propaganda

Statist Indoctrination of Children

Statist Indoctrination of ChildrenThis is from an American fifth grade worksheet. The title of the worksheet is “Hold The Flag High.” It has been a long time since I have been in school, but I do not remember the propaganda being quite so thick. It may have been. Who knows. But the message is clear here:

  • The commands of the government must be obeyed by all.
  • The wellbeing of the state is more important than the wellbeing of the individual.
  • The President of the US makes sure that the laws are fair.

I don’t remember ever having a bad experience in my educational life. Not as a child, nor as an adult in university. In some miraculous way, I managed to avoid the common horror stories surrounding biased professors, indoctrination and propaganda that I read about today. Then again, I don’t remember much at all from that long ago. I like to think that I would remember propaganda as blatant as “the commands must be obeyed by all,” but in reality I doubt it. While I have the ability to question this now, as an adult, when I was ten years old (the average age for fifth graders) I probably would not have noticed.

To someone who is ten years old the idea that government orders must be obeyed by all, particularly if asserted by an educational authority, would likely just be accepted with the naive trust of a child.

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The Most Popular Show In America Is Basically NSA Propaganda (Business Insider)

The Most Popular Show In America Is Basically NSA Propaganda (Business Insider)

The NCIS siblings take this one step further by placing the entire nation in jeopardy on a regular basis. The two shows have offered numerous plots involving weapons of mass destruction in the hands of lavishly financed Iranian, Pakistani, or Russian evildoers.

This is how entertainment media manipulates public sentiment. Both homicide and terrorist attack are some of the most feared, but least likely to happen events.

Reddit Censors Big Story About Government Manipulation and Disruption of the Internet (WashingtonBlog)

Reddit Moderators Go to Extreme Lengths to Censor the Most Important Story of the Year

The moderators at the giant r/news reddit (with over 2 million subscribed readers) repeatedly killed the Greenwald/Snowden story on government manipulation and disruption of the Internet … widely acknowledged to be one of the most important stories ever leaked by Snowden.

There was a time when this would have sounded like a conspiracy theory. Now based on the recent Snowden/Greenwald revelation we know, at the very least, these tactics are on the table.

Did Marines Lie About Dead “Hero?”

Comrades say Marine heroism tale of Iraq veteran was untrue

After his death in 2004 in Fallujah, Sgt. Rafael Peralta became perhaps the most lionized Marine of the Iraq war. Shot in the head during an intense firefight, the story went, the infantryman scooped a grenade underneath his body seconds before it exploded, a stunning act of courage that saved the lives of his fellow Marines.

The Navy posthumously awarded Peralta the Navy Cross, the service’s second-highest decoration for valor; named a destroyer after him; and made plans to display his battered rifle in the Marine Corps museum in Quantico, Va.

Most individuals may accept, as a matter of course, that these events happen. I used to. Then I started reading the citations, the official stories, accompanying Medal of Honor recipients. For example, that of David B. Bleak:

Nearing the military crest of the hill, while attempting to cross the fire-swept area to attend the wounded, he came under hostile fire from a small group of the enemy concealed in a trench. Entering the trench he closed with the enemy, killed 2 with bare hands and a third with his trench knife. Moving from the emplacement, he saw a concussion grenade fall in front of a companion and, quickly shifting his position, shielded the man from the impact of the blast. Later, while ministering to the wounded, he was struck by a hostile bullet but, despite the wound, he undertook to evacuate a wounded comrade. As he moved down the hill with his heavy burden, he was attacked by 2 enemy soldiers with fixed bayonets. Closing with the aggressors, he grabbed them and smacked their heads together, then carried his helpless comrade down the hill to safety. Sgt. Bleak’s dauntless courage and intrepid actions reflect utmost credit upon himself and are in keeping with the honored traditions of the military service.

The first time I read this was the first time I questioned the veracity of stories of heroism. How do we know this is true? The story itself, frankly, does not seem true. It seems like a modern myth; based on actual events, sure, but embellished. We are expected to believe that this man took out two men by knocking their heads together. The odds are low. So how do we really know?

Who witnessed him kill three men in a trench alone? Who saw him smash the heads of two soldiers together if his comrade was incapacitated? And, most importantly, how do we know they did not lie or exaggerate?

As it turns out, actual verification of a Medal of Honor story is built on a shaky foundation. Decisions as to whom will receive a Medal of Honor are not made on the field of battle. The decisions are made by individuals who may have never even met the person before. The story moves up the chain of command like a game of telephone. Individuals in the Pentagon must trust the reports of those who bring the stories to their door. And although designed to leave “no margin of error or doubt” much of the evidence considered in the Medal of Honor screening process would be consider hearsay in a court of law.

In the case of Sgt. Dakota Meyer, video evidence has raised the question that his Medal of Honor winning story may have been a complete fraud. Meyer recounted his story of fighting off Taliban in Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War. However, the testimony of Meyer’s companions later contradicted him as well. And an examination of the stories indicated that the events surrounding Meyer’s heroism had been exaggerated:

But an exhaustive assessment by a McClatchy correspondent who was embedded with the unit and survived the ambush found that the Marines’ official accounts of Meyer’s deeds — retold in a book, countless news reports and on U.S. military websites — were embellished. They’re marred by errors and inconsistencies, ascribe actions to Meyer that are unverified or didn’t happen and create precise, almost novelistic detail out of the jumbled and contradictory recollections of the Marines, soldiers and pilots engaged in battle.

Recipients of the Medal of Honor are largely not audited. The last attempt to do an audit was in 1916. Regardless of the myth being exposed, it does not seem that a Medal of Honor will be taken away once it is awarded. Thus, the intent is to avoid situations where it may be awarded without merit. Peralta was rejected after being nominated three times for the Medal of Honor. This is the same Marine who had the destroyer named after him. Let’s return to his story:

On Friday night, the Pentagon announced that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had turned down a request by Rep. Duncan D. Hunter (R-Calif.) to reopen a Medal of Honor nomination for Peralta. Hagel, after an extensive review that included new material gathered by Hunter’s office, determined that “the totality of the evidence” was insufficient to award a Medal of Honor, the Pentagon said in a statement.

But Hunter, a former Marine who served in Fallujah, said in an interview earlier this month that awarding the medal is “the right thing to do.”

“When you have young Marines saying, ‘I’m not dead, because he jumped on the grenade,’ that’s all we need to know. There’s no reason to complicate this.”

This is always the origin of Medal of Honor accounts: the battlefield comrades. We can give them the benefit of the doubt. They are not necessarily telling lies. They may not be telling the truth, either. False memories are linked to stressful events. Conformity is common in situations of uncertainty. Solomon Asch famously demonstrated that conformity can even make people assert what they know to be untrue.

In the immediate aftermath of the blast, some of the men in the unit feared they had been the ones who shot Peralta, according to Allen. Tony Gonzales, a corporal who was outside the house, said one of the Marines approached him, put a hand on his shoulder and wept.

“I shot Peralta with a three-burst round to the face,” the Marine told him, according to Gonzales. “He ran right in front of my line of fire.”

A new plot twist: a motivation for the myth. It is no accident that many Medal of Honor recipients are dead. They are unable to verify their own story personally. And what better way to cover up a tragic accident than to create a heroic myth? This allows the companions of the fallen, the family and the state to rest easy. He did not die in vain. He was a hero.

Brown, who said he dashed out of the house when he saw the grenade land on the floor, recalls feeling uncomfortable when he heard Marines in the squad suggest that they embellish the story of Peralta’s death. Another Marine who was outside the house and corroborated Brown’s account said the story of Peralta jumping on the grenade didn’t feel like a coverup at the time.

“Looking back, I truly believe it was something they wanted to be noble,” said the Marine, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he remains in the service and does not want to be publicly associated with the controversy. “I don’t think it was something done to cover anything up. It was more like, this is something we should do for him.”

Allen was the closest person to the grenade other than Peralta and was severely wounded in the backside. As his comrades began treating his wounds, he said he heard Adam Morrison, another Marine in the room, say that Peralta had jumped on the grenade.

“That was the first I heard of it,” he said. “I had my eyes on the grenade.”

Allen said he doesn’t think anyone acted maliciously. “Many people thought they had shot him,” he said. “That’s why the story was created. It just happened organically.”

It just happened organically. And that seems to be the most truthful statement. It was a perfect storm: guilt, conformity, and a desire to lionize the man. Nobody can rationalize a young man shot in the head by his own team. This is a senseless death. His life meant nothing. He did die in vain.

American Propaganda Slogans

One goal of propaganda is to derail or hijack public discourse on an unpopular policy. The conversation surrounding the troops detracts from the conversation on war policy. It is used to marginalize critics, because any criticism of US policy is taken to be an affront by proxy on the collective troops. This works because the American cultural mythos post-Vietnam War has shifted from perceiving soldiers as complicit in acts of war to viewing soldiers as brave, sympathetic and oft romantic figures.

Another goal of propaganda is to perpetuate a shared cultural belief. In this case it is that the US Armed Forces are fundamentally virtuous. The average soldier is depicted as someone serving the cause of freedom, protecting the homeland, making personal sacrifices, and living a generally clean life. This cultural mythos makes it a near-taboo to criticize soldiers as individuals.

Here are common pro-military propaganda slogans of the last two decades. If any others come to mind please leave a comment and share your knowledge.

yellow support the troops ribbonCoerced or Superficial Gratitude

Thank you for your service.
Thank you for your sacrifice.
Thank you for serving your country.

Formula Using “The Troops” as a Slogan

Thank the Troops.
Support the Troops
God Bless our Troops

Actual Bumper Stickers

Proud Air Force Grandfather
Proud Father of an American Soldier
If You Enjoy Your Freedom Thank A Vet
I Heart My Sailor
I love jet noise. The sound of freedom.
My son’s heart is purple. Support our troops.
God bless our troops. Especially the snipers.
My best friend is the US Army.
Land of the free because of the brave.
If you don’t stand behind our troops, please feel free to stand in front of them.

The NSA and the Octopus – The NSA Is Trying to Intimidate You

NSA NROL 39Not long ago a story made the rounds about the National Security Agency’s creepy, Orwellian logo. It is exactly as it seems. This is a real logo, from the NSA/NSO,  for a spy satellite. While the octopus motif is used overwhelmingly a negative context, this is not the first time octopus symbolism has been appropriated by a spy agency to represent itself. In 2007, India adopted the symbolism of the octopus in the form of an acronym. Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, Chief Minister of the Andhra Pradesh cabinet, created the Organization for Counter Terrorist Operations (OCTOPUS). A classic case of choosing the acronym before the name.

The National Reconnaissance Organization satellite carried a secret payload and twelve spy satellites. In yet another Orwellian twist, Karen Furgerson, spokesperson for the NRO, said, “NROL-39 is represented by the octopus, a versatile, adaptable, and highly intelligent creature.” This is transparently disingenuous. It would be neigh impossible not to recognize that the octopus would be viewed in a negative light. The octopus has been used to represent a creeping, strangling force emanating from area. Two very common themes have historically been depictions of communist and Jewish conspiracies. However, the octopus motif is by no means limited to these. It has been used to represent political parties within the United States, the federal government, law enforcement agencies, and most Western countries at one point or another. During WWII it was used by the Japanese to depict the USA, by the Chinese to depict Russia and by the Americans to depict the Japanese. Vulgar Army has dedicated an entire website to the portrayal of the evil octopus as a political motif if you’d like to see examples and read more.

The evil octopus motif is characterized by its grandiosity. Not only does it extend its many tentacles of influence, but it is enormous. The symbolism is not of a small threat, not of something realistic nor lifelike, but exaggerated and eminent.  It is often depicted, as for NROL-39, reaching out over the entire world. In other forms of propaganda, it may be reaching out from one country to another. Even at its smallest scale the octopus may still be influencing an entire community or a neighborhood.

The political cartoon above depicts the conspiratorial octopus. Its tentacles are politicians, the narcotics bureau, police officers, drug traffickers and drug pushers. The lone, street-level dealer and the street drug consumer are influenced by the very tip of a tentacle. This was a cartoon from 1979, when the Australian Federal Police Act of 1979 was passed. The Federal Bureau of Narcotics was merged with the new organization. Australia, too, has issues with the involvement between government, police and organized crime, serving dual roles as enforcers and importers, in the drug war. In a US American context, the most widely-known example is the CIA’s (alleged) involvement with cocaine trafficking. Cocaine provided the funds for the Contras to act as a US proxy against the Nicaraguan government.

Above is a political cartoon circa 1950, when Presidential Truman declared a State of Emergency to utilize Presidential war powers. The cartoon still resonates in 2014 in the wake of the NSA scandal, the PATRIOT Act, Guantanamo Bay and over a decade of additional encroachments upon liberty. As the cartoon indicates, the Korean War was initially referred to not as a war, but as a “police action,” one that influenced not only military endeavors in Korea but also domestically. The octopus is a spectre, a ghost of the Truman administration sneaking up on the Constitution. The symbolism could not be more clear.

The United States of America itself, including the US military, has also been depicted as a meddling cephalopod. A Latin American anti-war group, SOA Watch, brought the octopus motif into the 21st century. The School of the Americas (SOA), now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is a United States Department Of Defense training center. It was found to have trained and taught torture (or is it enhanced interrogation?) techniques to Latin American forces in the 1980s. It helped prop up pro-US dictatorial regimes. It aided in stamping out free political and religious groups. After the Cold War it shifted its attention to the War on Drugs, which continues to be its primary focus today.

The United States, specifically the US military, is depicted with a human skull in place of the body, dollar signs in its eye sockets. The text in English reads: “Close the school of assassins. Never more. It’s enough.”

A French anti-colonialist propaganda poster uses a similar motif, with a very patriotic octopus who shares similar eyes. In English: “No! France will not be a colonial country. The Americans in America!”

Both share a similar theme. The octopus is, primarily, a representation of the United States of America. It is crossing an ocean or reaching across with its tentacles. It looks out with dollar signs in its eyes, either being driven by profit or seeking gain. And it looks to influence foreign nations against their will. The symbolism is distinctly negative.  This brings us back to an initial question. Why an intelligence agency appropriate a motif that has historically been used to depict various entities in a sinister, nefarious fashions?

One can only speculate. Perhaps it is intentionally Orwellian in nature. By appropriating a symbol you control it. It’s a form of Newspeak. The octopus is no longer a slimy predator, but it is, as Furgerson said, a symbol of “versatility” or “adaptability.” Maybe it is deliberately being used for the intimidation factor. Psychology is the name of the game and it is just as important to the NSA that you believe “Nothing is Beyond Our Reach” as it is for the motto to be a reality. If people are not afraid they will not implicitly consent nor comply. Maybe someone pushed a tongue-in-cheek idea through to poke fun at the growing mistrust of the American surveillance apparatus. Maybe someone just likes octopi and appreciates how versatile they are.

The USA may have also passed the point of being redeemable in the public eye. The a recent Gallup poll found that the USA is overwhelmingly viewed internationally as the world’s greatest threat to peace. Perhaps, like an evil organization from a James Bond movie, the USA will embrace its new image and utilize it to the fullest. Fear is an effective tactic. If the new plan is to eschew good PR for results, a shift toward fear-based imagery and terminology may be on the horizon. Maybe the NSA is trying to frighten you.