Monday, January 24, 2005

Four Degrees of Propaganda

Remember the game that could connect Kevin Bacon to any other actor in only six steps - "six degrees of Kevin Bacon"? Western journalism has its own version.

First Degree (Jan. 8, 2005): Newsweek writers Michael Hirsh and John Barry are deliberately coy about the genesis of the phrase "Salvador Option". In order to slant the story as far to the left as possible, Hirsh and Barry wrote: "The Pentagon’s latest approach is being called 'the Salvador option'...".

This allows them to make unfavorable comparisons between the war in Iraq and the notorious death squads of El Salvador. When a reporter says that something is "being called" this or that, without attribution to a source, it usually means that he made up the phrase himself.

Second Degree (Jan. 10, 2005): David Teather of the Guardian reads the Newsweek piece and adds: "The ploy has apparently been called the 'Salvador option' after the strategy that was secretly employed by Ronald Reagan's administration to combat the leftist guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador in the early 1980s."

Teather knows full well that Hirsh and Barry made up the "Salvador Option" monicker, but he plays along and murks things up just a little more.

Third Degree (January 13, 2005: On the World Socialist Website (love that name; how quaint, how retro) Bill Van Auken ups the ante by declaring: "The plan, first reported January 8 by Newsweek magazine, has been dubbed by Pentagon planners as 'the Salvador option.'"

Here, at the first stage of true propaganda, the original appellation is given the patina of authority by claiming, without attribution, that faceless Pentagon planners are using the phrase. The first overt lie.

Fourth Degree (January 20, 2005: And now all is ready for Scott Ritter, wannabe pedophile and al Jazeera propagandist to grandly "report": "Called the Salvador Option, in reference to similar US-backed death squads that terrorised the population of El Salvador during the 1980s..."

And there you have it, four degrees separating grossly biased American journalists from out-and-out propaganda.