Monday, October 23, 2006

T-15 Days and Counting: The Propaganda War

The public's perception of how things are going in Iraq is shaped by what news and information makes it through the filters and biases of reporters, editors, and publishers. The bias problem is not unique to North American media either: BBC executives have actually admitted its leftist leanings. (H/T NRO Corner)

The revelation that CNN is a willing partner in broadcasting the enemy's propaganda should shock us, but it is just one more point of evidence that much of the main stream media is biased against the traditional liberal values that have made American freedoms the envy of the world.

Recently, President Bush made the point about the propaganda war that's being waged against us:

Stephanopoulos asked whether the president agreed with the opinion of columnist Tom Friedman, who wrote in The New York Times today that the situation in Iraq may be equivalent to the Tet offensive in Vietnam almost 40 years ago.

"He could be right," the president said, before adding, "There's certainly a stepped-up level of violence, and we're heading into an election." (ed. - emphasis added)

"George, my gut tells me that they have all along been trying to inflict enough damage that we'd leave," Bush said. "And the leaders of al Qaeda have made that very clear. Look, here's how I view it. First of all, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous. They are lethal. They are trying to not only kill American troops, but they're trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause government to withdraw." (ed. - emphasis added)

Tigerhawk provides the historical background:
At the time the media perceived and promoted the Tet offensive as a great victory for the enemy. In an age when the network anchors deployed truly awesome power, Walter Cronkite destroyed Lyndon Johnson's chances for re-election when he editorialized that we were "mired in stalement". President Johnson declared "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America," and withdrew from the 1968 presidential campaign.

Tet, however, was not a military disaster for the United States. Quite to the contrary, history has revealed that the Tet offensive was in fact a crushing defeat for the Viet Cong, and effectively required that the Communists conquer the South by invasion from the North, rather than by civil insurgency. The Viet Cong were only able to turn a military disaster into strategic victory by persuading the American media that the United States was mired in stalement. With the domestic political support for the war fading fast, the United States decided to withdraw from Indochina, even though it would take Nixon and Kissinger another four years to accomplish it.
Victor Davis Hanson argues that we're doing better in Iraq in particular, and the larger war against Islamic fascism, than most media outlets admit:
The odd thing is that, for all the gloom and furor, and real blunders, nevertheless, by the historical standards of most wars, we have done well enough to win in Iraq, and still have a good shot of doing the impossible in seeing this government survive. More importantly still, worldwide we are beating the Islamic fundamentalists and their autocratic supporters. Iranian-style theocracy has not spread. For all the talk of losing Afghanistan, the Taliban are still dispersed or in hiding — so is al Qaeda. Europe is galvanizing against Islamism in a way unimaginable just three years ago. The world is finally focusing on Iran. Hezbollah did not win the last war, but lost both prestige and billions of dollars in infrastructure, despite a lackluster effort by Israel. Elections have embarrassed a Hamas that, the global community sees, destroys most of what it touches and now must publicly confess that it will never recognize Israel. Countries like Libya are turning, and Syria is more isolated. If we keep the pressure up in Iraq and Afghanistan and work with our allies, Islamism and its facilitators will be proven bankrupt.
But victory won't happen if Americans believe the negative spin and vote the Democrats into power in Congress in two weeks.

Milblogger Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette puts the challenge succinctly:
But like it or not, Mr and Mrs Average American are involved in a propaganda war, the only battle of the war on terror currently being fought on U.S. soil - and those who choose not to be victims of that battle may wonder what the appropriate response should be. Perhaps just this - bear in mind the stated goal: "to throw fear into the American people's hearts", divide and conquer, weaken resolve, and defeat America. Be aware of the plan to reach that goal, and recognize it for what it is when next you see it in action, as you undoubtedly will. (And while you're at it, spread the word...)
Greyhawk has lots more commentary on the propaganda war:
Update: Also check out the President's radio address (H/T Mudville Gazette):

Another reason for the recent increase in attacks is that the terrorists are trying to influence public opinion here in the United States. They have a sophisticated propaganda strategy. They know they cannot defeat us in the battle, so they conduct high-profile attacks, hoping that the images of violence will demoralize our country and force us to retreat. They carry video cameras and film their atrocities, and broadcast them on the Internet. They e-mail images and video clips to Middle Eastern cable networks like al-Jazeera, and instruct their followers to send the same material to American journalists, authors, and opinion leaders. They operate websites, where they post messages for their followers and readers across the world.

In one recent message, the Global Islamic Media Front -- a group that often posts al Qaeda propaganda on websites -- said their goal is to, "carry out a media war that is parallel to the military war." This is the same strategy the terrorists launched in Afghanistan following 9/11. In a letter to the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden wrote that al Qaeda intended to wage "a media campaign, to create a wedge between the American people and their government."

The terrorists are trying to divide America and break our will, and we must not allow them to succeed. So America will stand with the democratic government of Iraq. We will help Prime Minister Maliki build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. And we will help Iraq become a strong democracy that is a strong ally in the war on terror.

For more positive news about the war efforts, check out http://www.defendamerica.mil/.