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Short Attention Span Propaganda Theater

Reported by Chrish - March 25, 2008 -

Guest blogged by Priscilla

Whenever Fox seeks to communicate and/or reinforce a right wing talking point, they package it in quick sound bites for easy consumption by those with short attention spans who would be bored by a fair and balanced discussion and analysis. Last night’s (March 24th) Special Report had two short segments worthy of a best rightwing live action short film Oscar.

Alexander Britton Hume presented a piece about a study, done by researchers at Harvard, which, according to Hume, demonstrates that insurgent attacks in Iraq are linked to public criticism of the war. The visual beside Hume’s talking head was a map of Iraq upon which what appeared to be a Harvard Shield and the chyron “emboldening the enemy.” (Comment: this is just one version of the Harvard Shield. Other versions have the Latin “veritas” on them. In Latin, “veritas” means truth. I can see why Fox didn’t use any of those.)

Hume reported that “researchers at Harvard are saying that publicly voiced doubts about the war in Iraq have an emboldening effect on insurgents.” He cited the title of the report, by Radha Iyengar and Jonathan Monten, “Is There an Enboldenment Effect. Evidence from the Insurgency in Iraq.” The chyron, “brutality booster” flashed to “immediate impact.” Hume reported that “evidence from the insurgency in Iraq has found that online news coverage of criticism about it is followed by an increase in the number of attacks against civilians and US forces.” He noted that the study, which purports to show an effect on insurgent violence, tracks anti resolve statements made by the US media and public opinions polls.

Comment: the message here was to show that public criticism of the war is “emboldening the enemy” – a popular Fox/right wing talking point. The study is far more detailed and nuanced and its conclusions are qualified such as “to the extent that U.S. political speech does affect insurgent incentives, it changes things only by about 10-20 percent.” (Page 24 of the PDF file) They conclude “from these results it is not possible to determine the benefits or costs of public debate. Without knowing the effect of changes in policy generated by this debate and the nature of changed perception of the insurgents about US casualty sensitivity, it is not possible to determine if criticism of U.S. policy is on balance bad. Thus, the direct consideration of how to adjust political speech to address this issue is complex and the results of this paper do not bear directly on this question.” (Page 25 of the PDF file).

Comment: In an effort to create support for a rightwing talking point, Fox keeps it simple by avoiding pesky details. One wonders if this piece was a way for Fox to rationalize their lack of coverage of the war as recently cited by a study done for the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

The other short propaganda theater piece, which I found interesting, was one in which Hume discussed how a United Nations group, Alliance for Civilization, has raised funds with which to fund movies aimed at combating stereotypes. The fund is linked to Hollywood production companies including those which produced George Clooney’s “Syriana” and Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth”. Hume cautioned that “critics” of the plan say that “extremists will circumvent the good intentions.” The only “critic” who was interviewed was Ann Bayefsky who was identified as a “human rights activist.” All she said was that this initiative “promotes the wrong type of tolerance” and that she is “concerned that the film will be anti-West, anti-US, and anti-democratic.” Although admitting that no movies have yet been released, Fox’s David Miller said that “critics argue that it’s time to fade to black.”

Comment: The message here is simply to criticize, with no basis in reality, two organizations on the Fox/right wing enemies list – the United Nations and Hollywood (including perennial right wing non faves Clooney and Gore). The “critic” presented in this piece, Ann Bayefsky, is no mere “human rights activist.” She is affiliated with the neo-con filled Hudson Institute, funded in part by Scaife and Olin foundation money, and she produces and edits a website entitled “Eye on the UN.” Lots of smoke and mirrors in Fox’s short subjects which are jam packed with Fox propaganda for those who don’t need to know all the details.

Guest blogged by Priscilla