Psychological Warfare

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Laura Rozen has an excellent post on recent reports that the Pentagon has been paying millions of dollars to plant pro-American stories in the Iraqi press, along with even more reports that psychological warfare specialists are influencing international journalists. And, says, Laura, there’s more to come. It’s an outrage, to be sure, and possibly illegal, but hardly unexpected. For some context here, it’s worth revisiting James Bamford’s Rolling Stone piece on this very subject:

By law, the Bush administration is expressly prohibited from disseminating government propaganda at home. But in an age of global communications, there is nothing to stop it from planting a phony pro-war story overseas — knowing with certainty that it will reach American citizens almost instantly. A recent congressional report suggests that the Pentagon may be relying on “covert psychological operations affecting audiences within friendly nations.” In a “secret amendment” to Pentagon policy, the report warns, “psyops funds might be used to publish stories favorable to American policies, or hire outside contractors without obvious ties to the Pentagon to organize rallies in support of administration policies.”

The report also concludes that military planners are shifting away from the Cold War view that power comes from superior weapons systems. Instead, the Pentagon now believes that “combat power can be enhanced by communications networks and technologies that control access to, and directly manipulate, information. As a result, information itself is now both a tool and a target of warfare.”

Bamford notes that this sort of thing has been going on for a very long time—the Rendon group, hired by the Pentagon, worked to influence the press both during the invasion of Panama, and as part of its push to “sell” the first Gulf War to the American public—and that it’s definitely official policy. His piece is very much worth a read.

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THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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