Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq
by Sheldon Rampton, John Stauber
AVAILABILITY: Usually ships within 2-5 days
Publication Date: 2003
Topics: Corporate Rule, Democracy: Theory & Practice, Media, Militarism, Third World Peoples, United States
Description: It was a day for the history books. On April 9th, 2003, millions of Americans sat glued to their television sets as U.S. soldiers and Iraqi citizens joined together to topple the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad's Firdos Square. Like the fall of the Berlin wall, the fall of Saddam's statue appeared to be one of those iconic moments that proved - spontaneously and undeniably - that democracy would always triumph over totalitarianism, that freedom was the great equalizer. "If you don't have goose bumps now," said Fox News anchor David Asman as the extraordinary footage rolled, "you will never have them in your life." "Jubilant Iraqis Swarm the Streets of Capital," read the New York Times headline. Or did they?
In their eye-opening new exposé, 'Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq', Rampton and Stauber take no prisoners as they reveal - headline by headline, news show by news show, press conference by press conference - the deliberate, aggressive, and highly successful public relations campaign that sold the Iraqi war to the American public. April 9th seemed to confirm what Washington and pro-war pundits had been saying for months: that the Iraqi people would eventually come to see America as their liberator, not their enemy. Yet the American media chose to focus on headlines such as "Iraqis Celebrate in Baghdad" (Washington Post) rather than on a Reuters long-shot photo of Firdos Square showing it to be nearly empty, or the Muslim cleric who was assassinated by an angry crowd in Najaf for being too friendly to the Americans, or the 20,000 Iraqis in Nasiriyah rallying to oppose the U.S. military presence.
We've always known what good PR and advertising could do for a new line of sneakers, cosmetics, or weight-loss products. In 'Weapons of Mass Deception', Rampton and Stauber show us a brave new shocking world where savvy marketers, "information warriors," and "perception managers" can sell an entire war to consumers. Indeed, Washington successfully brought together the world's top ad agencies and media empires to create "Operation: Iraqi Freedom" - a product no decent, patriotic citizen could possibly object to. With meticulous research and documentation, Rampton and Stauber deconstruct this and other "true lies" behind the war.
Top Bush officials advocated the invasion of Iraq even before he took office, but waited until September 2002 to inform the public, through what the White House termed a "product launch." White House officials used repetition and misinformation - the "big lie" tactic - to create the false impression that Iraq was behind the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, especially in the case of the alleged meeting in Prague five months earlier between 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence officials. The "big lie" tactic was also employed in the first Iraq war when a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl named Nayirah told the horrific - but fabricated - story of Iraqi soldiers wrenching hundreds of premature Kuwaiti babies from their incubators and leaving them to die. Her testimony was printed in a press kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait, a PR front group created by Hill and Knowlton corporation, then the world's largest PR firm. In order to achieve "third party authenticity" in the Muslim world, a group called the Council of American Muslims for Understanding launched its own web site, called OpenDialogue.com. However, its chairman admitted that the idea began with the State Department, and that the group was funded by the U.S. government. Forged documents were used to "prove" that Iraq possessed huge stockpiles of banned weapons. A secretive PR firm working for the Pentagon helped create the Iraqi National Congress (INC), which became one of the driving forces behind the decision to go to war.
'Weapons of Mass Deception' is the first book to expose the aggressive public relations campaign used to sell the American public on the war with Iraq. It is a must-read for those who want to know how and why they bought this war.
Executive Director John Stauber, an investigative writer, public speaker and democracy activist, founded the Center for Media & Democracy in 1993. Since high school in the 1960s, he has worked with public interest, consumer, family farm, environmental and community organizations at the local, state and national level. He edits and writes for the Center's quarterly newsmagazine, PR Watch, and in collaboration with PR Watch Editor Sheldon Rampton he has co-authored three books, 'Toxic Sludge Is Good For You: Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry' (1995); 'Mad Cow U.S.A.: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?' (1997); and 'Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles With Your Future' (2001). Before founding the Center, he worked for five years for the Foundation on Economic Trends, a Washington, DC nonprofit organization, researching possible health and economic impacts of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and organizing concerned citizens and farmers. Stauber is frequently featured, interviewed or quoted in media including the Washington Post, New York Times, USA Today, ABC's Good Morning America, CNN's Burden of Proof, Fox News Channel, and NPR's Marketplace. Born in 1953, he is married and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
PR Watch Editor Sheldon Rampton is a graduate of Princeton University who has a diverse background as newspaper reporter, activist and author. In college, he studied writing under Joyce Carol Oates, E.L. Doctorow and John McPhee. In addition to books authored with John Stauber, he is the co-author with( Liz Chilsen) of the 1998 book 'Friends In Deed: the Story of US-Nicaragua Sister Cities' and worked closely with the Wisconsin Coordinating Council on Nicaragua on the NICA Fund, a project that since 1992 has channeled more than $7 million in loans from socially responsible U.S. investors to support economic development efforts in low-income Central American communities. He has written numerous articles for publications including Harper's Magazine, the Nation, and In These Times, and has been interviewed or quoted in media including the New York Times, MSNBC and the Washington Post. Born in 1957, he is a native of Las Vegas, Nevada and currently lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
Review(s): "No more bed-time stories ... these guys are here to wake you up." - Greg Palast
"A major contribution for those who want to take control of their own future, not be passive subjects of manipulation and control." - Noam Chomsky
"Like a flashlight in a cave, 'Weapons of Mass Deception' shows the way out from the spin zone that the Bush administration and its stenographic media have created." - Capital Times, July 29, 2003
"Critics of the Bush administration have frequently commented on its use of wartime propaganda, but this is the first book to compile a wide range of case studies under a single cover. It is clearly and passionately written, and meticulously footnoted evidence will surely make many readers indignant. ... One can only hope that it will soon be made into a TV documentary or feature-length film." - San Francisco Chronicle, July 27, 2003
"The weapons in question are those of propaganda: this superb study analyses how the US news media consented to present a highly spun and sanitised movie of "Operation Iraqi Freedom". It also remorselessly, and amusingly, exposes the doublethink that informs such phrase-making." - Guardian (UK), July 26, 2003
"Muckrakers Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, authors of 'Toxic Sludge Is Good For You!' and 'Trust Us, We're Experts!', specialize in exposing the role public relations plays in molding popular opinion and shaping government policy. By nature, PR people thrive in secrecy, which is why Stauber and Rampton have done a tremendous service by subjecting the industry's tactics to the harsh light of open scrutiny. As its title suggests, 'Weapons Of Mass Deception' explores the role PR played in marshalling public support for George W. Bush's war in Iraq. Written in a sharp, direct, reportorial style, Deception explores the looking-glass world of modern-day political PR, where the U.S. is perceived as a strong brand, not unlike Coca-Cola or Home Depot, and foreign-policy initiatives are rolled out like a new product launch. Many of the strategies detailed in the book will be familiar to readers of Toxic Sludge - most significantly, the establishment of heavily funded front groups with noble-sounding names to give the illusion of grassroots support. Packed with footnotes and hard data, Deception carefully debunks many of Bush's rationales for going to war. The ties between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are shown to be slippery at best, non-existent at worst, and based on flimsy evidence; the same goes for evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. At times, Rampton and Stauber belabor the obvious: including a partial transcript from The O'Reilly Factor to show that Bill O'Reilly is a bullying reactionary, for example, is like pointing to a specific event to prove that Michael Jackson might be slightly eccentric. For the most part, however, Deception squarely hits its target. Stauber and Rampton leave the name-calling to the attack dogs on the left and right, allowing the damning evidence to speak for itself." - Nathan Rabin, The Onion