culture. The sheer dominance and
glamour associated with U.S. images are often too much to handle as countries
see their national traditions falling prey. Countries such as Egypt had long fought
the entry of MTV into their marketplace but acquiesced in an attempt to avoid
isolationism. Yet, it is the fear of encroachment by U.S. culture that is one of the
principal reasons for Middle Eastern hatred of the West today.
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Concern about transborder data flow is not limited to Arab countries, of
course. The French have long fought to keep the English language out of their
culture by banning many English words. Cookie was one of those words banned.
Frankly, the term chocolate chip biscuit does not convey the same image for many,
even though this was the required term in France when a specialty bakeshop was
to be established in Paris over a decade ago.
This is one reason that French farmers have targeted McDonald’s restaurants
when they protested U.S. trade policies in recent years. The protesters feared
Western economic policies would jeopardize their agrarian livelihoods.
Historically, U.S. products such as Coca-Cola, IBM computers, and Ford
cars have been quite successful in Japan. Throughout the world, English has
become the dominant business language and controls some 6580 percent of the
world’s Internet content. We can see the anger levied toward largely American,
almost always Western, transnational corporations and in the Western-led Inter-
national Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank protests staged in Mexico,
Switzerland, Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Taiwan, South Korea,
Norway, and the Czech Republic, and at the World Trade Organization (WTO)
meeting in Seattle in late 1999. The corporate symbols of these huge transna-
tionals have been transformed into cultural icons and represent more than just the
commercial products they were originally designed to promote. They represent
the Occident or West, and everything that is good or bad about it. In some ways,
corporate image building was so good and so effective that these corporate
symbols now represent something far beyond the original intent. Consequently,
image transfer may not always serve the purposes of the marketer. While good
reputation is the goal of marketers and public relations pundits, unintended
negative associations may evolve almost by accident.
A testimonial is when a distinguished or recognized but highly unpopular person is
used to cast a product, individual/group, or position/program in either a positive
or negative light.
On March 14, 2002, accompanied by U2 rock musician Bono, President
George W. Bush relied on success testimonials to support his development aid
campaign in a speech delivered to the Inter-American Development Bank. Bush
cited recent economic development successes in Mozambique, Uganda, and
Bangladesh to support his plan to provide increased relief efforts to countries
that embraced his standards of just rule, investing in people, and encouraging
economic freedom. He went on to acknowledge that ‘successful development
also requires citizens who are literate, who are healthy, and prepared, and able to
work.’’ He also promised that the United States would increase development
assistance by $5 billion in its new Millennium Challenge Account. In this global
development and self-investment address, Bush cited data he says demonstrates
that a dollar of foreign aid attracts two dollars of private investment. While
embracing free-market objectives that some have challenged as not universally
appropriate, the speech was an inspiring one that showed new levels of
international concern from the U.S. administration. The argument certainly
acquired greater power through the use of Bono’s testimonial.
In another incident, this time a CNN interview with George H. W. Bush on
relations with the Soviets following the fall of the Berlin Wall, the senior Bush
acknowledged that the administration had
. . . tried hard to co-operate . . . to understand the pressures
on Gorbachev and not stick our fingers in Gorbachev’s eye . . . Who
knows how they would have had to react. And we didn’t do that.
And there were a lot of examples where we tried to understand his
position, tried to be restrained, probably as good an example was the
Baltic states we never recognized in the U.S., the Soviet occupation or
the takeover of the Baltic states . . . this wasn’t that all problems weren’t
behind us, and surely they weren’t all behind us in terms of arms control
and exactly how we negotiated cuts in conventional forces, nuclear wet
forces. But having said all that I think it was a breakthrough.
Hence, the administration’s foreign policy approach with the Soviets is spun quite
favorably and the White House appears to have been very wise in retrospect.
Going back to U2 and Bono, recently the controversial Department of Defense
and Iraq War architect, Paul Wolfowitz, became the White House nominee for
World Bank president. Once again, Bono was sought for endorsement to defuse
some criticism of the candidate. Not only was the earlier Bush affiliation with Bono
an example of the use of image transfer, as noted earlier, but it also enters into the
realm of testimonial by association. In Wolfowitzs case, the Americans were trying
to defuse criticisms against the nominee, particularly those emanating from Europe.
Worldwide, we often see images of politicians and government officials
visiting sites of battle or memorials to war victims. U.S. officials, including the
president, sometimes made surprise visits to troops in Iraq. Likewise, British
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited the Falklands Islands in January 1983,
in the aftermath of that war. For Thatcher, the 1982 war attributed to a dramatic
change in her political image, leading to a landslide victory in the 1983 elections
and eight additional years in office. When Prince Charles visited the region in
March 1999, he was photographed placing a wreath at the 2nd Parachute
Regiment memorial in Goose Green, the East Falklands. Besides serving official
duties expected of public office holders, officials also benefit through association
with wartime events and memories, particularly the gallantry and sacrifice that
others gave in support of a national cause.
To further exemplify testimonial usage, we turn to advertising, where
celebrity affiliations may be arranged. Business activities benefit from arranged
ties with personalities, events, or venues. In 1996, the first television commercial
shot in outer space featured Pepsi in the MIR space station. In 2000, a space
launch featured the new Pizza Hut logo. Furthermore, popular music is often
used as background narrative for broadcast commercials. As promotions company
Entertainment Marketing Communications International (EMCI) (2005) advises:
‘‘Stand next to a celebrity, event or lifestyle property to help accomplish corpo-
rate or brand marketing objectives.’’
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As we so often see, the use of personal experience, whether resulting in
success or failure, is often used to lend credibility in campaigns.
Plain Folks
The use of plain folks comes in when a communicator wishes to convince others
that they or their ideas are good or valid since they are similar to everyone else,
just everyday ordinary people.
In recent U.S. presidential elections, various candidates have run on the
‘‘regular guy’’ or ‘plain folk image. John Kerry was often labeled an elite in his
election bid against George W. Bush. It is somewhat ironic when the highest
elected office in the land resorts to bashing of opponents who are painted as too
well educated or having too high a business or political stature.
Jimmy Carter, the former peanut farmer, often wore blue jeans in the Oval
Office. He also ran as a Washington outsider, undamaged by the Watergate
scandal, further reinforcing his everyman appeal. Yet Carter’s outsider position
also presented problems for him once he was in office. This happened despite his
many accomplishments, particularly on the international front. It was during the
Clinton candidacy that the regular folk image was truly manipulated. Bill Clintons
penchant for cheeseburgers, Big Macs, and French fries was a positive for him
when it came to public-image building. Even George W. Bush was quite
successful with his bus trips into the American heartland, stopping to eat pancake
breakfasts and chatting with the electorate, although admission to the latter events
was normally controlled and participants hand-picked. Comparable examples are
found in other countries.
As Bush once pronounced, ‘I am not an imperial president.’’ Yet political
leaders with regular-guy images must still demonstrate the ability to achieve,
particularly in the international domain. This sometimes produces problems for
elected officials.
This regular-guy approach may also work when it comes to crafting a
positive image with a country’s military personnel stationed abroad. Such was
the case for recent leaders such as Ronald Reagan and the two Bush presidents.
The junior Bush used the technique when he arranged his ‘Mission Accom-
plished’’ photo-op by landing in a Navy S-3B Viking jet on the aircraft carrier
USS Lincoln as it returned from Iraqi duty on May 1, 2003. The image sought
was that of a commander in chief fully in control. When Mike Dukakis attempted
a photo-op riding in an Army tank in 1988, during his campaign against the senior
Bush, the similar attempt backfired. John Kerry also was not very successful when
he was seen wearing a camouflage jacket and carrying a 12-gauge shotgun while
goose hunting during his 2004 Ohio campaign. Vice President Dick Cheney
quipped that the Second Amendment (right to bear arms) was more than just a
photo opportunity. The regular-guy approach then does not always give a
distinct advantage.
In Britain, Prince Andrew served as a helicopter pilot aboard the HMS
Invincible during the 1982 Falklands War. Pictures of him helped fuel the image
of the British royal family and their involvement in the country’s military affairs,
just as did photos of Prince Charles training as a Royal Navy pilot in September
1971, where he followed in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and both
great-grandfathers. Additionally, images of Fidel Castro, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak
Shamir, Gerry Adams, and others as freedom fighters earlier in their careers
certainly helped fuel political aspirations years later.
Despite the success of George W. Bush as a regular-guy at home, his
difficulty with Europe’s leaders may in part be a result of low image credibility.
We saw such fallout in October 2004 when citizens of 8 out of 10 nations (Russia
and Israel not included) were reported to prefer Kerry to Bush, according to a
poll initiated by Canada’s Quebec-based La Presse newspaper (Travis, 2004).
Even Prime Minister Tony Blair’s strong support for Bush did not translate into
an endorsement of the U.S. leader in Great Britain. This was the case despite the
more than $1 billion annually that the administration was spending to improve its
international image, according to a September 14, 2003 article in USA Today
(Weiser, 2003). A Globescan-PIPA poll conducted at the University of Maryland
found that international citizens with higher education and income levels felt
more negatively about Bush and U.S. influence in general in late 2004 (Kull &
Miller, 2004; BBC, 2005). Bush’s strong moral character honed at home was not
as effective on the international stage, where many expressed displeasure with his
poor stance on the environment and military coalition building.
Card Staking
Card stacking occurs when a presentation uses a selection of facts and distortions,
elucidations and confusions, and both logical and illogical statements. Put another
way, the propagandist stacks cards against the truth. It is also the most difficult to
detect, for not all information has been provided, through distortion or omission,
for the audience to make an informed decision.
The ‘Big Lie’’ was a label used to characterize disinformation campaigns in
Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler was known to espouse this approach when attribut-
ing Germany’s First World War loss to Jewish influence on the media:
From time immemorial, however, the Jews have known better than any
others how falsehood and calumny can be exploited. Is not their very
existence founded on one great lie, namely, that they are a religious
community, whereas in reality they are a race? (Mein Kampf, 1923,
1972, p. 134)
Statements such as this were used to generate hatred of Jews that later fed support
of genocide. Plus, while never verified, it was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister
of propaganda, who has been credited with having said that if a lie is repeated
enough times, it would become widely accepted as truth.
A more contemporary case also involves the activities of Germany in World
War II, this time as promoted by British writer David Irving. Irving considers
himself a historian, and he challenges the very existence of a Holocaust (Libstadt,
1993; Irving v. Penguin Books, 1996; Charny, 2001). He concludes that it is
nothing more than ‘‘an ill-fitting legend.’’ While Irving acknowledges that many
C H A P TER 1 1
Jews died, he claims they were not killed in gas chambers under direct orders
from Hitler. Irving contends the killings were no different than any other
atrocious deed we would find in war. Deborah Lipstadt (1993) counters that while
familiar with historical evidence, Irving bends it until it conforms with his ideolo-
gical leanings and political agenda (p. 47). Richard Evans (2002), Cambridge
professor of modern history, goes on to add that Irving’s work is fraught with
deep duplicity in treatment of historical sources and that his misuse of these
sources results in mistakes that appear to be calculated and deliberate.
In recent years, we have seen similar distortions of truth in U.S. foreign
policy issues. In one such case, the Bush administration asked news networks to
refrain from playing tapes from Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden yet could not
direct evidence as to why it would be harmful. Instead the
justifications were
vague and amounted to card stacking, as we see in the
following briefing by Condoleezza Rice:
[L]et me just say that I think the networks have been very responsible
in the way that they have dealt with thismy message to them was that
it’s not up to me to judge news value of something like this, but it is
to say that there’s a national security concern about an unedited, 15- or
20-minute spew of anti-American hatred that ends in a call to go out
and kill Americans. And I think that that was fully understood. We are
still concerned about whether there might be some signaling in here,
but I don’t have anything more for you on that yet. (October 15, 2001)
This use of suppression of opposing points of view clearly falls under the heading
of card stacking. Furthermore, consider that the media were regularly provided
with information on weapons of mass destruction (WMD), the ‘‘Axis of Evil,’’
and suicide bombers. It therefore is not difficult to understand how Americans
may widely conclude that all Arabic and Muslim people are likely terrorists. Such
selective omission forms the basis of U.S. stereotypes against all Arabs. We
consequently see racial stereotyping or profiling at airports, or for that matter at
any public gathering place. During many special events, law enforcement officials
have increased their surveillance, and charges that Muslins are being singled out
are common. Stereotypes clearly have been perpetuated by a marked absence of
news showing Arabs in a favorable light. Therefore, by implying that an oppo-
nent is evil or guilty of reprehensible acts, the emphasis has shifted to an
emotional one, and reasonable discussion has been curtailed.
Bandwagon Approach
The bandwagon approach involves utilization of a notion that ‘Everybody is doing
it,’’ or ‘We are all doing it,’’ so that group members are encouraged to just join
or follow the crowd.
In post-9/11 United States, it became difficult for anyone to speak out against
U.S. foreign policy generally or the Bush administration specifically. To not support
the administration’s war on terror was likened to nonpatriotism, even though many
aspects of the Homeland Security legislation and its ultimate implementation were
blows to civil rights for both citizens and visitors. Racial profiling was just one of the
practices used by law enforcement officials as thousands were unjustly detained or
imprisoned. The country paid a major price in areas of personal freedom and
expression when it sacrificed many long-fought battles for civil liberties.
To assert that everyone must join the fight against terrorism is a clear
bandwagon technique. So too were the criticisms levied against lawmakers who
failed to support the administration as it entered a war based on the presupposi-
tion that weapons of mass destruction were being held by the Iraqis. In fact, it
now appears that Iraq may have been in general compliance with UN sanctions.
‘‘You’re either with us or against us’’ is the battle cry often heard in times of
national crisis when criticism of the status quo is being discouraged. Such was the
mentality when war protesters against the Vietnam War were faced with the
criticism, ‘America, love it or leave it’’ during the 1960s and 1970s. Another
slogan based on strong feelings of nationalism is ‘‘My country, right or wrong.’’
Such a reaction denies the very foundations upon which the republic had been
established. British journalist G. K. Chesterton (1902) observed ‘‘My country,
right or wrong’ is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a
desperate case. It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.’’’ While we all would
want our motherlands to remain free, open, and beyond reproach, it is the ability
to withstand doubt that may be the greatest test of its freedoms.
The slogan ‘‘Four out of five dentists use this toothpaste is a form of
bandwagoning. Bandwagoning also appeals mostly to those who are ‘joiners’’;
they join ‘‘because everyone else is. Additional examples are the profuse use
of flags, ‘‘support our troops’’ bumper stickers, or magnetic pro-troop and
anticancer ribbons that people place on their automobiles. These and similar
campaigns appeal for individuals to join the groundswell of public opinion and
activity on the rationale that ‘everybody else is joining.’’ The methods are not
really scrutinized, and winning is thought to be everything. The bandwagon
technique additionally appeals to sentiments of loyalty and nationalism.
The propaganda landscape has become much more complicated today. The long-
running Cold War was often central to activities as we saw governmental efforts
to produce propaganda continue in the aftermath of the Second World War. Let
us look at some domestic media campaigns from the period.
In one short postwar production, The House I Live In (1945), actor Frank
Sinatra sings the title song and talks with street kids in an effort to address racism
and anti-Semitism. Other social guidance films sought to educate the postwar
population in areas of social education. Among these was Ask Me, Don’t Tell Me
(American Friends Service Committee, 1961), about the lives of San Francisco
youth gangs and how work projects might serve as a preventative measure for
juvenile delinquency. Other films sought to council teenagers in areas of daily
life, including Contents: Cheating (1952), where John gets Mary into trouble
C H A P TER 1 1
when he tricks her into giving him Algebra test answers. How Much Affection?
(1958) considers the limits of affection when teens are going steady, and when
and how to say ‘‘no’’ to drinking, smoking, and petting. Another film, Measure of
a Man (1962), specifically addresses how to avoid social pressures and avoid being
lured into a drink of that ‘demon beer.’’
We saw political sentiments such as anti-Communism addressed by a variety
of films, some of which are considered quite humorous in present-day context.
Among these was Red Nightmare (1962), an account of what might happen if
Communists gained access to a typical small American town. The film starred
Jack Webb and included an enactment of how a ‘‘typical’’ American would
respond if his wife, children, and friends rejected him for a Communist lifestyle:
The film portrayed a mock exercise where a local police chief pretended to be a
Communist official and shut down the local media. In another film, The Truth
About Communism (1962), Ronald Reagan hosts and narrates a heavily skewed
account on the development of the Communist movement and its then-present
state of operations. Other titles include R. G. Springsteen’s Red Menace (1949);
George V. Allen’s Yankee Go Home: Communist Propaganda (1950); and the four-
film series, You Can Beat the A-Bomb (1950); One Plane, One Bomb (1954);
Warning Red (1956); and The House in the Middle (1954).
These concerns spread to other domestic situations as seen in the film
Communists on Campus (1970) that warns against student protest activities on
campuses, including activities of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the
Black Panthers, and student protestors against the Vietnam War. Another film
produced by the United States Department of Defense, Why Vietnam? (1965),
attempts to explain U.S. policy on South Vietnam through an address by President
Lyndon B. Johnson and remarks by Secretary of State Dean Rusk and Secretary
of Defense Robert McNamara.
The youth counterculture was addressed in The Hippie Temptation (1967), a
lifestyle study of Haight-Ashbury district (San Francisco) hippies narrated by
Harry Reasoner. The film purports to examine the reasons why youths become
hippies and their dependence on drugs, particularly experimentations with LSD.
Another film, Reefer Madness (1936), is today often cited as a very one-sided and
highly inaccurate antimarijuana film.
While there are many more genres, one particular interest is the gay-agenda
group with documentaries offering opinions on gay rights and how gay men and
lesbians live lifestyles that may damage American culture, including its moral
values and civil liberties. One of these, Gay Rights, Special Rights: Inside the
Homosexual Agenda (1993), a Southern Baptist Convention production, includes
testimonials by ‘recovered’’ gay men and lesbians who have renounced the gay
lifestyle and become Christians. All of these represent subtle or sometimes not-
so-subtle forays in propaganda.
On the world scene, parties have sought to employ various media channels
to present their messages and viewpoints. Just as with the many social issues just
described, these too are often not balanced in terms of viewpoint, and little, if
any, attempt may be made to engage in objectivity of message delivery. As a
result, both print and electronic media have been employed to deliver messages
to individuals and nations on a plethora of social and political issues. And just as
the United States engages in public diplomacy campaigns, we must assume that
many, if not most, of these international efforts often reflect similar inaccuracies
found in their domestic information sharing methods. Whether labeled truthful
propaganda, public diplomacy, or something else, the legitimacy of such messages
rests in the eye of the beholder or, in this case, message sender.
Put a different way, we note that the history of documentary film and video
is peppered with questions of realism and degree of manipulation by the docu-
mentarian. This goes back to the early days of newsreels and such early film
classics as Robert Flaherty’s workNanook of the North (1922), Man of Aran
(1934), Louisiana Story (1948)that has been heavily criticized for the manipula-
tion of reality. Newsreels such as March of Time had long used actors to recreate
assorted news events, and rarely was such footage identified as a recreation. So,
when the outcry came during the summer of 2004 regarding the Michael Moore
documentary film, Fahrenheit 9/11, some were surprised when critics challenged
the motion picture for its editorial stance against George W. Bush and the war in
Iraq. There is no wide agreement among scholars that objectivity ever has been
considered a prerequisite for documentaries. Others charge that Western con-
sumer and industry pressures on the U.S. news media often encourage news
reporting to seek tight but limited narrative structures and a format that favors
entertainment value over adequate information sharing.
Thus, when Ted Koppel was criticized for airing names of U.S. military killed
in Iraq or when the Voice of America was criticized for running an interview with
the Taliban’s Mullah Mohammed Omar, these should just be considered tests of
a system and its ability to embrace its constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of
expression. Russian television repression of videos showing its countrys missiles
misfiring, moreover, was not an admirable act of journalism. While potential
government embarrassment is one reason Vladimir Putin argued for further controls
over television news, given recent Chechnyan events, it is exactly such coverage
that lends credibility to the journalistic process and upholds the surveillance
or watchdog function of the mass media. That is to say that such press coverage,
while potentially uncomfortable for certain government leaders, is also a way to
ensure oversight over these same democratically elected officials. The events should
not be misread as disloyalty. They are in fact the highest form of patriotism.
As a result, the very foundations of a fair and objective press may be in question
for most of our mainstream media at the most basic levels. Within such a milieu, it
may be more appropriate to question the objectives of Western journalism
rather than the presence or absence of bias in a particular documentary film title.
Governments continue to be major users of propaganda in the delivery of
messages, but another player has emerged that has found propaganda quite
effective for its campaigns and as a tool in public opinion formation. This
C H A P TER 1 1
category of propaganda is known as terrorism. When engaged in by governments,
we normally call it state terrorism. When the message emanates from a non-
governmental group, it is called nonstate terrorism. Today, nonstate terrorism is
carried out by a collection of social and political players and propaganda as a
channel for alternative diplomacy. Sometimes, smaller state actors may become
involved but normally in clandestine ways. The players at the forefront are almost
always nonstate entities that feel terrorism is an effective way to counter better-
equipped state or multinational industry interests. This, in reality, is a continua-
tion of the old North-South communication impasse where entities of the
developing world see or believe that industrialized countries and their interests
are unwilling to dialogue. The players need not be located in the developing
world, however, for groups located in the industrialized world also may feel
disenfranchised and sometimes resort to acts of terrorism. While we would hope
that all alienated groups, regardless of their global location, would choose non-
violent means to express their differences or displeasures, we must acknowledge
that the number of groups and individuals who condone violent propaganda
campaigns appears to be on the rise. In this case, these propagandists resort to
terrorism to place both military and civilian populations at risk because of what they
perceive or rationalize as a potentially more effective means to achieve certain
gains. This behavior is typically justified by a higher political and/or social purpose.
As noted earlier in this chapter, parties have sought to employ various media
channels to present their messages and viewpoints. Newspapers; newsletters;
audio and videocassettes; films; posters, handbills, and flyers; bumper stickers;
tee shirts; and even political pin backs and buttons have been used to oppose
actions, distribute messages, and sway public opinion. For years, a very effective
form of antiestablishment communication was the labor union newsletter and
newspaper. During the Berkley free speech period of the 1950s and 1960s,
underground newspapers were quite popular. At times, unfortunately, groups
have taken to more violent actions in order to publicize an agenda and convince the
status quo to reconsider its position or actions. Guerilla warfare and sometimes
terrorism were in fact a twist on conventional military tactics used by American
colonists when fighting the British almost two and a half centuries ago. Nevertheless,
guerilla warfare normally targets a conventional military force or operations.
Terrorists often target nonmilitary populations, activities, and infrastructures.
Sometimes a bona fide military uprising may be called an act of terrorism.
Clearly, the rebels found in the early American Colonies saw themselves as
freedom fighters, whereas the British perceived them as something akin to irritating
terrorists. This can be definitely said of the Indians involved in the Boston Tea
Party. As noted earlier, ‘‘One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.’’
As Rourke (1999) has observed:
It is easy to condemn such [terrorist] activities when countries or groups
with which you disapprove conduct them. What about assassination
and other such actions by a country with which you may have
sympathy? . . . Those who question the legitimacy of such acts [Reagan’s
strike against Qaddafi and Clinton’s strikes in Somalia and Afghanistan]
argue that what constitutes terrorism is often in the eye of the beholder
and, in this case, killing civilians with a bomb dropped on a building
by a warplane is no different than killing civilians by planting a bomb
in a building. (pp. 34647)
The term terrorism first entered into European languages after the French
revolution of 1789. In early years, it was largely through violence that French
governments tried to impose a radical new order on a suspicious and reluctant
public. Consequently, from the very beginning, we find that terrorism was
acknowledged as a form of control that could be imposed by a dictatorial
government against its own subjects.
In the 19th century, the term terrorism became associated with nongovern-
mental movements. One group of Russian revolutionaries of Narodnaya Volya
(the people’s will), in 18781881, believed in the targeted killing of ‘leaders of
oppression,’’ specifically Tsarist Russia. They assassinated Tsar Alexander II on
March 13, 1881, believing such an attack would serve as a catalyst to a revolution.
For many years, terrorism continued mostly through the assassination of leaders,
such as the killing of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand by a 19-year-old Bosnian
Serb student in Sarajevo on June 28,1914.
In the 20th century, terrorism expanded beyond assassination of political
leaders and heads of state. European colonial powers saw pressure to withdraw
from colonies, such as that which happened in Ireland. The Easter Rebellion on
Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, marked the uprising of Irish nationalists against
the British. Some 16 men were executed by the British immediately or soon after
the rebellion. Sinn Fe´in became the dominant political party in Ireland, worked
the parliamentary election in 1918, and pushed for cutting ties with Great Britain.
They also sought to end the separatist movement in Northern Ireland and
establish an Irish republic. Turmoil continued until January 1919, when the Sinn
Fe´in party assembled in Dublin as the Da´il E
´ ireann, or national assembly, and
proclaimed themselves independent. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 gave inde-
pendence to 26 Irish counties yet allowed 6 largely Protestant counties the option
of remaining part of Great Britain. The 6 Northern counties were referred to as
Ulster. Greater instability was seen in Ulster from the 1960s onward. The violent
sabotage of a peaceful civil rights march in 1968 by the Royal Ulster Constabu-
lary (RUC) marked the beginning of the so-called ‘‘troubles.’’ The British sent
troops to Derry and Belfast in August 1969. Viewed as a tool of the Protestant
majority, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) resurfaced and began to attack both
British and Protestants interests. In response, London withdrew the Norths parlia-
mentary independence, although a 1985 agreement allowed Dublin to become
involved as a consultant. Northern Ireland and Britain both have seen a continuation
of killings. Although catastrophic terrorist events abated for a few years following
those that occurred in the United States on September 11, 2001, recently, acts of
terrorism have reoccurred in Ulster, indicating the troubles’’ are not over.
Another form of terrorism evolved as indigenous populations began looking
for leverage in their support for leadership claims in emerging post-colonial states.
In one case, Malaya (now Malaysia) saw a terrorism campaign launched by
C H A P TER 1 1
Communists in 1948, but this failed due to continuity of British military opposi-
tion as well as an organized program stressing political reform for cultivating a
climate of political independence. After the withdrawal of European control,
terrorism continued in many places, personified in the killing of police and local
officials, aircraft hijackings, hostage taking, and bombings. Causes championed by
terrorists rested on revolutionary socialism and nationalism as well as religion.
A number of airplane hijackings occurred from 1968 onward, often ending
in the explosion of the aircraft after landing at Middle East destinations. In
February 1970, three terrorists attacked El Al passengers in an airport transit
bus traveling from the airport terminal to the aircraft in Munich, Germany. In
May 1972, three members of the radical Japanese Red Army (JRA) group arrived
on an Air France flight and then used automatic weapons in the arrival lounge,
killing 26 people at the Tel Aviv Airport. Earlier hijackings focused on the
Palestine issue, and in September 1972, 11 Israelis were killed in a
attack on Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.
Public horror intensified. In other incidents, in December 1973, 5 Palestinian
terrorists began shooting in the terminal lounge at the Rome Airport, killing 2;
captured an American Airlines plane; killed all 29 people aboard; herded addi-
tional hostages into a Lufthansa jetliner; killed an Italian customs policeman and a
hostage; and were later flown to an unknown destination after releasing their
remaining hostages in Kuwait. In December 1985, 4 terrorists entered the check-in
area of El Al, TWA, and Panama at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport, began
firing with submachine guns, and threw grenades. Eleven people were killed and
70 injured. The same month at Vienna’s Schwechat Airport, 3 terrorists attacked
waiting passengers at the El Al lounge with machine guns and hand grenades,
killing 2 and injuring 47. Some airport incidents also occurred in the United
States. Terrorism was not limited to airports either. In 1985, 4 Palestinians
hijacked the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro as it traveled with over 400 passengers
and crew, including 19 Americans, in waters off Egypt. The hijackers demanded
that Israel free Palestinian prisoners. After a two-day siege, the hijackers surren-
dered in exchange for a pledge of safe passage. An Egyptian jet tried to fly the
hijackers to freedom, but U.S. Navy F-14 fighters intercepted the plane and
forced it to land in Sicily, where the Palestinians were taken into custody. Egypt’s
President Hosni Mubarak decorated the EgyptAir 737 pilot and demanded an
apology from the United States, which President Reagan refused to do. Later,
thanks to U.S. pressure, the United Nations General Assembly scrapped a
proposal to invite Yasser Arafat to speak at the UNs 40th-anniversary celebration.
Arafat had condoned the hijacking of the Achille Lauro and accused Reagan of
an ‘‘act of piracy’’ by intercepting the EgyptAir 737. Then, in 1981, some
52 American hostages held at the U.S. embassy in Tehran for more than
14 months were released. The ordeal began in November 1979, when a group
of radical Iranian students, angered by U.S. support for the Shah, stormed the
American embassy in Tehran. They had backing of the Iranian government,
led by Ayatollah Khomeini. It is important to note that in many of these
incidents, other countries were known to support terrorist activities but
typically maintained an air of public deniability.
Terrorism continued in the Middle East as a way to battle Israeli occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza. The Israelis often resorted to heavy-handed attacks
Palestinian interests that they claimed were necessary, but this then further
fueled Palestinian acts of terrorism. The United States has been historically
supportive of
the Israeli position, but many other countries, including most
Middle East
neighbors, have been quite critical. At the moment, Israel
continues to defend its position of aggression, even when not carried out in
direct retaliation toward
Palestinian terrorist events. Conversely, the high levels
of Palestinian terrorism that were first seen in the late 1960s and 1970s again
surfaced in 2001 and continue unabated, although the return of the Gaza Strip and
West Bank to
Palestinian control in late 2005 may become an important step in
ultimately resolving the conflict.
The close of the 20th century saw a new form of religious/cultural-based
terrorism emerge under the direction of Osama Bin Laden. The Arab-born
freedom fighter, who had once been trained by the United States for battle
against the Soviets in Afghanistan, became leader of a fairly small Islamic group
known as Al-Qaeda (The Base). Al-Qaeda Muslim extremism provided an
interpretation of Islam that arguably rationalized the killing of military, govern-
ment officials, and civilians. Targets generally became those the group saw as
oppressive Western forces seeking to dominate Muslim countries, particularly
those in the Middle East. Al-Qaeda is credited with killing hundreds in bombings
of American embassies in Africa in August 1998, the attack on the USS Cole
in October 2000, and the widespread damage inflicted on the World Trade
Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Observers have noted that since
Al-Qaeda’s intensions are hazy and seek catastrophic damages, there is little room
for compromise or negotiations. The group’s objectives appear to be for total
compliance with their demands for a full-scale Western withdrawal, and their
ultimate power rests in the unpredictable nature of attacks. In many ways, fear has
become a much greater weapon than the attacks themselves.
Elsewhere, we have seen terrorism as part of numerous international conflicts
and incidents. In 1995, members of Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese cult based on a
combination of Hindu and Buddhist thought and obsessed with an apocalyptic
agenda, released deadly sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway system. Twelve
people were killed and some 5,000 people hospitalized during the Monday
morning rush-hour attack. Sarin is a highly toxic nerve agent developed by the
Nazis in the 1930s. Sarin gas is said to be 500 times more toxic than cyanide.
Radical Muslim terrorists have surfaced in other countries. From 1969 to
today, Muslim rebel groups in the Southern Philippines have been seeking
autonomy from the mostly Christian Philippines. One rebel group, the Abu Sayaf
Group, is believed to be linked specifically to Osama bin-Ladens Al-Qaeda.
Another group, the Communist New People’s Army (along with the rival Alex
Boncayao Brigade [ABB]); seeks to overthrow the Philippine government and
wishes to install a Marxist-type rule. In recent years, the Indonesian island of
Sulawesi has seen violence between Muslims and Christians. Activity increased
in 2001, when thousands of fundamentalist Muslim militia members called Laskar
Jihad, from the island of Java, joined the fight.
C H A P TER 1 1
In other terrorist uprisings, we find that since 1958, the Basque Fatherland
and Liberty rebel group (ETA) has fought an urban guerrilla battle against the
Spanish government. The ETA is fighting for independence of the Basque region
of northern Spain and southwestern France. Some 800 deaths have been attri-
buted to the terror campaign to date.
Elsewhere, the Islamic Salvation Front won the Algerian national elections in
1992, but this was voided by the military. This resulted in a bloody rebellion by
the military wing, the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS). The fighting has been
particularly harsh on journalists: Some 60 have been assassinated since the start
of the conflict. While the AIS surrendered in June 1999, other groups continue
to battle the government.
In Kashmir, a land divided between India and Pakistan, border clashes have
continued since 1991 and have threatened several times to become full-fledged
war. Kashmiri terrorists attacked the Indian Parliament in December 2001.
Security forces killed the militants before they could enter the Parliament build-
ing. The result was a violent confrontation along the line of control (LOC) in
Kashmir between Indian and Pakistani armies. Both countries are considered to
be nuclear powers, thereby raising the stakes of any ensuing conflict.
In Sudan, on the other hand, we have seen a backlash against a government
dominated by Muslin Arabs, a war that has swelled largely on racial, religious, and
regional differences. War has been levied against the government, as the country’s
southern portion is still predominantly black Christian.
And, while Russia had seen a variety of terrorist operations, today it faces
increasingly visible terrorism from the Chechnya guerilla war resistance. Chechnya
is located in the mountainous Caucasus region and has long lacked favor from the
Russian leadership. Among the resistance are a small number of Islamist militants
who hail from outside Chechnya and reportedly may have links to Al-Qaeda. In
rhetorical retaliation, Russia attempts to paint a picture that all Chechens are
Islamist terrorists, thereby justifying harsh retaliatory measures placed on the
Chechen resistance. Tens of thousands of Chechens and Russians have already
been killed or wounded in the two Chechen wars. Among the recent Chechen
terrorist attacks was an October 2002 attack on a Moscow theater, where some
700 people were taken hostage. A highly criticized commando raid by Russian
special forces using a gas to incapacitate the terrorists left over 120 hostages and
terrorists dead. One of the most radical of the Chechen terrorist leaders, Shamil
Basayev, took credit for the attack. Prior to the Moscow theater attack, some
41 people, including many children, were killed in a bomb blast during a
military parade in May 2002 in the southwestern town of Kaspiisk. Two separate
Moscow incidents, the 1999 bombings of a shopping arcade and apartment build-
ing, left 64 dead. In August 2004, two separate Russian airline flights (Tu-134 and
Tu-154) exploded minutes apart, and it was later found that two Chechnyan
women roommates boarded the separate flights and are believed to have been
responsible. Ninety people aboard the two aircraft were killed, and traces of the
explosive Hexogen were found in both wreckages. Then, to the horror of the
world, more than 1,200 hostages were taken in a school in the southern Russian
city of Belsan. More than 335 hostages and 30 attackers were killed, and 700-plus
were wounded. Not a single Chechen was found among the dead gunmen,
according to Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s defense minister. Fueling the case for state
terrorism, the Strasbourg-based European court of human rights found Moscow
guilty of killing Chechnyan civilians.
Perhaps the most troubling aspects of terrorismas it is now widely prac-
ticedis a belief that a few acts of violence, often against symbolic targets, will
prove highly persuasive and that the trend to attack innocent civilians will
underline the incompetence of the government and political leaders. Sometimes
this is indeed true. As Rourke (1999) counters:
However, much one may condemn the acts themselves, it is also
accurate to say that over the years Palestinian terrorists almost certainly
played a role in increasing the willingness of Israel to deal with them,
in enhancing the global awareness of and concern with the Palestinian
cause, and in bringing pressure on Israel by the international community
to reach an agreement with them. (p. 350)
We have seen that in some societies, terrorism may become part of the culture
and actually stands in the way of continuing development efforts (Roberts, 2002).
While the notion that the United States is a rouge state that shares in the blame
may be highly offensive to many Americans, what we really must do is look
beyond our emotions and examine tactics used. The narcissistic cyclical applica-
tion of patriotism and terrorism has initiated and perseverated problems globally.
There appears to be little debate over whether the treatment of Afghani
prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, involves questionable and abusive practices.
Rather than address the charges, the Untied States chooses to argue the techni-
calities of the internment and whether terrorists are covered by international laws
on the treatment of war prisoners. A similar situation exists in the so-called
‘‘administrative arrests’’ carried out, without the opportunity of trial, by Israel
against many Palestinians during the past decade or two. In addition, Chinese
attempts to quell uprisings by Muslim separatists in the western Xinjiang region is
yet another example of potential state terrorism. While some may see all of these
groups as freedom fighters, each respective government justifies its actions by
labeling those groups as rebels or criminals. Even as criminals, these detainees are
often denied certain basic rights, further complicating issues.
Bodies such as the European Union and United Nations have drafted
statements and policies defining terrorism. They agree that terrorism is a delib-
erate act by an individual or group against a country, its institutions, or its people.
The intent is to damage its economic, political, and social configurations. Under
such a rubric, terrorism is that which is directed against countries. Other uses are
conveniently sidestepped.
We have already acknowledged that when governments are the aggressors,
this is called state terrorism. So, terrorism may emanate both from state and
nonstate players. It appears to come down to how an event is spun and who is
doing the spinning.
Throughout the ages, governments have indeed participated in terrorist acts,
although at the time they may not have been considered as such. The German air
C H A P TER 1 1
blitz on London and the resulting U.S. and British bombing of German cities
are just two examples of the use of terror to demoralize citizens. The Allied attack
on Dresden, an art and cultural center with almost no military importance, serves
as a key example of state terrorism. As insinuated previously, most Western
definitions of terrorism make no attempt to address such actions, nor do they
separate attacks on civilians versus military/security targets.
Regardless of the final outcome of current world struggles, serious questions
are being raised. It ultimately may rest on which side prevails and who writes the
histories. But public sentiment in the meantime will be influenced by rhetoric,
and there is little debate that all sides are trying to influence world opinion. Since
status quo nations generally have greater access to the traditional media, groups
that perceive themselves as marginalized may continue to seek to employ non-
traditional form of persuasion. For this reason, incidents of terrorism have been
increasing in recent years and will likely continue as long as it appears to be a
viable option and most terrorists are never captured.
During the U.S. occupation in the post-Iraqi war, beginning in 2003, the world
has been horrified by media images such as kidnapped British aid worker
Margaret Hussein, a convert to Islam; and the beheading of U.S. construction
worker Nick Berg. Are these acts of terrorism? Of course they are. Is it propa-
ganda? Absolutely.
As already suggested, another way to frame these events is as strategic,
perhaps desperate, attempts to sway public opinion. Even President Bush con-
ceded during a December 20, 2004 press conference, ‘Car bombs are effective
propaganda tools.’’ Likewise, the terrorists involved in planning and carrying out
the attacks of 9/11 undoubtedly counted on the extensive playtime on televisions
and presence on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.
Terrorists have long relied on media coverage in response to their gruesome
deeds. It is through such coverage that these acts gain enormous power. Recog-
nizing this power, the British government long ago made it illegal for any
broadcaster to air interviews with IRA members or their families.
The greatest problem we appear to face today is the continuing spread of
terrorism and the perception that it is an effective substitute for traditional diplo-
macy. Terrorism has become endemic in particular countries and regions, and the
United States has become one of the biggest, if not the largest, target. According to
a Rand study, the number of terrorist acts worldwide have been increasing
because (1) some terrorists believe attention is becoming harder to obtain, (2) past
experience has proved profitable, (3) states have been taking an active role, (4) it
has been motivated by religious imperatives, and (5) the ease of access to informa-
tion has lead to increased attempts by amateur terrorists (Hoffman, 1999).
Since there are common factors, it ought to be possible to define and put
a stop to terrorism. In the 1960s, the UN General Assembly embarked on such
a mission. Initially little progress was made, in part because some states saw
terrorism as a response to legitimate grievances, thereby believing terrorism might
be justified. The Jewish extremist group Irgun and its 1940s campaign in Pales-
tine, the Viet Cong activities in South Vietnam from the late 1950s to the mid-
1970s, and the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland from the late 1960s onward
were all cited as valid terrorist campaigns.
The UN emphasis, consequently, was on limited practical measures. Inter-
national conventions from 1963 to 1999 addressed specific terrorist acts, such as
aircraft hijacking and diplomatic hostage taking, and drew policies so that these
were specifically condemned. As terrorism concerns escalated, the UN General
Assembly took further steps to define and outlaw such acts.
The newer view of terrorism as mass murder has had marked effects on the
debate. Terrorism, after all, targets civilian populations as opposed to the histor-
ical notion of war in which armies just fight other armies. In justification of
modern trends, many terrorists argue that civilians share in the guilt of their
governments by complicity. Taking the Middle East as example, terrorists believe
attacks on both Israeli soldiers and innocent civilians are justified as necessary
because indigenous people are fighting to free their land. Hamas argues that those
Jews who settled on Palestine territory share in the guilt. While many would not
accept the argument, it nonetheless serves to demonstrate the complexity of issues
and the difficulty in bringing an end to the conflict. As noted, however, recent
Gaza Strip and West Bank pullouts are a recent admirable gesture.
Nonetheless, the events of 9/11 brought strong international condemnation
and have markedly changed the debate. Thus, when the United States proposed
a military response to Taliban forces amassed in Afghanistan, none of the
189 member states voted in opposition.
At the global level, we see changing sentiments as countries previously said
to harbor terrorists have begun working with Western governments to bring
terrorism under control. The Sudanese government, for example, which pre-
viously offered a haven for al-Qaeda, has increased cooperation with the U.S.
intelligence community. Jordan and Egypt have tightened controls, increased
security, and are detaining Islamic militants. Jordan has been specifically restrict-
ing activities by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
Al-Qaeda has also been increasingly linked to terrorist activities around the
world. The Philippines has engaged more aggressively with militant Islamic
groups, and this includes the Abu Sayyaf, believed to have close Al-Qaeda ties.
The group is further thought to be involved in attacks against U.S. forces in
Mogadishu, Somalia, an operation that began as support of safe passage of
humanitarian aid. Forces were pressed into combat with Somali warlord, General
Mohammad Farah Aideed, whose operations are believed to have been planned
by a chief military strategist of Al-Qaeda. With Al-Qaeda links also rumored in
the Chechnyan fight against Russia, plus attacks on civilian railroad commuters
that killed 200 people in Madrid, Spain, critics have become more vocal and
sentiment against terrorism appears to be on the rise. In fact, it is believed that
terrorists led by Al-Qaeda have plotted terrorist actions against several countries,
including Britain, France, Germany, Iraq, and Italy, as well as the Spanish and
C H A P TER 1 1
Russian incidents. Other Al-Qaeda operations in Jordan, Israel, and the United
States reportedly have been thwarted.
Al-Qaeda may suffer from its own success. Its ability to launch terror strikes
may now be limited. Yet, through the use of modern communication media, bin
Laden has reached a level of influence that few countries have ever been able to
achieve. This demonstrates the power of the so-called ‘‘fear factor,’’ for if bin
Laden never commits another terrorist act, the world will continue to fear his
actions. Even if he is ultimately captured, his power continues through sleeper
cell activity that may have been set in motion years ago. The 9/11 attacks were
planned for six years; the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa for five.
The real solution to terrorism is to address the heart of the problem: global
inequities and the imbalance of power. While other terrorist groups will
undoubtedly emerge, the likelihood of this occurring might diminish if we turn
our attention to the promotion of equitable governance policies and eradicating
poverty, improving health care resources, increasing access to communication
technologies, and providing people worldwide with the opportunity to decide
their own futures through participatory governance. Africa, for example, is con-
sidered a potential breeding ground for fundamentalism. The rise of Al-Qaeda
cells in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, among others, provides further evidence
that terrorism often follows when living conditions are perceived as deplorable
and injustices prevail. If poverty and inequality provide a climate for terrorism to
develop, then addressing these basic human needs may be essential to finding a
solution to the escalating wave of terrorism. Otherwise, we may see the spread of
atrocious and savage terrorism that shows no respect for human life. Terrorism is
a form of propaganda. Sowing good will may be an even stronger weapon in
bringing terrorism to an end.
Propaganda is a long-established communication technique employed for public
opinion manipulation. It has been in use for centuries and affects communication
both domestically and abroad. Advances in communication technologies have
made propaganda even more pervasive today.
Government leaders, to mold public opinion on international issues in
domestic circles or to influence matters abroad, often use propaganda. It also
has been used by nongovernmental entities seeking to access global communica-
tion channels for the purpose of public opinion formation or manipulation.
Not only governments, or those attempting to sway opinion making of
governments, use propaganda, but public relations practitioners who may serve
as agents of these parties use it as well. In modern times, these public relations
campaigns have become more complicated under the rubric of public diplomacy
as governments make efforts to sway public opinion through less obvious and
sometimes coercive techniques of opinion ‘management. Advertising, too, is a
form of opinion manipulation, and while this falls outside our discussions on
propaganda per se, its many methods are ultimately linked to the larger body of
knowledge employed by the propagandist.
We have seen how the notion of propaganda has evolved, from its origins
during the 17th century to the 20th century, when the power of contemporary
media was recognized and governments began to tap its potential for public
manipulation and control. War efforts were a natural setting for propaganda
campaigns, which expanded as other government information programs sought
to influence public opinion for higher national purposes. One of the concerns is
how far government or societal leaders may go in utilizing the schemes of media
persuasion in efforts to mold public opinion. This may be particularly the case
when some of their campaigns or policies may not be considered in the best
interests of the public at large, as has been hinted at recently in propaganda
campaigns at both domestic and international levels.
Of further concern are issues raised by contemporary theorists George
Gerbner and Noam Chomsky. Gerbner argues that market forces vying for our
media attention are molding a dangerous climate of insecurity and vulnerability
from the ‘‘scary world’’ depictions found in U.S. media. Chomsky proposes that
media propagandize on behalf of powerful societal interests, which control and
finance them. Each of these authors demonstrates the dangers of big media, as
operators of many communication channels in the modern world. These modern
stimulus-response approaches to media influence reinforce earlier work by Berlo
and Schramm, which posits that subjects cannot resist the mass-mediated mani-
pulation because of its innate appeal.
Communication has become more sophisticated. When we consider the
words of Lippmann that ‘the public must be put in its place,’’ we acknowledge
the rather cynical side of propaganda and the fine line between its constructive uses
versus its many abuses. It is telling that international terrorists seek access to many
of the same communication channels that governments have traditionally sought
for opinion manipulation. Some outside the societal mainstream have created
catastrophic crimes against humanity and then used the media to fashion their
own messages of rebellion and disorder. Marginalized groups likely will continue
to seek out such nontraditional forms of persuasion, as they feel disenfranchised by
mainstream global governance processes and our social and economic institutions.
As we have argued, a solution to terrorism may rest in our willingness to
address global inequities and international power imbalances. Terrorism may
diminish if we turn our attention to equitable governance policies and eradicating
poverty, improving health care resources, increasing access to communication
technologies, and providing people worldwide with an opportunity to decide
their own futures through participatory governance.
It also would serve us well if we all engaged in more-straightforward com-
munication with our global neighbors. Deceitful communication renders little
respect once discovered. A much more solid foundation results when commu-
nication is built on a bedrock of honesty and mutual respect.
Propaganda may further benefit from increased public discussion on its
nature and abuses, and how mass opinion exploitation may work against the
very goals of a democracy and the freedoms of choice and expression it espouses.
C H A P TER 1 1
Just as we discuss the implementation of various economic, social, and political
policies in our countries today, so too might we expand these discussions into
areas of political and corporate control of media, and the use of public funds to
intentionally mislead individuals at both domestic and international levels. A true
democratic system involves active participation by its many members. Using
communication media to manipulate or marginalize public involvement goes
against the very keystone upon which a democracy is constructed.
Along with the need for greater awareness and dialogue comes a correspond-
ing responsibility for our media to become more aggressive and look to lead, not
follow, our governments and their actions. Government and institutional sur-
veillance is one of the basic functions that media provides in our modern
societies. The failure to perform such watchdog activities is an embarrassment
to us all. If our republics are truly solid, then they should be able to withstand the
scrutiny of criticism. Questioning our institutions and leaders is not unpatriotic
but rather our duty in a democratic system. Without such accountability, we
all suffer. A civil society cannot exist when its elected officials succeed in margin-
alizing citizens and restricting participation.
For more information on the topics that appear in this chapter, use the password that
came free with this book to access InfoTrac College Edition. Use the following
words as keyterms and subject searches:
How do Magic Bullet theories influence propaganda theory? How do Magic
Bullet theories conceptualize the mass media audience? Are Magic Bullet
theories irrelevant today?
Can you name the seven different approaches outlined in the Institute for
Propaganda’s ABCs of propaganda strategies? Which do you think are the
most dangerous?
How is it that the modern theories of Gerbner and Chomsky are considered
propaganda theories?
Name several ways in which our media have failed us by propagating
propaganda, and what might they do to begin to reverse such trends?
Taking what you now know about propaganda, name some recent events
that would be considered propaganda on the domestic or international level.
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