Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Propaganda Headlines

The White House continues to act as if reality and facts can be transcended through denials and lies. Media corporations like CNN will repeat any strongly worded White House statement as a headline news item. So if the White House spin is fiction, the headline will be fiction. Because it's the headline that the public will remember,in this way a lie becomes an accepted "truthiness." Call this the "Propaganda Headline Syndrome"

Today the White House hauled out the US Ambassador to put a positive spin on the meltdown in Iraq. Guess the network where this ploy generated a Propaganda Headline: CNN or BBC?

CNN: U.S. envoy: 'Success in Iraq is possible'
BBC: Iraq success 'possible', says US

The most precise headline in a literal sense is CNN's, but BBC's headline is preferable because it's not a Propaganda Headline. The BBC editor refused to let the headline become a mechanism for the propagation of a White House distortion. Emphasizing "possible," its headline undercuts the propaganda ploy, subverting it. It attributes the statement to the "US," instead of the "US envoy." After all, the Ambassador, in this instance, is nothing other than a mouthpiece for the US government (i.e. the White House). For the BBC, getting the "spirit" of the story right mattered more than the "letter" of the news. Whereas CNN allowed itself to be used as means of conveying propaganda, BBC intelligently resisted this danger.

The other day, the White House forced a State Department official to contradict himself. With the US election two weeks away, the White House is now desperate, and will bully any US official into saying just about anything so as to generate more "Propaganda Headlines." CNN is standing by, ready to assist.

This should be journalism 101: Editors, avoid "Propaganda Headlines" wherever possible! A slavish literalism is the friend of the propagandist and the enemy of understanding.

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