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Propaganda - Disinformation: The Masters of the Lie
November 15, 2002 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Propaganda - Disinformation: The Masters of the Lie What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad urging the Iraqi people and Army to rise up against Saddam, a senior Air Force officer asked in 1990? The hubris and racism of American Psyops, who knows what the military is plotting now?
posted by letterneversent (60 comments total)

 
Oh, God! They could be telling them anything! What if Saddam or someone else with an agenda had such a campaign, they could do things like tell us that our government is out to get us and stuff and make vague references as to why we should be afraid! That's it I'm moving into the bomb shelter, just me, my bushmaster and 47,000 cans of pork and beans!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:46 AM on November 15, 2002


But, don't you worry that the same attitude toward the truth is being practiced domestically? I'd like our government to at least attempt honesty. That might be a tall order, but we have to have something to shoot for.
posted by letterneversent at 11:54 AM on November 15, 2002


Please explain how that is racist? Do you not think that the people of Iraq over-throwing Saddam a better alternative than urban combat?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:55 AM on November 15, 2002


This is a mighty thin article. Most of the substance seems to be anecdotes of ideas that never happened -- like, for instance one "senior Air Force officer" with a manifestly goofy idea. How many "senior Air Force officers" do you think there are and how many have voiced a goofy idea at one time or another in their lives?

Yes, we need to be wary of images and sounds and video clips, but it seems silly to worry about the elaborate high-tech stuff when our leaders lie to us in a clear calm voice and we believe them. That's the bigger problem.
posted by argybarg at 11:57 AM on November 15, 2002


It's using a culturally identifiable icon, in this case the muslim GOD, to lie and goad people into a frightened religious frenzy. War should be about fighting an enemy not about razing cities, dropping atomic weapons on children, or gassing entire populations. Civilians should be left alone. Period.
posted by letterneversent at 12:00 PM on November 15, 2002


If you want the military to drop less bombs on people, then at least give them a little leeway to work. Besides, anything the Military ends up not pursuing can be incorporated into kick-ass rock and roll laser shows. Imagine a 50 foot Holographic Ozzy head floating and screaming at you in the middle of a hockey arena!
posted by stifford at 12:00 PM on November 15, 2002


Imagine if Saddam acheived these Weapons of Mass Holigrams (WMHs)?!?!

"Are you there Margaret? It's me, God. You need to overthrow your president."
posted by mathowie at 12:02 PM on November 15, 2002


What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad urging the Iraqi people and Army to rise up against Saddam, a senior Air Force officer asked in 1990?

That would be AWESOME. I love it!
posted by oissubke at 12:03 PM on November 15, 2002


That's it I'm moving into the bomb shelter, just me, my bushmaster and 47,000 cans of pork and beans!

You may wanna bring a can opener, too.
posted by jonmc at 12:06 PM on November 15, 2002


This isn't really racism. Suppose I dawn a long-haired wig, throw on some robes and sandals and go for a stroll claiming that I'm Jesus. I tell people that if they don't change their ways then they'll burn in Hell, or I even tell some girls that a blow job will get them into Heaven.

This isn't racism, I'm potentially exploting somebodies beliefs, and if you're a believer then to you this behaviour would be blasphemous. It might not be very nice, it might not be a morally proper thing to do, but there's no racism.

If projecting holograms of Allah, or me walking down town dressed up as Jesus helped people better themselves then, moral judgements be damned, the overall effect is good.
posted by substrate at 12:10 PM on November 15, 2002


That's it I'm moving into the bomb shelter, just me, my bushmaster and 47,000 cans of pork and beans!

You may wanna bring a can opener, too.


And maybe some air freshener.
posted by Ufez Jones at 12:17 PM on November 15, 2002


What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad urging the Iraqi people and Army to rise up against Saddam

Senior Air Force officials shouldn't get psyop ideas from watching Scooby-Doo.
posted by BigPicnic at 12:18 PM on November 15, 2002


What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad.

Does the US or anybody know what Allah looks like? I haven't a clue. A quick google image search for Allah was no help either. Perhaps we could project a holographic image of the Blues for Allah record cover floating over Baghdad?

posted by thedailygrowl at 12:20 PM on November 15, 2002


This is the funniest thing I have heard all day. I malevolent Wizard of OZ for the new millennium!
posted by Smooth at 12:21 PM on November 15, 2002


Oh, and another thing: wouldn't the Iraqi people be kind of pissed when they realized that they had unwittingly done the bidding of a fake Allah hologram. I think I would be.

For these reasons I have at length come to the conclusion that the Senior Air Force officials idea is actually not a very good one.
posted by BigPicnic at 12:22 PM on November 15, 2002


What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad urging the Iraqi people and Army to rise up against Saddam, a senior Air Force officer asked in 1990?

That would be AWESOME. I love it!


That would also be a bitch to do, since Allah has no form. This is like a fundamental tenet of Islam. I mean, if you wanna exploit someone's beliefs, you wanna be sure they actually believe what you're trying to exploit. In short: whiff! I'm so glad they ddn't try this.
posted by furiousthought at 12:24 PM on November 15, 2002


letterneversent -- could you please tone the rhetoric down a notch in your front-page posts? if the item is self-explanatory, as it presumably should be, allow us to draw our own conclusions.
posted by donkeyschlong at 12:24 PM on November 15, 2002


It's using a culturally identifiable icon

Anyone else see the hilarity in this comment (and the whole idea)? Islam is possibly the most iconoclastic religion on the planet. Which means they have no pictures of Allah. There is no picture you could project into the skies of Iraq that the populace would recognize as Allah.
posted by straight at 12:25 PM on November 15, 2002


or gassing entire populations.

Like this? (Physicians for Human Rights's report on Saddam's use of nerve gas against civilians)

Back to the point.

The officer probably got a dope slap from someone who pointed out that god is not represented in Islamic iconography. The appearance of the Shia martyr Husayn bin Ali bin Abi Talib in the south, or even rumors of his appearance with comparisons of Saddam with Mu'awiya or Yazid, might have had some effect. Some people belive in visions. As far as the psyops people go, according to everything I have ever read, when it comes time to decide on a message, the Pentagon generally gets inputs from experts on the culture. The officer in question probably hadn't done that yet.

If it is a choice between taking advantage of someone's beliefs and raining ordinance down on them, I choose taking advantage of their beliefs.

While lettersneversent may wish we didn't have to, the reality is that we are often forced to make those kinds of choices.
posted by ednopantz at 12:28 PM on November 15, 2002


War should be about fighting an enemy not about razing cities, dropping atomic weapons on children, or gassing entire populations. Civilians should be left alone. Period.

Please do drop a line to Saddam Hussain and Osama bin Laden about this, won't you? They didn't get the memo.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2002


The Iraqis might find it odd that Allah suddenly has an American accent when speaking Arabic.
posted by fatbobsmith at 12:33 PM on November 15, 2002


Now if we could only figure out how to make a burning bush speak...
posted by iamck at 12:37 PM on November 15, 2002


ednopantz: If it is a choice between taking advantage of someone's beliefs and raining ordinance down on them, I choose taking advantage of their beliefs.

If it was a choice between ordinance and ordnance, though, I'd definitely choose to rain down ordinance.
posted by eddydamascene at 12:43 PM on November 15, 2002


as a theater technician, my immediate response is to ask what is the projection surface? Clouds? Next, are you going to do this at night? If so, the projectors will be awfully easy to spot. Day time? That's gonna have to be one motherf**king kick ass projector to cut through the giant light source in the sky. No, I don't this would ever work. Better to use the Goodyear blimp.

In '98 I wrote Clinton and asked that he drop bombs of cash, instead of high explosives, on Baghdad. My theory being that it would cost a fraction of what we'd spend on smart-bombs, cause just as much havoc in the streets, undermine the regime and have the added benefit of not killing anyone. Just a thought.
posted by pejamo at 12:43 PM on November 15, 2002


Imagine a 50 foot Holographic Ozzy head floating and screaming at you in the middle of a hockey arena!

Oh, man, that would RULE!

For that matter, why don't we project a 50-ft Holographic Ozzy over Baghdad, commanding them to rise up and revolt? Or a 50-ft Holographic Britney, commanding them to rise up and drink Pepsi?
posted by mkultra at 12:44 PM on November 15, 2002


Senior Air Force officials shouldn't get psyop ideas from watching Scooby-Doo.

That's funny. Imagine the debriefing after the disastrous failure of Operation Big Guy:

Senior Psyops Officer: And we would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for those meddling kids!
posted by Man-Thing at 12:44 PM on November 15, 2002


The Iraqis might find it odd that Allah suddenly has an American accent when speaking Arabic.

Better yet, get Adel Imam to voice him with an Egyptian accent! Boy would that ever fail miserably.
(Imam is a satirist who uses Jim Carrey-like slapstick to portray oppressed, henpecked Egyptian men.)

The Iraqis would be pissed to learn that god was an Egyptian movie star.
posted by ednopantz at 12:50 PM on November 15, 2002


i'm going to be the very first on my block to get my very own holographic floating image of Allah! i'll amaze my friends! scare neighborhood pets! wage jihad on the hippie mailman! it's going to be so cool!
posted by quonsar at 12:52 PM on November 15, 2002


Does the US or anybody know what Allah looks like?

Something like this ought to do the trick, I reckon.
posted by oissubke at 12:53 PM on November 15, 2002


Just about 150 years ago people were dissappointed when Jesus didn't do the very same thing. It's not too much of a stretch, and if you're naive enough to join the iraqi army you might be naive enough to fall for that. At least for a while.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:05 PM on November 15, 2002


I think all the propaganda we would need would be a couple of actual functioning Voltrons. I think most cultures can appreciate seeing thousand-foot metal beings flying in from the sky, whatever the basis of their religion was...
posted by stifford at 1:09 PM on November 15, 2002


Link summary: more lame gibberish from our military. The truth is the best "PsyOps", but if you haven't got the truth, I guess you either have to use holograms or doctored audio/video....or bombs.

War should be about fighting an enemy not about razing cities, dropping atomic weapons on children, or gassing entire populations. Civilians should be left alone. Period.
MidasMulligan: Please do drop a line to Saddam Hussain and Osama bin Laden about this, won't you? They didn't get the memo.


Guess the folks who firebombed Dresden and Tokyo, and pulled the pins over Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn't get that memo either.

Wonder if the families of civilians killed in Afghanistan would like a copy. Please do send them one, won't you? Maybe Iraqi children would be interested in seeing it before any American bombs fall on Baghdad too, eh? Be sure and cc: them.

Does the US or anybody know what Allah looks like?
oissubke: Something like this ought to do the trick, I reckon.


I doubt Moslems would appreciate your attempt at humor. You know....kind of like a hologram of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young having intercourse with an underage plural wife wouldn't go over too well if beamed into the skies over Provo.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:11 PM on November 15, 2002


if you're naive enough to join the iraqi army

If only it were that simple. When you're a young man in Iraq, joining the army isn't simply a matter of choice. Some good info here.
posted by mkultra at 1:11 PM on November 15, 2002


Space Coyote: and if you're naive enough to join the iraqi army you might be naive enough to fall for that

Iraq has mandatory service [doc].

on preview, damn you mkultra.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:16 PM on November 15, 2002


What if the U.S. projected a holographic image of Allah floating over Baghdad

That would be cool, because it would mean we had suddenly invented free-standing holography, which doesn't exist right now.
posted by kindall at 1:18 PM on November 15, 2002


Guess the folks who firebombed Dresden and Tokyo, and pulled the pins over Hiroshima and Nagasaki didn't get that memo either.

Or the folks behind the blitz, etc.

It is probably relevant that when people need to bash the Pentagon for deliberately planning attacks on civilian targets at the highest levels, they go back 50 years. Wheras al-Qa'ida is doing so presently.

Indeed, where some say the Pentagon exercises insufficent caution when targeting combatants who hide begind civilians, America's foes prefer to attack civilians because they are easier to kill and maim. Huge difference fold and mutilate.

If it was offical US policy to kill civilians, there wouldn't be a whole lot of Iraqis, Afghanis, etc. left walking around.
posted by ednopantz at 1:21 PM on November 15, 2002


f+m: ...kind of like a hologram of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young...

Fold_and_mutilate, so your method of reproach for something you find offensive is to reciprocate as offensively as possible? Tone it down.
posted by eddydamascene at 1:31 PM on November 15, 2002


...then after the hologram, we could just install the

Rotating Neon Jesus. (Pat.Pend.)
posted by clavdivs at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2002


Rotating Neon Jesus. (Pat.Pend.)

"Over 1 billion saved!"

(we're all going to hell...)
posted by mkultra at 1:37 PM on November 15, 2002


It is probably relevant that when people need to bash the Pentagon for deliberately planning attacks on civilian targets at the highest levels, they go back 50 years. Wheras al-Qa'ida is doing so presently.

Thank you.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:47 PM on November 15, 2002


I think that was the point behind inventing smart bomb technology. Hit the target, not what's around it.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:55 PM on November 15, 2002


It is probably relevant that when people need to bash the Pentagon for deliberately planning attacks on civilian targets at the highest levels, they go back 50 years.

The people killed 50 years ago are just as dead as the New York victims from a year ago. Did America grow a conscience since then? Funny , I don't remember any apologies. Maybe we could discuss certain Korean bridgeworks or My Lai for a while...or civilian deaths from the Gulf War, eh? Or maybe we could just discuss Iraqi child sanction deaths over coffee. And do let me know about those smart bombs we're going to use on Iraq...the ones that don't explode when they see civilians below. Or maybe we could just chat about our military and financial support of regimes that are famous for their concern about civilians....how would that be? Maybe we could start with Iraq....

letterneversent -- could you please tone the rhetoric down a notch in your front-page posts? if the item is self-explanatory, as it presumably should be, allow us to draw our own conclusions.

Kinda looks like everyone IS drawing their own conclusions, despite letterneversent's mean and obvious attempts at mind control.

Letterneversent, don't go into PsyOps. It doesn't work for you, or any other front page poster. But I say Right On! to provocative posts from any part of the spectrum .

MetaFilter: It's not MetaFlaccid.

Fold_and_mutilate, so your method of reproach for something you find offensive is to reciprocate as offensively as possible? Tone it down.

Uh, no, there's no chance of me "toning it down". I find giving a taste of one's own medicine highly curative at times. And gosh, guess what? I also do things like labeling KKK members "white trash racists" just like they label minorities. They find it highly offensive. A few get the point.

And just out of curiosity, do you find that trying to give orders is often effective, and inoffensive?

~chuckle~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 1:57 PM on November 15, 2002


First thought: Is this worse than, say, bombing Baghdad to rubble? What's so bad about a military tactic designed to achieve an objective with minimal loss of life on both sides?

Second thought: Any reason to think any Iraqis would fall for such a stunt? From everything I've read, Iraq is a far more secular, less fundi-ridden society than Iran or Saudi Arabia.

dailygrowl: Maybe they could equip bombers with loudspeakers and crank side 2 of Blues for Allah over Baghdad, thus urging the Iraqi people to get totally baked. The invading army could waltz right in.
posted by Daze at 2:01 PM on November 15, 2002


I think Johnny Depp recomended pouring LSD into Bahgdad's water supply.
posted by stifford at 2:03 PM on November 15, 2002


kind of like a hologram of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young having intercourse with an underage plural wife wouldn't go over too well if beamed into the skies over Provo....
Uh, no, there's no chance of me "toning it down". I find giving a taste of one's own medicine highly curative at times.


f+m... there may be a somewhat substantial difference between the monty python image and showing revered individuals copulating... but the big question in MY mind is how to give those who don't revere anything a taste of the same medicine?

Although... you may be right that even giving Allah a form would be offensive. It was my understanding that images of Allah ARE actually taboo to Muslims. The predominant Arab art that I recall is calligraphy. Which highlights the stupidity of trying to project an image of Allah.

Although... folk experience/doctrine when it comes to religious experiences can often differ dramatically from cannon...

Although...

(too many waffles for breakfast, I guess)
posted by namespan at 2:11 PM on November 15, 2002


f+m: I find giving a taste of one's own medicine highly curative at times.

it's all just shades of violence. You could argue that a similar form of one-upmanship is what drives our military strategy.

I'm surprised that a request to 'tone it down' offends you.
~wink~
posted by eddydamascene at 2:22 PM on November 15, 2002


"...a hologram of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young having intercourse with an underage plural wife wouldn't go over too well if beamed into the skies over Provo."

Well, it would finally give me a reason to drive south.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:39 PM on November 15, 2002


How about projecting a holographic McDonald's Super-Size Combo Meal over Baghdad? "All this will be yours if you will only rise up against Saddam!"

Or how about a holographic Old Navy T-shirt? "After we invade and take over your country, we'll let you sew these for 3 cents an hour!"
posted by Ty Webb at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2002


iamck: I don't know about the general population of Iraq, but I'm sure Saddam would be highly entertained to see a giant burning Bush projected on the sky. Preferably, I'm sure, junior ... :)
posted by kaemaril at 4:52 PM on November 15, 2002


Senior Air Force officials shouldn't get psyop ideas from watching Scooby-Doo.

"Oooohhhhh.... Holy Ghost.... Holy Ghoooooooooost!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:32 PM on November 15, 2002


Wow, so you mean to tell me that some guy (a "senior Air Force official" -- sounds important!) floated some crazy idea over 10 years ago that wasn't implemented? God does America suck! Is there nothing it won't do!
posted by pardonyou? at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2002


I don't see the problem here. The Bad Guys have shown great creativity and willingness to think outside the box*; I’m glad The Good Guys are finally doing the same.**

America's options are:
a. Fight smart (i.e., minimal violence used to maximum effect)
b. Fight dumb (i.e., lots of violence used carelessly)
c. Don't fight (i.e., give up)
Choose one.

Letterneversent: War should be about fighting an enemy not about razing cities, dropping atomic weapons on children, or gassing entire populations. Civilians should be left alone. Period.

Ah, so you do choose Fighting Smart. Good. Then you should appreciate and embrace PsyWar, secret ops, and other shadow warfare. Right? Right?

* E.g. blowing up Manhattan armed only with a pocket knife.
** Even ten years ago, who'd have imagined that we'd be capping individual Bad Guys 5,000 miles away using invisible robots?
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 8:19 PM on November 15, 2002


Prior discussion of this non-event (mere weeks ago). If there is interest in further discussion of this non-event, I'm sure Matt will be happy to host a new thread approximately monthly. It may be that there are other Pentagon plans which were briefly discussed but never implemented, and I'm sure they all merit long, fruitful discussion.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 PM on November 15, 2002


Prior discussion of this non-event (mere weeks ago).

From that "non-eventual" nature of PSYOPS I gleaned this particular telling sentence that dhartung obviously missed:

According to U.S. military sources, leaflets were circulated in Bangladesh citing a Tehran radio report that U.S. troops had opened fire on Bangladeshi troops who refused to join the military strike on Iraq. The incident, allegedly leaving hundreds dead, was a complete fabrication.

I suppose it's a non-event because American PSYOPS events when they fail are more comical than serious. Little boys pooping on landmines makes me chuckle. But for an American PSYOPS campaing to have actually gone awry? At least it was done for the right reasons. Hence anything like this being a "non-event" when it happens really any elsewhere.

As for PSYOPS (or comercial advertising), we just might as well learn to live with it, accept it and love it. It's only used for our benefit after all.
posted by crasspastor at 11:35 PM on November 15, 2002


This book "Looking for the Madhi" involved a similar scenario, but used a holographic angel instead of a representation of Allah.
They didn't project a hologram in the sky, but in a mosque. The event of the Miracle spread by word of mouth, eventually leading to a non-violent revolution of the fictional Middle Eastern country.
It had some Sci-Fi aspects that were not that far fetched (specified cloning, semi-autonomous AI). I found it to be a good read.
posted by blogRot at 8:36 AM on November 16, 2002


According to U.S. military sources,

Yes, it is easy to say just about anything when you don't actually cite a source.
posted by Plunge at 11:27 AM on November 16, 2002


On Mr. Plunge's note, I want every thing I say to be considered a "U.S. Military Source", which is both correct, and can get most of my half-guesses published. Weehaw!
posted by Lord Chancellor at 9:44 PM on November 16, 2002


Anybody else here actually served in a US PSYOP unit? Written a PSYOP oporder annex or script? Implemented same?

(crickets, etc.)

No? OK then. It's simple. The aim of PSYOP is to bring about the conditions of victory without having to destroy materiel, rubble the area of operations, and waste human lives, whether those lives be friendly, enemy, neutral or noncombatant.

Let's assume that as long as human beings walk the Earth, there will always be conflict between us, OK? I would imagine that most of you currently hosing all over the idea, if you gave it even a minute of consideration, would prefer that war be waged in the realm of gross psychological triggers rather than physical sanction.

We were trained to provide good Maslovian justifications in our PSYOP: surrender and not only will you be guaranteed survival, but we'll put a tent over your head, a field jacket around your shoulders, and (halal!) MREs in your belly. Guess what? It works. Isn't that to be preferred to daisy-cutting the sniveling shit out of a column of old men and pubescents toting bolt-action rifles?

There's no pleasing some people, jesus.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:30 PM on November 16, 2002


Well said, adamgreenfield.
posted by Hieronymous Coward at 7:43 PM on November 17, 2002


Daisy-cutting the sniveling shit out of a column of old men and pubescents toting bolt-action rifles is sooooo twentieth century.
posted by blogRot at 2:08 PM on November 18, 2002


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