Otto Reich’s Legacy of White Propaganda

“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
~Malcolm X

“The propaganda system allows the U.S. leadership to commit crimes without limit and with no suggestion of misbehaviour or criminality.”
~Edward S. Herman

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
~Noam Chomsky

“Often, ‘freedom of expression’ is mistaken with ‘freedom of pressuring’… It is no longer necessary for the ends to justify the means since the means, the means of communication – the mass media – justify the ends of a power system that imposes its values on a global scale … [The] many are being held incommunicado by the few.”
~Eduardo Galeano

Here is the type of information we’d regularly see in the US mainstream media if it wasn’t controlled by corporate interests, the same corporate interests that control our government. White propaganda has developed into the propaganda model of news media, but in the past some journalists did push back against such manipulations. The journalists, though, mostly lost those battles; and these American heroes have since been forgotten by the American public, assuming the average citizen ever was aware.

In practice, most white propaganda, as open secrets, ends up actually being black propaganda or, at best, gray propaganda. If it were actually white propaganda, in operating out in the open, we should expect the public to be more informed about it. Yes, it’s probably true that many citizens to some extent see propaganda for what it is, and the powerful have often acted blatantly. But the sad reality of human nature means that the majority simultaneously knows and doesn’t know many things. That is even more true the bigger the lie, the more confidently it is stated, and the more loudly it is amplified.

Among many major players within the government-media propaganda complex, there was the Cuban exile Otto Reich. As a psychological warfare (PSYWAR) operative (PsyOps) in the US intelligence agency network, Reich held a leadership position in the Office of Public Diplomacy (OPD) which was created during Ronald Reagan’s administration. You remember Reagan… the guy right-wingers idolize for being the greatest defender of freedom. All of this happened under the direction of Reagan.

Reich was one of Reagan’s leading henchman in these kinds of covert operations, specifically in South and Central America. He was the mastermind behind the Iran-Contra affair. As bad or worse, he regularly meddled in the US media by having pressured media company executives and threatened journalists who reported the truth to the American public, to the point of getting journalists fired (e.g., Raymond Bonner). His office also planted propaganda as op-ed pieces. The freedom of the press would not be tolerated; not even independence of the corporate media that, throughout the Cold War, generally censored themselves in promoting government agendas.

The US government itself, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee, came around to describing the OPD as a “domestic political and propaganda operation.” And the Comptroller-General of the United States accused them as having “engaged in prohibited, covert propaganda activities… beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities.” They violated “a restriction on the State Department’s annual appropriations prohibiting the use of federal funds for publicity or propaganda purposes not authorized by Congress.”

Such crimes reach the level of treason, but nothing much came of it, other than Reich losing his job. Certainly, Reagan wasn’t held accountable. Nearly all of the ruling elite criminals evaded prosecution. Even Reich’s career was far from ended by his exposed criminal infamy. He remained powerful in having continued on in a career as a corporate lobbyist where he was paid handsomely to leverage his remaining influence over his cronies within the government. As a lobbyist, he wrote bills passed by Congress and helped determine public policy, including foreign affairs. Also, he was brought back into powerful political positions during both Bush administrations.

For further context, besides Reich and Reagan, the Iran-Contra affair more well known actor was Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. He was one of the only major figures to face punishment, however slight in comparison to his crimes. North was indicted of conspiracy to defraud the government, and then convicted of aiding and abetting in the obstruction of Congress that involved accepting an illegal gratuity and altering and destroying documents.

North closely and regularly conspired with the likes of Paul Weyrich, a true mastermind, and other religious right leaders. With corporate funding, earliest on from Joseph Coors, the right-wing Shadow Network was created that involved and continues to involve numerous front groups and media operations. This was the privatizing and corporatizing of the Cold War propaganda apparatus; and it would set the stage for the rise of right-wing media, from Clear Channel promoting conservative talk radio to the Murdoch-owned media empire of News Corp and Fox Corp.

The white propaganda legacy of Reich and many others is with us to this day. If anything, it’s grown a thousand times more dangerous. This legacy has developed into a sprawling deep state force, under the control of a global inverted totalitarianism, that even a dark soul like president Reagan could only have dreamed about. This noise machine is the rhetorical power and perception management underlying present soft fascism; the brainwashing mind control that makes the public so passive and subservient to the ruling elite, as the power wielded mostly operates hidden in the background.

That is what white propaganda is all about. A brutal tyrant like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, or Mao Zedong is not required. In fact, authoritarian rule is easier to achieve and maintain without an obvious human face put to an overt totalitarian system. Without being able to discern the social reality of economic influence and political power, the public feels helpless in even identifying what is wrong and who is the oppressor. There is simply a free-floating anxiety that, sadly, makes people even more vulnerable to the manipulations of rhetoric that offer false narratives of meaning; and, as Mattias Desmet argues, that is the true cause of totalitarianism.

The world is controlled not by who is elected into government nor even by who gets to count the votes, but rather by who controls the media reporting of all else. Parties and politicians are simply what gets scripted and acted out on this stage designed for public viewing. The reported events, in how they are carefully framed in corporate media, are less real than the so-called reality tv seen on MTV. Corporate-mediated news is infotainment as melodrama and spectacle. This is white propaganda only in the sense that it to some degree operates out in the open, in how the bias of official narratives and framings are obvious even to viewers. When asked, most Americans admit to not trusting either big government or big business, including news media.

* * *

12/11/22 – This post used to link to some videos, but they are now dead links. Apparently, the videos were removed or they Youtube channels no longer exist, for whatever reason. So, we’ll provide some new info in their place.

Otto Reich: A Career in Disservice
from Council On Hemispheric Affairs

A Heritage of Hypocrisy
by Holliston Perni
p. 225

“A staff report by the House Foreign Affairs Committee (September 7, 1988) summarized various investigations of Mr. Reich’s office, and concluded that “senior CIA officials with backgrounds in covert operations, as well as military intelligence and psychological operations specialists from the Department of defense, were deeply involved in establishing and participating in a domestic political and propaganda operation…. Through irregular sole-source, no-bid contracts, the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (S/LPD) established and maintained a private network of individuals and organizations whose activities were coordinated with, and sometimes directed by, Col. Oliver North as well as officials of the NSC and S/LPD. These private individuals and organizations raised and spent funds for the purpose of influencing Congressional votes and U.S. domestic news media. This network raised and funneled money to off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, or to teh secret Lake Resources bank account in Switzerland for disbursement at the direction of Oliver North. Almost all of these activities were hidden from public view and many of the key individuals involved were never questioned or interviewed by the Iran/Contra Committees.”

“On March 13, 1985, Mr. Reich’s deputy, Jonathan S. Miller, wrote a two-page report to White House director of communications Pat Buchanan, giving what Miller called “[f]ive illustrative examples of the Reich ‘white propaganda’ operation.” These included op-eds under the contra leader’s bylines.

“In 1998, the CIA finally admitted to its involvement in drug trafficking in the United States after years of federal investigation by the Kerry Congressional Committee. Among other things, the CIA admitted to allowing cocaine trafficking to take place by Contras who were being supported by the CIA, using facilities and resources supplied by the U.S. government, and preventing investigation into these activities by other agencies. This was done because funds for the support of militant groups in South America had been withdrawn by Congress, so the CIA allowed the Contras to engage in the drug trade to the United States in order to make money to fund their military operations.

“One might wonder why this was not covered more widely in the news during the Clinton Administration. The answere is that Arkansas just happened to be one of the major trafficking centers for the operations.”

Operation Hollywood:
How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies
by David L. Robb

The Propaganda Model Today:
Filtering Perception and Awareness

Ed. by Joan Pedro-Carañana, Daniel Broudy, & Jeffery Klaehn

Lost History: CIA’s Perception Management
by Robert Parry

Watchdog or Lapdog?
Media and the U.S. Government

by Nancy Qian & David Yanagizawa

Government Distortion in Independently Owned Media:
Evidence from U.S. Cold War News Coverage of Human Rights

by Nancy Qian & David Yanagizawa-Drott

The Power of Propaganda:
The Effect of U.S. Government Bias on Cold War News Coverage of Human Rights Abuses

by Nancy Qian & David Yanagizawa

Anatomy of a Disinformation Campaign
by Johan Carlisle

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