I thought they only did this in North Korea

In Pyongyang, you will never see any cripples — no wheelchairs, no crutches, no mentally ill. If you don’t look fit enough, you’re shipped out to God knows where. It’s all part of the looney government’s attempts to keep the capital and its inhabitants looking good for when visitors drop by. (I no longer have the link to the story about this policy; it was corroborated by my former Beijing co-worker who spent some time in Pyongyang a few years back.)

This type of engineering your society so that it looks a certain way and, of course, engineering the media so they only show nice things, is key to the North Korean mentality (Beijing’s too, though not quite so drastic). So when I first read these lines from the Washington Post, I had to wonder whether some of Dear Leader’s methodology was wearing off on our Dear President:

Since the end of the Vietnam War, presidents have worried that their military actions would lose support once the public glimpsed the remains of U.S. soldiers arriving at air bases in flag-draped caskets.

To this problem, the Bush administration has found a simple solution: It has ended the public dissemination of such images by banning news coverage and photography of dead soldiers’ homecomings on all military bases.

In March, on the eve of the Iraq war, a directive arrived from the Pentagon at U.S. military bases. “There will be no arrival ceremonies for, or media coverage of, deceased military personnel returning to or departing from Ramstein [Germany] airbase or Dover [Del.] base, to include interim stops,” the Defense Department said, referring to the major ports for the returning remains.

Apparently the policy is nothing new, but it’s only this administration that’s embraced it. Back during our little war in Afghanistan, Bush ignored the policy. Now, during an operation that faces a lot more cynicism, criticism and skepticism, it’s in full force.

It is a sign, I think, of how Bush wants to “package” the war in Iraq, and a sign of his insecurity about the whole thing. It’s a branding technique that tells its audience (us) that this war is high-tech and antiseptic; we’ll show you the dazzle, but not the consequences, not the ugly underside, not the grief. (And no, it’s not anywhere near the level of what goes on in North Korea, but it did remind me of NK’s attempting to create its own “reality.”)

Call it what you will, it is still an attempt at mass manipulation and propaganda that should be unacceptable in America.

This is a link to the NK’s policy on the handicapped Scroll down to Public Executions, then 7 grafs down.

The Discussion: 2 Comments

Actually, people are well aware of the mounting death toll in Iraq. It receives much prominance in the press. The truth hasn’t been covered.
The attempt at mass manipulation and propaganda would, arguably, be the anti-war media’s coverage of the returning dead. After all, they’ve played the quagmire tune so long and unremittingly, they could hardly pass up on another link to Vietnam.

October 24, 2003 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

I think there are various ways to look at it. At the start of the war, when things went poorly for several days, the media certainly played up the quagmire card. Then, as we went into Baghdad, the media showed us as utterly invincible, and it was in that spirit that Bush made his Top Gun landing, his approval in the polls and in most media at its very zenith. Press coverage of the victory was glowing, as it should have been.

Then things got out of control, and media coverage went from jubilant to cautious to critical to miserable. Not surprising, considering the massive UN blast, the suicide bombings, the snipings, the loss of food and electricity and drinking water, and the growing anger of the Iraqis.

This may have all been mass manipulation. But when things were going great the mass media certainly said so, and I don’t think they are now practicing mass manipulation by reporting things going badly. If that was their game they never had to make Bush look so good with the march into Baghdad and Mission Accomplished spectacle.

Now, by blatantly manipulating the rules for the press, the administration comes off looking worse than ever. Like it is very insecure. Like it doesn’t want America to see what the war really brings with it.

Of course, if the deaths of our soldiers had really been so prominently played out in the mass media as you suggest, there would be no need for such manipulation now, would there? They’d let the photos be taken since, after all, everybody would already know how awful things were through the liberal media. So why bother?

No, it’s just more of the control-freakism that marks this paranoid, scheming regime.

October 25, 2003 @ 1:01 am | Comment

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