by Scott Creighton
Atrocity propaganda is the spreading of information about the crimes committed by an enemy, which can be factual, but often includes or features deliberate fabrications or exaggerations. This can involve photographs, videos, illustrations, interviews, and other forms of information presentation & reporting. It is frequently used as part of psychological warfare campaigns as well as to rally popular support against real atrocities, and distinguishing between the two applications can be very difficult.
The Arkady Babchenko story is just the latest example of a type of psychological warfare campaign (see unconventional warfare ch. 6-1) and irregular warfare) being run by our assets in the endless Global War OF Terror campaign, what they now call the Global Contingency Operation or what I call the Global Free Market Wars.
Atrocity propaganda has been used by nations to demonize an enemy and turn a population toward the acceptance of war for almost as long war has existed. In the U.S. it was especially popular in WWI but used with much less frequency in the following world war mainly because it had been exposed to a great extent in the years following the first (see Creel Commission and the Committee on Public Information) and a people who were understandably eager to avoid another major war were acutely aware of what it looked and smelled like.
During World War II, atrocity propaganda was not used on the same scale as in World War I, as by then it had long been discredited by its use during the previous conflict.
It’s the story of the boy who cried wolf. When the war propagandists go to the well once too often with their copy and paste “hearts and minds” campaigns (see Army War College (PDF)), the people become not only indifferent to their manipulations but also angered at the attempt to manipulate them… once again. The “Fool me once” phenomenon sets in.
A contemporary example of propagandists going to the well too often would be the faked “ISIS beheading” videos that were originally created to help the Obama administration smooth the waters with his liberal base when they wanted to help Iraq suppress a popular uprising and to justify invading Syria. By time they got to the one designed to sway the hearts and minds of the Japanese people, it was readily understood (and even admitted to by the complicit MSM) all the videos were staged and the people in Japan began an online campaign mocking the video with their own photoshopped versions of the atrocity propaganda. In short, it backfired and not long after that, the entire psychological operation of staged beheadings came to a close.
These were my submissions to the contest for the best photoshopped “ISIS” atrocity propaganda image. I didn’t win.
In the one above I focused on using religion to generate a connection with the target market. In the second, I went with the old stand-by “Wont SOMEBODY think of the CHILDREN?!?”
All joking aside, atrocity propaganda has a deeply sinister effect on the targeted population. While it is still effective it serves to stoke hatred and division, calling upon the population to allow the use of weapons of mass destruction against another group of people for wholly fabricated reasons. When it starts to fail, it can desensitize that same population, making them cynical and skeptical of real atrocities committed either by other nations or their own in the future.
Here is a brief history of examples of pre-WWI atrocity propaganda from Wikipedia:
In a sermon at Clermont during the Crusades, Urban II justified the war against Islam by claiming that the enemy “had ravaged the churches of God in the Eastern provinces, circumcised Christian men, violated women, and carried out the most unspeakable torture before killing them.” Urban II’s sermon succeeded in mobilizing popular enthusiasm in support of the People’s Crusade.
Lurid tales purporting to unveil Jewish atrocities against Christians were widespread in the Middle Ages. The charge against Jews of kidnapping and murdering Christian children to drink their blood during passover became known as blood libel.
In the 17th century, the English press fabricated graphic descriptions of atrocities allegedly committed by Irish Catholics against English Protestants, including the torture of civilians and the raping of women. The English public reacted to these stories with calls for stern reprisals. During the Irish rebellion of 1641, lurid reports of atrocities, including of pregnant women who had been ripped open and had their babies pulled out, provided Oliver Cromwell with justification for his subsequent slaughter of defeated Irish rebels.
In 1782, Benjamin Franklin wrote and published an article purporting to reveal a letter between a British agent and the governor of Canada, listing atrocities supposedly perpetrated by Native American allies of Britain against colonists, including detailed accounts of the scalping of women and children. The account was a fabrication, published in the expectation that it would be reprinted by British newspapers and therefore sway British public opinion in favor of peace with the United States.
After the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny, stories began to circulate in the British and colonial press of atrocities, especially rapes of European women, in places like Cawnpore; a subsequent official inquiry found no evidence for any of the claims.
In the lead up to the Spanish–American War, Pulitzer and Hearst published stories of Spanish atrocities against Cubans. While occasionally true, the majority of these stories were fabrications meant to boost sales.
Fast forward a decade or so to relatively current events.
On October 10, 1990, a young Kuwaiti girl known only as “Nayirah” appeared in front of a congressional committee and testified that she witnessed the mass murdering of infants, when Iraqi soldiers had snatched them out of hospital incubators and threw them on the floor to die. Her testimony became a lead item in newspapers, radio and TV all over the US. The story was eventually exposed as a fabrication in December 1992, in a CBC-TV program called To Sell a War. Nayirah was revealed to be the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States, and actually hadn’t seen the “atrocities” she described take place; the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which had been hired by the Kuwaiti government to devise a PR campaign to increase American public support for a war against Iraq, had heavily promoted her testimony.
In the runup to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq, press stories appeared in the United Kingdom and United States of a plastic shredder or wood chipper into which Saddam and Qusay Hussein fed opponents of their Baathist rule. These stories attracted worldwide attention and boosted support for military action, in stories with titles such as “See men shredded, then say you don’t back war”. A year later, it was determined there was no evidence to support the existence of such a machine.
During the Arab Spring, Libyan media was reporting atrocities by Muammar Gaddafi loyalists, who were ordered to perform mass “Viagra-fueled rapes” (see 2011 Libyan rape allegations). A later investigation by Amnesty International has failed to find evidence for these allegations, and in many cases has discredited them, as the rebels were found to have deliberately lied about the claims.
And still more current examples of atrocity propaganda:
Keep in mind, with atrocity propaganda campaigns, the victims and the events themselves can be BOTH real and contrived depending on various aspects of the environment in which the event takes place and the needs to be met by the event. An example of a recent historical contrived event would be the “Nayirah” testimony. We didn’t have access to that particular area at the time so the propaganda was purely fictional crafted by Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. In the case of flight MH-17, the victims were real, the results of the subsequent investigation were fabricated.
In some cases the events aren’t even planned, as the sinking of the Cheonan was an accident that happened during a war games exercise and someone in the Obama administration saw it as a target of opportunity to run an atrocity propaganda campaign.
Most false flag events fall under the category of an atrocity propaganda campaign.
In terms of this particular atrocity propaganda event, the staged killing of Arkady Babchenko, it was clearly designed to turn up the heat on the demonization campaign targeting the Vladamir Putin presidency in Russia.
This campaign has been going on ever since the people of the Donbass region of Ukraine rose up and resisted the control of the puppet regime we installed in that country following our color revolution and since the people of Crimea held their referendum and almost unanimously voted to return to the status of a Russian region rather than remain with the new neo-Nazi regime we put in Kiev.
Couple that with the fact that Russia and Iran have helped to derail our regime change efforts in Syria and you have the basis for the new cold war.. minus all that wealth accumulation thing the military industrial complex seeks.
Over at Moon of Alabama blog, he has an outstanding breakdown of the overall purpose behind the Babchenko hoax. I highly recommend you check it out. As MoA points out, the ridiculous story about the “why” of it all is appalling in it’s stupidity. Clearly, the justification for the staged event is a ham-handed effort to try to convince the public that it WASN’T done as a part of a atrocity propaganda campaign and it fails miserably in that effort.
Many are asking just what happened to their faked story to make them give up on it so quickly. In all probability, the Russian intelligence apparatus figured it out and had proof they were going to release to the public, so they rushed to a podium with their cobbled together story to try to get ahead of the narrative before Putin could expose them.
Many in the MSM after falling for the hoax and promoting it unquestioningly have either retracted their original inflammatory writings on the subject or simply deleted them in hopes that we forget just how easy it is for a government or an agency to spin up one of these Russian demonization campaigns and pass it off to the complicit media without a single shred of journalistic integrity or fact checking on the part of the complicit media.
“On Tuesday, the news spread quickly: Russian dissident journalist Arkady Babchenko had been shot three times just outside his apartment in Kiev, as he went out to buy bread. His wife had been in the bathroom; when she rushed out at the sound of gunshots, she found her husband bleeding to death. He died in the ambulance on his way to the hospital. On Facebook, Ukraine’s prime minister blamed Russia.
No one had trouble believing this story; no one even considered questioning it. It was gruesomely familiar, similar to the many horrifying stories we’d already heard from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries where journalists are killed for their reporting.”
But then a funny thing happened with that writer… he suddenly understood the deeper, more destructive nature of the propaganda and how it threatens to harm their Global Free Market Wars campaign:
“For me, for my visiting friend, and for many others, relief soon gave way to doubts about the ethics and the wisdom of this “special operation”. On Facebook, the Ukrainian MP Anton Herashchenko tried to explain why it had been necessary to disseminate an artist’s sketch of a supposed killer “with a Caucasian appearance”…
In its endless one-upmanship against Russia, Ukraine has once again cut off its nose to spite its face, severely undermining its own credibility and that of journalists. This stunt also seems a gratuitous blow to what is left of public sincerity, compassion, and trust. Next time a journalist is killed in Ukraine (and, unfortunately, it seems certain that there will be a next time), even the least cynical observers, the kinds of people who wept all night over Babchenko’s supposed death, will likely wonder whether they should believe in a tragic death until they’ve inspected the corpse themselves. Conspiracy theories thrive on this kind of corrosive scepticism. Some Ukrainian commentators have been crowing that no one will be able to smear the Ukrainian security services after this brilliant victory. In fact, the Ukrainian authorities have done a magnificent job of smearing themselves.” Sophie Pinkham
Sophie’s concerns are justified when one looks at the reactions on Twitter for example:
As I detailed in the beginning of this article, atrocity propaganda can be a very powerful tool to motivate an unsuspecting target audience toward a desired outcome. But the key word there is “unsuspecting”
As was the case in the wake of the exposure of the Creel Commission’s propaganda during WWI, when it came to finding ways to motivate the American people to get behind yet another expensive and bloody world wide confrontation, that particular tool had been removed from the work bench and other means to sway the “hearts and minds” of the people needed investigation and development.
So when we sit here looking back over the distant recent memory (fake beheadings, incubator babies, Viagra rape squads) and the recent recent memory (Skripals, fake White Helmets videos, phony “chemical weapons attacks” that never happened) it is completely understandable why certain complicit media types, the kind who help sell wars of aggression, would be concerned about how this latest piece of atrocity propaganda flamed out.
With their newly launched war on “fake news” (meaning attacking the “conspiracy theorists” who delve into official stories that are the REAL FAKE NEWS) it is almost obscenely ironic that this case, this piece of atrocity propaganda, fell apart so quickly and so disastrously right before the eyes of the entire world.
How can they possibly continue to attack those on the ProporNot list or those targeted by the Atlantic Council (or those being sued by Georgetown Law) when they themselves are caught propagating fake stories so often and with such hype?
And when those stories are not merely accidents but rather FULLY FABRICATED EVENTS supported by local police and secret service agencies (like maybe our very own FBI for instance?)
At this point it is impossible to know exactly why they came forward and pissed away their atrocity propaganda event like they did. However, it is safe to say that whatever the reason, knowing just how much damage it would do to their favorite tool in their tool-shed at the time and just how bad the backlash would be after recent events, all that taken into consideration they felt exposing themselves and their tricks was the best case scenario at the given moment.
My guess, my theory, is that Putin and the Russians had them by the short hairs and they needed to own up to it before someone did it for them.
Is it possible that with this event and the others like it that were similarly exposed as atrocity propaganda, that the planners of such things and the shapers of our collective hive minds will now have to sit back like they did at the start of WWII and try to figure out a different way to stoke public outrage at the New McCarthyite boogeymen?
That all depends I guess on whether or not the majority of the populations of the Westernized nations have finally reached the “fool me once” stage of public awareness.
It certainly would be about time, wouldn’t it?
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