What is propaganda? • We must remember that in time of war what is said on the enemy’s side of the front is always propaganda, and what is said on our side of the front is truth and righteousness, the cause of humanity and a crusade for peace. • — Walter Lippmann
Two battlegrounds • Probably every conflict is fought on at least two grounds: the battlefield and the minds of the people via propaganda. The “good guys” and the “bad guys” can often both be guilty of misleading their people with distortions, exaggerations, subjectivity, inaccuracy and even fabrications, in order to receive support and a sense of legitimacy.
Elements of Propaganda • Propaganda can serve to rally people behind a cause, but often at the cost of exaggerating, misrepresenting, or even lying about the issues in order to gain that support. • While the issue of propaganda often is discussed in the context of militarism, war and war-mongering, it is around us in all aspects of life.
Common tactics • Common tactics in propaganda often used by either side include: • Using selective stories that come over as wide-covering and objective. • Partial facts, or historical context • Reinforcing reasons and motivations to act due to threats on the security of the individual.
Common tactics … • Narrow sources of “experts” to provide insights in to the situation. (For example, the mainstream media typically interview retired military personnel for many conflict-related issues, or treat official government sources as fact, rather than just one perspective that needs to be verified and researched). • Demonizing the “enemy” who does not fit the picture of what is “right.”
Common tactics … • Using a narrow range of discourse, whereby judgments are often made while the boundary of discourse itself, or the framework within which the opinions are formed, are often not discussed. The narrow focus then helps to serve the interests of the propagandists.
Propaganda and War • At times of war, or build up for war, messages of extremities and hate, combined with emotions of honor and righteousness interplay to provide powerful propaganda for a cause. • “The first casualty when war comes is Truth” ~ U.S. Senator Hiram Johnson, 1917
Propaganda used to … • Many say that it is inevitable in war that people will die. Yet, in many cases, war itself is not inevitable, and propaganda is often employed to go closer to war, if that is the preferred foreign policy option.
Promotion of propaganda • Those who promote the negative image of the “enemy” may often reinforce it with rhetoric about the righteousness of themselves; the attempt is to muster up support and nurture the belief that what is to be done is in the positive and beneficial interest of everyone. • Often, principles used to demonize the other, is not used to judge the self, leading to accusations of double standards and hypocrisy.
Galtung’s journalism concerns • Decontextualizing violence: focusing on the irrational without looking at the reasons for unresolved conflicts and polarization.
Galtung … 2. Dualism: reducing the number of parties in a conflict to two, when often more are involved. Stories that just focus on internal developments often ignore such outside or “external” forces as foreign governments and transnational companies.
Galtung 3. Manicheanism: portraying one side as good and demonizing the other as “evil.” 4. Armageddon: presenting violence as inevitable, omitting alternatives.
Galtung 5. Focusing on individual acts of violence while avoiding structural causes, like poverty, government neglect and military or police repression. 6. Confusion: focusing only on the conflict arena (i.e., the battlefield or location of violent incidents) but not on the forces and factors that influence the violence.
Galtung 7. Excluding and omitting the bereaved, thus never explaining why there are acts of revenge and spirals of violence. 8. Failure to explore the causes of escalation and the impact of media coverage itself.
Galtung 9. Failure to explore the goals of outside interventionists, especially big powers. 10. Failure to explore peace proposals and offer images of peaceful outcomes. 11. Confusing cease-fires and negotiations with actual peace.
Galtung 12. Omitting reconciliation: conflicts tend to reemerge if attention is not paid to efforts to heal fractured societies. When news about attempts to resolve conflicts are absent, fatalism is reinforced. That can help engender even more violence, when people have no images or information about possible peaceful outcomes and the promise of healing.
Siegel’s 4 levels • The first level is the Big Lie, adapted by Hitler and Stalin. The state-controlled Egyptian press has been spreading a Big Lie, saying the World Trade Center was attacked by Israel to embarrass Arabs,” said Siegel. • “The second layer says, ‘It doesn’t have to be the truth, so long as it’s plausible.’
Siegel’s 4 levels … • “The third strategy is to tell the truth but withhold the other side’s point of view. • “The fourth and most productive is to tell the truth, the good and the bad, the losses and the gains.
Preparing or Justifying War • Ottosen identifies several key stages of a military campaign to “soften up” public opinion through the media in preparation for an armed intervention.
Stages 1 and 2 • The Preliminary Stage—during which the country concerned comes to the news, portrayed as a cause for “mounting concern” because of poverty/dictatorship/anarchy; • The Justification Stage—during which big news is produced to lend urgency to the case for armed intervention to bring about a rapid restitution of “normality”;
Stages 3 and 4 • The Implementation Stage—when pooling and censorship provide control of coverage; • The Aftermath—during which normality is portrayed as returning to the region, before it once again drops down the news agenda.
“dead baby” story • In the 1991 Gulf War, a U.S. public relations firm got a Kuwaiti Ambassador’s daughter to pose as a nurse claiming she saw Iraqi troops killing babies in hospitals. The purpose of this was to create arousal and demonize Iraq so war was more acceptable. More information: http://www.globalissues.org/Geopolitics/MiddleEast/Iraq.asp
Media preparation • 1. The crisis: The reporting of a crisis which negotiations appear unable to resolve. Politicians, while calling for diplomacy, warn of military retaliation. The media reports this as “We’re on the brink of war”, or “War is inevitable”, etc.
Media preparation … • 2. The demonization of the enemy’s leader: Comparing the leader with Hitler is a good start because of the instant images that Hitler’s name provokes.
Media preparation … • 3. The demonization of the enemy as individuals. For example, to suggest the enemy is insane. • 4. Atrocities: Even making up stories to whip up and strengthen emotional reactions.
Journalists’ dilemma • While some stories are known to have been fabrications and outright lies, others may be true. Knightley asks, “how can we tell?” His answer is unfortunately not too reassuring: “The media demands that we trust it but too often that trust has been betrayed.”
Journalists’ dilemma • One difficulty is that the media have little or no memory. War correspondents have short working lives and there is no tradition or means for passing on their knowledge and experience. The military, on the other hand, is an institution and goes on forever. The military learned a lot from Vietnam and these days plans its media strategy with as much attention as its military strategy ~ Knightley
Propaganda strategies • Incompleteness • Inaccuracy • Driving the agenda • Milking the story (maximizing media coverage of a particular issue by the careful use of briefings, leaking pieces of a jigsaw to different outlets, allowing journalists to piece the story together and drive the story up the news agenda, etc.)
Propaganda strategies • Exploiting that we want to believe the best of ourselves • Perception Management (in particular by using PR firms) • Reinforcing existing attitudes • Simple, repetitious and emotional phrases (e.g. war on terror, axis of evil, weapons of mass destruction, shock and awe, war of liberation, etc)
Military control of information • Military control of information during war time is also a major contributing factor to propaganda, especially when the media go along with it without question. • The military recognizes the values of media and information control very well.
Key strategies • Overloading the media with information • Ideological appeals • Spinning information • Withholding information • Co-option and Collusion
Embedded journalists • Sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly make a decision to be biased in their reporting, in favor of the Coalition troops. They travel with the forces, it’s a way to get cooperation
Dilemma of journalists and wartime coverage • On the one hand, the military wish to present various aspects that would support a campaign, while on the other hand, a journalist is supposed to be critical and not necessarily fall in line
Wider propaganda • The doctrine to be instilled in the target audience should not be articulated. The proper procedure is to drill them home by constantly presupposing them
Delwiche’s devices • Word games (name calling, glittering generality) • False connections (Transfer, testimonial) • Special Appeal (Plain folks, band wagon, fear) • Follow-up avoidance