War, Journalism, and Propaganda:
An Analysis of Media Coverage of the Bosnian and Kosovo Conflicts
by Carl Kosta Savich
Following the violent breakup and dismemberment in l99l of Yugoslavia (“the impossible country”,”the land of demons”), the US government and media launched a racist attack on the Serbian Orthodox people and nation in a policy of vilification that demonized and satanized all Serbs. The US government and media waged an unremitting campaign of racist stereotyping, disinformation, propaganda, and vilification. Sanctions were imposed upon the Serbian people as collective punishment for their collective guilt and a massive propaganda war (“information warfare”) was conducted as Serbs were repeatedly bombed, attacked, and threatened with total annihilation and extermination.
The Serbian people, men, women, and children, were accused of seeking “Greater Serbia” and were described and labeled as “aggressors” , “murderers”, ”invaders”, ”thugs”, ”bullies”, ”rapists”, ”illiterates”, ”degenerates”, ”butchers”, “mountain Serbs”, “uncivilized”, ”Serb bastards”, ”drunken Serbs”, ”fascists”, “nationalists”, ”Stalinists”, ”Nazis”, ”Bolsheviks", “Byzantine”, ”Eastern”, and “Communist” .Serbia was described as “a regional bully”, ”a menacing local power”, and “a most undemocratic regime”.
Senator William Cohen called for “robust bombing” of all areas inhabited by Orthodox Serbs:
"The response should be disproportionate to the transgression, and no area of Serbia ruled out of our bombsights ".
Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich advocated an all-out bombing campaign:
"We would reserve the right to take Serbs apart... to use air power against every position you have, against every command-and-control center, against every position everywhere... and we would do it in three to five days... And I would do it all with air power ".
The US government armed, trained, and supplied the Muslims and Croats to kill and defeat Serbs in Bosnia and in Krajina. The US media dutifully followed the official anti-Serbian policy by reporting with satisfaction and approval as US “client states” killed Serbian civilians and soldiers, as the following report by John Pomfret in The Washington Post, October 31, 1994, illustrates:
When Emir Muslimanovic crept up a boulder-strewn knoll overlooking the town of Kupres last week, pounced on the back of a Serb fighter old enough to be his father and slit his throat, two thoughts powered him: going home and getting even... A comrade killed another Serb by collapsing his skull with a rifle butt jab to the face.
The slitting of the throats and the bashing in of skulls of Orthodox Serbs by US trained, armed, and supplied Muslim soldiers was reported as if not human beings were being killed and mutilated, but a species of vermin, cattle, or subhumans (untermenschen or mistmenschen). In l994, with diplomatic support from the US, Muslim troops violated a United Nations exclusion zone around Sarajevo and slit the throats of 20 Bosnian Serbian military personnel, including four female nurses, not only slitting their throats, but mutilating and then burning the corpses.
The US government and media aided and abetted the Muslim offensive from the so-called UN “safe haven” of Bihac, which functioned as a Muslim staging area and military base of operations. The US media applauded and acted as cheerleaders as the Muslim troops killed Serbian civilians and soldiers and ethnically cleansed over l0,000 Serbian civilians. The Muslims burned down every Serbian village and took Serbian civilians hostage. There was. however, no condemnation. .
The US-planned joint Muslim-Croat military operation which took the Serbian majority district of Kupres forced 20,000-30,000 Serbs to flee their homes. The US covertly and overtly armed,trained, and supplied, and planned military operations for the Muslims and Croats - which included constructing CIA air bases, downloading US spy satellite information that was provided to the Muslims and Croats, arms shipments to Muslim and Croat forces, to assist them in killing and ethnically cleansing Orthodox Serbs. The US planned, organized, and oversaw the Croatian Army military attack, Operation Lightning, that overran the UN Protected Area of Western Slavonija, and Operation Storm, which overran the UN Protected Krajina Area that resulted in over 300,000 Krajina Serbs being ethnically cleansed from their ancestral homes and lands and that resulted in thousands of Serbian dead.
The US government and media supported the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Krajina Serbs. In the September 11,1995 Chicago Tribune article, “Elderly massacred in Krajina attack”, Tom Hundley reported:
On August 25...Croatian troops entered Grubori and killed everyone they found. These included: Marija Grubor, 90, whose charred remains were found in her burned house... Milos Grubor,80, an invalid... shot once in the head... Jovo Grubor, 65, whose throat was slit and who had been stabbed repeatedly.
The US government and media continue to be the principal planners and fomenters of a proposed Greater Albania, which would consist of the annexation of Kosovo-Metohija region of Serbia by Albania, a US “client state” Like the cleansing of Serbs from Krajina, the US supports the cleansing of Serbs from Kosovo-Metohija and rationalizes the murders of innocent Kosovo Serbs as “revenge killings”, a term coined by the US State Department and passed along to the journalistic pack. The US policy only exacerbates the cycle of violence and killings in Kosovo for the US ignores the fact that Kosovo Serbs were the first victims in the region when the ottoman Turks invaded their lands and killed and enslaved them. If “revenge killings” are ever justified, the Kosovo Serbs are the most entitled to revenge killings of Albanian Muslims that killed their ancestors and drove them from their ancestral lands. .
How is this racist propaganda campaign and war against the Serbian people and nation to be explained and comprehended? How is this propaganda campaign of racism and bigoted satanization and demonization of an entire people and religion to be explained by an avowedly “democratic” and “free and open society”, the United States, “the leader of the free world”? The techniques and methods - information warfare (war propaganda - used to defeat the Serbian people are those routinely used by ruthless and oppressive totalitarian, authoritarian, and undemocratic states and governments. To understand and to grasp why and how the US government and media waged a propaganda campaign or war against Orthodox Serbs, the role of journalism and war in US history must be examined and studied.
Journalism in America
The first newspaper in colonial America, Publick Occurrences both Foreign and Domestic (1690), was immediately suppressed by the governor of Massachusetts. The first regular newspaper in the colonies, the weekly Boston News-Letter, appeared in 1704 and was published by authority of the government, it was a government-run newspaper, published by John Campbell, the postmaster. In 1719, it was replaced by the Boston Gazette, published by postmaster James Franklin, who two years later started his own newspaper, the New England Courant, which the the beginning of independent journalism in America.
American newspapers became highly partisan after the Constitution of 1787. Newspapers either adopted the positions of John Adams’ Federalists or Thomas Jefferson’s Republicans. The US government immediately saw the value of newspapers as a tool or instrumentality of the government. At one time, President Andrew Jackson had 60 full-time journalists on the White House payroll, the precursor of the White House press corps.
It was in reaction to such political partisanship in the press that James Gordon Bennett in 1835 founded The New York Herald. In 1841, Horace Greeley founded The New York Tribune. In 1850, there were 400 dailies; in l880, 850 dailies; and, in 1900, more than 1950.
In 1887, William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951) ran the San Francisco Daily Examiner newspaper and made it into a success by sensationalistic and manipulative journalistic methods and techniques. In 1895, he purchased The New York Morning Journal, copies of which sold for one cent and he began making use of “yellow journalism”, sensationalistic, manipulative journalism.
Yellow journalism derived from the cartoon strip The Yellow Kid, drawn by Richard Felton Outcault in Joseph Pulitzer’s World Newspaper and which was printed in yellow ink. Outcault would later join Heart’s Journal newspaper.
In l897 and l898, during the Cuban crisis, Hearst made use of the techniques of yellow journalism by editorially clamoring for US military intervention against Spain. Through disinformation, yellow journalism, jingoism, and media manipulation, Hearst was able to induce the US to wage a largely needless war against Spain, the Spanish-American War. The techniques and methodology used by the US media and government in manufacturing the war against Spain in l898 are instructive and essential in understanding the role of journalism in the coverage of the Bosnian Civil War of l992-l995.
A Comparison: The Cuban and Bosnian Crises
The Bosnian Civil War was characterized by sensationalistic, manipulative, biased, and distorted media coverage. In l993, Peter Brock described American media coverage of the Bosnian Civil War in “Dateline Yugoslavia: The Partisan Press” (Foreign Policy, Winter 1993-94) as follows:
Readers and viewers received the most vivid reports of cruelty, tragedy, and barbarism... It was an unprecedented and unrelenting onslaught, combining modern media techniques with advocacy journalism...The media became a movement, co-belligerents no longer disguised as noncombatants and nonpartisan. News was outfitted in its full battle dress of bold headlines, multiple spreads of gory photographs, and gruesome... footage. The clear purpose was to force governments to intervene militarily.
This description of the US media role in the Bosnian Civil War could exactly describe what appeared in Heart’s Journal and Pulitzer’s World from l895 to l898. Hearst and Pulitzer, almost a hundred years before their erstwhile imitators, used the exact same media techniques and methods used in coverage of the Bosnian conflict. So Brock is not entirely correct when he states that this method of “news reporting” is unprecedented. In fact, this has been the pattern of American journalism at least since the time of Hearst and Pulitzer.
The sensationalistic, inflammatory, and propagandistic articles and editorials in Hearst’s Journal and Pulitzer’s World newspapers did much to incite war hysteria and in fact did much to cause an unnecessary war with Spain. Hearst and Pulitzer, the deans of American journalism, vied with each other to see who could produce the most sensationalistic, biased, and one-sided news stories about the Cuban crisis.
Hearst himself best described this style of journalism when he castigated Pulitzer who he stated was a journalist “who made his money by pandering to the worst tastes of the prurient and horror-loving,by dealing in bogus news...and by affecting a devotion to the interests of the people while...sedulously looking out for his own.” Their style of journalism became known as “yellow journalism”, which meant a style that made use of cheaply sensational and unscrupulous methods in newspapers to attract or influence the reader. Today, it would be termed “trash” or “tabloid journalism”.
Both Hearst and Pulitzer demanded that the US intervene and wage war against Spain. They published sensationalistic stories about “Spanish atrocities” and about the Spanish Governor General of Cuba, General Valeriano Weyler y Nicolau, who was labeled “the butcher Weyler”, a “rapist”, and a “torturer”.
The methodology is almost identical to that employed by the US media in covering the Bosnian crisis.A major focus of US media coverage was so-called “Serbian atrocities” against Muslims and Croats and mass rapes committed by Serbian forces. Similar to the label, “the butcher Weyler”, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was labeled “the butcher of the Balkans” until l995, when he became transformed by the media into a “guarantor of peace” and “essential for maintaining peace and stability in the Balkans”.
Hearst sent the artist Frederick Remington to Havana and other Journal correspondents to report on the Cuban civil war. But Remington reported back that there was virtually no fighting in Cuba at all and that a major conflict could be avoided. Remington sent the following telegram to Hearst in March,l898:
Everything is quiet. There is no trouble here.There will be no war. I wish to return.---Remington.
Hearst sent the following famous telegram in reply:
Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.---W.R.Hearst.
In virtually all media propaganda meant to lead to war or intervention, atrocities are an essential element. During World War I, British, French, and US propaganda relied on a single theme, German or “Hun atrocities”. German soldiers were accused of bayoneting Belgian infants and shooting children and executing hostages and committing massacres. Before the German invasion of Poland in l939, the regime exhibited through the media examples of alleged Polish atrocities against the German minority. Indeed, the Germans even manufactured and staged these and other alleged atrocities. Before the US attack on Iraq in l99l, the US manufactured a bogus atrocity to incite popular support for intervention. Iraqi soldiers were accused of turning off incubators in hospitals and allowing Kuwaiti infants to die. A Kuwaiti girl testified before a US Congressional Committee that she was an eyewitness to this alleged atrocity. After the Persian Gulf War had ended, it was exposed that the Kuwaiti girl was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US and that she could not have witnessed any of the events because she had not been in Kuwait in years. Moreover, the US media ran non-stop coverage of video footage of a gas attack by Iraqi forces against Kurdish civilians accused of collaborating with Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. Most recently, before the US invasion of Haiti in l994, President Bill Clinton distributed and made available to news reporters and journalists “atrocity photographs”, which the US government alleged purported to show atrocities committed by the Haitian regime which the US sought to overthrow.
Hearst’s Journal and Pulitzer’s World newspapers relied on biased, one-sided, sensationalistic and propagandistic coverage of the Cuban crisis. While the smaller New York newspapers, the Herald, the Post, Tribune, and Times, were anti-war and presented analyses of the conflict which discussed the complicated political issues involved and reported that crimes had been committed by both sides, the World and Journal had the highest circulation which only dramatically increased with the use of yellow journalism. Pulitzer himself was at first opposed to the war with Spain, but later changed his view when he realized that a pro-war stance led to higher circulation.
Both Hearst and Pulitzer presented a hero-villain scenario for the Cuban crisis, a good guys and bad guys role for the combatants which was simple to understand and grasp by those who knew little about the conflict. Both papers featured articles about the murder of Cuban infants and the rape of Cuban women by the Spaniards.
The World sent Sylvester Scovel, a University of Michigan alumnus, to Cuba to cover the conflict. Scovel was a strong advocate of the Cuban insurgents and reported on Spanish “atrocities”, vividly describing the bodies of murdered and mutilated Cubans, stating that “the Spanish soldiers habitually cut off the ears of the Cuban dead and retain them as trophies.” Due to this propagandistic reporting, the Spanish restricted American journalists. This led to still more inaccurate coverage, based on innuendo, rumor, subterfuge and deceit. Thus, neither the US government nor the US public was accurately apprised of what the facts were in Cuba.The Spanish side of the conflict was virtually unknown and unavailable in the US.US coverage focused on “Spanish atrocities” which were based on biased and usually fictitious reports by journalists and reporters who did not witness the reports but merely repeated hearsay and innuendo.
The US government armed, trained, and supplied the Cuban rebels who were led by rebel leaders based in New York City. Clearly, the US government allowed journalists and newspapers to do its dirty work, to allow journalism to act as a vanguard for the government, allowing the US government to act covertly and invisibly, although the government was clearly pulling the strings. This same pattern would be repeated with the Bosnian Civil War of l992-l995.
As can clearly be seen, American journalism and journalists and reporters to this day are guided by the techniques and methods used by Hearst and Pulitzer, changing very little since that time. During the Bosnian Civil War, virtually all major US newspapers demanded US military intervention in Bosnia against the Serbs. The Serbs were accused of committing atrocities and mass rapes.
On February 15, l898, the US battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor. The cause of the explosion was never determined, but the immediate US media and government reaction was to blame Spain. Pulitzer and Hearst clamored for war, with the rallying cry, “Remember the Maine”. Pulitzer’s World had the following headline: “Maine Explosion caused by Bomb or Torpedo? Washington officials ready for vigorous action if Spanish responsibility can be shown.” The World sent its reporters to investigate the cause of the explosion. Hearst’s Journal ran the following headline: “How do you like the Journal’s War?” These incidents are reminiscent of the Sarajevo “breadline massacre” and the “Markale Market massacre” which the US media and government blamed on the Serbs but which UN investigators concluded were most likely staged by the Muslims themselves. Hearts’s Journal and Pulitzer’s World whipped up war frenzy and hysteria to a fever pitch using sensationalistic reporting, jingoism, and yellow journalism to manipulate and distort the news. The bloody war which resulted, the Spanish-American War, was called by Secretary of State John Hay “a splendid little war”, much like the later Persian Gulf War, which was almost a bloodless video-game war using “smart bombs”
The most intense fighting of the Spanish-American War, the “splendid little war”, occurred in the Philippines, in which an estimated 20,000 Filipino “insurgents” were killed and up to 200,000 died of hunger and disease caused by the US invasion. US combat deaths were slightly over 4,000.
The US Secretary of War described the Philippine people as those who engage in “base treachery, revolting cruelty.” US military commanders described the Filipinos as “gorillas...savages, habitually violating all the laws of war as known to civilized nations.” A second commander stated that it was difficult to ascertain who was an enemy soldier from the general population because “the problem here is more difficult on account of the inbred treachery of these people, their great number, and the impossibility of recognizing the actively bad from the only passively so.” Theodore Roosevelt described the US victory as a triumph of civilization over “the black chaos of savagery and barbarism.” In “The White Man’s Burden”, Rudyard Kipling in l899 wrote about Filipos and other Asians as follows: “...Fluttered folk and wild...sullen peoples, half devil and half child.”
American troops referred to the Filipinos as “niggers” ,”treacherous savages”, and “treacherous gugus” or “goo-goos”, which would re-emerge as “gook” in World War II and the Vietnam War as derogatory terms for Asians.
The fighting in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War was called “Injun warfare”.One American soldier told a reporter that “the country won’t be pacified until the niggers are killed off like the Indians.” Another soldier stated that “the only good Filipino is a dead one. Take no prisoners; lead is cheaper than rice.” A US private told of the results of a “goo goo hunt”: “The old boys will say that no cruelty is too severe for these brainless monkeys, who can appreciate no sense of honor, kindness or justice....With an enemy like this to fight, it is not surprising that the boys should soon adopt ‘No quarter’ as a motto, and fill the blacks full of lead before finding out whether they are friends or enemies.” General Arthur MacArthur stated that “inferior races” succumb to wounds more easily than Anglo-Saxons in explaining to a Congressional Committee why 15 Filipinos were killed for every one wounded..
How is one to grasp and comprehend this pattern of new reporting? One has to begin with an examination of the development and techniques of propaganda. What is propaganda?
The term propaganda is derived from the Latin propagare, to propagate,to reproduce, to spread, with the meaning, to transmit, to spread from person to person .Propaganda is short for Congregatio de propaganda fide (Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith), a committee of Roman Catholic cardinals established by Pope Gregory XV in l622 organized as a missionary group which proselytized for conversion to Roman Catholicism.
A modern definition is the systematic, widespread dissemination or promotion of particular ideas, doctrines, or practices, meant to further a particular cause or agenda and weaken that of another; it is a systematic effort to manipulate attitudes, beliefs, or actions by the use of symbols. It is commonly used to describe any deceptive or distorted accounts, usually as a dismissive, disparaging, and pejorative term, which in its broadest sense, can be and is applied to any account one does not agree with. In its purest and essential form, propaganda consists in the manipulation of symbols - words, pictures, signs, and images. At its most pure level, words and language, and indeed, even thought can be dispensed with. Merely a stimulus or image is all that is required to produce the desired response. Hearst stated: “You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” Hearst, like his journalist successors of today, understood the methodology and essential principles of propaganda perfectly.
The term ‘propaganda’ is unpopular as a description in American political and social discourse and analysis. Instead, propaganda and propagandists are known by different terms: public relations (PR), publicity, advertising, information warfare, spin doctors, image brokers, public affairs, promotion, marketing, media relations specialists, lobbyists. Moreover, the term ‘propaganda’ has been overused so that the term is practically meaningless today. This is so because propaganda has been one of the most prevalent and widespread phenomena of the twentieth century. The dangers of propaganda were first perceived in its first widespread and systematic use during World War I, the Great War.
There is a widespread misconception and myth that propaganda exists only in totalitarian states and not in democracies. The German philosopher Georg Hegel was one of the first to show that even in democracies, the public is manipulated and persuaded by “hidden persuaders” and “hidden manipulators”. In his l821 The Philosophy of Right, Hegel explained how the public in a democracy is manipulated by commercial interests which seek to make a profit:
What the English call ‘comfort’ is something inexhaustible and illimitable. [Others can discover to you that what you take to be] comfort at any stage is discomfort, and these discoveries never come to an end. Hence the need for greater comfort does not exactly arise within you directly; it is suggested to you by those who hope to make a profit from its creation.
Even in democracies, the populace is manipulated and persuaded by unseen and invisible persuaders and manipulators. Hegel was one of the first to see this, before Alexis de Tocqueville, before William Randolph Hearst, before Noam Chomsky.The French author Anatole France explained it this way: “Democracy (and, indeed, all society) is run by an unseen engineer.”,
Edward Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, was a theatrical publicist and propagandist during World War I, working for the Committee on Public Information headed by George Creel, writing propaganda pamphlets. In l928, he published the influential book, Propaganda, in which he argued that propaganda could be a mechanism for engineering consent and popular approval. Bernays virtually invented the public relations business, establishing the theoretical groundwork in Crystallizing Public Opinion (l923).
Bernays was a pioneer of public relations (PR) and his work did much to open the door for today’s PR giants such as Hill & Knowlton, Rudder Finn, Burson-Marsteller, Ketchum PR, and Ogilvy & Mather.He was a public relations counselor for the American Tobacco Company, the United Fruit Company, Venida Hair Net Company, Cartier, and Proctor & Gamble. His greatest achievement in commercial propaganda or PR was a brilliant campaign to convince American women that to “emancipate” themselves, they should smoke Lucky Strike cigarettes, the “torches of freedom”.
By l996, US business would spend $l trillion on marketing. PR firms would employ over 150,000 workers and who would influence 40% of everything Americans read or see.
Bernays, the dean of the public relations profession, called “U.S. Publicist No.1”, defined public relations as “the attempt, by information, persuasion, and adjustment to engineer public support for an activity, cause, movement,or institution.” In his book Propaganda, he described public relations as follows: “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” In The Engineering of Consent, a 1947 article and 1955 book, he outlined how the engineering of consent is accomplished by public relations.
First, one must set up “over-all themes for the campaign”. The themes chosen must coincide with the “fundamental motivations” of the interested publics. Once the themes are chosen, “they are expressed over and over again, in ever varied form.”
Second, the theme is tied to a symbol.
Finally, to arouse interest, the PR activity must be newsworthy. Bernays emphasized that newsworthy events are seldom spontaneous but are more-often planned events, known as “propaganda of the deed”:
Newsworthy events involving people usually do not happen by accident. They are planned deliberately to accomplish a purpose, to influence ideas and actions.
Bernays based his methodology for PR in part upon the works of Walter Lippmann who wrote about controlling and managing public opinion or the masses in Public Opinion (l922) and The Phantom Public (l925).During World War I, Lippmann was a member of US Army Military Intelligence, engaged in propaganda operations against Germany. Like Bernays, Lippmann believed most people were irrational and acted chaotically and were unable to independently make rational choices because they could not know all there was to a topic. Lippmann argued that people could be guided by a “specialized class of enlightened elites.” People are simple-minded and sheep-like who are incapable of formulating or organizing their desires and wishes and interests. Both Bernays and Lippmann were convinced that “enlightened elites” could lead and educate the masses. Bernays stated that “the public must be regimented.” Lippmann saw it as the “making of one general will out of a multitude of general wishes.” The American masses were convinced that Coca-Cola was the soft-drink of freedom and that smoking tobacco products was conducive to rugged individualism, as exemplified by the Marlboro Man campaign. Moreover, Bernays was one of the first to use PR to advance the political interests of nations and foreign governments when he was retained to provide public relations services on behalf of Lithuania.
Both Bernays and Lippmann based their methodology on the researches in the social sciences, particularly the work of French psychologist Gustav Le Bon, in his important book The Psychology of the Crowd (l895) and Sigmund Freud, particularly Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (l922),which examined collective group behavior and the behavior of crowds. The research of Russian experimental psychologist Ivan Pavlov published in Conditioned Reflexes (l926) was also of influence on Bernays. Bernays had no compunction about taking findings from the social sciences and applying them to public relations.
Propaganda emerged as an instrument of persuasion and manipulation during World War I, a large-scale ideological conflict of unimagined dimensions. World War I was the first truly global war; it introduced mankind to “total war” and was the first truly technological war, making use of airplanes, submarines, poison gas, tanks, and the aerial bombardment of cities. World War I was “the war to make the world safe for democracy”, “the war to end wars”, when “the fate of Western civilization is at stake” from the attack by “the Hunnish barbarians”.
In l927, Harold D. Lasswell, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, in Propaganda Technique in the World War, analyzed the techniques employed by the Allies, the French, British, and Americans, against Germany and her allies during the war. Lasswell described propaganda as follows:
A new and subtler instrument must weld thousands and even millions of human beings into one amalgamated mass of hate and will and hope...propaganda. It is the new dynamic of society... The fact remains that propaganda is one of the most powerful instrumentalities in the modern world. Propaganda is a reflex to the immensity, the rationality and willfulness of the modern world.
War propaganda has four major objectives:
1) to mobilize hatred against the enemy;
2) to preserve the friendship of allies;
3) to preserve the friendship and, if possible, to procure the co-operation of neutrals; and,
4) to demoralize the enemy.
Lasswell explained that “to mobilize the hatred of the people against the enemy, represent the opposing nation as a menacing, murderous aggressor... Represent the opposing nation as satanic; It violates all the moral standards (mores) of the group, and insults its self-esteem.” This Allied propaganda was able to accomplish, portraying the Germans as the “satanic enemy”, as child killers and rapists, committing atrocities against the Belgian civilians. Thus, primarily, the Allies succeeded in portraying the Germans as “aggressors” and as a “satanic enemy”. Lasswell explained that French propaganda relied on “simple satanism”:
The French propaganda was lucid and simple...her chief propaganda was that of simple satanism...The Germans were never able to efface the initial impression that they were aggressors... The Germans were never able to popularize so striking an epithet as “Hun” or “Boche”. Invariably, the enemy is dehumanized and is portrayed
as “barbaric”, “brutal”, ”cruel”, “uncivilized” and as violators of international law and the mores of mankind and humanity. German Kaiser Wilhelm II was labeled “the Kaiser, the beast of Berlin”. Germans were portrayed in subhuman stereotypes, usually as apes or other animals. This was best expressed by Rudyard Kipling in l9l5 in The Morning Post (London):
“There are only two divisions in the world today - human beings and Germans.”
There are three tactical objectives of propaganda:
1) to arouse the interest of specific groups;
2) to nullify inconvenient ideas;and,
3) to avoid untruth which is likely to be contradicted before the achievement of the strategic purpose.
President Woodrow Wilson by Executive Order created the Committee on Public Information during World War I headed by George Creel and was associated with the Military Intelligence Bureau. This was the US propaganda office.
Harold Lasswell was not the only one who studied the techniques of war propaganda during World War I. Adolf Hitler made a careful and diligent study of Allied war propaganda which he discussed in Mein Kampf, the first part published in 1924, wherein he analyzed Allied propaganda techniques:
The art of propaganda lies in understanding the emotional ideas of the masses and finding, through a psychologically correct form ,the way to the attention and thence to the heart of the masses... The purpose of propaganda is not to provide interesting distraction for blasé young gentlemen, but to convince, and what I mean is to convince the masses... What our authorities least of all understood was the very first axiom of all propagandistic activity: to wit, the basically subjective and one-sided attitude it must take toward every question it deals with... Its effect for the most part must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect.
Many people know the Nazi regime made use of propaganda. Few, however, realize that Nazi propaganda was based and modeled upon Allied propaganda against Germany. Hitler learned the lessons well. Joseph Goebbels was an ardent student of American public relations pioneer Edward Bernays. The “evil” and “satanic” Hun became the “eternal Jew” who in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion sought to enslave mankind.Indeed,Hitler learned more from Allied propaganda than the academicians did. Hitler assessed American and British propaganda accurately:
The war propaganda of the English and the Americans was psychologically sound. By representing the Germans to their own people as barbarians and Huns they prepared the individual for the terrors of war... The function of propaganda is...exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for... Sober reasoning determines (the people’s) thoughts and actions far less than emotion and feeling... All effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan... To be a leader means to be able to move the masses.
Like Bernays and Lippmann, Hitler was convinced the masses must be guided and led and that to fully grasp an idea or issue it was to be repeated over and over:
The intelligence of the masses is small. Their forgetfulness is great. They must be told the same thing a thousand times.
Hitler explained that through repetition, the propaganda would ultimately and eventually achieve success:
At first the claims of the propaganda were so impudent that people thought it insane; later, it got on people’s nerves; and in the end,it was believed... The great masses of people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one.
Like Bernays, Lippmann, and Hearst, Hitler fully grasped the psychological mechanisms of propaganda. Repetition was important to ensure that the “message” becomes internalized, that is, that it enter the subconscious, where it becomes merely data and where rationality and conscious control is not possible. This is the “secret” of propaganda. This is how it works on a mass scale. Bernays used the analogy of a water bucket, that when rocks are dropped in it, eventually overflows, a “critical mass” is achieved. This is how indoctrination, brain-washing, and even education occurs. This is similar to the popular saying, “If you throw enough mud, some of it will stick.”
The Nazi propaganda machine was also based upon the “machinery” of the Roman Catholic Church and the Jesuit order, as Hermannn Rauschning explained in l939:
Hitler has a deep respect for the Catholic church and the Jesuit order not because of their Christian doctrine, but because of the ‘machinery’ they have elaborated and controlled, their hierarchical system, their extremely clever tactics...
Joseph Goebbels, who was appointed Reich Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment (Reich Minister fur Volksaufklarung und Propaganda) in the Nazi regime, defined propaganda as follows:
Propaganda has only one object ,to conquer the masses. Every means that furthers that aim is good; every means that hinders it is bad...You can make a man believe anything if you tell it to him in the right way...Nothing is easier than leading the people on a leash. I just
hold up a dazzling campaign poster and they jump through it...
Goebbels made a distinction between passive and active propaganda. Like Bernays and Lippmann, Goebbels enunciated the goal of propaganda is to create a single will:
The people must begin to think as one unit,react as such, and put themselves at the disposal of the government wholeheartedly... To belabor the people so long until they succumb to us.
In Communist or Marxist-Leninist regimes and theory, there is a distinction became propaganda and agitation (“agitatsyia”), or agitprop. In What is to be Done? (l902), Vladimir Lenin defined propaganda as the reasoned use of historical and scientific arguments to indoctrinate the educated and enlightened, what a public relations specialist would call “attentive and informed publics”. Agitation is defined as the use of slogans, parables, and half-truths to exploit the grievances of the uneducated and ignorant masses. Every unit of the Communist Party had an “agitprop section” because under Communist thought, propaganda is commendable and honest, the ends justify the means.
The US government established two propaganda offices during World War II, the Office of War Information (OWI), specializing in overt propaganda, and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which specialized in covert propaganda or “information warfare”. With the defeat of Germany, the US entered into another major ideological conflict, the Cold War, which necessitated an unprecedented and immense propaganda or information campaign against the USSR and global Communism. Several government agencies were created specifically for the Cold War ideological struggle, such as the US Information Agency (USIA) which co-ordinated propaganda broadcasts by the Voice of America (VOA). The Central Intelligence Agency co-ordinated the Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty propaganda efforts. In the Cold War battle between the “free world” and Western democracies and the Communist bloc and satellites, propaganda was all-important and crucial. Thus, both domestic and foreign policy became ideologically charged in the US. In the last fifty years, we have witnessed the massive growth of propaganda,both commercial and political in the US.
How is propaganda to be recognized and analyzed?
Because propaganda in its many guises - public relations (PR),advertising, publicity, marketing - is ever-present and all encompassing in society,it is rarely if ever seriously studied or even discussed. Noam Chomsky has stated that “the whole topic [of propaganda in U.S. culture] is vastly understudied, for pretty obvious reasons.”One in every six dollars of G.D.P. , $l trillion, however, is spent by US business on various forms of marketing, i.e., commercial propaganda. As early as l930, John Dewey remarked that “we are exposed to the greatest flood of mass suggestion that any people has yet experienced.” First of all, propaganda in its broadest sense, has always been a part of human social interaction and can be said to fill a social need, informing the public. Furthermore, persuasion and manipulation are a part of everyday life, as Voltaire noted in 1766: “Men use thought only to justify their wrongdoings, and speech only to conceal their thoughts.” Nevertheless, propaganda can be recognized and it can be analyzed and understood.
As we have seen, propaganda methods and techniques have not changed much in the last century. Public relations and propaganda rely on an variation of the same theme: How to manipulate and persuade the masses. Virtually all propaganda campaigns rely on:
l) Repetition; and,
To grasp the mechanisms of propaganda is to understand man as social animal. As Harold Lasswell has put it, “to illuminate the mechanism of propaganda is to reveal the secret springs of social action.” That is, to understand how and why propaganda works is to understand man’s relationship to reality and how he perceives it.The analysis must begin with a study of the origin of language because we understand physical reality and can communicate this understanding through language.
First of all, our understanding of the world is inextricably tied to our language. Language cannot be dispensed with to arrive at a pure, self-authenticating truth or method. As quantum mechanics and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of German quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg have shown, physical reality is probabilistic, relative, and uncertain. That is, there is no objective truth out there; there is no absolute truth,but only a truth. Thus, there can in theory be no completely unbiased, objective truth. To search for absolute truth is in theory an illusion.
In language we rely on signs or symbols to create meaning. But symbols are never settled on an absolute meaning. Meaning is always to a certain extent deferred and in constant development through metaphor. We understand reality through metaphors.
Niels Bohr, for example, studied the atom, an unknown,( metaphrand).To grasp the atom, he created a model based on something familiar, the solar system (the metaphier). Bohr then related these two, the metaphrand with the metaphier , which is a metaphorical process, as a model to assist in understanding the atom. This is how we understand or perceive reality, by creating models and applying them to phenomena. The models are helpful tools only and do not reflect absolute truth, or an absolute representation or perception of phenomena. Like the lenses in eyeglasses, they aid us in perceiving phenomena,but they all distort and structure reality. Our arbitrary and subjective structuring of reality results.
Propaganda has its basis in binary opposition, the structural division of the indivisible into hierarchical oppositions. For example, we structure reality into us/them, male/female, truth/fiction, literal/metaphoric, mind/body, cause/effect, reason/emotion. But these binary oppositions, while helpful in analyzing phenomena, delude us into believing that they are absolute and objective dichotomies. In fact, these divisions are arbitrary and rhetorical. That is, our language shapes and structures the manner in which we see and perceive reality, language becoming a perceptual strait-jacket.
Binary opposition assumes hierarchical opposition. The first term is automatically given superiority or pre-eminence over the second term. This structure creates a two-valued system, either “true” or “false”, either “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “evil”. A black and white, us and them scenario results, for example, “Whoever is not for us is against us”, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” This is the structural basis for all propaganda. Hitler understood this when he wrote that propaganda “does not have multiple shadings; it has a positive and a negative; love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, never half this way and half that way, never partially, or that kind of thing...The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people...Its task is not to make an objective study of the truth, in so far as it favors the enemy.”
Western language structures are conducive to propaganda because of its nature as two-valued, based upon arbitrary binary oppositions, Propaganda does not seek to expand thought, but to narrow it; in fact, propaganda seeks to do away with thought altogether. The masses do not need to think at all, thought is unnecessary and superfluous, but merely to react to symbols and images, that is, to stimuli, not unlike Ivan Pavlov’s dog, who salivates merely when its master rings a bell, i.e., creating conditioned reflexes (which led to the study known as behaviorism).
Propaganda can be analyzed and dissected by various methodologies and approaches, from a linguistic approach relying on structuralism, based upon the writings of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, in his Course in General Linguistics (l9l5), to the deconstructionist approach, or the General Semantics approach developed by Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity: An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics (l933). The content analysis approach or symbol counting method of Harold Lasswell can be employed or statistical systems theory approaches. Finally, psychological approaches are also possible. In the l930s, the Institute for Propaganda Analysis was established in New York for the analysis and detection of propaganda. The Institute published a periodical entitled Propaganda Analysis from l937 to l942 to counteract the pervasive and invidious influence of propaganda in America, by such propagandists as Detroit-based Father Charles Coughlin, and William Randolph Hearst. But with the entry of the US into World War II necessitating a large-scale ideological conflict, i.e., a propaganda war, the antipathy to propaganda was much lessened. With the emergence of the Cold War following World War II, propaganda became accepted as necessary in the ideological struggle against world Communism. Propaganda was no longer seriously studied and its analysis was disfavored by the mainstream intellectual elites.
The following propaganda techniques are found in all propaganda campaigns.
The Appeals Technique - this technique appeals to human emotions and desires in order to promote or sell something else ,in the Bosnian case, the something else was US military intervention on the side of the Muslims and Croats. Thus, atrocity stories or Atrocity Appeal is an appeal to our emotions to sell intervention. The objective is to convince us that intervention is necessary to prevent future mass slaughter, to prevent genocide, to prevent violations of human rights. This is how British propaganda sold World War I to America: The US should intervene to prevent Hun atrocities, to prevent human slaughter of innocents. The atrocity stories are a means to an end, intervention. Once military intervention is achieved, the atrocities are superfluous and no longer required and thus are no longer reported.
Bandwagon Appeal consists in showing that one should support intervention to get on the bandwagon because the whole world supports it, i.e., the UN, the international community, the Western world, the free world, all mankind.
Testimonial Appeal relies on experts, celebrities, or authorities to promote intervention. During the Bosnian civil war, diplomatic and intellectual elites were called upon to give their “testimonials” for intervention, i.e., Susan Sontag, Anthony Lewis, Lawrence Eagleberger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Elie Wiesel.
Plain Folks Appeal relies on the appeal that intervention is appropriate because the victims are plain folks like us, relying on the us versus them dichotomy. This technique was employed by novelist and free-lance writer Susan Sontag who portrayed the Muslims as “secular”, “urbanized”, “cosmopolitan”, “tolerant”, who are, “after all, just like us”, that is, just like the nation that is being persuaded to militarily intervene, the US. Remarkably, to the Muslim world, Muslim propaganda portrayed itself just like them,i.e., militant and radical Muslims seeking to establish a Muslim fundamentalist state in the heart of the infidel Europe. In appealing to the US to intervene, the propaganda sought to show that the Muslims are plain folks, like you and me. The staging of the rock musical Hair and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and the playing of the Mozart Requiem in Sarajevo were meant to show that the Muslims are Western-oriented, part of the Western tradition, plain folks ,just like us and unlike them. Absurdly, Hair was a 1960s musical which was anti-government, anti-war, anti-nationalism, and anti-racist. The Bosnian Muslims used Hair in the service of war propaganda to advance their narrow, racist and nationalist agenda of creating a Muslim Bosnia through war. Propaganda is rarely logical or rational, but as Hitler correctly noted, is meant to appeal to the emotions and only the emotions and not to the intellect.
Conversely, Orthodox Serbs were portrayed by racist stereotypes of the enemy, the other, “them”, as uncivilized, backward, “mountain Serbs”, mountainous, animal-like, vermin-like, in short, unlike us, not like us, not plain folks like us, but “nationalists”, “zealots”, “uncivilized”, ”fanatical”, barbaric mountain dwellers not part of the Western enlightened tradition, not part of the West, not part of “enlightened Latin Christendom” (Roman Catholicism).
The Logical Fallacy Technique was rampant in the Yugoslav conflict. For instance, all sides to the conflict committed atrocities and massacres, the media reported, but only the Serbs were condemned and ostracized, only the Serbs were “war criminals”, only the Serbs were committing “crimes against humanity”, to kill an Orthodox Serb whether man, women, or child, soldier or civilian, was tantamount to justified or excused homicide, to the US media, to kill Serbs was like killing rats or vermin, a typical propaganda stereotype. When atrocities were committed against Serbs, they were rationalized as appropriate retaliation and just retribution even when unprovoked. A Croat Roman Catholic nun was asked, “Do you find it difficult not to hate the Serbs?” Even when lies were told by Muslims and Croats, the media concluded that, nevertheless, that the stories were “generally true” although specifically untrue, a reductio ad absurdum.
The Misleading Association Technique - US propaganda sought to associate the Bosnian civil war to the Holocaust against European Jewry committed by Germany and German allies during World War II. Bosnian Serb detention camps were portrayed as Nazi-like concentration camps, like Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau, meant to appeal to Jewish groups in the US. War crimes and war crimes trials were an attempt to associate the crimes to the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal. War refugees, which are a part of every war and every conflict, in this case were deemed to rise to the level of genocide and the term “ethnic cleansing”, used in World War II to describe the Croat-Muslim Ustasha genocide committed against Bosnian and Krajina Serbs in the NDH, was manipulated and regurgitated and turned against the Serbs. The siege of Sarajevo was associated with the siege of Leningrad during World War II where over a million Russians died. In point of fact, more people were killed in Washington, DC in l994 than died in Sarajevo that year. In all about, l0,000 died in Sarajevo on all sides in nearly four years of war. But such is the power of propaganda, of “images of war”, that it appeared that Sarajevo was Leningrad in World War II. Finally, the book Zlata’s Diary was published modeled on The Diary of Anne Frank, a transparent and obvious propaganda technique difficult to miss even by the naive and unsophisticated. Was the memory of Anne Frank being exploited by Muslim propagandists? Was this use of war propaganda fair to the legacy of Anne Frank? Propaganda is amoral and based on emotion. This is why it is so invidious because it dehumanizes both the persuader and the persuaded. In order to persuade others to kill, propaganda dehumanizes all concerned in its propagation.
The Oversimplification Technique appears in the media analysis of the conflict. The media perceived the Bosnian conflict not as a civil war, but as an “aggression” by one state, Serbia, against another state, Bosnia. The media did not perceive the conflict as one between three ethnic and religious groups, similar to Lebanon. The media saw Bosnia conveniently as another Kuwait. Why? Because the intervention paradigm for a Kuwait scenario already existed: The US massively bombs the capital, Belgrade, and the aggressors retreat. By contrast,a Lebanon scenario was difficult if not impossible to manage or solve. Indeed, Anthony Lewis clamored for aerial bombardment of Belgrade in l992. Overly simplified slogans emerged, “lift and strike”, ”arm and train”, “economic strangulation and information warfare”. Serbs were stereotyped as “rebels”, ”rapists”, ”cutthroats” in an atavistic spasm of racism and bigotry by the US media and government; Serbs were seen as “them” while Muslims and Croats were “us”, a primary orientation of all war propaganda.
The Selection Technique consists of selecting only a part of the story and presenting it as the complete picture. The media focused on Sarajevo to paint a picture of Bosnian Islam. But in the villages and rural districts, Muslims were not secular, were not cosmopolitan, were not tolerant, but were, militant, devout Muslims who sought to create a Muslim state which they ruled. This is an example of False Emphasis. Alija Izetbegovic and his Muslim party were committed to establishing a Muslim State for Muslims, but the media never showed this by using the Card-Stacking Technique, selecting only certain details of the Muslim leadership and not presenting the whole picture, i.e., that the SDA ruling party was a Muslim party made up only of Muslims, that Izetbegovic had visited Iran, that Iran was supplying weapons and funds to the Muslim leadership.
The Word Techniques - used against an individual, cause, or idea - are the most prevalent. Name calling - referring to the Serbs as “aggressors”, ”rapists” ,”killers” - allows us to form a judgment before examining all of the evidence or the complete record. For instance, Muslims are called “secular”, but the fact that the regime has ties to Iran is not revealed. These words cause signal reactions, that is, prejudiced or predetermined responses. Bosnian Serbs are labeled “war criminals”, “murderers”, “rebels” without showing or demonstrating how this is so. By using such words, ”namecalling”, the media wishes to tell us how to think about the events and actors in the Yugoslav conflict, in fact, to preclude thought. In Nazi Germany,for example, concentration camp guards told Jews and other inmates to repeat, “We are swine!”, so that they would begin to think they are subhuman. Similarly, US reporters and editors referred to Krajina Serbs as “Croatian Serbs”, an oxymoron coined at the US State Department, but wishing to tell readers that they should think of Serbs only as a minority in Croatia, regardless of the reality on the ground. Conversely, with regard to the Albanian minority in Serbia, the US media employ the opposite propaganda strategy. The Albanian minority in Serbia is referred not as “Serbian Albanians” but as “Kosovars” and citizens of the “Republic of Kosova”. The Muslim regime in Sarajevo, which lacks the support of the majority of its constituents, is nevertheless referred to as the Bosnian Government in capital letters, while the Serbian or Yugoslav government is merely the “Milosevic regime” or the “Belgrade regime”.
Glittering words are given to an actor to preclude an examination of the evidence. Thus, Muslims and Croats are “pluralistic”, ”democratic”, ”tolerant”, ”Western-oriented”, “peace-loving”, “innocent”, ”secular”, ”multi-ethnic”. But the governing SDA Party is a Muslim party made up only of Muslims with extensive and wide-ranging ties to Iran, Afghanistan, and Libya, and Algerian militants. Thus, the propaganda technique allows a misleading, one-sided presentation which is inaccurate and false.
Likewise, Glittering Generalities preclude a debate or discussion of the conclusions reached. We are informed that Muslims are in support of “multi-ethnic state”, “democracy”, ”pluralism”, ”tolerance”, ”the free world”, “the New World Order”. But the ruling party is made up of only Muslim leaders who seek to create a Muslim state for Muslims only as exemplified in The Islamic Declaration (1970, republished 1990), described as a “Mein Kampf for Balkan Muslims”, by Alija Izetbegovic. The Islamic Declaration and Franjo Tudjman’s The Wasteland of Historical Reality were ignored in the West, although these books clearly enunciated their positions eloquently and forcefully. But like Glittering words, Glittering Generalities seek to present a one-sided, subjective view of the Muslims and Muslim leadership which is a hallmark of all propaganda.
Finally, the US media and government inconsistently applied the legal doctrines of positivism and natural law, a clear sign that a propaganda war is in effect.
Positivism stipulates that the law is to be obeyed regardless of whether one regards it as just or not. The law is the final authority. The Nazi Nuremberg laws were based on the positivist approach. The law was the law and one had to follow it, even though it is racist, genocidal, and unjust. I was just following the law, you honor. It was the law.
The natural law approach states that when one believes the law to be unjust one does not have to obey it and can violate it by rejecting it.
The US government and media inconsistently applied these two approaches. The Krajina and Bosnian Serbs must follow the law, i.e., international recognition, even if they thought the law was unjust and against their interests or even if doing so would lead to their genocide. The law was the law But with regard to Kosovo, the law is immaterial and Albanians and NATO are free to disregard the UN Charter, the Gevena Conventions, international treaties, and all customs and agreements between nations..
But with regard to the Bosnian Muslims and Croatia, the US applies a natural law approach. The US allowed Muslims and Croats to violate international law, the UN Arms Embargo because US policymakers felt it was unjust. Likewise, the US itself violated the embargo in l994 because it thought it unjust,even though the US had voted for the embargo. When laws are unfair, we should feel free in violating them, the US spokespersons explained. The Muslims had a “natural right of self-defense” thus they need not heed the law, civil, military, international, or even human rights. Similarly, Muslims could use UN safe havens as military staging areas because the law was unjust. The Croatian Army attack on the Krajina Serb UN Protected Areas was justified by the US on the grounds that Croatia was “establishing control of its international borders”, i.e., a positivist approach. The law, legal principles, and international law, were merely used as a tool of propaganda in a cynical manner. With regard to Kosovo, the US acted as if it were the law, violating Yugoslav sovereignty without the slighest hesitation. Moreover, in the Bosnian Conflict, the US went out of its way to castigate the Bosnian Serbs for allegedly using cluster bombs. Then in the Kosovo Conflict, NATO used cluster bombs on Serbian civilians without any compunction whatsoever. The hypocrisy and double-standard were apparent to all. But no one cared. The propaganda had achieved its purpose.
War Crimes in Bosnia
Was the coverage of the Bosnian civil war and Yugoslav breakup by the US media ethical, professional, and fair?
The American Society of Newspaper Editors has established a Code of Ethics or Canons of Journalism which define the ethics of the profession.
Canon I , entitled Responsibility, defines the responsibility of the journalist: A “journalist who uses his power for any selfish or otherwise unworthy purpose is faithless to a high trust.”
Under Canon II, Independence, a newspaper has to reveal when it receives communications from outside or private sources.
Under Canon IV, Sincerity, Truthfulness, Accuracy, “by every consideration of good faith a newspaper is constrained to be truthful.”
Canon V on Impartiality states that “news reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind.”
When newspapers make a mistake, Canon VI, Fair play, requires that a newspaper make “a prompt and complete correction of its own serious mistakes of fact or opinion.” When character or moral reputation is affected, the person so accused should be given an opportunity to respond.
Television news reporters are bound by the television Code of the national Association of Broadcasters, which mandates that “news reporting should be factual, fair and without bias.” Pictorial material should be chosen with care and not presented in a misleading manner.” Commentary and analysis should be clearly identified as such.
US media bias and partisanship was apparent in the coverage or lack thereof of events in the Bosnian civil war, thus violating many of the canons and codes of professional ethics and responsibility of journalism and television news reporting.
The US media never reported on the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian and Krajina Serbs or of Bosnian Serb villages around Konjic in May,l992, at the start of the civil war. The media never reported on the Muslim-run detention camps at Tarcin and Celebici.
Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat forces attacked the Serbian majority villages around Konjic, expelled or ethnically cleansed the Serbs and held them at collection or detention centers and camps, the most famous of which was the Celebici camp. Serbian men, women, and children were killed, tortured, and sexually assaulted, raped, beaten, and subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment.
The Muslim-run Celebici camp consisted of a tunnel, a hangar, and an administrative building. After being collected at Celebici, many of the Serb detainees were moved to other Muslim-Croat detention camps, where they were imprisoned for up to 28 months. The Celebicic camp was in existence from May,l992 to December, l992.
The US media never covered or reported this camp or other Muslim and Croat camps for Serbs. It was only on March 21,l996,that these facts came to light, when the Military Tribunal for War Crimes at the Hague indicted the following Muslims: Zejnil Delalic,who co-ordinated the activities of the Muslims and Croat troops, he was the commander of the First Tactical Group of the Bosnian Muslim Government Army; Zdravko Mucic, known as Pavo, was the commander of the Celebicic camp from May to November, 1992; Hazim Delic, who was deputy commander of the camp; and, Esad Landzo, known as Zenga, a Muslim guard at the camp.
In June, l992, Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo selected the Serb Scepo Gotovac,aged between 60 and 70, who was then beaten and an SDA (Muslim Party, Party for Democratic Action, all Muslim members,ruling party) badge was nailed to his forehead.He died soon after.
In July, l992, the Serb Zeljko Milosevic was beaten by guards and died soon after. Simo Jovanovic was also beaten and died. Bosko Samoukovic, aged 60, was beaten and died afterwards.
Esad Landzo selected a Serb inmate with the surname Miljanic, aged between 60 and 70, then used a baseball bat to beat him to death.
Near the end of July, Hazim Delic and Esad Landzo selected Slavko Susic, who was beaten with a bat and a piece of cable and tortured with pliers,lit fuses, and nails. He died from his injuries.
Milorad Kuljanin was shot by a Muslim guard who stated that “they wished a sacrifice for the Muslim festival of Bairaim” (from page 6 of the War Crimes indictment by the Hague). Zeljko Cecez,Slobodan Babic, Petko Gligorevic, Gojko Miljanic, Zeljko Klimenta, Miroslav Vujicic, and Pero Mrkajic were shot and beaten to death.
On May 25, Orthodox Serb Momir Kuljanin was tortured and beaten into unconsciousness, the Muslims burned a cross on his hand, and was hit with a shovel, was suffocated and had a corrosive powder applied to his body.
On May 27.l992, and continuing until August, Grozdana Cecez was repeatedly raped,on one occasion by three different persons in one night. From June 15 to August, Muslim guards repeatedly raped and sodomized a Serbian detainee known as Witness A.
On June 15, Spasoje Miljevic was tortured and a mask was placed over his face, a heated knife was placed against his body,he was forced to eat grass, he was severely beaten with fists, feet, a metal chain and a wooden implement and a had a Fleur de Lis, symbol of the “secular” Muslim regime, carved on his palm.
Mirko Babic and Mirko Dordic were tortured and beaten with a baseball bat. Nedeljko Draganic was beaten with a baseball bat and was burned when Muslim guards poured gasoline on his trousers.Mirko Kuljanin,and Dragan Kuljanin were beaten and mistreated.Vukasin Mrkajic and Dusko Bendo had a burning fuse cord placed around their genital areas.
The Muslim guards at the Celebici camp plundered money, watches, and other valuables belonging to Serbs taken to the camp.
The US media neither reported nor covered these acts of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and crimes against humanity. The US media was in breach of its own ethical canons and codes of professional responsibility which it has established for itself. All propaganda must be subjective and one-sided.
The US media never covered the massacres committed by Muslim troops against Serbian civilians in the Serbian municipalities of Bratunac, Skelani, Vlasenica, and Milici in eastern Bosnia. These Muslim forces were commanded by Naser Oric, from Potocari, indicted by the Hague Tribunal for war crimes, a policeman and former member of the Yugoslav special forces.
One of the worst massacres of the Bosnian Serb population occurred on September 26,l992 in the Serbian villages of Rogosija and Nedeljista near Milici.Muslim forces under Naser Oric, the commander of the Muslim troops in Srebrenica, massacred 37 Serbs. The victims were shot in the legs and then burned, while two were impaled. The wounded had their throats cut and their heads cut off. Some victims had their heads smashed in with axes and sledgehammers and their brains were extracted. The dead and wounded were circumcised (Islamic religious practice) and many were castrated and there was genital mutilation of the victims.
In Kamenica, seven mass graves were found containing the corpses of 38 Bosnian Serb POWs who were murdered and mutilated .
On December 14,l992,Serbian villages around Bratunac were attacked by Muslim troops from Srebrenica. The Muslim forces killed 64 Serb civilians and burned down the houses and the villages.
On January 7,l993, Serbian Orthodox Christmas, Muslim troops from Srebrenica attacked the Serbian village of Kravica near Bratunac and brutally massacred 50 Orthodox Serbs and then burned down the village.
The US media did not cover these events. Moreover, US military transport aircraft stationed in Germany dropped food packages meant for the Muslim troops while they were committing horrendous atrocities and engaged in a genocide against Orthodox Serbs. Unfortunately, Bosnian Serb military forces usually advanced so rapidly that these “humanitarian packages” fell into the hands of the Serb forces.
Because the victims were Serbs, the media did not cover these events. As Misha Glenny explained in The Fall of Yugoslavia: The Bosnian Government troops “moved swiftly through the Serbian villages, slaughtering large number of civilians on the way. Because the atrocities were being perpetrated by the Muslims, they received relatively little attention in the world media.”
The US media claimed and reported that the Muslim Government and its Army were secular and multi-ethnic, but when the Bosnian Government Army massacred Orthodox Serbs and burned down entire Serbian villages, they wrote “Islam shall win” on burned down Serbian homes, which is incompatible with a multi-ethnic and secular Army and Government. There were also thousands of mujahedeen volunteers from Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia in these Government forces, along with the Mosque Doves, Muslim Green Berets, and Black Swans, Muslim para-military formations.
The US media did not report on the Croat-Muslim massacre of at least 181 Bosnian Serbs murdered in Mrkonjic Grad in western Bosnia when NATO aircraft bombed the Serbs during a massive offensive launched by the Croatian Army which invaded Bosnia from Croatia (also not reported) with support from Bosnian Croat and Muslim forces, which ethnically cleansed thousands of Serbs.
On February 3,l996, 18l bodies were exhumed from the mass graves in the Serbian Orthodox cemetery in Mrkonjic Grad.The victims were between the ages of 22-89. Among the bodies were those of ll elderly women and wounds were on most of the bodies indicating torture. Many of the skulls were smashed in with dull objects. Four corpses were beheaded. When the bodies were exhumed, not a single foreign journalist appeared at the scene to report or cover it. Ten days later, when a press conference was held, there were no journalists or reporters present. Moreover, no international organizations or human rights groups were present. The genocide and ethnic cleansing of Orthodox Serbs was not news.
No journalists attended the exhumations and press conference. Instead, US journalists went where the US government told them to go.
What are the lessons of the Bosnian Civil War and the Kosovo Crisis? Can we learn anything from the tragedy that occurred with the breakup and dismemberment of Yugoslavia?
First of all, was the propaganda campaign successful, did it persuade the reactors (the audience) it was targeted to? The US government and media propaganda effort, one of the most massive and technologically sophisticated of the twentieth century, was an abject and total failure. The public relations and propaganda campaign failed to persuade or to convince the US public. As James Petras and Steve Vieux explained: “No matter how much the mass media turned up the atrocity laden decibels, no matter how much the Muslim refugees dominated the war photos, the US public refused to be drawn in.” Virtually all opinion polls and surveys showed that a vast majority of the American public opposed US financial and military involvement. The massive propaganda campaign never altered this fact. How is this to be explained?
UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali called the Bosnian Civil War a “rich man’s war”. The conflict was also an “educated man’s war”. That is, the propaganda campaign was launched and fostered by educated, intellectual elites, the best and brightest. There was never much enthusiasm for the conflict among grass roots Americans, working and middle-class citizens. The propaganda effort was almost exclusively a product of the intellectual elites, working in conjunction with the US Government, particularly the State Department, and the US media. Ironically, as Petras and Vieux noted, the only ones “persuaded” or “manipulated” by the propaganda campaign were the propagandists themselves, i.e., the educated, intellectual elites:
US intellectuals...fell for a propaganda campaign so crude that on occasion Serbian detainees in camps or dead Serbian children were simply identified as Muslims. Editors passed over stories about Serbs in Muslim-Croat camps. The razing of 100 of the 156 Orthodox churches in Croatia alleged by the patriarchate in Belgrade was ignored. Reports of the rapes of Serbian women went univestigated by the media. All of this culminated in the media indifference to the ethnic cleansing in the Krajina in l995...A spasm of media propaganda was taken at face value.
The intellectual elites underestimated the intelligence and common sense of the US public. The US public refused to be duped or tricked (persuaded or convinced) because of past experiences with the media and the cadre of intellectual and enlightened elites. Perhaps the greatest sin in politics is to lose the confidence of the public. The public is unforgiving and has an elephant’s memory. The 16th US President, Abraham Lincoln, best understood this when he stated as follows:
If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you may even fool some of the people all the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all the time... Public opinion in this country is everything.
Democracy has limitations. Political representation is an imperfect vehicle in ensuring that the will of the public is heard. Those who would speak for us and who would work for our interests usually only end up working for themselves and their own self-interest. As Hegel stated in The Philosophy of History (l832):
The Few assume to be the deputies, but they are often only the despoilers of the Many.
As Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman noted in Manufacturing Consent, a government and interests which are able to fix the premises of discourse, are able to decide what the public is to hear, see, and think about, and to “manage” public opinion by regular propaganda campaigns is incompatible with the democratic ideals of an independent media committed to discovering and reporting the truth.
The intellectual elites - Susan Sontag, Georgie Ann Geyer, Anthony Lewis, Cokie Roberts, Madeleine Albright, Warren Zimmermann, Jamie Shea, James Rubin - regard the American public as an ignorant and impotent rabble, a mob that has to be guided and led. Only the best and brightest, the intellectual elites, and those intellectual wannabees,journalists, know what is right and what is the truth. We are stupid cattle that has to be led and guided by these enlightened intellectual elites. Alas, behold, man the puppet, man the robot, the automaton, a dehumanized cipher.All we have to do is sit back and let them guide and inform and lead us. They know better than us. They are better than us.
Finally, who actually pulled the strings of the marionettes, who was the puppet master? Without any question, the US Government planned and orchestrated the massive propaganda campaign against the Serbian people. Warren Zimmermann, the “last US ambassador to Yugoslavia”, even admitted it.David Gompert, a former member of the National Security Council, advised that “sustained economic and information warfare against Serbia” should be able to defeat Serbia and called for a “patient cold war against Serbia.” Gompert admits that “the power of information technology is growing”, conceding the tremendous power of US propaganda. But what about the media, what about the journalists, reporters, and newspapers? The pack journalism and hand-out journalists were told what to report by the US Government, i.e., the media received hand-outs for the press, thus, hand-out journalism. American journalists were beguiled and corrupted by the arrogance of power and privilege that they enjoyed as the “spokespersons” for the “free world” and as the elite vanguard of the New World Order led by the United States, the remaining Superpower. Power and privilege corrupts. The US media were no exceptions. This was apparent in their intellectual arrogance, conceit, and profound ignorance. They were not content to merely report the news; US journalists and media wanted to make news, to manufacture or engineer the news. This is anathema in a democracy where freedom of thought and independence of will are deeply ingrained shibboleths. Not surprisingly, most public opinion polls and surveys indicate that the US public has lost all confidence in the mass media and distrusts and abhors it. This is obvious when we recall that the US government can turn the propaganda on or off when and if it wishes, just like a water faucet. To be sure, reporters were guided by ratings and newspapers by circulation, but the Government set the policy which the media dutifully followed. This should trouble all of us concerned with an independent press in a democracy. For how is what the US media did in the former Yugoslavia any different from what government-controlled media did in Nazi Germany or totalitarian dictatorships?
The twentieth century began with so much promise with the advent of the technological revolution. But as the century progressed, we witness the worst horrors in the history of mankind, gas attacks, bombing of cities, genocide, two world wars, total war, nuclear holocaust. As the twenty-first century begins, has the human condition improved for the better? If the events in the former Yugoslavia are a guide, we must conclude that nothing much has changed in one hundred years. We have greater comforts and longer life spans, but bought at what cost? Are we any better off at the end of the twentieth century than we were at the beginning? We each have to decide for ourselves.