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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.:=20
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=20
States Information Agency, should know. She worked in the belly of the=20
beast. Since our last conversation, the war of words and images has=20
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.=20
Snow has just published the 2nd edition of Propaganda, Inc. (Seven Stories=
Press, 2002) and a forthcoming second book, Information War: American=20
Propaganda, Opinion Control and Free Speech Since 9/11 (Seven Stories=20
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).=20
It=92s a collection of writings that document some of the highlights (and=20
lowlights) of the post-September 11th media and mind manipulation=20
environment, things like the propaganda priming in America and the world=20
that took place prior to dropping bombs in Afghanistan, what makes=20
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld such a natural propagandist for the=20
hardliners in the Bush Administration, and the work of the propaganda CEO=20
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=20
Office of Global Communications that was announced in late July and is=20
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=20
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=20
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=20
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=20
terrorism; what makes it different than any other aspect?

Dr. Nancy Snow: The propaganda war is the most integrated part of the New=20
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=20
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=20
terrorism. Once war is declared, debate is done. President Bush called on=20
all good citizens and soldiers to do their duty and defend the homeland.=20
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=20
September 11. She was honoring the U.S. Constitution and its system of=20
checks and balances before the freewheeling whims of an executive run=20
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=20
devices that stifle free speech and dissent from the status quo or=20
conventional wisdom on public issues. It creates a chilling effect on=20
people to stop testing the waters of our democratic right to question the=20
motives of our government. This is what I mean about the propaganda=20
environment we encompass. We=92re deluged with name-calling devices,=20
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=20
supposed to mean? How can the top elected official of the wealthiest and=20
arguably most powerful nation on earth get away with these 50-cent=20
responses? Does the United States own a copyright on the word freedom?=20
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=20
Administration has employed?

Dr. Nancy Snow: New York Times reporter Victoria de Grazia published a=20
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=20
Congressional appropriation to focus on =93disaffected populations=94 in the=
Middle East and South Asia and the establishment of a 24-hour Arabic=20
language satellite news network called Radio Sawa (together). Charlotte=20
Beers at the State Department is undertaking the biggest PR effort in the=20
history of U.S. foreign policy that will use traditional public relations=20
and marketing techniques like focus groups, market research, and video=20
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=20
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=20
companies or rice manufacturers like Uncle Ben's wants us to think=20
critically about our consumer staples? I think they simply want us to buy=20
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=20
commerce with politics and tapping public relations to =93brand=94 America=
abroad. Woodrow Wilson had his George Creel and the Committee on Public=20
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=20
to the principles of America.=94 That was in 1916. Is today all that much=20
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=20
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=20
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=20
information efforts to demoralize the German people. Victoria de Grazia=20
describes how U.S. propaganda efforts function in comparison to other=20
forms: =93Publicity, with private sector support, was the handmaiden of a=20
government that presented itself as opposed to heavy-handed involvement=20
abroad and sought to circumvent autocratic leaders to get the humane,=20
rational message of the American people directly to peoples with similar=20
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=20
exactly what Propaganda, Inc. describes about the function of the U.S.=20
Information Agency both during and after the Cold War.

She also makes a significant point about the United States. There is no=20
other country in the world that matches ours for developing such close=20
links between commerce (salesmanship) and the business of government=20
(statesmanship). None. Since World War I, advertising has mixed with=20
selling war, foreign aid, and even cultural exchanges.

This creates a real dilemma for the United States government in 2002. How=20
can the numero uno propaganda nation avoid overplaying its hand by mixing=20
the Big Sell with a government effort to inform and educate people=20
elsewhere about American society? It cannot. We will continue to read=20
occasional reports from the Council on Foreign Relations or the U.S. Public=
Diplomacy Advisory Commission gnashing their teeth over our=20
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=20
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=20
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=20
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=20
cool it on the advertising. What I=92m trying to do in my own work is to=20
reach out with friends here and abroad to mount some kind of open dissent=20
and protest against a U.S. administration that is neither acting in the=20
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=20
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=20
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=20
policies that put innocent people in harm=92s way? I remember last fall=20
hearing Representative Henry Hyde ask something like, =93How is it that the=
country that invented Hollywood and Madison Avenue engendered so much=20
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=20
Freedom Promotion Act of 2002. Naturally. In his statement to the press=20
about this new legislation, he said, =93If any nation has been a greater=20
force for good in the long and tormented history of this world, I am=20
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=20
seem to be entering a fantasyland of hatred?=94

I find statements like these counterproductive to improving American=20
relations with the world. I=92m less concerned about our image than I am=20
about our true relationships. I want to be able to connect with my=20
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=20
that foreign press who criticize to get an accurate measure of the source=20
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=20
actions that harm, especially since governments are often driven by their=20
own narrow self-interests. But the propaganda message is that no really,=20
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=20
becoming weary of this refrain.

GNN: How has propaganda changed over time? We bemoan it infiltrating the=20
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=20
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=20
another M. Today=92s landscape, or at least the landscape of the last 50=20
years or more, is a military-media industrial complex (MMID). The military=
and media absorb the bulk of our research sources in technology. Anything=20
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=20
that will make our lives freer and easier to challenge the power=20

Having said that, wartime propaganda in the 20th century and beyond has=20
always been impacted by the American motion picture industry and American=20
press. Can you imagine the propaganda potential of film with a captive=20
audience of hundreds of millions in the early part of the last century=20
alone?! In Phil Taylor=92s book, Munitions of the Mind, he describes the=20
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=20
production during World War II to propagate the message of the war both=20
here and overseas. The famous Hollywood film director Frank Capra (Mr.=20
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=20
nationalism as is anyone else. I think we like to idealize that the press=20
will truly separate its personal feelings about a story and report=20
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=20
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=20
ever. You certainly cannot turn to the Internet as a source of =93the=20
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=20
Internet, as media and democracy scholar Robert McChesney notes, is also=20
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=20
conduct research, but always with an eye toward the source of the=20

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