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View Full Version : Odd Bit of Propaganda from al-Jazeera


Schmedlap
06-30-2009, 02:57 PM
I just watched a recent episode of Fault Lines (http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/faultlines/2009/06/200962675254610845.html) - a program hosted by Josh Rushing on al-Jazeera English. This struck me as some of the most blatantly misleading and outrageous propaganda that I have seen on that station in a long time. It was particularly disturbing that Rushing, who served 15 years in the Marines, would participate in this charade.

The subject matter was the evangelical movement and the U.S. Military. The episode spliced together highly selective and highly unrepresentative pieces of video, capturing some of the most awkward and goofiest moments that I have ever seen, and portrayed them as the norm in our military, attempting to make it look as though there are a significant number of Soldiers who joined the military in response to 9/11 because they viewed it as a holy war in which they could use military service as a conduit for proselytizing. The program scoured the news and managed to piece together a handful of extreme examples and portray them as part of some deliberate, concentrated effort at spreading the gospel in Iraq and Afghanistan. The abberations were presented as the norm.

This episode struck me as simply bizarre. The subject matter was pure dreck. It was disingenuous and clearly intended to provoke fear and concern among non-Christians, particularly those in the Arab world, if it is also aired in Arabic. I don't know how anyone who has been in the military could view this and think that there is a shred of honesty or any absence of ulterior motive. On the other hand, it looks like it would be pretty convincing to others. The facts that were dug up - and the glaring absence of facts that are more readily obtainable - seem like they could easily sway someone who knows little or nothing about our military, which would include most Americans and certainly most of the Arab world.

I don't know how large of an audience has seen this or what that audience composition is, so I don't know how big of a problem this is. Does this strike anyone as a significant problem? If so, how do we defend against broadsides like this - outrageous claims out of left field? It seems that whomever strikes first with these claims has the advantage and you can't really anticipate every ridiculous accusation and pre-empt it. Or do I overestimate how convincing this stuff is and overestimate its potential impact?

The one saving grace was that Rushing interviewed Brent Scowcroft on this episode, tried to play a game of "gotcha" on this topic, and Scowcroft eventually got the better of him. At least that part wasn't edited out.

marct
06-30-2009, 04:00 PM
Hi Schmedlap,

This episode struck me as simply bizarre. The subject matter was pure dreck. It was disingenuous and clearly intended to provoke fear and concern among non-Christians, particularly those in the Arab world, if it is also aired in Arabic.

Really? It is certainly a fairly common perception, at least amongst a lot of the people who have followed the rise of the religious right in the US.

I don't know how anyone who has been in the military could view this and think that there is a shred of honesty or any absence of ulterior motive. On the other hand, it looks like it would be pretty convincing to others. The facts that were dug up - and the glaring absence of facts that are more readily obtainable - seem like they could easily sway someone who knows little or nothing about our military, which would include most Americans and certainly most of the Arab world.

Hmm, my nephew (actually, my wife's, niece's husband) was US SF and was given a "downcheck" for trying to proselytize. On the good side, he is out of the forces; on the bad side, he was doing it while in uniform in Iraq. In a similar vein, my sister-in-law (USAF E6, ret'd) has commented on similar prosletizing having gone on in the 1980's and 90's.

I don't know how large of an audience has seen this or what that audience composition is, so I don't know how big of a problem this is.

No idea on the broadcast audience size, but on YouTube, it is 10,158 for pt 1 and 4,447 for pt 2 (as of 10:47am EST on June 30th, 2009). As a note, 60 Minutes has been doing stories on the US Air Academy and its infiltration by cults such as the Campus Crusade for Christ for years now, so it is certainly not limited to Al-Jezeera :wry:.

Does this strike anyone as a significant problem? If so, how do we defend against broadsides like this - outrageous claims out of left field?

I've thought it was a significant problem for years ;). How to defend against it? Well, the best way is to publicize the #### caning of people who step over the line. To my mind, there is absolutely no problem with people holding whatever beliefs they want to. The problem is when an individual holding office in a government institution uses that position as a vehicle for spreading those beliefs (separation of Church and State).

It seems that whomever strikes first with these claims has the advantage and you can't really anticipate every ridiculous accusation and pre-empt it. Or do I overestimate how convincing this stuff is and overestimate its potential impact?

Nope, you aren't overestimating the potential impact at all. In the political backrooms, the tactic is called "The Big Lie". If you want an analogous situation, go back to Abu Ghraib and the question of torture. Does / has it happen9ed)? Yes. Is it officially countenanced? No. Is the person who was responsible for the people in question held responsible in a public fashion? Maybe. At any rate, that's the best tactic to take - at least that is in keeping with our conceptualizations of individual responsibility.

The one saving grace was that Rushing interviewed Brent Scowcroft on this episode, tried to play a game of "gotcha" on this topic, and Scowcroft eventually got the better of him. At least that part wasn't edited out.

Honestly, I imagine that people who are already inclined to view the US military as a "Crusader Army" will view the Scowcroft interview as confirmation that a) it is, and b) that it has support at the highest political levels in the US.

jkm_101_fso
06-30-2009, 04:18 PM
During a couple of Bill Maher episodes on HBO this season, he has had the "US Military is Proselytizing/Crusading" conversations with his guests.

I just have not seen it during my decade in the Army. Not even from Chaplains. Maybe the only thing the military is guilty of is saying a prayer at a memorial service; if that is even considered wrong. I don't think so.

My experience is that the military is mostly secular and those who try and Proselytize are few and far between. I know that OCF and groups like that exist, but I haven't seen them actively recruiting. Let alone trying to convert Muslims or anything silly like that.

Schmedlap
06-30-2009, 04:21 PM
Really? It is certainly a fairly common perception, at least amongst a lot of the people who have followed the rise of the religious right in the US.
Two completely different sets of people, imo. Religious right are political activists who appeal to religious authority to bolster their views. Evangelicals are Christians who feel an obligation to spread the gospel - those among this group concerned with politics are more the exception than the rule.

I find it hard to believe that any large number of Evangelicals joined to proselytize since 9/11, but I would be shocked if even a dozen members of the religious right joined for that reason. The religious right are more likely to be the folks who target practice on the Koran, rather than handing out Bibles. Understand your experience differs - not sure what to make of that. I've deployed with four different battalions - 2 infantry, 1 armor, 1 SF - and never witnessed anything even approaching this. I have known a handful of Evangelical Christians. They all adhered to the view that they were to spread the gospel, but also understood that they had an obligation to obey those appointed over them, recognizing that proselytizing had nothing to do with their duties and also understanding that proselytizing was strictly forbidden.

I've thought it was a significant problem for years ;). How to defend against it? Well, the best way is to publicize the #### caning of people who step over the line.
I agree, though I also wonder if that plays right into the hands of our adversaries. Publicizing it keeps it on peoples' minds. On the other hand, not publicizing said ####-canning can help to reinforce the perception that nothing is being done. Seems like a lose-lose in either case. Too bad that a handful of small unit leaders fail to prevent this from happening in the first place and put us in this awkward situation.

Steve Blair
06-30-2009, 04:23 PM
It's out there. I've seen some of it, although mostly in the Air Force, but I suspect that everyone's experience will vary based on a number of factors. Unit and branch certainly play a role, as does personal inclination and experience. A person who grew up in a more religious household or area might not notice some things that would stand out to someone who wasn't raised in that environment. The personality of the commander is also important. Like any group of people, there are a huge number of factors that come into play.

The issue is, I think, that it really only takes one to ruin the rest in terms of public perception. And that's where Marc's comment about ####canning those who cross the line really comes into play.

marct
06-30-2009, 04:56 PM
The issue is, I think, that it really only takes one to ruin the rest in terms of public perception. And that's where Marc's comment about ####canning those who cross the line really comes into play.

Yup. Really, what is at stake here is a basic philosophical (and ideological and theological) difference. In a democracy, there should be a form of transparency where failures are supposed to act as a reminder that we are all human. In a theocracy, failures cannot be allowed to see the light of day since that would imply that the theocrats do not understand "God's Will".

Schmedlap
07-01-2009, 12:27 AM
In a democracy, there should be a form of transparency where failures are supposed to act as a reminder that we are all human.
Amen.:D
Just when I thought political discourse could not sink any lower, that is one area in which it did, in 2005. Bureaucratic ineptitude, in regard to Katrina, was portrayed as deliberate, malicious disregard of New Orleans residents. Thereafter, the President made sure to travel to any large natural disaster and the government overreacted to each. This has even reared its ugly head in the current administration. Not wanting to be skewered by the right, as Bush was by the left, the current administration responded to the recent influenza outbreak as if it were the Andromeda Strain. I expect similar reactions when Hurricane season is in full force and for any midwest floods, noteworthy CA forest fires, and the like. The zero-defect mentality has encroached upon FEMA's turf because failures have successfully been portrayed as malice, rather than human error, misjudgment, or incompetence.

bourbon
07-01-2009, 01:01 AM
Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military (http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488), by Jeff Sharlet. Harper's, May 2009.
When Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in January, he inherited a military not just drained by a two-front war overseas but fighting a third battle on the home front, a subtle civil war over its own soul. On one side are the majority of military personnel, professionals who regardless of their faith or lack thereof simply want to get their jobs done; on the other is a small but powerful movement of Christian soldiers concentrated in the officer corps. There’s Major General Johnny A. Weida, who as commandant at the Air Force Academy made its National Day of Prayer services exclusively Christian, and also created a code for evangelical cadets: whenever Weida said, “Airpower,” they were to respond “Rock Sir!”—a reference to Matthew 7:25. (The general told them that when non-evangelical cadets asked about the mysterious call-and-response, they should share the gospel.) There’s Major General Robert Caslen—commander of the 25th Infantry Division, a.k.a. “Tropic Lightning”—who in 2007 was found by a Pentagon inspector general’s report to have violated military ethics by appearing in uniform, along with six other senior Pentagon officers, in a video for the Christian Embassy, a fundamentalist ministry to Washington elites. There’s Lieutenant General Robert Van Antwerp, the Army chief of engineers, who has also lent his uniform to the Christian cause, both in a Trinity Broadcasting Network tribute to Christian soldiers called Red, White, and Blue Spectacular and at a 2003 Billy Graham rally—televised around the world on the Armed Forces Network—at which he declared the baptisms of 700 soldiers under his command evidence of the Lord’s plan to “raise up a godly army.”

What men such as these have fomented is a quiet coup within the armed forces: not of generals encroaching on civilian rule but of religious authority displacing the military’s once staunchly secular code. Not a conspiracy but a cultural transformation, achieved gradually through promotions and prayer meetings, with personal faith replacing protocol according to the best intentions of commanders who conflate God with country. They see themselves not as subversives but as spiritual warriors—“ambassadors for Christ in uniform,” according to Officers’ Christian Fellowship; “government paid missionaries,” according to Campus Crusade’s Military Ministry.

slapout9
07-01-2009, 01:01 AM
the current administration responded to the recent influenza outbreak as if it were the Andromeda Strain.

On the place side Bacon was on sale at Winn-Dixie for about 3 weeks:)

George L. Singleton
07-01-2009, 02:55 AM
You guys have gotten me on my anti-al Jazeera and Pro-Voice of American soap box again.

It really matters equally with hot fighting to fight 24/7 the propaganda war.

I have said repeatedly al Jazeera is owned and funded by a shiek out of the UAE...who in my opinion formerly and still helps fund al Qaida and the Taliban.

Facts as just written here prove my point.

Uboat509
07-01-2009, 04:05 AM
Jesus killed Mohammed: The crusade for a Christian military (http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/05/0082488), by Jeff Sharlet. Harper's, May 2009.

I have been in the Army for eighteen years now. I have yet to see this. I have known individuals from time to time who might have been more devout than the rest of us but I have never seen the slightest bit of evidence of the kind of religious conspiracy that the author seems to be suggesting.

SFC W

Dayuhan
07-02-2009, 10:52 AM
I think anyone posting here knows that there is no such conspiracy or crusade. The problem is the perception, not the reality.

It is certainly not "fair" that the actions of a few people are pulled out of context and used to create a perception that does not begin to reflect reality. This is war, though, and nobody ever said fairness was going to be involved. If you hand your enemy a weapon he will use it against you, and he will not be constrained by anyone's notion of fairness.

It is impossible to completely counter this sort of perception: some people are too willing to believe it. It is possible to confine the impact to those who are already on the fringe, thus limiting the damage. One key to accomplishing this is to take these "isolated incidents" and make sure they stop, completely. The reality of propaganda is that one person running the mouth off in front of a camera can undo the good work of thousands. That's not fair, but it's the way it is. It has got to be 100% publicly clear to anyone representing the US Government, in or out of uniform, that this behaviour is not acceptable. People who step over the line have got to face serious and very public consequences.

The issue of private organizations engaged in prosletyzing in critical areas is a bit more difficult to manage, but government has got to distance itself to the greatest possible extent and make it clear to the organizations involved that their actions could seriously undermine both security and development efforts.

This could be construed as constraint of religious freedom, but given the nature of this fight it is necessary. Our enemy desperately needs to portray us as crusaders. Any action from our side that assists them in that effort is not a whole lot different from handing over actual weaponry. The propaganda war is a key front in this conflict, and handing weapons to the enemy is not a way to win it.

davidbfpo
07-02-2009, 01:41 PM
Sits within the theme here (IO), but a different story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8127699.stm

Cartoons to the rescue!

davidbfpo

George L. Singleton
07-02-2009, 01:58 PM
Sits within the theme here (IO), but a different story: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/8127699.stm

Cartoons to the rescue!

davidbfpo

Extraordinary and creative thinking in developing these cartoons. The citizens of the world of tomorrow, our children and youth are influenced by such things, and better it be for good than for evil...as thus far in the history of all mankind evil seems all too often to "take the lead."

Entropy
07-02-2009, 03:13 PM
17 years of total service here (9 in the Air Force) and I've yet to see anything like that. As an agnostic, I keep waiting for these all these Air Force evangelicals to attempt to convert me. Still waiting!

The "worst" I ever saw was a Wing Commander who prayed before every staff meeting/Commander's Call, etc. I would stand in respectful silence in the back of the room.

The military is, of course, a reflection of our society, so undoubtedly there are some religious zealots in service, but they are a small minority and don't, I believe, have as much influence as sensationalist media potrayals would indicate.

For a great look at religion in the military, see episode 8 of the "Carriers" PBS series (http://www.pbs.org/weta/carrier/full_episodes.htm). Better yet, watch the whole series. It's the best look at carrier duty that I've ever seen.

120mm
07-04-2009, 02:51 AM
Initially, I was going to respond to the OP by stating that the Western World does the exact same thing when either lambasting, or alternately whitewashing Islam. Having actually recently interacted with a crap-load of Muslims who hate the violent thugs who claim to follow Islam while breaking or perverting it's central tenets.

Then what Marc said inspired me to respond that the limits of the Christian hating bigoted zealots on the Left knows no bounds, either.

The "Right Wing Conservative Christian" has become the latter-day "insert derogatory racial group here"
for the narrow-minded leftist bigot who requires someone to bash to validate their position, and there is nothing better to warm the bigot's heart than to get the populace all whipped up that some unsavory character is coming to violate their in-group....

If one didn't actually attend church, but only watched Television or the movies, (or listend to NPR), one could easily assume that abortion doctor or homosexual murdering was taught to kids at Sunday School. In between classes on how to enlist and then proselytize to the "Godless heathens", of course....

Of course, that's when they aren't busy making movies portraying war vets as "ticking timebombs, waiting to go off..."

zzman
10-16-2009, 08:04 PM
This is an excellent discussion. People who, for the sake of argument, I will call "adversaries" have no reservations about the use of Information Operations. In this case they made skillfull use of existing preconceptions. In accordance with Quaranic teachings, Christians are "crusaders". So all they need to do is reinforce that connection of Christianity to the US military and call it a day. It is very difficult to counter. We can seek to publicize that we are, to a very great degree, a secular Army which includes people of many religions ranging to no religion at all. But what you are doing here is trying to work directly counter to the pre-conceptions of the Muslim street. To them, Americans are crusaders. The Quaran, the word of Allah, instructs them not to trust us. A lofty goal indeed to try to change that.

The best strategy, in my opinion, is too focus on isolating the more violent groups by highlighting that they kill other Muslims. That is a message that has resonated.