Democrats & Liberals Archives

The Cost of Propaganda

Propaganda is the heart and soul of the Public Relations Industry. As long as that industry confines itself to selling us soap and soft drinks no one is too offended. Of course that industry is now used to manipulate our political realm constantly. The series about the selling of the President is now decades old and still pertinent to our political process. When the same expertise was used to create “information” which was recently used to sell us on war as a solution in Afghanistan and Iraq something seriously wrong happened in our Democracy.

I was not aware until recently that the Bush Administration used hundreds of millions of tax dollars to hire PR firms and “information specialists” to sell us on going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The money is really hard to trace but much of it was funneled through the Pentagon where the Neocons control the policy structure and the purse strings. It does sadden me to see our Republic manipulated as if citizens were mere consumers of Public Policy, particularly in regard to war. Citizens do not consume Public Policy in our Democracy; they assume responsibility for it in the eyes of the world. Our Policies in regard to Palestine and Iraq and our stationing of troops in Saudi Arabia are the two most stated reasons why we are so disliked in Muslim countries today.

We are a Nation at the crossroads of our history once again, as we were at the time of the Civil War, during the Spanish American War, in the run up to WWII and during The Cold War. Our Foreign Policy depends more and more on our military might and less and less on the way the rest of the world views our actions beyond our own shores. We are a nation of citizens who empower our government to act on our behalf. In order to do that appropriately we need to know the truth about what drives our decision process in regard to commitments as important as War. It is certainly true that in times of crisis propaganda has always reared its head in this nation. Using our tax dollars to convince us of the validity of controversial positions taken by our leaders should be monitored carefully. The use of secrecy and nondisclosure agreements to hide the actions of our government in this regard is a dangerous trend and should be stopped with a constitutional amendment if necessary.

I backed the War in Afghanistan reluctantly because I felt we needed to end the Taliban Regime there and its support for Al Queda and Osama Bin Laden. I have serious misgivings about war as a policy tool in most cases driven by my sense that it most often costs more in lives and money than it yields in benefits. We have always been a nation reluctant to enter wars abroad. Our use of our military internationally has generally been confined to cases when the public embraced the idea that there was an imminent threat to our direct interests here, or more rarely in the outside world.

The manipulation of the public consciousness of this nation in the Spanish American War is well documented. Many people here believe that we knew in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbor; but most of us believe that war with Japan was inevitable in any case. Vietnam was based on a lie and it brought us a major policy defeat and rampant inflation. Now we have the policy of preemptive war which is being propped up by fear related to the attack on New York and Washington on 9/11, 2001. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding that horrific event, preemptive war does not emanate from the threat of terrorism as a natural consequence of our admitted vulnerability. The old adage “the best offense is a good defense” is clearly honored in the breach by that questionable response to 9/11 if that is what it is in fact.

Opportunistic manipulation of the people in our nation has to be examined in the light of how it impacts our democracy, even if it appears to contribute to our security in some regard. Policy goals are difficult enough to determine for someone outside of our government’s inner circle. It is imperative that we decide whether or not to support such things without the added confusion of tax funded propaganda added to the mix.

Once we accept that the government knows best and we should not demand that real policy drivers be revealed to the public we have allowed our government to control us insidiously. If we go beyond that and endorse the use of propaganda we fail in our duty as citizens. If we so much as accept the use of propaganda as a tool of government we risk the loss of our validity as citizens of a Republic. That validity is based on our ability to know the truth about the causes of our government’s actions, and to approve or disapprove them, as is our right and our sacred duty. Governments may rise and fall here but that must be by our informed choice and it must be based on the truth, not some propaganda concocted by professionals who make their livings fooling people. God bless and keep you all safe in these times of propaganda here and anger abroad.

Posted by Henri Reynard at January 18, 2004 5:17 PM