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Jun 26 2012

GOP Poll Shows That Propaganda Works

A new survey proves pretty incontrovertibly that propaganda — repetition of the Big Lie — works and works brilliantly. Almost 2/3 of Republicans still believe that Saddam Hussein had WMD, almost exactly the same percentage that thinks Obama was born in another country.

The poll, constructed by Dartmouth government professor Benjamin Valentino and conducted by YouGov from April 26 to May 2, found that fully 63 percent of Republican respondents still believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003. By contrast, 27 percent of independents and 15 percent of Democrats shared that view…

According to this poll, an even larger proportion of Republican respondents who said Iraq had WMD — 64 percent — said they have either always believed (or have come to believe) that Barack Obama was born in another country, which he was not.

Tell a lie often enough and you can get a huge percentage of people to believe it — at least if they’re Republicans.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    slc1

    Ole Josef Goebbels knew what he was talking about.

  2. 2
    thalwen

    Not surprising given all the quack and woo worshippers that cling to their tin-foil hats no matter how much evidence is put out there. Of course, it doesn’t help that there is plenty of right-wing propaganda put out by “news” outlets and politicians that makes the stories mainstream. Then there’s probably a percentage of people who will agree with those kinds of statements in a poll just out of pure racism and xenophobia even if they know them to be false.

  3. 3
    Steve the Drunk Unicyclist

    slc1 @ 1:

    Ole Josef Goebbels knew what he was talking about.

    So did P.T. Barnum.

  4. 4
    ArtK

    Propaganda is strongest when it reinforces ideas that the recipient already has. If you start out believing that whatever the US does (militarily) must be right, or that a N****r doesn’t belong in the White House, then anything that agrees with those concepts strengthens them.

  5. 5
    D. C. Sessions

    Tell a lie often enough and you can get a huge percentage of people to believe it — at least if they’re Republicans.

    So the question arises: is this universal, with only the nature of the lies that people want to buy into differing between groups, or are some groups less susceptible?

    Do people sort themselves into groups by their susceptibility to propaganda, by the propaganda that they want to hear, or is the appetite for propaganda a function of group membership?

  6. 6
    Marcus Ranum

    Ole Josef Goebbels knew what he was talking about.

    And he learned everything he knew from the RCC.

  7. 7
    Bronze Dog

    Do people sort themselves into groups by their susceptibility to propaganda, by the propaganda that they want to hear, or is the appetite for propaganda a function of group membership?

    I’d say that a preexisting group identity certainly gives a lot of people an appetite for propaganda that reinforces the group’s goals, even if they know it’s false.

  8. 8
    Lord Elmo Bringer Of Death

    I am definitely not an apologist for the Bush administration or Dick Cheney, but I feel like your post misses the point. And conflating those that supported regime change with the birther movement, I’m sorry Ed, should be beneath you.

    Trumpeting the fact that he did not have stock piles of WMD, though showing the shallowness that the adminisration had in advocating for the war, misses the point. It is a fact that he had biological and chemical weapons, he used them on the Kurds and in the war against Iran. Many anti-war advocates even stated it was insane to invade iraq becuase saddam will gas and kill all of our troops. The sole focus on the absence of these proverbial stockpiles of WMD also conveniently misses the fact that Saddam sent envoys to negiote buying weapons from North Korea. There is also evidence that the regime was hiding the intellectual capicity for nuclear enrichment waiting for the day that the sanctions would be lifted. Before the invasion the regime could not even account for the weapons it had declared it did have. The fact that Saddam time and again made a mockery of the NPT is without question.

    So though there is an argument that invasion in 2003 to remove saddam and the baath party was not the correct way about dealing with this very real situation, this b.s. about “where are the stockpiles” is drivel. It is cheap and easy and takes abosultely no understanding of the region to make these facile points. And it also just reinforces the garbage that this was a completely contrived war on an otherwise secular country which was cooked up so that bush family could steal oil and Cheney could make millions with Haliburton. Much like the garbage put out in Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.

    It also makes me a bit queasy when people will in one breath condemn the CIA for illegal wiretaps and wreckless drone strikes in pakistan (in which I think criticism is essential and more needs to be done about it) and in the other refer to them as an unquestioning authority on points of fact. Just saying…

  9. 9
    Area Man

    I’d say that a preexisting group identity certainly gives a lot of people an appetite for propaganda that reinforces the group’s goals, even if they know it’s false.

    Yeah, this. I think it has less to do with aggressive propaganda than with in-group signaling between conservatives. The Republicans didn’t have to push very hard to get their followers to agree to something false, they just had to make it part of the uniform.

  10. 10
    abb3w

    @5, D. C. Sessions:

    So the question arises: is this universal, with only the nature of the lies that people want to buy into differing between groups, or are some groups less susceptible?

    Do people sort themselves into groups by their susceptibility to propaganda, by the propaganda that they want to hear, or is the appetite for propaganda a function of group membership?

    Altemeyer’s RWA/SDO research suggests that there are some differences in tendency between the US political right and left.

    Contrariwise, both sides have some reluctance to accept facts they don’t like; and though there’s likely more a tendency to that on the right, there’s some folk on the left who have more tendency than some on the right.

  11. 11
    d cwilson

    It is a fact that he had biological and chemical weapons, he used them on the Kurds and in the war against Iran.

    Yes, he had WMDs in the 1980s. No one has ever disputed that fact. This is the thing that always kills me about wingnuts. They think that because Saddam Hussein had used chemical and biological weapons twenty years prior to 2003, that means he still had them in 2003. This, of course, completely ignores the first Gulf War and the fact that Saddam was effectively disarmed in the early 90s. It’s pretty much the worst post-hoc justification I’ve ever seen.

  12. 12
    Marcus Ranum

    Let me try a slightly different tack: It appears that infants (of most social mammals, at least: horses, dogs, cats, humans, etc) have an imprinting period in which they are more likely to accept authority. That’s one obvious reason why religions, political groups, and military organizations want to make an early impression. Another factor would be that as a creature ages, its old-learned behaviors are harder to overcome with new learning (there are studies that show that un-convincing someone is much harder than convincing them) – so, what if that’s on a spectrum and it’s at least partly genetic? What if evolution gifted us with a valuable “learn from your parents” capability in our genes, which religions/governments/militaries have learned how to hijack? And what if some people’s imprinting period is longer. What if it’s lots longer in some people? What if there are adults that more or less accept as true anything they read in a book or see on FOX News?

  13. 13
    dingojack

    Elmo – I agree that the CIA are not paragons of truthfulness (to put it mildly) and I would not use them as a sole source of facts. However there were plenty of organisations at the time that doubted the WMD case put by the Bush Administration because it did not fit with the evidence they had collected (from their many sources) in any way. This information is (in some cases) now in the public domain.
    This is CIA document is simply further conformation of untruths fold by the Bush Administration in the run-up to the invasion in 2003, not the only proof.

    OBTW – the numerous, authoritative, creditable and timely citations for your long post’s many bald assertions seem to be absent, please correct that oversight.
    Thanks.
    Dingo

  14. 14
    richardelguru

    Nice of Elmo to give us such good evidence of what’s wrong with the Republicans.

  15. 15
    greg1466

    They needed a survey to know that?!?

  16. 16
    Area Man

    There is also evidence that the regime was hiding the intellectual capicity for nuclear enrichment waiting for the day that the sanctions would be lifted.

    LOL, yeah, he had “WMD program related activity expectation desires”, or whatever bullshit the administration came up with to explain away their fraud.

    The “evidence” of a nuclear program consisted of a guy who had buried some centrifuge parts in his front yard several years earlier. That was pretty much it. It was clear, both from the physical evidence on the ground and captured Iraqi documents, that Iraq’s nuclear program had been completely dismantled. The administration and its apologists then switched to arguing that Saddam maybe, sort of, could have restarted the program at some point in the future, which is of course trivially true; any country in the world could start an illegal nuclear program in the future, even if they currently lack the wherewithal and motivation. This is a ridiculous standard that is impossible to meet.

    Seriously, do we have to go through this shit again? I feel like I’ve been teleported back to 2006. What does it take for you people to admit you were wrong?

  17. 17
    Nemo

    This appears to say that two-thirds of those who believe in WMD also believe that Obama is foreign-born, not that two-thirds of all Republicans do. Whether that’s what it was intended to say is not clear, since it’s awkwardly written.

  18. 18
    psweet

    It always bugs me to hear people complain that Saddam (or anyone else) had the “intellectualy capacity” to create nuclear weapons or other WMDs. Intellectual capacity refers to the people who would have been involved in such a program. Given that he had those programs earlier, the only way he could have gotten rid of the “intellectual capacity” is to have gotten rid of the people — either by killing them or turning them over to another country. Either choice is one I don’t think we should be advocating.

  19. 19
    dontpanic

    Re:

    Trumpeting the fact that he did not have stock piles of WMD, though showing the shallowness that the adminisration had in advocating for the war, misses the point. It is a fact that he had biological and chemical weapons, he used them on the Kurds and in the war against Iran.

    Even that statement is a bit muddled in its thinking. The term “WMD” usually is intended to encompass biological and chemical weapons as well as nuclear, and thus is not a synonym for nuclear. The above reads as “he did not have a fleet of vehicles, but in the past he had a car and a boat”. O_o

  20. 20
    kermit.

    Elmo, we went in to Iraq for a number of reasons. They changed monthly. Pick your favorite:
    “That man tried to kill my dad” (fight your own fights, cowboy).

    Saddam blew up the twin towers (only he didn’t).

    Saddam wouldn’t cooperate with the weapons inspectors (only he did).

    Saddam was working on nukes (only he didn’t buy that yellow cake, Wilson got blamed, and his wife, a covert agent, was outed by piss-ant traitors in the White House).

    He had weapons of mass destruction aimed at us, or at least Israel (or perhaps that what his captive researchers wanted him to think).

    Saddam was an ally of Al Qaeda (they hated each other’s guts).

    Regime change! (How’s that democracy thingy working out for ya?)

    Unspoken: time for Armageddon, and Jesus needs our helps to get it started.

    Unspoken: there’s a fortune in oil waiting for a few good American entrepreneurs. Plus, that oil will pay for the war – it won’t even cost us!

    Unspoken: Pax Americana.

    Unspoken: Bidless contracts for sale! Get ‘em while you can!

    Some of the consequences:

    Iran is now the second most powerful country in the Near East.

    We have a new breed of young Muslims who have grown up seeing us as the local occupying country, with anonymous drones blowing up the occasional wedding.

    Trillions spent to blow up stuff.

    A government no more trustworthy than its predecessor.

    An exhausted military.

    I thought Saddam had WMDs and I still thought it was stupid, evil, and disastrous to go in.

  21. 21
    dogmeat

    It is a fact that he had biological and chemical weapons, he used them on the Kurds and in the war against Iran.

    Elmo,

    Your argument is truly laughable. First, the last confirmed use of chemical or biological weapons by the Hussein regime was in the spring of 1991, more than a decade prior to the false campaign by the Bush administration to trump up the threat of Iraqi WMDs. If his WMDs were such a threat, why didn’t Bush41 take him out in 1991? Why did Reagan and Bush41 work with him and sell him weapons systems in his war against Iran? It wasn’t until Iraq invaded Kuwait and disrupted the global oil market that he was a “threat;” one they pretty effectively shredded in 1991.

    The simple reality was that Iraq wasn’t a threat to anyone beyond the borders of Iraq. For years the Republicans were more than willing to put up with Iraq, to the point they would attack Clinton any time he tried to use force against the “nonexistent threat posed by Iraq.” The whole wag the tail argument they made throughout the late 90s.

    Iraq became a prime target for an unnecessary diversion beyond the legitimate purposes of the post 9/11 conflict with Al-Queda because it was seen as an easy war to win. The idiots of the Bush administration didn’t listen to the legitimate objections and the arguments that Iraq would become a quagmire that would suck lives and resources for years and would create a power vacuum in the region.

    Many anti-war advocates even stated it was insane to invade iraq becuase saddam will gas and kill all of our troops.

    Actually, being against the war from the very beginning, I can state quite clearly that most of the arguments against the war included the argument that there were no WMDs so Iraq wasn’t a threat. The closest thing I can recall to this claim is the quite legitimate argument that IF Iraq did have these weapons THEN the invasion was ill-advised prior to them being found and neutralized because he might use them if he became desperate. Also I recall little concern that he would use them against our troops, but that instead he would target civilians much like he used the conventional SCUD attacks in ’91. Again, this was an *IF* contingency argument that was usually a response to the false claims by Bush supporters that he posed a real threat and had to be removed. More of an “if what you say is true (which I’m not assuming), then what contingencies do you have in place to respond to this threat you claim?” The Bush administration didn’t really have a response because they knew it wasn’t a real threat.

    The rest of your argument is idiotic, the removal of Hussein because he was an evil bastard was a tertiary excuse that became convenient when the other excuses proved to be false. The WMDs, the ties to Al-Qeda, the “threat” of their missiles, the threat to their neighbors, and “oh yeah, he’s a naughty boy.” That you actually cling to these arguments is amusing evidence that the study Ed is blogging about is quite accurate. The reality is, Bush administration officials didn’t have a problem with Hussein being a rat bastard when they worked with him as Reagan & Bush41 officials in the 80s. They didn’t have a problem with him being a rat bastard when they attacked Clinton for any effort to enforce the UN resolutions, they didn’t really have a problem with him until it became convenient as a tertiary excuse to launch an illegitimate war of choice.

    Why did they launch the war? Personally I think it was two-fold. First, they recognized that the “war on terror” was going to be a long, difficult struggle with few, if any, headline victories. The war in Iraq gave them a relatively easy “mission accomplished” conflict they thought they could enter, win quickly, and prep for the ’04 election cycle. To be honest, they were right. Second, and of equal importance, it did provide numerous economic and strategic advantages. It put the US in control of over 70% of the earth’s oil reserves. We didn’t actually fully control them ourselves, but we were in position to deny them to others or, worst case scenario, destroy them, which is de facto control. Second, it made it virtually impossible to refuse any defense appropriates (or even oversight) which did make numerous friends and supporters of the Bush administration quite wealthy. Finally, it also made it very difficult for political opponents to challenge Bush & Co. for most of the following three to four years. Even today it is considered madness to cut our bloated defense budget, despite the fact we spend nearly as much as the rest of the world combined and the fact that the money spent is incredibly wasteful and does little to help deal with the actual threats that face us.

    I utterly despise the Bush administration, but I have to admit, the Iraq invasion accomplished a lot of what they wanted to do, whether they were even aware of the ramifications or not.

  22. 22
    John Hinkle

    And conflating those that supported regime change with the birther movement, I’m sorry Ed, should be beneath you.

    I don’t see any conflation. I do see Ed merely reporting what the survey found.
     
    Like Area Man said, another go around on this topic would be bullshit. Almost everything the administration came up with, from mobile weapons labs, to centrifuge tubes for bomb quality material, to insisting IAEA inspectors evacuate before they could complete inspections, to the Niger yellow cake purchase, to trumpeting the info from discredited informant Curveball, to al Qaida-Iraq links, to stovepiping “evidence” from a special intelligence department setup by Cheney, and more… all of that was bullshit. Iraq was not a threat to its neighbors, let alone the U.S.

  23. 23
    Moggie

    What’s particularly depressing is that once the propaganda is out there, corrections appear to actually reinforce it in many cases. Here’s Ben Goldacre discussing this in a 2010 column. Test subjects read an article quoting Bush claiming that Saddam had WMDs. For half of them, the article went on to quote an authoritative refutation of this, but:

    But for people who placed themselves ideologically to the right of center, the correction wasn’t just ineffective, it actively backfired: conservatives who received a correction telling them that Iraq did not have WMD were more likely to believe that Iraq had WMD than people who were given no correction at all. Where you might have expected people simply to dismiss a correction that was incongruous with their pre-existing view, or regard it as having no credibility, it seems that in fact, such information actively reinforced their false beliefs.

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