Hitchens blasts DoD pattern of deception

Iraq hawk Christopher Hitchens says it’s reprehensible and intolerable for our government to pay to plant propaganda stories in Iraq’s media. (Of course, that should go without saying, but a lot of chickenhawks are defending the practice as “PR as usual.”) It undermines the war, he says, and strengthens the arguments of the anti-war camp, proving that we cannot trust the supposed “good news” coming out of iraq. His conclusion is devastating.

[S]ometimes a whole new line is crossed and “propaganda” corrupts the whole process by becoming a covert operation against one’s “own” side. The worst violation so far has been the spreading of a falsified story about the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. Not only was he slain by “friendly fire” instead of by the foe—which is a tragedy in far more ways than just as a setback for recruitment—but the family and friends of this all-American hero were purposely deceived about what had really happened. It would be trivial to add that they were also pointlessly deceived (how long do the geniuses at DoD imagine that such a thing can be kept quiet?) except that it greatly added to the callousness of the thing, and except that this same pointlessness and moral idiocy are now apparent in the “good news” scandal in Iraq.

I remember reading, decades ago, of a moment when Richard Nixon had made some desperate speech from his bunker and had then arranged for telegrams of support to be sent to the White House. And I wondered—did he eagerly tear them open and turn moistly to his aides, saying, “See: You can always count on the horse sense of the American people”? Was he, in other words, utterly and happily insulated and yet alarmingly insane?

When we bombard ourselves with propaganda like this, we are the victims and we pay a heavy price, i.e., self delusion. It’s like a blogger spamming his own site with self-congratulatory comments and getting all puffed up about it. (And believe it or not, such bloggers actually exist, and they really do get high on their own self-praise.)

“…utterly and happily insulated and yet alarmingly insane…” Sounds like our own Preznit.

The Discussion: 5 Comments

Well I don’t support the Iraqi War, but I have to say there’s nothing wrong with propaganda during war.

War is about deception, disinformation, misinformation, misdirection, etc. If this is wrong, then by the same logic, isn’t it wrong to kill people during war? I mean you fight a war to maintain peace, by killing people, aren’t you destroying peace?

The CIA or the DoD has an office whose job is to spread misinformation to the enemies. Do you think that office should be abolished? But it is those misinformation and propaganda that helped US in WW2. I’m sure Eisenhower and Roosevelt planted an infinite number of propaganda stories amongst the populace of Nazi Germany/USSR. Was that wrong?

December 5, 2005 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

The Germans were the enemy. Planting propaganda in the enemy’s papers is a good idea.

The Iraqis are our friends. The US public is our own public. Progandizing one’s own people is a totalitarian trick, a disgusting form of mind control that is anti-democratic. That is why it is useful against one’s enemies.

Big diff between propagandizing one’s own people and propagandizing the enemy.

Also, Hitchens is one of the prime spreaders of pro-Bush propaganda fertilizer. I love the studied hypocrisy of his position. He’s such a literately brazen asshole.


December 5, 2005 @ 8:28 pm | Comment

Funny, how Panzi missed the whole point of the article, and the insanity of propagandizing ourselves (as opposed to the enemy). If he goes to the Hitch article, he’ll see how this propaganda planted in our allies’ media come back via our own media.

Michael, agree that Hitch can be a brazen asshole. When he’s on-target though, he can be damned good, like Andrew Sullivan.

December 5, 2005 @ 8:45 pm | Comment

Also, the rule of thumb is, when you’re in a hole, stop digging. When your credibility has been thumped repeatedly, don’t get caught fibbing again. This episode will put the US government deeper in a hole with the one audience they really need some credibility with: average Iraqis. What Americans think in this case is secondary.

Actually, as a professional PR person, I think it’s OK for the US to do all it can to try to get positive press in Iraqi papers.

Within limits.

PR exists as a separate discipline form advertising because *earned* coverage (we write about you because we think you are interesting or have something worthwhile to say) is seen to have more value than paid coverage (advertising) precisely because it is considered more credible.

Squander that at your peril. If *all* your coverage is seen to be advertising (or, ahem, even PR), people will close their ears to you once and for all.

Of course, in the case of the US in Iraq, that is probably a moot point at best. One thing is clear: the US has *never* known how to communicate with the Iraqi man on the street.

December 6, 2005 @ 12:02 am | Comment

Michael, agree that Hitch can be a brazen asshole. When he’s on-target though, he can be damned good, like Andrew Sullivan.

Very true. Sullivan is another case that just blows my mind….

Guess I lost a lot of respect for Hitchens when he came out so enthusiastically for the war, and in such stereotyped terms as well.


December 6, 2005 @ 3:30 am | Comment

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