Propaganda has been used for hundreds of years to help inspire or injure institutions, causes, and people. Fortunately for the public, instant communication via the Internet has made negative propaganda more difficult to create. Whether it’s been through an ad hominem attack, a political endorsement, or a manipulation of information, negative propaganda has resulted in many conflicts and conspiracy theories throughout history.
With that said, here are four pivotal examples of negative propaganda (lies) over the last decade.
The Pat Tillman Story: U.S.
When two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into New York City’s Twin Towers on September 11, Pat Tillman was playing linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals in the National Football League. About eight months later, Tillman rejected a $3.2 million contract extension and enlisted to be an Army Ranger.
On April 22, 2004, the U.S. Army publicized that Tillman had been killed by Taliban militants near the Pakistani border in Afghanistan. The story made headlines, as the U.S. Army promoted the tale of an accomplished athlete who rejected wealth to fight for his country, using the story as a way to attract more recruits during a time that the military desperately needed them.
Unfortunately, the story of Tillman’s death wasn’t true – his squad was mistaken for enemy combatants by his fellow Army Rangers. New information revealed that Tillman was shot three times while he and his comrades were trying to signal that they were a friendly unit. The medical examiner determined Tillman’s bullet wounds were caused by a SAW machine gun (a weapon exclusive to the U.S. military). In an attempt to hide the truth, Tillman’s body armor was destroyed and the facts surrounding his death weren’t exposed until 2007.
The Mysterious Space Monkey: Iran
On Jan. 29, 2013, Iran allegedly sent a monkey into space. The last picture of the monkey before it hopped onboard a rocket and took off into the thermosphere shows the primate in a frightened state, with a small mole slightly above its right eye. Upon the monkey’s arrival back to Earth, the Iranian government released a video of the monkey, only this time it had darker fur, a narrower face, and no mole above its eye.
Unfortunately, no one really knows whether the Iranian Space Agency lied about sending a monkey to space to bolster the image of its space program. For the monkey’s sake, let’s hope it did. Iran apparently hasn’t learned it lesson, though, as it plans to allegedly send a second monkey to space.
The Failed Satellite Launch: North Korea
After North Korea miserably failed to launch a series of satellites into space, it announced that the last satellite had successfully made it. The news conveniently went public in December 2012, coinciding with the first anniversary of Kim Jong II’s death. To celebrate this feat, the North Korean regime closed schools and businesses for a day and encouraged (maybe forced?) its citizens to rejoice, publicizing the launch as a sign of the country’s supremacy.
As North Koreans celebrated the occasion, astronomers around the world noticed that the satellite was hovering out of control, endangering other surrounding satellites. Officials mocked the satellite as a “dishwasher wrapped in tinfoil,” while making it known that North Korea ultimately failed its mission.
The Jessica Lynch Story: U.S.
The Iraqi military captured Jessica Lynch, arguably the most famous Prisoner of War of the Iraq War, in 2003 after she engaged in a firefight with enemy combatants. After being imprisoned at a local hospital for nine days, Lynch was rescued in a heroic raid. Since the pretty 20-year-old allegedly suffered multiple bullet and knife wounds, she became the poster child for American courage and sacrifice. Similar to the Pat Tillman story, the U.S. military exploited her rescue to attract more recruits.
Lynch eventually started revealing the true story, informing people that she was injured in a truck accident, had broken her weapon, and was unable to fight back because she was transported to a nearby hospital. Doctors at the hospital also revealed that they had treated Lynch well and given her the best medical treatment they could provide, noting that she didn’t have bullet or knife wounds.
The raid at the hospital was nothing more than a rescue operation meant to manipulate the media into adoring Lynch and her heroic actions. She grew bitter toward the U.S. government for altering her story as propaganda. Until this day, she remains critical of the story and says that she wasn’t involved in blurring the details of it. Many active veterans still talk about this joke-of-a-tale of “little Rambo girl.”
Whether it’s on satellite TV or in a newspaper, positive and negative propaganda is everywhere. What propaganda have you heard or seen in the last 10 years that has left you shaking your head?
Author Byline: DJ Miller is a tech and media writer. He contributes to other sites such as DirectTVBeatsCable.com. You can follow him on Twitter @MillerHeWrote.