AS A FUNCTION OF GOVERNMENT
a former administration insider, the
Washington Times [July 29, 1999] has revealed that
"a new multiagency plan to closely control the dissemination
of public information abroad is really aimed at 'spinning
the American public.'" What really sticks in the Clintonians'
craw is that, in spite of an unprecedented barrage of war
propaganda masquerading as news unleashed during the recent
war, "the U.S. public has refused to back President Clinton's
foreign policy." According to this unnamed official,
the Clintonians are miffed that coverage of foreign news is
"distorted" and are convinced that "they need
to fight it at all costs." How? By "using resources
that are aimed at spinning the news." And due to the
extra-constitutional magic of Presidential Decision Directives,
whereby the President can conjure new policies and the agencies
to carry them out, the Congress is powerless to stop him.
please don't tell me about the congressional "power of
the purse." The recent revelation that the Pentagon has
been spending money hand-over-fist on programs not authorized
by Congress has shattered that myth hopefully forever.
new addition to the federal nomenklatura, the International
Public Information (IPI) system, created by Presidential Directive
68, is to be chaired by Morton Halperin, formerly "Senior
Director for Democracy" at the National Security Council,
and now head of policy planning at the State Department. The
IPI working group, which met for the first time on Wednesday,
is nothing if not ambitious: the IPI charter, still classified
Top Secret, blends the functions of agencies like the old
USIA and Radio Free Europe, ostensibly aimed overseas, with
the scope and spirit of such World War II era organizations
as the Office of War Information, which blanketed the US with
pro-New Deal propaganda. The leaked text of the draft charter
is written in typical bureaucratese, but the meaning is unmistakable:
overseas propaganda will "be coordinated, integrated,
deconflicted and synchronized with the [IPI] to achieve a
synergistic effect" at home. Translation: American taxpayers
will be footing the bill for the their own indoctrination..
all administrations since FDR's have used the governmental
apparatus to make propaganda, they have usually done so under
the rubric of selling the American line abroad. Especially
during the Cold War, when the American elites saw the US locked
in an ideological conflict with the Communist bloc, such institutions
as Radio Free Europe and the USIA were justified as a method
of selling "the American way" to the wavering Europeans
and the Third World masses. Such programs had definite domestic
political uses, but were rationalized as essential to the
war against Communism. With the Clintonians, however, even
this kind of pretense has been dropped, and we are going back
to the era of Woodrow Wilson.
COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC INFORMATION
was Wilson who first mobilized American intellectuals in a
whole series of government-created and financed organizations
whose sole purpose was to hector Americans into supporting
his holy crusade to make the world safe for capital-'D' Democracy.
The Committee on Public Information, created by Wilsonian
decree, flooded the country with pamphlets, leaflets, and
posters designed to inflame the war spirit and anathematize
the Germans. Our noble allies, the British and the French,
were depicted as angelic upholders of the human spirit against
the demonic depredations of the Huns.
IN THE SERVICE OF THE STATE
and the Wilsonians virtually militarized academia in an all-out
effort to indoctrinate Americans in the justice of the Allied
cause. Even the professional historians were enlisted: the
National Board for Historical Service, a government agency,
recruited American historians to the task of proving German
war guilt and documenting the Huns' inherent barbarity. In
their secular evangelism to spread the Word of Progressive
Uplift to every corner of the earth, America's intellectuals
did not have to be drafted into the army of war propagandists.
They volunteered gladly, and their enthusiasm did not wane
until the scales fell from their eyes and they saw the horrific
results of their labors: a Europe decimated, and a Versailles
Treaty that legitimized the old imperialism instead of abolishing
it. By then, of course, it was far too late to reverse course.
WILSON TO EISENHOWER
Wilson's day, it was possible to jail the antiwar opposition.
Vigilante groups worked in tandem with government to smash
the midwestern populist and left-wing movement against the
war. In FDR's time, the New Dealers took care to be a bit
more subtle, lest they make themselves easy targets of their
Republican opponents who hated FDR's wartime dictatorship,
and looked for every opportunity to subvert it. Today, however,
the vigilance of the Republicans is considerably reduced.
After fifty years of the Cold War, during which the boundary
between foreign and domestic operations was often blurred,
the Old Right's fierce fight against FDR's Soviet-style propaganda
machine was largely forgotten. The Cold Warriors, many of
them ex-Communists (often of the Trotskyist or other dissident
variety) imitated the Comintern in setting up numerous "front"
organizations, which functioned both internationally and on
the home front.
CLOSE ENCOUNTER WITH THE CIA
can forget the escapades of the infamous CIA-funded Congress
of Cultural Freedom and its satellite groups, including the
prestigious Encounter magazine, which nurtured (and
paid out of taxpayers' pockets) such neoconservative intellectuals
as Irving Kristol to combat alleged Communist Party influence
at home and abroad? But they had to be careful to do it covertly,
and when the CIA link to the CCF was finally exposed, the
group was discredited, along with its affiliates.
AND THE MEDIA OR DO I REPEAT MYSELF?
our own time, however, government officials have no such qualms.
The old adversarial relationship between the government and
the media is gone, replaced with a new collegiality. Indeed,
the ascension of former Time magazine editor Strobe
Talbott to high office in the State Department dramatizes
the startling fact that they are increasingly one and the
Washington Times quotes the unnamed ex-official as
saying that the IPI charter not only fails to make the traditional
distinction between propaganda operations at home and abroad,
but also "talks about a news war." He adds: "This
has been in the works a long time. The target is the American
people." Yes, as we have seen, it has been in
the works a long time. But more importantly this illustrates
a point that we have been making at Antiwar.com since its
founding: the recent assault against Yugoslavia was also a
war on the American people, who were subjected to a heavy
bombardment of lies. Given the revelations that most of the
military ordnance dropped on Serbia failed to hit military
targets, and instead blasted fake tanks and other decoys,
perhaps it can be said that the war at home was far more successful
than the war in the field and that it did more damage.
this war, Clinton's lapdog media lost any sense of its responsibility
to reflect on what it was reporting. The result was that the
daily newscasts soon took on an Orwellian tone: one particularly
grotesque example was the blatant exaggeration and manipulation
of the numbers of Kosovar casualties. First it was reported
that the Serbs had slaughtered as many as a million, or even
more; then the estimate was unobtrusively lowered to half
a million. A few weeks later, reporters were confidently asserting
that 100,000 were surely killed in a frenzy of ethnic cleansing.
That figure was then halved, and finally reduced to . . .
10,000. What is astonishing is not so much the successive
reductions after all, the "fog of war" is
not only generated by government spinmeisters, but also by
the sheer confusion that is the hallmark of any military conflict.
What was striking was the complete lack of acknowledgment
that anything had changed.
FOOTNOTE: ORWELL, AGAIN
keep coming back, in this column, to a passage from George
Orwell's classic book, 1984, a novel that becomes more
timely with the passage of years, and never more so than in
the era of Clintonian "spin":
by day and almost minute by minute the past was brought up
to date. In this way every prediction made by the Party could
be shown to have been correct; nor was any item of news, or
any expression of opinion, which conflicted with the needs
of the moment, ever allowed to remain on record. All history
was a palimpsest, scraped clean and reinscribed as often as
SUBJECTIVITY OF EVIL
the numbers associated with stories of alleged Serb atrocities
began to change, there was, however, no lessening of the hyperbolic
rhetoric being used to describe Milosevic as the new "Hitler."
If anything, as time went on, and the casualty estimates dropped,
the denunciations reached new heights of hyperventilated hysteria:
there began to be talk, reflected in administration pronouncements,
that all Serbs were guilty of war crimes, because,
as the war-maddened New Republic put it, they were
"Milosevic's willing executioners." Is there is
a lesson in this some larger point about the nature
of what Robin Harris, an advisor to Margaret Thatcher, calls
"New Left Globalism (in yesterday's London Times)?
Surely this is a case study in the unreality of evil, its
pure subjectivity, its complete antipathy to the world of
response of the administration to accusations that the IPI
will be used to influence opinion on the home front shows
that at least they haven't lost their sense of humor: "We
are very cognizant of the history of the 80s," said one
official, whose acquaintance with history of any sort seems
tenuous at best. "There are congressional controls now."
Is this the same Congress that rejected the rationale for
the war and then voted to give the President more
money than he requested in order to fight it?
Congress of the United States has not exercised its foreign
policy prerogatives since Harry Truman sent troops to Korea,
and notified the representatives of the people after the fact.
The idea that they will suddenly rise up and assert their
constitutional authority is so unlikely that the administration
is probably welcoming this "leak" to the Times
as the best way to discredit the potential opposition
if they didn't leak it themselves. After all, the spinmeisters
will say, consider the source.
than the cruel jests of administration flacks are the protests
of what passes for the opposition: "This... indicates
a measure of desperation in President Clinton's foreign policy,"
said Seth Ackerman of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
"When it is not received well abroad, he resorts to propaganda."
This misses the point completely, in that the real target,
as the leaker made clear to the Times, is the American
people. But the lefties over at FAIR, being lefties, have
no real objection to that, at least in principle: they only
regret that they are not in charge of the government-funded
MYTH OF 'NONPARTISAN' GOVERNMENT
worse is the "criticism" coming from the Right:
The Times reports the remarks of one Ariel Cohen, of
the Heritage Foundation, who worries that "the IPI system
could be used by the party in power to push its own agenda,
rather than the national interest." Cohen avers that
"it would be a mistake to turn the US public information
system into a tool of a partisan agenda. It cannot be driven
by any political-correctness agenda that will not be representative
of what the American people think or that will reflect only
a social-change agenda of extremist activist groups."
Huh? Cohen is hardly that naive. His pious protestations to
the contrary, he surely realizes that there can hardly be
such a thing as nonpartisan government. Democracy is always
partisan, because that is what electoral politics is all about.
The folks over at Heritage have this much in common with their
opposite numbers over at FAIR: they, too, pine for an International
Public Information system they can call their own, albeit
one that is non-"extremist," ostensibly nonpartisan
and operates by a different standard of political correctness.
that the Cold War is over, and the need for a government propaganda
machine aimed at foreigners and Americans alike can no longer
be justified in terms of national security (or survival),
how is it that the bureaucracy not only survives but expands?
No sooner is the old USIA (United States Information Agency)
practically abolished and folded into the State Department;
no sooner is Radio Free Europe and the other "liberation"
radio stations defunded or cut to the bone; no sooner is the
National Endowment for Democracy that welfare program
for out-of-work Social Democrats and renegade ex-Trotskyists
zeroed out in the Senate version of the budget, then
it reappears in another form. Like one of those science fiction
creatures the Blob that reconstitutes itself
even as it is destroyed, it comes back bigger and stronger.
After decades of abuses, of secret slush funds, dubious covert
operations, and a continuous stream of lies, will no one rid
of us this monster?
ODD CHOICE OF WORDS
leaker told the Times that the Clintonians believe
that the American media's reporting of international news
is "distorted." The administration, he said, is
convinced that "they need to fight it at all costs."
But why? Why is it such a priority for this administration
to set in motion a propaganda machine designed to manage the
news from abroad and hoodwink the American people into supporting
Clinton's globalist agenda? Could it be that there are plans
in the works for another intervention, sooner rather than
later? Perhaps the second phase of the Interrupted War, maybe
something bigger. Whatever the New Left globalists have in
mind, you can bet the IPI will play a major role.