The First Casualty of War is the Truth

The Associated Press reports "Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld promised Tuesday his department will not mislead the press as part of the campaign against terrorism." That sounds good, but a careful reading of the story indicates that Rumsfeld has left the door wide open to government media manipulation. The public relations industry was in fact born in and grew out of the U.S. government's World War One propaganda campaign, and government propaganda has been critical in recent U.S. wars, as we've shown in our book, Toxic Sludge Is Good For You. According to Rumsfeld, "'There are dozens of ways to avoid having to put yourself in a position where you're lying. ... I suppose you never say never,' he said. 'But all I can say is I cannot imagine a situation where we would be so unskillful that we would be in a position that we would have to do that to protect lives.' " As every skillful PR practitioner knows, outright lying is a desperate act to be avoided. Professional propagandists manage perceptions by spinning rather than telling outright lies.