Professor Henry Srebrnik

Professor Henry Srebrnik

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Taking a Look at the Winners and Losers in the Global Propaganda Wars

Henry Srebrnik, Charlottetown Guardian

It was during the Kosovo War in 1999 that I realized that it was no
great feat, nor did it take much skill, to be a successful propagandist.
You merely needed access to the major levers of information and power
and people would just fall in line, like sheep, and say, "yes, you're

In 1999 we were fed ridiculous hyperbole about Slobodan Milosevic's war
in Kosovo as being a replay of the Holocaust, a massive genocide in the
making, rather than a tribal struggle between two less-than-savory
opponents laying claim to the same piece of territory.

Few people now want to recall how they were gulled, at a time when it is
the Albanians doing the "ethnic cleansing" in Kosovo, under NATO and UN

Mind you, that's all water under the bridge now. At this point the best
solution would be to usher in a Kosovar Albanian state. But the same
people who got us into that mess don't approve of this either!

Two more recent examples of successful manipulation: During the
Democratic primaries earlier this year, the powers-that-be in the party,
clearly sensing that Howard Dean would prove too left-wing to be a
viable challenger to President George W. Bush, came down on him like a
ton of bricks--and the media dutifully went along--for his now notorious
"rant" on Jan. 20 before a cheering crowd at his Iowa campaign

Dean had ripped off his jacket and pumped his fist in the air as he
exhorted his supporters. The crowd roared in response. Anyone who has
seen the videotape of that evening, and thinks for themselves, will
conclude that this was nothing more than the exuberance of a candidate
firing up his troops in a very noisy hall.

Yet for some reason Dean's very mental stability was called into
question. This became the conventional wisdom and he soon faded away as
a contender.

Once John Kerry had wrapped up the nomination, the Democrats decided to
make partisan use of the National Commission on Terrorist Attack Upon
the United States, which is looking into the 9/11 tragedy, to convince
people that George Bush wasn't on the ball when it came to terrorism.

They made political hay out of the testimony given to the commission in
March by Richard A. Clarke, who had been Bush's chief counter-terrorism
adviser on the National Security Council. He charged that the Bush
administration was not focused on terrorism before the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks and did not consider it "an urgent issue."

But Bush had only been in office some eight months. Clarke spent eight
previous years in charge of counter-terrorism for a Democratic
administration that did virtually nothing to prevent al-Qaida from
gathering strength.

The White House was also pressured into releasing a classified briefing
to Bush written in Aug. 6, 2001, which had warned that terrorists might
be preparing for a hijacking in the U.S. and might be targeting
Manhattan. And as early as July 2001, information was apparently
available suggesting that potential terrorists were taking lessons at
flight schools, but the FBI did not act on this information.

Hindsight makes for easy potshots. How would people have reacted had the
Bush administration rounded up all Arabs or Muslims in the U.S. who had
ever taken flying lessons in the summer of 2001? Even after Sept. 11,
the White House was accused of racial profiling for daring to question
Middle Easterners more aggressively than other non-citizens in the country.

Bush's opponents also blame him for not having launched a pre-emptive
strike at Afghanistan, though most of these same people, in the fall of
2001, were wary of invading that country even after 9/11, citing the
fierce resistence that Pashtun warriors and Islamic mujehadeen had put
up against the Soviets a decade earlier, the treacherous "Afghan
winter," and so forth. Yet for some reason George Bush is now castigated
for this, as well.

Many of the relatives of those who perished in the Twin Towers and at
the Pentagon seem to be angrier with Bush than with Osama bin Laden. Is
this a new version of the "Stockholm Syndrome," the term coined by
social scientists in the 1970s for the psychological state in which
hostages captured by terrorists came to identify with their very captors?

Of course we know that the real reason that Democrats want to remove
Bush from office is his prosecution of the war in Iraq. Truth is indeed
the first casualty in war.