Theater of Cruelty

MODERN TIMES's seven tips for a good propagandist

John Y. Jones
John Y. Jones
Cand. Philol, freelance journalist affiliated with MODERN TIMES
ADVERTISING / Learning the art of "lying masterfully" is important for all propagandists


Propaganda is a more sophisticated exercise today than it was during the Crimean War of the 1850s. But that the truth is the first casualty of war is in any case a fact today as it has been since the dawn of war. Today's 'information war' operates according to a number of obvious strategies. Here are MODERN TIMES's seven tips for a good propagandist:

1 Be the first to make accusations against the other party

Are you going to win the information war your narrative must be ahead of the events so that it is up to the other party to refute your claim. If you get control established like this, a lot goes by itself. "Putin is evil" does not need to be proven, it has been an established 'truth' for a long time. Ever since 2007 when Putin warned the West against breaking the promises made to Gorbachev and Yeltsin to "not move one meter east" – after the Soviet Union had removed its 300 troops from East Germany. Who has done an evil deed if not the 'evil'?

If you are to create your own narrative, it also requires that you be able to stop or weaken the other party's narrative. Since narratives are built up from a vocabulary, the individual words must also be checked. The war vocabulary is not particularly different from the daily struggle to 'be right'. Some important words to discredit are to use words that do not need explanations. 'The others' are antisemittare and racists; commits unprovoked violence; commits war crimes; threats of biological weapons; threatens with nuclear weapons and operates systematic misinformation.

Putin is threatening to use nuclear weapons, they say.

It is important to be the first to do so prosecutor against the other party, especially with things that can be thought directed at yourself. This is how the term's use or 'space' is conquered so that it seems sought after when it is used against you. Then the room is already 'occupied'. Russia threatening to use nuclear weapons! Russia may use chemical and biological weapons. In reality, the truth is the opposite: Even with 46 documented US biological laboratories in the Ukraine under the auspices of the US military before February 24, 2022 (Deputy Secretary of State Nuland in Senate hearing spring 2022), people accepted the claim that it was Russia that threatened to use chemical warfare in Ukraine. And even if it was Zelensky which retracted its promise not to acquire nuclear weapons, it is Russia in the West's narrative that "threatens the use of nuclear weapons". It was US presidents who, step by step, unilaterally withdrew the US from non-proliferation agreements such as ABM. It didn't help that Chicago professor John Mearsheimer said in the Holberg debate on December 1, 2022 that Putin never said this. It also doesn't help that the Rand report tells how effective it can be to deploy missiles close to the Russian border, missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. The West's media acrobats had already 'used' this accusation – against the Russians. Putin is threatening to use nuclear weapons, they say.

Men fact says something else. It was the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian who already on 24 February announced on French BFM-TV that NATO could use nuclear weapons. There were American presidents who in a row, unilaterally, had abandoned disarmament-reducing, cooperative and confidence-building measures, says NATO consultant Jacques Baud (Operation Z, pp. 33/34): the ABM agreement in 2002; the Open Skies Agreement in 2018; The IRNFC Agreement in 2019; the JCPOA agreement with Iran in 2018; the friendship agreement in 2018; Vienna Dispute Settlement Protocol in 2018; post cooperation in 2018; they withdrew from UNESCO in 2019; WHO in 2020; and the Paris Agreement on climate action in the same year.

American presidents have unilaterally abandoned disarmament, cooperation and confidence-building measures.

It is an ugly list that makes one wonder why we Norwegians have not been made aware of it to a greater extent. Are all mass media dormant and people in ignorance? It is bitterly ironic that, at the time of writing, Norway tops Reporters Without Borders' list of the state of the press in the world. It shows that pressurefrihet is not enough. We need pressureresponsibility also.

2 Create popular, civil commitment

Popular, civil engagement is confidence-inspiring when it supports the prevailing narrative.

Groups such as the White Helmets, and Bellingcat is what we call OSINT (Open source intelligence); they come from outside, from the voluntary sphere and can confirm the established "truth" from a "neutral" point of view. Such truthare can perhaps be useful when it e.g. applies to simple factual corrections, telling who said what when, how many people voted for whom when. Exactly what they said. But omissions, framing, strategic information-gathering, extensive strategic assessments or the use of secret satellite imagery, espionage and surveillance are of an entirely different order, manipulating at a subtle level and making OSINTers useful idiots at best.

#Seymour Hersh# says in connection with the Baltic Sea explosions in September 2022 that the intelligence takes the OSINTs seriously: They lay out bait and use them to activate the media and committed civilians to speculate on alternative narratives. This was brilliantly exemplified after the explosion – with the many theories that emerged. It all becomes 'mysterious', as a writer Kaj Skagen concluded in the previously mentioned Dag og Tid article. Mysterious, complicated and insoluble. Exactly what the athletes had wanted.

However, when independent NGOs are not 'controlled', things can go 'wrong'. Through investigations on the ground, Amnesty International was able to document that Ukrainian forces committed war crimes on many occasions by placing rocket equipment in schoolyards and hospitals. Then Amnesty heard that their information was 'untimely' (Tom Røset at the Norwegian Defense Academy). And Cecilie is a researcher Hellestveit criticized Amnesty and told Vårt Land that it could be defended that the military hides behind civilians – since we Norwegians ourselves, as you know, have placed, for example, "Akerhus Fortress in the middle of Oslo city"! Yes, you saw right.

The investigative journalists at The Grayzone wanted to investigate the International War Crimes Court (IIC) allegations in April that the Russians abducted children. To their dismay, they discovered that the ICC had not been on the ground at all. They had relied on a report by someone who had also not been on the ground and made observations. Young musicians with a war-traumatic background had been given a stay with music teachers and had to tearfully admit that they would soon be returning home to Donbass after a few wonderful weeks. The gray zone posed a revealing question: Why would the Russians forcibly send Russian-cultural people from Donbass to Russification in Moscow? As 'occupier', did Russia also have a responsibility for the young people in the area? At the time of writing, the ICC case is an ugly blunder for the UN system and will, at best, only be washed away.

In an otherwise worthwhile interview in Aftenposten 16.05.2021/XNUMX/XNUMX, the same Hellestveit warned, however, that Hamas "By hiding weapons and military material in residential areas and schools and hospitals, they are trying to raise the threshold for Israeli attacks. It also gives Israel a reputational problem.”

3 Academia must be reined in

Since 'expertise' and 'objective' scientists can be useful to have on one's side, such could be used as truth witnesses and experts vis-a-vis public opinion. When was the last time NRK had a commentator who not was presented as 'expert'? It is necessary to check these. There are many ways to systematically reduce academia's independence in a wide selection between carrot and stick. Let's spend some space here on blackening with the stamp 'anti-Semitism':

Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson British universities receiving state funding had to share the government's understanding of what anti-Semitism is – according to a very special 'concrete' definition developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) network. This 'definition' operationalises or shows 'examples' and turns criticism of Israel, in 6 out of 11 points, into anti-Semitic statements.

When was the last time NRK had a commentator who not was presented as 'expert'?

With such a definition with 'exemplification' behind it, one can suddenly 'reveal' a blatant increase in anti-Semitism worldwide – not least in connection with times of aggressive Israelso-called warfare against Palestinians, the West Bank, Gaza, Iran or Syria. They have managed to create a 'thermostat' which automatically kicks in when the Israel apologists need help from 'research' the most. "Look how they hate us Jews", is often the conclusion. Look at the 'objective' numbers!

British Labor leader and London Mayor Ken Livingstone stated that Jewr had collaborated with Hitler during the war. The attacks against him for this "anti-Semitic statement" were not long in coming. They crushed Livingstone , and he never got up again. What had he said?

Livingston had done nothing but repeat what Israeli intelligence chief Yehoshafat Harkabi described in Israel’s Fateful Hour (1986) about the checkered past of the Israeli terrorist organization Lehi (also called 'The Stern gang', a Zionist paramilitary militant organization founded by Avraham Stern) around World War II. Incidentally, it was Lehi who killed the UN Middle East envoy Folke Bernadotte in 1948. Harkabi says: "In Israel's historical account, nothing is more gloomy than Lehi's attempt to establish a relationship with the Nazis. In the late 1940s, seven years after Hitler had come to power and more than two years after the outbreak of World War II, when the Nazis' anti-Semitic atrocities were well known, Lehi sought an alliance with the Nazi government ... [and] claimed that they were close ideologically' with the Nazis. "[T]his attempt to make an agreement with the Nazis was not an isolated incident," Harkabi continues. lehi had previously made "attempts to get in touch with the Italian fascist government" (p. 213/214, our translation).

Patrick Pinter (France)-Propaganda

This British Tory and Labor practice of completely unfounded labeling people as anti-Semites clearly weakens the real fight against racism og Anti-Semitism, which they initially give the impression of supporting. But that is less important in this context. The important thing is to recognize that blackening with the stamp of anti-Semitism is effective. It is yet another powerful propaganda weapon. And it is used mercilessly.

But a growing number of Jewish groups want to end this use of anti-Semitism as a weapon. They will be asked not to be governed by the IHRA's definitions. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) sees this definition as a violation of core Jewish values. It helps little that the IHRA introduces its 'definition' by assuring that factual criticism of Israel is of course legitimate, when the entire IHRA's definition with 'exemplification' is precisely about discrediting critics. Most universities in the UK refused to follow this injunction, or adopted the guidelines with great reservations, because it would dramatically erode academic freedom and thus confidence in academia. In addition, academia's opportunities to 'sell' its services such as confidence building, academic services, study places etc.

4 Take control of the research

But control over researchone is exercised in many – and less obviously offensive – ways. By linking research grants to time-consuming search processes and adaptation to changing political currents, the independence of the individual researcher and academy generally. It also weakens the individual's opportunities and courage to challenge prevailing attitudes and power. It is a dangerous development where the media could have played a more proactive guardian role and defended the social importance of research.

With an increasingly politicized management of research grants, research itself has helped to hang up the rope they are threatened with.

What is particularly disturbing is that the IHRA's definition begins with an important understanding (in the first paragraph) that few can disagree with, and that many countries, including Norway, have agreed to. But the second part, the extended 'exemplification' of the definition, which is the original and very 'justification' of this measure, is not adopted by countries such as Norway. When IHRA present their 'definition' and invite municipal councils and academic institutions to join their definition, they undercut this, and sneak in an understanding of anti-Semitism for which there is no basis. In terms of propaganda, there is much to learn from the IHRA's approach. Propaganda must build on partial truths, such as the generally accepted initial definition of anti-Semitism, and then develop the definition into the desired terrain, namely making criticism of Israel an anti-Semitic act.

By accepting an increasingly politicized management of research grants, and thus also of research and researchers, research itself has helped hang up the rope they are threatened with.

5 Censorship works

Volume of information is important – so you should saturate the room with your topics and views. When you can prevent critical information in addition, it is easier to dominate with even thinly documented 'facts'. In Russia, but to a greater extent in Ukraine, opposition parties are opposed and largely banned – only media, TV, radio and newspapers that support the regime are allowed to operate. Lists of several hundred thousand [Source: OSCE] 'traitors' circulate in Ukraine and paralyze even established media outlets.

Tjeerd Royaards. truth.

6 Establish heroes – and villains

It is important to be aggressive, dynamic and fill the room. Helper is a good filler. Before any serious war or confrontation, it is important to establish "trustworthy" personalities as alternatives to the demonized leaders you wish to oust or weaken.

It is clear that Navalny and Khodorkovsky in Russia, Venezuela's Guaidó, Liu Xiaobo in China, Zelensky in Ukraine, regardless of how genuine they are, are/were accepted in the West because they challenged their leaders. And Maria Ressa in the Philippines. They are all people who garner great trust in countries outside their own homeland, and especially in the United States. How established they are at home is rather uncertain and really uninteresting. In this way, one also personifies uprising and rebellion. It has great appeal in the media world.

The flip side of hero creation is demonization. It is said that if you throw dirt at the wall, there will always be some left behind. That lifelong anti-racists like Jeremy Corbyn (see other article in MODERN TIMES) has been labeled anti-Semitic, is unbelievably ironic, as well as being immoral and vile. But as a weapon in the propaganda war it works. Dirt is left behind, and then the insults are "worth it", probably think the propagandists.

'Conspiracy theorist' is a totally meaningless description, but works incredibly well.

But more common is the use of the term 'conspiracy theorist'. It's a completely meaningless description, but works incredibly well, history shows. And usage is dramatically rising. A review of Aftenposten's archive shows an exponential growth since it was first registered in the newspaper in 1975. A highly amateur scientific review of average monthly occurrences of the word conspiracy for the last five decades in Aftenposten shows: In the 1970s < 1; 1980s: 1; 1990s: 4; 2000s: 12; 2010s: 34; and the 2020s: 133.

7 Make sure you don't get stuck with blackheads

It's called plausible deniability and gives you as a manager an alibi against being held responsible if something goes wrong. "You wouldn't want to know, Mr. Prime Minister", is a line from the British comedy series Yes, Minister which expresses this. The responsibility is diverted away from the 'boss', can be hidden away or put on some 'rotten eggs in the basket' if something were to unravel and schemes are revealed.

The systematic mistreatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison did not lead to any political leaders in the White House being held accountable. Defense Minister Donald Rumsfield was exposed as the man who had opened up new, illegal, torturebased interrogation techniques. Yes, he had even questioned the validity of the Geneva Conventions. Nevertheless, only a few low on the ladder were punished afterwards. The propaganda effort put the responsibility solely on the 'rotten apples' at the bottom of the basket. And the powerful got away this time too. CIA employee John Kiriakou reported the torture practice to Congress and was convicted for this 'whistleblower disclosure'.


Theme and news in journalismone does not come automatically, they are not given. They are chosen. Reporter's and journalist's choice og opt-out of events and conditions is decisive for whether an event is 'news' at all or worthy of being reported. Lying by mission was a truth that the English court photographer Roger Fenton could already confess during the Crimean War in 1853 at Balaklava.

"Although in most cases the camera does not lie directly, it can lie masterfully through omissions," writes author Phillip Knightly in The First Casualty (p. 15). Learning the art of "lying masterfully" is important for everyone ropagandist#er.

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