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US Writers Spread the US Gospel, The Pope vs. Sun Tzu, and Ron Jeremy is America?

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I just read Kill Your TV, by Nancy Snow. A typical anti-TV rant (anyone remember Jerry Mander’s Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television?), the article has an awesome quote from Aldous Huxley:

    A society, most of whose members spend a great part of their time, not on the spot, not here and now and in the calculable future, but somewhere else, in the irrelevant worlds of sport and soap opera, of mythology and metaphysical fantasy, will find it hard to resist the encroachments of those who manipulate and control it.

I feel bad now for having watched The Surreal Life 2 on Sunday. But it had Ron Jeremy, Tammy Faye Baker, Baywatch boober Traci Bingham, Vanilla Ice, Erik Estrada, and Real World Las Vegas’s Trishelle (a dumb hot babe who gets drunk all of the time). Ron’s porn star nature has already clashed with Tammy’s phony “I’m a goodly woman” routine. I can’t wait until Vanilla Ice makes her cry on next week’s episode. Imagine the mascara. It could set off more mudslides throughout California. And then the prissy Baywatch girl is hellbent on seeing Jeremy’s. . . Stop. People are dying in the world. Hideous things are being done right now. Nancy Snow thinks that the media has become a diversion for the masses from the reality of the world. I need my diversions, though (but I don’t really need the Surreal World). I did cancel my cable about four months ago. But are we to dwell day and night on the terror going on in the world, some of it caused by our own country? Maybe. If we were forced to dwell on it all of the time, wouldn’t we do something about it? If all of our TV viewing for the day was replaced by the images of every person getting shot or exploded in Iraq that day, I’m pretty sure that we would put a stop to it. Then again, we might just treat it like another Steven Segal movie.

I first learned of Nancy Snow a few years ago when I read an interview about her book, Propaganda Inc. that was in the Alternative Press Review. I encourage you to read the interview. You will learn about how the Fulbright scholarship was designed to be a propaganda tool in the rest of the world. She tells of the U.S. Information Agency (now disbanded or renamed, I’m not sure–see this site) which has roots going back to the Committee on Public Information and The Institute for Propaganda Analysis. I’m thinking that Project Paperclip was a factor. George Creel, of the Committee on Public Information, actually wrote a book in 1920 called “How We Advertised America: The First Telling of the Amazing Story of the Committee on Public Information that Carried the Gospel of Americanism to Every Corner of the Globe.” Yikes. Don’t let Karl Rove read this one (yah, he already did).

Finding out about the propaganda programs that we have directed at the rest of the world was interesting. I learned that government propaganda agencies are “prohibited from distributing [their] materials to a U.S. audience.” The law is the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. It had been challenged in 1997 by Ralph Nader because the law that protected us from state-directed propaganda was also preventing us from seeing aspects of our country’s foreign policy and foreign-directed propaganda. The USIA is no longer. Rumsfeld’s dis-information bureau was stopped. But still, we are putting out a lot of propaganda and misinformation.

Writers on America was an anthology put together by the State Department for distribution in foreign countries that consisted of positive American stuff by great American authors (e.g., Robert Creeley, Richard Ford, Naomi Shihab Nye). From the book’s site:

    This book originated as an intriguing suggestion by Mark Jacobs, a U.S. foreign service officer with our State Department staff who also happens to be a working novelist. If we were to ask a contemporary group of American poets, novelists, critics, and historians what it means to be an American writer, Jacobs proposed, the results could illuminate in an interesting way certain America values — freedom, diversity, democracy — that may not be well understood in all parts of the world.

There are some great pieces in it. So, how is it a bad thing? Only in that it is one among many propaganda tools intended to manipulate the rest of the world’s views of America. Yes, we should stress what is good about America–but not in a misleading way. This type of propaganda project makes me feel like we are all part of the cult of America which pushes its dogma on others. How about just letting our actions speak for themselves? We better get a different president before we start doing this. See also U.S. Writers Do Cultural Battle Around the Globe if you want to read about issues relating to the anthology. William H. Luers has a good point in it: “Mr. Luers applauded the anthology but urged a more coordinated and intensive program of cultural diplomacy. ‘We have to find ways to convey not just propaganda but the richness of this country’s culture,’ he said. ‘It’s pathetic that we don’t make an effort. Very educated people abroad don’t realize the depths of our culture behind McDonald’s and the violent movies.'” I don’t want foreigners to watch The Surreal Life, Cops, and Bill O’Reilly and get the wrong impression of our country. . . wrong? Well, we do perhaps need to contradict all of these negative images with some of the better aspects of our culture (the sitcom Full House, for example).

I sometimes feel that the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 is often being ignored. It’s tricky to draw the line between Bush’s manipulating backdrops and propaganda. I’m not quite sure where presidential propaganda falls in relation to this rule. How is Bush getting away with all of his Big and Little lies on Iraq?

Check out Harper’s “Events Related to Propaganda Timeline.” The August 20, 2002 entry gives the Pope’s take on US propaganda:

    “Frequently man lives as if God did not exist, and even puts himself in God’s place. He claims for himself the Creator’s right to interfere in the mystery of human life.” The pope blamed “the noisy propaganda of liberalism, of freedom without truth or responsibility,” for these great sins.

I’m not sure what he means by liberalism (post-modern, rule-breaking, anti-authority, Dirtgrain-style radicalism, maybe), and I can do without the God crap, but he makes a good point about reverence (I see it as a secular concept–respect that which is bigger than you) and “freedom without truth or responsibility.” I knew that a guy named Jan couldn’t be all bad. Of course, he just wants Catholicism, with all of its propaganda, to take over the world (the term propaganda originally referred to the promotion of church doctrine). Come on, Jan Pavel, live up to your name.

The Domination Effect is about information dominance, that favorite tactic of Sun Tzu (remember that his book the Art of War was so trendy a few years ago and all the way back to the eighties–all of these Reagan Republicans trained in the art of information manipulation–watch out, suckers). The author, David Miller, says, “Nor is information dominance something dreamt up by the Bush White House. It is a mainstream US military doctrine that is also embraced in the UK. According to US army intelligence there are already 15 information dominance centres in the US, Kuwait and Baghdad.” Fifteen information dominance centers? How many times will Dirtgrain.com get slighted before it gets some props? It’s sixteen information dominance centers, and my dominance center is going to crush all of your piddly dominance centers because I have the truth on my side (in case anyone in a position of power is actually reading this, I would like to temper that last remark. I get my ass kicked by US information dominance centers every day. But I always get back up).

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  • http://www.resonation.ca Jim Carruthers

    I think the US government PR-ops people are starting to slip. This was on the front page of today’s Globe and Mail (and I couldn’t make this up):

    Mr. Bush wandered over during Mr. Reid’s chat with the Prime Minister. Mr. Reid introduced himself and shook hands with Mr. Bush.

    “Well, what do you do for this guy?” the President asked as he pointed to the Prime Minister.

    “Well, you know, sir, I can’t really say,” Mr. Reid said. “It’s not that I don’t want to. It’s just that, you know, I don’t really know from day to day.”

    This is true. Mr. Reid handles a number of files and performs a number of different duties, depending on the issue and the day.

    The President chuckled. “Well, you got a pretty face,” he told the surprised Mr. Reid. He wasn’t done. “You got a pretty face,” he said again. “You’re a good-looking guy. Better looking than my Scott anyway.”

    This is true. His Scott has a receding hairline and is on the chubby side, while Mr. Martin’s Scott has a full head of hair and is quite fit.

    For the first time in his life, Mr. Reid had no reply. “I didn’t know what to say,” said Mr. Reid, noting later that he wished that Mr. Bush had referred to him as a “rugged-looking young man or something.

    “But I’ll take what I can, I guess,” he joked. “When a Texas Republican says you’ve got a pretty face, then I guess there is just no way around it.”

    No indication that banjo music was playing or Shrub later asked people at the summit to “squeal like a pig”. Does Matt Drudge know about this?

    Also keeping an eye on the Disinfo factory is PR Watch. Their latest book is “Weapons of Mass Deception“.

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