By G. S. Croft
I have a small number of friends on social media. I have under 100, which by today’s standards makes me a commercial failure. I’m fine with that. Most of them are scientifically literate, empirical, like-minded people, but a couple are contemporary ‘conservatives’ that post Tea Party and other types of right-wing propaganda. They aren’t actually stupid, they’re just moved by the ‘look out for yourself first’ maxim of selfishness that pervades modern conservatism. It is because of those social media friends that I am routinely exposed to the latest canard or piece of propaganda that tells them all day long that ‘the other side’ is wrong and that their version of reality is indeed correct. I have long since made a hobby of studying, dismantling, and examining these messages and have found that they bear some very consistent traits.
The newest one to ooze down my screen is, “Will the Left Apologize to George W. Bush After this New York Time Admission?”, an article by Matthew Burke on “Tea Party Network News”. As with Fox, the ‘News’ part really ought to be in quotes, as this is a site dedicated to twisting, misrepresenting, or outright fabricating the facts in order to justify their beliefs. I took a walk around the park and found about a half-dozen similar ‘We told you so!’ articles on right wing sites.
This article starts with:
“For more than a decade, progressive Democrat leftists have lambasted George W. Bush for going to war with Iraq under false pretenses, arguing that then Iraq tyrant, Saddam Hussein, didn’t have chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s), even though there was a plethora of evidence that he’d previously used them on his own people. “
I love this bit of manipulation here: “Even though… he’d previously used them on his own people.” Clever. This is a nice, subtle form of manipulation that people in media use to create an impression that isn’t accurate. He is, in effect, stating that evidence that existed decades ago somehow proves that the Bush Administration was right decades later. The closest the author comes to admitting there was a ‘temporal discrepancy’ is the vague use of ‘previously’ as though it could have been only a week before the invasion. Not getting into the very nebulous and conflicted story of Saddam using WMD on his own people, it’s obvious from the get-go that the intent of the author is to manipulate the perceptions of his audience. And, of course, he does:
“But now the New York Times is even coming around, granted several years too late after restating the lie repeatedly, that Bush lied and that WMD’s were nonexistent:”
Two misleading claims in one sentence. That’s some talented lying right there. “The lie that Bush lied”, Good stuff, except that the supposed weapons we were told were in Iraq, such as mobile laboratories and uranium enrichment plants were about as real as invisible pink unicorns at the time Bush was ‘catapulting the propaganda’. Even Colin Powell openly regrets having pushed faulty intelligence at the UN. He stated that he was devastated to learn that intelligence agents knew they’d handed him bogus intel. The thing is, authoritative sources (not our own, obviously) never said there were ‘no WMD’s in Iraq’, they said that Saddam’s WMD program was defunct and kaput, and they were right.
So in one sentence, the author tells his readers that the claims Bush lied were a ‘lie’, and that the claim by the experts was that ‘WMD’s were nonexistent’. While I’m sure that some people may have made such an erroneous claim, the conventional claim at the time was that Saddam’s “WMD program was nonexistent”.
Why is this important? It’s part of the ruse. It’s the set up, the strawman, against which he intends to contrast ‘what we know now’ against ‘what they said then’, thus leading his readers to the false certainty that they were ‘right all along’. This is a nice piece of manipulation, I’ll give him that. By telling his readers that we said ‘there were no WMD in Iraq’ (which was technically true, but I’ll get to that in a second), and then turning around and saying “SEE! We DID find WMD!”, he’s effectively convinced his readers that ‘Bush was right all along!’. Of course, there are two glaring deceptions here above and beyond the subtle manipulations. The big lie by omission is that we knew, as early as May of 2003, that there were WMD in Iraq… old, expired weapons that no longer had the ‘mass destruction’ capabilities. So technically, there really were no ‘WMD’, there were just “W”s.
So, C.J. Chivers of the NYT writes a story based on old news (sure, newly released old news), and even says in the article:
“The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.”
So what was found was from ‘long-abandoned’ WMD programs. There were unfortunate health hazards, yes. It’s terrible that people came into contact with what was still essentially dangerous material and suffered harm. That doesn’t change the fact that everything that was found was entirely useless for the purposes of war and incapable of ‘mass destruction’.
Does the author explain that to his readers? Of course not! Doing so would undermine the “BE AFRAID!!!” mantra of the Tea Party and Conservatives everywhere. Besides, his purpose was not to inform, it was to manipulate.
BUT, the best part comes at the end of the article. This is the dead giveaway of the author’s intention to create fear in his audience. Knowing, but glossing over the part, about how useless the old weapons were, knowing that there is no chance that they could be used to cause any more harm than a can of turpentine, he says this:
“Much of Iraq has been taken over by the barbaric and evil Islamic terrorist group, the Islamic State, or ISIS, (or as Obama calls them, “ISIL”), after Obama abandoned the nation. Hopefully, they are not able to locate any other WMD’s that were not found my our military. “
Forgetting for a moment that ISIL was a direct result of the mishandled invasion in the first place, and forgetting the silly typo, we are left with no doubt whatsoever that this article was a roughly crafted piece of propaganda to get tea partiers and conservatives to believe the Bush Administration didn’t lie when they in fact did, that the weapons found were dangerous WMD, and that now ISIL is going to be armed with active nukes and weaponized anthrax all because Obama pulled us out of Iraq. What a fantastic load of misinformation designed to strengthen the conservatives’ belief in their fantasy world and keep them frightened, angry, and divided against the people who are at least acquainted with reality.
The saddest part: I have absolutely no doubt it worked.