Thursday, December 02, 2004

The Truth Shall Make You See (the way we want you to)

Two years ago, the Pentagon's Office of Strategic Influence, an office opened in response to 9/11, let it be known that they planned to plant false news stories in U.S. media as a tool in the war against terrorism. The resulting uproar forced the OSI to close down. But as an article in this morning's edition of the Los Angeles Times reports, the policy of putting out lies and misinformation has simply been taken over by other parts of the government. It's always been common practice in wartime to deceive the enemy about strategic moves or decisions, but the current deliberate use of untrue or misleading information goes far beyond the traditional attempt to get a combat advantage through deception. What is intended now is nothing less than the manipulation of reality as a public relations tool to control the attitudes and perceptions of Americans toward their government's policies--and also to influence how other countries view U.S. actions.

What's wrong with shaping a "truthful, persuasive message ... to tell the Iraqis why we invaded their country and ejected their government"[?] The answer: nothing, if the message were truthful. The problem is, these "messages" are not necessarily truthful. No, they are what public relations campaigns always are: the skilled and clever manipulation of information to convey the impression one wants people to have about the product. In this case, the product is the Bush administration's policies and actions in the Arab and Muslim world. As Don Henley put it, "There are no facts, there is no truth, just data to be manipulated."

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