With the recent beheading footage comes a debate about whether or not the public should be exposed to the atrocities of war. There are those who
advocate restricted media (censorship) and those who believe the media and the government is promoting propaganda.
I am writing this post to show what America has been exposed to via the media (even before the media was monopolized), both past and present. This is
in order to demonstrate how and why the media does and does not show certain items, pointedly, videos and images of the atrocities of war.
PROPAGANDA AND CENSORSHIP
propaganda: n. 1.The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the news and interests of those people advocating such
a doctrine or cause.
propagation: n. 2. The process of spreading to a larger area or a greater number; dissemination.
censorship: n. 1. The act, process, or practice of censoring.
censor: tr. v. To examine and expurgate.
(SOURCE: The American Heritage Dictionary)
BRIEF HISTORY - propaganda
World War I
was a pioneer in the distribution of propaganda. They used means including balloons for leaflet dropping:
British balloon distribution of propaganda leaflets. Men of the Hampshire Regiment checking wind direction.
World War II
is another example of the American propaganda machine at war, both on the homefront and abroad. This is due to the fact that most
families in the United States owned a radio. Newspapers printed our success rates. War footage with commentary was shown before EVERY movie on the
homefront theaters. Poster upon poster was printed for mainly female viewers, as most able-bodied men were fighting:
Growing "Victory Gardens" was a practice followed by Americans on the homefront:
The government projected a positive image of "our boys" fighting, and the civilians were told to do simple things to help them, but these simple
things were for the benefit of the war, not for the benefit of the soldiers as individuals:
Meanwhile, the soldiers themselves were busy distributing propaganda to the enemy for the Allied Governments' benefit.
Not only were balloons used, but artillery shells as well:
Propaganda during wartime is divided into three groups: white, gray, and black.
-defined as that issued by an acknowledged source, usually a government or an agency of a government.
-source is unknown, yet no attempt is made to conceal it
-associated with covert psychological warfare operations. Claims to come from a source other than the true one.
During WWII, substantial amounts of black propaganda were distributed via leaflet bombs in Germany. They were in the form of postcards. It was unknown
by the citizens who printed it, as experts in typography and printing were employed.
A pioneering method in psychological warfare emerged. An interesting, but not well-known, propaganda campaign was the "promotion of malingering and
desertion." This campaign was used to try to get opposition troops to desert:
Delmer [Denis Sefton Delmer - Head of PWE Black Propaganda Section] wanted to appeal to the "inner Schweinhund" of the German mind..Delmer
produced ingenious manuals with step-by-step instructions to fake a wide range of illnesses and ailments from a simple throat infection to a
life-threatening disease such as Tuberculosis.
(source: Black Propaganda-Clandestine Psychological Warfare of World War II)
The Vietnam War
As the television became a fixture in American homes, so did footage of the soldiers in Vietnam. Little or no thought was given to the impact these
images would have on both civilians and the men in the photographs. Photographers were constantly on the scene in combat, for at that time it was
thought that the footage would increase patriotism and support for the war. Images such as these were featured in mainstream media constantly:
Vietnamese Air Force T-28 Skyraiders, flown by U.S. Air Force pilots, drop napalm on Viet Cong targets.
Vietnamese battalion commander Captain Thach Quyen interrogates a captured Viet Cong suspect.
Wearing a bloody bandage over the left side of his face, medic Thomas Cole of Richmond, Va., tends to a soldier of the First Cavalry Divison. This
picture is from an unforgettable sequence of one man's dedication.
A young Viet Cong suspect cries after hearing a rifle shot. His captors, Chinese Nung tribesmen in the service of the U.S. Special Forces, pretended
to shoot his father, a ruse designed to make the boy reveal information about Communist guerrillas.
And from Newsweek
magazine, March 18, 1968:
With television and largely-funded magazines and newspapers, the war with Vietnam was brought into peoples' homes. Information of fatalities was
censored, but the influx of images of casualties and wounded impacted American society in a way different from WWII. When the Vietnam War started,
only a small percentage of the American population opposed the war. But as time progressed, instead of becoming more patriotic, mainstream media and
the unedited images within it produced the opposite psycho-social reaction:
Waves of protesters, and scores of police to stop them. The protesters consisted of every demographic of the population, and the media footage of
Vietnam fueled the fire. The elderly, veterans, students - all took to the streets in organized and disorganized protests. Veterans coming home from
the war faced scorn from families and from strangers. The soldiers were never informed about America's changing viewpoint.
It was then that the government learned that showing continuous footage of war had a negative effect on group dynamics, patriotism, and the human
psyche...and it was these factors that gave birth to mainstream media bias and censorship.
The Cold War
The United States and the Soviet Union both used propaganda extensively during the Cold War. Both sides used film, television and radio programming to
influence their own citizens, each other and Third World nations. The United States Information Agency operated the Voice of America as an official
government station. Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, in part supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, provided grey propaganda in news and
entertainment programs to Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union respectively. The Soviet Union's official government station, Radio Moscow, broadcast
white propaganda, while Radio Peace and Freedom broadcast grey propaganda. Both sides also broadcast black propaganda programs in periods of special
"The people and the army are one"
The War on Terror
The War on Terror has also used leaflets as a form of propaganda (now deemed "psyops"), but in the age of information technology The War on Terror
brings with it a war of information. This is where censorship steps in. Information technology began with TV networks competing for ratings. They
began to notice that better footage brings in more viewers, which brings in more money from the sponsors. There is a fine line the networks need to
abide by, and this fine line exists because of their corporate sponsors. However, with the internet now at our hands, we are able to access what we
can't access from the television:
This access brings stronger emotions in Americans, despite the lessons we learned from the images of Vietnam. We are compelled to seek the truth at
any cost, no matter how gruesome it may become. As inhabitants of the information age, our gatherings have become larger:
our citizens better informed:
and the end of true censorship (no, that isn't me).
In summary, the point of these images and the captions is to show how propaganda (the coersion of ideas) and censorship (the prevention of ideas) has
changed, and how the Information Age has severely declined all governments' abilities to produce and reduce propaganda and censorship, respectively.
There are only a handful of governments in the world who have retained this ability, but in essence we are witnessing a war as it is being fought,
minute by minute.
We are able to be on the front lines, we are able to see and hear the prisoners of war, we are to see fallen leaders at their worst. We are able to
point and click our way through our troops' ordeals. This was not achieveable two decades ago. We should be thankful for this medium, and not shout
"censorship" every time we read or see an image we don't agree with.
edited for editing
[edit on 21-9-2004 by dotgov101]