Propaganda has been with us since ancient times. All empire-builders have to justify what they do -- to themselves, to their own people, and to those they dominate.
The Romans developed a sophisticated world-view which they projected successfully through literature, inscriptions, architecture, art, and elaborate public ceremonial. Their message was that Rome represented peace, good government, and the rule of law. The societies with which Rome was in conflict were caricatured as barbaric, lawless and dangerous.
The Catholic Church claimed that it was the agent of God on earth, charged with crushing paganism and heresy. Through the church eternal salvation in heaven was possible, and the veneration of saints could cure all physical ailments.
Goebbels and Hitler learned much from Madison Avenue and the Catholic Church. Modern propaganda much like modern science and technology has improved over the centuries. Today propagandists make use of applied psychology, focus groups and public opinion polls.
In the US, propaganda for capitalism, not just individual companies, got its start in the great depression. Business interests felt that the New Deal was a dire threat to their existence and responded with a massive propaganda campaign for capitalism under the leadership of the National Association of Manufacturers, the US Chamber of Commerce, PR firms and PR gurus such as Edward Bernays. It was called a campaign for the "American Way." Later on the military joined in. Their message was clear. Government regulation and programs were a menace to freedom. The government's job was to subsidize industry and maintain a massive military to make the world open to free trade and safe for democracy. Sixty years ago this military industrial complex, (or the "establishment") felt that they had to provide the public with a decent standard of living in order to prevent a socialist takeover. Now they feel that it's no longer necessary.
A massive propaganda apparatus, including domination of the major TV
networks, pervades this country. It was in place long before the
terrorist attacks on 9/11/01. Was the official version of the events of
September 11, 2001 sold to us by means of a propaganda campaign? I will
explore this question in this essay.
On 9/11 we were subjected to hours of propaganda. The TV shows all said over and over again:
This was an "Attack on America."
To emphasize what a huge event it was, the government had 2 aircraft carriers off the New York coast. The hijackers were Muslim terrorists and their leader was Osama Bin Ladin. Every few minutes videos of the planes hitting the buildings were repeated. Also witnesses, fire fighters, relatives of those killed were continuously interviewed. Intertwined were statements from government sources that they were almost certain that Muslim terrorists were responsible. The US must take action. We never shirked a fight before. It was an act of war, we must retaliate. It was evil. It was an attack on civilization. We were good and courageous and the attackers were evil, over and over again.
There was never any mention of historical context. I had been
predicting a terrorist attack on the US for years. When we invaded
Panama we killed about 5,000 people. The World Court found us guilty of
terrorism in Nicaragua and in our campaign against Nicaraguan democracy
in the 1980's we killed about 30,000 people. In Iraq, our sanctions and
bombings killed an estimated 1 million people. We killed about 3
million in Vietnam, and we supported the Israeli's brutal occupation of
Palestine. Of course if a newsman mentioned American terrorism, he
would have been instantly fired. One was fired, I recall, just for
saying that the terrorists were not cowards.
This article is about brainwashing. I was brainwashed several times during my lifetime and I don't rule out the possibility that I am brainwashed today. It started when I was a child in World War 2. I was taught that America was the land of the free and the home of the brave, that we were exceptional, we were humane, we respected life, liberty and democracy. The rest of the world was either evil or not as good as us. Britain and France had large empires. We had practically none. I also firmly believed in the teachings of the Catholic Church. If I committed a mortal sin like missing mass and died before going to confession, I would go to hell for eternity.
Later I drifted away from the Church and the Cold War began. I began to doubt that I could go to hell so easily and that the USSR was poised to invade the world. I also learned that the United States was not so exceptional and that countries had been fighting each other since the beginning of recorded history, each country believing that it was right and its adversary wrong.
Some parts of my Catholic upbringing persisted, such as "Thou shalt not kill" and "thou shalt not steal." By that time I had become a father and I became aware of the huge amount of work and time it took to bring up children. It seemed wrong to sniff out life so easily, e.g. from a B52 with a big bomb, even if the victims were communists. When the war in Vietnam broke out I opposed it and became a peace activist. I became a Professor of Physics and retired early to work in industry.
On 9/11/01 I was taken in along with most others. In retrospect I should have known better. Here's why:
Shortly after the 1995 bombing of a government building in Oklahoma City, I heard retired Air Force General Benton Parten talking on the Gary Null Show on WBAI. He said that he had looked at the still partially standing building and saw lots of dust. He explained that the dust could not have been produced by an explosion unless the explosives were placed in contact with the concrete columns in the building. I also heard statements by people interviewed by local TV station reporters that they had been warned not to come to work that day. Others said that they had heard two explosions. The official version of events was that the damage to the building had been caused by a truck bomb exploding about 30 feet from the building. The TV interviews never made it to national TV because, according to local station officials, the interviewees would not give their names. Later on I learned local TV stations had reported that 2 or 3 unexploded bombs were removed from the building. General Parten appealed to many members of Congress and state officials, demanding that the building not be demolished until independent experts could examine it. But the building was torn down anyway. By 9/11 my memories of the Oklahoma City bombing inconsistencies had faded, and I began to doubt that I had really heard about them, probably because they were never repeated by anyone in the media.
On 9/11/01 lots of dust was produced, but I accepted the TV version of
events without question. I heard several times that the temperature
reached 1500 degrees and this melted the steel. Then the top floors
crashed down on the ones below causing them to fail and so on all the
way down. I looked at the pictures and actually believed that I was
seeing this "pancake effect." When I thought of the collapses months
later I saw in my mind's eye the pancake effect. Months later I started
reading articles by the so called "conspiracy theorists." I watched
videos. To my surprise the vision in my memory of the towers collapsing
was far from what was in the videos. Now I saw jets of dust shooting
out sideways. I had not noticed them on 9/11. Now I saw the buildings
exploding. I can only conclude that I saw on 9/11 and recalled what I
expected to see. My mind was not working right. More about this later.
The more I read, the more untenable the official explanations seemed. I found a reference to the amount of energy needed to grind up concrete into very small particles. I sent away for a copy of the FEMA report and found out the weight and composition of the towers. I also found a paper on the dust composition and size. Putting it all together, I calculated the amount of energy it would take to produce the 100,000 or so tons of dust observed per tower. The gravitational energy available wasn't enough. I also read reports about combustion and found that the maximum temperature attained could not have produced the molten metal observed. Now to me, as a physicist, I had proof that the official theory was wrong. I was not the first one to prove it. I will not go into a more detailed explanation here. There are plenty of available references.
I want to discuss instead the reasons I and many others were brainwashed on 9/11. First a little bit about how the brain operates. When a piece of information is noted, the brain (specifically the amygdala) puts a tag on it corresponding to its emotional significance. For example, a child touches a hot frying pan and feels a lot of pain. This gets a very high significance value. It is placed in a special place in memory and never forgotten. When something is life threatening it gets an exceptional high value. For example, a soldier in a war learns to fear explosions. If the significance value is very high it overloads the brain and the reasoning part of the brain gets turned off. A similar stimulus will often invoke a response that may be appropriate in a combat zone, but which is inappropriate anywhere else. An example of this is when a soldier, long after a war, falls to the ground when he hears a car backfire. When a dangerous situation occurs the brain's first priority is survival, not reasoning.
Even though the events of 9/11 were not life threatening to the TV audience, they did produce fear, anxiety, anger and disorientation. To a certain extent our reasoning powers were diminished, and in this state it's very easy to get fooled. If there's a manual on how to create a crisis to fool the public, I'm sure it would say that it's very important to plant false ideas when the public is in a vulnerable state. If time passed and we returned to a normal routine, the opportunity for brainwashing would have vanished. Once false ideas are implanted it's very hard to get rid of them since we tend to reject evidence that contradict our firm beliefs.
There's more to it, of course. The mind does not like uncertainty. When an authority comes forward and takes charge and explains what happened, we are too happy to accept his message. The authority in this instance was the TV. The TV became a parent figure and the public children. When the false message is repeated over and over again on all the TV channels, it becomes very hard to resist. "When a subject appears to be all around him, a person tends to accept it and take it for granted," wrote Philip Lesly, a public relations specialist, in 1974.
Now I'd like to look at the media coverage from the point of view of a PR expert. Did the media and the government do a good job in fooling the public on 9/11? First of all, did the government have control of the media? The answer is that they did, but they let some things slip by. Agent Prouty of the FBI stated on TV, "At this point the White House is coordinating all public information on a national level." So I expect that the information about the terrorists was controlled by the government. The experts and authorities who spoke were all of one voice. I expect that they were all controlled by the government is some way. For example, I heard Larry Goodson, a professor from Bentley College and an expert on Afghanistan, on NBC (in New York). He said that probably Osama Bin Laden was the guilty party. Shortly after 9/11, he became a professor at the National War College.
Was the media and the government successful in instilling fear on 9/11 and afterwards? I think so. We were told that cars were being stopped and searched for explosives, that jets were flying over New York and Washington to protect us from another attack, etc, etc. We were told that terrorists were coming into the country through Canada. There was no evidence of this whatsoever. Then came the Anthrax attacks, adding to the fear. Is it any wonder that a Los Angeles Times poll indicated that 31 percent of respondents felt their person sense of security was still a "great deal" shaken.