Posts Tagged 'propaganda'


He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.
– George Orwell

I think that quote is so appropriate for what is happening in our country right now and is for a large part of what my work in general is about. The present and the past is a story told by whoever has the power to control the telling.

To understand how this is being done in broad daylight read “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” by David Barstow published in the New York Times on April 20, 2008. The article outlines how Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon, and the Bush Administration manipulated the telling of facts about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the progress of the war in Iraq by using retired military personnel, many of whom were on the boards of military contractors, as puppets to spout their carefully scripted rhetoric in the name of objective journalism.

Here are some highlights:

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events.

The group was heavily represented by men involved in the business of helping companies win military contracts. Several held senior positions with contractors that gave them direct responsibility for winning new Pentagon business.

In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive “war of liberation.”

At the Pentagon, … staff marveled at the way the analysts seamlessly incorporated material from talking points and briefings as if it was their own.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”




Upside Down


The Desmoines Register

Lately I have noticed a lot of stories in the news about people flying the US flag upside down to protest the war in Iraq. There is Terri Jones who was flying the flag the whole time her son, army reservist Jason Cooper was fighting in Iraq but after he came home, suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and committed suicide she turned her flag upside down. A few months later someone came over, when she was gone, and turned her flag right side up and about a week after that she received an anonymous note.

“I’ve noticed for quite some time now that you fly your American flag upside down . . .. Please don’t disrespect those who have fought and died on our soil preserving your very freedom and mine. . . . Let’s rally behind our troops and if they don’t believe in what they’re doing, let them voice it. Every single person in the armed forces today signed on the dotted line. . . . I know your flag is sending out a message that you might not have though it was sending. So I felt compelled to tell you what I thought.”
It was signed, “An extremely sincere fellow American citizen and proud of it.”
And in the P.S., the person added: “If it truly is that you hate living in this country and are ashamed of our freedom, then by all means, sir, why do you live here?”

Then there is Corydon Iowa farmer Dale Klyn who had been flying the flag right side up for 6 years before he turned it upside down, partly to show solidarity for Terri Jones, and was arrested for disorderly conduct. Not only was he arrested but it seems most of his small farming community has turned against him. The local Case equipment dealer told him, “I’ve lost all respect for you. I’ll buy you a one-way ticket anywhere you want to go out of the country,” Klyn recalls.

He faces death threats from a forum on a Marine vets’ website,, which calls itself the “Marine Corps Community for USMC Veterans. That forum contained the following remarks from four different Marines:

“Any scout snipers live in Corydon, Iowa???”
“Corn hole ’m.”
“Fly him under it upside down.”
“If the flag is flying upside down, it means he is in trouble, right? I think we Marines should show up and get him ‘out’ of trouble.”

What I continue to find disturbing is the proliferation of flag imagery, on advertising, chatchkees made in China, inexpensive lawn ornaments, etc, items and uses that are explicitly against the US flag code, and no one seems to care while flying the flag upside down brings death threats. We wouldn’t have a country if our forefathers did not question the ruling government. When did it become unpatriotic to stand up for what you believe in and voice your opinion and why are tacky China made chatchkees considered patriotic?

The Beginning

George Washington Bridge, Septemeber 13, 2001, Greta Pratt

My idea about this whole flag thing is that it started with 9/11. I was living in New Jersey close enough that I saw the towers and the smoke,right after the first plane hit, from the top of Skyline Drive on my way to work. In the small town where I live many residents work in New York City and most know someone who was personally affected. There is a hand painted memorial in the local high school dedicated to former students who were killed in the collapse, the point being, it was very close and personal and deeply felt in my town and throughout the tristate area. What I noticed was that pretty much instantly people in New York City and its suburbs put up flags. It was a heartfelt showing of solidarity, a symbol that Americans, engulfed in shock, used as a way to say we grieve for those who lost their lives, we grieve for our country.

Can Collection, Greenwich Village, September 13, 2001, Greta Pratt

That has always been my take on the Flag O’Rama. It started after 9/11 as a way to show solidarity and morphed into a “brand” used to sell, in its most harmless mode, products, but more dangerously it bombards and assails us with ideas of nationalism.
Engine 14, September 13, 2001, Greta Pratt

Now that I am in southern Virginia, where people, for the most part, have no personal connection with the 9/11 tragedies, I am hearing different thoughts about the flags. My colleague Kenneth Fitzgerald’s take is that there are not nearly as many flags as there where after 9/11 when “every car had one of those little stick-on flag poles.” Maybe it’s because I am looking for them but I think there are a lot more now. They used to be just flags on a pole, visible to all, but now we don’t even notice them, they blend in, they are hidden in plain view.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with Toby Kamps at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, where I am going to be part of a show he curated titled “Old Weird America,” he feels, from the start, it was just a marketing ploy.

Anyway, now I am curious, how did your town respond to 9/11 flag wise? Drop me a note here at the blog with your thoughts.


Subliminal 7-11

I went into 7-11 on Colley Ave and 20th St in Norfolk today to get the Sunday New York Times and as I handed over my 5 bucks for the out of state edition I noticed a banner of moving words, functioning subliminally like product placement in films, displaying a message to all on the customer side of the register. As I stared dumbfounded the words “Welcome Home Our Heroes, Welcome Home Our Heroes!” repeated over and over.

Who wrote the message? I asked the cashier and he had no idea. Do all 7-11’s display the same message? Does the message change daily? Does it change regionally? Why would a convenience store flash subliminal messages about our troops? So I decided to do a little field research. Here are my findings so far;

7-11, Little Creek and Newport, “Fresh Brownies Daily.”
7-11, Grandby and 35, “Remember Virginia Tech.”
7-11, Hwy 17 in Chesapeake “New American Subs only 2.19.”

If you go into 7-11 in your area, or any convenience store for that matter, look at the messages being flashed into your subconscious and report back.