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10 principles of war propaganda

by nicta Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 09:05:15 PM EST

X-posted at dkos

In 2001 (before 9/11), Belgian historian Anne Morelli (fr) published a book analyzing the basic principles of war propaganda. Unfortunately and as far as I can tell, it was never translated to English (only in German). She credits the work of Lord Ponsonby, an amazing and unfortunately somewhat forgotten character. He stood, largely alone, in the Commons opposing WWI before it started, predicting not just the massacre it was going to be, but more interestingly for our purpose, how it was going to be sold to the masses.



Morelli enumerates it as the following principles:

   1.  We don't want war, we are only defending ourselves
   2. The other guy is the sole responsible for this war
   3. Our adversary's leader is evil and looks evil
   4. We are defending a noble purpose, not special interest
   5. The enemy is purposefully causing atrocities; we only commit mistakes
   6. The enemy is using unlawful weapons
   7. We have very little losses, the enemy is losing big
   8. Intellectuals and artists support our cause
   9. Our cause is sacred
  10. Those who doubt our propaganda are traitors.

There is no value judgment in those principles; we can verify that they apply regardless of the evilness of the belligerent we evaluate through them. They may also be true. They applied to revanchiste France in 1914 as well as Britain, they applied to Nazi Germany and to the United States in WW2. They applied to colonial powers and to Gulf War I allied. They undeniably apply to current Afghanistan and Iraq.


We don't want war, we are only defending ourselves

"right to defend itself", which, strangely, is never invoked for Palestine

The other guy is the sole responsible for this war

Hamas launched rockets (never mentioning the blockade, the wall, the checkpoints,
the harassment, and so on)

Our adversary's leader is evil and looks evil

Usually the main point of the propaganda arsenal, this has taken a backseat in this conflict.

We are defending a noble purpose, not special interest

Even the worst murderous dictators can find a remotely plausible cause to justify their aggressions.

The enemy is purposefully causing atrocities; we only commit mistakes

This is clearly what is the most shocking right now; schools being destroyed by IDF are mere mistakes -- even though Israel barely apologizes, if at all. But when Hamas scratches one civilian, they bear full responsibility.

The enemy is using unlawful weapons

While Israel is currently using Phosphorus, and is not even in fact denying it, we've all heard  -- repeatedly -- about the horrible rockets. How bad are they? They're inaccurate, conventional and not very powerful. But they're supposed to be illegal and unfair.

We have very little losses, the enemy is losing big

Today this is not exactly a talking point, more of a sad fact.

Intellectuals and artists support our cause

Cue the endless march of neo-con "thinkers" on TV

Our cause is sacred

It's in the Bible, you can't get more sacred

Those who doubt our propaganda are traitors.

Self-loathing antisemitic jew. 'nuff said.

Perhaps what's more interesting is when they don't apply. I'm reminded of a conversation I had about 10 years ago with a Jewish friend, who was quite unabashedly pro-Israel. He ended up claiming that Palestinians were manipulating European medias and were, in his words, "excellent at public relations."
I was shocked. The statement immediately struck me as stupendously yet ironically conspiracy theoristy. Wasn't that what was said of Jews by antisemites? "Oh yeah and they control some banks, too" I asked jokingly. "Oh sure, they have the Saudi money, but it's really disgusting how they get all the coverage on the public media."

Trying to apply those principles to the Palestinian side as it currently stands doesn't quite work:


  • Gaza is not even defending itself to any significant extent, as evidenced by the body count where Israeli friendly fire is almost the majority.

  • Everybody on the Palestinian's side admit that Hamas bears at least some responsibility.

  • Israeli leaders have not been cartoonized in any significant way to server as the figurehead of the bad guy

  • Nobody invokes much of a higher purpose for the struggle but the lives of the Palestinians themselves

  • Gazans are losing big, and don't try to claim otherwise

  • No appeal to the sacred; the land wasn't given to Palestinian by $DEITY, or at least that's not part of the argument against Israel's actions, while it's very much a part of the argument in favor of settlements

  • Those who DON'T doubt Hamas' every single statements are dubbed traitor within 5µs

That leaves: intellectuals and artists are supporting our cause. Not that many, though.

Those principles could have been found to apply to a larger extend to the Palestinian struggle at an earlier time. Today they don't apply, because they are simply being viciously attacked. Despite the delusions of my friend, they have no dedicated mouthpiece in Europe or in the US. At best, their plea for justice is relayed by real journalism outlets such as Democracy Now!; but those are not the mere opposite of airtime delivery devices such as Fox News or CNN.

Display:
It's interesting that there are no comments to this highly recommended diary.  It's as if we have all been struck dumb by the sheer awfulness of the conflict.  I am certainly lost for words.  The principles enunciated here are so obvious, they are in our bloodstream, and yet it is worth repeating them here, all in one place, just to illustrate the maxim:  "The first casualty of war is the truth".

Who coined the phrase, "The first casualty of War is Truth" ? . | Notes and Queries | guardian.co.uk

In 1918 US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson is purported to have said: The first casualty when war comes is truth. However, this was not recorded. In 1928 Arthur Ponsonby's wrote: The 'When war is declared, truth is the first casualty'. (Falsehood in Wartime) Samuel Johnson seems to have had the first word: 'Among the calamities of war may be jointly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages.' (from The Idler, 1758)


notes from no w here
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 10:54:55 AM EST
Frank asks why there aren't any comments. From my part I think I have said everything I need to say about the IP situation, yet however much the situation and the location changes, the underlying problems never move in any meaningful way.

So you end up simply repeating yourself again and again until I have succeeded in boring myself, let alone everybody else with my thoughts. We can say how it epxoses the hyocrisy of Israel/US/western pious lies about humanitarain interst, but that applies to Zimbabwe and sudan and a lot of other places that don't get the media traction. But that's cos Israel are white, they're supposed to be civilised (not like the african/s American/asian), they're supposed to be the good guys. We're not so much annoyed at what they're doing as we are at making us look as bad as everybody else. we imagine that is pto everyone else, but of course they already knew. No, it exposes the lie of our imagined exceptional human compassion to ourselves.

We've bent over backwards for years to excuse the Israelis (ie ourselves), but this time too far.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 11:46:09 AM EST
The repeating part is true, and it is frustrating. But it is not boring, as I have taken heed of one of your points just this week and it was extremely helpful in gelling some coherence to my trop and argument.

It also began the chain that I hope will turn into an online school at: http://www.beyondwarispeace.com/training/. It will take more work than I have time for, but I have made it a priority now.

In addition to what you said about the 'white' aspect, there is also the aspect that we most likely know, or have known, many Jews in our life, sometimes intimately. But rarely have I had a relationship with someone who was identified as a Palestinian or a Darfurian...or who held the history of the Philippines as part of their constantly at the surface narrative.  

Hamas launched rockets (never mentioning the blockade, the wall, the checkpoints, the harassment, and so on)
This quick note from the essay also drives home the point that we are able to meld a plethora of atrocities, any one of them a daily grand travesty - for example, the blockade should never be mentioned but in paragraphs, not in a word...and so to the Wall and the degradations and death at the checkpoints...almost everyone worse than a rocket - yet there we are, a few words and out.

It would seem you are right. This time the clever excuses and sanctimonity have crossed the line. Perhaps the powers that be there feel that they are in the same position as the corporate socialists and criminals of the last 8 years - they have one last chance to suck everything dry.  

Boring as it is, if it isn't constantly pointed out, and the narrative refined by the interchange of ideas, then we make it easier for them to make us into a well adjusted apathetic 'other'.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 05:49:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
shergald = siegestate?
by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 06:00:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nowhere near as dedicated or knowledgeable on the subject...but thanks for the compliment.

Never underestimate their intelligence, always underestimate their knowledge.

Frank Delaney ~ Ireland

by siegestate (siegestate or beyondwarispeace.com) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 07:33:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
WW I was terrible because there were war mongers on both sides, and a culture of war on both sides. Pro-war propaganda was hardly necessary in Germany or the UK - there were plenty of people willing to fight a war without it, from the frankly psychotic Kaiser down.

It's very hard to imagine that kind of patriotism in the EU today. The US is certainly still infected with it, but nothing makes people less reluctant to fight wars than seeing most of your generation destroyed and most of your country bombed to rubble.

I doubt the US will change its mind about war until that happens.

As for Israel - Israel has always been good for business. We can continue to be outraged and horrified, but Israel is so damn profitable for arms dealers - via a US subsidy, which is nicely circular - that war is going to remain the natural state there.

'Serious' people aren't even slightly interested in peace.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 12:14:50 PM EST
It's very hard to imagine that kind of patriotism in the EU today. The US is certainly still infected with it, but nothing makes people less reluctant to fight wars than seeing most of your generation destroyed and most of your country bombed to rubble.

It's hard to imagine though not impossible. There has been talk of more protectionism due to "the crisis", and doesn't protectionism also favour patriotism? Besides, what is the percentage left of West Europeans who have seen most of their generation destroyed or their country bombed to rubble?

War begins with a change of attitude that may look harmless in the beginning, i.e. envy of the other, then blaming, demonising the other, self-defence against the other and then, or before that, truth will be uncool (s.a.) and the waving of the flag cool.

I suspect that there are few voices under 30 on this blog and, as a whole, this blog doesn't aim at reflecting mainstream thought which could be more revealing with regards to patriotic/Eurotic feelings that could be susceptible to (war) propaganda.
 

by Lily (put - lilyalmond - here <a> yahaah.france) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 01:02:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
War begins with a change of attitude that may look harmless in the beginning, i.e. envy of the other, then blaming, demonising the other, self-defence against the other and then, or before that, truth will be uncool (s.a.) and the waving of the flag cool.

Sooo very true...


Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Jan 14th, 2009 at 01:45:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While your analysis looks quite good when applied to the Israeli side, your point

"Trying to apply those principles to the Palestinian side as it currently stands doesn't quite work"

is a bit odd. It might be true that we hear little Palestinian propaganda here in the West, but the propaganda aimed at Palestinians, and Muslims in general, does very much fit your pattern.

Hamas does claim to defend itself, even when firing rockets at Israel, it very much claims to have a noble and sacred cause (including a lot of antisemitism), they do shout about the damage they do to Israel and claim to suffer little losses themselves.

If we hear little of that here in Europe, that's more because Israeli propaganda is aimed and tuned more at the West than because Hamas has no propaganda...

by GreatZamfir on Thu Jan 15th, 2009 at 07:35:12 AM EST


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