Tag Archives: propaganda

Martin van Creveld looks at the propaganda fog that covers modern war

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld discusses the difficulty of finding the truth amidst the sea of propaganda that surrounds us. It’s an essential skill Americans seem to have lost. He concludes by examining the stories about the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza.



The Facts of the Case

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 27 August 2014
Posted with his generous permission

Perhaps I should start this article with a little cautionary tale. Years ago I was teaching a course about the history of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). I had just said that the kingdom of Jordan already had a Palestinian majority when a young student raised her hand and asked me, very politely, how I knew. To my shame, I must confess that the question took me by surprise — here in Israel everybody and his neighbor had been saying this for years, as they still do.

When I recovered I told her she was right and offered her a deal. She would look into the matter and do a research paper about it. In return, I would release her from the final exam. She agreed, and a few months later I received the paper which neither confirmed not contradicted my original claim. It did, however, draw my attention to some facts that I, and presumably many others as well, had never thought about.

First, there was and is no accepted definition of a Palestinian. One reason for this is that there are several different kinds of Palestinians — old ones, medium ones and new ones, all depending on the date at which they had arrived in the Kingdom. Second, Jordan being the only Arab country that has granted the Palestinians in its territory citizenship, there were many mixed marriages with offspring, making the question as to “who is a Palestinian?” even harder to answer. Third, the Jordanian Ministry of the Interior for its own reasons is keeping a very tight hand both on definitions and on figures, with the result that nobody knew.

Another personal story. Back in 2003, at the height of the Second Intifada, my son had an American girlfriend who lived in Utah. One evening we were sitting in front of the TV when the phone rang. It was Christine. “Jonathan, there has been shooting in your town. Are you alright?” It turned out there had indeed been a few shots; but even though our town is rather small she, living on the other side of the world, knew it before we did.

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Russia’s Propaganda Trolls become a power in cyberspace

Summary: Cyberspace is not just a means to steal information and wreck systems, but also a means to touch people’s minds and change how they see the world. The tech is new, but the methods are old. Russia has a long history of playing this game well. Here Emilio Iasiello explains how they have aggressively exploited this new medium.

Soviet propaganda


Russia’s Propaganda Trolls
Make an Impact in Cyberspace

By Emilio Iasiello, 27 August 2015
From DarkMatters: superior attack intelligence

Posted with their gracious permission.


Russia’s propaganda machine in action

Recent reporting reveals that the Russian government may be using online propagandists in order to project a positive Russian image to the global community, while attacking those perceived to be a threat to Russian government interests.

Two individuals that used to work for an organization called the “Internet Research Agency” exposed the propaganda machine whose objective was to influence public opinion, and in some instances, discredit specific targets.

The Internet Research Agency is an organization that employees hundreds of online “trolls” – individuals whose job it is to create online discontent.

Located in four floors of a building in St. Petersburg, these trolls logged twelve-hour days supporting the Russian government while attacking perceived enemies – the United States, political oppositionists, for example – on social networks, blogs, and comment areas for social media sites (“One Professional Russian Troll Tells All“).

These online operators created personas and blogs in order to disseminate propaganda to the wider Internet audience. Techniques ranged from blatant attacking content to leveraging more subtle techniques in attempt to discredit the West. According to one former “troll,” the operations were tightly controlled and closely supervised. Assignments were handed out to the propagandists, each focusing on a theme and a list of key words to be used in online content. (“My life as a pro-Putin propagandist in Russia’s secret ‘troll factory’“.)

Some of the more prevalent topics included the situation in Ukraine, the Syrian conflict, and stories related to U.S. President Barak Obama. For this they received a monthly salary of approximately $750 (“Woman who sued pro-Putin Russian ‘troll factory’ gets one rouble in damages“).

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The Big List of Lies by our Leaders. Post it everywhere to change America.

Summary:  Here’s the big list of lies by our leaders. It’s one of the most important posts among the 3,300 on the FM website. It should be posted in every home. America will change when enough Americans no longer accept leaders who lie — even those of their own party. This goes up as a reference page on the right-side menu, to be updated with future lies by our leaders. In the comments post other big lies by our leaders that should go on this list.

“Since becoming a journalist I had often heard the advice to “believe nothing until it has been officially denied”.
— Claud Cockburn (Irish journalist) quoted in Discord of Trumpets: The Autobiography of a Legendary Newspaperman (1956). Often attributed to Bismarck.

Truth in society


  1. Examples of lies to guide us.
  2. FDR before WWII.
  3. Fear-mongering to start the Cold War.
  4. All our foes are Hitler.
  5. Other examples.
  6. Are we cowards, or just gullible?
  7. For More Information.

(1)  Examples of lies to guide us

“I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”
— George Washington in his Farewell Address (1796).

Truth, not Pravda, Will Make You Free

The history of American since WWII is one of lies by leaders that we eagerly embrace. No matter how often they lie, we believe. Here are some of the most outrageous, some of the most influential, and some that are just routine.

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Testing Skeptical Science: is Roger Pielke Sr. a climate misinformer?

Summary: A post last week examined a darling of the Right, Zero Hedge. This post takes an equally harsh look at a darling of the Left, Skeptical Science. Both show how our stronger loyalty to tribe than truth encourages our information providers to feed us a mix of fact and politically appealing misinformation, shaping our beliefs and maintaining internal cohesion of the tribe (and our distrust of the “others”). We’ll remain gullible and easily led until we learn skepticism and demand more accuracy from those we trust.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

“Truth is strong enough to overcome all human sophistries.”
Timarchum by Aeschines (389–314 BC).

The Truth is Out There

Smearing scientists is a staple on both sides of the climate wars — the debate about the public policy implications of climate change. Such smears not only overflow the comment sections of popular websites, they’re often seen in the writings of major players on the public stage.

For example, see the 40 “climate misinformers” listed on John Cook’s Skeptical Science. It’s one of the climate-focused websites most widely cited on the Left, known for its flamboyant claims.  This post examines the first of 4 SkS page about eminent climate scientist Roger Pielke Sr.

Before examining the details of SkS’s content, note the vast amount of work that went into creating it. The 4 pages about Pielke Sr. are one of 40 about “climate misinformers” — which is one of 10 “resources”, which are just one part of the SkS website (which has aps for iPhone, Android, and Nokia). This shows a major difference between the websites of climate “warriors” and “skeptics”. Despite claims that the skeptics have vast funds from evil oil, their websites are a ramshackle pile of contributions from volunteers (however skilled). Several the climate warriors have professional-quality websites.

About a misinformer

What was are the myths of Roger Pielke Sr.? How do SkS’ claims look today? The SkS page (it’s undated) gives ten quotes which they call “myths”. Not one of their rebuttals looks correct. A lot of the SkS content is like that, which is why people so often report their critical comments get deleted (no Smackdowns page there). I’ve slightly expanded some of Pielke’s quotes, and made small edits for clarity (e.g., numbering the myths).

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Finding truth amidst the lies about Russia & the Ukrainian civil war

Summary: Today we look at off-road sources of information about the world (especially wars), used by those who seek more than the polished narrow narratives of the western news media. What do we seek? Are we gathering information, or finding only new sources of propaganda? Answers and advice follow, using examples from the Ukraine Civil War. Post your thoughts in the comments.  {2nd of 2 posts today}

The Truth is Out There

The western news media deliver a richly detailed and polished narrative about our world. The information highway takes those seeking more detail or different perspectives to a vast array of websites offering what seem to be reliable pictures of conflicts in the far corners of the world. Usually described in the first or second person, often with graphics, pictures, or videos as evidence, they give dissidents from the mainstream worldview confidence that theirs is a more accurate worldview. Are they correct?

A frustrating aspect of cyberspace results from our inability to know what’s real. This makes effective propaganda easy to manufacture, and much of the fringe internet overflows with exaggerated, distorted, or fake news created by partisans about distant wars — some by amateurs, some by professionals. Debkafile developed many of the tactics now commonly used: details from the front lines (sometimes real, sometimes bogus) plus confident analysis dramatically presented.

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The first rule of American war is not to believe what we’re told

Summary: Another war starts with its barrage of propaganda on America, raising the usual questions. Can we learn from experience? Will we demand accurate information and better analysis, laughing at those who have been so often wrong?  Today’s post provides some context that might help you decide what’s happening, or at least create useful doubts.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“‘Truth,’ it has been said, ‘is the first casualty of war’.”
— Philip Snowden in his Introduction to Truth and the War, by E. D. Morel (1916).

Ministry of Truth


  1. Update from Ukraine.
  2. About previous clashes with Russia.
  3. Compare Ukraine with Vietnam.
  4. Conclusions.
  5. Other posts in this series.
  6. For More Information.

(1)  Update from Ukraine

The US Army announced that “about 300” soldiers from the 173rd Airborne arrived in Ukraine on April 14 “to begin a six-month training rotation with Ukrainian national guard forces”. The NY Times describes the training in the upbeat prose typical of its stenographers repeating what they’re told, with a few specifics (“The courses will train 705 Ukrainian soldiers at a cost of $19 million…”). Canada has sent 200 trainers, Britain has sent 35, and perhaps Israel has sent some as well.

There’s no mention of involvement by US Special Forces, the premier trainers of foreign armies in the methods to fight civil wars, beyond a bland announcement by Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) of deployments to train local troops in “Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia involving several hundred personnel from U.S. special forces”.  No mention of direct involvement of US special operations troops, the covert tip of DoD’s spear — but then we shouldn’t expect to be told.

Relive the cold war

(2)  Compare it to previous direct confrontations with Russia

As usual with American geopolitical analysis, many “experts” quickly lose their perspective at the first hint of conflict, venting breathless warnings that we’re in a new Cold War — perhaps even sliding to nuclear war. It led them to predicted scores of great power wars since WWII; every month brings a new crop of war rumors (last year the hot “news” concerned war between some combo of Japan, the Philippines, and China).

Back on Earth, nuclear powers tend to walk lightly around each other after their first close call. For the US and Russia that was a close brush with death in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (see the tapes of the NSC meetings described in Virtual JFK; you’ll have a far higher opinion of him after reading it). For India and Pakistan that was a not-close but still scary moment during Kargil War in summer 1999.

One glimpse of atomic death convinces national leaders to avoid direct confrontations of armed forces, relying instead on proxies willing to die for the interests of their great power sponsors. After centuries of experience, western governments have become expert in managing these.

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The most useful news story of 2015: the truth about the bin Laden hit

Summary: Seymour Hersh’s new article about the bin Laden hit is important. Most political news provides entertainment for the outer party but makes no difference in their lives. But sometimes we get a teachable moment that rips aside the narrative fed to us by government officials and journalists, revealing truths that can inspire us to change ourselves. It’s our choice.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

That’s almost the only part of the story that was correct.Bin Laden killed..


  1. Truth about the bin Laden hit.
  2. Fruits of the bin Laden hit.
  3. Conclusions.
  4. Other posts in this series.
  5. For More Information.

(1) The truth about the bin Laden hit

Today’s vital reading: “The Killing of Osama bin Laden” by Seymour M. Hersh in the London Review of Books. It’s rich with important lessons for us.

First and most important, the various stories about the bin Laden raid by government officials (formal and leaked, quite contradictory, often unrealistic) remind us how far we’ve come since Eisenhower regretted getting caught lying to us about the Russia shooting down our U2. Now they lie light-heartedly and frequently, with no consequences when caught. Hersh pulls together and supplements what we learned from previous articles — that they lied about almost every important detail about the raid.

The information from torture played no role in locating bin Laden. Unlike what we saw in about the film Zero Dark Thirty, CIA intel played no role. A former senior Pakistani intelligence officer sold us bin Laden’s location for the $25 million reward.

The SEALs did not run a daring penetration into Pakistan. The Pakistan military knew of the raid and allowed them in and out. There was no resistance. Bin Laden did not use a woman as a shield and shoot at them; he was a sick prisoner.

It was planned as a hit, the assassination of a sick old guy. Lies were constructed afterwards to conceal this ugly truth.

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