by Molly Ivins
rarely sees a thoroughly bad idea advanced by government. Lots of stuff from silly to smelly gets done, but somebody usually benefits, even if it's not the American people. But can anyone see an upside to having an office of government propaganda with an official license to lie?
They say if you fight someone long enough, you become like your enemy, but this Soviet notion is such a bummer it was useless even to them back in the day. But the Bush administration is apparently determined to bring us not one but two bureaus of propaganda. The "Office of Strategic Influence" -- isn't that a beauty? -- at the Pentagon will use "the media, the Internet and a range of covert operations to try to influence public opinion and government policy abroad, including in friendly nations," according to The New York Times. "Strategic Information" will include both information and disinformation. Disinformation, in case you haven't figured it out, is made of lies.
Then on top of that gem, the Bush administration also proposes "a permanent office of global diplomacy to spread a positive image of the United States around the world and combat anti-Americanism." This would include "intense shaping of information and coordination of messages" to ensure that "foreign correspondents in Washington as well as foreign leaders and opinion-makers overseas understand Mr. Bush's ideas and policies."
Let me go not very far out on a limb to predict this will be a disaster. It will wreck our credibility in no time. Sheesh, when will they ever learn? There are several documented cases of "blowback" from the Cold War, when we spread some lie and it came back to bite us in the rear. As any journalist can tell you, when you put out misinformation, all it does is poison the well of public debate.
The Bushies are great believers in "message discipline" -- they practiced it endlessly during the 2000 campaign. O, but facts are troublesome things. Not even giant public relations campaigns can make them go away. Did you sign up anywhere to have your tax dollars used for government propaganda? Do you like the idea? Let's kill this before it multiplies.
If Bush wants to do something about anti-Americanism abroad, he could:
We could quit doing dumb stuff like:
February 21, 2002 (http://albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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