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PR of War: Dan and Lloyd are on the right track

Reader comment on item: Op Eds Now More Central in War than Bullets
in response to reader comment: PR of War

Submitted by James Vesce (United States), Oct 25, 2006 at 17:22

Yes, Dan and Lloyd, we need some agency to disseminate information and to shape opinions in a way that will raise our national cultural pride and invigorate our collective fighting spirit.

I'm glad you referenced the Committe on Public Information and the Office for War Information. We had very effective dissemination of info and opinions in WW II from the Office for War Information, and people today can still relate to the products they made way back 60 years ago. If people today could see the "Why We Fight" series of films used during WW II, some of which can be found in DVD film compilations from that period, they'd understand why America was able to pull together in the long, hard days of that war. I've seen several of them, and their modern equivalents would be terrifically useful today. Even the WW II cartoons in the Merry Melodies series were inspiring: Bugs Bunny was a war hero.

The big differences between then and now are that Hollywood was on our side in WW II, or, at least some of it was, and that the government was able to disseminate info and opinions without much external interference from the public and from the media. We had good, effective propaganda in WW II, which was essential to the war effort. Since then, during the cold war period, "communist propaganda" became a term of opprobrium, so now it is assumed that all propaganda is inherently evil. In spite of the values and nuances of meaning recently applied to the term "propaganda", what we actually need is good, effective propaganda, and brilliant propagandists.

Also, there simply seemed to be more backbone in the people who ran the big newspapers and the big studios during the first half of the 20th century, and today they seem to be more afraid of Islamist reprisals than they are of gradually losing the global jihad. Actors in those days wanted to play a war hero in the movies, but today they want to play reluctant soldiers with complicated issues who are trying to "find themselves".

As a consequence, now, the public tends to explain every bad occurrence in the world as the consequence of a bad thing done by somebody, or by some political party, in our government, since that is the pattern of news reporting that emerged during the Nixon era, and we've never grown out of it.

Most of us, today, are really not even allowed to see the true face of the enemy or see the patterns of his evil doings. We're discouraged from hating the enemy, and discouraged from feeling good about the prospect of killing him before he kills or enslaves us.

In WW II, you could go to a theatre and see newsreel footage of Americans who had been cruelly violated by the "Nazis" or the "Japs" (we were allowed to refer to an enemy who was trying to destroy us in language that was uncomplimentary, even insulting and dehumanizing, in a pattern of language use that actually seemed to help matters along quite wonderfully) and then cheer when our gallant forces "got even" in a stunning victory. People actually clapped and cheered out loud in the movie theatres when we saw our soldiers winning a battle in a newsreel back in those days, but, then, such spirit was encouraged and everybody wanted to feel as though we were striving and winning together.

It would never occur to most Americans in WW II to apologize for being a dyed-in-the-wool patriot. They apologized for not being patriots, if anybody ever found out about it.

I don't think the answer today could come from a Committee on Public Information, or an Office for War Information, unless that body were organized as a private, non-profit, non-governmental organization. Maybe a protected government contractor or limited liability corporation could get it done. By the time partisan politics got through with overseeing a government agency trying to do the work, all the punch would be edited out of anything they produced. In addition, the freedoms to get their work done enjoyed by such an organization would have to be protected vigorously by our national security apparatus, and it would have to be shielded from civil litigation. We have highly skilled PsyOps people these days, and this would be an excellent place for them to exercise their talents.

I'd love to see it happen, and think we sorely need it, though nobody these days seems to have the requisite intestinal fortitude to make it happen. When they get close to making it happen, today, some media wonk like Tim Russert pummels them during an on-camera interview and makes them look like villians, in the name of "objective reporting". When they get close to making it happen, today, I suspect that the really compelling shots wind up on the cutting room floor because some Islamist makes a phone call or pays somebody a visit, and scares them away from making a really moving statement.


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