Donald Rumsfeld, in the year 2002, announced his intention to create an "Office of Strategic Influence". The object of the OSI was to plant propaganda and misleading stories in the international media, as well as influence public opinion abroad. In 2002, some generals were concerned that, should this activity become known, as it certainly was, "even a suggestion of disinformation would undermine the Pentagon's credibility and America's attempts to portray herself as the beacon of liberty and democratic values". As the article in the BBC linked to above says "The Pentagon is forbidden from spreading black propaganda in the American media...". One urgent question was whether the Pentagon's "disinformation" would influence the United States at all.
The Jessica Lynch story showed that the Pentagon was not above attempting to fool the American public. Newsweek wrote that the first call after Jessica Lynch's airlift was not to military officials but to Jim Wilkinson, the top civilian communications aide to Tommy Franks of Centcom, ie, the Director of Strategic Communications.
On the morning of April 3, the Pentagon began leaking information on Lynch's rescue that sought to establish Lynch as "America's new Rambo." The Washington Post repeated the story it received from the Pentagon: that Lynch "sustained multiple gunshot wounds" and fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldier... firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition." Lynch's family confused the issue by telling the press that their daughter had not sustained any bullet wounds. Lynch's parents subsequently refused to talk to the press, explaining that they had been "told not to talk about it." (Weeks later, the truth emerged. Lynch was neither stabbed nor shot. She was apparently injured while falling from her vehicle.) Rumsfeld and Gen. Myers let the story stand during an April 3 press conference although both had been fully briefed on Lynch's true condition.
Despite an outcry after the NY Times reported the existence of the OSI, Rumsfeld announced his intention to continue to make information warfare central to the Pentagon's functions .
Slate magazine carried an article in December, 2003 that discussed the Pentagon's plans for a propaganda channel to be shown in Iraq, a "C-Span Baghdad". Was/is this an attempt to propagandize Americans in Iraq about the war?
When the government starts disseminating its "message" to the United States with minimum filtering—that is, without independent news judgment, without editing, without commentary, and without verification—we're definitely not talking about journalism. Confirming Blitzer's worst fears, Hagan said that some U.S. news executives speaking privately (why not on the record?) regard the operation as "the seeds of a propaganda service."
The Pentagon's plans to make "end-runs around the American media" do not stop in Iraq, as they have started a 24x7 all-military news channel that is played on cable providers, usually free of charge as public interest, within this country.
How does P-Channel attempt to avoid charges of propaganda, given that propagandizing United States citizens within our own country is illegal?
Miss Barber said the Pentagon Channel makes every effort to avoid propaganda charges by, among other practices, offering live coverage of such events as press conferences from beginning to end, while commercial networks will pick up only the sections they deem newsworthy.
"It would be propaganda if we tried to spin it," she said
However, the Pentagon's track record of showing propaganda to an unsuspecting public is not without its flaws. Not only the fake news story of Jessica Lynch, but Sam Gardiner has documented over 50 instances of fake news stories cooked up by the Pentagon to influence the American public. (Such as: The link between terrorism, Iraq and 911; Iraqi agents meeting with Mohammed Atta, Aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons, WMD moved to Syria; the hyperlink above goes to the PDF files where you can read about these false stories)-link to Sam Gardiner talking about the propaganda.
How far has the Pentagon and its connected PR companies made inroads into American television viewing? Where do some of the "news" stories come from that are shown on the nightly news? We might assume that they come from a neutral news agency, but in fact, companies that specialize in fake news produce press releases that are sent to television stations and presented as news. One company that the Pentagon uses says this about their operation
The Coalition Land Forces Component Commander Lieutenant General McKiernan initiated the acquisition of DVIDS to correct lessons learned during the combat phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The system was supported and funded by the U.S. Army since all Public Affairs units in Afghanistan and Iraq were Army units; however, the intent is for the system to benefit all services of the Department of Defense
We do not agree that such government-sponsored propaganda should be subsidized by taxpayer money. We also believe that all news "releases", particularly in light of the revelations about fake news that have been pouring out lately, that do not originate with the television or print station showing or publishing them, should be identified as to source. If we know, for example, that a given piece on the nightly news was produced by a PR company working for the Pentagon, we might choose to watch it with more of a critical eye.