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Propaganda During Times of War

The Postil Magazine,  Anne Morelli

This article, by Anne Morelli, is here translated for the first time complete. It is based on her monograph, Principes élémentaires de propagande de guerre (utilisables en cas de guerre froide, chaude ou tiède)The Basic Principles of War Propaganda (For Use in Case of War, cold, hot, or warm), which was first published in 2001 and then revised and republished in 2010 to include the war in Afghanistan and Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize speech.

Morelli’s ten principles, or “commandments” are often accredited to Lord Arthur Ponsonby. Rather, Morelli summarized Ponsonby’s work, Falsehood in War-Time to formulate them.

The current Russian-Ukrainian conflict is just the latest iteration of the immense reach of war propaganda to fashion consent, in the form of ready sacrifice of blood and treasure.

…………………. Ponsonby’s Ten Commandments

The principles identified by Ponsonby can be easily stated as ten “commandments.” I will state them here, and we will see for each of them to what extent they have been applied by NATO’s propaganda services.

  1. We do not want war
  2. The other side is solely responsible for the war
  3. The enemy has the face of the devil (or in the order of “ugly”)
  4. The real aims of the war must be masked under noble causes
  5. The enemy knowingly commits atrocities. If we commit blunders, they are unintentional
  6. We suffer very few losses. The enemy’s losses are enormous
  7. Our cause is sacred
  8. Artists and intellectuals support our cause
  9. The enemy uses illegal weapons
  10. Those who question our propaganda are traitors

1. We Do Not Want War

Arthur Ponsonby had early noticed that the statesmen of all countries, before declaring war or at the very moment of this declaration, always solemnly assured as a preliminary that they did not want war. ………….

2. The Other Side is Solely Responsible for the War

Ponsonby noted this paradox of the First World War, which can also be found in many previous wars: each side claimed to have been forced to declare war to prevent the other from setting the planet on fire. Each government would loudly declare the aporia that sometimes war is necessary to end wars………..

,…………..  in the case of this second principle (“it is the other who wanted the war”), it is obvious that it has been applied many times during the NATO war against Yugoslavia……………………..

…. The Franco-Belgian weekly Le Vif-Express ran this headline: “The dictator of Belgrade has a crushing responsibility in the misfortunes of the Serbian and Albanian people.” The insistence on the person of the leader of the enemy camp is not a coincidence. Ponsonby’s third principle insists on the need to personify the enemy in the person of its leader.

3. The Enemy has the Face of the Devil

It is not possible to hate a whole people globally. It is therefore effective to concentrate this hatred of the enemy on the opposing leader. The enemy thus has a face, and this face is obviously odious…………..

………..  as far as possible, it is necessary to demonize this enemy leader, to present him as a madman, a barbarian, an infernal criminal, a butcher, a disturber of peace, an enemy of humanity, a monster. ………….

Since the Second World War, Hitler has been considered such a paradigm of evil, that any enemy leader must be compared to him. ……………………………..

4. The Real Aims of the War must be Masked under Noble Causes

Ponsonby had noted for the 1914-1918 war that one never spoke, in the official texts of belligerents, of the economic or geopolitical objectives of the conflict. Not a word was said officially about the colonial aspirations, for example, that Great Britain expected and which would be fulfilled by an Allied victory. Officially, on the Anglo-French side, the goals of the First World War were summarized in three points:

  • to crush militarism
  • to defend small nations
  • to prepare the world for democracy

……………………………. One might innocently ask what connection there can be between the defense of oppressed minorities and the free movement of capital, but the first type of discourse obviously conceals less avowed economic goals. Thus, 12 large American companies, including Ford Motor, General Motors and Honeywell, sponsored the 50th anniversary summit of NATO in Washington, in the spring of 1999.

……….. NATO spokesman Jamie Shea announced that the cost of the military operation against Yugoslavia would be more than offset by the longer-term benefits that the markets could realize.

…………. This is also one of the basic principles of war propaganda: the war must be presented as a conflict between civilization and barbarism. To do this, it is necessary to persuade the public that the enemy systematically and voluntarily commits atrocities, while our side can only commit involuntary blunders..

5. The Enemy Knowingly Commits Atrocities. If We Commit Blunders, They are Unintentional

Stories of atrocities committed by the enemy are an essential part of war propaganda. This is not to say, of course, that atrocities do not occur during wars. On the contrary, murder, armed robbery, arson, looting and rape seem to be commonplace in all circumstances of war and the practice of all armies, from those of antiquity to the wars of the 20th century. What is specific to war propaganda, however, is to make people believe that only the enemy is accustomed to these acts, while our own army is at the service of the population, even the enemy, and is loved by them.

6. We Suffer very few Losses. The Enemy’s Losses are Enormous

During the Battle of Britain in 1940, the British greatly “overestimated” the number of German planes shot down by British fighter and the D.C.A………………………………………………..

7. Our Cause is Sacred

God’s support for a cause is always an important asset, and for as long as religions have existed, we have happily killed each other in the name of God. War propaganda must obviously make public opinion believe that “God is on our side;………………………………………..

8. Artists and Intellectuals Support our Cause

During the First World War, with a few rare exceptions, intellectuals massively supported their own side.

9. The Enemy uses Illegal Weapons

There is nothing like affirming the deceitfulness of the enemy in war propaganda by assuring that he fights with “immoral” and condemnable weapons………………………………………

During NATO’s war against Yugoslavia, this old principle of war propaganda, noted by Ponsonby, was reused. Indeed, when the Yugoslavs revealed in June 1999 the use by NATO of depleted uranium weapons, with immeasurable human and ecological consequences, it was not necessary to wait long for the response. By August 1999, the Western media claimed that the Yugoslavs had used chemical weapons in Kosovo, thereby transgressing the rules of “civilized” war.

10. Those who Question our Propaganda are Traitors

Ponsonby’s last principle is that those who do not participate in the official propaganda should be ostracized and suspected of intelligence with the enemy.

Conclusion

As we can see from these examples, the ten “commandments” of war propaganda described by Ponsonby have lost none of their relevance in almost a century. Have they been applied intuitively by NATO propaganda officers or by following the grid that we ourselves have followed? It is always risky to think that propaganda is built by systematically staging it, according to a meticulous plan; and one would rather believe that the possibility of improvement has criss-crossed the old Ponsonby principles……………. Anne Morelli is a Belgian historian at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB).  https://www.thepostil.com/propaganda-during-times-of-war

May 7, 2022 - Posted by | EUROPE, media, spinbuster

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