The Guardian December 5, 2001

Scripting the big lie

by Heather Cottin

The titans of the military-industrial-media complex are working around the 
clock trying to annihilate the truth so people in the United States won't 
care what happens to the people of Afghanistan. Using every propaganda 
vehicle the Bush administration is driving hard to control the minds and 
hearts of the American people and, if possible, people around the 

In a briefing, Bush spokesperson Ari Fleischer warned reporters that, in 
times like these, "people have to watch what they say and watch what they 
do". CNN and other major commercial news organisations are obeying 
Fleischer's admonition.

During the bombing of Afghanistan, network news outlets endlessly repeated, 
"Taliban claims are impossible to verify."

CNN has ordered reporters to frame reports of civilian deaths with 
reminders that "the Pentagon has repeatedly stressed that it is trying to 
minimise" such casualties, and that "the Taliban regime continues to harbor 
terrorists who are connected to the September 11 attacks that claimed 
thousands of innocent lives in the US".

In a special report on November 5 that took other media to task for letting 
the world know about the slaughter of innocents in Afghanistan, Fox News 
anchor Brit Hume said, "Civilian casualties are historically, by 
definition, a part of war, really. Should they be as big news as they have 

Mara Liasson from National Public Radio agreed, "Look, war is about killing 
people. Civilian casualties are unavoidable."

US News & World Report columnist Michael Barone added, "I think the 
real problem here is that this is poor news judgement on the part of some 
of these news organisations. Civilian casualties are not, as Mara says new. 
The fact is that they accompany wars."

A memo circulated to editors at the Panama City, Florida, News 
Herald and leaked to Jim Romenesko's news warned: "DO NOT USE photos on 
Page1A showing civilian casualties from the US war on Afghanistan. DO NOT 
USE wire stories which lead with civilian casualties from the US war on 
Afghanistan ... play down the Civilian casualties, DO IT."

Propaganda extravaganza

A New York Times article on November 11 delineating the "Battle to 
Shape Public Opinion", explained in detail how the Bush administration was 
setting up "a round-the-clock war news bureau" in Washington, London and 
Islamabad to help develop a "message of the day".

The Times called the effort a "21st century version of the muscular 
propaganda war that the United States waged in the 1940s."

The State Department brought in former advertising executive Charlotte 
Beers to sell the US line. This message "dovetails with the domestic news 
management" under the supervision of Karen P Hughes, the White House 
communications director.

Beers holds meetings with foreign correspondents "closed to American 

"We cannot give our propaganda to our own people", said Price Floyd, deputy 
director of media outreach at the State Department. Heavens no!

According to the Times, the State Department and Defence Department 
aren't allowing any real information out about military operations. Clark 
Hoyt, the Washington editor for the Knight Rider Newspaper chain, said 
"American forces are engaged in combat overseas, and we are basically shut 

The Frankfurter Rundschau wrote, "Substantial amounts of information 
about current military actions and their consequences is subject to 
censorship by parties to the conflict."

Moviegoers beware!

This is total war even if incredibly one-sided, and the administration has 
drafted Hollywood.

The heads of the Warner Brothers television studio and of the CBS and Fox 
broadcasting networks met with Karl Rove, President Bush's senior advisor, 
to find "common ground on how the entertainment industry can contribute to 
the war effort, replicating in spirit if not in scope the partnership 
formed between filmmakers and war planners in the 1940s."

The Sunday Herald of Scotland noted, "Hollywood stars and script 
writers are rushing to bolster the new message of patriotism, conferring 
with the CIA and brainstorming with the military about possible real life 
terrorist attacks."

Many of the "stars" are thrilled. Actor Tom Cruise, concerned about 
upcoming roles as a CIA operative in his next movie, wants to show the "CIA 
in as positive a light as possible."

Sylvester Stallone is working on the script for a fourth Rambo film in 
which he parachutes into Afghanistan to battle leaders of the Taliban 
(New York Post, November 13).

You can't make this stuff up.

Michael Macedonia, of the army's Simulation, Training and Instrumentation 
Command, was enraptured with the prospect of using Hollywood as a 
propaganda tool.

"You are talking about screen writers and producers. These are very 
brilliant, creative people. They can come up with fascinating insights very 
quickly", he told the Sun Herald.

Actually, Hollywood has always been a willing tool for propaganda. Many 
people know nothing about the world except what they see in war films. 
These are carefully planned and funded.

For example, a little think tank, the Institute for Creative Studies at the 
University of Southern California, received funding of US$45 million from 
the US army in 1999, writes the Sunday Herald.

The New York Times noted, "Effort to create public service spots for 
TV and movie theatres, documentaries on terrorism and home security, live 
shows for American troops featuring Hollywood performers and perhaps some 
involvement in helping spread the American message abroad, provides an 
opportunity for the studios to reassert their patriotism while being good 

Hollywood as big business is in tune with the sensibilities of the oil 
companies. The owners of the major studios are the same capitalists who own 
the defence and oil industries, which are the major beneficiaries of the 
war for the Middle East and Central Asia.

There is no contradiction between Hollywood's goals here and Pentagon 
strategy. They are all profiting from the war. This is just war by other 
means, war on people's hearts and minds.

Attack on academia

The Bush administration's minion are meanwhile on the attack against 
students and professors who oppose the war in Afghanistan.

The Boston Globe reported on November 13 that a "conservative 
academic group founded by Lynne Cheney, the wife of Vice President Dick 
Cheney, fired a new salvo in the culture wars by blasting 40 college 
professors as well as the president of Wesleyan University and others for 
not showing enough patriotism in the aftermath of September 11."

"College and University faculty have been the weak link in America's 
response to the attack, "says a report by Cheney's newly created American 
Council of Trustees and Alumni. The report names names and criticises 
professors for being "short on patriotism".

Not content with creating what one professor called tactics "reminiscent of 
McCarthyism" against university professors, the administration has called 
in the intelligence agencies to beef up the attack on culture and the free 
expression of ideas.

On November 7, FBI and Secret Service agents visited the "Secret Wars" 
exhibit at the ART Car Museum in Houston, Texas. "Secret Wars" is an 
exhibition investigating artistic dissent to covert operations and 
government secrets.

Donna Juanca, a worker at the museum, said, "It was a very scary experience 
in a day, what the traffic was like, how did we advertise. They let us know 
they are watching us now."

Tex Kerschen, the museum's curator, said to Independent Media, "The 
FBI are going to move in as quickly as they can to investigate any kind of 

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Workers' World

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