The two documentaries – “The Lies that Led to War” and “To Sell a War” display the way mass media present information and falsify facts to distort the representations of people and mislead them into supporting a position favorable to a certain political party. Apart from that, they explicitly showed the effects and power of a “Big Lie,” which was imposed on people and that masterfully persuaded them into believing in something which could be refuted by the facts. The purpose of this paper is to review the two documentaries, discuss the way “Big Lie” led to wars in Iraq, and analyze how this measure was used to manipulate public opinion in the buildup to these military conflicts.
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“Big Lie” Concept
It is worth noting that the concept of “Big Lie” is one of the most powerful propaganda techniques. Its use goes back to Adolf Hitler and other leaders who interpreted it as a use of lies of such magnitude that no one would believe that someone had the courage to distort the reality in such an impudent way. In their turn, modern researchers define this concept as a specific technology in which a distorted or invented fact is repeated multiple times and with a strong conviction so that the targeted population automatically starts believing in the truthfulness of the facts or statements (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2015). Moreover, this method involves the ignorance of the evidence and refutation, which could anyhow disrupt big lie.
Importantly, the initiators of a big lie resort to various methods to disseminate the distorted facts; however, one of the means suits this purpose the most. According to Jowett and O’Donnell (2015), media is the most powerful and appropriate medium in implementing this technique. In addition, they are the main source and transmitter of war propaganda as media provide an unsurpassed opportunity to reach the whole audience.
Despite the fact that this technology was used by authoritarian regimes in foreign countries, at present, it has received even greater opportunities for the effective application than it had in the past. In recent decades, the free press that verifies the authenticity of data has not been able to prevent the effective use of this technology, and the wars in Iraq are the vivid confirmation of this assumption.
Manipulation of Public Opinion
In the video “To Sell a War”, it is revealed the way mass media was used to produce the required moods and sentiment so that the residents of the country would support the idea of initiating the Gulf far (Krazyhandz666, 2011). To be more precise, a young woman and her falsified testimony were used to brainwash the public that the Iraqi troops killed newborn babies by taking them from their incubators and then leaving them to die.
However, later on, it turned out that the only witness to it was the daughter of Kuwait’s ambassador to the US, and the provided facts had nothing to do with the reality (Krazyhandz666, 2011). The woman’s testimony was disseminated across the country through multiple media channels disregarding the idea that the evidence would easily prove that no such event has ever occurred.
The same propagandistic patterns were discussed in “The Lies that Led to War” documentary. To be more precise, the video exhibited three different contexts in which the war in Iraq (in 2003) was presented as the only means to resolve the dangerous situation in the world (Ewing Smith, 2012). In particular, the media manipulated the public opinion into building up for the war through appeals to the human rights arguments, which evidenced the need for the US to interfere in the affairs.
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To form the desired intention in the American population, the media used repetitive statements and engaged respectable and well-known people to comment on the events. The information flow was accompanied by audiovisual sounds and images to make the audience accept the arguments and disseminate them further (Ewing Smith, 2012). The rhetoric of the “Big Lie” lied in the allusions to political and religious leaders, including President Bush and others who repeated the falsified statements multiple times (Krazyhandz666, 2011). Thus, the misleading information was aimed at forming an image of Iraqis as an inhumane and degrading nation.
It was done intentionally so that the American people would support the war in Iraq because of the atrocities performed by Iraqis. Therefore, the “Big Lie” was created to establish a particular feeling in society, and the propaganda machine in the face of mass media promoted the required public consent (Ewing Smith, 2012). It is possible to assume that the two factors that enabled the media to produce the desired effect were the passivity of the audience and the goals of producers. The media were able to direct the collective attitudes towards buildup to the wars through a systematic formation of perceptions by multiple repetitions and discussion of the “Big Lie” while the evidence was fully ignored.
Using “Big Lie” for Good
In general, it is difficult for me to state whether or not a “big lie” can ever be used for good. On the one hand, it is impossible to continue distorting the facts forever since the evidence can be spread easily in contemporary reality. The environment offers multiple ways to disseminate truthful information, for instance, through the use of social media and so on. On the other hand, the audience needs to be indeed active to be able to disseminate any information further if this intention is undesirable for the government.
The state has levers of power to ban almost any activity if it has the potential to disrupt the government’s authority or the authority of a particular party (Ewing Smith, 2012). Therefore, the state has enough power to suppress any opposition that might destroy the lie. In addition, there are significant reasons for initiating a “big lie” since it ensures the loyalty of subordinates and helps in holding the political system together (Jowett & O’Donnell, 2015).
The political figures actively support their lies while suppressing the opposition, and the audience, as a rule, accepts the facts passively. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the compilation of these factors might provide an opportunity to use a “big lie” for good.
Thus, it can be concluded that the two documentaries discussed throughout the paper evidence that the concept of a “big lie” has been a powerful tool of mass deception aimed at making people support the political decision of initiating the wars in Iraq. This method concentrates on the multiple repetitions of distorted facts with the engagement from the side of influential leaders who wish to push forward the political propaganda. In this regard, mass media is the most suitable tool since it provides various levers to manipulate the entire audience through the use of audio-visual aids and persistent instruction.
Ewing Smith, C. (2012, 2 January). The Fifth Estate – The lies that led to War-CBC-2007 . Web.
Jowett, G. S., & O’Donnell, V. (2015). Propaganda & persuasion (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Krazyhandz666. (2011). To sell a war – Gulf War propaganda (1992). Web.