The first time the United States Government employed wide scale propaganda techniques to sway public opinion came during World War I. At public expense, the government produced posters which encouraged people to make personal sacrifice to free up more funds to support the war effort by such things as raising their own food in Victory Gardens. Since World War I, the
Each year, the Military Authorization Bill, which is basically the funding document for United States military operations, has contained a prohibition against the use of domestic propaganda. The Smith-Mundt Act prohibits the Executive Branch from distributing propaganda domestically. After a long history of utilizing propaganda to influence public opinion, it should come as no surprise that the
The inspector general’s office at the Defense Department announced on Friday that it would investigate a Pentagon public affairs program that sought to transform retired military officers who work as television and radio analysts into “message force multipliers” who could be counted on to echo Bush administration talking points about Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo and terrorism in general. The announcement came a day after the House passed an amendment to the annual military authorization bill that would mandate investigations of the program by both the inspector general’s office and Congress’s investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office. The G.A.O. said it had already begun looking into the program and would give a legal opinion on whether it violated longstanding prohibitions against spending government money to spread propaganda to audiences in the United States (Source).
An unapologetic Representative Paul C. Broun (R-Georgia) admitted, “Of course Americans engage in propaganda. It’s a vital part of the mission of the United States to promote democracy and protect our country from harm.”
While I take note that the propaganda campaign to win hearts and minds was initially directed at gaining and maintaining the confidence of the Iraqi people in the months following the invasion of
The internet has made dissemination of information incredibly easy and swift. I am concerned about the effect of the proliferation of web pages which contain sanitized Department of Defense photographs which paint a winning picture of the Iraq War. Zoriah Miller, a freelance photographer and blogger was expelled from a U.S. military unit where he was embedded after he published photos of dead marines. While respect for those killed in combat, as well as sparing their families undue trauma should be taken into account, the censorship of the reality of war should not be sanitized or censored. Individuals can not be identified in Mr. Miller's photographs. According to the story in the New York Times Online, June 26, 2008:
But opponents of the war, civil liberties advocates and journalists argue that the public portrayal of the war is being sanitized and that Americans who choose to do so have the right to see — in whatever medium — the human cost of a war that polls consistently show is unpopular with Americans.
Department of Defense Photographs
Soldier Distributing Food, U.S. Army photographer Sgt. Daniel T. West, posted for public viewing and purchase on Acclaim Image Stock Photography
Laughing Soldiers, Combat photojournalist Stacy Pearsall, posted for public viewing with interview on Popular Photography
Soldier Reading to Iraqi Children, Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika, posted for public viewing on Personal Website
Further Reading & Photographs
Further Reading & Photographs