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Weapons of Mass Persuasion
Marketing the War Against Iraq

Rutherford, Paul
Publisher:  University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada
Year Published:  2004  
Pages:  226pp   ISBN:  0-8020-8651-9
Library of Congress Number:  DS79.76.R87 2004   Dewey:  956.7044'3

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Rutherford claims that the War on Terror has been different in nature from any previous war because it has been marketed to the American people on a level never seen before. 60% of Americans originally opposed the Iraq war because the UN did not support it. This book claims that there is less opposition now due to government propaganda and the influence of the media. The war looks like a Disney movie, according to one interviewed citizen. It has been described as a fight of good versus evil and supported by slogans pertaining to the courage of the United States for getting involved in the crisis and opposing terrorism. Rutherford goes as far as to say that the war has been processed, advertised and consumed willingly by the American people. He analyzes speeches, political cartoons, media commentaries and news reports to demonstrate his argument.

This book looks at the experience of the war in America. The war against Iraq had had more media coverage than any before and its story has been told, possibly in a censored way, to every citizen at home. In eight chapters, Rutherford argues that the American people have been blind to the true nature of this war, while all of its positive aspects have been paraded before their eyes. He has collected facts to support his argument, as well as testimonials from private citizens regarding their own experiences of war from the home front.

[Abstract by Mia Manns]

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This is a tough book to review, since I could barely bring myself to read it. We all know by now, the WMD did not exist, that Saddam Hussein even turned down bin Laden (how bad do you have to be in order to be turned down by Saddam??). There are no links to bin Laden, no WMDs. Yet Iran had those links and WMDs. The US invaded the wrong country: they were off by only one letter!!

Seriously, there was much wrong with the war with Iraq even before the obvious truth came out and was acknowledged by the American government. Rutherford, an academic and media critic at the University of Toronto, tries to show how the marketing campaign for the war against Iraq was constructed and carried out with the aid of a compliant media.

Real time, such as "embedding" was treated as pop culture. Advertising propaganda made war become a branded conflict. It soon became the war of good versus evil. Selling the war as a good thing in the USA was hard to do, since the Iraqi resistance had created a quicksand swamp as in Vietnam. The New York Times said that Americans may have been "watching Iraq" on TV but they were "seeing Vietnam". The major problem was actually one of sensory overload: the overwhelmed viewer caught in a real-time war with multiple sources of data. It was hard to figure out what was going on since everything was happening so fast. Print - papers and magazines - were left behind, in the dust so to speak. Rutherford is a terrific writer, never pedantic and always engaging. He cites first-rate sources such as interviews, books, articles and Web sites, as well as analyses of speeches, editorial cartoons, media commentaries, sound bites, polling data.

Audience or interest level: academics, students, George W. Bush.

Some interesting facts: "The American news media were particularly event-driven, focusing much more on concrete actions than on ideas".

What I don't like about this resource: depressing but unavoidable.

What I do like about this resource: richly illustrated with 25 editorial cartoons, all properly sourced.

Quality-to-Price Ratio: 93.

[Review by Dean Tudor]

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