At the mention of the word propaganda, many people think of overblown posters featuring a hammer and sickle and bulging biceps, or poorly edited videos glorifying Kim Jung-Un and the North Korean military. Most Americans think they are too smart to fall for propaganda, and that the US government would not attempt to manipulate their people in such a way.
They couldn’t be more wrong. In 2013 a new reform was passed effectively legalising mass scale propaganda in the United States. The result: an unleashing of thousands of hours per week of government-produced radio and TV programs for domestic U.S. consumption, all designed to fit into normal programming without being noticed as propaganda.
There are endless documented cases of propaganda issued by the central government. The Pentagon even edits many Hollywood scripts and is deeply involved with numerous reality television shows.
Back in July one of the largest Freedom of Information Act releases ever dropped. The U.S. Army’s Entertainment Liaison Office was forced to release a 1,400 page document that details the Pentagon’s involvement with American movies and television shows between 2010 and 2015.
This document details Pentagon meddling in shows as seemingly benign asCountry Music’s Next Superstar and Top Chef Masters. The write up onTransformers III describes how Department of Defense officials met with Michael Bay on at least three occasions to go over the script and suggest necessary revisions. The document’s author states that Transformers III “will give us the opportunity to showcase the bravery and values of our Soldiers and the excellent technology of today’s Army to a global audience.” (p. 52)
The Defense Department paid $5.4 million of taxpayer money to the NFL to spot light veterans and to show case soldiers on the field at half time. Imagine if you saw this in North Korea instead of Minnesota:
Then there’s Operation Mockingbird, in which over 3,000 journalists in every form of media covertly worked for and often published stories directly written by the CIA from the 1950s to the 1970s. Mockingbird continues to this day, by the way. German journalist Udo Ulfkotte blew the whistle in 2014 when he revealed that it was understood journalists would lose their jobs if they wrote anything against the West. Indeed, many of the supposedly impartial ‘experts’ you see on television are actually working for the Pentagon. And CNN now offers ‘news’ segments that are literally paid for by corporations.
To advance the corporate/government agenda, the mainstream media will sometimes engage in psychological warfare. For instance, after Iraq invaded Kuwait on August 2nd, 1990, the United States was itching to intervene, but had to give the public a credible reason to get behind the war. Enter Nayirah:
This fifteen year old girl blinked back tears as she gave a moving testimony about the horrible war crimes Iraq was committing in Kuwait. In front of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, she famously stated, “While I was there I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators and left the children to die on the cold floor [crying.] It was horrifying” (you can watch this here.) In the ensuing months, congressmen, T.V. personalities, and President Bush latched onto this testimony as a prime reason to enter the Iraq-Kuwait War. President Bush “repeated the story at least ten times in the following weeks.” (2). There was just one problem: the testimony was completely made up.
Two years later, The New York Times dropped a bombshell: Nayirah was in fact a member of the Kuwaiti Royal Family and the daughter of Kuwait’s Ambassador to the US. It further came out that Nayirah had been coached by one of the largest public relations firms in the world at the time, Hill & Knowlton. The firm’s D.C. office was run by Craig Fuller, a George Bush crony who had served as Bush’s chief-of-staff during his vice presidency.
Hill and Knowlton received $11 million from the Kuwaiti government to produce propaganda pieces that would help get the American public to support an invasion of Iraq. In addition to faking Nayirah’s testimony, Hill and Knowlton “produced dozens of video news releases” which “were shown by eager TV news directors around the world who rarely (if ever) identified Kuwait’s PR firm as the source of the footage and stories.”
Propaganda is now Legal in the United States
Propaganda pieces in the United States are often called “Video News Releases.” According to Wikipedia, a “video news release (VNR) is a video segment made to look like a news report, but is instead created by a PR firm, advertising agency, marketing firm, corporation, or government agency. They are provided to television newsrooms to shape public opinion, promote commercial products and services, publicize individuals, or support other interests.” (4)
In other words, without telling their viewers, local news channels will sometimes air segments that were directly created by the federal government and/or corporations. Indeed, the New York Times reported in March, 2005 that “In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.”
So it is all documented, but that is not the point of this post. Rather, I’d like to point out that everyone is biased depending on what country they grew up in. 50s era Soviet propaganda may look laughably obvious to you, but that’s because you have the benefit of hindsight and are coming from a different cultural context. Some one who grew up on a different planet may very well think the United States is a totalitarian society with North Korean levels of propaganda.