Monday, August 17, 2009

The Shape of Propaganda

Propaganda takes many predictable shapes and forms. We can find an excellent example with a piece in the New York Times regarding women in combat. Propaganda always seems to have a certain flavor and one of the first give-aways is when a news article begins like a cheap dime novel. Consider the opening of this NYT article.


As the convoy rumbled up the road in Iraq, Specialist Veronica Alfaro was struck by the beauty of fireflies dancing in the night. Then she heard the unmistakable pinging of tracer rounds and, in a Baghdad moment, realized the insects were illuminated bullets.

She jumped from behind the wheel of her gun truck, grabbed her medical bag and sprinted 50 yards to a stalled civilian truck. On the way, bullets kicked up dust near her feet. She pulled the badly wounded driver to the ground and got to work.

Pretty racy stuff I’d say, bullets kicking up dust etc. A classic example of how any propaganda piece might begin. This opening is designed to get your blood up so that you will forget it’s all about a brutal and unjust war that has been ongoing for many years with over one million victims and many more refugees. This isn’t about war, why it’s about a woman’s right to kill some gooks just like the guys do!

Ironically the sad sacks that are the center of attention in the article are being used as pawns in the bigger game of U.S. politics by that enabler and apologist of and for imperialism the NYT and the politicians who sent the troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Basically the first two paragraphs quoted above do not qualify as reporting rather it is how you frame a story when you want to turn the world on its head. If you bother to go to the link provided you will be rewarded with a hilariously and obviously posed picture or photo-op, as they say, and it’s almost worth looking at for the comedy factor. As a propaganda piece it is extremely short on subtlety.

Not satisfied with one attempt at recruiting the young and the dumb into the military the New York Times does a follow-up piece just to make sure. It also reads like a cheap dime novel.


FORWARD OPERATING BASE WARHORSE, Iraq — There is no mistaking that this dusty, gravel-strewn camp northeast of Baghdad is anything other than a combat outpost in a still-hostile land. And there is no mistaking that women in uniform have had a transformative effect on it.

Inevitably propaganda must appeal to your emotion rather than your brain and here we have the modern day woman warrior -- brave, noble, sacrificing all for the common good, facing into a bitter wind blowing from the east etc., etc., etc. and all within a dusty, gravel strewn camp in a still-hostile land. The real trick regarding propaganda is to make the reader of said propaganda feel noble and good in the face of adversity. In this case you are supposed to go totally noble while reading about our noble warriors and in your grand penultimate moment of nobleness join the military so you can be noble somewhere across the sundering seas.


At August 18, 2009 3:57 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

My thoughts exactly, Rob. When I read the NYT piece and saw the video, I realized the depths to which the paper has sunk. "Journalists" now seem to simply take dictation from the generals and politicians.
Newspapers are in trouble, they're losing readers, they're going down the tubes?

At August 18, 2009 10:30 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Mimi,

Yes, that dictation from generals and politicians is what they call fair and balanced. We call it something else.

I have no sympathy for them either.


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