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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NEGATIVE PROPAGANDA

"Not reacting blindly to threats is a virtue... Not reacting to threats is folly."

Propaganda has a pretty ugly name, and typically its used in ugly ways. Governments often use this technique to try to sway a population through images, ideas, and print toward a policy or against an enemy. During war time propaganda can be very valuable - such as in WW2 when the entire nation of the US banded together to try to keep morale up, the will to fight in place, and support for the troops undiminished.

However, its not only governments that use propaganda. Consider this chart (courtesy Pechorin):

Chart
That's a line tracking the use of the phrase "Islamic Threat" in media references. After the World Trade Center attack in 1993, the attack on the USS Cole, and attacks on US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, the press and government statements started to refer to a serious threat from Islamic terrorism. The references started to decline just before the 2000 election, then spiked at the 2001 terrorist attack... then look at what happened.

Suddenly, the words "Islamic Threat" started to disappear from the media. Every day following the actual terrorist attack on the US, the phrase was used less and less. Now, you'd think that after a massive attack on US soil the press would be buzzing with this, that entertainment media would focus on it, and that the government would talk about it quite a bit. But they did so less and less.

Why? Because of a deliberate effort to avoid saying bad things about Islam. Even President Bush was in on the act, calling it the "religion of peace." Hollywood went out of its way, even on shows like 24 to avoid the Muslim or Arabic bad guy. The press stopped focusing on Islamic terrorism, often dropping the world "terrorist" entirely and referring to Muslims as "Asians" or omitting all mention of religion.

When the Beltway sniper shot up the place, they avoided noting this as a terrorist attack and even went so far as to avoid using his Muslim name which he'd legally taken over years ago, referring to him by his old name.

And all of this was propaganda. Sure it wasn't the posters and flag waving kind, it was not so much positive propaganda to help people think about things in a certain way, it was negative propaganda to eliminate and move away from thinking about Islam in negative ways and avoid the very idea of an Islamic threat. Because propaganda can work both ways: to move people against and to move people toward something.

Now when a movie like Taken or From Paris With Love comes out, its refreshing and even shocking to see an Arabic or Muslim bad guy. That's just not done any more. There was a systematic effort to diminish thoughts of Muslims, particularly negative ones. Which has to be the first time in the history of mankind in which an attack by a group of people was met by an all-out effort to make those people not seem so bad after all.

I'm just curious what an objective observer or analyst would make of such a bizarre, self-defeating culture.

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