I originally posted this on another blog earlier today. The subject has been on my mind very much recently and was reinforced by an email I received yesterday. I wonder about us as a nation. The 330 million of us who call ourselves Americans. I am especially interested in the gullibility factor: why does it seem to me that so many of my fellow citizens are so easily led by propaganda? Why can the masses be so easily bamboozled by slick propagandists?
It came to a head in the past few months during the so-called Health Care debate. It was, of course, not a debate at all. It was a well-funded set of propaganda vs. the truth. The propaganda nearly won out. And for many who ‘bought the propaganda’ it remains their ‘truth.’ They deeply believe all of the stuff that health care opponents spewed on TV and on the right-wing media outlets all across the land. It was a study in the effectiveness of propaganda. And it nearly succeeded.
Bamboozlement is my topic, but I want to go back in time to highlight one other mass-propaganda movement that did, in fact, ‘work.’ It was only 7 years ago and we are still suffering the consequences from that effective propaganda program that was perpetrated on the American people.
Here is my post from earlier today:
Over the last two decades, I have come to two conclusions about the ‘masses’ here in America. First, they are history-illiterate. Second, they are easily propagandized. The combination of the two are a shysters paradise as we Americans learned in 2003: Bush’s War on Iraq.
Those two weaknesses were exploited by a small knot of ideologues whose agenda was a new mission for our nation: military imperialism. That knot was able to weave itself into the highest levels of the Executive Branch of our government and make it’s ‘case’ for imperial preemptive invasions of other nations to ’secure’ the interests of the U.S. Government and its corporations.
This group was named ‘neocons’ short for neoconservatives- a branch of conservatism that believes that the United States needs to use its ‘power’ to intervene in the affairs of other nations. George W. Bush, it was subsequently revealed, bought into this philosophy because he was still hurting from the attacks of September 2001.
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice came to the conclusion that Iraq ought to be the target of this first trial of this preemptive policy. There were members of the neocons who wanted such an invasion back in the 1990’s, but were unable to convince George W.H. Bush or Bill Clinton that their idea was ‘right.’ Yet, George W. Bush was an easier target and, fresh from the bin Laden attacks, the younger Bush was persuaded to move forward with their ideas.
Before Bush could implement this policy, he had to convince ‘the masses’ here in America of the need for such preemptive action. It had to be sold to the American citizens. Bush already had a opening with the recent 9-11 attack on NYC and DC. Fear of another attack was an easy sell to the public. With bin Laden safely hidden in the mountain caves, Bush needed another easier villain to demonize and to catch so that he would not appear to be an impotent president.
Saddam Hussein had always been in the cross-hairs of the younger Bush, because his father, Bush 41 had been criticized for not ‘finishing him off’ after the Gulf War. He was the best ‘ruthless dictator’ of the bunch. And he had oil.
And so the propaganda artists were given the task of creating Saddam as the ‘evil’ target of this new preemptive military/economic agenda of the neocons.
This task was relatively easy. First, Americans wanted blood- they needed revenge against some Muslim, any Muslim, for the attacks in September, 2001. They already knew of Saddam Hussein and his aggression back in the 90’s. They knew he was an dictator capable of aggression as he had proven in the Iran-Iraq War . So there wasn’t a better evil dictator on the planet than Saddam.
The second task of the propagandists was more challenging. Even though Iraq was the best target for preemption, still many Americans citizens needed some ‘proof’ that this man was dangerous to the American people- a danger that would necessitate sending our military men and women to that county.
There was no proof of that. Saddam had no navy and no air force. Even though there was no possibility of any Iraqi military long-range bombers or war ships reaching the shores of America, most Americans didn’t know that fact. They ‘assumed’ that we had comparable military forces. That’s where the historical ignorance of the American citizen was a bonus for the propagandists. The neocons hoped that the citizens would make the wrong assumption about the capability of the Iraqi military. They did. Ignorance is bliss.
The next task for the propagandists would be to convince the citizens that Saddam had weapons [even though he couldn’t deliver them]. Enter the infamous ‘WMD.’ Weapons of Mass Destruction! That scared the shit out of many Americans. MASS destruction! the ATOMIC BOMB!
Yes the A-bomb- the ones we dropped on Japan. The game was to give clues to the American citizens that an atomic bomb just might be ready for ‘launch’ [in those imaginary bombers and war ships]. Thus, the infamous “mushroom cloud” that Bush, Cheney and Rice referred to on many occasions. The Bush line, “We cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud!”
The ‘final proof’ referred to the hunt for WMD’s by the United Nation inspectors who were, at that very time, looking for them. Looking in the places pointed out during that infamous U.N. speech by Colin Powell. The neocons and Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld were becoming nervous during that U.N. inspection, because none had been found. None. The clock was ticking, but no proof of those dangerous WMD’s.
And so, the decision was made that ‘enough time’ was given to the U.N. inspectors. They were told to leave Iraq. Told to leave by the United States. Many Americans were led to believe that Saddam ‘kicked them out’ and the propagandists just let that lie go unchallenged.
“America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud.” Cannot wait. Cannot wait. Urgency.
The propaganda needed a few extra tweaks like ‘aluminum tubes and uranium ore for Africa.’ And 9-11 of course, in every speech of Bush, Cheney and Rice. In fact, many Americans believed that Saddam and bin Laden were connected. That the two of them worked together in plotting the 9-11 attacks.
As I said at the beginning, the masses of Americans are very easily propagandized. And ignorant of history. And equally ignorant of data and facts.
By March 2003, the propaganda was fully absorbed by the American public. Some 80% of Americans believe all of that propaganda- the WMD’s, the uranium ore, the aluminum tubes, the connection between bin Laden and Saddam, and the mushroom cloud. Absorbed like a dry sponge.
I was not among those 80%. Nor was my wife, family and most of our friends. We were not propaganda sponges nor were we history illiterate. We followed the plan and the propaganda, pointing it out step by step. But we were in the minority. No matter how many Sundays on street corners with NO WAR protest signs in our hands, we were derided, spat upon and called un-American for our stand against the Bush War.
We lost. The 80% won.
Of course, America lost. But now, revisionists and Bush-apologists have ’spun’ this preemptive imperialistic invasion of Iraq.
Interestingly, the fundamentalist christians were strong war-supporters. To me it was perfectly clear why they supported the war. First, most are Republicans, But more importantly, it is my hypothesis that fundamentalists have easily propagandized minds. They were open to propaganda because they are accustomed to having ‘authority figures’ like preachers tell them what to believe. The President, naturally, is THE authority figure, and so the Bush propaganda team had the fundamentalists in their back pocket the entire time.
That was then, but my hypothesis about the gullibility of the American masses to well-done propaganda is still operative as seen in just the past few weeks.
When we we learn better? I don’t know, and that frightens me.