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Propaganda Use by the United States Government



In a time of war, there are always two distinct sides, the “good guys” and the “bad guys”. So how does one determine as to who deserves the appropriate label? Well, as a matter of fact, everyone’s opinion may vary, but it is the job of our United States Military to try and persuade us, the citizens, that we are in fact fighting for the better of our nation. In order to do so, the Military monitors the media in order to ensure that there is nothing but good news being spread to the public. In more simple terms, this can be referred to as none other than propaganda. By being able to control what is put into the media and news outlets, the Military uses propaganda to make sure that they are viewed as the “good guys” through the eyes of the citizens.


Propaganda Techniques Used by the Government
Before going into detail, it is necessary that one understands as to what propaganda actually is in regards to its use by the government. The first technique used by the government will be called selective stories. Having control over what news is presented to the public, the government will sift through, and pick stories that shine a light on them, or make them seem as if they are doing the right thing. However, the stories that are rejected are more often than not, the stories that are portraying the truth in what is really going on. Furthermore, by presenting only partial facts to the public, the government is able to hide a vast majority of information. Another technique that is used is downplaying the enemy, or reminding the general public as to how evil the opposition is so that they must be served justice.
Now that there are a few propaganda techniques on the table, it is time to relate them to how they are used in the 21st century. During the Bush administration time period, the United States went into a “war on terror” after the attacks on the World Trade Centers on September 11th, 2001. Soon after the attacks, the United States invaded Iraq and Afghanistan, a move that would be watched by the whole entire world. However, in this war, the military not only had to fight in the Middle East, they also had to fight the media. In order to make sure that the public kept a positive outlook on the war we are fighting, the Bush administration imposed strict laws that restricted journalists from delivering all of the true facts about what is going on overseas. In a 2009 interview with Associated Press chief executive, Tom Curley, states that “we are the only force out there to keep the government in check and to hold it accountable”. However, due to the laws imposed by the Bush administration, the government was able to use the selective stories technique to hide the truth.


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So who exactly is in charge of monitoring what journalists are saying and what news makes it in the headlines? None other than the Military’s “Influence Operations”, a group of 27,000 government workers who are responsible for withholding information that may damage the governments image. In the interview with Tom Curley, he explains that the Military expanded its rules from only being one page, to four pages, and that the rules are so vague that barely anything that is truth evident, rarely makes it to the media. Curley also goes on to explain that the military has become much more aggressive when it comes to withholding and shaping information.
Aside for the military using its Influence operations, they also have a Psychological Operations department. It is the job of the PO to relay information to foreigners that would ultimately change their emotions, reasoning, and objectives, in hopes of taking down an opposing government.
According to the Influence and Psychological Operations, there are three different phases that they must go through at the time of war. These phases include, pre-conflict, active-conflict, and finally, post-conflict. During the pre0war conflict phase, the Influence Operations, or IO, prepare by spreading information about the opposing force throughout the country in hopes of gathering public support. During the Gulf War, the IO were responsible for informing the public about Suddam Hussein and the threat he posed due to the lack cooperation with the United Nations and their weapons of mass destruction codes. Furthermore, during the active0conflict phase, the IO is in charge of the information released to the public, which means they are capable of bending and shaping the information in a way that would portray them as being the “good guys”. While the IO takes care of information on the home front, the Psychological Operations, or PO, are responsible fore spreading information to the rest of the world in order to hinder emotions and feelings towards the United States. In active-conflict, the PO attempt to manipulate the opposing force through the spread of primarily false information. For example, while the United States was involved in the Gulf War, numerous leaflets were dropped near the Iraqi soldiers that contained messages that would hopefully cause them to surrender or change their thought process. During the final phase, or the post-conflict phase, both IO and PO are responsible for rebuilding the opposing countries image. After war, the host country is in a state of turmoil; by setting up communication platforms, the IO attempt to create a peaceful image to the outside world in hopes of creating an easy governmental transition for the country at stake.
"Superior firepower, long range and devastating weapons"
"Superior firepower, long range and devastating weapons"
Leaflets dropped by US government during the Gulf War
Leaflets dropped by US government during the Gulf War



Why Propaganda Works
The reason propaganda is used by the United States government is simply because it works to their advantage. The success of propaganda is created out of a few basic principles, the belief that our country is making the correct choices, the media outlets that provide the information are credible sources, and the presentation of facts that sound believable. First, most people would like to believe in their country and in the fact that their military is looking out for the public interest. By incorporating these facts into their messages, the people will more often than not believe what they are hearing. By providing the public with “answers” and stories of accomplishment, the military can continue to portray their image as the good guys. Furthermore, by controlling what gets released to the public,the military is able to manage their public image. A few examples of how they manage what is released in the media is, paying a journalist to write about specific topics or issues to raise awareness, and the release of fabricated information. Also, with the help from top public relation firms within the country, the government is able to use effective techniques to communicate their objectives, as well as to use the PR firms to communicate through the press. Since the information is ultimately released through news and media outlets, the public is more likely to believe what they hear due to the fact that it is coming from a credible source.
The final principal in spreading propaganda is releasing information that has been fabricated or faked in order to persuade the publics’ view. In a ////New York Times//// article from March 15th, 2005, the Bush Administration was accused of creating and releasing fake news segments that were delivered to numerous local television news networks. In one segment, there is a reporter reporting from an airport about the rise in airport security. However, this segment is filled with numerous falsifications that could harm its credentials. The “reporter” who is reporting the story claims they work for the Transportation Security Administration, however, it turns out that they are actually working for a public relations firm that was hired by the government to perform the segment. As it turns out, there have been hundreds of falsified segments that have been played on news broadcasts across the nation, according to the article.
In the conclusion, propaganda plays a big part when it comes to how the government communicates with the public and foreign countries. In order to keep up their positive image, they use falsifications and the manipulation of stories to keep the public from hearing the negatives. However, by doing so, they are sacrificing their truthfulness and credibility towards the public and world. If the government feels the need to hide so much information from its own people, then why are they committing these acts in the first place? Maybe they think that the public can’t handle the truth, or maybe they are just trying to get away with acts that are looked down upon. As long as there is propaganda, we will never know the absolute truth.