We recently received an email query from a high school student asking some questions about one of the books that John Stauber and I have written about the war in Iraq. Rather than answer those questions individually, I thought I'd answer them publicly here:
1. What are the top techniques deployed by the government to falsely inform the public?
There are a range of techniques used by governments, corporations and other parties to misinform the public. Some of the techniques that I find most objectionable are:
Six years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, "violence and insecurity are no longer the main concern of most Iraqis," according to a poll conducted for the BBC and other news organizations. The poll results (pdf) show that Iraqis' top personal concerns are unemployment and rising prices.
In February, the U.S. Army asked for proposals to boost its Iraq public affairs work with "three civilian PR specialists and two Arabic-speaking media monitors to work in Iraq and two staffers stateside." Then, the deadline for proposals was extended to mid-March.
"The economy, together with easing worries about the violence in Iraq and even President Barack Obama's election" is benefiting the U.S. Army. With the "constant reporting that we are going to downsize and leave" Iraq, it's been easier for the Army to meet recruiting goals, said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley.
Aaron Glantz, the author of books about Iraq including The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle against America's Veterans, has written a powerful and emotional account of his encounter with a veteran who told him that his reporting "saved my life." Glantz has written about James Eggemeyer, an Iraq war veteran whose war injuries left him disabled and homeless while the Veterans Administration dithered on his disability
"I want to make sure that we strengthen prohibitions against domestic covert propaganda campaigns aimed essentially at breaking down the Constitutional barriers between who controls policy and who makes war," stressed Representative Paul Hodes.
Aside from the recent shoe-tossing incident when Bush visited Iraq, there's hardly any coverage of Iraq anymore, as Megan Garber points out in the Columbia Journalism Review. "Per studies from the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the war regularly wins less than two percent of the weekly U.S. news hole," she writes. "And complacency shouldn't keep us from being fairly shocked when, after Iraq's cabinet approved a 2011 deadline for the withdrawal of all U.S.
"There is a fierce battle going on over what kind of a CIA director Barack Obama should appoint, when he should close the prison camp at Guantanamo, and whether there should be a full scale investigation (and possible prosecution) of the torture advocates in the Bush administration," notes Charles Kaiser in the Columbia Journalism Review. Unfortunately, reporting on this issue in the New York Times and elsewhere has been flagrantly one-sided, from a position that falsifies the facts and defends torture. "Most of the Times's sources don't think that anyone who formulated or acquiesced in the current administration's torture policies should be excluded as a candidate for CIA director, or prosecuted for possible violations of criminal law," Kaiser writes. A recent story by Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, for example, falsely repeated John O. Brennan's description of himself as a "strong opponent" of torture, even though "most experts on this subject agree that Brennan acquiesced in everything that the CIA did in this area while he served there."
There's nothing quite like a hotly contested election. The candidates have their devoted supporters and angry detractors. Then there are vigorous debates over the issues, while some people question the integrity of the entire process.
We speak, of course, of the Falsies Awards.
This year marks the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD's) fifth annual Falsies Awards. The Falsies are our attempt to shine an unflattering light on those responsible for polluting the information environment over the past year. We're happy to report that more people -- nearly 1,450 -- voted in this year's Falsies survey than ever before! We're also bestowing special recognition on one of this year's "winners."
Falsies recipients can collect their prizes -- a pair of Groucho Marx glasses, our two cents and a chance to atone for their spinning ways by making a detailed public apology -- by visiting CMD's office in Madison, Wisconsin. This year's Gold and Silver Falsies go to masters of war deception, while the Bronze Falsie recognizes a massive greenwash campaign. The first-ever Lifetime Achievement Falsie goes to a serial corporate front man, while a determined (if at times laughable) attempt at nation re-branding wins dishonorable mention. Then there are the Readers' Choice Falsies and Win Against Spin Awards, nominated by our survey participants.