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The Media and War

Written by atuuschaaw Friday, 03 February 2006

As far back as the Revolutionary War here in the U.S., the media has played a huge role in the structuring of war and has been an integral part of the strategies associated with wars. Swaying public opinion and attempting to alter their opinions so as to support and reinforce a certain belief has always been a tool of leadership in practically all of our societies.

And the art of propaganda was very much alive even during revolutionary times. War was beginning to be fought with words as well as gunpowder. The printing press allowed dissemination of information via pamphlets and zines and this contributed greatly to the continued loyalty of the frontiersmen towards the revolution against Great Britain.

I found this letter from an American farmer, Distresses of a Frontier Man, to be very interesting and found myself alive in his place and I could feel and understand his confusion and anguish as he finds himself and his family in the midst of a war he doesn't really understand. He speaks of both parties and their claims of righteousness and truths. What one party calls meritorious, the other denominates flagitious. These opinions vary, contract, or expand, like the events of the war on which they are founded. What can an insignificant man do in the midst of these jarring contradictory parties, equally hostile to persons situated as I am? It's always the millions of common people who have to suffer and endure the most, due to the decisions of a handful of leaders who must convince these same millions of the righteousness of their actions.

The innocent class are always the victim of the few; they are in all countries and at all times the inferior agents, on which the popular phantom is erected; they clamour, and must toil, and bleed, and are always sure of meeting with oppression and rebuke. It is for the sake of the great leaders on both sides, that so much blood must be spilt; that of the people is counted as nothing. Great events are not achieved for us, though it is by us that they are principally accomplished; by the arms, the sweat, the lives of the people.

Propaganda has become so woven within the context of war that the two are not inseparable.The people who have been thrust into these wars have always relied on letters from home to hold on to a level of sanity. News passed by word of mouth from other soldiers back during the revolutionary and civil war times was about the only way of gaining at least some thread of truth as to what was happening and how the war was going. And soldiers have always had a desire to express their feelings and have written and sang their feelings about the wars of which they have found themselves immersed. I suppose this allowed them a little bit of civilization in the midst of the destruction and horror. The thoughts of the soldiers live on as we read Old Tennessee and Only a Soldier's Grave. Back in these early days of war, propaganda had a tendency to take a backseat to the basic need to survive. But as the world began industrializing and technology began to grow, we see the art of propaganda increased as well and soldiers in the field were more exposed to the structure of propaganda.

World War I marked a turning point in how the media could be used more proficiently in spreading the agendas of the war machines. With the formation of the Committee on Public Information (CPI), along with the Office of War Information (OWI), we see a new coordinated effort by institutionalized national programs aimed at promoting the agendas of war. Walter Lippman was a well known contributor in the formation of the CPI. And from this new art of "engineering consent" and "mis-information" grew the new industry called Public Relations.

the [First] World War led to the discovery of propaganda by both the man in the street and the man in the study. The discovery was far more startling to the former than the latter, because the man in the study had predecessors who had laid firm foundations for his efforts to understand propaganda. The layman had previously lived in a world where there was no common name for the deliberate forming of attitudes by the manipulation of words.

Harold Lasswell

Then came World War II, and another milestone was reached in the growth of propaganda. The world now had radios and broadcasts in practically everyone's home was possible. On top of that, we now had newsreels, documentaries, and Hollywood! The government organized it's efforts to influence radio programming, censoring dissident voices, and even produced it's own programs. According to Gerd Horten in his book, Radio Goes to War, Washington actually created a master schedule, dubbed the National Allocation Plan, for advancing it's messages in radio comedies, soap operas, and other series. And Hollywood, and it's ability as a dream factory, began to implant emotions within the people and fostered an increased identification between the people and the righteousness of the war. World War II also saw the appearance of the American Forces Network and the entrance of the military into actually broadcasting to the troops in the battlefield. AFN has continued to broadcast since it's inception and has been heard in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Of course the AFN has always been accused of censoring and editing programs to fit the military's needs.

Then along comes the longest war in American history. The Vietnam War was here, and the world had their first "Television War", and this is when the propaganda machine begins to fall apart. I kind of like thinking about Vietnam as the Rock and Roll War myself, but that's just me. As I was in the middle of this one, I naturally know a little more about the propaganda and the reasons why the old ways of spreading it began failing during this war. By bringing scenes from the battlefield right into the people's homes, something different began taking shape. People no longer could view war as they had in the past, and the heroics associated with past wars didn't mean the same thing anymore. People began to "see" for themselves the truth of war, the horrors of war! Robert Morecook, maintains a site dedicated to the American Forces Vietnam Network, which has many exceptional links to the historical significance of how the media was used and how it was transformed by the troops themselves. National Public Radio has an audio which reviews the role of radio in Vietnam, and Rock and Roll Report has an article on the AFVN as well.

War is a tragic and brutal thing that Hollywood often glamorizes for the sake of a good story. Nothing will change that fact. The men and women behind AFVN were not there to glamorize or trivialize the Vietnam War, far from it. They attempted to humanize a very inhuman act with as much humor and honesty as they could muster. What they did on the airwaves through AFVN was create an oasis of humanity in a dessert of destruction and one can only admire them for that. They also were responsible for some damn good radio and that is still cool no matter where they broadcasted from. The fact that it was from a war zone on the other side of the world makes this a fascinating story indeed.

Underground radio or Bullshit Net as it was known, began to appear in Vietnam and for the first time, soldiers were using the media to express "their" views and opinions. And they were playing the music which was banned by the AFVN and the military. Radio First Termer was broadcasting out of Saigon and words couldn't do it's popularity justice. Right on Rabbit!

Now we have Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have GIs with internet access! And with this infotool comes nightmares for the military structure and the functionality of the propaganda machine, but the soldiers haven't backed up from getting their messages out and the GIs over there have and will continue to publish some really fascinating material via their blogs. Great work guys! These blogs have faced much military scrutiny and NPR has some great information concerning the "new age" war in the Middle East and an extensive list of GI bloggers. The internet is to disinformation as Raid is to bugs! But throughout last year there was an increase in the military's clamping down on blogs created by their personnel. Jason Hartley was demoted and fined for security violations on his blog, justanothersoldier.com.

Nowadays, milbloggers "get shut down almost as fast as they're set up," said New York Army National Guard Spc. Jason Christopher Hartley, 31, of upstate New Paltz, who believes something is lost as the grunt's-eye take on Tikrit or Kabul is silenced or sanitized.

Now the propaganda machine is in it's decline, but that doesn't mean it is going to roll over and submit to the public. Oh no, by no means will that happen. These guys in the Middle East are some real people, and they understand too well how important the truth is to our world. And they have witnessed how the truth can get twisted and re-wrote to fit within an institution's structured agendas. Just a few days ago a secret Pentagon paper was released concerning the current war propaganda machine. This "roadmap" on war propaganda calls for boundaries between information operations abroad and the news media at home, while providing no such limits. The released paper states that as long as the American public is not targeted, then leakage of PSYOP to the public really doesn't matter. PSYOP in case you haven't heard of it, is Psychological Operations. Check out Rumsfeld's Roadmap to Propaganda. Yeah, propaganda is still alive, but it's no longer doing well thanks to you. And you and the world are becoming more aware and the recognition of propaganda is much easier now. It's dying and I for one don't have any plans on going to it's funeral!

And while you're at it, you may want to check out the PSYOP National Anthem. Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda, follow me, follow me, follow me, look this way, look this way, look this way, I swear it's the truth, I swear it's the truth, I swear it's the truth! If it's repeated enough times, at the appropriate times, and in a credible format, they'll begin to believe it! "If you'll just listen to me for a minute, I think I can make you understand the Big Picture, and it's importance in regard to the survival of our social structure!"

Originally published at Mitakuye Osyasin

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