US media control in Iraq and elsewhere
The practice of literally corrupting the free press --at home or abroad-- is at odds with everything our nation stands for, but it has become a common practice.
So we have examples like conservative columnist Armstrong Williams being paid to write pieces favorable about school choice (heavily promoted by the ultra-rightist, Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation as a means of undermining public education and undermining teacher unions.)
On one hand, we have Pentagon personnel writing articles for Iraqi newspapers that give a positive spin on US military activities. On the other, former US proconsul for Iraq Paul Bremer shut down about a dozen non-approved newspapers, as Rahul Mahajan and Robert Jensen reported in "Iraqi Liberation: Bush Style" in Z magazine (9/2003) :
…the Coalition Provisional Authority chief, Paul Bremer, gave himself the power to squelch Iraqi media engaged in "incitement," which in practice means clamping down on those who oppose the occupation. Under the headline "Bremer is a Baathist," one paper editorialized, "We've waited a long time to be free. Now you want us to be slaves."
In a more lethal attempt at controlling the press, Al-Jazeera TV offices in
"President Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly
"But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash. A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the
"The attack would have led to a massacre of innocents on the territory of a key ally, enraged the
However, as with many outrages connected with the Iraq War (e.g., the disappearance of more than $8 billion in cash and some 180,000 AK-47's and other weapons provided by the
But the most popular tactic by US military planners has simply to buy off the local media. It's relatively easily done, since most poor nations have one dominant paper and these publications tend to be sympathetic to members of the local elite which own them and advertise in them.
Few people were shocked when the Pentagon found nothing wrong in allowing a US-based PR firm to pay Iraqi media to run positive articles about the
Still, a handful of na?ve Americans might think it unseemly for our government to hire a PR firm to bribe Iraqi media into carrying US-written propaganda. The
But the latest white-washing of high-level US conduct in Iraq should not be surprising, both because of the Bush administration’s unwillingness to punish high-level wrongdoing at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, and the central role that paid propaganda has long played in US interventions.
"When delivering the stories to media outlets in
HUGE PENTAGON PROPAGANDA OPERATION
Moreover, Stauber and Rampton report, the work of
The total Pentagon allocation of $57.6 million to the Rendon Group and Lincoln Group "is more than the annual newsroom budget to most American newsrooms to cover all news from everywhere for an entire year," stated Paul McLeary of the
In this operation in Iraq, the US was following a pattern used repeatedly around the globe to alter local public opinion and international perceptions by gaining influence with the dominant news outlets In repeated instances, the US has used under-the-table payments to newspaper owners and journalists to turn leading publications against nationalist leaders who were democratically elected but whose economic policies clashed with the interests of US-based multinational corporations.
Notable examples of this have occurred in Iran in the early 1950’s before the 1953 US-British coup against democratically elected President Mohammed Mossadegh; in Chile where El Mercurio was used as a weapon by the US against democratic socialist President Salvador Allende; in Jamaica in the 1970’s where The Daily Gleaner waged a relentless campaign against another democratic socialist, Prime Minister Michael Manley; and in Nicaragua, where La Prensa was an incessant source of attacks on the Sandinista government of Daniel Ortega, democratically elected in 1984.
These papers relentlessly promoted false "news" aimed at undermining the governments' public standing, reported non-existent shortages to create a "run" on a particular item and thus induce an actual shortage as people hoarded it, defended hostile actions both economic and military by the US, and generally served as a central front against democratic leaders who offended powerful US interests.
No doubt further releases from the CIA files will turn up more interesting episodes. For example, the question of the Venezuelan media's role in the unsuccessful military coup against Huge Chavez in 2002 will be fascinating to examine.
Thus far, the most complete account of
(Ironically, one of the most potent and incendiary charges against current Premier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is that he denies the existence of the Holocaust.) As Kinzer explains:
"Press attacks on Mossadegh reached new levels of virulence. Articles accused him not just of communist leanings and designs on the throne, but also of Jewish parentage and even secret sympathy for the British. Although Mossadegh did not know it, most of the tirades were either inspired by the CIA or written by CIA propagandists in
"Any article I would write--it gave you something of a sense of power--would appear about instantly," Cottam recalled later. "They were designed to show Mossadegh as a Communist collaborator and a fanatic."
DEMOCRACY PROMOTION BY CONTROLLING MEDIA
The current US media operation in Iraq has dropped from the media radar screen as the military situation has shown troubling signs ( declining numbers of combat-ready Iraqi troops and increasing mortar and rocket attacks on the supposedly invulnerable Green Zone) despite the claims about the success of the US "surge" and the success just around the corner if the US extends its military presence.