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Weapons of Mass Deception by Sheldon Rampton & John Stauber (Tarcher/Putnam, 2003, 215 pp.)
A number of opinion surveys have recently reported that for the first time since the beginning of the war in Iraq a solid majority of Americans believe the Bush administration either stretched the truth about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or told outright lies. The publication of Weapons of Mass Deception by investigative reporters Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber should swell that majority as well as critically inform a curious public about the aggressive public relations campaign used to take the nation to war with Iraq.
For starters, Rampton and Stauber remind readers about the PR campaign masterminded by Hill & Knowlton for the first war in the Gulf. With a budget in excess of $10 million, Hill & Knowlton had ample funds to gather, select, and broadcast a vast quantity of information. This process also included the fabrication of front groups designed to hide the identity of private sponsors as well as scripting theatrical stories that were then presented as news. One particular event that is now recognized as the most decisive ploy used to manufacture American consent for the first Gulf war involved the testimony of Kuwaiti citizens at a hearing designed to resemble an official congressional proceeding (the so-called Congressional Human Rights Caucus). The most moving eye witness testimony, given by a young Kuwaiti girl, identified only by her first name, described how Iraqi soldiers had taken hundreds of babies out of incubators in a hospital in Kuwaiti City and left the babies on the cold floor to die. In fact, the girl was the 15-year-old daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. and Hill & Knowlton had scripted her lines for their client, the Kuwaiti Royal family. Needless to say, Dr. Fayeza Youssef, who ran the obstetrics unit at the hospital, said the girls claim was false; no one had seen Iraqi troops yanking babies from incuba- tors. Furthermore, there were only a handful of incubators in all of Kuwait.
After the media repeatedly broadcast this hoax, the tide of American sentiment became hawkish enough to launch the war to reclaim Kuwait. The U.S. troops then rolled into Kuwait City for their first victorious curtain call. Another PR firmwhose clients included the Pentagon and the CIAhad set the stage for TV crews by distributing small American flags to hundreds of Kuwaitis posed along the route.
Though the babies-torn-fromincubators story has become infamous within the PR community, few Americans understand how (much less why) their perceptions were managed at that time and how their perceptions about various Islamic states and leaders have been managed ever since. As recently as January 2003, for example, in an opinion poll conducted by Knight-Ridder newspapers, half of the people surveyed still believed that one or more of the September 11 terrorist hijackers were Iraqi citizens. In fact, none were from Iraq and most were from our client state Saudi Arabia.
What Rampton and Stauber would like Americans to know is that the freedom of speech that is seen to be the essence of democracy also grants the freedom to lie. Thus, a necessary skill for those who aspire to a better, livable world is to be able to discriminate between fact and fabrication. Weapons of Mass Deception also makes it clear that it is important to know who is footing the bill for the vast amount of misinformation that is broadcastbe it the Pentagon, the CIA, a client state, multinational corporation, or other entity. In the same way the general public has become savvy about industries creating desire and consumption, Americans need to understand how so much of what passes for news has been tailored in the interests of ruling elites as acutely as any marketing campaign.
Weapons of Mass Deception offers an analysis of how this works. Its timeliness is self-evident; it is an excellent book, written with the conviction that American people are not coarse and feckless but individuals capable of intelligent discrimination and concern when the truth isnt sanitized out of existence.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.