During the Second World War Hitler and his Nazi transformed the tool of propaganda almost into a fine art. Much has been said and written about German machinery of propaganda during that era. The same becomes relevant in the context of Marxist movement and rule in Russia and elsewhere. In the recent years Al Qaeda has made several acts of terror within the Middle East in an attempt to pressurize the United States to withdraw from the region. The aim of Al Qaeda is stoke U.S retaliation with the anticipation that this will be interpreted in the Muslim world as war waged against Islam and this will greatly advance the propaganda of the organization and its recruitment efforts. Thus, propaganda is an efficient tool of running a government, a war or even a terrorist organization. However, the issue of the US and its propagandist activities are not that well documented, as in the cases of Nazi Party, USSR or Al Qaeda. Nevertheless, the US is not much far behind in the context of propaganda.
PROPAGANDA AND THE US
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The United States of America can successfully use propaganda in their military campaigns and it has been proved in all the wars that the country has faced since the World War II. Propaganda comes from both the Government as well as various kinds of private entities, like the news media, the mass communication mediums and other different writings, and the sole aim of these things is to glorify the doings of the United States of America and showing the opponent in bad light to the common citizens who do not have any direct contact with the war front of political decision-makings.
Propaganda in Cold War. In 1951, President Truman created a Psychological Strategy Board and the sole aim of the board was to coordinate the actions of American psychological warfare. It shows how the Americans valued the game of psychological warfare. This board was active in coordinating all the nonmilitary actions during the cold war, and it even included the covert operations performed by America. Even at that point of time, the board had supervised several programs that promoted aggressive clandestine warfare and took several propaganda measures against the powerful Soviet Block. Along with that they have also developed a number of plans to dominate several countries in different parts of Western Europe, the Middle East as well as Asia. When Truman resigned from his chair, the Board became a powerful body that had the power to control the proceedings of a war as well as utilize a war in the benefit of the Government, by making the people believe that USA is always the good guy.
In World War II, the propaganda or psychological warfare was considered an essential part of military actions, but it changed considerably during the Cold War. At that time, the psychological warfare analysts also included the non-military actions in their course of action. All these steps were taken only to influence the general public opinion in the favor of the ruler as well as advance the American foreign policies. And, at that point of time, propaganda became a powerful tool, not only in warfare, but also in the spheres of finance, trade and commerce.
The propaganda of Cold War basically limited itself in a few words, the American decision-makers tried to show it as an ideological and psychological clash between two different political ideals, as well as it was shown as a cultural concept. Here, if we look at the Hollywood films made at that time, we will see that a lot of villains are Russians or Russians settled in America. They made KGB a superpower, which only used its power for embracing bad things, like terrorism. For example, we have the James Bond films where we have an imaginary corporation called SPECTRE, who is openly supported by KGB officials.
The Red Scare hysteria was the most prominent propaganda efforts of the USA. From the 1950s, Communism ceased to be an imaginative enemy, but it got a physical form in the shape of Soviet Russia and Joseph Stalin. The development of atomic bomb in Russia, the Korean deadlock and so on are some of the hindrances faced by America to wipe out communism and the country even was afraid to join hands with any communists’ thing, and, at that time, Joseph McCarthy, the Republican US Senator from Wisconsin, became the most prominent anti-Communist face of USA. During the Cold War, CIA was involved in many actions, both political and non-political, and we can say that in most cases the actions were highly successful.
Propaganda in Afghanistan. America entered into the recent Afghanistan War after the incident of the September 11, riding with a huge international support. But we have to remember that the situations during the Cold War and the situations of the Afghanistan War were entirely different, with the development of technology the mediums of propaganda have been changed. America capitalized on the human sympathy for the September 11 incident greatly and they tried to show that they are the country which is devastated by terrorism and their country men are being attacked by the terrorists everywhere in the world. That is why they decided to lead to world in a “War against Terrorism”. The news channels from all over the world came to Afghanistan to cover, probably, the most important international war in Afghanistan.
There were a number of countries that had actively participated in the War, but with the successful propagandas common people only believed that America is fighting the war alone for the behalf of the country. Here we can mention two Hollywood Blockbusters. In films like “Independence Day” and “Armageddon” we see that the world is in the grave danger from alien attacks in one and in another, comets. The countries of the world join their hands together, but, finally, a team of American warriors go to the space to fight the bad guys and save the day. Here the common audience will always praise the common American courage as per the design of the film. It was the same with Afghanistan War, and that is exactly what CIA designed. We have to remember that situations have changed as well as the living conditions and mentality of the general people of United States of America.
Even the popular movies and other television programs get behind the Government to glorify their mission, as well as the media. But the situations have changed; now people have more options then in the Cold War days and they can really watch detailed reports that are being circulated in the World Media. That is the main cause of the controversies about the Afghanistan War.
The basic purpose of American propaganda was to create a nationwide distrust for the enemy and in this opportunity gain the support of the common people. These strategies worked wonderfully in the World War II and also in the Cold War. But situations changed from the Vietnam War. We can say that the popularity of television had played an important role in that, and later other technical developments like satellite television and internet played a huge role too. Now, with numerous channels and newspapers, the Government can not really control the flow of information and people apply their own senses to decipher the events. This is why American Government became villains in the eyes of their own country men during the Vietnam War.
In Afghanistan War, we can say that the efforts of the USA were worth supporting, but we also have to give credits to the Taliban fighters who tried to hold the international troops. American Government really worked in the propaganda front to show that they are the victims and they are fighting for rights to live peacefully, but in some cases it back fired, that was never possible in the Cold War days.
With the change of situations and scenarios, one has to remember that it is important to change the tactics of propaganda or psychological warfare. The recent propagandas promoted by the US Government are not up to the mark, and they will have to do it better. Initially, they had to arouse their country men, but in the age of globalization they will have to target all the mankind and this can be really tough. This is why the recent ventures of psychological warfare did not achieve the desired effect.
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