Abstract: Crossfire of Fear: Propaganda in the US War on TerrorismAnders G. Romarheim, 2005
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the Bush administration initiated its most significant policy hallmark: the war on terrorism. This analysis seeks to determine what sort of propaganda has been used in the war on terrorism, and furthermore to move on to consider the effect of that propaganda. Additionally, much time is devoted here to understanding the phenomenon propaganda. Propaganda should be defined as a technique that can be used to enforce any political agenda. Propaganda exploits conventions of rhetoric and has fixed answers that are non-debatable to the propagandist. Propaganda is inherently discussion hostile. It is about directing behaviour, by shaping cognitions and manipulating perceptions. The Bush administration has used a wide range of propaganda strategies in the war on terrorism, and the propaganda campaign has been directed at very diverse audiences. In this thesis 15, of the most important strategies are identified and analyzed. One must be able to demonstrate that something is propaganda by pointing out credible textual evidence for such a claim. A quote-based approach has therefore been chosen in this thesis. The search for specific propaganda devices has structuralized the analysis of the official statements of the Bush administration. A propaganda device is defined as an argument structure – or style – that exceeds the limits of rhetoric.
Two of the most frequently applied propaganda devices in the propaganda campaign accompanying the war on terrorism are fear appeals and transfers. Transfer involves transferring the attributions and/or connotations of one phenomenon onto another seemingly unrelated phenomenon. Transfers were used extensively in an attempt to capitalize on the massive support for the intervention in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq was presented as being another legitimate phase of the war on terrorism. Fear appeals were also used widely in order to forge support for military countermeasures in the war on terrorism. Since creating fear is one of the main goals of a terrorist campaign too, the public – particularly the American public – have ended up in a crossfire of fear, triggered both by terrorists and US authorities.
Broadly speaking we can on the basis of survey results say that the US lead war on terrorism has never had much appeal in the Muslim and Arab world. In Europe, polls suggest that the enthusiasm of the first phases of the war on terrorism started to wither with the introduction of the Axis of Evil metaphor and has plummeted since. The international opposition to the war in Iraq also illustrates this. The opposition to the war in Iraq was indeed international rather than national seen from Washington. The propaganda campaign to generate public support among Americans for the war in Iraq was quite successful. Yet, there is much to suggest that the Bush administration had to sacrifice international support in order to ensure national support. This underlines the massive challenge it has been to communicate simultaneously with such diverse audiences with utterly diverging preferences and expectations.