Thursday, January 24, 2013

Western Media Ratcheting Up Anti-Iran Propaganda?

On November 22, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published an alarming piece of news entitled “Cyber Corps program trains spies for the digital age”.   The “cyber-warriors” who are headed for organizations such as the CIA, NSC, FBI, the Pentagon and so on, are trained to stalk, “ rifle through trash, sneak a tracking device on cars and plant false information on Facebook [emphasis added].  They also are taught to write computer viruses, hack digital networks, crack passwords, plant listening devices and mine data from broken cellphones and flash drives.”

Not surprisingly, less than a month later,  it was rumored that Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei  had started a Facebook page.  The style and content of the site ruled out its authenticity, but the State Department was amused.  In spite of the potential for alarm,  State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland jokingly expressed Washington’s curiosity to see how many “likes’ Khamenei would receive.    This is no joking matter.   Any message on this page would be attributed to Khamenei with a potential for dangerous ramifications.    

Barely a month later, on January 24, 2013,  Guardian’s blaring headlines exposed fake blogs and Facebook pages made for  BBC Persian’s Iranian journalists with claims that these were made  in order to harass, intimidate, and discredit the journalists.   These fake blogs, according to The Guardian charges, are not by the American Cyber Corps warriors, but are alleged to be the creation of the Iranian ‘Islamic cyber-activists’ in “what appears [emphasis added] to be an operation sponsored by the authorities”.   

While truth is the fist casualty of war, journalists are also fair game thanks -- in large part owing to the provisions of the Information Operations Road Map of 2003 (signed by the then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and pursued by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta).  As part of the plan,  “public affairs officers brief journalists”.   In 2005 it came to light that the Pentagon paid the Lincoln Group (a private company) to plant ‘hundreds of stories’ in Iraqi papers in support of U.S. Policies.   The plan also called for “a range of technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, "miniaturized, scatterable public address systems", wireless devices, cellular phones and the internet. “

In light of such wide spread propaganda, deception and digital warfare by the Pentagon, and with the recent Los Angeles Times revelations of the Cyber Corps training,  truth become indistinguishable from falsehood and thus accepting or rejecting the authenticity of allegations by the Guardian becomes subjective, in spite of the reality of the victimhood of BBC journalists (ditto Radio Farda, VOA) whose reporting is not welcomed in Iran.    

The broadcast of BBC Persian into Iran is problematic.  Leaving aside the illegality of it (see article), BBC Persian which was launched in early 2009, receives  significant funding from the United States.   To many Iranians,  no doubt including the Iranian government, BBC’s role was (and continues to be) a dark reminder of its past role in destroying Iran’s democracy in 1953 when, by its own admission, the BBC spearheaded Britain’s propaganda and broadcast the code which sparked the coup and the overthrow of Prime Minister Mossadegh.   

As if in a reenactment, the role of BBC Persian in the 2009 post-election unrest was significant.  Claiming that  BBC Persian Services was basing its reporting on “citizen journalists” and on the receiving end of “eight user generated communications per minute”,   their own report indicates that some of the reporting was impossible to verify.  Unlike BBC Persian (and VOA, Radio Farda, etc.), Wired Magazine did its homework fully.  In its report aptly titled “Iran: Before You Have That Twitter-Gasm…” , it revealed that the “U.S. media is projecting its own image of Iran into what is going here on the ground.”   BBC Persian, true to its track record, and thanks to State Department funding, had a desire to trumpet in a new era in Iran’s history -  A historical change planned from without, with help from within.   Unlike 1953, it failed. 

Once again, with the Iranian elections on the horizon, indications are that the recent elections in the United States and Israel will not produce a break-through in the US-Iran relations, or the foreign policy agenda of the United States toward Iran -- warfare by other means, including propaganda.   Cognizant of this fact, either the Iranian government is bracing itself for a propaganda war by discrediting sites with a potential to propagate misinformation, which may explain duplicating the BBC (admittedly, a clever move), or, the American Cyber Corps has outdone itself with the ability to point the finger at Iran.

Either way, in launching its cyber warfare, the United States has crossed the Rubicon.  Cyber warfare, much like germ warfare, is dangerous, relentless, and without boundaries.   The casualties of such warfare will continue to rise – unstoppable. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Hollywood Story

Hollywood has always been, and continues to be an extension of US policies.   US policies around the globe and at home is dominated by neoconservatives (Israel-firsters).   

Historically, Hollywood has been used to sell policies.  As far back as 1917, when the United States entered World War I, President Woodrow Wilson’s Committee on Public Information (CPI) enlisted the aid of America’s film industry to make training films and features supporting the cause. Heavily propagandistic, most of these films were for domestic consumption only. But the CPI also controlled all the battle footage used in newsreels shown overseas, and its chairman, George Creel, believed that the movies had a role in “carrying the gospel of Americanism to every corner of the globe.”

The CPI was terminated after the war, but the stage had been set for a major shift, as Washington rewarded the movie studios by pressuring war-weakened European governments to open their markets to American films.  This pact grew stronger during World War II, when, as historian Thomas Doherty writes, “[T]he liaison between Hollywood and Washington was a distinctly American and democratic arrangement, a mesh of public policy and private initiative, state need and business enterprise.” Hollywood’s contribution was to provide propaganda. After the war, Washington reciprocated by using subsidies, special provisions in the Marshall Plan, and general clout to pry open resistant European film markets. (Martha Bayles, Wilson Quarterly, Summer 2005)

In his book ‘Soft Power’, Joseph Nye speaks of the influence of Hollywood.  He cites the poet Carl Sandburg who in 1961 said: “What, Hollywood’s more important than Harvard?  The answer is not as clean as Harvard, but nevertheless, further reaching.”  He is right.

The American commercial film industry, Hollywood, has often borrowed its story ideas from the U.S. foreign policy agenda, at times reinforcing U.S. policies while at times undermining them and offering alternative interpretations to them and to news media portrayals. One of the film industry's blockbuster film loans in the last two decades has been modern international terrorism. Research on Hollywood portrayals of international terrorism has been almost non-existent although the movie industry has produced well over one hundred films on modern terrorism since the emergence of the phenomenon in international relations in 1968. Hollywood rarely touched the topic of terrorism in the late 1960s and 1970s when the phenomenon was not high on the U.S. foreign policy agenda, in news headlines nor in the American public consciousness. In the 1980s, in the footsteps of the Reagan administration, the commercial film industry found international terrorism a threat to the U.S. and brought terrorist villains to the big screen, making terrorism a blockbuster film product in the 1990s.

Several researches have shown for example that typically Hollywood has concentrated on portraying the Indians as savages, the Latins as greasers, Italians as mobsters, Arabs as fanatic terrorists, and the hero as the while male.  Several researchers (Parneti ’92, Crowdus ’94, and Gregg ’98) argue that the traditional image of the White hero killing the foreign villain supports the US foreign policy.  This goes unnoticed by the movie audiences especially in the US where the audiences are poorly informed about international affairs (Hess 1996, Rosenbaum 1993).

Hollywood films on terrorism reflect the US Department of State’s pattern of global terrorism and disproportionately focus on conflict, which follows the classical Hollywood cinema screenwriting structure but not necessarily the events of international relations. The pattern of global terrorism disproportionately focuses on conflict, which follows the classical Hollywood cinema screenwriting structure but not necessarily the events of international relations.  It dates back to the hostage crisis in Iran and 1980.  (Helena Vanhala - Hollywood portrayal of modern international terrorism in blockbuster action-adventure films: From the Iran hostage crisis to September 11, 2001 Dissertations And Theses 2005).  University of Oregon; 2005. 

This foreign policy which Hollywood reflects, is now wholly dominated by neoconservatives and promotes the Israeli agenda - as with the US foreign policy.    

The end of the Cold War had left Israel in an awkward place.   According to The Jerusalem Report, in 1991, the idea that radical Islam would (should) replace communism had taken seed among the Israeli right.  The basis of the idea was founded on the neoconservatives fear that with the demise of the Soviet Union, and the splintering of the America’s right wing faction, there would no longer be an unconditional support for a U.S.-Israel alliance.  There was a decade of peace and prosperity to implement the seeds of hostility in the American psyche;  As Podhoretz had stated:  “But the real world and the world of ideas aren't always in the direct communication they should be. In the world of ideas the major media, the universities, the artistic community all of these are still on the left." (Jerusalem Report).  These would have to be mastered.

To this end, the pro-Israel or Israel-firster crowd set out to take over Hollywood – openly, and promote Israel’s narrative of events and its agenda.

It is interesting to note that according to this Haaretz article from the 1930s until the mid-1950s, Hanukkah never appeared on screen. This was because the Jewish studio heads preferred to hide their ethnic and religious heritage in attempting to widen the appeal of their products. Jews were thus typically portrayed as participants in an American civil religion, whose members may attend the synagogue of their choice, but are not otherwise marked by great differences of appearance, speech, custom, or behaviour from the vast majority of American”.  This is no longer the case and Judaism and preference for Israel has become apparent.

As a side note, it is important to recall that Israeli businessman and Hollywood producer Arnon Milchan was a longtime weapons dealer and Israeli intelligence agent who purchased equipment for Israel's nuclear program.  The book, “Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan,” written by Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman, recounts Milchan's life story, from his days as a boy in Rehovot through his friendships with Israeli prime ministers, U.S. presidents and Hollywood stars.
Hollywood “celebrated” Israel’s 60th “birthday” with a Gala called “From Vision to Reality”.  Israeli TV blog wrote of the Gala:  Don’t Worry Israel, Hollywood is behind you’.   Actor Jon Voight said: “World playing a dangerous game by going against Israel”.

It is important to understand Hollywood not only in the context of a multi-billion dollar industry, but the propaganda aspect of it.

The most basic example, according to several researches have shown that typically Hollywood has concentrated on portraying the Indians as savages, the Latins as greasers, Italians as mobsters, Arabs [and Iranians] as fanatic terrorists, and the hero as the while male.  Several researchers (Parneti ’92, Crowdus ’94, and Gregg ’98) argue that the traditional image of the White hero killing the foreign villain supports the US foreign policy. 

Without thinking about it, we deal with propaganda every day – through film, advertising, political speeches, news, in TV shows, etc.   There are different forms and methods of propaganda.  Without a doubt, one of  the most powerful and universal methods of spreading ideas is visual propaganda.. 

“Propaganda is defined as a certain type of messaging that serves a particular purpose of spreading or implanting a particular culture, philosophy, point of view or even a particular slogan”.  

A common mistake about propaganda is that it is considered to provide false information. This is not accurate.  Propaganda may not necessarily contain false facts; existing facts may be interpreted in a special way to illustrate a point of view or an idea, as well as only part of the truth can be shown in the propagandists’ speeches and slogans. What is common about propaganda information, it is that it seldom shows the situation from different points of view and seldom gives the full picture in details; this information would rather contain.