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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
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.