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[] "Information War: American Propaganda, Opinion Control and Free Speech Since 9/11",

Propaganda War: One Year Later
The Selling of America

Dr. Nancy Snow Interview, Guerrilla News Network, 11/02

Shortly after 9-11, GNN asked Dr. Nancy Snow, author of Propaganda, Inc.:
Selling America=92s Culture to the World, to explain how the U.S. propaganda
machine really works. Dr. Snow, a former cultural officer with the United
States Information Agency, should know. She worked in the belly of the
beast. Since our last conversation, the war of words and images has
intensified, with Osama's jihad tapes and American music videos going head
to head in a battle royale for the hearts and minds of the world. Now Dr.
Snow has just published the 2nd edition of Propaganda, Inc. (Seven Stories
Press, 2002) and a forthcoming second book, Information War: American
Propaganda, Opinion Control and Free Speech Since 9/11 (Seven Stories
Press, 2003). She shares thoughts on how the propaganda war has played out
since that dark September day.

GNN: Tell me about your second book?

Dr. Nancy Snow: I=92ve just completed Information War: American Propaganda,
Opinion Control and Free Speech Since 9/11 (Seven Stories Press, 2003).
It=92s a collection of writings that document some of the highlights (and
lowlights) of the post-September 11th media and mind manipulation
environment, things like the propaganda priming in America and the world
that took place prior to dropping bombs in Afghanistan, what makes
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld such a natural propagandist for the
hardliners in the Bush Administration, and the work of the propaganda CEO
and former Madison Avenue maven Charlotte Beers at the State Department who
is known as the =93queen of branding=94 and whose most challenging client is
improving Uncle Sam=92s image in the war on terrorism.

Naturally, I also include the here today/gone tomorrow Office of Strategic
Influence (OSI) that seems to have morphed into the less ominous sounding
Office of Global Communications that was announced in late July and is
expected to be =93up and running=94 by fall 2002. Just what this new office
will do exactly is hard to say. On the surface it seems to be just
government duplication of what the State Department is supposed to be doing
on behalf of the American people, namely public diplomacy, or attempting to
overcome the =93why do they hate us?=94 perplexity inherent to U.S. economic
and military projection around the world. At a deeper level, the Office of
Global Communications seems to be a way for the Bush White House to control
information that doesn=92t jibe with the =93softer sell=94 position at=
 State. The
State Department is known as pushing diplomacy to the nth degree while this
current White House is pushing a more aggressive preemptive strike position
in foreign policy.
I also address the language of the New War=97how the Bush people seem to be
caught in a cycle of naming and then renaming things, going back to the
President=92s linguistic misstep of calling the war on terrorism a =93crusad=
against the Islamic Taliban that was soon dropped in favor of our standard
war rhetoric=97good fighting evil=97to Operation Infinite Justice that was
quickly dropped in favor of Operation Enduring Freedom.

GNN: The question of propaganda has become a major part of this war on
terrorism; what makes it different than any other aspect?

Dr. Nancy Snow: The propaganda war is the most integrated part of the New
War; it=92s the part of the war on terrorism that is probably the most=
from view but the most pervasive. I like to say that we=92re the fish and
propaganda is the water. We=92re in a surround-sound of language and image
control. Think about how quickly the administration declared a WAR on
terrorism. Once war is declared, debate is done. President Bush called on
all good citizens and soldiers to do their duty and defend the homeland.
This is why Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) was referred to as the =93lone
dissenter=94 in Congress when she very judiciously could not issue a blank
check to the administration to carry out the War on Terrorism (WOT) however
it seems fit, a vote that by the way was taken just 48 hours after
September 11. She was honoring the U.S. Constitution and its system of
checks and balances before the freewheeling whims of an executive run
amuck. She should have been applauded and heralded for her conservative and
cautious approach to the use of power and force in response to the attacks
of September 11th but instead she was called a traitor and un-American.

Does the United States own a copyright on the word freedom? You=92d almost
think so by how often it=92s batted around like a tennis ball. Why isn=92t=
American press challenging these empty statements?

Un-American is a favorite name-calling device for someone to use to target
someone with whom you vehemently disagree. It conjures up old Redbaiting
devices that stifle free speech and dissent from the status quo or
conventional wisdom on public issues. It creates a chilling effect on
people to stop testing the waters of our democratic right to question the
motives of our government. This is what I mean about the propaganda
environment we encompass. We=92re deluged with name-calling devices,
glittering generalities like =93freedom=94 and =93democracy=94 that we all=
close to our hearts=97they are the warm and fuzzy buzz words that are said=
separate us from our enemies. Remember President Bush being asked about why
they attacked us? He said, =93They hate freedom.=94 What exactly is that
supposed to mean? How can the top elected official of the wealthiest and
arguably most powerful nation on earth get away with these 50-cent
responses? Does the United States own a copyright on the word freedom?
You=92d almost think so by how often it=92s batted around like a tennis=
Why isn=92t the American press challenging these empty statements? We=92re=
conditioned as a public to accept the surface answer to so much of what our
institutions in power state that we=92re at the point of a media mental=

GNN: What are some of the new propaganda methods that the Bush
Administration has employed?

Dr. Nancy Snow: New York Times reporter Victoria de Grazia published a
piece weeks ago called =93The Selling of America, Bush Style,=94 in which=
lays out some of the programs in place, including a new $520 million
Congressional appropriation to focus on =93disaffected populations=94 in the
Middle East and South Asia and the establishment of a 24-hour Arabic
language satellite news network called Radio Sawa (together). Charlotte
Beers at the State Department is undertaking the biggest PR effort in the
history of U.S. foreign policy that will use traditional public relations
and marketing techniques like focus groups, market research, and video
projects about Muslim Americans to show the U.S. to the world as a tolerant
and open society. Beers has said that she will use one of the =93best
practices=94 of modern advertising=97a strong emphasis on the emotional with
the rational, but from what I understand about modern American advertising
techniques, the emotional wins out. Do we really think that the detergent
companies or rice manufacturers like Uncle Ben's wants us to think
critically about our consumer staples? I think they simply want us to buy
their product over their competitors.

What=92s so fascinating about all these PR efforts is how reconstituted they
appear. The United States has a one hundred year history of marrying
commerce with politics and tapping public relations to =93brand=94 America
abroad. Woodrow Wilson had his George Creel and the Committee on Public
Information to sell WWI to Americans and overseas audiences. Wilson himself
told the International Congress of Salesmanship to =93go out and sell goods
that will make the world more comfortable and more happy and convert them
to the principles of America.=94 That was in 1916. Is today all that much
different? No, not really, but it=92s more intensified now because we have
the technology age to aid the efforts to brand and we have the
unpredictable dark cloud of that catch-all new enemy, terrorism, magnifying
our efforts.

Charlotte Beers at one time headed J. Walter Thompson, one of the top ten
PR firms in the world. One of George Creel=92s enlisted men in the=
effort of WWI was James Webb Young of J. Walter Thompson, who led
information efforts to demoralize the German people. Victoria de Grazia
describes how U.S. propaganda efforts function in comparison to other
forms: =93Publicity, with private sector support, was the handmaiden of a
government that presented itself as opposed to heavy-handed involvement
abroad and sought to circumvent autocratic leaders to get the humane,
rational message of the American people directly to peoples with similar
aspirations. Other regimes may propagate hard-nosed ideology, but American
democracy had lofty ideals.=94 Her point that publicity institutions working
with the private sector were the handmaidens of American propaganda is
exactly what Propaganda, Inc. describes about the function of the U.S.
Information Agency both during and after the Cold War.

She also makes a significant point about the United States. There is no
other country in the world that matches ours for developing such close
links between commerce (salesmanship) and the business of government
(statesmanship). None. Since World War I, advertising has mixed with
selling war, foreign aid, and even cultural exchanges.

This creates a real dilemma for the United States government in 2002. How
can the numero uno propaganda nation avoid overplaying its hand by mixing
the Big Sell with a government effort to inform and educate people
elsewhere about American society? It cannot. We will continue to read
occasional reports from the Council on Foreign Relations or the U.S. Public
Diplomacy Advisory Commission gnashing their teeth over our
hyper-advertising approach to reshaping America=92s image in the world. This
is what the U.S. is to the world=97the ultimate salesman. And just like a
tiger doesn=92t change its stripes, so doesn=92t the U.S. become something=
not. We appear to the world like the world=92s Barnum & Bailey, and remember
what P.T. Barnum said, =93A sucker is born every minute.=94 We shouldn=92t=
surprised that anti-Americanism is on the rise one year after we had global
sympathy in the days following 9/11. The President=92s go-it-alone rhetoric
just fans the flames of this growing enmity.

The Bush Administration=92s propaganda efforts on Iraq underscore a sense
that this administration needs the world more as an audience or convenient
backdrop to doing exactly what it=92s going to do anyway. Until and unless
the world sees a picture of American society full of debate and dissent
about the direction our country is going in, I don=92t hold out great hope
for any short-term gains in improving our global image, whether or not we
cool it on the advertising. What I=92m trying to do in my own work is to
reach out with friends here and abroad to mount some kind of open dissent
and protest against a U.S. administration that is neither acting in the
American public interest nor in the interests of a global civil society.

Now I=92m not so na=EFve to believe that the New York Times, the so-called
=93newspaper of record,=94 is printing all the news that=92s fit to print=
what the Bush Administration is doing outside public eye. There=92s plenty=
this new media/mental mind management era that is out of public reach and
public comment, hidden in so-called black budgets that merge intelligence,
covert action, with information and psyops programs. There=92s also plenty
that we as citizens allow the U.S. press to get away with by not pressing
Bush and other people in power about what they mean by Axis of Evil and the
defense of freedom. Whose freedom? My freedom or your freedom? Freedom for
McDonnell Douglas or Exxon Mobil? Haven=92t we graduated from the Dick and
Jane reading series to a place where we can aggressively debate foreign
policies that put innocent people in harm=92s way? I remember last fall
hearing Representative Henry Hyde ask something like, =93How is it that the
country that invented Hollywood and Madison Avenue engendered so much
hatred?=94 That question seemed to sail around the Internet as an example of
a nation of leaders out of step with how others see us. He=92s the chair of
the House International Relations Committee and is now promoting the
Freedom Promotion Act of 2002. Naturally. In his statement to the press
about this new legislation, he said, =93If any nation has been a greater
force for good in the long and tormented history of this world, I am
unaware of it. We have guarded whole continents from conquest, showered aid
on distant lands, sent thousands of youthful idealists to remote and often
inhospitable areas to help the world=92s forgotten. Why, then, when we read
or listen to descriptions of America in the foreign press do we so often
seem to be entering a fantasyland of hatred?=94

I find statements like these counterproductive to improving American
relations with the world. I=92m less concerned about our image than I am
about our true relationships. I want to be able to connect with my
international counterparts and meet citizen-to-citizen. Some of our elected
officials seem focused on underscoring how good or great we are because we
say so. Do you think Rep. Hyde has actually sat down with some members of
that foreign press who criticize to get an accurate measure of the source
of that criticism? It shouldn=92t surprise our government that we are held=
mixed review. No government, including our own, is immune to engaging in
actions that harm, especially since governments are often driven by their
own narrow self-interests. But the propaganda message is that no really,
we=92re the greatest nation on earth, perhaps in P.T. Barnum=92s view, the
greatest show on earth. I think the world=92s people and its press are
becoming weary of this refrain.

GNN: How has propaganda changed over time? We bemoan it infiltrating the
media today, but during World War II, the newsreels produced by the =93press=
were pretty much indistinguishable from the military=92s objective.

Dr. Nancy Snow: Recall the now legendary Eisenhower outgoing speech of 1961
in which he said that our country must =93guard against the acquisition of
unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military
industrial complex.=94 He=92s famous for providing the military industrial
complex (MID) to our lexicon, but I think he might have wanted to add
another M. Today=92s landscape, or at least the landscape of the last 50
years or more, is a military-media industrial complex (MMID). The military
and media absorb the bulk of our research sources in technology. Anything
that=92s invested in information technology in the U.S. is first applied in
the media and military sectors and then filters down eventually to the mass
consumer society. Consumers are the last to get access to new technology
that will make our lives freer and easier to challenge the power

Having said that, wartime propaganda in the 20th century and beyond has
always been impacted by the American motion picture industry and American
press. Can you imagine the propaganda potential of film with a captive
audience of hundreds of millions in the early part of the last century
alone?! In Phil Taylor=92s book, Munitions of the Mind, he describes the
massive film operation set up by the Office of War Information just months
after the Pearl Harbor attack. What we used to call the U.S. War Department
(now the Department of Defense) spent annually over $50 million on film
production during World War II to propagate the message of the war both
here and overseas. The famous Hollywood film director Frank Capra (Mr.
Smith Goes to Washington, It=92s a Wonderful Life), became Major Frank Capra
during the war and was asked by General George C. Marshall to make the Why
We Fight documentary war series. The free press is comprised of people like
you and me who are just as subject to a swell of patriotism and ultra
nationalism as is anyone else. I think we like to idealize that the press
will truly separate its personal feelings about a story and report
objectively, but World War II was the =93Good War=94 and was thought then to
end all wars. The American press worked in tandem with the military
objectives of the U.S. Government as part of their sense of duty to country
in wartime.

Today propaganda infiltration of the media system is more intense than
ever. You certainly cannot turn to the Internet as a source of =93the
absolute truth=94 since the Internet functions as an open media system and=
subject to the same rumormongering and gossip as a National Enquirer. The
Internet, as media and democracy scholar Robert McChesney notes, is also
being colonized by the corporate landscape. (That=92s not to say that there
aren=92t some good critical sites and I do use the Internet regularly to
conduct research, but always with an eye toward the source of the

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