Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The "P" Word

I sometimes wonder whether it's a good idea to use the word "propaganda" as often as I do. The worry is that it can sound too strident and that that can have the effect of damaging the credibility of my arguments. The "establishment" (for want of a better word) has long been keen to frame critics as barking extremists as a handy way of avoiding having to directly argue their case. The way that opposition to the replacement of the UK's nuclear weapons delivery system was portrayed is a perfect example of this. Accusing dissenters of "playing fast and loose with the defence of the nation" is apparently enough to discredit any and all of their arguments.

So I worry that the use of the word "propaganda" by myself and by others with similar views helps those who want the barking mentalist tag to stick. But then I watch Fox News, that marvel of the free market media, and these worries tend to disappear. Here's an example of their attitude towards Iran (via). One of the two interviewers is apparently a Democrat strategist. See if you can spot which one it is.

Not easy, is it? The answer, if you're interested, is Kirsten Powers.

To move on to the content of the piece, I could pick it apart bit by bit but there was one stand out moment which I'll focus on. This gem on the alleged Iranian nuclear weapons programme came from Michael Ledeen:
And remember, they've sworn to use it against Israel as soon as they get it.
He really did say that. Watch it if you don't believe me.

Given that the Iranians consistently deny that they are even developing nuclear weapons, it seems a bit odd that they would have sworn to use weapons they don't have and claim not to have any interest in acquiring. Whatever you might think of the meaning of Ahmadinejad's infamous statement*, the suggestion that the Iranian regime has sworn to use nuclear weapons against Israel at the first opportunity is simply ridiculous.

And how did fearless truth seeking Mr Hannity respond to Ledeen's nonsensical claim?
Paxman, he is not.

Now, I'm all for free speech. Free speech is great. But there's a word for the dissemination of misleading or simply untrue information in order to further a political agenda. What is it again? Starts with a P...

* Here is the context of the infamous speech via MEMRI, an organisation not known for its sympathetic coverage of Muslims:
"'When the dear Imam [Khomeini] said that [the Shah's] regime must go, and that we demand a world without dependent governments, many people who claimed to have political and other knowledge [asked], 'Is it possible [that the Shah’s regime can be toppled]?'

"'That day, when Imam [Khomeini] began his movement, all the powers supported [the Shah's] corrupt regime… and said it was not possible. However, our nation stood firm, and by now we have, for 27 years, been living without a government dependent on America. Imam [Khomeni] said: 'The rule of the East [U.S.S.R.] and of the West [U.S.] should be ended.' But the weak people who saw only the tiny world near them did not believe it.

"'Nobody believed that we would one day witness the collapse of the Eastern Imperialism [i.e. the U.S.S.R], and said it was an iron regime. But in our short lifetime we have witnessed how this regime collapsed in such a way that we must look for it in libraries, and we can find no literature about it.

"'Imam [Khomeini] said that Saddam [Hussein] must go, and that he would be humiliated in a way that was unprecedented. And what do you see today? A man who, 10 years ago, spoke as proudly as if he would live for eternity is today chained by the feet, and is now being tried in his own country...

"'Imam [Khomeini] said: 'This regime that is occupying Qods [Jerusalem] must be eliminated from the pages of history.' This sentence is very wise. The issue of Palestine is not an issue on which we can compromise.
Ahmadinejad is undoubtedly vehemently opposed to the existence of the state of Israel in its current form. The often overlooked point is that he was talking about bringing about the end of the "regime", not about physically wiping a country of the map.


Darkwinter said...

And a Godwin's fallacy. Always good to see one of those popping up every so often.

CuriousHamster said...

Yep. The cheerleaders for war do love their Godwin fallacies. Some days, you can't move for them.

Veering widely off topic, this is almost certainly the most ridiculous Godwin fallacy ever. Two days later, I'm still speechless.