Thursday, August 31, 2006

The effects of propaganda

Following is a quotation from an Al-Jazeera interview with Sheldon Rampton, co-author with John Stauber of the book The Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq. I don't have any authority to say that they are right about the lead-up to the war in Iraq (you have your own opinion) , but the research Rampton refers to on who propaganda effects and how strikes me (if it is well-founded) as something very important for the study of history in all eras:

Our niche has always been that we study propaganda. We've spent years dissecting the public relations industry in the United States, and one of the themes that we see quite frequently is that propaganda is often more successful at molding the views of the propagandists themselves than it is at shaping the views of their "target audiences." This has certainly been the case with respect to the war in Iraq. The degree of credulity given to the Bush administration’s rhetoric can be mapped in a series of concentric circles emanating from Washington, DC. The Washington opinion-makers in their think tanks, lobby shops and bureaucracies are the people who have come to believe in their own propaganda with the greatest passion and the least ability to absorb nuance and criticism. The rest of the United States constitutes the next circle of credulity. Outside Washington, many Americans were initially persuaded to believe the case for war, but that belief has steadily eroded. And simply setting foot outside the borders of the United States into either Canada or Mexico will take you into territory where the public has consistently and strongly opposed the war since its inception...

The reason they were so determined to tell people the war would be quick and cheap was that they realized the public would have misgivings about getting into an expensive, unending quagmire. The resulting paradox is that the current mess in Iraq is a consequence of the brilliant marketing campaign waged by the Bush administration originally to sell the war to the American people -- a campaign so successful that the war planners came to believe it themselves. It gives us no pleasure to point out that we predicted this could happen, but we did.


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