This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Thursday, August 6, 2020




                                    “Truth is the first casualty of war.”

                                   “After that, it’s mostly civilians.”

                                  -Source unknown.

As Chomsky and Herman wrote, starting a war requires manufacturing the consent of the public. Fortunately, though opposition to war has become barely audible in the last 50 years amidst the clamor of warmongers’ alarms about imagined threats to the Empire, it persists. There is an urgent need to use the limited strength of the peace movement to rally public support to the cause of ending war. Whatever tactics we might use, our first goal must be to awaken Americans to the fact that nearly everything they are told by the mainstream media about US foreign policy is false.  

Only when Americans recognize that the corporate media is captive to war profiteers will they understand that war is not inevitable, that it threatens human survival because it enslaves us to fossil fuels, that silence is consent to continue on the path to self-destruction and that without that consent, the Empire cannot continue to wage endless war against the mass of humanity.

Awakening the public to these truths requires a strategy to enable them to see beyond the blinders of their belief in American exceptionalism. This idea is so deeply ingrained that even many antiwar activists do not recognize it in themselves. It is the belief that the United States is essentially good and that our tendency to war is due to our desire to do the right thing regardless of how consistently we do not accomplish our stated objectives. The idea that the Vietnam War was a mistake, that the lies that led us into invading Iraq were an aberration, or that humanitarian intervention is a noble endeavor are all examples of how the insidious belief in American Exceptionalism can blind us to the fact that excuses for war are always (or almost always) based on propaganda.

I don’t know what students are learning in high school these days, but when I was a sophomore I learned how the Hearst newspaper chain created support for war with Spain by calling for a “humanitarian intervention” to help Cuba liberate itself from imperial rule. The result of course was that Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam essentially became colonies of the US. In more recent times, the Vietnam was justified as “self-defense” based on lies about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Iraq was invaded for a second time on manufactured evidence for the false claim that it was building WMDs and Libya was destroyed based on an unverified claim that Gaddafi was preparing to massacre US-backed “rebels” in Benghazi. There are similar stories to tell about essentially every American intervention since WWII (not to mention WWI itself), for those who want to take the time to explore the history of modern wars.

Given these well-known examples of the US government lying to its people, you might think it would be easy to make the case that they are being lied to about Syria, Ukraine, Iran, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia and other nations whose governments have been targeted for imperial expansion. If so, you do not appreciate the degree to which Americans have been induced to unconsciously accept the premises of American Exceptionalism through education, media, and politicians. The only way to break through this wall of denial is to educate the public about exactly how this is accomplished. How else will they learn to critically examine the lies they are being told by virtually everyone in the Western media, politicians, and the Wall Street war profiteers whose interests they serve?

It is hard for most people to accept the idea that the corporate media lies about nearly every aspect of foreign policy. It sounds to the uninitiated like a conspiracy theory, which they have been taught to disregard (unless it comes from the government). In order to understand how it is possible to get all of the mainstream media to repeat the same false story, you have to understand the ways in which it can be manipulated through both economic pressure (as detailed in the introduction to Manufacturing Consent) and the influence of propagandists in the CIA, their assets in the media and private think tanks. It is the extensive influence of the CIA on corporate media that is the hardest to accept for people who have not done the research, but for those willing to read a little further, I wrote this short essay to make it easy to understand the main points.

Since 1983, the CIA’s propaganda function has been largely replaced by corporate think tanks, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and its spinoff, the self-proclaimed “private nonprofit” National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which is in fact almost entirely funded by Congress. They use the same techniques of using government funding to influence both US and foreign media to tell the same stories whose scripts the US foreign policy establishment has written. Their function is to weaken governments targeted for regime change, whether through war, insurrection, US-backed terrorist invasions or crippling sanctions.

This is of course only a bare-bones summary of the way that the media is manipulated and why it is important to challenge the official narrative. I hope that I have made the case that it is critical to get people to understand the extent to which they are deceived by their government. Interested readers are encouraged to read the linked articles and to do their own research. The importance to the peace movement of freeing Americans trapped in the prison of their false belief systems cannot be overemphasized. Please join the effort by learning more and joining the fight to free America from the Matrix of lies in which most of us exist.


  1. Excellent summary Rick! I can only add that researchers might care to look into the Creel Commission and the PR industry's godfather, Edward Bernays, for information on how Woodrow Wilson et al used propaganda to drum up support for World War I. I also thought of Carl Bernstein's 1977 expose of the CIA and the Media but I see you're ahead of the herd on this excellent item.

    1. Thanks, Ray. I thought about mentioning the huge propaganda campaign Wilson used to gin up support for WWI (not to mention the draconian measures he used to suppress dissent), but the essay was already longer than my typical one.

      I have never looked into Bernais, though I know I need to. Do you have any recommendations for good articles? I haven't gotten around to looking at books on his career and work. I didn't even realize he was involved in promoting WWI!

      I did have the link to Bernstein's article in the linked essay toward the bottom of this article (The Art and Science of Propaganda), but I should also post it here: