Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and President Bush have backed away from the Pentagon's new propaganda arm, the Office of Strategic Influence. The administration is scrambling to deal with public backlash against the idea of a Pentagon propaganda office that would, among other actions, disseminate false and misleading information to US allies.
The U.S. has imposed more restrictions on reporters in Afghanistan than in any previous U.S. war, but Hollywood has carte blanche to make feel-good "reality TV" shows about the adventure. Maureen Dowd notes that that the Pentagon is teaming with Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of "Top Gun," "Black Hawk Down," "Pearl Harbor" and "Coyote Ugly," along with Bertram van Munster of "Cops," to make a TV docudrama about the war on terrorism. "I'm outraged about the Hollywoodization of the military," says Dan Rather.
On February 19 the New York Times reported that the Pentagon's new propaganda agency, the Office of Strategic Information, was planning unethical, possibly illegal activities such as misleading the press in friendly countries. The Pentagon and White House responded to the story by going into damage control mode with a flurry of "clarifications" and backpedalling. "What people have to understand about this is very clear," Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld said.
"The Pentagon is developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations as part of a new effort to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries, military officials said. ... (The US military) recently created the Office of Strategic Influence, which is proposing to broaden that mission into allied nations in the Middle East, Asia and even Western Europe. ...
"President Bush has decided to transform the administration's temporary wartime communications effort into a permanent office of global diplomacy to spread a positive image of the United States around the world and combat anti-Americanism, senior administration officials said today. ... While discussions are at a preliminary stage, officials said there was general agreement in the administration that the intense shaping of information and coordination of messages that occurred during the fighting in Afghanistan should become a permanent feature of national security policy. ...
The PBS NewsHour aired a report tonight titled "Public Diplomacy: U.S. Outreach to the Muslim World." 'Public diplomacy' is a euphemism for government propaganda, and this report is an overview of US efforts already reported elsewhere, with no new insights or perspectives.
The White House's failed prediction of a terrorist incident on February 13 may have had an ulterior motive. "The American population was instructed to panic," writes the Guardian of London. "Place themselves, that is, on a state of highest vigilance. Some cataclysmic act of terrorism would happen - within hours. But nothing terrible happened. Something creepy did. On Thursday there was an inconspicuous news item. John M.
"Science has now become the leading edge of the [Bush Administration's] crackdown on public access to government information," according to the New York Times. The Administration has withdrawn from public access over 6,600 technical reports concerning biological and chemical weapons production on grounds that they might help terrorists or others develop weapons of mass destruction. The Bush Administration is also calling upon scientific societies to impose limits on their scientific publications.
"Most people would be thrilled to be a real-life character in a movie. Not Frank Carlucci. Lawyers for the former U.S. Secretary of Defense have pressured the film's distributor to remove his character's identity from the showings of 'Lumumba' on HBO this month," Pacific News Service contributor Lucy Komisar writes. "Carlucci doesn't appreciate the attention. Maybe that's understandable. In 1960, he was the second secretary in the U.S. embassy in Kinshasa, the Congo. That was the time when, according to declassified U.S.
In what appears to be the US government's biggest single event advertising buy, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy spent over $3.2 million for two 30-second ads aired during the Super Bowl. "It's one thing for Budweiser to spend a small fortune waving the flag; it's another for we taxpayers to foot the bill for ads touting controversial public policies," writes WorkingforChange columnist Geov Parrish. "And what did we get for our money? Blatant propaganda -- specifically, an argument closely linked to the Bush Administration.