Propaganda Apologia, and Women's-Shoe Libertarianism

Glenn Reynolds linked to a bunch of propaganda-apologia yesterday in response to that L.A. Times article alleging the U.S. military secretly owns two Iraqi news organizations and pays others to run unlabeled Pentagon-generated stories. I'll excerpt the arguments as follows, but please follow the links:

1) "[T]he news isn't 'fake.' Biased? Yes, but it's supposed to be - it's part of the propaganda campaign."

2) "[T]he stories being placed by the US military are hardly different in kind from the stories one reads daily from Reuters or the New York Times."

3) "Propaganda is a weapon in war. When any weapon is in the hands of our military, it is an asset. Weapons are bad only when they are in the hands of the enemy."

4) "The Los Angeles Times story on President Bush's very fine speech today to graduates midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, outlining the administration's strategy in Iraq, is filled with omissions and spin.... Why did the LAT again avoid presenting the other side? Perhaps because they don't want to present the other side - it undermines their contention that the war is going badly." (If you're wondering why this is relevant, go back to the Glenn Reynolds teaser: "Bill Hobbs thinks the Los Angeles Times understands propaganda pretty darn well.")

5) "Lousy reporting by the LA Times. Old news and very poorly reported."

Taking that last point first,

Chuck Simmins argues that this is "old news," and that the program is hardly "covert," because the Washington Post ran an article about the Lincoln Group (the propaganda-dispensing contractor) back in June, and because the Defense Department announced the contract back then on its own website. Neither link, however, mentions a damned thing about secretly buying a newspaper and radio station, or handing bags of cash to Iraqi newspapers to print Pentagon-crafted articles presented as emanating from Iraqis. Hence, the "news" value, and the "covert" nature of the project.

As to whether the propaganda is or isn't "fake," and whether it resembles your average MSM article, consider today's New York Times follow-up to the story:

"The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq," an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders' pessimism about the country's future.

"Western press and frequently those self-styled 'objective' observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation," the article began. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, it pleaded for unity and nonviolence.

But far from being the heartfelt opinion of an Iraqi writer, as its language implied, the article was prepared by the United States military

I didn't realize the L.A. Times made a habit out of falsely presenting its articles as springing from "the people of Iraq," while quoting the Prophet Muhammad.... Or how about this:

One article about Iraq's oil industry opened with three paragraphs taken verbatim, and without attribution, from a recent report in Al Hayat, a London-based Arabic newspaper. But the military version took out a quotation from an oil ministry spokesman that was critical of American reconstruction efforts. It substituted a more positive message, also attributed to the spokesman, though not as a direct quotation.

Or this one, reported by the Washington Post:

[S]oldiers assigned to "psychological operations" have been more aggressive in manipulating information for military gain. One example concerned the death of Iraqi Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who was killed during interrogations near the Syrian border.

After his death, a news release said Mowhoush had cooperated and died of natural causes, and local communities were notified that he had identified key insurgents in the area, when he had not.

So, intentional plagiarism, falsified quotes, and made-up shit to cover up American military actions are the norm in the American press?

The substantive root of the pro-propaganda argument, it seems to me, lies in Number 3 above. I'll now quote a larger excerpt from Dr. Rusty Shackleford:

Propaganda is a weapon in war. When any weapon is in the hands of our military, it is an asset. Weapons are bad only when they are in the hands of the enemy.

Which makes one wonder why Leftists, so-called 'moderates', or even some on the Right, would consider a weapon in the hands of the U.S. military a bad thing? Unless, of course, they considered the real enemy to be.......

Not that I would ever question anyone's patriotism....

You'll note that the link for "the Right" goes to our own questionably patriotic Rightist Kerry Howley....

Shackleford's folly, aside from the feeble unpatriotic slap, is that that formulation assumes all weapons are equally neutral in moral value and practical effectiveness, which they are not. There's a reason, aside from international treaty, we no longer use nerve gas on enemy lines, or napalm on villages, or atomic bombs on cities -- world reaction would cause more negative consequences than whatever "positive" gains could be had on the ground. And if we used horses to do a tank's job, or muskets instead of M-16s, these weapons wouldn't be an "asset," they'd be a hindrance.

Is unlabeled propaganda a useful weapon? In the long run I don't think it is. First, people will eventually find out, either from military officials alarmed at the practice, or Iraqi journalists with whatever motive. As most dictators have eventually learned, truth has a way breaking through even the tightest of seals.

Second, this war and occupation has been cast as a hot battle in a longer Mideast twilight struggle for universal human values, of which a key and oft-stated one (by every member of the National Security Council) is freedom of speech and press. U.S. actions that contravene these values -- whether they be torture or intentionally falsified news articles -- undermine the moral authority we've so carefully tried to build up.

Third, in my admittedly unscientific experience, the most useful government-owned propaganda news outlet was the one most independent from the government -- Radio Free Europe, which was run mostly by exiles from the communist bloc. Voice of America was much more laughable and obvious; and the Marti stations have been absurdly politicized. You could argue that the BBC has been a marvelous propaganda organ for the British government overseas, precisely because it's been so free and willing to criticize it.

I am all in favor of the White House aggressively countering lies told about its actions. But if it really had faith in the persuasive power of truth, the Pentagon would be open about buying a newspaper; make it the best and most truthful damned newspaper in all Iraq, and watch citizens go "Huh; maybe these Americans are on to something!" By laundering its message through influence-buying bag men and lies, Rumsfeld's men are demonstrating contempt for those Iraqi citizens interested in transparency, and showing a disturbing lack of faith in the ennobling power of American values.

And really, should we trust with a fat propaganda budget a government that spends $240,000 on Armstrong effing Williams, so that he could hi-five No Child Left Behind?

And by showing a bizarre abundance of faith in government power-grabs in the name of fighting terrorism, self-described libertarians like Shackleford and his warblogging fans treat limited government like a particularly attractive women's shoe -- fun to wear on a sunny day, but useless in a storm. Check out this Shackleford passage, and note that Stephen Green endorsed it as "[taking] on the Libertarians so I wouldn't have to."

When the secondary value of free speech conflicts with the primary value of protecting life, the secondary must be discarded. We ought not discard such things lightly, but sometimes they must be sacrificed. We do not let the body die to save the limb. [...]

Pearl Harbor woke our population up, but a concerted effort at keeping our citizens ever aware of the war kept us awake. The event gave us the emotional will to begin the war, but it was propaganda that gave us the stomach to see it through to the end. The free-press gave way to the more immediate need of protecting lives. [...]

I am a civil libertarian, and if my state would allow it I would be a registered Libertarian. The main objection to regulating the press is the notion that somehow we will devolve into a state of fascism. In truth, it is the kind of 9/10 rhetoric I would have also used. But it is just rhetoric and nothing else. [...]

To think that content censorship would continue after we have defeated the threat of Islamofascism is to overlook WWI and WWII. In both cases we had direct censorship. In both cases the censorship eventually ended.

In sum, I call on Congress to recognize that the War on Terror must be handled as TOTAL WAR. All of the Nation's resources and will must be turned to that aim.

I know the Sept. 11 massacre Changed Everything, but never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would be defending the moral and practical value of free speech against a bunch of people who proclaim their libertarianism more loudly than I do.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds says I've "lost perspective" (always a decent bet), suggests that I'd like war to be conducted by "Poynter Institute seminar standards" (is it because I agree with those people so often?) and clucks that "the howls of outrage seem rather forced." Apparently, saying Is unlabeled propaganda a useful weapon? In the long run I don't think it is is the new "howls of outrage." Good to know.

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  • ||

    Matt:

    Yeah, right. The next thing you know we'll have to argue against torture being an effective and....

    Nevermind.

  • ||

    That Glenn Reynolds, not to mention Stephen den Beste (Ghost writer of the new Plan), is widely cited is almost as damning as George W. Bush being elected, although still pales next to the fact that GWB was elected twice.

  • ||

    "I am all in favor of the White House aggressively countering lies told about its actions. But if it really had faith in the persuasive power of truth, the Pentagon would be open about buying a newspaper; make it the best and most truthful damned newspaper in all Iraq, and watch citizens go "Huh; maybe these Americans are on to something!" By laundering its message through influence-buying bag men and lies, Rumsfeld's men are demonstrating contempt for those Iraqi citizens interested in transparency, and showing a disturbing lack of faith in the ennobling power of American values."

    Couldn't have said it better. As one of those libertarian warhawk types, I wish some people would remember what we're supposed to be accomplishing over there. Ends justifying means, anyone?

  • ||

    Nobody really wants freedom. People won't go for it without the spin to make it sound good.

  • ||

    JAT,
    I imagine in twenty years we will be looking back at the torture apologists in disbelief, but somehow forgiving them instead of properly shunning them. Similar, probably to how we look back on WFBuckley's anti-civil rights stances.

    I remember there being quite an outrage over Ward Connerly, prof at CU, but I do not remember the extent of his views. But I wonder if it was really so much worse than advocating that the US set up or continue to maintain secret 'black' prisons for the purpose of torturing people for information, much less torturing them so that they provide false confirmation of what our Department of Defense wants to hear.

  • ||

    Paging NRO lurkers!

    here's a reason, aside from international treaty, we no longer use nerve gas on enemy lines, or napalm on villages, or atomic bombs on cities -- world reaction would cause more negative consequences than whatever "positive" gains could be had on the ground.

    This statement would make the freeper crowd howl. "God-dammit, we're the USA! If we're going to let "world reaction" dictate what we can and can't use in wartime, we're no better than France! Today is the day we lose the War on Terror."

  • ||

    These internet libertarians who can't wait to hand over as much freedom and power as possible to the federal government are puzzling until you remember "libertarian" is often what a republican calls himself when he's trying to get laid. Is there anything more to it than that? "Republican" still has a musty Lawrence Welk funk to it. Not to mention the evangelical nutbars which any self-respecting aging hipster does not want to be seen hanging with.

    I like libertarians. I like the few remaining dozen or so conservatives in extant. I hate these guys.

  • ||

    Steven Crane,

    Please, there's no reason to leave out bait for them to find. :)

  • ||

    JAT:

    A bit off-topic, but, to follow your mention of torture: at lunch, I heard the NPR guys chitty-chatting about current miscellany, and they mentioned an "interesting" piece by Der Krauthammer, in which he razed the tired old torture-apologist extreme example: "there is a strong justification for torture if it can save a large amount of lives..." I paraphrase, of course.

    This hogwash has been refuted so many time, it's absurd that anyone would still dredge it up, but, here we are:

    a) This extreme example might be palatable in theory, but the fact is, it's never been encountered in real life, unless you're so dillusional that Jack Bauer and CTU are "real" to you.

    b) Even if such a scenario had happened, it would be nothing but a very big coincidence. You would have to have several ultra-long-shots come through at the same time: 1. you have a big player in a current terrorist plot in your custody, and he knows enough about it to stop it, 2. he actually tells his interrogators the truth, rather than just what they wanna hear, and 3. they have enough time to act to foil it and ensure that the failed perps don't escape and just regroup.

    Now, the vanishingly small probability of these three longshots all hitting at the same time, coupled with the fact that it has never happened in recorded history, is most assuredly a pretty weak justification. But, like I said, here we are, refuting that absurd example, yet again.

  • ||

    Sad to say it, but the number of people who actually support free speech is about as large as the number of people who actually support free markets.

    The group of people who support free-speech-and-markets-when-they-serve-the-speaker's-favored-goals is much, much, much larger.

    News flash, right?

  • ||

    " . . . 9/10 rhetoric . . ." Can we make it legal to bitchslap people who continue to talk like this? Please?

  • Matt Welch||

    This statement would make the freeper crowd howl.

    Keep in mind that the whole propaganda/PR campaign is in direct stated response to the results of Freeper-style fuck-the-world foreign policy. The expansion-minded unilateralists almost never acknowledge the practical, real-world costs of the who-cares-what-they-think approach, so Defense and State have to play clean-up. In this case, using tactics that just feed the cycle.

    I honestly *don't* care what Jacques Chirac thinks (until the day he's being led away in handcuffs); but the extent to which U.S. policy needlessly plays into foreign antagonisms without bringing any trade-offable benefit, is the extent to which we maybe oughtta re-consider our policies, I think.

  • ||

    You know Matt, in all the blathering I've seen discussing this topic in Hit and Run, I have yet to see an actual example of an article from our vast propaganda machine. Did I miss it?

  • Warren||

    Realish,
    Too true. I have the same reaction every time Justice Scalia is referred to as an originalist, or Thomas as a textualist.

  • ||

    I especially love the too-smug-for-anyone's-good Jeff Goldstein's piece, in which he argues that Iraq isn't free enough yet for us to let a free press say what it will, then goes on to decry cultural relativism. I know where he can pick up a good neck brace.

  • Timothy||

    You know, there's nothing wrong with putting out official government news stories in Iraq...as long as they're labeled as such.

    Welch is right, if they'd have been open about buying a newspaper and then devoted themselves to running it right, or at least running it with an official slant out in the open (or just publishing Stars & Stripes in Arabic), it would be all right. This sort of subterfuge, while not all that surprising coming from government, is so bone-headed and obviously detrimental to the stated goals that it boggles the mind.

  • ||

    I used to think the "ticking time bomb" justification for torture had some validity, even if it was a unlikely example used to justify the broad use of torture in much less immediate contexts. But years ago I read an article making the point, a very good one I thought, that the TTB scenario is the very situation in which a terrorist would be the most able to holdout. First of all, the captured terrorist would presumably be the kind of guy willing to fly a plane in the ground, so his own death would likely not be all that troubling (indeed, dying might be part of the plan-- what does he care if he dies in the explosion or on a torture table?). Second, the TTB scanario presumes a very limited and known (to the terrorist) time period within which the torturee must resist. It seems that if the terrorist knows he only has to last 30 minutes, or one day, or whatever, he is a lot more likely to be able to resist giving up the one piece of critical info they need.

  • ||

    You know Matt, in all the blathering I've seen discussing this topic in Hit and Run, I have yet to see an actual example of an article from our vast propaganda machine. Did I miss it?

    That is a very valid point. I would also be interested in seeing an example.


    Matt Welch-

    Very good points. If we don't care what the rest of the world thinks, if we don't care why they hate us, why put out propaganda?

  • ||

    ...(until the day he's being led away in handcuffs)...

    Not going to happen. If Mitterand could escape the dock so can Chirac.

  • ||

    "There's a reason, aside from international treaty, we no longer use nerve gas on enemy lines, or napalm on villages, or atomic bombs on cities -- world reaction would cause more negative consequences than whatever "positive" gains could be had on the ground."


    In 1940 before Germany invaded France, the British Parliment debated bombing German amunition dumps on the Ruhr. The Pariliment rejected the idea because to do so would "needlessly destroy private property." My how attitudes changed as the war got more desparate. The U.S. is no different. We don't use those methods because we haven't had to. If it ever came down to needing to use them to win a war, the U.S. or any other country for that matter would use them.

  • gaius marius||

    Weapons are bad only when they are in the hands of the enemy.

    here's a good reason to think reynolds simply isn't very bright -- or so coopted to his holy cause that he cannot reason.

  • ||

    John,

    My how attitudes changed as the war got more desparate.

    Attitudes changed also because of the bombing campaign of the Nazis.

  • ||

    here's a good reason to think reynolds simply isn't very bright -- or so coopted to his holy cause that he cannot reason

    There is a good reason to think Gaius wants the enemy to win. Reynold's is write. The point of the war is to win. In that regard, every weapon in the enemy's hands is a bad thing and every weapon in our hands is a good thing.

  • ||

    here's a good reason to think reynolds simply isn't very bright -- or so coopted to his holy cause that he cannot reason

    There is a good reason to think Gaius wants the enemy to win. Reynold's is right. The point of the war is to win. In that regard, every weapon in the enemy's hands is a bad thing and every weapon in our hands is a good thing.

  • ||

    What about weapons that blow up in our faces? Are those good things too?

  • ||

    True enough Hakluyt.

  • ||

    Thoreau,

    What weapons would those be? If the alternative is loosing the war or winning but suffering the tisk tisk of the rest of the world, I will take winning. Not that every war or conflict justifies indescriminate bombing, but if the circumstances warrent it, you have to do what is necessary to win. Although I hope and pray the circumstances for the use of things like atomic bombs never arise and seriously doubt they ever will, I am not nieve enough to deny the possibility.

  • ||

    Face it, after 9/11, freedom just started to suck and was shown up for the false god it is.

  • ||

    There is a good reason to think Gaius wants the enemy to win. Reynold's is right. The point of the war is to win. In that regard, every weapon in the enemy's hands is a bad thing and every weapon in our hands is a good thing

    John,

    Do you advocate using nuclear weapons in Iraq? Other WMDs? If we did, would consider it to be ironic?>

  • Rich Ard||

    Where's TallDave, anyway? And kwais too, but mostly TallDave (as kwais appears to think a bit longer before speaking).

    Ah, but I see that John's here, and gaius certainly couldn't avoid this one!

    Man, it's just like Callahan's, except there's no coffee and everyone's always mad at each other.

  • ||

    About the ticking timebomb theory--we had a great ROTC instructor who regular job was intel. I was relating some ditzy Kathleen Parker column about women in the miltary and how men would naturally do anything to protect these frail flowers from being tortured. After a rude response, she noted that any information she had would be non-operational within 48 hours at the latest and they had the training to hold out that long. Then she described what she'd do to anyone who tried to save her. Believe me guys, you'd rather be tortured.

    This administration just keeps digging itself deeper and deeper...

  • ||

    David,

    Not at all. See my next comment. I am just saying that we don't use those weapons because we don't have to. If we really needed to, like any other nation, we would. Treaties and the reprobation of the rest of the world not withstanding.

  • ||

    Cathy,

    I have always thought the ticking timb bomb arguement to be rediculous. To my knowledge it has never really happened and is unlikely to ever occur. Asking "What would you do in this circumstance that would never really or at most very rarely happen?" is no way to make policy. The whole debate is a waste of time.

  • ||

    thoreau,

    Its an issue of proportionality. Sometimes its appropriate to use WMDs and sometimes it isn't. That's true for all weapons and weapons systems. Of course in general you aren't often going to be faced with a decision about WMDs, but there may be times when they are proportional to the task, threat, etc.

  • ||

    Who are we at war against that this propaganda is reaching? Aren't most of the people exposed to it just everyday Iraqis?

  • ||

    John-

    I was thinking of propaganda as a weapon. What if secretly influencing Iraqi media undermined our credibility, which is a crucial element of the whole liberalization project?

  • ||

    John,

    The most often cited example of a successful torture effort that I have seen is the Nachshon Waxman affair in Israel.

  • ||

    John,

    Waxman was a soldier who was taken hostage while he was riding in a cab. The cabbie was eventually found and tortured and spilled his guts about how where Waxman was. Waxman was safely retrieved.

  • ||

    Torturing terrorists doesn't work very well.

    Torturing their families, however, is a totally different story!

  • gaius marius||

    Gaius wants the enemy to win.

    oh my lord.

    What about weapons that blow up in our faces?

    apparently such a thing is beyond mr john's conception.

  • ||

    Hak,

    I forgot about that one, but even that one is not the ticking time bomb used in most of the examples.

    As far as propeganda, most wars have involved the successful use of it. It can be effective. How you make it effective in the world of 24/7 media, I am not sure. Certainly, the other side uses it well. I don't see why the U.S. can't do the same, but I will freely admit the U.S. is not good at it.

  • gaius marius||

    What if secretly influencing Iraqi media undermined our credibility

    never mind that, mr thoreau, although it certainly does do that as well and foreshorten our influence in so doing -- what if it influenced our media -- and led us to make evaluations that were incorrect vis-a-vis iraq? this is, after all, still a democracy, is it not? is not the nation best served by the dissemination of accurate information about the govenrment and the state of affairs it manages?

    i still am unable to see how anyone who would ostensibly defend the concept of rational democracy could also defend the government propagandizing the electorate.

  • gaius marius||

    It can be effective.

    just ask any fascist.

  • gaius marius||

    or any communist, for that matter.

  • ||

    gaius marius,

    just ask any fascist.

    Or members of the FDR administration.

  • VM||

    [humor attempt] what's the difference? [/]

  • ||

    here's a good reason to think reynolds simply isn't very bright -- or so coopted to his holy cause that he cannot reason.

    Not exactly - that wasn't anything he said, Gaius.

  • gaius marius||

    To think that content censorship would continue after we have defeated the threat of Islamofascism is to overlook WWI and WWII. In both cases we had direct censorship. In both cases the censorship eventually ended.

    green's logic doesn't address the fact that a war on terror -- like a war on drugs -- has no end. this war will never end. ever. there will always be another target who would use violence to fight american "interests". and even if all terrorists were exterminated, how would you know that they were? the war will be followed, as the last war was, by an eternal vigilance that is barely discernable from the war itself.

    i would, if i could by force of words alone, disabuse green from the notion that the general war of 1914-45 did nothing to spartanize this country irredeemably. has he forgotten how american government relentlessly propagandized the american people with respect to communism?

  • gaius marius||

    that wasn't anything he said

    no, i suspect he only wishes he had, mr .5b, and therefore the quotation.

    Or members of the FDR administration

    or any other since, gg.

  • Wintermute||

    I guess I go back too far, but, to me, libertarian hawk is an oxymoron.

    InstaPutz is losing credibility.

    I foresaw bad karma from that Clint Eastwood movie that set up the situation of a crazy who buried a young girl alive. Dirty Harry tortured her location out of the crazy and rescued her.

    All's fair in love and war vs. the Geneva Convention. Some acts are better pardoned or not prosecuted than made legal.

  • ||

    Not that every war or conflict justifies indescriminate bombing, but if the circumstances warrent it, you have to do what is necessary to win.

    In certain circumstances, you "have" to do what's necessary to defend yourself.

    ...and I haven't seen anything to suggest that G. wants the enemy to win.

  • ||

    Hakluyt- I believe Waxman was killed during the rescue attempt.

  • ||

    the war will be followed, as the last war was, by an eternal vigilance that is barely discernable from the war itself.

    I hope that you are wrong.

    I fear that you are right.

  • Timothy||

    I, like Jeff, sort of bought the TTB justification, but I'm starting to think it may not be true. I think that maybe, sometimes, you can torture useful information out of people. But I also know that a lot of the time people will say anything to get it to quit.

    I've also heard that fear of torture is more effective than actual torture, so maybe we need the credible threat more than we need the actual act...but it's hard to keep the threat credible without actually doing it sometimes. And what are the better alternatives for getting useful information etc? I don't know the answer, frankly.

    As for propaganda, I think it's doubleplus ungood.

  • ||

    Happy Jack,

    Heh. The rest of the story.

    Timothy,

    But I also know that a lot of the time people will say anything to get it to quit.

    It all depends on what you know about the person beforehand and whether you are able to discern the difference between the sort of memes that come the be associated with torture and what isn't a meme. Torture is a complex business and shouldn't be undertaken lightly or undertaken at all until a whole series of "checks" have been made.

  • ||

    I foresaw bad karma from that Clint Eastwood movie that set up the situation of a crazy who buried a young girl alive. Dirty Harry tortured her location out of the crazy and rescued her.

    No he didn't. He watched the cops pull her dead body out of the hole, because she was dead the whole time. "Scorpio" was just toying with Callahan in making him believe she could be saved.

  • ||

    Hak:

    But, but, what if there's a whole buncha people that are gonna DIE soon, and we don't have TIME for those "checks"?!!?!

    Jus shoot 'em in the knee first, ask questions later.

  • ||

    Timothy:

    "I've also heard that fear of torture is more effective than actual torture, so maybe we need the credible threat more than we need the actual act...but it's hard to keep the threat credible without actually doing it sometimes."

    "Heard" from who? Maybe when it comes to punkass, "I'm hard!" suburban kids who wet their pants in the face of real confrontation...like, say, those in "Bully". But really...when someone's ready to fly a plane into a building or strap a bomb to themselves, all in the name of some ghost in the sky, well...I think the threat of torture won't mean much. You think Atta was laying awake at night, afraid of whether he might get tortured? He's going to heaven to bed 72 virgins either way, so...

  • ||

    This is absolutely chilling.

    With the term War on Terror a true oxymoron. (Since terror is a concept and war on a concept is simply unwinable by definition; think about a "War on Laughter") I'm begining to think that we're going to see a gradual erosion of every liberty that is uniquely American in the name of "Protecting America".

    If they declared war on Islam, or Islamic Radicals (still not specific enough), or a particular country, I'd at least be comfortable in knowing that an end is possible within my lifetime.

    But this war on Terror, which effectively makes over a billion muslims on this planet a potential suspect and an enemy combatant could be to USA what Jews were to the Roman Empire.

    There is a lot of danger here.

  • ||

    Good God! We're talking about propaganda, right?!? Not carpet-bombing, or summary executions, or napalm, chemical and biological weapons, concentration camps, forced marches, slave labor...??? Propaganda!! PROPAGANDA!!!! Are you people insane? Tell me one war where both sides didn't use propaganda as much as possible. No, no, NOOOO! We don't want to win using PROPAGANDA! We'd much prefer having to kill thousands more than to win anyone over with PROPAGANDA! The funniest thing is the guy supporting propaganda by saying we want a level playing-field. WRONG!! I want the playing-field tilted as far as possible in my favor. Period. If propaganda gives me an advantage, then give me as much as you've got. But, no, no, no. We don't want to sully our names with THAT!! What will people think of us?? No. Let's stick to bullets and bombs. At least that way we can keep our dignity.

    I'm sorry, why is this site called "Reason?"

  • ||

    "I'll now quote a larger excerpt from Dr. Rusty Shackleford"

    His real name is Dale.

  • ||

    You know Matt, in all the blathering I've seen discussing this topic in Hit and Run, I have yet to see an actual example of an article from our vast propaganda machine. Did I miss it?

    The above was posted by me at 3:52 PM

    While I don't expect anyone at "Reason" to bow instantly to my every wish, almost four hours have now passed. I've looked thru this and other websites and I have yet to find one real life example of actual propaganda put forth by the Lincoln Group.

  • Kevin Murphy||

    Someone should start a fund for victims of CPL (Chronic Persepective Loss).

  • Matt Welch||

    Kevin -- You left out the "howls of outrage" part.

  • ||

    Tom asks, "I'm sorry, why is this site called "Reason?"

    The site was actually going to be called "Reason?," with the ? as a part of the site's name. Because it is just ranting, looking for a reason to exist.
    _________

  • ||

    Tell me one war where both sides didn't use propaganda as much as possible.

    Part of the problem Tom is that news sources here in the United States may and do, I understand, look to news sources in Iraq for, well, news. ...So the question becomes, if American news sources are picking up this stuff, whom is ultimate object of the propaganda? It's not Americans, is it?

    I don't know the answer to that question, and I don't think you do either.

    VOA was different.

    P.S. Does something have to rise to the standard of forced marches, slave labor and carpet bombing to get your attention. ...or can the rest of us complain about lesser things?

  • ||

    matt you are a fucking retarded idiot who will never get it

    you remind me of the 4 morons in custody of iraqi kidnappers

    so i am not going to waste my time trying to explain why the shit you spout is bad for your countries short and long term interests - irrespective of whether you afgree or disagree w the iraq war

    and yes i find the kind of crap the l;at and the wapo have published of late treasonous

    and i am a naturalized citizen

    shame on you asholes who were born here in this great country- which you fuckfaces want to drag down to what i escaped

    a pox on all of you

  • Matt Welch||

    It really is no wonder why Glenn Reynolds doesn't enable comments....

  • VM||

    looks like they left the booze cupboard unlocked at the group home......

  • Pooh||

    I don't think anyone is seriously arguing that propoganda is per se bad. I think people might suggest that getting caught doing it so inarticulately is counter productive. The validity of a tactic in general does not justify poor execution of that tactic. The means chosen in this case is just so f-all stupid as to begger belief.

  • ||

    Oh boy! I think we got the NRO crowd or some other cult to pay attention! I haven't seen this kind of party crash since the torture apologists showed up!

    ...No wait, it was when somebody posted something suggesting that one aspect of one MSM broadcast wasn't necessarily an example of media bias, wasn't it?

    Congratulations Matt! ...posting something that gets their attention should always be applauded. Take a bow!

  • ||

    and yes i find the kind of crap the l;at and the wapo have published of late treasonous

    and i am a naturalized citizen

    shame on you asholes who were born here in this great country- which you fuckfaces want to drag down to what i escaped

    Where's LoneWacko when you need him?

  • ||

    Between you and lameass Corvid bandmate, it's been full-on whining since 2003. Who cares? You still can't write, so I do understand why you're following the party-line here to keep the paying gig. I mean, look what happened to nutso Corvid when Kerry lost. Reason? Right. Treason?

  • ||

    Green's followup rebuttal of Howley is fucking absurd, pardon my language. You'll all appreciate being labelled Kerry Howley's "Amen Corner."

    He sets up a "US gets invaded, free press crushed" scenario, and then says that we'd fight back with propaganda of our own. I wonder what his take is on the US forces shutting down newspapers in Iraq.

    He sets up the scenario to point out that propaganda is a weapon and we'd be foolish to not use it.

    "Maybe then, propaganda is nothing more than a necessary tool � if you give up the airwaves to the other side, your side will assume you've given up in some small way. Bad form, that."

    Matt's already fielded that assertion here with his comments about Iraqi or world opinion regarding napalm etc. Green goes on with this:

    So then. Let's rephrase: "Propaganda is a legitimate and necessary tool of war, the utility of which is often suspect." Are we all agreed? Good. Then let's move on.

    Glad we have that out on the table, but the useful/not useful argument doesn't seem to get us very far. The real issue here is the counterproductivity of propaganda that is exposed as propaganda. Does that really build credibility with the Iraqi people?

    But the important subject here isn't Iraq.

    Guess not? Earth to Stephen Green, paging Stephen Green.

    What is important is that people whose views I respect on many other topics, are attempting to de-legitimize a legitimate tool of war � all to score a handful partisan points against the Iraq Campaign.

    Yeah, we here at Hit & Run are known for being a bunch of fucking partisan hacks, that's for goddamn sure. There's nothing more that I want than to score points for the anti-war crowd. Right.

    For what it's worth, I like Matt's solution - opening a newspaper and being damned upfront about who's running it. It'd be like Fox News - it could proclaim objectivity, maintain its biases, and everyone could take it for what it's worth to them.

    There aren't many people who DON'T get pissed off at whatever government's controlling their country when it resorts to propaganda and lies to garner support. That's because we're offended that we're being taken as dupes and pawns, or to be lied to or otherwise deceived.

  • ||

    and, what Pooh said.

  • ||

    and yes i find the kind of crap the l;at and the wapo have published of late treasonous

    and i am a naturalized citizen

    shame on you asholes who were born here in this great country- which you fuckfaces want to drag down to what i escaped

    So you came from a country where people criticized the propaganda, and now you've come to paradise, where people love the propaganda; and it's people like us who don't love the propaganda that are tryin' to drag America down into the kind of horrible propaganda lovin' place like where you came from? ...Do I have that right?

  • ||

    Oh boy! I think we got the NRO crowd or some other cult to pay attention! I haven't seen this kind of party crash since the torture apologists showed up!

    Nope, it's not NRO, Ken - it's Reynolds linking back to this, praising commenter "Tom"'s "Good God! We're talking about propaganda, right?!? " above.

    Because if one disagrees with Reynolds, one has obviously lost touch with reality. Or something like that.

  • ||

    ...and it's people like us who don't love the propaganda that are tryin' to drag America down into the kind of horrible propaganda lovin' place like where you came from?

    No wait! ...I think I got it!

    It's people like us who don't love the propaganda that are tryin' to turn America into the kind of propaganda hatin' place like where you came from!

    Right? ...Am I right?

  • ||

    and yes i find the kind of crap the l;at and the wapo have published of late treasonous

    You know, if you can find a second witness to that and get charges filed, you could have the publishers and editors hanged. Would you like that? Would that excite you? It would, wouldn't it -- seeing someone hanged for treason? I bet you'd cum right in your tightie whities.

  • ||

    Ken Schultz said:
    Part of the problem Tom is that news sources here in the United States may and do, I understand, look to news sources in Iraq for, well, news

    Maybe the western reporters could get out of the Palestine Hotel and do some, you know, actual reporting?

    If the Army is pushing lies, that's a problem that will eventually blow back on them (isn't there an old Soviet Union joke about there being no "Pravda" in Pravda?).

    However, if the Army is pushing true stories with a positive spin, I frankly expect it to have no impact whatsoever on domestic news reporting--they're pretty much impervious to good news anyway.

  • ||

    Perhaps propaganda by the Pentagon would be less necessary if our own Western media weren't so busy spreading propaganda for the other side.

  • ||

    Perhaps propaganda by the Pentagon would be less necessary if our own Western media weren't so busy spreading propaganda for the other side.

    This doesn't get any more clever the 10,000th time one hears it. Just FYI.

  • ||

    Perhaps propaganda by the Pentagon would be less necessary if our own Western media weren't so busy spreading propaganda for the other side.

    Yeah, RebeccaH, the Washington Post and New York Times are the two hottest papers in Baghdad.

  • ||

    Anybody ever see Al-Jazeera (AKA "The Mouth of Terror")?

    Think that isn't propaganda masquerading as "news"?

    But WE should disarm unilaterally.

    And let A-J and the other terrorist propaganda puppets make this war unwinnable for us.

    Oh, I forgot: "If YOU'RE not perfect by MY (double) standards, then you're no better than the terrorists. Because there's nothing in between."

  • Mr. Snitch!||

    Tom gets the comment of the year award. Right next to the phrase "dripping with sarcasm" please place his sterling example. Way too funny.

  • ||

    Yesss!!!! Quoted by Glenn!!! That's it, I'm outta here, suckers!! Off to the bigs!

    Oh, and Ken, if our media is getting their stories from Iraq's media, doesn't that suggest that maybe our media aren't doing their jobs. From what I've heard, they do have some of their reporters over there - perhaps they should be digging up their own stories? Just a thought.

    And, ya, you can complain about anything you want, no matter how small and idiotic it is. I was just trying to point out your total lack of perspective. Oh, and trying to make the point that propaganda is a normal, and non-destructive, part of warfare. I guess my point was lost on you.

  • ||

    Oh, I forgot: "If YOU'RE not perfect by MY (double) standards, then you're no better than the terrorists. Because there's nothing in between."

    Tom Paine, by all fucking means, please open your own privately owned broadcasting corporation.

    Are you unable to differentiate between privately produced "propaganda" and government sponsored propaganda, or are you being purposefuly obtuse?

  • ||

    (In the middle east, I mean, Tom Paine - maybe the Heritage Foundation would fund it. Fuck it, I'll make a donation, and that's a promise.)

  • ||

    Tom's comment wasn't even funny grading on an extremely flat curve.

    BTW, "Results 1 - 2 of about 3 for al jazeera + "mouth of terror". (0.23 seconds)". So, I guess it's "AKA" that way to, like, three morons.

    (Now THAT'S sarcasm, bitchez!)

  • ||

    Peoples is crazzzy!

    I wonder if the propaganda is effective.

    Torturing the guy that plants a nuke in a major city may not save anyone, but at least it carries a small amount of vengeance. Nothing moral or good about it; it's just a bit of brutally obtained satisfaction. (Not that torture should be legal policy.)

    Reason is generally appropriate for the actual articles, but Hit & Run is the name of the game here--the two are linked but not the same.

    IMO, war is a subject that tends to limit the capacity for rational thought; there's just too much fear involved; too much idealogy. Violence is primitive. If most people were coolly rational about war, I think I would have a greater fear of humanity than I already do.

  • ||

    Oh, and trying to make the point that propaganda is a normal, and non-destructive, part of warfare. I guess my point was lost on you.

    Tom, see Pooh's comments. Here, I'll make it easy:

    I don't think anyone is seriously arguing that propoganda is per se bad. I think people might suggest that getting caught doing it so inarticulately is counter productive. The validity of a tactic in general does not justify poor execution of that tactic. The means chosen in this case is just so f-all stupid as to begger belief.

  • ||

    Propaganda is good when it works, and bad when it doesn't. Just like bombs. Is the United States to swear off the use of bombs because they are quite often ineffective?

    War is a huge, staggering, mess, in every instance. Every single one. One either accepts that in all wars tactics will be employed which do not pan out, and even backfire, or one becomes that most priceless of morons, a pacifist. If one wishes to denounce this tactic for it's ineffectiveness, by all means do so, and please establish it as such. All the better to adopt more effective tactics. To express moral outrage over paying media outlets to run stories, however, even if they are 100% false, in the context of waging war, is so goddamned stupid as to beggar belief.

  • ||

    Rather silly to oppose the US government providing factual information through local outlets on free speech grounds.

    So, is use of the printing press to distribute facts on the same order as use of nerve gas? Darned silliest thing I have heard in a week, and I try to look briefly at Daily Kos every day.

    This kind of stupidity is why I won't move to New Hampshire as part of the free state movement. I have little patience with purists in an imperfect world. Third best to start because accepting the best is a recipe for delay.

  • ||

    To those who claim that Matt did not object to to the use of propaganda on a moral basis...

    "Shackleford's folly, aside from the feeble unpatriotic slap, is that that formulation assumes all weapons are equally neutral in moral value...."

    ....Matt, I admire you greatly, but this is really stupid.

  • ||

    I don't think anyone is seriously arguing that propoganda is per se bad. I think people might suggest that getting caught doing it so inarticulately is counter productive. The validity of a tactic in general does not justify poor execution of that tactic. The means chosen in this case is just so f-all stupid as to begger belief.

    Comment by: Adam at December 1, 2005 09:18 PM

    Adam, that of course assumes that the average citizen of Iraq has the ability or the inclination to follow a relatively obscure story in the American press. And even if it does appear on CNN international I really doubt that anyone posting here is qualified to predict what their response might be (rise of the arab street? complete indifference?)

  • Matt||

    Awwwww...Poor Ken Ken Shultz. His personal forum has been overtaken by people who might disagree with his opinion.

    Gee, as an aficionado of "Reason" I figured he had an open mind. It's a shame that "libertarians" no longer believe in the free exchnge of ideas.

  • Matt Welch||

    To express moral outrage over paying media outlets to run stories, however, even if they are 100% false, in the context of waging war, is so goddamned stupid as to beggar belief.

    I didn't express moral outrage. Though I didn't know moral outrage was the new wearing white after Labor Day....

    To those who claim that Matt did not object to to the use of propaganda on a moral basis...

    "Shackleford's folly, aside from the feeble unpatriotic slap, is that that formulation assumes all weapons are equally neutral in moral value...."


    Will, you misunderstand me. Shackleford posited all weapons as being basically neutral; they only attain moral or practical value depending on who picks them up. I am no philosopher (as you know) but I think that misses two points: 1) the weapon might be lousy & counter-productive, 2) the weapon might be taboo in some way, and therefore come with negative consequences when deployed. My point being, for him to say that "any weapon" in our hands is an "asset," is just factually wrong.

    So that leads you to three overlapping questions: "Is this 'weapon,' when deployed, a productive asset?"; "Does this weapon produce negative consquences beyond its utilitarian value?" and "Does the deployment of this weapon contradict some of the stated goals of U.S. policy in the region?" I think the answers to that are "no," "yes" and "yes," though it's damned hard to measure, and obviously Good People Disagree. As do Bad.

    But these are practical considerations (at least in my own head), not moral. There *is* a perfectly decent moral case to be made against it, but that's really not where I'm coming from.

  • Matt Welch||

    It's a shame that "libertarians" no longer believe in the free exchnge of ideas.

    Which is why we refuse to allow comments, unlike all those other opinion magazines and high-profile bloggers. Oh wait.

  • ||

    bendover, I was quoting Pooh from above. And you're right about the assumptions. But if the U.S. military thinks that enough Iraqis are reading newspapers and that engaging Iraqis through newspapers is worthwhile, then does the U.S. military also believe that they'll shrug it off when they're exposed in said newspapers as having paid certain newspapers to run their lies?

  • ||

    Matt, thanks for being the lone voice of reason on this, and absorbing the barbs of idiots -- and they accuse you of losing perspective! Some of us who actually have experience in this sort of thing appreciate someone standing up for, I don't know, the protection of the military's credibility as an institution?

    I do, however, find it amusing to see so many Conservative bloggers and their peanut galleries -- not much more than a year after Rathergate -- vociferously defending the practice of placing items whose origins are completely misrepresented to the reader (i.e., "fake") on the basis that their contents are still truthful (i.e., "accurate"). If for no other reason than that this may be making Mary Mapes snicker, they should just STFU.

  • Matt Welch||

    Rather silly to oppose the US government providing factual information through local outlets on free speech grounds.

    Even sillier to disagree with something nobody said.

    So, is use of the printing press to distribute facts on the same order as use of nerve gas?

    Not remotely. I wasn't saying nerve gas = buying an Iraqi newspaper, I was saying that, contra Shackleford, it is not true that all weapons = good in the hands of the United States.

  • CMN||

    I think Matt may be right that this is a bad thing to do for the many practical reasons he gives. But it's not a free speech issue. The opposite of free speech isn't government speech, it's censorship. If we were engaged in censorship (which I believe at one time we were) or otherwise preventing other voices from being heard, Matt would be right that this contradicts the value of free speech. The fact that the government chooses to speak without revealing that it's the one doing the speaking may rightly hurt its credibility and that of its message, but it doesn't hamper the "marketplace of ideas" any more than does pseudonymous blogging.

  • Jesse Walker||

    CMN: It's Shackleford, not Matt, who brought up the issue of free speech -- to make a "libertarian" argument against it. Now that's what I call losing perspective.

    By the way, am I the only one who thinks it's funny that the commenter at 8:27 is setting himself up as the arbiter of who can or can't write?

  • ||

    Yes Bill, placing truthful articles, in local papers inside a war zone, in order to shine a favorable light on our forces and counteract propaganda from our enemies is exactly the same as a national media outfit trying to affect the outcome of a presidential by using doctored documents.

    You wouldn't happen to be a journalist, would you?

  • ||

    So how long before the Glenn Reynolds crowd denounce President Bush and John Warner as enemies of America? I mean, shit, this was a classified operation and anybody who talks about it is an Enemy of the People, right?

  • ||

    denounces for the grouchy grammarians among us.

  • ||

    Even the LA Times' own reporters were on television saying the Pentagon's actions were not propaganda.

  • ||

    Because if one disagrees with Reynolds, one has obviously lost touch with reality. Or something like that.

    I don't know who Reynolds is, and I don't really care. ...It just becomes painfully obvious when the IQ in here drops below room temperature. It usually starts with mindless profanity aimed at the poster.

    ...See any one of a dozen tid bits:

    This kind of stupidity is why I won't move to New Hampshire as part of the free state movement.

    Because the people there don't like the propaganda? Ha!

    Perhaps propaganda by the Pentagon would be less necessary if our own Western media weren't so busy spreading propaganda for the other side.

    What a hoot!

    Anybody ever see Al-Jazeera (AKA "The Mouth of Terror")? Think that isn't propaganda masquerading as "news"?

    This is a parody of a Bushbot argument, right? ..and a bad one at that? I mean, people wouldn't actually say that, would they?

    So, is use of the printing press to distribute facts on the same order as use of nerve gas?

    Ha! Oh stop already!

    Awwwww...Poor Ken Ken Shultz. His personal forum has been overtaken by people who might disagree with his opinion.

    I have years of commments with libertarians and others disagreeing with me on a host of issues. ...Oh, and, sometimes, I get persuaded.

    Gee, as an aficionado of "Reason" I figured he had an open mind. It's a shame that "libertarians" no longer believe in the free exchnge of ideas.

    Now that's not fair! I believe in the free exchange of ideas--even stupid ones.

  • SpinMeister||

    We need more good news from Iraq, like this happy note.

    Cheers friends!

  • Matt||

    I never said a single thing about Reason not accepting opposition opinion. I was specifically referring to Ken crying about the diversity of thought.

    I'm thrilled that open debate is allowed on such high-profile sites such as this. I just find it odd that regulars are so threatened by outsiders.

    It's no different than trying to express a dissenting opinion on Kos or Free Republic. Disagree and you are subject to execution. (The bad kind, by Dick Cheney, not the good kind like under Castro or Saddam)

  • ||

    I never said a single thing about Reason not accepting opposition opinion. I was specifically referring to Ken crying about the diversity of thought.

    You almost had it there Matt. I was cryin' about the stupidity of thought.

    Look at ten threads from over the past two years at random, and if you don't find me respectfully disagreeing with anyone, I'll donate a dollar to the legitimate charity of your choice. ...so long as it doesn't go to this Reynolds character--he looks like a buffoon to me.

  • Jeff G||

    Matt:

    You leave out the context of my remarks, which I gleaned from this bit in the LA Times article:

    Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said.

    I followed that with the quip:

    Wow. If that�s the standard for propaganda, we could�ve saved the information op folks the trouble of writing new copy and just reprinted stories directly out of the LA Times...

    Later I reprised that theme in the portion you excerpt in your post (with context slightly broadened):

    [...] what are the chances that the LA Times would be as careful to break [the story of terrorist putting out their own misinformation in alt weeklies] story, which�unlike the story today�would be a story about enemy propaganda...?

    Whereas the stories being placed by the US military are hardly different in kind from the stories one reads daily from Reuters or the New York Times.

    Both of these statements are based on the reporting of the LAT -- i.e., that they were largely factual but showed a particular bias.

    Therefore, when you write, "So, intentional plagiarism, falsified quotes, and made-up shit to cover up American military actions are the norm in the American press?" -- you are misrepresenting my position, omitting the foundation elements of my thesis, and trying to dismiss an argument I made based on facts I didn't have available to me (and that the military continues to deny).

    Also, I couldn't find the examples in a quick Google search, but I seem to remember (and maybe you do, too) that some big papers were caught printing anti-gun press releases as "news." Which would seem to fit nicely into the mix.

    Anyway, just thought I'd clarify. Now everybody can get back to flaying the wingnuts.

  • Jeff G||

    A link to throw in the mix.

    Tell me, is it better to be a prostitute or just a slut? That is, is it more ethical to pay for placement or just dupe the lazy locals? I mean, at least the Iraqi newspapers were getting paid.

    Also, a commenter on my site brought this up:

    One point that a lot of people won?t pick up on:

    In many poor countries, reporters expect to be paid for stories. In China, reporters can extort blackmail from companies to NOT report on disasters, product problems, etc.

    In that kind of environment, if you stick to USA rules, you will not achieve much. (Though you will feel good, I guess.)

    If everyone is being paid, you have to pay as well.

    The Europeans used to be able to write off bribes as a business expense when the US companies couldn?t bribe at all...guess how many Airbuses got sold versus Boeings?

    Now, maybe in peacetime we could have the luxury of keeping American journalistic ethics in Iraq, but during wartime, I think you have to consider throwing them out, along with the ?thou shall not kill? ethical position.

    I don't know enough about it to judge this one way or the other, but Matt did a lot of overseas reporting, so maybe he can shed some light here.
  • ||

    No, Matt, it is factually wrong to say that any weapon is not an asset in our hands. Whether the deployment of that asset is strategically or tactically wise is all dependent on context, and contexts in war are ever-changing. It is always better in war, however, to have more weapons at one's disposal as opposed to fewer.

    War is a profanity and to speak of the relative moral quality of the tools used in that most profane of human activities is sheer fatuity. There can be relative moral contexts as to how and when these tools are used, but the tools themselves are morally equal, in that they are all used in service to the act of killing other human beings.

  • tom swift||

    "So the question becomes, if American news sources are picking up this stuff, whom is ultimate object of the propaganda? It's not Americans, is it?"

    Of course it is. The war will be won or lost in America - not in the UN, not in Europe, not even in the Middle East. When America gives up, the war against homicidal Islam is lost, and not before. If enough voters can be turned into surrender-monkeys, then that nasty little religious/political movement - you know, the one which fancies that blowing up crowds of kids is a legitimate form of political expression - will win by default.

    It seems to be working. Most of the commentators on this page have already been defeated.

  • Matt Welch||

    Jeff -- I've done stories about (and been successfully sued for!) the habits of Central Europe papers to accept cash dollar bills to write propaganda, almost always in the form of puff-pieces on advertisers (many of whom were sanctimonious Western companies telling them of *course* this is how you do business!). One of the things we insisted on in the countries I worked, was to A) firmly explain to anyone who asked or hinted that we don't do business this way, B) recite the same shpiel, only in different circumstances, when a source (either a government official or business type) insisted on having all questions faxed in advance, and/or on being able to review the story before it was printed; and C) expose whatever wrongdoing forcefully, consequences be damned.

    We lost some huge advertising contracts that way, and as I said got sued & lost in Hungary. But we also set an example in each place that was definitely noticed, and (as importantly) tangibly *gained* both business and respect as a result.

    Throwing it back sorta on the business at hand, I've had dozens of conversations about the foreign-bribery business, and the conclusion that I've come to (based on the testimony of *Americans* involved in the process), is that 1) it *occasionally* hurts in individual cases, and 2) it *helps* in the long-term a great deal, by saving short-term dollars, and affixing a certain assumed quality-premium, or ethical premium, on American companies. Not everyone agrees with this assessment, of course, and I very obviously have my bias in this & similar issues, but I've heard that from many Americans over the years. (And yes, they sneak some quasi-bribes in, rest assured ... but they're not like the scurvy French.)

    To me (now that I'm rambling), that kind of transparency is not unanalogous to, say, farm subsidies -- Did some Australian & New Zealand farmers get screwed when the funny-talking countries slashed their taxpayer support? No doubt. But the overall health of both agricultural economies improved greatly, as far as I'm aware, and made them more, not less, able to compete in the mean old world.

    I similarly believe that American propaganda works best when it's based on truth, and delivered openly. The panicking Public Diplomacy wizards are, in my view, searching for a magic bullet that'll turn around those disastrous poll numbers in the region, instead of focusing on getting out the daily truth while combatting the daily lies. I recognize that many people would consider my favored approach naive.

  • ||

    Matt, I'm sorry, but you have clearly lost your sanity here. What you're complaining about is that the US is placing (according to the Times) factually accurate stories in Iraqi papers. Often, apparently, to counter factually inaccurate stories that were being printed by opposing papers.

    Boy, if you are bothered by that, reading Daily Variety must send you into absolute paroxsyms of ethical existential angst. And I'm surprised that the revelation that CNN was slanting their news from Bagdad in order to preserve access under Saddam must have made you suicidal.

    Hmmm. German newspaper, 1944: "Jewish Germans sent to Buchenwald will soon have their citizen ship restored. After all, the slogan over the gate is 'Work sets you free.'" US newspaper, say 1946: "In fact, Buchenwald is a 'death camp', part of Hitler's program of extinction for the Jews. Far from work making the Jews free, they were exploited as slave labor in inhuman conditions and eventually gassed by the tens of thousands."

    Yup. That's an ethical problem there.

    Idiot. useful idiot, but still an idiot.

  • Matt Welch||

    Matt, I'm sorry, but you have clearly lost your sanity here. What you're complaining about is that the US is placing (according to the Times) factually accurate stories in Iraqi papers.

    Did you read the whole post, Charlie? It's not "factually accurate" to say that a prisoner died peacefully after cooperating, when in fact he died during stressful interrogation. It's not factually accurate to write "we Iraqis" when the writer is, in fact, an American. It's not factually accurate to plagiarize, it's not factually accurate to snip out an anti-American quote and replace it with a pro-American paraphrase of questionable provenance. The same L.A. Times story you mention also has this passage:

    The storyboards, several of which were obtained by The Times, read more like press releases than news stories. They often contain anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials; it is unclear whether the quotes are authentic.

    "Absolute truth was not an essential element of these stories," said the senior military official who spent this year in Iraq.

    If you think the Pentagon is shelling out secret bag money to plant stories that are simple factual rebuttals to Iraqi misinformation, and not full of their own fanciful lies, you are a very trusting soul.

  • ||

    I suppose it would be more troubling if the Bush Administration paid a journalist to do a puff piece here in America for one of its pet programs, but they just wouldn't do something like that!

  • Jeff G||

    A follow-up post, Matt.

  • ||

    War is a profanity and to speak of the relative moral quality of the tools used in that most profane of human activities is sheer fatuity.

    I'd be interested to know if the rest of you think this is so. Is there anything we should be unwilling to do in order to win the war? ...anything at all?

  • Pooh||

    Wow, one little post and I stir up quite a bit of shit. Thanks, Adam, I'll take it from here.

    Let me reiterate my earlier point as clearly as I can: Propaganda done well = a valuable too in winning the hearts and minds of average Iraqis. Winning hearts and minds is a Good Thing. However, getting caught, red-handed, foisting said propaganda on said Iraqis and trying to pass it off as Iraqi reporting is insulting the intelligence of said Iraqis. Intelligence insulted Iraqis are less likely to present their hearts and minds to be won. This is a Bad Thing.

    More simply, I'm not saying don't do it, I'm saying do it right, damnit. (The generlizability of that last point, I leave open for debate.)

    As to the point about this propaganda really being aimed at Americans...I was ready to go with it until I realised that that would mean my tax dollars were being clandestinely spent advocating a partisan political position. That strikes me as at least slightly unsettling.

  • bb||

    I'm sorry, why is this site called "Reason?"

    Just the question I'm starting to ask. OK, we know you are against the war in Iraq, you made your point. Do you have to stoop to freaking out at every move made by the US?

    Some comments here make me think you have a big audience holed up in their Idaho compounds waiting for the black helicoptors.

    Since when did libertarians become paranoid?

  • ||

    Like the Iraqis can't tell when they're being BSed. These folks lived under Saddam & his media machine, remember? You think they're going to believe some silly spin they read in a paper that's sympathetic to the coalition?
    Maybe we can have the GIs drop off copies on their patrol rounds, like paper boys... Or on the midnight raids... "Get down on the floor! Hands on top of your heads! Where's Akmhed? Read this! Would you like a subscription today?"

  • ||

    OK, so now we've added propaganda to the list of "don'ts". Good. Is too early to reveal our own masterly (and oh-so moral) plan for combating islamic terrorism yet?

  • ||

    OK, so now we've added propaganda to the list of "don'ts". Good. Is it too early to reveal our own masterly (and oh-so-moral) plan for combatting islamic terrorism yet?

  • ||

    (Sorry for the double post)

  • ||

    Like the Iraqis can't tell when they're being BSed. These folks lived under Saddam & his media machine, remember? You think they're going to believe some silly spin they read in a paper that's sympathetic to the coalition?

    Exactly. Propaganda won't win too many hearts and minds in Iraq. And it might make them more cynical about our project of liberalization.

    (Is liberalization still the reason why we're in Iraq? The list keeps changing.)

  • ||

    "I'd be interested to know if the rest of you think this is so. Is there anything we should be unwilling to do in order to win the war? ...anything at all?"

    Ahhhh. That is a good question, but it is skipping past the first, more important question - is the war just? If yes, then no, there is nothing I would be unwilling to do to win it. If no, then anything done in the war is wrong, and trying to make it more moral by using only certain "more humane" tactics is just trying to shine a steaming pile of manure.

    So your question is usually a good way of determining whether people actually think a given war is truly just. If they're not willing to pull out all the stops, it's not - as war is only justified in actual self-defense.

  • VMoose||

    hey Thoreau!

    the fun part of all of this is the frothing "Bushbot" (thanks, Ken!) comments, always ending with "I tought [sic] libertoids did X".

    they REALLY need to monitor the booze and the internet at that group home. really.

  • ||

    I'll simply note that Ken chose to ignore my assertion that it is the context in which the tools of war are employed, not the tools themselves, which renders them moral or immoral. Yes, there are actions which, if taken now, would be immoral in waging this war. The use of propaganda via bribes is not one of them. Change the context suffciently, however, and there are damned few tools, if any, which would be immoral to employ.

  • ||

    "Let me reiterate my earlier point as clearly as I can: Propaganda done well = a valuable too in winning the hearts and minds of average Iraqis. Winning hearts and minds is a Good Thing. However, getting caught, red-handed, foisting said propaganda on said Iraqis and trying to pass it off as Iraqi reporting is insulting the intelligence of said Iraqis. Intelligence insulted Iraqis are less likely to present their hearts and minds to be won. This is a Bad Thing."

    OK Pooh, I'll take a swing at your high, hanging, curve-ball. So, propaganda can be a good, useful weapon in warfare. Now, we have a covert U.S. military propaganda operation, meant to help the U.S. win the war in Iraq and, in so doing, save however many U.S. servicemen's lives as well as the lives of countless Iraqis, and this operation is discovered by a U.S. newspaper and is publicly disclosed by that newspaper. Gee, that sounds surprisingly like "giving aid and comfort to our enemies" which, if I'm not mistaken, is commonly referred to as treason.

    Granted, I'm probably just another conservative nut-job accusing anyone who takes a critical stand regarding the war as a traitor, however, if we all agree that propaganda, when done right, is an effective weapon of war, and that the LA Times were the ones who spilled the beans about this operation, what other conclusion, other than treason, is there? Just asking.

  • ||

    I expect the idealists at Reason don't get many second dates with their self-destructively self-imposed policy of wooing their dates with "objective" disclosures of their personal traits, as told from the perspective of a disinterested observer.

    That's not very charming and hardly admirable. Pre-date fingernail clipping is, after all, a bit of propaganda. Tinge of defeatism in refusing to put the best foot forward? If you approach a cautious and skeptical girl with point-of-fact revelations of your history of recurring dermititis, your mother's chronic alcoholism, and your own budding pornography addiction, I think I would be correct to doubt your claim that you actually want to win a girlfriend. You're either magnificently stupid or intentionally sabotaging the effort.

  • keith||

    Maybe we can have the GIs drop off copies on their patrol rounds, like paper boys... Or on the midnight raids... "Get down on the floor! Hands on top of your heads! Where's Akmhed? Read this! Would you like a subscription today?"

    I smell a job for GRIT magazine here. Unleash the army of freckle-faced kids on soapbox scooters, and let them spread the word throughout the Middle East!

    -K

  • Pooh||

    Tom, yes, you do appear to be one of those when you suggest that publishing an uncotroversially newsworthy (though it does present controversial news) story is tantamount to treason. Unless you want to argue that the First Amendment was wrongly decided by those damned activist framers.

    I guess if there is one thing for which this discussion can be counted on, it's ignoring that this was a piss-poor effort at propagandizing. So it's now the LAT's fault for discovering what was so cleverly hidden? It's not the screw-up that's the problem it's the talking about the screw-up?

    I'm not arguing that propaganda is bad. I'm arguing that the method we've chosen to use is stupid, transparent and counter-productive, mainly because it looks like propaganda. Is it treasonous to suggest that a little more subtlety would have been a good idea?

    I'm a rational man, but these flippant charges of 'treason' make my blood boil. Come at me with something better than a politicized "yo mama" and we can discuss things like the sensible adults that we claim to be.

  • bb||

    Tom, yes, you do appear to be one of those when you suggest that publishing an uncotroversially newsworthy (though it does present controversial news) story is tantamount to treason. Unless you want to argue that the First Amendment was wrongly decided by those damned activist framers.

    Wait a minute, I'm not calling the LATimes piece treason but I want to clarify something. Are you suggesting that any publication can print anything including state secrets that can harm the country? Do you believe the First Amendment protects that?

    Sincere question.

  • Thomas Nephew||

    So, intentional plagiarism, falsified quotes, and made-up shit to cover up American military actions are the norm in the American press?

    Is this a trick question?

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