Disinformation and propaganda

The Washington Times has been publishing reminders from past stories to help put modern allegations in an appropriate perspective and correct some of the FUD mongering that is going on. Now they are starting with a few Op-Eds, such as Myth and error in the war, that quote Richard Miniter’s book “Disinformation: 22 Media Myths That Undermine the War on Terror.”

Why do the myths persist? Part of the reason must be how elusive the real facts of the war on terrorism are. Who really knows the true state of bin Laden’s health? Who can count casualties accurately across a massive, war-torn country? Another answer, as Mr. Miniter writes, is disinformation: Falsehoods planted in the media by political operatives, self-promoters or sometimes even agents of foreign powers. The Internet has tended to enable agents of disinformation to spread their message far and wide. Another explanation must be sloppy, biased or otherwise inadequate reporting, which Mr. Miniter calls for a much-needed improvement.

We recommend that our readers survey Mr. Miniter’s edifying book; surely there is a need for clarity and myth-debunking in the public sphere over the war on terror. Anyone who doubts that errors are alive and well — even proliferating — should survey the confusion over President Bush’s warrantless domestic wiretaps, which could fill a sequel to Mr. Miniter’s book. Every court to address the wiretap issue and every president since and including Jimmy Carter have agreed that a president has inherent constitutional authority to order wiretaps without a court order — even the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court itself agrees — but the myth has persisted in spite of it all.

Three of the 22 myths selected by Miniter are that “Osama bin Laden is on dialysis; that U.S. forces killed 100,000 civilians in Iraq; and that Halliburton is a war profiteer.” That leaves 19 others and there is plenty of material from which to choose. The sad part is that this amount of material continues to grow.

The mention of the NSA “domestic spying” as an example is well founded. As the story unfolds, it is becoming very clear that it was not domestic but rather international; it was quite limited; it was conducted with strict adherence to protocols for oversight by both administration officials and Congress; it was not a case of wiretapping but rather one of broadband monitoring; and it was well established by Executive Order and precedent in practice.

As in many of these attacks on Executive action in the war on terror, the substance turns out to be different from that portrayed. A contrast exists, a partisan contrast, that illustrates a lack of consistent standards in the accusers. Mythmongering becomes exposed. Again.

Miniter’s book is a counterweight to those of people such as Clark et at but the final outcome will result from each of us applying basic tests for intellectual integrity, an appropriate degree of skepticism, and a full realization of our own perceptions to put reality in front and to dismiss the myths.

Comments are closed.