As generally understood, propaganda is opinion expressed for the purpose of influencing actions of individuals or groups... Propaganda thus differs fundamentally from scientific analysis. The propagandist tries to "put something across," good or bad. The scientist does not try to put anything across; he devotes his life to the discovery of new facts and principles. The propagandist seldom wants careful scrutiny and criticism; his object is to bring about a specific action. The scientist, on the other hand, is always prepared for and wants the most careful scrutiny and criticism of his facts and ideas. Science flourishes on criticism. Dangerous propaganda crumbles before it. (Alfred McLung Lee & Elizabeth Bryant Lee, The Fine Art of Propaganda, 1939)
On Monday night at a Jerusalem dinner for Bar Ilan University's Rennert Center, the guest of honor was distinguished journalist and New York imes editor A.M. Rosenthal. At the dinner, Mr. Rosenthal delivered a lecture entitled "Modern Political Myths of the Middle East: A Western Journalist's View." In the lecture, he outlined the myths which the Arab world has presented to the western journalists as political reality, and how the west has accepted these myths as reality. Three of these myths were the following:
1. The current peace process began at Oslo
2. There will be peace in the Middle East when Israel gives up territory.
3. Israeli concessions in the peace process are insufficient
The truth, Mr. Rosenthal emphasized, is really as follows:
1. The peace process has been going on for over 50 years, slowly but surely, even if it has not been moving in a straight line. 2. More Arabs have been killed by their own country's governments or in wars between Arab countries than have been killed in wars between Israel and its Arab neighbors. The dictatorial nature of the Arab countries who attack their own people will remain the same regardless of how much land Israel returns. In a recent Newsweek interview, playwrite David Hare, who had done considerable research on the Middle East for his play "Via Dolorosa." pointed to the disillusionment of the Palestinians. "They've seen the people from Tunis come in and take the cars, they've taken the apartments, they've taken the telephone lines, they've taken the goods, they've literally ripped the international community off." (Newsweek International edition, May 31, page 34) 3. When looked at over the course of its statehood, Israel has made concession after concession. These are virtually unnoticed in the wake of anti-Israel propaganda produced by Arab countries in their war of words against Israel and, by extension, countries which support Israel, namely the United States. Arabs resent what they see as American favoritism.
Mr. Rosenthal also went on to say that the Arab countries constantly us Israel as their rationalization to the west for destabilization, whether its Hafez Assad's intransigence or Sadam Hussein's defiant belligerence. (He did, however, hold out hope that Israel may influence its Arab neighbors to embrace democracy over time, though that may be far in the future.
In the same issue of Newsweek, there is an analysis of what they call Ehud Barak's "Landslide Victory" (56% vs. 44% -- hardly a landslide in a two-way contest). The analysis points out that the voting was not so much for Barak as was against Netanyahu, who proved to be not as a good a statesman as he was a politician in 1996. Also of note in the magazine is its description of how NATO is trying to "sell" the idea of war in response to the "ethnic cleansing" being conducted by leader Slobodan Milosevic.
I mention these because they all represent different aspects of propaganda and how it appears in the media not necessarily as intentional propaganda but as news. The question boils down to "What is truth?" The answer is, "Depends who is telling it."
The media uses words, images, video and personalities to project its truth. They craft the opinions whether or not they intend to do so, and we cannot helped but be swayed by they show, say or write.
In that regard I call your attention to the following web site sponsored by The Institute for Propoganda Analysis -
(This is not a "plug" for them or for their site. I am sharing the results of research through the web for related sites). They describe themselves as follows:
In 1937, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis was created to educate the American public about the widespread nature of political propaganda. Composed of social scientists and journalists, the IPA published a series of books, including:
- The Fine Art of Propaganda
- Propaganda Analysis
- Group Leader's Guide to Propaganda Analysis
- Propaganda: How To Recognize and Deal With It
The IPA is best-known for identifying the seven basic propaganda devices: Name-Calling, Glittering Generality, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, and Band Wagon. According to the authors of a recent book on propaganda, "these seven devices have been repeated so frequently in lectures, articles, and textbooks ever since that they have become virtually synonymous with the practice and analysis of propaganda in all of its aspects." (Combs and Nimmo, 1993)
The Internet is a vast resource of propaganda material, and as users of the medium, we need to be more sensitive to its use in that regard. Since much of the media we experience is not created by scientists, and since we are so often inundated by information from a vast variety of media sources, it's important for us to be alert to the reality of propaganda in the media and decide on our own or together with others what is to be our appropriate response.
I hope that this course has given you come ideas and some direction.
Those of you who are interested in the media's treatment of Israel should write Neil Lazarus <email@example.com> and request to be put on his mailing list. Those of you who are interested in general propaganda in the media should visit the IPA web site.