Examples of "Perception Management" — Instruction by Omission


Norman Solomon made an important point in his recent essay on "Media: Mourning in America"[1], in which he showed that the corporate media omits important facts, histories, relationships, etc., in their reporting. Of course, the media has become nothing more or less than the public propaganda mouthipiece of the status quo; particularly the government/military/media complex that works together to manipulate public opinion in ways profitable to the elite.

Several examples of instruction by omission by the current Bush administration and the Reagan administrations were in the news this week, and deserve recognition as effective propaganda.

George W. Bush gave a press conference in which, once again, he mentioned Saddam Hussein having cut the hands off of some merchans in order to blame them for a sagging economy. Bush presented no film or hard evidence that Saddam Hussein personally cut off the hands of the severn merchants, but made no doubt of his personal loathing of Saddam Hussein as the man responsible for this butchery. Yet, in the same breath, Bush praised Ronald Reagan, who trained and financed and deployed "death squads" in Central America that slaughtered many, many thousands of innocent villagers and others in Central American countries, actually committing genocide against Mayan and other peoples. Perception management meant that Bush highlighted and condemned one atrocity, while totally ignoring atrocities by his favored friends.

Bush spoke of how Saddam Hussein "killed his own people", as if Saddam Hussein was so brutal that the killed his own supporters. And Bush spoke of Iraq as the nexxus of the War on Terrorism, in which the current insurgency against the "coalition" involved acts of terrorism and had to be defeated by military force. This sort of perception management failed to recognize (omitted mention of the fact) that Saddam Hussein was also fighting insurgents within Iraq using military force, including military technology provided for him by the American government. So, according to the "perception managers", when the U.S. fights Iraqi insurgents, it is "war on terror", but when Saddam Hussein fought Iraqi insurgents, he was an evil dictator.

Perception management regarding the career of Ronald Reagan was certainly ubiquitous this week. Reagan was lionized, canonized, deified, and pasteurized by the Democrats, and spoken of even more highly by the Republicans this week. One would think that Reagan was the best friend the Air Traffic Controllers Union, the homeless, AIDS victims, the Sandinistas, the farmworkers, the South African population fighting against apartheid, the working poor, and all the peoples of the world ever had! Yet, even the most perfunctory review shows there was much perception management by omission in the coverage of Reagan’s career, his true nature, disposition and conduct.

Instruction by omission has created an America that has the best educated, and most ill-informed population in its history. Americans think they know a lot, and they do — about how and why to consume and fight for the right to consume more of the world’s bounty. Americans know all about sports and the latest gossip regarding the rich and famous and the "celebrity" crowd, including who J-Lo married this week. But in matters of grave importance, Americans have been instructed by omission of critical truths and many Americans seem to prefer it that way. Americans have had the luxury of living in a world dominated by American economic and military might for several decades, and have lost humility and relied on false reality.

Just because truth has been omitted, does not mean that truth is not true. Just because reality has not been perceived, does not mean that it is not real. Just because Americans believe Ronald Reagan was a great man, does not mean that he actually was. And just because Americans believe that American power is invulnerable, does not mean that Americans cannot or will not fail.


[1]. "Media: Mourning in America"
by Norman Solomon