The US' Image Abroad is Formed with the Mud Slung by Domestic Anti-Americans
by George de Poor Handlery
20 April 2004
The best anti-American propaganda is produced in the United States.
This piece of writing
must begin with a reluctant compliment to American savvy in the realm of
propaganda, public psychology and snake-oil marketing. As a result the country
has an often unnoticed product that enjoys dizzying export success which
assures it global presence with best-seller status. The US’ leading role
in the areas of fiction named is proven by the country’s world-wide negative
image. Attribute this achievement to the fact that the best of anti-American
propaganda is produced in the United States. The results score high against
all odds and all the factual evidence of reality. As a result, the conjured-up
image of America that stalks the nightmares of foreigners is, at least as
a consolation, “made in the USA.”
If the product were not as effective as it is, I would not need to write
articles such as this one. It would be an added bonus that in conversations
with local folks I would not be challenged with contradictory arguments of
the stupefying category; they are based on what “even the Americans have
admitted” – in the papers, in Congress or its franchise branch located in
How does the process alluded to here work as a system? It is diabolically
simple. Anyone can play! Begin with someone State-side who is trying to spin
something to the detriment of, let us say, the current Administration. The
original purpose might be purely domestic politics. It is only meant to get
a few votes for one’s own side while whittling some off from the opposing
In pursuit of this goal it will be alleged that whatever is being done cannot
work. Once it works, pretend that the failure is lurking behind the next
corner. At the first reverse, argue that its dimensions are cataclysmic.
If there is a pause in the procedures mention “quagmire,” getting stuck,
having the route of withdrawal blocked. Yes, Chicken Little, all is lost.
Once the bumps on the road fail to grow into a Himalaya, assert that this
is only so because unfair means are applied, human rights were systematically
violated, or whatever. Invoke comparatively Hitler as a humanitarian and
Lenin as lovable. If more needs to be added to the stinking heap, mention
that whatever progress has raised its ugly head, it is the result of pre-meditated
aggression. It is best to claim here that the crime that had been decided
upon conspiratively: it happened prior to having provoked the crisis that
is now being used to justify the moment’s out-of-proportion offensive actions.
At this juncture it is advantageous to talk about the private motives and
secret fantasies of American decision makers. The nature of the accusation
is a beaut’ because its nature guarantees that the contrary cannot
be proven. On the other hand, to your good fortune, pre-conflict planning,
twisted into becoming evidence of unprovoked aggression, will probably be
provable. You see, major actions, the likely as well as the unlikely ones,
are in the form of a contingency plan in a big drawer of some huge desk in
a towering government building. (This fits every country, anywhere, anytime.)
Just in case anything foreseeable, even if deemed unlikely, should come about,
one must have an emergency plan ready. Developing one takes months: to start
on developing it in the context of a crisis implies bad preparation and the
imperilment of the project’s success. Oh, lest we forget, there is one more
thing. If the crisis and the proper response were unanticipated, claim that
it proves negligence. Follow up by mentioning a failure of the intelligence
organs and the brainlessness of an underqualified (whisper here the adjective
“low-grade-moron”) Chief Executive. So, if you are smart, you claim disqualifying
laxity for not being prepared and inexcusable extremism once any action is
taken. In the eventuality that the crisis was an anticipated one, the very
assumption that it could happen is proof that “they” wanted it to happen.
And the logic that stresses the contradictions may be damned as the partisan
carping of a haughty Executive Branch!
You might want to control the efficacy of the formula. Good for you!
Take the public attacks on any policy, in view of the moment’s dominant issue,
most likely you will choose the handling of the general topic of Iraq/terrorism.
It will be worth it.
By now these lines have become a recipe for a neat “do-it-yourself” project.
Title it “how to checkmate whatever would otherwise be successful since,
according to Lenin, the worse it is (or can be made to seem to be) the better.”
Riding on this wave of success in the manner of a witch on the broom, is
intoxicating. So you should be presented with “Part 2" -- the really destructive
segment. (OK, OK, “destructive” is not objective: it all depends on your
point of view. And everybody has a right not only to his opinion but also
to being honored for it. The nuttier it is, the more of an “opinion,” it
is, therefore more P.C. reasons can be found to enforce the public’s formal
We have now reached “stage 2.” This is the topic of global US-bashing’s American-made
supporting pillars. So far you have been given ideas about how to denigrate
America for domestic use on the profitable tabloid level. Scoring points
with this seems like nothin’ once you turn on the catalyst of foreign impact.
If cleverly done, its retro effect will top the success of your earlier efforts.
News about America is always interesting news. Chalk it down as a perk of
being the moment’s “top nation.” The effect is reinforced by the fact that,
indeed, much that is news and new –whether foolish, trivial or path-setting
-- originates in America. Add to the interest a portion of envy sweetened
with the honey of schadenfreude. If this is your motive then your
harvest of the bad in America will be plentiful. More than “plentiful,” what
you get will have items you would not ever have dared to allege on your own
authority. But once “public persons,” politicians, “nice people” there, best-sellers,
or even candidates for high office pretend it, you have no reason to hold
it back from your own readers. In serving the stuff up while hot you might
be tempted to add some explanatory verbal condiments and juicy innuendoes
to improve the flavor of the “translation.” As a result, what has been
possibly “asinine politicking” while on State-side, becomes in a few days
“the opinion of the international community.”
With this we have concluded the second phase and approach the third, the
interest-bearing retro effect. Once the propaganda ball hit over the fence
is conveniently returned, it lands on the US’ court with a bounce whose effect
For one thing, the anti-American thesis served free of charge will, in the
world of facts, make the going tougher for US initiatives. The wind blowing
in America’s face will slow her while it will embolden her enemies in the
field. A condition is created that can be taken as proof for the original
claim that “it can not work, it does not work.” However, this breeze, that
is the artificially enhanced foreign opposition, is not the decisive part
of my retro effect.
The easiest venue to prevent America from scoring touchdowns is in the middle
of her own huddle. Once US-made accusations become -- understandably -- “common
knowledge” in foreign lands, the domestic “activist” can take the transplanted
slander and bring it back home. (In doing this you should not be a cat or
a dog: they cover up their droppings.) With this, the regurgitated “effect”
can become the proof of the original -- in itself probably shaky -- assertion.
Now the attack gains substance and credibility because it can be pandered
by stating, “not only do I say so, the entire world holds, with me, that….”
Add to this the inclination of many Americans to heed, in foreign matters
that are alien to them, the opinion of the foreign sources they can access.
Now one can understand why the original position, once filtered back from
abroad, is of considerable credibility in the midst of a people that, first
and foremost, wish to be “liked” abroad.
Once the bad news has been recycled from foreign shores it will influence
public opinion and act as shackles around the limbs of US policy. Without
the ebbing support of the public -- now shaken in its original conviction
that right is right and wrong is wrong -- words are minced and efforts are
diffused. This will reduce the extent and speed of anything that will be
achieved. The coming election, and not the ongoing confrontation, will increasingly
become the criterion for whatever will be done. The initial prediction of
failure is now close to causing the crash wishfully forecast in the original
There is, of course, for the propagandist and his line, a down-side. He might
take power due to the means used to discredit his predecessor. Only in this
case, while successful in domestic election politics, he is likely to find
himself in a position in which, due to his commitments made on the way to
power, he is unable to act in the national interest. If this happens, the
loser is not the party dismissed in the election process but the entire nation.
George Handlery is an historian. He has lived and taught in Europe since 1976.
Email George Handlery
this Article to a Friend