Misinformation Campaigns Past and Present

Francis de Winter

Several major misinformation campaigns are discussed here. Most of these involved much in controversy. Some of them still do, and if you feel angry on reading this material, you will not be alone. You may even feel angry because you feel that your "Truths" are being questioned. In this case, you should follow up to determine carefully whether your "Truths" are really true. In major human affairs, being really right is very important.

Table of Contents

Comments on Misinformation Campaigns
The U.S. War In Vietnam
The Industrial Power of the USSR, as Exaggerated by the CIA
20th Century Antisemitism, Caused by a Falsified Book
Petroleum Misinformation, Compared to the Above
"Official National Facts" Can Have a Life of Their Own


Many of the numbers on the status of petroleum reserves are official numbers issued by the nations involved. It should be noted that nothing short of war can force a nation to face the truth or to tell the truth, and that sometimes even war does not work.

For example, both Germany and Japan lost WW II. Germany has chosen to incorporate an accurate version of the WW II crimes of the Hitler regime into the education of its children. Japan has chosen not to be truthful about WW II. Japanese children learn nothing about the starvation and the unlimited cruelty and the illegal medical experiments in the Japanese concentration camps; about the illegal slave labor and executions and starvation of prisoners of war; about the "Rape of Nanking" (or of the other cities and nations that the Japanese armed forces conquered); about the mutilation and killing of captured (unarmed and tied-up) civilians used for military bayonet practice; about the forcible enslavement and prostitution of women ("comfort-women") in Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia; etc. Recently, when a group of Japanese citizens tried to force the Japanese government to teach Japanese children the truth about WW II, the Japanese courts ruled that Japan was perfectly justified in brainwashing its school students. This is despite the fact that the United Nations Charter (which was formally signed and accepted by Japan) deplores any such falsifications of history.

Japan is not alone. The USA still has to face the reality of its Vietnam War, of its many wars and broken international treaties with the American Indian Tribes or Nations, or of its "Manifest Destiny" activities in the Philippines, Latin America, and elsewhere. In their colonial eras, Spain (in the Americas), Belgium (in The Congo, now Zaire), and England (in Ireland, Africa, India, China, and the Americas) each committed crimes which numerically dwarf even the German holocaust of the Jews. Neither Spain, nor Belgium, nor England is forthright about this. Spain in fact accuses others of spreading a "Black Legend" about the "imaginary Spanish crimes" in the Americas; and Spain claims that Brother Bartolome de las Casas (a Spanish monk who tried to protect the Indians and who wrote a book in 1552 entitled: "A Brief History of the Destruction of the Indies") is an unpatriotic and dishonorable charlatan. France, Portugal and the Netherlands were not able to be criminal on quite the same gargantuan scale as Spain, Belgium, or England. It must however be recognized that for very long they tried very hard to catch up, and that since then they have tried very hard to forget this. Most countries have a historical background with many shameful events, and hardly any are candid about them. Should we really expect nations to be candid about their current oil reserves?

Comments on Misinformation Campaigns to Influence Policies

National misinformation campaigns have not been limited to the fabrication of idealized histories for educational texts in public schools. Quite frequently there have been purposeful and large scale efforts to deceive the public, so that a whole nation can be pushed in the wrong direction: a direction of benefit only to a few and sometimes even to none. Just a few of the 20th century misinformation campaigns which can not be denied any longer are discussed below. As the examples demonstrate, the USGS and the EIA would not be the first US federal agencies to violate their own basic mission, by using deception to point the US government in a wrong and very harmful direction, nor would they be the first agencies to escape any disciplinary action or criminal penalties for such actions.

The U.S. War In Vietnam

The Vietnam War of the USA was primarily a fraud perpetrated on the US people (and on the rest of the world) by the White House of Lyndon Johnson (and of several other US presidents), the US State Department, and the US Department of Defense. The USA lost the Vietnam War, but a US victory in Vietnam was not needed anyway to fight communism. Communism was so rotten internally that it collapsed without any outside help, throughout the whole so-called "Sino-Soviet Block." Rather than impeding communism in South East Asia, the clumsy US Vietnam war in fact advanced the local cause of communism, and after the USA had lost the war and withdrawn in disgrace and in chaos, most of the real communist influence there has now more or less evaporated. Today Vietnam, north and south, is almost a free market economy, with little if any real communist influence. It should be noted in this regard that communism survives today almost exclusively in Cuba. This is probably primarily because the USA persists in treating Cuban communism as a dangerous threat, rather than as a tragic farce.

The only lasting achievements by the US government in its Vietnam War involve an enormous amount of suffering, many millions of dead people, a socially destabilized and physically destroyed region of the world planted with millions of landmines, many hundreds of billions of dollars of tragically wasted resources, and a US population which no longer has any real respect for or belief in its political leadership. Support for the US Vietnam War was never a question of US patriotism, but only of obstinacy, of stupidity, of ignorance, and of gullibility. Anybody really interested in understanding this can do so by reading the books: "The Pentagon Papers," The Politics of Lying," "The March of Folly - From Troy to Vietnam," and "The Best and the Brightest." These books are easy to find in or through any US public library. For many it may only be hard to find the courage to read them.

The USA as a nation has been unable to face up to the facts of the Vietnam War, and has made no effort to hold responsible those who were responsible. McNamara, one of the architects of the Vietnam War, was instead allowed to lead the World Bank, and still continues behaving as if he were a respectable patriarch. McNamara concluded in his recent book that the Vietnam War was a tragic mistake, but he was never candid enough to confess that his own continuing stream of untruths and of misjudgements helped to make the Vietnam War possible. During the McNamara days at the World Bank, the bank gained a reputation for causing a long series of environmental disasters, with its mega-dams and many other ill-conceived ventures. People have not yet made the connection: that with McNamara in charge, maybe the World Bank's environmental disasters were inevitable. As De Gaulle used to say: "History teaches us only that history teaches us nothing."

The Industrial Power of the USSR, as Exaggerated by the CIA

For decades during the Cold War, the CIA and other US "intelligence" agencies systematically exaggerated the numbers on the industrial power of the USSR, more or less doubling or even tripling the numbers. Much of this was hidden in secret memos to the White House, and in secret testimony to the "intelligence" committees in Congress. The memos were not available directly to the general public, but instead the public was constantly fed news leaks and innuendoes about the enormous threat of communism. Any disagreement was a sure indication of communist sympathies, of lack of patriotism, or of ignorance. The end result was many hundreds of billions of dollars of useless US "defense" expenditures, spent unnecessarily to "defend" the USA against a grossly exaggerated threat. The only beneficiaries involved those who President (and "General of the Army") Eisenhower clearly warned the USA about: the "military-industrial complex," the friends of the CIA. Senator Moynahan has written invited, full-page editorials in Newsweek and elsewhere to expose and to deplore this CIA misinformation campaign. Finally, with no outside help, the USSR peacefully collapsed in a heap as a totally rotten economic mess, clearly shown not to be such an enormous and dangerous industrial giant after all.

The new CIA Director, MIT Prof. John M. Deutch, has now given us the current CIA explanation for the previously wrong CIA numbers. He has recently declared (in sworn congressional testimony) that during decades the CIA was virtually helpless, despite its multi-billion dollar budget, continually deceived and totally misled by Mr. Ames and about 8 other USSR double agents, and virtually forced to see the USSR as two or three times as strong as the USSR really was. What a beautifully convincing explanation! "Central Intelligence Agency," indeed!

20th Century Antisemitism Caused by a Falsified Book

The book "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" has certainly been one of the most destructive books ever published. Some people still believe (or claim) that this book revealed a secret Jewish plot to grab control of the world, but this book was simply falsified. The secret services of the Czar of Russia based it on an 1864 French satire on Napoleon III by Maurice Joly entitled: "Dialogues aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu" (Dialogues in the Infernos between Machiavelli and Montesquieu). This book was re-titled and re-edited so as to insert an invented group: the "Learned Elders of Zion," and some bits and pieces were plagiarized from the 1868 novel "Biarritz" by Goedsche and from a few other sources. This fraudulent "Protocols..." book was then published very widely, starting in a Russian magazine in 1903, and later in full length and in many different languages, as if it involved a real conspiracy of Jewish leaders.

This "Protocols..." book was revealed to be a fabrication and a fraud as early as 1924, and the plagiarism involved was so obvious that nobody has ever seriously questioned its fraudulence. Hitler however believed it fully (or at least he claimed he did), and it formed the intellectual basis for his holocaust of the Jews. Hitler even went so far as to appoint some of the Jews in Europe as "Elders" of the Jewish population, and then used these "Elders" cynically to help him destroy other Jews. This included Jacob Edelstein in the Theresienstadt concentration camp (see R. Bondy: "Elder of the Jews - Jacob Edelstein of Theresienstadt," Grove Press, 1981). Edelstein behaved decently under almost impossible circumstances; since Theresienstadt was only a thinly disguised waiting room for the Auschwitz extermination camp. Edelstein was finally forced to see his whole family insulted and shot and killed before his eyes on June 20, 1944; and was then shot and killed himself. The Edelstein family, and about 6 million other Jews murdered by the Hitler regime, can probably be considered victims of this fraudulent "Protocols..." book.

Some antisemitic groups in Argentina, in the Arab world, and elsewhere continue to regard the "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" as factual. It is not, and never was. There may well be some justifiable reasons to oppose some specific action of some individual Jewish person, or of some specific Jewish group, or even of the State of Israel. The book: "Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion" can not be one of them.

Anybody who is really interested in the facts can confirm these facts about this "Protocols..." book, by starting with any good encyclopaedia. See, for example: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1968 edition, Volume 2, pages 84-85.

Petroleum Misinformation, Compared to the Above

The petroleum misinformation situation has fully as significant an impact on humanity as the other misinformation campaigns discussed above. The main difference between the petroleum situation and the others discussed above is that in petroleum the false claims and numbers are more difficult to verify, and the claims do not have any obvious moral overtones. The Nazi anti-semitism, the cold war anticommunism of the "free world," and the US government activities in favor of the Vietnam war, were frequently so patently mistaken and so offensive to human decency, that a widespread opposition did not take long to materialize. Falsifying the national (or world) oil reserves is different. For a government to claim a major unjustified increase in the oil reserves may take only a few ministers with a questionable agenda, plus no more than a few technical people who are intimidated or sworn to secrecy. Very few "outsiders" know what the real numbers are. Most people in the world are quite unable to question these numbers, and many are so happy with the bloated numbers that for them the questioning of these numbers is out of the question.

Humanity is now under the impression that there are no foreseable petroleum supply problems, and that petroleum consumption can grow by 50% (from 60 million to 90 million barrels per day) in the next two decades. Few realize that this will be impossible. In the USA the car speed limits have however been increased again, energy R&D programs have been reduced worldwide, and humanity has essentially been programmed to run at full speed into a brick wall. Humanity does not seem to be slowing down, and the brick wall is not getting any softer.

It may be a traumatic experience. Energy prices may explode overnight. We may get a significant increase in nationalism and in oil wars. The pressures for population and immigration control are bound to go up. Some countries with poor energy supplies and with large and poor populations may begin to breed and export terrorist groups. To realize that this would not be a new development one need only consider some of the "militias" in the USA, or some of the curious groups in Japan or in the Middle East. Some of these groups have government support, but most do not need any. All it takes to do great harm to society is a large supply of twisted minds, with only a small supply of money. Such resources have often been found together.

It need not be a disastrous experience, if humanity can find rational political leadership. Humanity can accept the end of the age of cheap oil as a challenge to develop a more sustainable world, with a reasonable population density, with reasonable energy consumption expectations, and with a reasonable respect for the limitations and blessings of nature. Dr. M. King Hubbert said as much decades ago: predicting that the end of the age of cheap oil (the end of the oil "Hubbert Hill" or "Hubbert Pimple") would be the start of the age of sustainability: the age of solar energy. This age can give us much more in local control and in local employment than we ever had when we imported all of our energy from distant oil fields, and the world can be much less centralized and autocratic than the world we have now. Our challenge is not to make this transition, for we will have no choice. Our challenge is only to make the transition peacefully, with a minimum of human and environmental destruction.

"Official National Facts" Can Have a Life of Their Own

There are major incentives for exaggeration of the national petroleum reserves, since exaggeration can be very beneficial. A formal "increase" in national petroleum reserves can increase the collateral available for bank loans, it can increase the petroleum production quota if one is a member of OPEC, and it can make life easier for the politicians by pacifying the population. The population can be very happy with a large national treasure, so long as they are unaware that it is being exaggerated.

The petroleum reserves of Mexico, of the OPEC countries, and of the USA, are "Official National Facts" as declared by the national government, whether these numbers are falsified and inflated or not. Private people are free to question any falsified or inflated numbers. If however another national government begins to issue government reports in which these falsified and inflated numbers of another nation are regarded as falsified and inflated numbers, instead of being regarded as the Absolute God-Given Truth, that constitutes an international incident. This would require the issuance of a diplomatic protest, it would require an official apology and retraction, and it would require the disciplining of those officials who had the unfortunate candor of being "provocative."

Government employees are effectively operating under unwritten orders to pretend that such numbers of other nations are right, even when they are wrong. Falsehoods may be given a stamp of approval, and may be perpetuated until they can be perpetuated no longer. The facts will catch up with the world when the Hubbert Peak arrives, when real petroleum can no longer be produced rapidly enough to satisfy the world's petroleum thirst, and when we are suddenly forced to run on petroleum that does not exist: on "virtual petroleum." At that time (which is not very far away), any further claims of plenty will be quite difficult.

There are many who may well be involved in the misinformation process in an informal way. The automobile industry and many other "establishment" industries would become chaotic if a real energy crisis loomed on the horizon. Many people in these industries may not want to acknowledge any near term energy crisis. They may not want to believe that their own condition is now terminal, so that they may not be interested in uncovering any uncomfortable facts.

In conclusion, it seems that most of the world has now effectively been led to believe that we are virtually swimming in petroleum, when we may instead only be swimming in virtual petroleum...

updated 1996 July 11