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Mass Deception

Mass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq

Scott A. Bonn
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 210
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  • Book Info
    Mass Deception
    Book Description:

    The attacks of 9/11 led to a war on Iraq, although there was neither tangible evidence that the nation's leader, Saddam Hussein, was linked to Osama bin Laden nor proof of weapons of mass destruction. Why, then, did the Iraq war garner so much acceptance in the United States during its primary stages?Mass Deceptionargues that the George W. Bush administration manufactured public support for the war on Iraq. Scott A. Bonn introduces a unique, integrated, and interdisciplinary theory called "critical communication" to explain how and why political elites and the news media periodically create public panics that benefit both parties. Using quantitative analysis of public opinion polls and presidential rhetoric pre- and post-9/11 in the news media, Bonn applies the moral panic concept to the Iraq war. He critiques the war and occupation of Iraq as violations of domestic and international law. Finally,Mass Deceptionconnects propaganda and distortion efforts by the Bush administration to more general theories of elite deviance and state crime.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4996-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Michael Welch

    Amid the frenzy of the attacks on September 11, the Bush administration pushed forward its plan to invade and occupy Iraq—a nation that had no involvement with the terrorist plot. Those developments prompted some observers to recall the memorable words of Senator Hiram Johnson, who declared: “The first casualty when war comes is truth” (Stevenson, 1948, p. 2445). With that concern in mind we turn toMass Deception: Moral Panic and the U.S. War on Iraq. In this very important book, Scott Bonn offers to criminologists and sociologists, as well as students and citizens alike, an opportunity to understand...

  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 George W. Bush and the Drums of War
    (pp. 1-16)

    On the morning of September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by international terrorists. A series of coordinated suicide attacks were carried out that day in which hijackers simultaneously took control of four U.S. domestic commercial airliners. The hijackers crashed two planes into the World Trade Center Towers in Manhattan, New York, and they flew the third plane into the U.S. Department of Defense headquarters, the Pentagon, in Arlington County, Virginia. The fourth plane crashed into a field in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania, following passenger resistance. The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed and the Pentagon was...

  6. Chapter 2 Why Do Many in Society Drink the Kool-Aid Served in a Moral Panic?
    (pp. 17-45)

    In much of the moral panic literature, considerable attention is given to analyzing whether a particular condition conforms to its conceptual tenets, i.e., establishing that a situation is a moral panic (e.g., Best, 1994; Hawdon, 2001; McCorkle & Miethe, 1998; Reinarman & Levine, 1989; Rothe & Muzzatti, 2004). However, little attention is paid to explaining why moral panics occur in society in the first place. Stated differently, moral panics are often treated in the literature as existingsui generis. What is lacking is a broader approach for understanding the processes and mechanisms through which moral panics are able to occur.

    In this chapter,...

  7. Chapter 3 Empirical Evidence of an Elite-Engineered Moral Panic over Iraq
    (pp. 46-79)

    This chapter examines the proposition that the G. W. Bush administration engineered a moral panic among the American public over an alleged threat posed by Iraq after 9/11 in order to increase support for the U.S.-led military strike in 2003. More specifically, the objectives of this chapter are to present and discuss: (1) the findings from a newspaper content analysis of presidential administration sources of rhetoric concerning Iraq both pre- and post-9/11; and (2) the findings of an analysis of public opinion. An examination of presidential policy rhetoric regarding Iraq as disseminated by the news media before and after the...

  8. Chapter 4 How the Bush Administration Sold the Iraq War to the U.S. Public
    (pp. 80-100)

    Early in September 2002, White House Chief of Staff Andy Card was asked why President G. W. Bush had waited until after Labor Day to begin an intensive effort to persuade the American public of the need to invade Iraq. Card responded, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August” (Elliott, 2002, p. 4). Amazingly, Card’s statement compared the justification for war to an advertising campaign for a consumer product such as Coca-Cola.

    In this chapter the results of the research study discussed in chapter three are examined within the context of moral panic theory...

  9. Chapter 5 The Power Elite, State Crime, and War Crime
    (pp. 101-120)

    In this chapter the theoretical and methodological approaches used to examine the second of two central propositions in this book are discussed. The second proposition is: The Bush administration participated in elite deviance, state crimes, and war crimes. More specifically, the moral panic engineered by the Bush administration constitutes elite deviance, including moral harm to society, and the invasion and occupation of Iraq are state crimes and violations of international criminal law.

    This proposition raises two related questions. First, by what standards can the actions of the Bush administration concerning Iraq be considered elite deviance? Second, by what standards can...

  10. Chapter 6 The Higher Immorality and Crimes of the Bush Administration
    (pp. 121-147)

    By mid-2004 there were already allegations that the Bush administration had misled the U.S. public about the need to invade Iraq. Nevertheless, George W. Bush was reelected president in November of 2004. Mills (1956) argued that a passive and alienated U.S. public does not directly influence fundamental government policies such as the decision to go to war. Bush’s reelection in 2004 indicates how effectively the moral panic over Iraq manipulated public attitudes and opinions concerning the alleged threat to national security. In this chapter, it is argued that the second theoretical proposition of this book is correct—that is, the...

  11. Chapter 7 What Are the Lessons of the Iraq War?
    (pp. 148-172)

    The Spanish philosopher and poet George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The final chapter of this book discusses the contributions of the research to theory and it also presents a contextualized examination of the Bush administration’s moral panic over Iraq. An important question guides the discussions presented in this chapter: What can we learn from the moral panic over Iraq about the power elite, the news media, and society in general? The chapter begins with a discussion of the contributions of the research to critical communication theory, introduced in chapter two, and...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 173-176)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 177-186)
  14. Index
    (pp. 187-190)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-192)