I found the recent news reports about the Bush Administration manipulating the media and cherry picking its facts to support the run up to the War in Iraq rather frustrating in their tone. The tone I am talking about is the impression given that this is a first and is somehow a propaganda effort completely off the charts. That an Administration would fudge its facts to convince the American people to pursue a specific course of action is old hat. Bush didn’t invent that technique. I am not defending his decision or the subsequent conduct of the war but I do appreciate honest debate about events and actions.
We’ll not use other nations history as the benchmark for this discussion, we have ample examples of such behavior right in our own backyard…by both parties. Let’s start with the Boston Massacre. It was really not that big of a deal. Facts are that some ruffians were harassing British troops, only a handful of them. Yes, a couple of people were shot by the troops when they finally retaliated against the rock throwing and taunts and worse. But go back and read some of the accounts of the day about the event. You would have been lead to believe bunches of people were killed for no reason. That was the “message” Sam Adams and others wished to be broadcast to incite their fellow Americans to rebel. There are other examples of such extreme reporting of that era. The alleged massacres by the Hessian troops for example were just that, mostly allegations and not supported by the facts.
The War Between the States was replete at the beginning by both sides with outrageous allegations against the other side to invoke and inspire hostilities. I have already written about Fort Sumter and the ploy used by Lincoln to make sure the South fired the first shot when he decided to reinforce it. All the other Federal facilities had been turned over without any violence throughout the entire South. He definitely manipulated the facts. Doesn’t diminish his stature or standing but those are the facts. It was reported as some completely unprovoked and heinous surprise attack which was completely false.
Before we entered WWI Woodrow Wilson had an active and secret campaign to bring the American public along to join the hostilities once he had decided that our entry into the war was in our best interest even though most Americans wanted to stay out of the fray. Read some history about it. He promised that no American boys would die on the fields of France when he already was formulating a program to get them there. The sinking of the Lusitania for example was quite legitimate and he knew that. It was indeed carrying munitions for England and was therefore a valid target for German subs. Our government lied about that for years.
Remember the America Firsters? Charles Lindbergh and many others believed we should stay out of the War in 1939 and that bloc was very strong and had tremendous public support. FDR was very crafty about how he manipulated the American people. Read some of the correspondence between him and Churchill in the late 30’s and early days of the War. Roosevelt pushed the limits by having our Navy escort English ships on convoy, a clear act of war but he certainly did not tout that fact to the people. This was before we were even in the War. He too had made a “promise” in the 1940 campaign that he would not send American boys to Europe when he was already making plans to the contrary. Once again, he had a legitimate purpose but the facts are he lied, repeatedly to the people. We won’t even discuss Korea or the Viet Nam war, but rest assured the same things occurred then too. The Administration in power has always skewed the facts to suit it goals. Some would even call it leadership.
So when you read about some alleged outrageous fact be sure and hold it up to the light of historical analysis. It will give you a much more insightful perspective and a more realistic filter.
If you have a child be sure and buy them one of those old crystal set radios. They are purely mechanical and can only receive AM stations, but you and your child will enjoy putting it together as a project– then the wonder of touching a small rocker arm to that chunk of metal and viola! You will only get a few stations at most but it will amaze your child. I remember lying in bed at night working my crystal radio and thinking how clever I was and having my own “radio”. I know today with Ipods and such that they may seem quaint but trust me I know kids, they will enjoy it.