Friday, July 13, 2007

The big lie... the old technique

I have no time to post today (as I need to meet deadlines for writing some things for which I'll actually get paid), but I just can't resist...

AJ at Americablog discusses what seems to be a directed effort to repeat the Iraq-invasion-era misguiding of the American public, no doubt to offer some political cover for the beleaguered administration. Every day we hear the same mantra from the White House, that we face the epic battle for the future of Western civilization in confrontation with Al-Qaeda in Iraq (usefully conflated with Al Qaeda more generally), who will follow the troops home if they aren't first defeated in Iraq, and who therefore represent the principal threat there. As AJ writes,

This is, quite simply, completely and totally false.

Anyone who claims that the so-called al Qaeda in Iraq group is the "principal threat" to anything in that nation -- whether its citizens, the government, the political process, or any specific ethnic or sectarian group -- is either grossly ignorant of the realities of the Iraq war or blatantly lying. I honestly have no idea which it is in this case, though it's worth noting that the chief U.S. military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, was employed as a Special Assistant to the President prior to his current appointment.

Most reliable estimates put the fundamentalist/jihadist/al Qaeda actors in Iraq at around 3-5% of the total insurgency, with virtually no approximations exceeding 10%. I really cannot overstate how misleading it is to focus on al Qaeda when the driving forces of the conflict are average, native, very pissed-off -- but not religious fundamentalist -- Iraqis. The vast majority of the Sunni population is relatively secular (more secular, in fact, than Iraqi Shia), and even tacit support of jihadists is founded in anti-American sentiment. Even the sectarian violence is fueled more by localized conflicts between Sunni and Shia families, tribes, and militias than by al Qaeda.

It is true that AQI groups commit the most spectacular attacks, including the vast majority of suicide bombings, but if the underlying problems were solved, or even addressed (including, but not limited to, oil revenue sharing, federalism, de-Ba'athification, provincial elections, etc.), AQI would lose most of its ability to operate because it would have no support on the ground.


As Ian Welch points out at The Agonist, what's most disturbing is the stark effectiveness of this old technique of telling the Big Lie often enough until most people believe it:

The administration just keeps saying it, and saying it and saying it and the media, including the print media, just repeat it. Which, I'll point out, is propaganda rule #1. I'd love to see a poll showing how many Americans think AQ is the primary enemy in Iraq - I'd be quite surprised if it isn't a majority.

This is why decision making in the US is so broken, because it's based on lies and those lies are established through, honestly, no exageration, classic Big Lie propaganda techniques right out of a 1930's handbook.


Some of you who visit The Social Atom now and then may recall the post of a few days ago on recent psychological experients on how people form opinions about what the majority thinks. The clear conclusion is that a few voices, repeating the same claims persistently and loudly, will make their way into our brains and have a singificant influence on our thinking. This isn't rocket science, as they say, but the simple dynamics of the human brain. Unfortunately, the White House understands this all too well, while our media seems bizarrely naive and unprepared to recognize the way they're being played -- to our immense collective cost.

23 comments:

Len said...

Newspeople have gotten the idea into their heads that it isn't "objective" and therefore ethical to point out the lies our leaders tell. They are afraid of being branded "liberal," which they take as being a synonym for "evil." It's foolish, and they let us down daily with their cowardice.

kimy said...

thanks for taking the time for the post - even when you didn't have any! the rub is how do we wrest control of the mainstream media away from the special interests (including but not limited to the bush administration) who use lies and manipulation to beat the drums of war. it is now overwhelming clear that the public sentiment has turned against the debacle know as the 'war in iraq' (a phrase fraught with a bit of deception - the US invaded and occupies iraq - warfare is the tool used to do both). thank you.

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