Citation
Symbol manipulation and value conflict

Material Information

Title:
Symbol manipulation and value conflict official propaganda and U.S. foreign policy
Creator:
Lawrence, Regina Greenwood
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
vii, 242 leaves : ; 28 cm

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Propaganda, American ( lcsh )
International relations -- Public opinion ( fast )
Propaganda, American ( fast )
Foreign relations -- Public opinion -- United States ( lcsh )
United States ( fast )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree, Master of Arts, Department of Political Science.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Regina Greenwood Lawrence.

Record Information

Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
24672978 ( OCLC )
ocm24672978
Classification:
LD1190.L64 1991m .L38 ( lcc )

Full Text
I
I
SYMBOL MANIPULATION AND VALUE CONFLICT:
OFFICIAL PROPAGANDA AND U.S. FOREIGN POLICY
I
by
! Regina Greenwood Lawrence
i
B.|a Metropolitan State College, 1985
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
i
of! the requirements for the degree of
Master of Arts
| Department of Political Science
1991
' l
' I


i This thesis for the Master of Arts
i
j degree by
j
Regina Greenwood Lawrence
has been approved for the
i
| Department of
Political Science
I by
l Date
I


;l
Lawrence, Regina Greenwood (M.A., Political Science)
Symbol Manipu
ij
and U.S.
Thesis directed;
ation and Value Conflict: Official Propaganda
Foreign Policy
by Professor Michael S. Cummings
This thesis describes the nature of that propaganda which is
'' :i'
promulgated byj officials of the United States regarding the use of
military force abroad, and offers a theoretical conceptualization of the
i
role such propaganda plays in American democracy. Official
' !i
propaganda is tpnceptualized as a form of communication initiated at
the highest levels of a political regime which serves as a means of social
control by inducing a desired public response, conceptualized as
"quiescence", orj "passive participation." Official propaganda plays an
important role
in the maintenance of "managerial" democracy, a
political system j in which officials do not conceive of the public as a
body to be served, but to be managed. This managerial attitude is most
pronounced in jthe realm of foreign-policy making.
Furthermore, the United States is conceptualized as a society
! il
experiencing iifttracultural value conflict, wherein the values
associated with
democracythe centrality of the rational individual, a
preference for I'nonaggression, and the importance of the rule of law-
are in conflict! with the values of the national-security state-
concentrated jex'ecutive power to maintain, often through violence,
American international hegemony. Official propaganda glosses over


the conflict i between these two sets of values by simultaneously
emphasizing ||the former while subtly upholding the latter.
Official!1 propaganda, it is theorized, tends to take the form of an
'i 1 1 '
"official story" containing all the basic elements of effective story-
telling. The story promulgated by officials becomes reality for most
citizens, supplying symbolic conceptualizations of an issue or event that
create favorable public attitudes about governmental policies. The
official stories/of four cases of the use of military force abroad (the
! i'
_ t, |
invasion of Grenada, the bombing of Libya, the invasion of Panama, and
1 t,j
' !''!
the war on Iraq) are examined for their symbolic manipulation of
'! 11
democratic arid national-security values. Clear patterns emerge: the
democratic values of rationality, nonaggression and legality are
l 1
strongly symbolized in connection to American activities.
Simultaneously, national-security values are subtly upheld by
construction7bf| an enemy who poses a threat to national security. This
construction i| aiso allows American actions to appear rational,
: ! ' i '
nonaggressive, and, if not legal, then justifiable.
The form and
! !
7 i
publication.;
Signed
content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its
Michael S. Cummings
: ;i
. i'i
iv


CONTENTS
CHAPTER ; j
1. INTRODUCTION...........................................
Officijal Propaganda.................................
i
The; Power of Official Propaganda....................
Propaganda and Political Culture ....................
:' r
Official Propaganda as Symbol Manipulation ..........
. f
Neutralized Responses: Quiescence and Passive
Participation........................................
,1
Official Propaganda in a Democracy?..................
' i
Notes.!..............................................
i !
2. OFFICIAL PROPAGANDA AND INTRACULTURAL VALUE
CONVICT................................................
: :f
Official Propaganda: The "Official Story"............
Thei Public as Audience..............................
i i
Official Propaganda and the Mainstream Press.........
Ronaltl Reagan: A Superlative Story Teller...........
i
Notes;!..............................................
'! ill
3. INTRODUCTION TO CASE STUDIES...........................
' j!
Official Information Control.........................
i' :
I .
Measuring the Success of Official Propaganda.........
.1. 1 r
Democratic and National-Security Values..............
I
Choice of Case Studies...............................
.1
.5
11
13
15
19
22
26
32
.42
,44
49
55
58
63
.63
65
.69
.74


Notes!........................................................77
4. GRENADA....................................................... 79
The Official Story............................................80
j 1
Value Linkage and Encoding....................................86
Rationality..............................................86
Nonaggression.......................................... 90
! iiegality................................................93
i 1
' National-Security Values............................... 95
Acceptance of the Official Story as Reality...................97
Notes:.......................................................103
5. LIBYA!.........................................................106
| j
! j;
The Official Story...........................................109
j; "|
Value1 Linkage and Encoding..................................Ill
I Rationality.............................................Ill
't
! Nonaggression...........................................118
; ||l
j),
' llegality/Justifiability................................122
i ;
Rational-Security Values...............................123
J
Acceptance of the Official Story as Reality..................125
Notes!.......................................................131
I i
6. PANAMA.........................................................134
The Official Story...........................................137
II .!
Value Linkage and Encoding...................................141
! i
j Rationality.............................................141
Ronaggression...........................................147
j |
j Legality/Justifiability............................... 151
| I
i Rational-Security Values...............................154
' , i
: 1
vi


155
I,
I' V]j
Acceptance of the Official Story as Reality
Notes........................................
7. IRAQ J.........................................
!, I
The Official Story...........................
r
Problems for the Official Story..............
Value! Linkage and Encoding..................
! 'i
i i1
; Rationality.............................
Nonaggression............................
i '
legality.................................
National-Security Values.................
1 l
Acceptance of the Official Story as Reality
- I
Notes!.......................................
8. CONCLUSIONS....................................
Grenada......................................
Libiyia......................................
Panama.......................................
Iraq.........................................
i!
i
Plot Shifts and Value Linkage................
A Cdnscious Intent to Manipulate?............
Constructing Enemies.........................
I
;; ,\,
Notes!.......................................
'I
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY................................... Vll
159
162
164
173
176
176
181
188
190
193
204
209
209
211
213
215
216
219
222
228
229
Vll


CHAPTER 1
INTRODUCTION
Harold Lasswell has written, "By the use of sanctioned words and
i i
gestures, the, elite elicits blood, work, taxes, applause from the masses.
When the political order works smoothly, the masses venerate the
' ; i
symbols."1 ; lLasswell thus intimates that the study of politics is largely
the study of, ^ymbol manipulation, information control and political
communication ;|i employed by elites as they attempt to maintain
themselves in .power. It is also, then, necessarily a study of how
nonelites acquiesce in that exercise of power over them.2 Many social
scientists have studied aspects of these phenomena under the various
' !
rubrics of social psychology, political communications, semantics, and
sociology.-5 j, More often than not, they avoid attaching a particular title
to these phenomena: "propaganda." The word "propaganda" retains the
connotation of | describing a nasty practice of subversive groups or
communist, fascist or other nondemocratic regimes, along with a faint
, 'li
air of overstatement. It is not a fashionable word in democratic society.
However, the study of propaganda is quite relevant to contemporary
democracy andj is conceptually powerful in explaining much of the
; i
content of political communication directed by elites toward the general
it
public, as wellj as the relationship of such communications to the
structure of contemporary American democracy.


jl
As with !so many subjects of social scientific study, the concept of
propaganda has been given many different definitions by many
different scholars.4 These definitions generally share some common
elements. First, propaganda is defined as a type of communication that
is promotional and manipulative, and is aimed at eliciting a desired
!
response. Additionally, propaganda is generally seen as deliberately
, 'i
distortional ! Although all information and communication may be seen
to only imperfectly reproduce or represent reality, the propagandist
purposely presents information that is in some way distorted.
'!'
Propaganda is also understood to be noncoercive: The subjects of
l'
propaganda, while acting toward an object in the manner desired by the
propagandist, \ vj^ill believe they act of their own free will, and, in a
1 '
i ;i
sense, they do'.; Thus, propaganda usually involves a subtle process of
telling people how the world is, rather than overtly advocating the
response it is [intended to elicit. Propaganda operates on the assumption
!!
that people can be best moved to some desired action through creating
in them a volition based on false premises or illusion rather than by
either educating them (creating volition based on an apprehension of
i '?
reality) or by coercing them (by-passing volition with force).^
Propaganda is generally seen, as is all communication, not as a
product of t^iei propagandist alone, but as a two-way, dialectical process
occurring between the propagandist and his or her audience.^ The
people in the1 audience "contribute as much to the process as the
originators and|! their messages" for they "selectively perceive, retain
i'
and interpret the message, so that it becomes theirs, not the
2


originator's."7 Yet propaganda is distinguishable from mere education
or persuasion 'of others. Though it is often said that "one man's
education is another man's propaganda," the deliberate and
manipulative nature of propaganda and its systematic attempt to
j
achieve an end advantageous to the propagandist distinguishes
j
propaganda ;from education. Whereas "education aims at independence
1
of judgement,'] propaganda seeks to impose on others thoughts that are
I |
to some degree ready-made. Propaganda is considered to include some
characteristics of persuasion, but to be differentiated from it by the
power relationship implied: "Propaganda is associated with control and
is regarded as a deliberate attempt to alter or maintain a balance of
power that is advantageous to the propagandist."^ Propaganda is
associated with control of information, whereas persuasion connotes a
l
communicator who accepts that the persuadee has access to alternative
I
information from that presented by the persuader. Additionally, while
propaganda is like persuasion in that both the communicator and the
listener get th-eir needs fulfilled, the propagandist is a persuader who
does not reveal what his or her needs are. For example,
...the propagandist may exploit an audiences beliefs or values or
group norths in such a way as to fan the fires of prejudice or self-
interest. i When the audience goes along with such practices, mutual
reciprocity occurs because both parties have needs fulfilled. The
audience's needs--the reinforcement of prejudicial or self-serving
attitudes-;-get fulfilled and spoken,but the persuader's needs--the
attainment .j of a selfish end through the audience's complianceget
fulfilled but not spoken. No audience, no matter how perverse its
own needs,- will put up with hearing that they are being manipulated
and used to fulfill another's selfish needs. Thus the propagandist
cannot reveal the true intent of the message.9
3


In addition, propaganda is generally viewed as a social or group
phenomenon ^md is therefore distinguished from other forms of
1'
political persuasion by the fact that it addresses people as members of a
group and seeks to enhance their identification with that group.1
The common connotation of "propaganda" as something that is
"false" does nbt serve to distinguish propaganda from other forms of
political communication. Terence Quaker has stressed that since "the
recognition and identification of truth and falsehood are subjective
processes depending on the knowledge and attitudes of different
observers, they are an unsatisfactory base for the analysis of
propaganda."1!1 More importantly, it must be recognized that the
propagandist is one who utilizes fact, as well as fiction and myth, to
I
fashion a distorted version of reality. For this reason alone, the
common connotation of "falsehood" associated with the word
j
"propaganda" must be balanced by a recognition of propagandas often
factual content. In addition, it bears remembering that propagandists
are themselves! members of the culture to which they address their
messages. Therefore, the precise mix of mendacity and "honesty" with
which the projpagandist carries out his work cannot be known.
Most importantly, credibility has emerged as the distinguishing
concern of thej modem propagandist. It is within the limits of
i
credibility that) the modem propagandist strives to operate, and both
1, |
truth and falsehood are tools to be used when they serve to keep
' j
propaganda within those limits. Goebbels himself believed that the
; j
truth "should be told frequently to avoid having one's appeal exposed as
4


falsehood, but
if the credibility of a lie could not be challenged, or if the
truth might |ncj;t itself be believed, Goebbels would opt for falsehood as
truth."1 ^ Christopher Lasch reports that during World
j.
readily as fori
War II, the I American Office of War Information, though "eager to use
atrocities to1 jijnflame public opinion against Germany, deliberately
avoided the | most horrifying atrocity of all, the extermination of the
! 1 ji
Jews." This atrocity, it was thought, would be viewed by the American
public as incredible and dismissed as a fabrication. Lasch gives a more
,\
recent example of the credibility principle in an anecdote about Nixon's
j
press secretary, Ron Ziegler, admitting that previous statements he had
'j
i .ii
made about Watergate had become "inoperative."
1, I [ 1
I |
Many commentators assumed that Ziegler was groping for a
euphemistic! way of saying that he had lied. What he meant,
however, j was that his earlier statements were no longer believable.
Not their, Jifalsity but their inability to command assent rendered
them 'inoperative.' The question of whether they were true or not
was beside; i the point.1-1
Official Propaganda
In this i paper, a basic distinction will be drawn between two types
i :l
of propaganda,! "official" and "unofficial." Official propaganda will be
i' :i
described as: that which is undertaken by a political regime itself;
unofficial propaganda emanates from groups nominally connected to,
i-
unconnected to1 or unsupportive of the regime. "Regime" here is
'I
understood tjo incorporate both the concept of "system" and the concept
of "Administration." That is to say, any regime serves to uphold the
larger system ij by which society is organized while simultaneously
reflecting the particular personalities and party affiliations of those
5


within the ;present Administration. Thus, American regimes, whatever
i
their partisan! affiliations and psychological predispositions, serve to
uphold liberal, capitalist, "managerial" democracy.
This last, concept of managerial democracy is particularly crucial
to an analysis! of official propaganda in the United States, for it taps into
an often-forgotten root meaning of the word "propaganda" as it was
originally used, that is, to connote an attempt to control public
opinionA^ Official propaganda, while often aimed at foreign leaders
j
and their publics, is at least as often aimed at the domestic population.
In contemporary American democracy, this paper will assert, political
officials commonly engage in domestic "opinion management." The
"managerial atjtitude" of public officials translates into an official view
of the domestic public not as a body to be served or worked with, but as a
group to bz managed. As Lance Bennett observes, "The memoirs of
presidents, diplomats, and prominent civil servants suggest that the
managerial attitude has become something of a conscious elite ethos" in
the postwar era.15 Thus Franklin Roosevelt, speaking with Winston
Churchill about the British hopes to reinstate the royalists in Greece
immediately after World War II, "confessed [that the United States] could
i
not take a, public stand, but this, he reassured Churchill, was due solely
1
to the 'state of public feeling' and did not reflect the official American
position."15 Likewise, Dean Acheson has said of his efforts to win
Congressional j and public support for the massive military buildup
called for by NSC-68, "It was not enough to give the president wise,
though tough, | advice and expect him to create acceptance in Congress


and the country for the resulting action. We also had a duty to explain
and persuade.]'17 Contemporarily, then Secretary of State George
Schultz, speaking before the U.S. Advisory Committee on Public
Diplomacy, saijd in 1987,
the speed of communication and easy travel means that the
Secretary of State and even the President cannot function as
autonomous, unchallenged directors of policy. We have to work hard
to provide leadership and to marshall understanding and support for
our policies....The information age is our age.1**
The most effective way to manage the public, according to the
managerial view, is through the techniques of public relations.
Graphically illustrating this belief is the influential work on public
relations, "The Engineering of Consent," written in 1947, in which
Edward Bemays argued that "the very essence of the democratic
' j
process" is located in "getting people to support ideas and programs."1 9
An example 1 of this belief at work is found in the Nixon White House's
i
response to tlie unfolding Watergate crisis. Lasch observes that Nixon
i
"approached his mounting difficulties as a problem in public relations,"
saying to his j chief adviser Haldeman ("himself a public relations man"),
I think we! have to find a way to make statements...any kind of
statement...as general as possible...just so somebody can say that...a
statement has been made through the President upon which he has
based his statement to the effect that he has confidence in his
staff....I didn't do this, I didn't do that, da da da da, da da da da, da da da
da, da da da da. Haldeman didn't do this, Erlichman didn't do that.
Colson didn't do that.^O
Official propaganda, drawing upon the precepts of public relations,
I
involves government efforts to manage public perceptions of political
reality. As i the Nixon quote implies, the primary tool of this approach is
the careful usb of language (accompanied when possible by visual aids)
7


to fabricate j convincing, compelling images. In the Reagan presidency,
the United States saw perhaps the zenith of of this public relations
approach to; governing, since Reagan and his advisors seemed to excel at
just the kind J of careful use of language and image fabrication required
by this approach. The "professionalization" of government service in
this century has created a force of public relations personnel more
I
committed to j the success of government information campaigns than to
the validity of the information they promulgate.21 "People whose main
concern is to make the president popular and whose vocational
orientation is to view decisions in terms of their popular perception,"
I
have been elevated to a prominent position in contemporary
j
Administrations and "have regular and immediate access to the
president's edr."22 Thus the ascendancy of the propagandist
j
"technician," one who chooses words for their effect on the listener
apart from any inner conviction of their validity or veracity, is the
product of ;a policy process that is "less a bottom-up representation
process and, (nore a top-down management operation."23
It is the: realm of foreign policy in which the "managerial" attitude
of American officials appears to be the most pronounced.24 This attitude
stems from a need of leaders of a democracy to construct a public
consensus for, their foreign-policy initiatives, and from a conviction
; |
that the public is an irrational, moody and uninformed body that cannot
j
judge for itself what is best for it, especially in matters that extend
i
beyond the water's edge. (This attitude has been upheld by many in
academe, who have, for example, fashioned models of public opinion
8


that seemed to demonstrate its capricious and irrational nature.)2 5
Substantially reinforcing this conviction is an elite perception of the
world as an; .unpredictable and hostile environment, a war of all against
all. The twin; elite views of the treacherousness of the international
! i [
environment and the irrational nature of public opinion have in turn
f
engendered an elite view of foreign policy as a "one-man show" which
' i
a too-involved| public (or an unsupportive or divided Congress) can only
muck up.; j'The statesman," so the rationale goes, "in his thinking
about threats, jis consistent and disciplined; the citizen's thinking on the
same subject is inconsistent and superficial." Therefore, "In the
; 'I
management of foreign policy, the inability of the public to weigh
. i r
concealed, gains and losses is profoundly dangerous."27 The claim being
; j!
made is clear: iTo allow the public too much say in foreign policy is
i j
perilous to national security, and in fact, the public must be conditioned
to see the world as the more "consistent and disciplined" elite minds see
. i!
l
it and/or to: leave decision making concerning foreign affairs to that
elite. Otherwise, the public may perceive its interests to be something
'!
different from j what they really are, which only those with an
understanding of these "concealed gains and losses" can correctly
'i
.1'
ascertain. Consequently, particularly in the realm of foreign affairs,
the policy-making elite "see the public at its best when it can be
mobilized toi support policy rather than be instrumental in policy
; 1!
formulation."2:8 Yet at the same time, democratic leaders must appear to
,'j:
be engaged in serving the public, responding to public attitudes and
! |
wishes. They' must "legitimate" their foreign policies.2 9
9


This essay will concern itself with official propaganda emanating
! !'
from the apex of the foreign-policy making hierarchy: especially the
'! I
White House; jthe Pentagon and the State Department. As the most
'i 1'
"official" spokesperson of the United States, the President can also be
considered its' most official propagandist, that is, the senior official in
charge of opinion management. In this era of the "personal" or
"plebiscitary", jpresidency, American Presidents are obliged to take this
| i
role very seriously. Not only is persuasion of Congress and the public
jjl
vital to the j President's task of governing,but management of the
public image if the President and his office has become a considerable
' ,i
'i 1
part of the job of being President. As the party has declined as a source
of legitimacy
and of authoritative signposts for political decision
making, and as television has come to play a central role in politics,
:i :{
today's President "must manage his image very carefully, not out of
vanity, but because it is the source of his political authority.1 Today,
I, ;t
observers note, "public opinion is probably a president's greatest
political resource.Theodore Lowi has argued that since Presidents
are so dependent upon their "image" and yet cannot cannot exert
'I '
absolute control over the events that will affect that image, they "must
: J
, , ji
have contingency plans for controlling the news about events." Such
1
control requires "an army of public relations people to put the best
1
possible interpretation on whatever is reported as news." Beyond this
1
need, "contingency plans for controlling what gets into the public
! -
domain in the, first place" are necessary, since controlling news spin
can only bei imperfectly successful. "There must also be 'plumbers
1 0


armed with wjhatever devices of administrative control can be made
available.3 ;
!
i The Power of Official Propaganda
It was official propaganda that Harold Lasswell aptly described
when he wrote, "Not the purpose but the method distinguishes
propaganda from the management of men by violence...and similar
I
means of social control.Official propaganda is an instrument wielded
i1
by a regime as it seeks to maintain its authority. Official propaganda
can generally ibe expected to be quite powerful, for it not only has
: j
money and media access at its disposal, but commands a formidable
resource in the form of general credibility and potentially high
emotional impact.
j
Three principal characteristics have generally been recognized to
influence heavily propaganda's likelihood of success: carriage of "the
i
mark of reversed authority," claims to act in the best interests of society
as a whole, and evocation of strong emotions in the subject through
11 i
manipulation of images.^5 In the broadest possible sense, then, official
: I
propaganda has at its command the necessary resources to propagandize
l
successfully.1 j Aldous Huxley wrote that "correct orientation to existing
authority is i one of the conditions making for the success of
propaganda," since authority is often held by members of society to be,
ex hypothesis true.36 Since official propaganda emanates from society's
ultimate source of authority, once the legitimacy of that authority has
been established, only successful challenges to the legitimacy of the
l
; ii


regime itself can dislodge the power of official propaganda. Likewise, a
legitimate regime may make full use of dominant cultural values and
symbols and their attendant emotional connotations in its propaganda;
as long as the regime is believed to speak in the interest of these values,
[
its official propaganda is likely to enjoy enduring power. As discussed
'' i
earlier, credibility is seen to place limits on this mechanism, hence the
propagandises concern with the believability of the propaganda
message. Yet official propaganda is not held strictly accountable for its
j
credibility, as j evidenced by former President Reagan's escape from
public censurd in the Iran-Contra affair despite his remarkable attitude
that though his "heart" told him he had not lied to the American people
regarding his j Administration's relations with Iran, the facts told him
something different. Official propaganda, it seems, can make some
incursions across the boundaries of credibility and yet remain strong.
j
The key appears to lie not so much in the credibility of the information
being provided, but in the credibility of the person delivering it. Social
psychologists have found that source credibility plays a key role in the
persuasion process, especially when the subject has "low involvement
in the issue at; hand.37
i
At the : same time, social scientists have debated the real effects of
propaganda upon individuals. The central question they have disagreed
i
on is: Does piropaganda, or any other form of political communication
for that matter, serve to change people's attitudes, or merely to
reinforce and j channel existing ones much as advertisers seek to
"canalize" existing consumer preferences into desired directions?3 8


I
I (j
i
. t
j
Whether political communication is capable of changing attitudes or
behavior in apy significant way at all has not been clearly
demonstrated ;by research.39 Concomitantly, one of the shortcomings of
i
' i
traditional propaganda research seems to have been its emphasis on
!
demonstrating i attitudinal or behavioral change as a result of exposure
to propaganda:, and ignoring the possibility that maintenance and
channeling of existing attitudes are its more likely results.4 While
unofficial propaganda may sometimes attempt to change minds, official
propaganda is' much more likely to attempt to utilize and channel
i|
existing attitudes to bring about its desired response. Not only is
i
i
canalizing attitudes an easier task than changing them, but regimes
generally have more need of attitude reinforcement to uphold the status
I
quo than of Attitude change.
j
i
We may thus define official propaganda as a promotional,
' i
manipulative and distortional form of communication initiated at the
highest levels1 of a political regime, serving as a means of social control
by inducing in a noncoercive way some desired public response by
i
I
means (primarily) of canalizing existing attitudes held by the public,
and imperfectly limited by boundaries of credibility.
' Propaganda and Political Culture
To be successful, any propaganda, official or unofficial, must
I
address itself 'to the most widely-shared attitudes, norms and values of
the subject au'dience, since it is to these that its subjects can be expected
i
to respond m'ost uniformly.41 In its attempt to canalize the attitudes of
i
: 1 1 3
I


its audience, which is comprised of all or nearly all the members of
i
I
society, official propaganda can be expected to address itself to the
j
dominant values associated with the culture and with the state. Official
propaganda is therefore a cultural phenomenon.
- | i
The culturalist approach to political study has at its core "the
expectation of political continuity."42 That is to say, political culturalists
observe that political systems tend to be self-perpetuating and seek to
|
explain the reasons by reference to culture. Donald Devine, for
i
example, has theorized that a system of value "screens is erected by
J
every culture, | through which environmental stimuli must "pass" before
: |
they can have impact on the social processes of a society, thus
i
I
rendering the jsociety somewhat impervious to change. The essential
purpose served; by the culture screen, according to Devine, is to manage
public desires. Since "only wants that survive the screen can be
i
considered public opinion," the cultural value system minimizes the
I
number of wants expressed as demands upon the political system.
Culture therefcjre helps a regime to avoid "demand overload." Culture
also serves to1 shape demands themselves, ensuring that system-
i
supporting demands are more prevalent than demands which challenge
the values upon which the legitimacy of the political system is based.
He argues,
.1
, l
If the political culture is congruent with the regime structure, wants
which are jnot positively related to the values and which are harmful
to the power structures [of society] tend to be deflected; others which
cannot be deflected tend to be modified so as to be less stressful to the
regime; those which are not stressful are allowed; and those
supportive of the regime are actually facilitated.4 2
1 4


Devine; further argues that demands in and of themselves are not a
threat to a political system, though the system has an interest in
minimizing them. The real threat to a political regime, he believes, is a
reduction in support for some cultural value which works to maintain
the regime If we accept Devine's argument, then we can further
l
argue that political officials must involve themselves in demonstrating
to the citizenry that the regime rests upon and expresses crucial
cultural values^, or must work to modify those values to match the
I
proclivities of; the regime, or both.
Official Propaganda as Symbol Manipulation
|
Symbols J serve several functions in human communication and
1 i
understanding | and are the primary building blocks of propaganda. In
j
the form of words and icons, they function as units of communication
and of thought. Humans seem to depend on symbols to organize and
I
understand injcoming information, primarily because symbols distill
concepts and !external objects into stereotypes that fit into "schemata,"
our "simplified mental models" of the world.4^ Symbols thus provide "a
short cut to knowledge. "46 Symbols also "aid in emotional and rational
I,
attachment which can act to maintain social systems."47 That is,
i
symbols serve! to link the intellectual and emotional functions of the
j
mind in such a way that mere words or pictures become associated with
positive or negative emotions in the individual's mind. For example, the
' i
"condensational symbols" (words or other symbols that connote
something larger than their referent object, e.g., "the flag," "The


U.S.A.," or "communism") that we become sensitized to in this fashion
' j
often evoke powerful emotional responses.
Symbols, j therefore, are the stuff of which political socialization is
made.48 Symbols make diffuse support possible, that "reserve of
member good. |will toward the basic levels of the political system" that is
i
held neither out of fear nor as a quid pro quo for actual benefits gained
by the indiyiiual's membership in society.4^ Devine observed that
"most system ; members need symbols to reassure themselves of the value
of the political system," and that "without the emotional support of
community ancl regime symbols, the political system would be forced to
1
rely solely on rational commitment and coercion" to maintain itself.30
Symbols, therefore, are cultural phenomena. The schemata by which
we organize symbols, along with symbols themselves, find their genesis
l
in our culture and are continually reinforced by information sources
i
that reflect cultural norms.^ 1
Once they take root in the human mind, symbols tend to replace the
thing they represent, becoming reality for the individual. In language,
r
for example, "because of the close association in many minds between
the word and, the thing, situations once described in certain terms begin
I
I
to take on the character of the words."3 L Thus it is that "language
I
freezes thought" in such a way that the initial organization of incoming
i
information > into categories of positive, negative, or unfamiliar symbols
|
tends to determine one's reaction to the information: the well-known
"identification; reaction." Therefore, the initial process of symbolization
of an event or issue becomes crucial in determining peoples' assessment
|
1 6


of and reaction to it. Symbols thus provide the link between human
understanding, iand human activity. The connection between symbol
j
and action is made clear by how human behavior toward an object is in
large part determined by how we define that object. Symbols, our
"definitions"! qf objects, events and concepts, "produce the pictures of
the world on which meaningful action is based."53 Bemays expressed
this principle jwhen he wrote that "people translate an idea into action
suggested by the idea itself."^4
t
The power of symbols to become reality in the human mind and in
large degree to dictate behavior becomes a crucial element of modern
politics, in which the political life of the average person tends to be
j
centered around distant people and events and second-hand
i 1 i
experiences. "The only feeling that anyone can have about an event he
does not experience," Walter Lippman wrote, "is the feeling aroused by
his mental image of that event." He therefore called political issues and
events "fictions.Bennett has observed that "the formation of any
given [political] issue depends on the gradual replacement of numerous
; !
viewpoints byr a small number of compelling symbolizations that attract
the interest of various individuals." Therefore, "much of the enormous
i i
power of public officials comes from the fact that the basic symbols of
office constitute all the resources necessary to construct symbolic
, i
structures around most of their actions." In most political scenarios,
Bennett argues, "political actors have control over the definitions [that
is, control over the symbolization] of a large number of elements.He
! I
notes that studying the symbolic versions of an issue or event is vital to


understanding jpublic reaction to it. In a sense, it is only the symbolic
version, not the reality of an issue or event, that counts.^7
It is precisely the process of constructing a symbolic version of an
issue or event that official propaganda is all about. Official propaganda
creates and/or utilizes significant symbols (those whose meanings are
. !
shared by many members of society and can arouse "widely shared
common responses")^* and condensational symbols, and also creates
i
new symbols,^ to provide symbolic representations of events, actions,
'I
and personalities for the public to use in processing the information
being given to it. At the same time, official propaganda provides
symbolic links between some regime object (such as a policy) with some
crucial cultural value or group of values. Finally, it provides an overall
. I
symbolization! of governmental responsiveness and/or action regarding
i
some societal! problem. And it is precisely the widespread acceptance of
the distilled, official version of reality that is the immediate objective of
the propaganda process, for the symbolizations found within the
official version of reality are intended to lead people to act in
!
predictable ways in support of the policies and personalities of the
regime.
-i
As we examine official propaganda in the foreign-policy realm, we
find that the process of distillation to one official version of reality
j
happens quickly, and is arguably occurring ever faster, with little if
i'' i
any competition between symbolizations taking place before the official
I
version is widely accepted as reality.59 It becomes clear that the
opportunities for the average citizen to practice reality testing


(checking propagandists symbolizations against personal experiences
of reality) on. foreign-policy propaganda are almost nil and are made
i
even less likely by the predominance of condensational symbols found
in the presentation and discussion of foreign policy.60 "When
information is; tightly controlled and the audience is remote from actual
I
events," Bennett writes, "the chance that symbolizations will be
subjected to: careful reality testing is reduced, and the willingness of the
audience to regard familiar categories, metaphorical images, and
mythic themes as realistic is increased."61 This problem is compounded
by the persistence and weight of those "mythic themes" in American
political culturefor example, the theme of the United States as a
j
beleaguered gentle giant stumbling through a hostile and irrational
world. Such themes are highly resistant to reality testing themselves.
This fact eases the propagandist's task considerably, as the fashioning
of the official^' version of reality becomes the process of fitting reality
into the framework of these cultural themes.
Neutralized Responses: Quiescence and Passive Participation
If the ;short-term objective of official propaganda is to see an
; |
official version of reality widely accepted by the public, what are its
longer-term goals? We have said that regimes use official propaganda to
elicit some "desired response" that is supportive of regime policies and
personalities; :but what kind of response? Murray Edelman provides one
possible answer in his model of political life as an ongoing play of
official symbol manipulation which induces public "quiescence."6 2
i 19


While active public support may be difficult for regimes to gain or
i
t
maintain, Edelman argues, passive and unquestioning acceptance, or
' i
even ignorance of political realities^ may be easier for officials to bring
about and sustain in the public. Simultaneously, members of society
I
desire meaning and order, which they principally gain through official
symbol manipulation. Politics, then, largely becomes an exercise in
reassuring or
getting reassured, depending upon where one stands, that
the political system is meaningful, responsive and functioning
smoothly. Ecielman's observations are supported by Peggy Noonan,
speech writer ifor Presidents Reagan and Bush, who has said of her
work, "It makes people less lonely. It connects strangers with simple
truths.3
,! i
The publics "emotional commitment" to symbols allows official
|
symbol manipulation to induce public quiescence "regarding problems
that would otherwise arouse concern." Edelman asserts that "quiescence
!
is common" to contemporary publics and that political officials can be
assured that their constituents will react predictably to symbolic cues
rather than pursuing their interests in an organized way. He conceives
i
of politics as' perpetual role-taking between the governing and the
governed: the] governing offer symbolic forms of reassurance and
representation ,j to the governed, who continually seek and accept just
such symbolic- fare. This political role-playing, Edelman maintains, is
endemic in the society in which real opportunities for self-
, !
actualization, the real influence of the individual upon his or her life
20


condition, are) lacking.^4 Quiescence replaces participation, and
symbolic forms of political activity flourish.
|
The French theorist Jacques Ellul proposes another interpretation
of the "desired response" of official propaganda by drawing distinctions
.1 j|
between different forms of propaganda.^ "Political," or tactical,
propaganda, he believes, aims at achieving short term, action-oriented
goals, while' "sociological" propaganda is a more subtle process that
yields a "progressive adaptation to a certain order of things, a certain
i
concept of human relations, which unconsciously molds individuals and
makes them clnform to society." Likewise, Ellul distinguishes between
i
"propaganda i oif agitation," aimed at rousing people to overt action,
l
encouraging i them to make sacrifices for the sake of short-term goals,
and "propaganda of integration," aimed at reinforcing cultural values
and inducing ] cultural conformity. Political propaganda and
propaganda jofj agitation, Ellul argues, have grown less important in
contemporary politics, for "transitory" political acts are no match for
the "total adherence to a society's truths and behavior patterns" that
; i
sociological and integrative propaganda can foster. Modem
i
propaganda, i he claims, is primarily sociological propaganda and
propaganda of! integration. It is designed to elicit uniform "passive
participation" |from every member of society, much like the behavior of
fans at a ballj game or believers attending Mass. Eloquently displaying
the managerial attitude, Ellul goes on to argue that in an age when
governments cannot follow public opinion but cannot ignore it either,
they must seek to shape it.^6 Democracy, he believes, becomes
21
i


I
, i
: I :
propagandists [because of the needs of the state for conformity to
certain social [rules or principles, and in turn that propaganda becomes
much like a1 religion, supplying the public with rules of morality and a
source of comfort while it seeks to enforce total, passive participation
I
and conformity.6 ?
Edelman jand Ellul offer useful conceptualizations of the longer-
i
term goals of [official propaganda. In fact, we can define Edelman's
concept of "quiescence" as official propaganda's mid-term goal: to
insure that political events are met with little enough resistance, or
i
conversely, are given enough passive support to grant officials
maximum maneuverability or discretion. And Ellul's concept of "passive
' i
participation" [ conceptualizes official propagandas long-term goal:
social integration and conformity. Thus we can further hone our
definition of official propaganda: it is a promotional, manipulative and
distortional form of political communication initiated at the highest
I
!
levels of a political regime, serving as a means of social control by
inducing in ai noncoercive way a quiescent or otherwise neutralized
!
public response to regime objects and seeking to insure social
integration 1 and conformity.
I
i; Official Propaganda in a Democracy?
I
i
The inherent conflict between the precepts of democratic theory
;!
and the practice of official propaganda has been recognized by many
theorists. Choukas, for example, wrote that "The essence of democracy
i
lies in the way it conceives of man....No other social system gives man,
22


the individual,! the priority democracy does." Propaganda, he believed,
"challenges the fundamental moral foundations of the democratic
society.Yet these same theorists have often stopped short of
j i
forswearing "democratic" official propaganda. Choukas's writing offers
' I !
a seeming contradiction: "As a democracy," he wrote, !
we must renounce propaganda; but as a state, we must make use of
it..In fighting the battle for the state...we should employ all the
means suitable for that purpose, the most important of which, and
the most effective at this stage of the conflict, the Cold War^ being
propaganda.^ ^ ^
Ellul, who completes his seminal work on propaganda with
i 11 I
warnings of its dangerous and undemocratic tendencies, nevertheless
describes propaganda as an "invisible curtain" drawn between the
public and elijtes, made necessary by the spread of the franchise.^ 0
Quaker has ; elaborated on the same theme: ,
, | I
! )
Democracy must live through its symbols. It is thus not only a
denotative jterm for a form of government, it is also a normative
expression jfor a faith. But faiths do not well up spontaneously from
some hidden spring. They must be learned. Therefore the jfaith must
be made intelligible to the ordinary citizen. This would seem to
suggest some positive role for the propagandist of democracy71
Because traditional societal structures and relationships have i broken
! i
down, Quaker believes, i
governments...must devote enormous efforts to the conscious
cultivation i of a unifying ideology. The structure of the modem state
requires constant effort, through propaganda, socialization! and
information!, control, to bring the fact of the state to the I
consciousness of its citizens.
Yet Quaker
clearly fears the threat to democratic society posed
by
official propaganda, the threat that comes
not from the perfectly legitimate right of a regime to protect itself
from destruction, but from the tendency within all regimes,
including the liberal democracies, to use an exaggerated threat of
: 23
i


danger to suppress legitimate dissent, or to obstruct the offering of
alternative J propositions.7 ^
These theorists have thus raised three crucial points. First, it
j
would appear that official propaganda is at least equally likely to occur
in a democracy as in .a more authoritarian political system. As Plato
recognized, wise leaders promulgate a "noble myth" by which all
members of a [Republic will be unified in their care for the polity. This
is another way of saying that official propaganda plays a necessary role
in a any society by perpetuating the political socialization process for
the sake of national cohesion. As Ellul and Quaker suggest, the
i
particular style! of democracy common to the West is perhaps a political
i |
form that can be maintained, especially in the modern, "acultural"
[
world, only by constant acculturation of the populace.73 Edelman
(
argues that a broad public consensus on cultural values allows for "a
maximum of democratic procedures, forms, and structuring because
political parties and private power groups will predictably move in the
same direction."74 Official propaganda would thus appear to be a
"necessary" and predictable phenomenon in contemporary democracy,
simultaneously j upholding specific regime objects and subtly
i
|
reinforcing culturally-based perceptions of the world and the state.
Secondly/ representative democracy is a political form which tends
, .i
to depend upon official propaganda rather heavily and to create a
: 'I1
managerial attitude in its political elite: Ellul's "invisible curtain."
; j
Quaker maintains that "the legitimacy of public opinion," an ideal
which arguably comprises the very heart of democratic theory, "led
inevitably to :the development of techniques to manipulate it."7^ Thus,
24


the control of| information becomes vital to the managerial process. The
precepts of j direct or participatory democracy, or even of representative
democracy exercised within the limits of strict accountability, place a
I;
high value on an unmanipulated flow of full and accurate information
to the people
in order for the requirements of democracy to be met.7 6
In contrast,; managerial democracy necessitates not that the people be
informed, but i that they be "led," "persuaded" and "mobilized."
Third, an international environment which is perceived as
' !
threatening i by representative democracy's managers intensifies their
: i'
propensity to jengage in official propaganda: Choukas's "battle for the
state." In the1 United States, the elite consensus that the United States
i
has been engalged in a battle to the death with forces that challenge the
: |
global status quo has engendered exactly the attitude that Choukas
i
expresses: Even though propagandizing the public flouts the principles
j
of democracy,! so the argument goes, we must engage in it if we are to
|
save democracy from ultimate destruction.
I
I
I
I
25


Notes
I
f
* Harold Lasswell, Politics: Who Gets What. When. How (New York:
McGraw-Hill Bjpok Co., Inc., 1936), 29; quoted in Terence Quaker, Opinion
Control in the!1 Democracies (London: Macmillan, 1985), 61.
, i
; :j'
2Hugh V. Emy; "From a Positive to a Cultural Science: Towards a New
Rationale for Political Studies," Political Studies. 37 (June 1989): 202.
^Brett Silverstein, "Toward a Science of Propaganda," Political
Psychology j8'If March 1987): 50.
!
4A partial list; is provided in Michael Choukas, Propaganda Comes of Age.
with an introduction by Hadley Cantril (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs
Press, 1965), 13-20.
5Ibid., 30, 75. I
^Dan Nimmo. Political Communication and Public Opinion in America
(Santa Monica: Goodyear Publishing, Inc., 1978), 99.
I j
7Quaker, 204.1
!'
^Garth S. Jowett and Victoria O'Donnell, Propaganda and Persuasion
(Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1986), 15-16.
: i|
9Ibid., 28-29. i[
: :i
19Nimmo, 110.
^Quaker, 1,15l
! i
12Alan Wykesj Goebbels (New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 1973), 39-40;
quoted in Nimmo, 124.
^Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism (New York: W.W. Norton
and Co., Inc., ,1978), 75-76.
14Jowett and O'Donnell, 49.
^W. Lance Bennett, "Marginalizing the Majority: Conditioning Public
Opinion to Accept Managerial Democracy," in Manipulating Public
Opinion: Essays in Public Opinion as a Dependent Variable, ed. Michael
Margolis and jlGary A. Mauser (Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing
Co., 1989), 323-25.
i
26


^James A. Nathan and James K. Oliver, United States Foreign Policy and
World Order (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978), 44.
i
i
17Ibid., 133. i
18George Schiiltz, "Public Diplomacy in the Information Age,"
Department of State Bulletin. November 1987, 17.
^Edward Bernays, "The Engineering of Consent," in Voice of the People.
ed. Reo M. Christenson and Robert O. McWilliams (New York: McGraw-
Hill Book Co., il967), 466.
20Lasch, 81. ^
21Nimmo, 53.
]
22George C. Edwards, The Public Presidency (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1983),, 72.
23Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Mens Attitudes,
translated by Konrad Kellen and Jean Lemer, with an introduction by
Konrad Kellen j (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 21-4; Bennett, 326.
2^The managerial attitude of those who fashion foreign policy extends to
their conception of foreign publics as well, and official propaganda can
be as much for foreign consumption as for domestic. This paper,
however, will be concerned only with official propaganda that is
intended to manage domestic opinion. \
^Gabriel Almjond's "mood theory" of public opinion has been
particularly influential and long-lived. Robert Y. Shapiro and Benjamin
I. Page, "Foreign Policy and the Rational Public," Journal of Conflict
Resolution 32 (June 1988): 212-13. Shapiro and Page have fashioned an
alternative model that demonstrates the rationality of the public within
the confines of the information given to it. Nathan and Oliver construct
another model | of opinion that shows that the opinions of opinion
leaders are actually more erratic than those of the general public.
Nathan and Oliver, chapter 14.
2^Nathan and Oliver, 8-10.
27James L. Payne, The American Threat: The Fear of War as an
Instrument of i Foreign Policy (Chicago: Markham Publishing Co., 1970),
214, 223. | j
28Nathan and .Oliver, 560.
27


29Richard A. Melanson, Reconstructing Consensus: American Foreign
Policy Since the Vietnam War (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), 23-24;
Alexander L. George, "Domestic Constraints on Regime Change in U.S.
Foreign Policy! The Need for Policy Legitimacy," in American Foreign
Policy: Theoretical Essays, ed. G. John Ikenberry (Glenview, 111.: Scott,
Foresman and 'jCo., 1989), 585-606.
^Richard E. Ij'leustadt, "The Power to Persuade," in American Politics:
Classic and 1 Contemporary Readings ed. Allan J. Cigler and Burdett A.
Loomis (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1989), 467-483; Theodore J. Lowi,
"Making Democracy Safe for the World," in Ikenberry, 259-288.
I1
31 William Schneider, "Age of the Personal Presidency," in Governing:
Readings and Cases in American Politics, ed. Roger H. Davidson and
Walter J. Oleszek, (Washington: Congressional Quarterly Press, 1987),
274. ! .[
'i
, j1
32Bennett, Public Opinion in American Politics (New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1980), 351.
33Lowi, "Presidential Power: Restoring the Balance," in Cigler and
Loomis, 487-88.
3^H. l. Childs; Introduction to Public Opinion (New York: John Wiley and
Sons, 1940), 86; quoted in Choukas, 14. Lasswell is echoed by Qualter,
who has said that though propaganda and violence are distinct
phenomena, "they may sometimes have common goals." Qualter, 170.
35Choukas, 75,i 142.
36Aldous Huxley, "Notes on Propaganda," in Christenson and McWilliams,
326. j
, I
37William J. McGuire, "Attitudes and Attitude Change," in Handbook of
Social Psychology, ed. Gardner Lindzay and Elliot Aronson, 3d ed., vol. 2
(New York: Random House, 1985), 263-70.
3^Paul F. Lazarsfeld and Robert K. Merton, "Requisite Conditions for
Propaganda Success," in Christenson and McWilliams, 340. Lazarsfeld
and Merton describe the canalization strategy as seldom seeking "to
instill new attitudes or to create significant new behavior patterns."
The assertion jthat propaganda canalizes attitudes as does advertising
may be a iriattjer of debate itself, however. Nimmo, for example, argues
that advertising does not canalize attitudes at all, but rather presents a
range of possibilities for the individual to choose from. Nimmo, 109.
I
39McGuire, 251; Carol Bamer-Barry and Robert Rosenwein,
Psychological Perspectives on Politics (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-
' 28


Hall, Inc., 1985), 164; Doris A. Graber, Processing the News: How People
Tame the Information Tide (New York: Longman, 1988), 262.
4Jack M. McLeod and Byron Reeves, "On the Nature of Mass Media
Effects," Mass ; Communications Review Yearbook, vol. 2 (Beverly Hills:
Sage Publications, 1981), 253.
i
41 Quaker, 121.
42Harry Eckstein, "A Culturalist Theory of Political Change," American
Political Science Review 82 (September 1988), 790.
42Donald J. Devine, The Political Culture of the United States (Boston:
Little, Brown and Co., 1972), 353-55.
44Ibid., 31. j'
4^Graber, 176.! Graber theorizes that people distill information into units
that fit within their already-formed schemata; without schemata, people
are unable to !"take in" information to which they are exposed.
Although sometimes new schemata are formed in response to new
information, people will more often than not either fit new information
into existing schemata or else not utilize the information. "Changing
ideas," Graber] writes, "is a strain not to be incurred lightly."
l
46Choukas, 94.
47Devine, 108.;
48Choukas, 94]
49Devine, 28-29.
I
50Ibid HO.1 j
51 Graber, 185.
52Qualter, 65. !
1 j
52Bennett, Public Opinion. 251.
^4Bemays, 473.
i
^Walter Lippjman, Public Opinion (New York: Free Press, 1949), 10;
quoted in Bennett, Public Opinion. 250.
!
56Ibid 260-65.


I
57Ibid 248-49j
58Nimmo, 69. |
59H.W. Brands,Jr., "Decisions on American Armed Intervention:
Lebanon, Dominican Republic, and Grenada," Political Science Quarterly
102, (Winter 1987-88), 607-24. In this study of three American military
interventions, Brands notes that the decision makers involved in each
themselves relibd upon simplified versions of reality to offset their lack
of knowledge (about all relevant factors, with little dissent occurring
over interpretation of reality.
' j
^Murray Edelman, The Symbolic Uses of Politics (Urbana, 111.: Univ. of
Illinois Press, 1967), 6.
61 Bennett, Public Opinion. 260.
62Edelman, Chapter 2. Qualter provides a pleasing description of the
same concept, ithough he does not use the word "quiescence": "The
ultimate goal [iof official propaganda] is a kind of quiet acceptance of
the way thingsj are as approximately how they ought to be." Qualter
linked this phenomenon to the economic structure as well, saying,
"great efforts !are taken to protect us from anything which might
disturb the calm confidence in the future so necessary to a consumer
society." Qualter, 250-51.
-i
|
63Maureen Dowd, "A Stirring Breeze Sparks Feelings, Then Words for a
President's Yis|on," New York Times. 21 January 1989, 10.
64Edelman, 76:
65e11u1, 62-76.1
66Ibid 26, 126.
67Ibid 250-5lL
!' 1
68Choukas, 272, 276.
69Ibid., 281. '
7Ellul, 122. i
< l
71 Qualter, 235J
72Ibid., 53, 237.
1 i
I
30


I
I
1
i
i
7 3 This is a ;trait perhaps common to all developed societies, free or not,
for they cannot "take their own integration for granted, as earlier band
societies largely could....Social order [has] to be constructed, maintained
and legitimated in a...self-conscious manner...." Emy, 201.
74Edelman, 176. Edelman's model of a "unimodal" value pattern in
American political culture may be incomplete, however, for reasons
that will be discussed in Chapter 2.
7^Qualter, 6.
^Robert Dahl,' A Preface to Democratic Theory (Chicago: Univ. of
Chicago Press, 1956), 70.
I
I,
I.
I
3 1


CHAPTER 2
OFFICIAL PROPAGANDA AND INTRACULTURAL VALUE CONFLICT
i
I
i
Returning [ to Devine's model of political culture, we recall the
culturalist assumption that cultural values work to maintain the
political system of a society. We have theorized that official propaganda
i;
seeks to relate- crucial cultural values with regime objects, such as
policies or personalities, to bring about public quiescence and passive
participation, thus functioning to maintain the regime which sponsors
it. Devine recognizes, however, that value systems are not perfectly
homogenized. : Values within a particular political culture may actually
coexist while conflicting to some degree. "The resolution of conflicting
elements within the system," he writes, "may produce very different
i i
outputsdepending upon the weighing of the particular value at that
time."1 That! is, when one cultural value achieves momentary
l
prominence ovjer another with which it conflicts, that value may "win"
and be expressed in policy or in public opinion about policy. Such
ambivalence allows political communicators to "tap selectively into
contradictory, schemata to evoke desired support or opposition."2
Therefore, with which cultural values political objects are linked, or
1 l
I
more specifically, which values are called to the forefront of the public
!
mind and whjch are left dormant, becomes all-important for the regime
in the propess; of constructing an official, symbolic version of reality.


i
i
i
In the United States, a system which simultaneously embraces the
culture of democracy and of the national-security state, we find that the
"noble myths" iof the two cultural value systems coexist uneasily at best.
The values associated with the formerpopular sovereignty, the
I
j
restraint of governmental power, the centrality of the rational
individual, the1 importance of the rule of laware at odds with the
values of the j, latterconcentrated power and limited popular input into
decision making in order to free the executive branch to protect the
"national interest." Representative democracy only imperfectly
>i
expresses the values of democracy and tends toward official
management of, rather than service to, the public. The national-
' i
security state ^greatly exacerbates this tendency, and in a final ironic
I
twist, tends to subvert democratic values in the name of upholding
i
them. Therefore, the conflict apparent in theoretical writings which
i
simultaneously view official propaganda as a threat to or a refutation of
democracy bull yet regard it as necessary to the modern state perhaps
itself arises out of a deeper and less-examined conflict between the
values of democracy and those of the national-security state.
i 1
Several authors have explored this issue of intracultural conflict
i
in the content'| of the political culture of the United States, and have
, i
argued compellingly that intracultural value conflict describes much of
I I*
the content of our major policy questions today.J One such argument is
presented by lames Nathan and James Oliver, who explore the conflict
between the American cultural value of limited executive power and the
1 1
1
American cultural value of a strong and singular executive to lead and
33


defend the nation in foreign affairs.4 They use the Federalist writings
of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison to illustrate this conflict:
while Hamilton! argued that the executive must be free to respond to the
"exigencies" of foreign policy unimpeded by "constitutional shackles,"
Madison argued that "the means of defense against foreign danger have
always been the instruments of tyranny at home," and that an executive
balanced by ,a powerful legislature is crucial to the maintenance of
domestic liberty. This argument, Nathan and Oliver believe, reflects the
i
conflict inherent in a democracy such as ours that plays a preeminent
' i
role in world affairs. For power must be concentrated in the hands of a
; r
I
few in order effectively to carry out foreign policy befitting of a
superpower; yet the Constitution dictates that power be dispersed,
shared with Congress as an extension of the popular will. The executive
i
must be rendered very powerful, but that power threatens the very way
of life which the nation was designed to uphold.
Samuel 1 Huntington has addressed this conflict, calling it "the
ideals-versus4n'stitutions gap." Huntington argues that our cultural
I
expectations of democracy"opposition to power and to concentrated
authority"cannot be met in the implementation of our foreign policy,
i
and in fact impede America's ability to function effectively in its global
' I
role. To Huntington, the essential contradiction in American foreign
i
policy is "the; contradiction between enhancing liberty at home by
curbing the : ppwer of the American government and enhancing liberty
abroad by expanding that power."^ Again, the official view of the world
'i1
as a dangerous and unpredictable place has exacerbated the
34


i
1 !
i
t
contradiction. jForeign policy cannot, within this view, be based upon
moral principle J alone; yet the United States, it is argued, has made
i
I
"successive attempts to conceptualize or develop modes of force that
[are] consistenti with our democratic values and norms.
I
Saul Landau has addressed intracultural value conflict as well, and
has concluded !l that Americans' historical suspicion of concentrated
power, reflected in the fashioning of a constitutionally limited
executive, "in jeffect was transferred from the U.S. central government
: j
to the Soviet state. Security as protection from the evil central
government came to mean protection from the expansionist impulses of
the Soviet bear." Yet that transfer has led to a subversion of democratic
1 l
values: "The national security managers have prevented public and
i i
Congressional debate about major policy decisions, which violates the
spirit of thei Constitution and indeed limits each citizen's democratic
rights."7 1
While Nathan and Oliver's argument indicates that the American
intracultural value conflict between the values of limited governmental
power and thei values of expanded government power is not new, the
conflict has certainly been highlighted in the postwar era. In this era
of the United States' global battle against "communism" or other
challenges to the international status quo, the public has arguably been
I.
l
seen by the elite as a body which has had to be first convinced and then
,l
; l
constantly reminded of the exigency of the battle. To list American
1 !
foreign-policy iinitiatives, especially military initiatives, in the postwar
era is to simultaneously list major official campaigns designed to
! ! 35


engender appropriate public appreciation for the dangers perceived by
the foreign-policy making elite. Thus NSC-68 was designed, in the
1 j
words of Dean Acheson, to "bludgeon the 'mass mind' of top
government" in order to allow for the massive military build-up it
called for.8 Having successfully bludgeoned that mass mind, official
campaigns went on to bludgeon the mind of the general public with the
Truman Doctrine, MacArthur's denunciation of American
"appeasement" in Taiwan and Formosa, Dulles's "brinkmanship,"
Eisenhower's' "domino effect," Kennedy's "missile gap," not to mention
: i
the efforts of' three Administrations to whip up and maintain public
support for! Almerican intervention in Vietnam and Ronald Reagan's
inflammatory .calls for a renewed American commitment to global
i
American crusade against the Soviet "Evil Empire" and "terrorism."
These efforts, it appears, have constituted the fashioning of a
"noble myth" intended to unify the American public around the values
' i
of the national-security state. In the first half of the postwar era, it
appears, thesej, efforts were largely successful, with official elucidation
and exaggeration of the communist threat creating a solid public
anticommunist j consensus. The second half of that era, whose
beginning is. "marked by the loss of public support for the Vietnam War,
' i i
has been characterized by an elite struggle to "reconstruct" that
consensus, though perhaps by reference to different national-security
threats.^ It is in this sense that Gerald Ford's Secretary of Defense James
Schlesinger :spbke when he said, "Americans have to retain a vision of
America's role;, and be willing to make sacrifices for that vision. If that


doesn't occur,; then you have a society that subsists on inward tension
1 t
and tends to- collapse under threat."1^ Likewise, Brent Scowcroft,
i !'
' i
writing in 1987 about Third World nationalism and revolution, argued
i ii
that 1
it is possible to contend that events that may not directly touch
material U.S. interests are of no concern in this country. But,
psychologically, an important country that has no vision of its
constructive'!! relevance to such a large segment of the remainder of
the international system must function at a decided disadvantage in
comparison, i with nations that do possess such a unifying and
energizing! iview.1 1
Of course;, the "noble myth" of the national-security state contains
numerous references to the values of democracy. It comprises the
i >j
belief that the' United States is uniquely positioned, perhaps even
divinely ordained, to shine as a pure light of freedom to the other
,, i
nations of the |world. Even further, the United States is called upon,
. ']
even obligated to bring democracy to other nations. In a treacherous
world, this necessarily means that the United States will have to
intervene to rescue weaker or less fortunate peoples from
,1
. . i
totalitarianism, I especially of the communist variety. Communism is
lj
especially singled out because of its supposed monolithic mission to
subjugate all, riations under its godless and totalitarian boot. The
rationale is thvis completed by the connection of "democracy" to world
: I
order. The .United States itself will be secure, according to the myth,
only if "democracy" prevails around the globe and if no challenges to
that arrangement are successful.12 In the international context of the
postwar era,1 this prescription has imperfectly translated into a
commitment !to[ protect the status quo. Protecting the status quo


j
:" I
i
necessarily has1 meant protecting America's position at its apex.
]
Therefore, "national interests" have become synonymous with
protecting American hegemony.
i
It is probably these references to democracy contained within the
i
national-security myth that make the conflict of national-security
values and democratic values rather difficult for many Americans to
i
discern. The juxtaposition of the concept of "democracy" with the
concepts of "bommunism" and "totalitarianism" contained within the
' i
national-security myth has caused us habitually to emphasize to
ourselves that "democratic" values must be the sole linchpins of the
1
l
American political system. (This mental juxtaposition has been one
, i
'! I
important byproduct of the culture of national security, for it has
worked to "subliminate" the conflict and has discouraged critical self-
l
examination.) ; Furthermore, the myth of the national-security state has
co-opted the values of democracy to the purposes of the national-
security state. Values, it can be argued, are indeed unifying, but it is
; i
purposes which are mobilizing. If the country has been unsure of what
' |
purposes its democratic values should serve at homean expanded social
\
welfare state providing maximum opportunity for all, or a minimalist,
libertarian state maximizing individual freedom?--it has largely agreed
| j
upon (at least, in the first half of the postwar era) what purposes those
values serve in America's relations with the outside world.
However;] recognition of the conflict between the values of
democracy anil of national security has flickered from time to time,
bringing on, fits of criticism of those government policies which
|
: i 3 8
. I
! !
i


clearly illustrate the conflict. Troubling doubts about the proper means
to further America's agenda in the world have fragmented the strong
public consensus that characterized the American public before the
Vietnam Warv largely as a result of the questions about values raised by
. I
that war.14 For a small number of Americans, the conflict becomes fully
conscious and leads to a passionate commitment to oppose those policies
I'
which seem actually to flout democratic values. But the value conflict
between democracy and national security has, it seems, remained below
, i
the level of consciousness of most members of American society. Most
I
propaganda theorists have glossed over the conflict as well, yet it is
upon this dissonance that official foreign-policy propaganda in the
I
United States uneasily rests.
This paper has argued that the persistence of a political regime is
dependent upon that regime appearing to express and uphold certain
I
crucial cultural values, or upon the perpetuation of certain cultural
values that seijve to justify the maintenance of that regime and screen
out demands that challenge its legitimacy. If intracultural value
i
conflict is inherent in the political culture of the United Statesa
( 1
political system at once striving for democracy at home and for supreme
' i
influence abroadthen some further hypotheses can be formed. First,
the values of, (democracy and of national security have simultaneously
(though uneasily) upheld American postwar regimes. Second, the
! i
democratic values endemic in American political culture have the
power to call 'into question the often contradictory values of the culture
of the national-security state. They are therefore capable of posing a
I 39


threat to those! regimes which are based in large part upon national
security, hegemony-maintenance values by bringing about a reduction
in support for jthose values. Third, this value conflict is managed by
regimes through the use of propaganda, which seeks to keep public
awareness of this intracultural value conflict at the unconscious or
subconscious lisvel. Official propaganda surrounding foreign policy
will relate democratic value symbols with national-security policies,
thus simultaneously upholding both sets of values upon which
- !
contemporary regimes rest, and glossing over the conflict between the
two sets of yalues.
Our study of official propaganda must therefore attempt to
demonstrate how intracultural value conflict is maintained at the
! !'
subconscious1 or unconscious level through the manner in which
1 1 !
regime objects,, and reality itself, are presented to the public. We must
I
identify "demobratic" values and analyze how they are linked to policies
I
that are actually strong expressions of conflicting national-security
: I'
values. And jwe must examine how national-security values are
simultaneously | reinforced through official propaganda. It is therefore
assumed that -the regimes promulgating the official propaganda we will
1 I
analyze have rested or rest to some significant degree upon the values
of hegemony |and the national-security state, and have sought through
their propaganda to maintain themselves unchallenged.1 ^
l
If it is true that officials in the postwar era have engaged in myth-
making to instill a culture of national security in the American public
i
(and their efforts, by looking at opinion poll information in this era,
I
i
i
40


would seem to
have been rather successful),1(1 then why does official
propaganda also continually manipulate the symbols of democratic
\
values? There i appears to be more than one answer to this query. In the
'l
mid-term rang$ of objectives, official propaganda that relates
democratic values with national-security policies seeks to maintain
1 i
public quiescence by cutting short any perception of value conflict. It
is in this sense an anticipatory activity. A larger answer comes in
l
rememberingthat official propaganda serves more than just a short-
!'
term, policy-specific objective. Its long-term goal, as Ellul recognizes,
; i
is social integration. The United States, essentially a country of
immigrants, would appear to be especially in need of integrating values.
Ideals such as| personal freedom, popular sovereignty and the rule of
I
law are particularly powerful in this regard. Furthermore, as Quaker
. i
observes, the propagandist must be able to promise group support for
the attitude or response the propaganda advocates.117 Which American
i
values can be I assured of arousing uniform support? Surely, no official
propagandist \ would risk openly flouting the very values that have
I
inspired millions of people to choose the United States as their home.
I
The "dream ,of; America" is a powerful cluster of ideals and values indeed.
Therefore, even in the foreign-policy realm, in which managerial
1 i
democracy thrives and the subversion of democratic ideals arguably
occurs most often, official propaganda will not abandon the rhetoric of
democracy. 1 In fact, foreign policy, especially foreign conflict, offers
I
powerful opportunities for propaganda of integration, symbolically
defining who, we are as a nation as distinct from our enemies.1^
I
I
4 1


; Official Propaganda: The "Official Story"
Before we, examine official propaganda, it is necessary to discuss
I
how it is delivered to the public, its audience. Often it takes the form of
' i
an "official story" regarding some issue or event. The term "story" is
' i
chosen for its ^ descriptive power in illustrating both the process
involved in official propaganda-making and its intent. In its most
common usage,j the word "story" connotes a narration or relating of an
event or a series of events, either true or fictitious. The official story,
just as this connotation implies, has a plot, characters, a story line. It
; J
may incorporate fact, fiction, or myth, or all of these. A successful
official story will also include elements of drama: rising tension or
i
thickening conflict followed by a denouement or resolution, clearly-
j
drawn characters with whom the audience can relate or who can
clearly be identified as good or evil. A well-told official story, like any
good story, will encourage the audience to feel tense or agitated at the
I,
entrance of the villain onto the stage, excited and relieved when the
|
protagonist shojws bravado and/or triumphs over adversity. A
successful official story will bring about predictable responses from the
audience at key moments. As Edward Bernays reminds students of
public relations, the "themes" of any public relations strategy are
j
"comparable to' what in fiction is called 'the story line.'"1^
A good story is intrinsically satisfying to the audience in its use of
. r
I
cultural myths] and stereotypes, and the official propaganda story will
manipulate cultural symbols in a similarly pleasing way. The official
story about a regime object or an event can be expected to dramatize


'1 ll
cultural assumptions, values and tensions, acting as a form of "powerful
collective representation" of reality.2 The official story, it is important
to note, is often an ongoing one, its narration being carried over
i j
successive Administrations, even over decades. For example, the official
' l
American characterization of Cuba as a dangerous enemy bent on
regional domination has not been altered since Fidel Castro came to
power in 1959.
How does an official story accomplish propagandistic symbol
manipulation? :j First, it provides symbolizations of an issue or event
within its very structure. That is, the characters, the plot, the setting of
j ,1
the official story are themselves symbolizations of the world which, it is
expected, the public will accept and utilize in an undiluted fashion.
'I
Second, the, official story provides symbolic links between some cultural
i
;i
value or group of values and some regime object, and therefore
i
i
manages intra'cultural value conflict by anticipating and artificially
meeting public demands for governmental behavior that conforms to
crucial cultural values. For example, an anticipated public demand for
i
' i
legality or justifiability in any American use of force in the world will
be met withi a|n official story that presents any use of force as legal or
justifiable and glosses over its national security, hegemony-
maintenance content. Simultaneously, by becoming reality for most
ii
citizens, thei1 official story meets the anticipated demand for legality or
justifiability.;
- !i
The official story also supplies a symbolic conceptualization of an
issue or event; in order for favorable judgements to be made about the
43
I


, I I
success of a policy or a personality in responding to the issue or event.
Thus, for example, if the problem creating the dramatic tension
between the protagonist and the villain lies in the nature of the villain
himself, then aj response on the part of the protagonist that seeks to
1
eliminate the villain from the scene is expected to be judged by the
i
audience to be, j'entirely proper. If the crux of the problem between our
country and Libya is represented to be the evil nature of Libya's ruler,
then plans and attempts to eliminate that ruler from the scene will
likely be judge,d by the public to be both rational and proper.
Essentially, the "problem" contains within it a particular solution, a
j
proper response.2! So, we can expect the "problem" as defined by the
official story, to enshrine a particular form of response most consonant
with the proclivities of that regime. Finally, the official story provides
; lj
an overall symbolization of governmental responsiveness and action.
That is, it symbolizes to the public the commitment of the regime to the
public's best1: interests in responding to societal problems and acting on
them.
The Public as Audience
Conceiving of official propaganda as an official story necessitates a
: i
conception of the public as an audience to it. The concept of public-as-
audience challenges traditional democratic/pluralist theory, which sees
! .1
public opinion^ as an input into and perhaps even the ultimate arbiter of
the political sy'stem. To the degree that it is viewed as an input, the
opinion of a1 public-as-audience has at best limited power; as V.O. Key
44


argued, "Ordinarily a decision is made not by the public, but by officials
. -i
after greater or lesser consideration of the opinion of the public or of
parts of the public."22 This assumption is supported by the statements of
I
government officials, who have explained that "although only limited
use is made ofj public opinion data in policy formulation, such data are
often carefully! analyzed when officials plan presentation of their
I
policies to thej public."2-^ Former President Carter's chief pollster, for
example, has described opinion polls as a kind of guide post to
I
determine the direction and distance the President has to go in terms of
getting the public more in favor of positions which he feels are
necessary to; the country."24 The nominal power of public opinion,
!,
according to the public-as-audience model, consists mainly of a "mood"
I
relayed to officials that places broad and imprecise boundaries around
what they may do.2^ The opinion of a public-as-audience is seen,
therefore, primarily as an output of the political system, because it is in
large degree a'1 product of the political culture and of official,
managerial efforts to shape it.2^ Thus we can conceptualize politics in a
manner different from the traditional view that holds public activity or
inactivity to! be a function of people getting what they want. Instead,
I
. i
quiescence and1 political passivity can be seen, at least in part, as the
, l
result of official efforts to manage public demands by means of
managing public perceptions.2 7
!
Within' the public-as-audience model, most official communication
; j
with the publijc is thus seen not as an educational effort to engage the
rationality of 'the public, but a management effort to provide a ready-
l
1 ' 4 5


I
made symbolic!' road map to it. Presidents and their staffs manage public
opinion "more j often by articulating widely held values and pointing out
' i
i l
their application to some policy area, than by educating the public
about specific facts or causal connections relating to policy."2** As Ellul
'l
foresaw, official propaganda "suggests that public opinion demand this
or that decision" in such a way that "it gives the impression of obeying
public opinion,|r-after first having built that public opinion."2 ^
The publijc-as-audience conception is held to be true for all types of
j
managerial political systems--democratic, right-wing authoritarian,
! 1 |i
and commuiiist--for "ordinary member support is of enough
consequence ; in] all political systems that it must be reckoned with. Most
at least attempjt to manipulate it so that members may be controlled."3 0
j
That is, the association of regime objects with cultural values is seen
I
I I
simply as an integral part of what officials everywhere do; and some
,i
degree of conscious shaping of public opinion is seen to be inevitable in
every managerial political system. Political officials, according to this
model, seek 'toi shape the public "mood" so as to allow for their own
maximum maneuverability by maintaining a quiescent or otherwise
i
neutralized public and by fostering conformity. The public's role as
audience to the official story is to listen, assimilate, and react on cue
with happiness, consternation, fear, relief, and at the end, applause.
Gabriel, Almond and Sydney Verba's influential work The Civic
Culture offers an illustration of the public-as-audience in
representative^ democracy.21 Gabriel and Almond noted that in the
model democracies of Great Britain and the United States in the late


1950s and earliy 1960s, citizens generally displayed high "subjective
>
competence"--^strong degree of belief in their own ability to influence
the political system through various political activities. However, those
same citizens rarely attested to having actually tried to influence the
system in any iway other than voting. Their high subjective
l
competence was not matched by high levels of actual competence.
Rather than considering this a shortcoming of British and American
democracy, however, Almond and Verba forcefully argued that this
j
discrepancy between belief and reality is precisely what allowed those
; 'i
systems to function smoothly. The citizen in the civic culture, they
argued, "is notj the active citizen: he is the potentially active citizen."3 2
1
The authors contended that "the need for elite power requires that the
ordinary citizen be relatively passive, uninvolved, and deferential to
elites." Yet because the public retains the latent ability to become
politically aroused, elites act responsibly "in order to keep [the citizens]
!
from becoming! active." Almond and Verba labeled this phenomenon
(for whose existence they offered no proof) the "law of anticipated
1 I
reactions."33 j Almond and Verba thus offer a fine conceptualization of
the public as an audience to policy presentation, not as the source of its
: |
formulation. According to their model, elites seek, by the way policies
and their formulation are presented, to ward off citizen activity, rather
i
than to respond to it.34
! !
Theorists 'have noted the public's tendency to accept the audience
role rather readily, for example by being taken in by symbol
manipulation thjat leads to a confusion of policies with the people who


I
promote them. For instance, it is a well known anomaly that a
; J
substantial portion of the American public repeatedly gave Ronald
I
Reagan high approval ratings, even voting for him, while disapproving
{
of his policies: Conversely, it appears equally true that many who
approved of his policies did so despite the negative effect of those
policies on thdir objective material interests. In either case, it appears
1 i
very difficult to separate the public's symbolic images of personalities
i
and policies from their material aspects. This situation, in turn, leaves
audience publics vulnerable to further symbol manipulation.35 Nimmo
j !
writes that "politics is symbolic activity touching the lives of large
i
numbers of people because persons find meaning in the symbol-using,
symbol-makingj and symbol-misusing of political communicators."^
Yet are the; audience characteristics of publics absolute, inborn, and
: I
"natural"? It! seems highly likely that publics accept the audience role
I
precisely because in most, if not all political systems, that is the only
\
political role that most people perceive to be available to them. The
socialization process, in turn, breeds acceptance of this state of affairs,
and, eventually, reacting on cue comes to be equated in the public mind
: i
with genuine political participation. As Edelman observes, "A dramatic
i
symbolic life among abstractions...becomes a substitute gratification for
the pleasure of remolding the concrete environment.?
The public's low political competence in turn allows room for
increased authoritarianism, for "willingness to suspend one's own
critical judgement in favor of someone regarded as able to cope creates
authority."38 :The circle is thus completed, and legitimation of
48


managerial regimes presiding over audience publics increasingly
l
becomes a matter of public acceptance of official interpretations of
reality. For the audience public, whether attentive or otherwise, "an
official cue readily becomes the key influence" over perceptions of
i
reality, and thus over the continued legitimation of the regime.-* 9
j
(Official Propaganda and the Mainstream Press
Before we examine some specific official stories, we must attempt to
define what role the mainstream media play in the official propaganda
process. If, the public is propagandized, it is propagandized with the
witting or unwitting help of the media. The mainstream media are the
conduit of the j official reality the Administration presents. They act as a
mouthpiece through which the official propaganda is heard, and also as
a backdrop of entertaining images (especially through television) for
the official performance. Despite strong cultural myths about
journalistic "objectivity" and "neutrality," the American mainstream
I;
!
media generally ease rather than hinder the propaganda process. In
i
1 ,|
fact, the mainstream media presentation of reality, especially foreign-
i
i
policy reality, j is often virtually indistinguishable from the official
version, especially when the United States is engaged in either
hostilities with or active support of a foreign country or some sector of
its population.!4 0
We must examine the American journalistic ethic of "neutrality"
and "objectivity" in order to understand the dissemination of official
stories. In, short, this ethic holds that (to paraphrase Walter Lippman),


I
I
I
the press exists to circulate information and not to foment or engage in
i i
debate.41 Therefore, by. their own rules, mainstream media reporters
and their employers not only cannot offer their own opinion while
reporting the news, they cannot manipulate the balance of voices they
encounter, arid, in particular must refuse to "turn up the volume" of the
"smaller" voicbs (those with fewer resources at their command) to bring
j
them into competition with the louder ones. The effect of the neutrality
ethic is that "in practice...groups with the loudest, best-financed, and
i
most rehearsed' voices get their messages across more effectively and
more often" through the mainstream media.42 It also means that more
"credible" voices (i.e., those that we expect, through long experience, to
\-
hear from on jany particular issue) are accorded more weight, for to not
transmit such Voices would automatically translate into a loss of
credibility for! a newspaper or broadcast. Journalistic neutrality,
i
therefore, gives rise to the mainstream press's continual need to
legitimize itself as a properly objective and neutral conduit of
information to! the public.
. .1
Thus arises the circular relationship noted by Bennett: "The more
'official' the position, the more likely it is to be reported; the more it is
reported, the more credibility it gains; and the more credibility it gains,
'!
the more official it becomes." According to Bennett, other researchers
, , i
have illustrated this point by demonstrating that three conditions affect
! 1
how faithfully j the media transmit the Presidents official story to the
public: his "media status," that is, the strength of his "image" at any
: j
particular time'; the solemnity of the occasion; and the perceived degree
I |
' I 50
|
l


I
of public support of the President.4^ One can see how circular the
phenomenon becomes: a "strong" President is likely to encounter less
'i
criticism from jthe press, which will transmit his message to the public
in a purer form, thus, in turn, strengthening the President by
strengthening 'his image.
This phenomenon undoubtedly contributes to the relative timidity
, i
of the press inj its dealings with officials, especially the President. One
study found that in all Presidential news conferences held between 1961
and 1975, in not more than two did the number of "hostile" questions
posed by reporters number more than three.44 One can also see how
"neutrality" easily translates into an unacknowledged bias in favor of
the official view. ABC correspondent John McWethy (probably
unwittingly) lends credence to this argument with his comment, "When
you are in a situation where your primary source of information is the
United States government...you are totally at their mercy. And you have
to make an assumption that the U.S. government is telling the truth."45
i ]
Journalistic "objectivity," taken together with the media's main
function of providing entertainment, creates a media not so much in
search of facts| as one in search of a convenient and pleasing official
story.45 To frame the "news moments" which comprise their main fare,
I
the mainstream! media concentrate on what has been described as
! ;l
"event-centered" news, that is, on relating "facts" with little
interpretation of their meaning, and emphasizing stories with high
dramatic value] divorced from the less entertaining contexts and social
I
forces that give rise to them.4^ Event-centered news allows reporters to
' 5 1
I
1


I
pursue "documpntary" reporting, that is, carefully listing observable
facts about anj event while foregoing any troublesome analysis that
might lead them into the forbidden territory of opinion. Event-
i
centered reporting, it should be clear, lends itself perfectly to the
designs of the! propagandist-as-storyteller: the simpler and more
dramatic the story, the more compelling its plot and the more perfectly
it is staged, the more we should expect the mainstream media to relay
the story faithfully. This event-centered style takes on special
significance inj relation to foreign affairs, because the opportunities for
compelling goojd-versus-evil plots would seem to be especially great, as
I
would the element of drama inherent in confrontations between
I
nations and between their leaders. And, as Edelman observed, threats to
I
national security "sell" well, from the media's point of view, because
nearly every member of society can be presumed to be concerned when
one is said to Joccur. Therefore, the media can be expected to give
j
prominence to stories of threats to national security4 (an expectation
' ( i
l
seemingly met j in the content of network news programs in the period
j'
of the Persian ; Gulf Crisis).
For all of the above reasons, an official story is quite valuable to
i
the mainstream media, and there is an additional reason as well. An
official story serves as an "information subsidy" from the regime to the
press. Since jthe regime's obvious interest in getting its stories accepted
by the public may actually inhibit that acceptance,4^ "journalists,
garbed in a cloak of objectivity, are valued as channels through which
i
to deliver an 'information subsidy without having to pay a credibility
i i 52
I


I
tax."50 In other words, it is often more "economical" for the
j
government to, transmit its messages via the mouths of reporters, who
are presumed by most citizens to be neutral, than to attempt to be heard
directly. Therefore, regimes provide easily accessible information to
the media (when it is their interest to do so) to reduce the media's cost of
information-gathering and make official information much more
j
attractive to its initial consumers, the media. In turn, "inexpensive" and
J
abundant official information in the mainstream media makes it less
]
likely that people will expend the time and energy required to consume
alternative sources of information.
The dissemination of official propaganda in the United States "is
i
not necessarily! the result of some vast conspiracy masterminded by a
central bureau! of propaganda. It is due in large part to self-censorship
and to the effects of the shared biases of the people who produce the
mainstream .media."51 Those who work in or with the media do not
i
operate independently of the general cultural milieu of the political
1 r
system of which they are also members. Journalists will select and
organize information based on the very types of symbols, stereotypes
and themes that the propagandist will use to manipulate the public, to
: |
the degree that such symbols and themes seem "natural" and lend
1
themselves well to the creation of a flowing narrative.5 2 in fact, Gandy
notes that "the ideological content within the mass media channels must
be acceptable to the masses of people" in a system in which culture and
1 1
information are sold on the market. It is quite likely that a newspaper,
for example, that failed to operate with its cultural lens securely in
I
' 53


place would be rejected by the public.55 Arguably, the media are,
perhaps as much as any other institution, responsible for guarding and
upholding the '"hegemonic" culture of the political system,54 and are
powerful enough to fulfill this role, as they have become a "surrogate
conscience" of1 the citizenry, and capable of acting as a "transmission
line" to send official messages to the public and screen public response
to those messages.55
Finally, let us not overlook the obvious: journalists are in the
business of writing stories. Their work is, in a sense, the model upon
j
which the concept of an official story is based. Just like a journalist, the
i
official propagandist will pick and choose from facts and from the stock
i
fictions and mythic images of his or her culture to create a story that
will capture people's imagination and hold their attention. And in a
sense, journalists become propagandists every time they tell, retell, or
base their owri story upon, the official story.
i
Bennett describes the propaganda-to-news cycle thus: First,
"political authorities plant simple, vivid, ideologically and culturally
popular images with the press." Journalists, looking for "quick
, i
dramatic angles, choose the safest political course" by emphasizing
i
official rhetoric (thereby exhibiting the requisite "neutrality") and
, ii
choosing stock plot formulas from the cultural shelf as they retell the
official story,, j carefully reporting all the observable "facts." Finally,
"the passive public, looking to resolve new situations in easy terms"
1
respond predictably and rather uniformly to the stock images presented
to them by officialdom and the media.5 ^
54


I
Of course! this model would be rejected outright by many officials.
For them, the 'media all too often is overly contentious and
uncooperative, | consistently emphasizing the negative to the exclusion
|
of the positive agendas and accomplishments of an Administration.
Such official protests fit perfectly within our model of managerial
democracy. Managerial officials realize their considerable dependence
upon the mass, media to disseminate the official messages designed to
shape public pjerceptions of political life, and quite naturally resent the
media's potential power to obstruct or distort those messages. As one
NBC News White House correspondent put it, "Politicians always say they
want a fair press, when what they really want is a positive press.7
; I
]
j Ronald Reagan: A Superlative Storv Teller
One can hardly describe the official propaganda process as a story-
telling process! without noting that Ronald Reagan was a particularly
adept story teller. Without doubt, Reagan's Hollywood background and
' |
his former role as public relations man for General Electric served him
well in this regard, for he was completely at ease in the center of
I
attention, in the glaring lights of publicity, speaking warmly to
cameras as if they were people. It can also be assumed that Reagan was
more facile with the aspects of drama necessary to a story teller than
are most politicians. Alford relates a descriptive vignette from Reagan's
autobiography, in which Reagan tells the reader of
I
...one of his first jobs, "recreating" baseball games. He was not
present at the game, but received brief coded messages by telegraph
of each play. Reagan's job was to give life to the game, to describe it
as though he were actually there. Yet no one was fooled; indeed,
! 55


occasionally! the public was invited to watch him "visualize" the
game. One; day the telegraph went dead in the middle of the game,
and Reaganj was forced to improvise plays. He tells us that it was
terribly important that the audience not know that the line went
dead. Whyj, since the audience was aware that Reagan was not out at
the ballpark?....Even though all knew that Reagan's presence at the
ball game was an illusion, there was "complicity in make believe."^ 8
|
Thus Reagan excelled not only at story telling, but in a "transfer [to
politics] of a specific show-business objectivethe willing suspension
of belief."^ I Reagan also excelled at the careful, even hair-splitting use
of language 'soj' necessary to a public relations approach to governing.
For example, in July of 1983, Reagan defended his Administration's
record on civil rights by saying that he had "authorized" filing three
new school desegregation suits. However, to authorize and actually to
file such suits
are very different actions, a distinction that was perhaps
lost on the public.60 Reagan was also good at challenging public and
i
media expectations, as when he held up a piece of paper at a press
conference which he claimed held proof of his claims that the "rape
excuse" had led to more abortions in his home state of California, or that
a privatization ,of welfare in Arizona had led to increased social services
at lower costs, [and so on.^1 He thus dared the press to call him a liar and
challenged the ^ public to believe that the President could prevaricate in
such a bold-faced manner.
The Reagan Administration was also quite good at orchestrating the
I
telling of ongoing official stories. In the Reagan White House, "the
' i.
daily goal of; the political staff was to produce a single dominant news
story that all: members of the Administration would be disciplined
enough to stand behind." Hence, "the presence of an agreed-upon
i
'story of the ; day' made the journalistic task of deciding what to cover an
| ! 56


I
easy, even trivial, one, while maximizing political control of news
i
images flowing from the executive branch."62 Reagan played the
mainstream me'dia masterfully, emphasizing "his personal stake in
I
policy decisions" and "defining his policies as test of personal power," a
strategy that1 the mainstream media found irresistible given their
penchant for dramatic conflict.63 Not coincidentally, the Reagan
!
Administration i employed three polling organizations, and placed the
i
talented public' relations man Michael Deaver in a prominent place
within Reagan's inner circle. One "close White House observer" noted
that "perhaps more than any other Administration, the Reagan White
i i
House uses pojlling, public opinion analysis and media and marketing
research as contributory elements in the decision making process and
the selling of jthe presidency."^4 On a larger scale, Reagan can be said to
I
have excelled ht telling the public who they were and what they wanted.
As Arthur Miller observed in 1981, "the administration's repeated claims
!
to 'mandates',,can...be seen as a part of its attempt to in fact create such a
consensus today, either by inventing popular wishes or using selective
evidence to support its case."65 Ronald Reagan, the consummate story
teller, represented the ideal executive in an age of a managerial
democracy recommitting itself to the role of international
preeminence.: i One assumes that the present President, though lacking
1 [
Reagan's glib 'and easy manner before the camera, learned the value of
j
well-orchestfated story telling during his tenure as Reagan's ancillary.
' i
[
' i
l
: 5 7
' I
i
11 !
! i


Notes
Donald J. Devine, The Political Culture of the United States (Boston:
Little, Brown and Co., 1972), 36.
2Doris A. Grabber, Processing the News:How People Tame the Information
Tide (New York: Longman, 1988), 257.
^Herbert McClosky and John Zaller, The American Ethos: Public
Attitudes Toward Capitalism and Democracy (Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1984), for example, offer an analysis of the conflict
between the. American cultural values of capitalism and democracy.
4James Nathan; and James Oliver, Foreign Policy Making and the
American Political System (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1987), passim.
i |i
^Samuel Huntington, "American Ideals Versus American Institutions,"
in American : Foreign Policy: Theoretical Essays, ed. G. John Ikenberry
(Glenview, 111.:,: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1989), 255.
^Richard H.: Sjchultz, Jr., "Can Democratic Governments Use Military
Force in the War Against Terrorism?" World Affairs 148 (Spring 1986):
205-6.
7Saul Landau, jThe Dangerous Doctrine: National Security and U.S.
Foreign Policy. (Boulder: Westview Press, 1988), 2,4.
^Nathan and Oliver, United States Foreign Policy and World Order
(Boston: Little,i Brown and Co., 1978), 134.
^Richard A.vMelanson, Reconstructing Consensus: American Foreign
Policy Since the Vietnam War (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), 6.
1 Ibid., 434. j
; J
^Brent Scowcroft, "U.S. National Security and the Third World," in
America in thb World. 1962-1987. ed. Walter Laquer and Brad Roberts
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 1987), 332.
12Nathan and .Oliver, United States Foreign Policy, chapter 1.
12The concept! of "hegemony" utilized here is in the sense of an
"informal empire": "a loosely knit system of dependents, open to U.S.
investment, with support given by [local] elites to the special needs of
U.S. business." This arrangement is not formalized by agreement with
other nations | as the British empire, for example, was and allows for


I
"indirect rule" of the dependent nations. Edward S. Herman and Frank
Brodhead, Demonstration Elections (Boston: South End Press, 1984), 2.
i
14Melanson, chapter 1.
15This is not to argue that the regimes of the 1980s were unique in this
aspect. Herman land Brodhead, op. cit., and Noam Chomsky, On Power and
Ideology (Boston: South End Press, 1987).
: i
1 ^John E. Mueller, War. Presidents and Public Opinion (New York: John
Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1973). Chapter 3 provides poll data that shows
strong support for the national security state rationale for American
intervention in Korea and Vietnam. In the post-Vietnam period a
significant degr.ee of support remains for the values of the national
security state, i However, certain limitations upon what the public will
accept in terms of overseas military involvement seem clear: the
amount of time,1 an operation takes, its cost in terms of lives and money,
as well as an acute need for clearly stated goals that are successfully
achieved by th|e action.
^Terence Qualter, Opinion Control in the Democracies (London:
Macmillan, 1985), 91.
^Stephen Vaughn, Holding Fast the Inner Lines: Democracy.
Nationalism, and the Committee on Public Information (Chapel Hill:
Univ. of North; Carolina Press, 1980). Vaughn's research offers
powerful testimony to the role that domestic World War I propaganda
played in integrating American society.
i
^Edward Bemays, "The Engineering of Consent," in Voice of the People.
ed. Reo M. Christenson and Robert O. McWilliams (New York: McGraw-
Hill Book Co., 1'967), 471.
i
2^In fact, the [official story may be a deeply cultural phenomenon.
Merelman note's the recurrence of "frequently deployed narratives
which recount : and dramatize in story form appropriate interactions
between the ; contrasting elements within any cultural set....Such
narratives appear in myths, rituals, popular culture, ceremonies or
even in institutional behavior in which exemplary persons (heroes,
villains, etc.) Or designated players (bank managers, Presidential
candidates, capitalists) depict components of the situations themselves.
In effect, such! persons 'act out,' 'display,' and 'exercise' the culture."
Richard M. Merelman, "On Culture and Politics in America: A
Perspective from Structural Anthropology," British Journal of Political
Science 19 (19^9): 477, 481.
21 Murray Edelman, Constructing the Political Spectacle (Chicago: Univ.
of Chicago Press, 1988), 29.
I


22V.O. Key, "A Definition of Public Opinion," in Christenson and
McWilliams, 12.
23John P. Robinson and Robert Meadows, Polls Apart:A Report from the
Kettering Foundation (Washington D.C.: Seven Locks Press, 1982), 27.
: |
24George C. Edwards, The Public Presidency (New York: St. Martin's
Press, 1983), 16.
25Devine, 349-50.
2^W. Lance Bennett, Public Opinion in American Politics (New York:
Harcourt Bracej Jovanovich, 1980), 11.
2^Dan Nimmo: j Political Communication and Public Opinion in America
(Santa Monica,1 Calif.: Goodyear Publishing, Inc., 1978), 87.
^Benjamin I. [page and Robert Y. Shapiro, "Educating and Manipulating
the Public," in Manipulating Public Opinion: Essays in Public Opinion as
Dependent Variable, ed. Michael Margolis and Gary A. Mauser (Pacific
Grove, Calif:! Bjrooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1989), 309.
29jaques Ellul, j Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes, translated
by Konrad Kellen and Jean Lerner, with an introduction by Konrad
Kellen (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1965), 132.
I
^Devine, 32. !
I
3!As Verba himself observes in "On Revisiting the Civic Culture: A
Personal Postscript," The Civic Culture Revisited (Boston: Little, Brown
and Co., 1980),394-410, the original study did not by any means provide
a definitive depiction of any of the five countries surveyed, much less a
blueprint for the political development of those nations. Almond and
Verba's model jfrom The Civic Culture is presented here more as a useful
illustration of jthe public-as-audience concept with all of its managerial
overtones. j
32Gabriel Almond and Sydney Verba, The Civic Culture (New Jersey:
Princeton Uriiv.1 Press, 1963), 481.
i
33Ibid., 478, 486.
i
34Carole Patemjan, "The Civic Culture: A Philosophic Critique," in Almond
and Verba, The Civic Culture Revisited. 65.
60


35c. Fred Alford, "Mastery and Retreat: Psychological Sources of the
Appeal of Ronald Reagan," Political Psychology 9 (December 1988): 579-
82. : [
36Nimmo, 92.; ;
. i
32Murray Edelrnan, The Symbolic Uses of Politics (Urbana, 111.: Univ. of
Illinois Press,; lj967), 8.
^Edelrnan, Political Spectacle. 20. Emphasis added.
,1
39Ibid 25. ! |
4^Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent (New
York: Pantheon 'Books, 1988), chapters 2-7. See also Herman and
Brodhead, op ciL, whose whole work is premised upon this theme; the
preface provides an overview.
'' i
41 Christopher :Lasch, "The Lost Art of Political Argument," Harper's.
September 1990] 17.
; i;
42Bennett, News: The Politics of Illusion. 2d ed. (New York: Longman,
1988), 13. ; ;
'j
43Ibid., 72, 76l, [
44 Edwards, 117.1
1,
4^Mark Hertsgaard, On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan
Presidency (New York: Schocken Books, 1989), 233.
46Ibid.A 62. ; j
42Robert P. Snow, Creating Media Culture (Beverly Hills, Sage
Publications, 1983), 40-41 and 55.
i
4^Edelman, 14. !
"j
49William J. MbGuire, "Attitudes and Attitude Change," in Handbook of
Social Psychology, ed. Gardner Lindzay and Elliot Aronson, 3d ed., vol. 2
(New York: Random House, 1985), 267-270. Since a source's credibility
rests in part on| its disinterestedness in the outcome, it is thought that
the public would; be less likely to accept the same information if it was
delivered by this government itself.
50(3scar H. Gandy, Bevond Agenda Setting: Information Subsidies and
Public Policy (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex Publishing Co., 1982), 198.


ll
^1 Brett Silverstein, "Toward a Science of Propaganda," Political
Psychology 8 ^(March 1987): 52. However, direct government censorship
should not be. discounted, as it certainly occurs in times of foreign
confrontation. ij Neither should government efforts to pressure the
media be overlooked. Nixon's designs to have CBS's continuation license
denied, and Reagan's Office of Public Diplomacy, which sent officials to
pressure mainstream organs like National Public Radio for what it
deemed unfavorable coverage of United States policy in Central
America, are examples. See Peter Kombluh, Nicaragua: The Price of
Intervention (Washington: Institute for Policy Studies, 1987), 160-64.
52Allan Rachiinj; News as Hegemonic Reality: American Political Culture
and the Framing of News Accounts (New York: Praeger, 1988), 125.
i
^Gandy, 210.; j
..
54The phrase isjj borrowed from Rachlin, who based his work on
Gramscis concept of hegemonic culture.
I
I
^Bennett, News. 78.
56Ibid 176. !
1
57Hertsgaard, 3j
i1
* i'
58Alford, 572.:
59james Nathan: Miller, "Ronald Reagan and the Techniques of
Deception," Atlantic Monthly. February 1984, 68.
60Ibid., 64. j
J
6!Bennett, News!. 100.
62Ibid 90. ; j
63Ibid 28-29: i
64Edwards, 17. i
: j
^^Gandy, 168. i j
62


1
CHAPTER 3
. I
INTRODUCTION TO CASE STUDIES
I
The following chapters will examine the official stories told by the
American foreign-policy-making elite to the American public about the
1 i
invasion of Grehada in 1983, the bombing of Libya in 1986, the invasion
of Panama in 1989, and the military mobilization against and eventual
l
war with Iraq in 1990 and 1991. Each will be examined with regard to its
treatment of three American cultural values of democracy
nonaggression, 'rationality, and legality--and its simultaneous
I 'i
reinforcement o|f the values of the national-security state
I
concentrated executive power, minimized public and Congressional
input into foreign policy, and the use of force to maintain American
hegemony. Befbre proceeding to these case studies, it is necessary to
discuss the issue of information control, and to clarify how the success
of official propaganda campaigns will be measured.
; j Official Information Control
These studies assume a high degree of information control
available to those at the apex of the foreign-policy making
I I
1 '!
Establishment. ;This control flows from the nature of the presidency in
relation to the rest of the American political system, especially where
foreign affairs are concerned, and from the nature of the American
mainstream media. We have defined official propaganda as that being
,i
' I,
i I
I
; l
! |


told by the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department, and other
major policy-making bodies, with Presidents acting as the most official
of the official jpropagandists. Presidents and their staffs have several
!' 1
factors in their favor when they engage in foreign-policy propaganda.
The President's j "control" of the visibility of foreign-policy issues is
i
rather highthat is, the question of when a foreign-policy issue
becomes an issue, and of how much of an issue it becomes, is more at the
discretion of .fhe executive branch than of any other governmental
entity.1 Furthermore, few other sources will be able or willing to
generate competing information about a foreign-policy event,
especially if it is a "crisis," and few if any members of the public will
successfully second-guess the President's judgement about the
proportions of events.2 Not only is press access to the scene of an event
j
often restricted i under "crisis" circumstances, but domestic opinion
leaders are often unwilling to question or criticize the President at such
times.-5 These observations, it is reasonable to assume, extend to military
officials as well, in the analysis of military affairs.
When the ^characteristics of the mainstream media discussed in the
previous chapter! are added to the picture, it becomes clear that
Presidents and their staffs enjoy a relatively high degree of control
I
i
over the flow of information made available to the public in times of
. I
foreign confrontation, especially at the outset of events. It will be
recalled that this information will not necessarily be false. The official
propagandist can control relatively well the introduction of both truth
and falsehood into the public record to a great degree. Moreover, the
64


I
managerial attitude of foreign-policy making elites prescribes that all
-i
1 i
communications; with the press be constrained by a sensitivity for how
information can affect that crucial variable of public opinion.
; :i
1 i
Measuring the Success of Official Propaganda
Returning jto our model, we recall that official propaganda has
r
several short-, ,mid- and long-term objectives and goals. Its most
immediate short-term objective is for the official story, the official
version of reality, to be accepted as reality by opinion leaders and the
; if
public. In order for us to measure official propaganda's success in
reaching this .goal, it is necessary to measure to what degree the
i
!!
mainstream media have deviated from the official version in relating
the story to the! public. One measure of this deviation would be how
often, in what way and to what degree the story presented in the
1 i
!'
mainstream media has differed from that provided by American
officials. A similar measure could be employed for opinion leaders in
Congress. How^ often did members of Congress reject some basic tenet of
' !i
the official story, as opposed to making the official story their basis for
! ,j
debate and comment? Finally, the questions asked in opinion polls can
be examined to i see to what degree they repeat the tenets of the official
i. 'I
story, and therefore if the levels of support they report indicate a
general public, acceptance of the official story. However, a serious
shortcoming remains with this model that cannot be easily overcome:
! i1
how do we know to what degree all of the individuals that comprise "the
public" have actually utilized the official story in forming their
65


opinions about these four uses of force abroad? The meticulous
examination of jthese four cases that will be carried out here, it can be
assumed, bears l little resemblance to the way most Americans get their
news. Indeed, most Americans do not read a daily newspaper; many do
not even watch) television news. So it bears remembering that most
Americans, to the extent that they utilize the official story at all, utilize
i
a distilled version of it, one in which fine points and minor shifts are
overlooked. Tlie official story the American audience hears, it can be
\ |
assumed, is often one they may pay only fleeting attention to, and it may
consist of extremely simplified, and perhaps hazy characters and plots
passed on to them by hearsay rather than by direct exposure to the
media. j
The other| short-term objectives of official propaganda, which are
accomplished simultaneously with meeting the primary one, are to
provide simplified symbolizations of complex realities, relate regime
j,
objects (personalities, policies) with favorable (democratic) values, and
provide a symbolization of governmental responsiveness and action on
j
some "problem." The official story can be examined for its symbolic
!
content in order to demonstrate attempts to meet these objectives,
especially by 1 looking at the use of encoding and of metaphors.
: |
"Encoding" is the process by which complex realities are simplified and
' i
given unidimensional meaning by official institutions and the press
i
(for example,1 "the unemployment rate" is a unidimensional indicator of
economic well-being that is treated as a meaningful statistic despite its
I ,
hidden priorities, assumptions and distortions). By "metaphor" is


I,
jl
meant "a wordji that conjures up a transfer of meaning and feeling from
I
one object to,;another." Like an encoded "fact," a metaphor gives the
information recipient a sense of understanding something significant
: ;l
about a particular object, issue, person or event (for example, "getting
government offijour backs" evokes an image of government as some sort
I
of living, parasitic organism).^ In examining official propaganda, we
look for encoded and metaphoric information to see how it
simultaneously accomplishes the tasks of simplifying reality in
symbolic form jand of relating regime objects with crucial cultural
values. We must also look at the way the "problem" (the dramatic
. i
tension) is defined or described by the official story, for this
capsulation will: determine what actions (actual or symbolic) will
represent responsiveness to and action on that problem. For the sake of
, l
i !
greater clarity, ithe symbolic content of the propaganda message in
each case studyij will be examined before a discussion of its success at
being accepted jas reality by the public.
Official propaganda's mid-term goal, we have hypothesized, is to
! i
engender quiescence. This could be imperfectly measured by reference
to approval ratings for the policy in question and by looking for
evidence of dissatisfaction with the policy, such as public
l'
demonstrations. >j However, as Bennett has established, our search for
such indicators ;is frustrated by a widespread public assumption of the
inferiority of public opinion to elite opinion, compounded by a passive
j i
media often unwilling to print or broadcast poll results which
contradict or iquestion official positions.^ Similarly, official
1 I 67


propaganda's:'1 long-term goal-social integrationcannot really be
''! j
measured except by creative interpretation of polling information.
,!' :r
11 '!'
This study will attempt to measure how and how well the short-
term objectives
s of official propaganda were achieved in the cases of
American military force used against Grenada, Libya, Panama, and Iraq.
It is assumed Ihere only that the public's reaction to the invasions of
Grenada and | Pjanama, the bombing of Libya and the preparations for
war against ,1'ralq might not have been as favorable had a story other
than the officiil one been dominant. If such had been the case, the
i "'ii
Ml
essential conflict between the democratic values of nonaggression,
rationality and
legality and the actions of the government might have
been more obyious to the public, and might have given rise to more
public concern! and debate. This is an assumption for which there can
be no conclusive proof. Indeed, the research of some scholars leads one
! :j
to consider whether the public might have provided its own culturally
comfortable, ^apiplaudable story even in the absence of an official story
to accomplish
Bush AdminiStr
that purpose.7 However, the efforts of the Reagan and
ations to provide an official story lead us to the
conclusion th'adj they apparently thought it was necessary, or attempted
as an automatic reaction, to construct an official story that would
Mi
minimize orexpunge value conflicts inherent in their foreign policies.
!i, ']
Therefore, this ] study of official propaganda is not an attempt to measure
the deviationj of an official story from "truth," but instead to examine
what symbol; [manipulation these regimes apparently found it natural,
68


necessary or I expedient to employ in their efforts to achieve short-term
I
propaganda objectives.
I
i
. 1 ilDemocratic and National-Security Values
1 !
The following case studies will first examine official manipulation
of symbols associated with three values which underlie the culture of
! j
democracy: rationality, nonaggression, and the rule of law. These
values are subtly intertwined, facets of the same American ideal, but it
is possible to' disaggregate them to some extent.
jl
We begin with the value of rationality, upon which many of the
, I
values associated with democracy rest. The classical liberal ideal of free,
democratic, andij capitalist society is arguably impossible to conceive of
f
without a basic j belief in the innate rationality, or at least potential for
1 i1 e
rationality, of individuals.8 And just as humans are capable of
rationality, ini a free society government institutions must behave
rationally andi order society in a rational manner. Accordingly,
i
members of a ciemocracy typically value manifestations of rationality in
government, especially in political decision-making processes. The idea
of bringing representatives of various groups together to hammer out
!' !
policies is based upon a belief that groups of representatives can better
J 'i
act in the interests of all than can a single individual. It is also based
, j
upon the belief;j'that groups can be more rational decision makers than
isolated individuals. Hence, good policy, the democrat believes, is the
i l
output of well-constituted groups acting in accordance with certain
69


rules. Such
decision-making process should yield a rational outcome
i.e., one that j'is' necessary or is satisfactory to achieve a stated goal.
I 1' ',|l
j
Consequently, a democracy typically values consensus very
highly. Consensus illustrates that all concerned groups have played
iii.
their proper ;rqle in the decision-making process, and that all give their
i' if
mark of approval not only to the policy, but to the rationale
i ;i
underpinning the policy and to the process by which the policy was
! 11'
1
formulated. .Consensus signals to the citizen that the political process is
1 >li
- .j |i
working rationality. Consensus gives rise to order: the rational society
;m!
will exhibit a, high degree of order in its political life, a characteristic
much valuedby the American democrat.^ Consensus, in the broadest
sense, signals the legitimacy of a democratic regime.1
The seconld value, nonaggression, is the cultural ideal of relying on
! 1i
means other than force to get one's way. It is in this sense an essential
'i
distinction bqtvvjeen the mythical "state of nature" and the society based
upon social contract. Not only is aggression within society considered
i
to be unnecessary, it is believed to be irrational and harmful.11 As
! j,
might be expected, this ideal is less perfectly expressed in the realm of
foreign affairs,:
proper tool of
where force is more often perceived as a necessary and
advancing or protecting self-interest. Yet democratic
values have constrained this realm as well. Traditionally, democracies
i j'
have been suspicious of nondemocratic states because "nonliberal
'vl!
governments arje in a state of aggression with their own people."
Hence, it has i
1 I
1 i
their neighbors:
5een thought, they must necessarily be aggressive toward
as well.1 ^ On the other hand, democratic nations have
70


been believed to be nonaggressive in their dealings with each other.
This belief is .precisely how democratic nations, especially the United
States, have rationalized crusades to bring democracy to every other
!
land. Once all| nations are democratic, so the rationale goes, the
conditions giving rise to international conflict will be erased. In the
meantime, even those who argue for the American use of force to solve
conflicts in the international arena have acknowledged the existence of
"a moral desire! to find other ways to settle the differences that
i
inevitably arise; when the sovereign interests of states clash."13
The third value of the rule of law is intimately related to the value
of nonaggression and is based upon the value of human rationality.
Nonaggression, t'he abdication of the war of all against all in favor of a
society based
upon rationality, requires enforced law.14 Thus, law is
crucial to the riiaintenance of the contractual society. The rule of law
necessarily extends not only to the relationships among individuals, but
to the relationship of the individual and the state. The idea of a
constitutionally limited government is the highest expression of this
value: rational humans endowed with inalienable rights deserve to have
their relationship to the state defined by limits upon what the state may
do to the individual. Thus, the rule of law, as it is applied to
governments, is] an expression of distrust of authority, a manifestation
I
of the essential | polarity of the individual and the state.^ International
law has attempted to extend those limits to what nations may do to the
i
citizens of other nations by upholding the ideal of national sovereignty.
i
Of course, this daw has been touted by many nondemocratic nations, and
7 1


flouted by nations of all kinds. Its essential premise, however, is an
expression ofrthe democratic value of the rule of law writ large.
I
We expectl from the model constructed in Chapter 1, that official
propaganda will relate these (and not necessarily only these)
1 ,.j
democratic values with regime policies in order to gamer support for or
neutralize opposition to those policies. In the foreign-policy realm, it is
argued, potential opposition to policy arises as a result of citizen
j
recognition of the conflict between democratic values and the national-
!' J
security values ,'pften expressed by policies. What, then, are the values
of the national-security state?
First and foremost, the national-security state requires that the
1
power to deal; with the outside world be concentrated in the hands of the
executive as muph as possible. Because the world is a treacherous
i !
environment and threats to the national interest can arise suddenly
: i
which need td lie addressed quickly and firmly, it is believed that the
President and j his staff require maximum discretion and
This reduces the role of Congress and the public in
foreign policy, eliminating much of their voice in the
conduct of foreign affairs. Attempts by Congress or the public to
exercise a greater role in foreign policy are seen by national-security
elites as potentially dangerous to the national interest. However,
; :l
Congress and the public do have an important role to play in standing
1 1
' I
behind the President as he leads the country. "Bipartisanship" is a
maneuverability,
the exercise of
crucial reservoir
of Presidential power and must be nurtured. Likewise,
public support i for the President's activities is considered vital. Since it
72


is the public that must pay for his foreign-policy initiatives with their
taxes, freedoms and perhaps lives, and since it retains the power of the
vote, the public's support must be courted.
Concentrated executive power and the limited Congressional and
public role in
security state; :
foreign policy serve the main purpose of the national-
preservation of the international status quo at (nearly)
all costs. Preserving the status quo necessarily means preserving the
American position at its apex. Threats to the national interest,
therefore, are pjerceived by elites not only in acts of direct aggression
against the territorial United States. Elites generally perceive and
depict the activities of any nation, or groups within nations, which
threaten the global distribution of power in a way unfavorable to
1
American hegemony as directly threatening to the American national
interest. Naturally, in the large and complex contemporary
international sy
stem, such threats arise rather frequently, especially
since the status) quo is not particularly equitable. Hence, the
perceptions and
phenomenon: a
values of the national-security state create a circular
treacherous and unpredictable world necessitates a
strong executivej to uphold the global status quo; the status quo
I
engenders frequjent threats against the "national interest," which
require a strong, unhindered Presidential response.
In attempting to preserve the status quo, the national-security
state favors the
"diplomacy of violence" wherein the "calculated use of
threats and pain" has been wedded to the notion of diplomacy. For
example, in the
postwar era, negotiations and aggression have been
73


carried on simultaneously, the former being implemented to influence
the course of; the latter. Force has been favored as a way of dealing with
i
conflicts. Concomitantly, "toughness" in our dealings with those
perceived as adversaries has been enshrined,17 as have concepts such
as "credibility."; When foreign-policy elites such as Henry Kissinger
speak of American "credibility," it appears, they are speaking of a
I
crucial international perception of America as ready, willing, and able
to use force to jget its way.
i
Choice of Case Studies
i
The four cases examined in this study have been chosen for their
proximity in time, both to today and to each other, and because they
give us two events each from the Reagan and Bush Administrations to
examine. Their common element--the use of force abroadhas been an
important issue^ in American thinking on foreign policy in the postwar,
and especially the post-Vietnam, era. Specifically, the actual use of
military force, as opposed to the use of rhetorical or economic weapons
j
against those perceived as enemies, has been a major stumbling block
in the path of, a national foreign-policy consensus,1** which makes these
four cases particularly valuable for the study of official propaganda.
j
Also, it is believed that these four cases represent something of a new
framework for jAmerican foreign policy. This framework is based upon
the post-Vietnam conviction of many who fashion American foreign
! 1 I;
policy that the biggest battle of any foreign military action is fought at
i
home in the struggle for the hearts and minds of the American public.


Within this 'Inejw framework, foreign-policy makers are especially
conscious of the audience public and of the role of the media in public
perceptions of; foreign confrontations.19
I ]
Obviously;j some shortcomings exist in choosing these four
instances. For J example, it may be that the results obtained here could
not be duplicated for military actions undertaken by different
j f ]
Administrations' under different political circumstances. However,
these four actions, each with its own rather superficially distinct
rationale (anticommunism, antiterrorism, antinarco-terrorism,
antiaggression1)
provide a rich field for comparison that earlier
military actions: of the postwar era might not. Furthermore, it is this
1i
author's belief ijthat the American military actions in Grenada, Libya,
Panama, and Iraq (while following upon and utilizing the legacy of the
culture of the Cold War), represent an era of resurgent American
' j
determination | to maintain a dominant influence upon the affairs of the
Third World. The United States military, particularly in the aftermath of
the dissolution |of the Soviet threat, has been increasingly
j j
concentrating | on modifying itself to deal better with Southern
i '
I
"contingencies." Along with "low intensity conflict" of the type carried
j,
out in El Salvador and Nicaragua, for example, these four cases
represent the gamut of military action in this era: "punitive raids and
strikes" such las, those carried out in Grenada and Libya, to "full-scale
, i
military intervention" as in Panama,^ to a mobilization and war on a
! !'S
scale not witnessed since Vietnam..


Based on the conceptualization of official propaganda developed in
the previous two chapters, these case studies will analyze the value-
linkage and encoding contained within the official story surrounding
each military abtion and will attempt to measure public acceptance of
. I
i
the official story by measuring media deviance from that story,
i
i
Congressional responses to the action, and polling information. These
studies rely upon the New York Times unless otherwise noted.21


Notes
*W. Lance Bennett, Public Opinion in American Politics (New York:
Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1980), 295.
2Emest R. May, "American Foreign Policy in the Next Decade:
Disaggregating the Prediction Problem," in The New Era in American
Foreign Policy.
57.
ed. John H. Gilbert (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1973),
^Richard A. Brody and Catherine R. Shapiro, "A Reconsideration of the
Rally Phenomenon in Public Opinion," in Political Behavior Annual 2,
ed. Samuel Long (Boulder: Westview Press, 1989), 90-91.
; i
4Loretta Graziamo, "Unemployment: The Voter's Conception of Reality,"
Political Psychology 10 (March 1989): 159.
^Brian Weinstein, The Civic Tongue: The Political Consequences of
Language Choices (New York: Longman, 1983), 8.
^Bennett, "Marginalizing the Majority: Conditioning Public Opinion to
Accept Managerial Democracy," in Manipulating Public Opinion: Essays
in Public Opinion as a Dependent Variable, ed. Michael Margolis and
Gary A. Mauser (Pacific Grove, Calif.: Brooks/Cole Publishing Co., 1989),
323-45.
7Bennett, Public
Opinion. 398.
Sjohn Locke, "An Essay Concerning the The True Original, Extent and
End of Civil Government," in Social Contract: Essays bv Locke. Hume and
Rousseau, with
an introduction by Sir Ernest Barker (London: Oxford
Univ. Press, 1947; reprint, London, Oxford Univ. Press, 1979), 5.
9Of course, the
largely the re$u
relationship between consensus and "rationality" is
t of socialization and is reciprocal with it: where
thorough socialization exists, consensus is likely to exists; where
consensus exists,
Democratic The
socialization is furthered. Robert Dahl, A Preface to
jrv (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1956), 75-77.
^Richard A. M
Policy Since the
elanson, Reconstructing Consensus: American Foreign
Vietnam War (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1991), 23.
11 "One may destroy a man who makes war upon him...for the same
reason that he; may kill a wolf or a lion, because such men are not under
the ties of the common law of reason, have no other rule but that of
force and violence...." Locke, 12.
I 77


. I'
, I
. !
^Michael Doyle, "Liberalism and World Politics," American Political
Science Review 80 (December 1986), 1161.
^Richard H.! Schultz, Jr., "Can Democratic Governments Use Military
Force in the'War Against Terrorism?" World Affairs 148 (Spring 1986),
205.
14Locke, 13-14'!
^Richard M.: Njlerelman, "On Culture and Politics in America: A
Perspective frolm Structural Anthropology," British Journal of Political
Science 19 (1989), 486.
i j
James Nathan and James Oliver, United States Foreign Policy and World
Order (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1978), 180-81.
17Ibid. ; i
^Melanson, 160.
^"Military vs. Press: Troubled History," New York Times. 29 October
1983, 6. This article provides an example of the new framework by
describing a meeting held in 1982 between American government
public relations} officers and former war correspondents to discuss the
handling of press access to limited military actions such as that later
conducted in Grenada. One public relations officer is quoted as saying,
"the Falkland business gave us a useful pointer." During the Falklands
"crisis" the British government censored photos, limited the number of
correspondents present at the scene of hostilities, and tightly restricted
the information} flow to journalists from official sourcesall being
means employed (and then some) by the United States in Grenada and
Panama. ji
' 1
i
^Michael T. Klare, "The U.S. Military Faces South," The Nation. 18 June
1990, 858. : f
^Relying on i only one newspaper, it is realized, may present some
problem for measuring public acceptance of the official story in terms
of media deviance, since the ideology of the editorial staff can affect
what is coveredj by a newspaper, what receives prominence, and what is
"buried." However, since the Times is considered the newspaper of
record and is; relied upon heavily by broadcast news and by other
newspapers around the country, this fact presents less difficulty than
might be initially thought, for public acceptance of the official story
will necessarily .be highly dependent upon what the public is exposed to
through the media.
78


CHAPTER 4
GRENADA
1 i
\ '!
On 25 October 1983, the United States landed troops on the
li
' 1
Caribbean island of Grenada. Code-named Operation Urgent Fury, the
;!'
invasion force Included the 18,300-ton USS Guam. capable of holding up
to twenty helicopter gunships, the 39,300-ton USS Saipan, the 70,300-ton
I
aircraft carrier independence and live other vessels, plus the 22d
1 ]
Marine Amphibious Unit and five thousand paratroopers. This
impressive military might was arrayed against 1,000 Granadian
j,
members of the Cuban-trained People's Revolutionary Army, some
popular militia, ;;and 784 Cuban construction workers, of whom an
unknown number were military.1 Despite these apparently
i'
overwhelming : o.ads, the American forces did not subdue the Grenadian
! i
and Cuban forces until three days after landing.
j
The invasion of Grenada introduced the overt component of the
: j
"Reagan Doctrine" to the American public, Latin America and the world.
Despite the official story of the invasion as an American-Caribbean
,i;
joint rescue mission that fortuitously headed off a Cuban takeover of
i l
Grenada, it is no secret that the Reagan Administration "entered office
! |l &
determined to isolate, punish and perhaps even overthrow" Maurice
I '!'
Bishop, leader of the revolutionary New Jewel Movement that had taken
power in a bloodless coup in 1979.- Efforts to do so included adding
Grenada to a "hit list" of countries to be denied funds from international


financial institutions under United States pressure on those institutions.
This tactic was stepped up when funds for Grenada's international
airport, under construction, were in question. Efforts also included a
proposed CIA plan to "cause a little economic trouble" for Grenada, and
; i1
military maneuvers off the coast of Puerto Rico directed at an
imaginary foe, jthe islands of "Red" and "Amber and the Amberdines."
Reagan applied j rhetorical pressure as well. In March of 1983, for
! j
example, he cited an "extraordinary buildup of Soviet and Cuban
' i
military power fin the [east Caribbean] region" and made his famous
observation that,1; "It isn't nutmeg that's at stake in the Caribbean...it is
the United States' national security.3 in this speech and others, most
I
notably his teleyised address to the nation on 23 March 1983, Reagan
linked Grenada," Nicaragua, and Cuba, singling the three out as national-
; ' I1
security threats!' that were connected by Cuban-Soviet connivance.
1
Therefore, the; United States' invasion of Grenada cannot be seen as an
isolated action; jits implications were no doubt intended for these other
: 1
I
"enemies" as ;W,bll.
I
The Official Story
Despite isignificant military, economic and rhetorical pressure
already brought! to bear against Grenada during Reagan's tenure, events
; S'
on Grenada immediately preceding the invasion were offered as its
rationale. Maurice Bishop had been placed under house arrest, then
freed by a crowd of his followers, then murdered. The murderers were
I
' l
believed to be Gen. Hudson Austin and Bernard Coard, hard-line
80


Leninists who had attempted to force Bishop to accept a compromised
role in the party leadership. Grenada was home to some one thousand
Americans, about half of whom were medical students at St. George's
University Schoiol of Medicine, and it was the lives of these Americans
which the Administration claimed to be protecting by invading. The
, i
1 I
fate of the students may have appeared uncertain in light of the coup,
but both the director of the medical school and the parents of many of
the students appeared more worried about what action the United States
would take than about the actions of the island's military junta. The
, i
majority of thd students were apparently not frightened by
developments on Grenada either. Only 10 percent of the students voted
to try to leave fthe island on what turned out to be the night before the
invasion.4 , |
j
The invasion of Grenada came on the heels of the loss of over two
hundred American troops in Beirut to a suicide bombing just two days
earlier. Plans for the invasion were set in motion three days before the
Beirut bombing, and it was incredibly fortuitous for the Reagan
Administration, in terms of public approval, to be able to invade
i
Grenada so shortly afterward. The invasion effectively wiped Beirut off
i
the front pages.j As Michael Deaver, Reagan's public relations chief,
observed, the inyasion was "a good story."5 However, to examine
President Reagan's speech on 28 October is to realize that the official
|
story linked thej two events, rather than blatantly using one to negate
the impact of the other. Reagan specifically correlated Grenada and
Beirut with the1 message that Soviet complicity in international


"terrorism" was behind them both. Of course, this correlation also
served a valuable purpose in making the lives lost in Beirut seem to
have been 'lost for the greater purpose of resisting the Soviet threat.
The initial official story of the Grenada invasion was simple and
compelling:, American forces had invaded Grenada to avoid another
hostage situation such as the United States had experienced with Iran,
or another Beirut. The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a
loose confederation of island nations of the region, had requested
American help, in a mission to restore order and democracy to Grenada.
President Reagan and Secretary of State George Schultz described their
; I
desire to secure the safety of American medical students on the island as
the paramount reason for the invasion. Secondary to that
. ; I
consideration, Schultz saidand he did stress that it was secondarywas
eliminate a potential Soviet-Cuban base in the Caribbean.
the desire to
The President
was also taken
restoration of
was less specific about a secondary purpose: the action
, he said, "to forestall further chaos" and to "assist in the
:onditions of law and order" in Grenada. Reagan declared
that "a large number of our citizens" were "seeking to escape the island,
thereby exposing themselves to great danger," and that, consequently,
|
the United States had responded to a "unanimous" formal request for
assistance "from our neighboring states," forming what he termed a
"collective secjurity force."6 Schultz detailed the "collective security"
action in his pews conference on 25 October, adding that the
' I
Organization of Eastern Caribbean Slates' request for American
assistance was:jmade "pursuant to Article 8" of the treaty which
82


established i the organization. Both Reagan and Schultz stressed a
"vacuum of 'authority" and "atmosphere of violent uncertainty" on
Grenada (S'chpltz used the latter phrase four times in his prepared
! .i
statement). Schultz went so far as to say, "We see no responsible
government:1 in the country."^
The next day, however, saw a major shift in the official story.
I 1
Whereas on Tuesday neither the President nor the Secretary of State
had listed Cutl>a or the Soviet Union as a target or principal cause of the
i i
invasion (and in fact had tried to circumvent that inference**), on
i
Wednesday iari unnamed official began the theme that was to become a
household phrase: "We got there just in time!" This official said that a
!'
"high-level Cuban delegation similar to those Cuba sent to Angola
\ i
several yearis "ago prior to its military build-up" had arrived in Grenada
|
on Monday,! triggering concern in Washington. It was at this point that
an anticommunist rationale for the invasion was introduced, and the
outlines of the story then fell into the familiar boundaries of other
i i
'f
stories of the Cold War era, such as that used by Lyndon Johnson in the
invasion of the Dominican Republic. Significantly, Wednesday's New
! 'I
York Times contained multiple references to Cuban resistance
encountered ini' Grenada (though one front page article did say that
i
Cuban troops had quit fighting while Grenadian "soldiers and
militiamen loyal to Gen. Hudson Austin" continued to fight American
forces in the ^neighborhoodsa theme completely passed over in later
11 1
coverage). jSecretary Caspar Weinberger's press conference that day
apparently was' the genesis of this new twist: Weinberger initiated the


term "battalions" to describe the Cuban men who, he and Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff John W. Vessey, Jr., repeatedly stressed, had
! i
fired the initial shots as the invasion began. It was also this day when
large arms caches, proving Cuban intent to take over the island, were
reportedly uncovered on the island. Unidentified officials were
reported as saying that the Cubans the American forces had
encountered constituted "the first wave of Cuban military forces that
had been expected to use the island as a base."^
On 27! October, President Reagan gave a televised speech to the
nation. In ;it,| he painted the historical backdrop of the official story:
"In 1979 trouble came to Grenada" in the form of Maurice Bishop, who
after overthrowing the government "sought the help of Cuba in
building an 1 airport...which looked suspiciously suitable for military
' j
aircraft." But' then Bishop began to "give indications that he might like
better relations; with the United Slates," even making a trip to the United
States and meeting with senior officials. But back home, Bishop was
arrested by a [group who, "if anything, [were] more radical and more
devoted to Qastro's Cuba than he had been." When the group killed
Bishop, "Grenada was without a government, its only authority
exercised by a iself-proclaimed band of military men." The OECS
requested help;' Reagan decided to give it, based on "the legitimacy of
I
their request"; and the United States' "responsibility to go to the aid of its
citizens if their right to life and liberty is threatened." But poor
i
intelligence information made the discovery a surprise that not only
was the Cuban \ force known to be there larger and more prepared for
84


combat than the Administration had expected, but that "a complete base
with weapons and communications equipment" had been created. These
discoveries imlde it clear that Grenada was a Soviet-Cuban colony,
, j
being readiedj as a major military bastion to export terror and
: l
undermine .democracy." Clinching the impression, Reagan echoed the
theme of the ;day: "We got there just in time."1*1
Thursday! also saw the official count of Cuban "militia" in Grenada
:i
raised to one! thousand, and officials launched the theme that the
i
I
military leaders who executed Bishop had definitely planned to take the
Americans on
the island hostage. An official claimed that documents
captured during the invasion revealed that "serious consideration was
being given to seizing Americans as hostages and holding them...."
Again, the official echoed the phrase "We got there just in time."11 The
next day, the
enemy forces described in the official story grew more
sinister, as the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Forces claimed that
United States had discovered evidence of a terrorist training camp and
I
that Cuba had j' planned to increase its troop strength in Grenada to 6,000
men. Indeed, |he stressed, Cuba had already begun "to take over the
island,The official count of Cubans on the island was raised to 1,100.
The sense of Cuban strength on Grenada was emphasized by continual
l
references to! an unexpected degree of resistance on the part of Cubans
1'
"battalions." On Saturday, the theme was furthered by a revelation that
on 20 October
about Grenada
who seemed to
Vice President George Bush had held a special meeting
in which "concern was voiced...that the military rulers
be in charge of Grenada, particularly Gen. Hudson
I
85


Austin, were;: the type of people who had held Americans hostage in
Iran."
Hostilities in Grenada were declared over on 3 November. On 2
i i
l
November, Administration officials had claimed that intelligence
sources had discovered that Cuba was planning acts of terrorism against
Americans in Latin America and elsewhere in retaliation for the
invasion, though this theme apparently was never repeated. On 5
November, a, larger and more successful theme was launched: excerpts
of documents of secret military agreements between Grenada and Cuba,
the USSR and North Korea allegedly captured in the invasion were made
public, showing what appeared to be a significant military build-up
planned for (Grenada. The documents' claim that this build-up was
designed to increase Grenada's defensive capacity was disputed by
American officials, who claimed the build-up would far exceed
Grenada's requirements. These documents represented the last act of
the official story, and seemed to make a large impression on the
domestic arici international audience.
t
Value Linkage and Encoding
Rationality ;
l i,
The rationality of the invasion of Grenada was demonstrated
through three official story subplots: the decision-making process that
led to the invasion, the United States' conformity to the wishes of a
group of other nations, and its desire to see "order restored in Grenada.
86


The first was introduced through the careful revelation of the
minutiae of the decision-making process, primarily accomplished by
Secretary of State Schultz in his 25 October news conference. Schultz
devoted more, than half of his prepared statement on that day to relating
"the chain of events" preceding the invasion, complete with details
about which rooms meetings were held in (the President "had the Vice
President chair a meeting in the Situation Room"), the time elapsed
between events ("The President met in the afternoon from roughly 2:15
to 3:30something like that"), and medium of communications (Schultz
talked to the Vice President and key national-security advisers "through
a secure conference caH").1^ Aside from elaborately setting the stage
for the official story, the heavy emphasis given to such details would
seem to serve the purpose (if not to numb the brains of those in
attendance) of demonstrating the extreme care with which the decision
i I
process was undertaken, as if to conform with some unexplained
i
protocol, and the involvement of all critical players. Especially crucial
to the value' of rationality is the ideal of the group process of decision
making, that 'policies are not the impassioned acts of isolated men but
the well-considered product of a process of consultation and debate. The
President, said Schultz, "had the advice of all his advisers the previous
day that on general grounds we should proceed." Thus, the audience
could be assured, his decision to invade Grenada was in harmony with a
group consensus. This impression was reinforced in a more general
way by the fact that "support for intervention [within the
Administration] appears to have been unanimous."14 Time magazine
87


illustrated ithis consensus with a particularly dramatic vignette
regarding a meeting between Reagan and Congressional leaders the
night beforejthe invasion: "Finally, House Speaker Tip O'Neill broke [the
hushed silence], 'God bless you, Mr. President,' he said, 'And good luck.'
Tip gently patted Reagan's arm in a rare moment of rapport."16
The President was also portrayed by official propaganda as acting
i 1,
in consensus' not only with his group of advisers but with a group of
nations. Hence Reagan's emphasis upon the "legitimacy" of the OECS
' [
request that led to our joining in a "multinational effort," a "collective
security force" with those nations: these words and phrases encoded
invasion events with symbols of rationality exhibited by consensus.
Hence also the Administration's insistence that the OECS nations would
"play a major role in helping secure the island as American troops
leave" and; that those nations "will have a leading role" in deciding
when that withdrawal would happen.16 No loose cannon, the United
States acted in concert with its respected neighbors, simply "responding
to an urgent request." Overwhelming evidence that the majority of
nations of the world did not support Reagan's action was simply brushed
off domestically (hence Reagan's famous quip that international
criticism wouldn't disturb his breakfast). "In the case of a well-knit
family," said John Hughes of the State Department, "differences of
opinion are!:often expressed."17
The theme of "order" vs. "anarchy" repeatedly stressed in the
official story served to bolster associations of American policy in
Grenada with rationality. By definition, only "order" can be rational.
88


That is to say, rationality of government cannot exist where a lack of
"order" prevails. The United Slates, it was asserted, invaded Grenada to
"restore order", the tacit assumption being that it thus acted on behalf
of rationality.
Finally, the the official story demonstrated the rationality of the
invasion by portraying it as the best and perhaps only response to the
situation facing the United States in Grenada on 25 October. The official
story serves a particularly important purpose in regard to the value of
; I
rationality, because it defines and describes the "problem," which in
turn affects public assessments of the American response. It is
conceivable that the Reagan Administration, on discovering or
suspecting that the rationale of rescuing potential American hostages
was not mustering the requisite public support, decided to change the
story to a more traditional, and more compelling, Cold War plot. Thus
i
the Cuban connection was forcefully emphasized, with journalists being
l
summoned to- the White House on Wednesday evening to be told the new
. [
story, and with headlines dutifully shouting the Cuban threat the next
morning. And once the Cuban connection was emphasized, the
Administration's response to it appeared more proper, necessary,
effectualmore rational. Of course, since the Administration did not
retract its earlier rationale of simply saving Americans, then it was
perhaps forced to continually emphasize the surprise nature of the
Cuban resistance encountered. (This plot revision, however, raised
difficulties for the publics complete acceptance of the official story as
reality, as will be discussed later.)
89


Nonaggressiron
The official Grenada story offered its audience plenty of
reassurances ''that the United States government was not acting
aggressively toward the people of Grenada. In part, this was
accomplished by directing public attention at the Cuban forces who, it
was said, were determinedly resisting American forces. The picture
i ;
drawn was stark: unexpectedly powerful Cuban "battalions" (not, it was
stressed, "reservists") of ever-increasing number resisting United
States forces, and retreating to fight guerrilla-like from the Grenadian
hills. No1 Grenadian resistance (other than that in the wayward article
on Tuesday,) was mentioned. In fact, on 31 October, military officials
' i
said that the People's Revolutionary Army (Grenada's armed forces)
were not considered a serious threat, since most of its soldiers, they
claimed, had1 shed their uniforms and hidden. Complementarily, no
Grenadian ^casualties were reported during the duration of the invasion,
though Cuban casualties were reported rather regularly. (Press
Secretary Larry Speakes claimed that a body count of Grenadians was
impossible : because, given the island climate, Grenadians buried their
dead immediately. In fact, such a practice would be abhorrent to the
largely Catholic population.)18 From the second day on, the official
story made clear that Cuba was the enemy, and that Cuban resistance
! i
was all that hindered the completion of the mission.
i
Such jan emphasis disabused the American public of any notion
I ;!
that the United States was engaged in an aggressive act. The resistance
and death of Grenadians might have brought the democratic value of
: 90


nonaggression to the fore in a way that the resistance and death of
Cubans would not, Cuba being long established in official propaganda as
a consistently hostile Soviet puppet bent on regional domination and
elimination of the American way of life. Thus the encoding of
resistance as "Cuban" served to link the invasion with nonaggression in
a subtle way. To fire on Cubans is necessarily an act of self-defense,
their aggressive intent being taken for granted. It also served as a
metaphor, translating the invasion into one small battle in the ongoing
war against communism. In case this emphasis on the Cuban nature of
the resistance was not adequate to quiet sentiments of nonaggression,
however, the official story added one important detail: the Cuban
"battalions" had fired first. This detail is best illustrated by reference to
an official note from the State Department to Cuban diplomats regarding
the hundreds of Cuban prisoners being held on Grenada by United
States forces: "There would have been no problem in the first place
between us," :the note read, "if the Cubans in Grenada had not fired first
against our forces."1 ^
i '
The official story painted the Grenadian people in high contrast to
the aggressive Cubans the American soldiers were forced to defend
themselves against. Little wonder most of them had shed their uniforms
and hidden from battle, for these were peace-loving people
unaccustomedi to violence. "You have to understand," said one State
Department; official, "these English-speaking islands come out of the
British tradition in which violence had been kept out of politics."2 This
one phrase^ contains significant encoding and metaphors, for it


identifies the Grenadians as English-speaking, sharing in common with
us the British tradition. Therefore, if we are peace-loving and
nonaggressive, they must be as well, and vice versa. This perception of
Grenada, arid of the entire OECS, as a little Britain allowed the official
story to shift into portraying a higher level of American
nonaggressiveness: the United Slates was invading to protect these
peace-loving, people from violent take-over by Spanish-speaking
commandos' w|ith a penchant for blood-letting. (Results of a CBS poll of
Grenadians ta!ken in early November enhanced this impression. Of
those polled, 91% were "glad the United States troops came to Grenada";
76% said thety believed Cuba had wanted to take control of the' island; and
85% said thai! the United States had invaded "to free the people of
Grenada from the Cubans.")21 To further bolster the impression of
nonaggression, Reagan began insisting that the invasion be called a
"rescue," and! the number of Grenadians killed in the invasionat least
twenty-onewas not revealed until several weeks later.
The official story of nonaggression did not stop at that level. It
extended to the portrayal of the invasion of Grenada as an act of self-
. I
defense, which itself had several levels. First and foremost, Reagan
continued to stress, the United States acted to save the lives of its citizens
on Grenada who were in danger. The theme emphasizing this danger
was that of a planned hostage-taking by a Grenadian military command
made up of vthe type of people who had held Americans hostage in
Iran." Secondly, the United Slates invaded Grenadathough
unwittingly and fortuitouslyto stop the makeover of Grenada into a
92


military outpost for Cuba and the Soviet Union. Had Grenada indeed
become a iCommunist "military bastion to support terror and undermine
democracy,'' lit clearly, according to the official story, would have posed
an unacceptable threat to the national security of the United States.
! r
Thus Grenada was encoded as a national-security threat in the making.
At the deepest level, the invasion of Grenada illustrated a constant
theme of Reagan's foreign-policy rhetoric, in fact the underlying
theme of the "Reagan Doctrine," that "support for freedom is self-
i !!
defense."22 ;;
With tlie threat thoroughly and frighteningly described, the
.i j
official story!; taken on its own merit, left little room for doubts about
i' i
the propriety;;of the use of force (though many still did find room to
i ';
doubt, as will be discussed below). America's essentially nonaggressive
nature was! stressed by the presentation of threatening symbols of the
subjugationl of peace-loving, English-speaking peoples by aggressive
Cubans, withjionly the United States to turn to for help. "Let there be no
misunderstanding," the President admonished. "This collective action
has been forced upon us by events that have no precedent in the
.I'1!:
eastern Caribbean and no place in any civilized society."2 ^
! *
i
I
Legality ,
The theme of "anarchy" served another important purpose in the
i i (-
official story:| it served to associate the democratic value of legality with
I
the invasion.,: As noted earlier, the Administration took pains to stress
the "atmosphere of violent uncertainty" hanging like a threatening
I
cloud over!Grenada in the days between Bishop's murder and the
!'ii 9 3