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Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq

by Sheldon Rampton, published by Jeremy P. Tarcher (2003-07)

Buy now from Amazon.com for $11.95
Amazon rating of 4.5 out of 5, Amazon sales rank: 137557

Editor's Review:

The book includes a glossary-"Propaganda: A User's Guide"- and resources to help Americans sort through the deceptions to see the strings behind Washington's campaign to sell the Iraq war to the public. "Weapons of Mass Deception reveals: How the Iraq war was sold to the American public through professional P.R. strategies. ""The First Casualty"": Lies that were told related to the Iraq war. Euphemisms and jargon related to the Iraq war, e.g. ""shock and awe,"" ""Operation Iraqi Freedom,"" ""axis of evil,"" ""coalition of the willing,"" etc. ""War as Opportunity"": How the war on terrorism and the war on Iraq have been used as marketing hooks to sell products and policies that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism. ""Brand America"": The efforts of Charlotte Beers and other U.S. propaganda campaigns designed to win hearts overseas. ""The Mass Media as Propaganda Vehicle"": How news coverage followed Washington's lead and language. The book includes a glossary - ""Propaganda: A User's Guide"" - and resources to help Americans sort through the deceptions to see the strings behind Washington's campaign to sell the Iraq war to the public."

Reader Reviews:

When factual evidence did not reveal that Saddam Hussein had "Weapons of Mass Destruction" the Bush administration simply hired the country's best media consultants to engineer support for the war: anybody who was thus questioning the administration found themselves labeled as contributing to the terrorist threat. Because reality did not give them what they wanted, the White House fabricated data.

This book, written by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton is not one of the reccent anti-Iraq war books, but it lays out the opposition to this policy in basic bare-bones langue. As such, this book is a good read for people who are not neccessarily policy wonks, but want the truth in an America of lies.

It is convienient that one of the loudest internal anti-Saddam groups in Iraq, the Iraqi National Congress, had ties to the American Pentagon. If something like that arrangement were to happen to our country, we would be screaming bloody murder. But, because Bush had convinced the public we needed to stop 'the terrorists' wherever they were, we did not ask critical questions about the opposition sources origin and their own motives.

Likewise, the same profession which once had helped to expose Watergate and FBI abuses against new left activists turned into the official White House parrot. Reporters who allegedly knew much better stopped asking critical questions about the Bush administration's official policy. Very little has publically been made of the glaring contradictions between Bush's infamous 'mission accomplished' aircraft carrier landing and our continued presence in Iraq---ironically with no formal end to the 'mission' in sight.

Why were we going to war with Iraq? What information prompted this decision? Who collected this information? If Saddam really was such a threat to international security, why weren't the other nations (especially his neighbors) who mourned with us over 9/11 agreeing with our plans?

Consequently, the American people had no idea of what they were really supporting. We were only told that dissent against the country was unpatriotic and that we needed to support whatever this president did in Iraq.

Compounding that problem, the administration went into Iraq with a distinctly western mindset. Not only did/and is still preventing Americans from being taken seriously, but it breeds terrorists who point to the 'provisional government'...etc as evidence that America only had wanted to colonize Iraq for it's own material benefit. The people working for the White House thought they were good, but they also forgot that the Iraqis and the Arab world needed to be sold on this policy to (ironically) avoid generating terrorists.

Because the authors are pre-disposed to disagree with President Bush on other issues, this book might not have a wider audience when compared with the growing number of titles of people who were neutral or even previously supportive of the administration's Iraq policy. If Iraq really does turn into another Vietnam however, I am willing to bet that this book will suddenly find a larger audience alongside the more reccently published works. The book "Weapons of Mass Deception, the Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq," written by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber generally deals with the United States' current conflict in Iraq. However, it does not deal with the strategic side of the conflict itself but rather the steps taken to get there. This text focuses primarily on the supposed false information that President Bush and his administration provided the American public in order to gain their support. Rampton and Stauber deal with the psychological aspects that come with preparing a nations people for war.
Rampton and Stauber set out to make a contribution to their field by expressing their points of view in this particular text. The fundamental point that both authors set out to make is that the war in Iraq is a battle that is being fought unnecessarily, based on false pretenses. President Bush blatantly lied to a nation in order to better serve his own needs while asking thousands of men and women to give their lives in the process. Both authors make it their business to make clear the fraudulent steps that President Bush and his administration took in an effort to coerce a nation into believing that going to war with Iraq was the right thing to do. Furthermore, it is Rampton and Stauber's goal that after reading their work, American citizens will analyze carefully and be more skeptical of the different types of media that they come into contact with.
There are several areas covered in this text regarding the war in Iraq and the deceptive measures employed by President Bush while doing so. In fact, Rampton and Stauber claim that Bush was involved with the invasion of Iraq even before he was elected into office. Bush's key officials advocated the invasion all along but opted to wait until September 2002 to inform the public, through what the White House expressed as a product launch. This is simply the Bush administrations attempt at selling the war in Iraq to the American public through a well thought out public relations operation. The White House representatives apparently used propaganda along the lines of misinformation and constant replication in order to create the false notion that Iraq was behind the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States. Additionally, there were allegedly forged documents which fabricate the claim that Iraq possessed vast supplies of destructive weapons. Apparently, Bush's public relations firm facilitated an opposition group known as the Iraqi National Congress, which contributed largely to the decision to go to war. While these lies were taking place, the American news media was entirely occupied with the propaganda being provided and continuously kept repeating White House communications.
"Weapons of Mass Deception, the Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq" is put together by authors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber. Both men work for the Center for Media and Democracy; this is a non-profit association that Stauber himself founded in 1993 in an effort to observe and expose deceptive public relations campaigns and other assorted propaganda distributed by corporations and governments. John Stauber is a longtime activist who has worked in the field of public interest, consumer, family farm, environmental and community organizations at the local, state, and national levels. Co-author Sheldon Rampton is a graduate of Princeton University and has worked as a newspaper reporter, activist, and author. Rampton and Stauber are both clearly opposed to the work that the Bush administration has done while in office. In fact, based on the work that they have done with this text as well as past work, both men appear to be against any type of governmental or public relations group that misinforms the public on any issue. Rampton and Stauber present a strong argument throughout their book, supporting their points of view with documented facts. In addition, both authors remain true to their feelings and points of view in an uncompromising fashion; perhaps this is the most concrete element to their text. The only flaw, if any present in this book is that both men are partially biased because of their dislike for President Bush. It is likely that a supporter of President Bush would not be so critical of the tactics he has used in recent years.
This text seems to be quite useful and a positive addition to work in its field. It offers readers and consumers an alternative source of information that is able to rival the media. In addition, to it being an alternative source of information, it is written by well educated and experienced men who support their adamant views with concretely documented facts. Therefore, this text is not merely two liberal men running their mouths about issues they are not well versed in, but a brilliantly put together political argument. Lastly and perhaps most importantly, Rampton and Stauber attempt to relay an important message to the public; that they should never settle and accept information that the media and government give to them. There is always the right to question the government and related associations when the public is being misinformed.In "Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq," coauthors Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber take a critical look at a very important subject. The authors cover a number of intriguing facets of both the war and its background. They analyze the U.S. "propaganda blitz" to improve the U.S.'s image in the Muslim world-a strategy they judge an "abject failure." They also look at some of the individuals and organizations that played roles in the leadup to war-among them Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress.

Rampton and Stauber accuse the Bush administration of many distortions in its attempt to "sell" the war as if it were a product. One of the book's most interesting sections is the authors' deconstruction of the Bush administration's wartime catchphrases: "axis of evil," "coalition of the willing," "shock and awe," etc. They critique not only the U.S. government, but also the Saudi regime.

The book also looks critically at the media's role in the war. The authors accuse the "right wing media echo chamber" of promoting a culture of fear and intimidation. Among the figures whose work they question are Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Ollie North. Particularly intriguing is the authors' look at differences in U.S. and Arab TV coverage of the war.

I should note that I am an Army Reserve officer who has done a tour (2003) in Afghanistan and is currently serving in Iraq, and that I am firmly committed to carrying out my mission. I was not bothered or offended by this book. I believe that the authors are doing a service in challenging Americans to be more careful and critical consumers of information. This book dares its readers to analyze and decode the messages that they receive from the government, the media, and the advertising industry; it also suggests that we need to know and learn from history. I recommend this book to readers regardless of their political persuasion. Deception has become a popular practice in modern society, but it is not all pervasive, since if it were there would be no change and no criticism. Without a doubt there would not be the plethora of ideas that now exists if everyone was convinced that the practice of deception is a moral or practical imperative. However, it is the modus operandi of government officials and advertising executives, who believe that without it no products could be sold and no wars could be fought. Their belief in deception has its roots in their own insecurities: they simply do not believe that they can give convincing arguments or rationales behind the products they manufacture or the ideologies they believe. Government officials have another belief that puts them to some extent in the same camp as academicians and educated intellectuals: they believe that "the public is dumb" and therefore needs to be deceived. To not deceive the public is to let them lead themselves astray and pursue irrational or destructive tendencies. The belief that "the public is dumb" is not unique to any political or partisan cause, and it is accepted as "commonsense" by most individuals in government and those in its supporting infrastructure.

This book discusses the techniques and modern history of propaganda and advertising as it was applied to justify the current conflict in Iraq. It does so however from a general non-scientific viewpoint, and thus does not attempt to give a scientific understanding of why populations are sometimes taken by sloganeering, propaganda, and other forms of media hype. If the book made connections with current research in neuroscience, it would have been a lot more interesting. As it stands it should be thought of as a "first approximation" to a full understanding of the efficacy of advertising and propaganda techniques. Such an understanding would be very helpful to those who are not only curious about the effects of the media on the human brain, but also want to discover countermeasures to these effects.

Some of the virtues of the book include its description of the extent to which the horror of the 9/11 attacks was exploited by many different groups, and not just those in government. The current administration of course was the worse culprit and took full advantage of the anxiety felt by most everyone after 9/11 in order to launch a brutal, illegal, and immoral war in Iraq. The authors give many more examples of political and interest groups who squeezed every drop they could out of the 9/11 disaster. The tactics of deception used were independent of the beliefs and ideologies of the respective groups. Both Democrats and Republicans had absolutely no qualms about using the 9/11 nightmare to propagate with gusto their political memes.

When reading the book, it is amazing to see the amount of money that was spent by public relations and advertising firms hired specifically to take advantage of the fears of the "general public." The authors correctly advise against letting fear rule our lives, and this book actually assists in encouraging a strong sense of skepticism toward the media and the government. In every waking hour of our lives we must critically examine all news stories, speeches, and political and commercial advertisements so as not to be inadvertently influenced by their content. Neuroscience teaches us that the human brain is susceptible to deceptive information if conscious effort is not made to examine it carefully and deliberately, but it is also able to differentiate between what is plausible and what is implausible. A focused, skeptical public can definitely serve as countervailing power to the lies and rubbish that proceed from cynical and amoral advertising agencies and government institutions. I picked this book up at 12:00 P.M. and finished it by the end of the night! Rampton & Stauber write an unbelievable BI-PARTISAN account of how the Bush administration has totally "window-dressed" and lied about this current War in Iraq.

And to the 2 or 3 out of 49 reviews that down this book - How blind are you? You must be an ultra right wing nutjob that DID NOT read the book to attack it! (Specifically to the person who said even Democrats were all for the war - It SPECIFICALLY mentions an account written by Congressman Henry Waxman of how he was decieved by the Bush Administration! - ONCE AGAIN - Did you read the book??) By the way, is your favorite show the O'Reilly Factor by any chance?????
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See also:
Disinformation : 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror

Toxic Sludge is Good For You : Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry

The Worst Hard Time : The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl

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