As an add-on to yesterdays post about propaganda, I would like to drill down a bit on the use of propaganda and its relation to the U.S. military and the various wars it is constantly engaged in.
In the 1960s as the TV sets became ubiquitous in American homes and watching the evening news was a family affair, the military had yet to grasp just how influential the television could be in shaping public opinion about Military conflicts.
As a result, reporters were relatively free to report on battlefield conditions in Vietnam, air candid interviews with troops, and report what they wanted about the conflict. The result was pictures such as these:
Both Presidents Johnson and Nixon were outraged that reporters would show images such as these. The Presidents believed that the media had an obligation to help America win the war, and if that meant lying about it then so be it.
An excellent 10-minute documentary highlights the beginning of this conflict, which started with Morely Safers report on August 5, 1965, following a Marine search and destroy machine which showed Marines burning peoples homes to the ground:
The medias free access to report on Vietnam brought Johnsons presidency to an end and ultimately forced the United States out of the war.
The White House and the Military learned from this lesson, and in 1983, they banned the press altogether for the first two days of the Grenada Operation.
Next up was the first Gulf War.
The 24-hour news coverage of it gave the impression of unprecedented press access to the war. The reality was the opposite. The Militarys policy on press reporting was spelled out in Annex Foxtrot which stated:
News media representatives will be escorted at all times. Repeat, at all times,
It also created press pools which the military supplied with its own information and video, and Annex Foxtrot also gave the military the power of prior restraint, which allowed it to censor press reports before they were released.
One might expect that the press would have complained. In my opinion, the press should have refused to cover the war at all, and instead, let military reporters provide information so that at least the public would know clearly where the information was coming from. However, that didnt happen.
Instead, the press presented the affair as an almost non-stop Hollywood action movie, complete with its heroes and villains, and made temporary stars out of many of the on-screen subjects. This was good for ratings, and that was more important than ethics.
In short, the world only got to see what the Military wanted it to see.
This standard of close to 100% Military control over news coverage has, in fact, gotten worse. Now the media helps to stage PR stunts for the government. The iconic video of Iraqis toppling the statue of Saddam Hussein was nothing more than a PR stunt, conducted by a small group of Iraqis, journalists, and Marines themselves.
Journalists on the ground cautioned their editors that it was a relatively minor event, only to be admonished by his editor that he, the journalist, was in the wrong for not seeing the importance of it.
A 3 minute summary of the event is here:
The major media, along with the government, blew the event up into a major story of historical significance. Time has proved that to be wrong, as it turns out the Iraqis werent as excited to have us invade their country as the government and media had us believe.
The lesson in all of this is that since Vietnam the press has become a propaganda arm of the United States Military and that one should believe literally nothing that is said by the major media on military or foreign policy affairs.
This will become as clear as can be if one examines our relationship with Iran, which will be the subject of my post tomorrow.