What Americans Believe: Iran War Propaganda


A new Gallup poll found that 99% of Americans see Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to the US national security. They believe Iran’s imaginary weapons program is more of a threat than North Korea’s actual nuclear weapons.

[I wrote about the wild success of Iran war propaganda last year, in a post called The Power of War Propaganda on Iran and Why It Works. The following is excerpted from that post.]

Contrast these beliefs with the facts: The consensus in the whole of the intelligence community in the US (and Israel) is that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and has yet to demonstrate any intention of starting one anytime soon.

But false beliefs persist even when there has been ample reassurances from elite sources in politics, the military, and the news media that Iran has no weapons program. A matter of months ago, the Obama administration marched out their minions, from Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, all of whom reiterated the fact that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, despite constant rhetoric to the contrary.

In February the New York Times ran a front page story entitled “U.S. Agencies See No Move by Iran to Build a Bomb.” It reported: “Recent assessments by American spy agencies are broadly consistent with a 2007 intelligence finding that concluded that Iran had abandoned its nuclear weapons program years earlier. The officials said that assessment was largely reaffirmed in a 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, and that it remains the consensus view of America’s 16 intelligence agencies.” Again in March, they reported “top administration officials have said that Iran still has not decided to pursue a weapon, reflecting the intelligence community’s secret analysis.” Another in the Los Angeles Times was similarly headlined, “U.S. does not believe Iran is trying to build nuclear bomb.”

Furthermore, even if Iran did have nuclear weapons, there is broad consensus that it would not translate to nuclear war. Officials and expert analysts constantly explain Iran’s leaders are rational, unlikely to provoke a conflict, and have no interest in suicide as a result of nuclear retaliation by the US. The threat from Iran is manufactured.

So can the politicians and the media still be blamed for spreading falsehoods about Iran? In a word, yes. Former CIA officer Paul Pillar, when writing about the misinformation campaign to sell the Iraq war, explained it was “less a matter of instilling any specific mistaken belief than of instilling a mood and momentum.” It was “at least as much a matter of rhetorical themes as of manipulated evidence. The belief was cultivated by repeatedly uttering ‘Iraq,’ ’9/11? and ‘war on terror’ in the same breath.” Despite the official position that Iran has no weapons program and has not demonstrated an intention to build one, most of the political, military, and media elite are constantly regurgitating lines about blocking “Iran” from obtaining “nuclear weapons.” In Obama’s statement yesterday following his latest Executive Order imposing additional sanctions on Iran, he talked about the “Iranian government” and “its defiance” in its nuclear program. A Romney spokesman then came out and said Obama “has allowed Iran’s nuclear ambitions to proceed unimpeded,” and that Obama’s policy and Iran’s ongoing program “has imperiled our allies and jeopardized our national security.”

The administration officials that came out to reiterate the intelligence consensus did so in boring Congressional testimony, which no one watches. The more vociferous and rhetorical politicians going on tirades on the Senate floor or demagoguing on television and reinforcing the belief in Iranian weapons programs, by contrast, get the attention of the electorate. And far fewer Americans read the New York Times frequently enough that they may have caught those few articles dispelling the myth of Iranian nukes, than watch pundits on network news like Fox, CNN, and NBC, for example, which constantly mislead on this question.

Trevor Thrall, also writing in the National Interest in a follow-up post to Pillar’s piece on Iraq war propaganda, said much of the reason such false beliefs persist is because the American people are substantially ignorant of “what’s going on in the United States, much less the rest of the world.”

The 2008 civic literacy survey conducted by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, for example, found that fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of government and that almost 40 percent of Americans believe the president has the power to declare war. Just 27 percent know that the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits the establishment of an official U.S. religion. The Pew Research Center, which tracks such things in a fruitless effort to find that news consumption improves political knowledge, found ample evidence of American ignorance in its 2007 survey: 31 percent could not name the current vice president (Cheney); 68 percent did not know that Sunni and Shia are two branches of Islam..[etc.]

And when briefly-appearing facts are explained in Washington and the media, it actually doesn’t hold much sway. Back in 2010, Joe Keohane wrote a piece in the Boston Globe about how political science research shows that “facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds.” He cited recent studies which found that

when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

People are not just ignorant, they’re ideological. They’ll believe what they want to believe. Unfortunately, such widespread and impenetrable false beliefs in the realm of foreign policy means that the political leadership can pretty easily launch a war if and when they decide to do so and whether it is warranted or not.

8 thoughts on “What Americans Believe: Iran War Propaganda”

    1. Those polls were fixed.There is no way Americans can be that dumb. Brainwashed as they are I do not think it can be more than 80%. Truth be told I have read nothing in the MSM sighting those statistics.

      1. Americans ARE that dumb. MSM is journalistic shill, serving up scripted platitudes to be consumed by the masses.

      2. If you watch the evening news, 60 Minutes or any of the Sunday talk shows anyone with an opposing view about Iran is not allowed to speak. As in the run up to the illegal invasion of Iraq, only neocon warmongers are allowed to spread their propaganda. Add to this many citizens think their government would not lie to them about such deadly matters. Turns out they are wrong.

    2. maybe this poll was done …of thee US congress

      we know they are as dumb as rocks…and controlled to the last email by the tribe

  1. what this means is that israeli control over our government and media is complete and that the propaganda has been 100% effective….they must have done their homework really good

  2. Education, education, education…, they are closing schools, increasing the costs of educations.., not because of education but because of the facts that they don't need any educated man kind anymore.., they all ready got 99% of them under control.., blinded and def as computer games.

  3. 99% of Americans think the same and if you ask what is the first quality of US system the answer will be :INDIVIDUALISM.

  4. This is an undeclared war against Iran and america needs an enemy to continue to decieve their own nation as they are passing out through tough time i.e. economic desaster for america due to wars. Americans will never learn that thewir time is gone and new world order is coming in which america will be no where as they are hated even in their neighbourhood i.e. latin america.
    As a student in Germany i found not a single south american who love america and they hate even more than Pakisztanis and they are now well of without america.
    Next war will be on world markets in which america is main looser as their policies against developing countries were baist and anti.

  5. 99%…with a margin of error of 4%…so, perhaps 103% of Americans believe this. Whew, for a minute I thought Americans were going soft on EyeRan.

    Seriously, one more aspect is the constant refrain, "Iran wants to 'wipe Israel off the map'". As people have shown this is a gross misinterpretation of a statement made long ago by a man who is now dead, about the regime controlling Jerusalem. A twist here, a turn there, and you can make any statement say what you want and if it plays to the basest instincts of your audience you can manipulate them all day long.

  6. Belief is *dangerous*; inspect the definition:

    belief n. 1 firm opinion; acceptance (that is my belief). 2 religious conviction (belief in the afterlife; has no belief). 3 (usu. foll. by in) trust or confidence. [POD]

    Proof: Belief can occur based on *zero* evidence, as in ‘religious conviction’ – and look at the troubles religions cause! Also here, 99% believe that “Iran’s nuclear program as a threat to the US national security,” although, as Ditz, Glaser et al., including America’s 16 intelligence agencies swear there is *no* Iranian nukular bomb program.

    In the wider scheme of things, the US public (as others in quisling ‘allied’ countries) is continually bombarded = propagandised with themes like exceptionalism, world-leadership, donates democracy via guns&bombs = destruction to those deprived by dictators, is a shining example, can do no wrong, etc. – in the face of facts that prove otherwise = often even the exact opposite.

    It is not as if the people are stupid. (Proof: Only 50% are, by definition, and some very smart people seem to ‘believe’ in patently false ideas, like neoliberalism = voodoo economics. Proof of the latter is almost everywhere neoliberalism has been implemented – and is demonstrably failing (unemployment, privatisation = theft from public then toll-boothing, austerity = service-cuts, bank ‘rescues’ (further!) enriching the <1%, etc.)).

    The operative phrase vis-à-vis Iran’s (non-)nuke goes something like this: “The West suspects Iran of building a bomb,” and such is repeated ad nauseam by the MSM *and* PFBCs = publicly-financed broadcasters, like the AusBC. That PFBCs are ‘on board’ is proof a) of their own corruption and b) that there *is* a conspiracy, since PFBCs must operate with their government’s approval.

    Note that “Iran building a bomb” is a lie (to the very best of our combined knowledge, and US-intel should know since it’s their actual, ~$60bio+ function), so 99% of the electorate are being deceived, and that’s only one topic of about a squillion critical ones.

    I think that it’s not so much “belief,” nor as Chomsky once wrote, “manufactured consent” – but more *resigned acceptance*; the people internalise their impotence to influence the so-called ‘leadership’ (see last para), plus the fact that they get their info from ‘people who *should* know’ = speakers on MSM + public radio and TV; they also know that IF the US (or Zs) want a war THEN they’ll have one, come hell or high water, so the people just nod to the pollsters, then get back to their Hollywood-TV, beer and home-delivered pizza.

    A democracy cannot function on a deceived electorate = one of three proofs of Western democracies = sham, the other two being bipartisan = un- & anti-democratic and elected representatives betraying us, one proof of the latter being the Iraq war = Nuremberg-class invasion (plus Libya, Syria and soon Iran), and another being the imposition of voodoo economics = neoliberalism, without us (we, the people) being offered any choice = “TINA!”

    A non-functioning democracy = in this case a tyranny; here we are.

  7. “almost 40 percent of Americans believe the president has the power to declare war.”
    The president obviously does have this power. The constitution is just a piece of historical parchment.

  8. @PEACE EVER AFTER: “Those polls were fixed.”

    Perhaps you’re correct; the original Ditz-report cited a timesofisrael source. One major point of a specific brand of propaganda is to attempt a disguise of the murdering-force theft of almost all of pre-’47 Palestine; since that requires *nothing but lies*, and those in industrial quantities, there’s plenty of experience there to build on.

    @Mark: “… one more aspect is the constant refrain, “Iran wants to ‘wipe Israel off the map'”.”

    No ‘perhaps’ here; you are correct (not the wiping, but the highlighting of the scurrilous lie). Although ‘we the people’ are (in the current circumstances) powerless (see my previous), our tyrants make the pretence of ‘consulting’ us via elections, after thoroughly brainwashing us (there’s no alternative, more correct term). Note that there are multiple perpetrators; a) the tyrants themselves (with strings attached = puppets of their paymasters, including some ‘5th column’), b) the MSM + PFBCs, and c) the psychologists who design the propaganda. Over all, this quote from Bernays: “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

  9. 99% is another fabricated report by warmongers to speed up a WAR against another sovereign nation… WARS benefit Defense, oil, and pharmaceutical cartels, these criminals make lot of money during all wars….

  10. So you think Iran just forgave America and forgot how US troops supported the monarchy in the 50s? Heh heh heh …Iran has ties with Hamas and Hezbollah, but they're just pissed at Israel, not Amerca the allied west who helped establish the occupation? Are you high? Seriously, what grade are you smoking?

  11. Down with America and its gullible people. The gullible people of America who are lead by dumbs in washington are a threat to world peace as we see it NOW

  12. what this means is that israeli control over our government and media is complete and that the propaganda has been 100% effective….they must have done their homework really good

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