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Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech and Opinion Control Since 9-11 (Open Media Series) Kindle Edition
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Dr. Snow has worked in academia for over ten years. She is an in-demand lecturer and commentator and has written other books and numerous papers. Importantly, Dr. Snow has served in the USIA, a propaganda agency within the U.S. government, providing the author with inside knowledge about how the U.S. propaganda machine works. Through her education and life experiences, Dr. Snow appears to be on her way to becoming a noteworthy and influential critic who, in my view, might be compared with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn.
The foreward is by star investigative journalist Greg Palast, who explains that propaganda is necessary to achieve thought control in a democratic society. Mr. Palast states that today's crop of U.S. spin masters are most interested in projecting American military and commercial power in pursuit of corporate objectives. Mr. Palast writes that the image of "armed and dangerous refugees from corporate boards" who have gained control of America presents a frightening picture to everyone concerned about the consequences of unrestrained and corrupt power.
Dr. Snow beings by arguing that the increasing concentration of media ownership stifles dissent and allows the powerful to define the public interest. The author documents the close ties between intelligence agencies and the media to show how the Pentagon increasingly defines what gets reported. Combined with a compliant media that is more interested in generating advertising revenues than meaningful debate, the declining state of critical journalism as described by the author is not surprising.
Dr. Snow compares propagandists past and present to show how discourse can often be manipulated in the pusuit of specific objectives. For example, Dr. Snow shows how George Creel's campaign to convince the public to enter World War I bears similarities to Charlotte Beer's Madison Avenue-style "branding" campaign of America during the Afghanistan War. The author says that the goal in both cases was to "convince the American people...that this war was a fight over ideas and values more than a fight over land, people and resources." Ultimately, Dr. Snow explains that Ms. Beer's efforts were ineffective because the rhetoric of her ill-conceived advertising campaign clashed badly with the reality of America's role as a "violent international aggressor."
One of my favorite sections was Dr. Snow's delicious skewering of William Bennett, one of the most pompous of all propagandists. The author deftly uses Mr. Bennett's own work against him, arguing that the suffocating intolerance displayed in his book "Why We Fight" clearly illustrates why dissent is critical to maintaining a free and open society.
A few courageous citizens who have spoken truth to power are profiled in the book. These include publisher Janis Besler Heaphy, who was shouted down at a college graduation ceremony for advocating sustained public vigilance of government action; Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who cast the lone vote against Bush's manifesto to wage an open-ended war against terrorism; and author Howard Zinn, whose work for peace has inspired many. Through these and other examples, Dr. Snow highlights the critical role that individuals can play to protect our collective rights.
On the other hand, Dr. Snow believes that the Bush administration's unilateralism and use of preemption will not lead to a better world. Dr. Snow argues that the so-called "Arab Street" (another pejorative and propagandistic term) is angry with the U.S. because of very specific policies and not because of our core values, as is often alleged. However, defining the conflict in simplistic terms enhances the effectiveness of the propaganda and marginalizes anti-war critics. In fact, Dr. Snow reminds us that many of the words spoken by prominent figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., who sometimes railed against U.S. imperialism and war, have long ago been forgotten in corporate news archives.
Instead of being passive recipients, Dr. Snow encourages her readers to actively seek alternative media and to critique and respond to biased news reporting. She recommends that we work to change our government's policies and spend more time listening to others in order to achieve harmony with the world. I found Dr. Snow's common-sense and humane suggestions to be a welcome antidote to the angry and propaganda-soaked material that is usually found on mainstream media.
I strongly encourage everyone to read this inspirational, informative and empowering book.
There is also a history of propaganda to show how a pacifist United States was drummed into a warmongering and blood-thirsty country during World War I. In other words, what Bush and his cronies do isn't new, it's part of a grand American tradition. Empires need propaganda to keep free thought at bay. Just look at Nazi Germany. Snow does.
The comparison is frightening. So, what do we do when the ad manager for Uncle Ben's rice tries to sell America to Arab countries? And what do we do when even the mainstream media is pressured to censor itself? We cannot trust the mainstream anymore (if we ever could), especially when it is so conservatively skewed. Nancy Snow provides the clarion call for all with a mind to speak up.
At this time, perhaps more than ever since this is a nuclear age, it is important to have research out there that tells it like it is about the policies of this country. Information control is not a good thing, especially for the so-called leader of the free world. The truth must be hard to take, but considering the non-stop lies of the Bush administration, Snow knows it will be difficult to understand. Give "Information War" a spin with an open mind, and find yourself edified.
Then take some action.
John Ford, Public Affairs Producer/Host, KAOS-fm, Olympia WA
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