“For some people, war is terror, disaster, and death. For others, it’s a PR problem”
– Norman Solomon
All it would take is a casual glance at social media to agitate anyone with even a hint of contextual knowledge. Current events — events that repress, oppress, and kill by design — are viewed in a guilt-free vacuum. Each sensationalist episode is portrayed as discrete, garners a few insipid memes and hashtags, and then boom: we’re being spoon-fed the next set of lies.
News Flash #1: From the perpetual international interventions to the wars being waged on our streets by unaccountable, militarized law enforcement agents, it’s all connected.
News Flash #2: It’s our job to draw those connections and spread the word.
Please read on for small sampling of how we’re consciously and relentlessly manipulated.
“Selling our policy”
The use of public relations (PR) during wartime went truly public during the first Gulf War — with television as its ultimate smart bomb. Speaking in 1991, Richard Hass of the National Security Council, called television “our chief tool in selling our policy.”
After being invaded by Iraq on Aug. 2, 1990, the government of Kuwait funded as many as 20 PR, law, and lobby firms to marshal world opinion. For example: a 15-year-old Kuwaiti “refugee” named Nayirah stood before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus. She tearfully described witnessing Iraqi troops stealing incubators from a hospital, leaving 312 babies “on the cold floor to die.”
The story was a hoax. Nayirah’s false testimony was part of a $10 million Kuwait government propaganda campaign managed by the public relations firm Hill and Knowlton. Rather than working as a volunteer at a hospital, Nayirah was actually the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington.
“We didn’t know it wasn’t true at the time,” said Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser. But, he admitted, “It was useful in mobilizing public opinion.”
One of the firms hired by Kuwait, The Rendon Group, was called on once again after America’s post-9/11 assault on Afghanistan. In order to make itself look good while bombing Afghanistan, the Pentagon offered Rendon a four-month deal worth $397,000.
“We needed a firm that could provide strategic counsel immediately,” Lt. Col. Kenneth McClellan, a media officer at the Pentagon, said. “We were interested in someone that we knew could come in quickly and help us orient to the challenge of communicating to a wide range of groups around the world.”
“Things just happen”
In the battle for the hearts and minds of American TV couch potatoes, Rendon got plenty of help from the major networks. CNN Chair Walter Isaacson ordered his reporters to downplay casualties from the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan:
“It seems perverse to focus too much on the casualties or hardship in Afghanistan,” Isaacson wrote as Operation Enduring Freedom (sic) commenced. “We must talk about how the Taliban are using civilian shields and how the Taliban have harbored the terrorists responsible for killing close to 5,000 innocent people.”
The media and their many related tentacles are not designed to expose connections. As Alternative Radio founder and director, David Barsamian explains: “There’s no context for actions, there’s no background; there’s no history. Things just happen.”
Context. Background. History. These are our weapons in the battle to defend independent thinking. As events spin in and out of news feeds, if we do not find a way to put them into proper perspective, we become willing participants in the global carnage.
If you’re privileged enough to be reading this article, you’re also privileged enough to do the crucial work of self-education. To have access to information but instead opt to trust our corporate masters is to be complicit. There is no neutral. Which side are you on?