State of Affairs

Syria – A Case Study in Propaganda

Syria – A Case Study in Propaganda

Dear diary, many of my colleagues are unhappy about the recent events in Syria. They are unhappy that Assad is still in power. However, I see the metaphorical glass as being half full. In a recent poll, 58% of Americans support the bombing of Syria and 19% have “no opinion.” This is wonderful news, since it shows how the vast majority of people are easily manipulated and are simply apathetic. In a democracy, the most important but least understood tool is propaganda. Let me share with you the fundamentals of a successful propaganda campaign.

Here are the five rules of public relations a.k.a propaganda:

  • Keep the message simple
  • Make it emotional
  • Don’t allow nuances or debates
  • Demonize the opposition
  • Keep repeating the message

Rule #1: The principle message has to be simple so that even a 5-year-old can understand. In this case, it was, “Assad used chemical weapons to kill innocent Syrians.” The secondary message was we should do something about it. Everyone who watched TV or read the mainstream/social media got this message loud and clear.

Rule #2: Make it emotional. Propaganda is just marketing. (In fact, the phrase Public Relations was coined to replace Propaganda when the latter became a dirty word after World War I). Every good commercial has an emotional aspect to it. Emotions stop you from thinking and analyzing. Thus, while selling Pepsi, marketers use sexy women, selling a war requires evoking fear and/or anger.

About 120 years ago, when the U.S. wanted to steal Cuba from Spain, it relied upon the exact playbook. “You furnish the pictures, and I’ll furnish the war,” said the newspaper oligarch William Randolph Hearst to his cartoonist. The pictures portrayed dying children and brutal Spanish authorities. (Although Spain is white, the picture on the right used a monstrous person with African American features, since a warmonger could also be racist in those days).

Today, the US government tells the White Helmets, “You furnish the videos, we’ll furnish the war.” It’s the same technique used over and over. Remember during Iraq War 1, when a girl testified before the Congress that Iraqi soldiers were killing newborn babies in incubators? Of course, it turned out to be fake news; and the girl turned out to be the daughter of the Kuwaiti Ambassador.

The Syrian war is also a great study in use of emotional language: “worst chemical attack in Syria in years” (a lie from NY Times that forgot its own article about 52+ chemical attacks by ISIS); “international outrage,” “shocked the world,” “horrific/deadly/ghastly/heinous chemical attack,” etc. Also, the Syrian government is always referred to as “regime” and Assad is always a “dictator” or a “butcher” who “kills his own people.” Every word and phrase is designed to have an emotional impact.

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