Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Mass Persuasion Campaign on Torture

Roy Eidelson's article,
How Americans Think About Torture - And Why, addresses the P.R. campaign used on the American people to find torture favorable in certain circumstances.
A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll taken in January 2009 asked a national sample of Americans, “Do you think the use of harsh interrogation techniques, including torture, has ever saved American lives since the September 11 (2001) terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?” The results: 45% “Yes” and 41% “No” (with 14% responding “Don’t Know”). In other words, almost half of Americans think torture “works.”

Based on this sampling of polling results, it is easy at first to be surprised and troubled by the degree to which Americans have expressed support for the inhumane treatment and torture of detainees. But public sentiment on such matters does not emerge in a vacuum. Rather, it often reflects the influence of carefully orchestrated marketing campaigns by powerful vested interests eager to shape opinion in support of a specific agenda or facts on the ground. Certainly it is now well known that the Bush administration embraced the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in national security settings. It is therefore instructive to carefully consider the five-pronged message that they and their backers promoted to create a citizenry supportive of torture. [...]

(1) our country is in great danger,

(2) torture is the only thing that can keep us safe,

(3) the people we torture are monstrous wrongdoers,

(4) our decision to torture is moral and for the greater good, and

(5) critics of our torture policy should not be trusted.

And all the while, the marketers painstakingly avoided using the actual word “torture”–and contested the word’s use by anyone else. Of course, this strategy is by no means unique to the selling of torture. A similar approach, designed for hawking war, was used with devastating and tragic effect in building public support for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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