Sunday, October 24, 2004

PIPA Poll Pinpoints Preposterous Precepts;
Propaganda Possibility Pondered

American Blog Party  and Brad DeLong have links that point to a PIPA poll, presumably to promote progressive public policy.  The poll shows what proportion of people hold certain beliefs about current geopolitical topics.  They also compare the frequency of these beliefs among Bush supporters compared to Kerry supporters.
Even after the final report of Charles Duelfer to Congress saying that Iraq did not have a significant WMD program, 72% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq had actual WMD (47%) or a major program for developing them (25%). Fifty-six percent assume that most experts believe Iraq had actual WMD and 57% also assume, incorrectly, that Duelfer concluded Iraq had at least a major WMD program. Kerry supporters hold opposite beliefs on all these points.

Similarly, 75% of Bush supporters continue to believe that Iraq was providing substantial support to al Qaeda, and 63% believe that clear evidence of this support has been found. Sixty percent of Bush supporters assume that this is also the conclusion of most experts, and 55% assume, incorrectly, that this was the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission. Here again, large majorities of Kerry supporters have exactly opposite perceptions. [...]

When my wife was in college, she wrote a paper on the rationing system that was used in the United States of America during World War II.  In researching this assignment, she spoke with a number of people who were alive during the War, such as her maternal grandmother.  At one point, asking about an unrelated topic, she asked her grandmother what she thought of the propaganda that the US used during the War.  Her grandmother was offended, averring that our  government would do no such thing.

When my father went to Japan, in 1946, he was nervous.  The reason he was nervous is that the formal Occupation was just getting started, and he had been told what heartless, amoral beasts the Japanese people were.  Since he was one of the few soldiers who could speak Japanese, he got the job of going door to door, interviewing people, so that the Occupation would know who was where.  He was supposed to ask them if they had any weapons, etc.  In actuality, though, he found the people to be courteous, polite, andhttp://www.bonsaisite.com/ accommodating.  Usually he would sit down with the citizens over a cup of tea.  He had many conversations about traditional Japanese silk painting, bonsai, language, and other matters of culture.  Basically, he found out that the US government had been lying to its citizens about the nature of the enemy. 

He still grows his own bonsai in his back yard.

Not all propaganda is terrible.  For example, the US Army sponsored  a repeat broadcast of the show, Band of Brothers, on the History Channel. 

‘Band of Brothers’ series features six Soldiers
By Kara Motosicky
March 29, 2004

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, March 29, 2004) –The personal experiences of six Soldiers will be highlighted as part of the airing of the “Band of Brothers” mini-series on the History Channel.

The segments connect the Soldiers fighting for their country today to the men who fought with Easy Company during World War II.

The Soldiers’ stories began airing last week as promotional segments for the mini-series, which is based on the best-selling book by Stephen Ambrose that features the Soldiers of “Easy Company.”

The promotional segments will vary in length from one to 10 minutes. A half-hour preview program, now showing on the channel, caps the segments. The Soldiers will give lead-ins and recaps of most episodes in the series.

The program ties together the historical and modern Army by tracing a lasting set of values. The footage features Soldiers who have recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan talking about their experiences serving overseas and what their Army service means to them. Their stories are paralleled with those of the men of Company E, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
This interweaving of modern soldier's stories with the semi-historical film is a mild form of propaganda.  I don't object to that.  But what can we make of the fact that a majority of Bush supporters believe things about the Iraq war that are just plain false?  Was some kind of propaganda used to promote these mistaken beliefs? 
From Rense.com:

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."
- Dick Cheney, August 26 2002

Stated that the Iraqis were "providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the Al Qaeda organization."
- Cheney in September 2003.
"Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
- George W. Bush, September 12 2002

 "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."
- George W. Bush, State of the Union address, January 28 2003

"If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world."
- Ari Fleischer, December 2 2002
"We know for a fact that there are weapons there."
- Ari Fleischer, January 9 2003

from WaPo:
"I think the burden [of proof] is on those people who think he didn't have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are."
Fleischer, on July 9 [2003].
[...ad nauseum]
What is the difference between propaganda and ordinary lying?  Propaganda is systematic, premeditated, and carried out over a wide scale in order to sway the beliefs of a large number of people.  Now the PIPA study shows that it has worked.

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