In a 2017 Super Bowl Sunday interview with President Donald Trump, Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly authoritatively declared Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s a killer.” Trump replied with the question: “What, you think our country’s so innocent?”
Trump did something similar more recently after his Singapore Summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim JongUn. When Fox News' Brett Baier raised the question in an interview about "Kim's oppression of his own people", Trump said: “Yeah, but so have a lot of other people have done some really bad things.”
Both O'Reilly and Baier were essentially repeating the standard American narrative that wants the world to believe that "we (Americans) are the good guys and those opposing America are the bad guys".
Trump, an unconventional American leader, displayed rare candor in his responses. The American media and "research scholars", managed by the "Deep State", sharply criticized Trump and continued to parrot the standard American narrative asserting that "we're the good guys" while vilifying Vladimir Putin, Kim JongUn and other leaders and countries designated as "enemies".
Young and Barbaric:
Trump appears ready to drop all pretenses of US being "the good guys" standing for "freedom, democracy and human rights". He is not alone in his assertion that "our country (United States) is not so innocent". George Friedman, the founder of Stratfor which describes itself as "American geopolitical intelligence platform", is the ultimate "Deep State" insider in America. Friedman acknowledges that "America, like Europe in sixteenth century, is still barbaric, a description, not a moral judgment. Its culture is unformed. Its will is powerful. Its emotions drive it in different and contradictory directions."
Friedman argues that "perhaps more than for any other country, the US grand strategy is about war, and the interaction between war and economic life. The United States is historically a warlike country. The nation has been directly or indirectly at war for most of of its existence...the war of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and Desert Storm. And the US has been constantly at war in Afghanistan and Iraq since the beginning of this century."
More recently, the United States' interventions in the Middle East have destabilized and devastated Libya and Syria and created a major humanitarian crisis. Tens of thousands have died and millions rendered homeless and trying to flee hunger and violence.
So how does America create and promote its "good guys" narrative in the world and demonize others? How do American image builders gloss over its past characterized by the genocide of the indigenous people, the enslavement of Africans and a history of assassinations, invasions, atrocities, proxy wars, and coups in the developing world? How do their actions escape the "terrorism" label that is liberally applied to others, particularly Muslims? What modern image-making and promotional tools and techniques has Uncle Sam borrowed from the world of brand creation, promotion and management?
The first thing in creating a narrative is the basic story supported by effective language and vocabulary. It is fleshed out by writers, poets, musicians and artists. The basic American narrative goes like this: America stands for freedom, democracy and human rights. It is a force for all that is good in the world. Those who oppose America are the "bad guys".
The narrative is then widely disseminated, promoted and incessantly repeated by Washington think tanks, book authors, major newspaper reporters and editors, mainstream journalists, television channels and popular entertainment platforms.
Talking points are developed and shared to defend against any criticisms. Inconvenient truths are obfuscated. Those who accept the talking points are rewarded and those who persist in criticisms are isolated and punished. Rewards come in the form of funding and access. Punishments are handed out by orchestrating attacks by peers and by denying funds and access.
Controlling the Narrative:
The United States government funds think tanks, hires consultants and directly and indirectly influences mass media and popular entertainment platforms to control and promote its "good guys" narrative and to vilify those seen as competitors.
1. Think Tanks: Woodrow Wilson Center, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, US Institute of Peace (USIP), Rand Corporation and a several others are partially or fully funded by the US government. These are supplemented by dozens of other think tanks funded by major US corporations which have a stake in promoting a positive global image of the United States. These organizations organize conferences, publish books and "research papers" and offer scholarships to promote the American "good guys" narrative globally. They have both resident and non-resident "scholars", including some from developing countries like Pakistan. Some of the Pakistani "scholars" working for Washington think tanks also work for major media houses in Pakistan. These "scholars" are widely quoted by the media on issues relating to US-Pakistan relations.
2. News Media: Veteran American journalist Carl Bernstein, famous for his reporting on Watergate along with Bob Woodward, investigated CIA's use of the American media and wrote a piece describing "How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up". Here's what he said:
"Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), the Associated Press (AP), United Press International (UPI), Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune".
3. Popular Entertainment: It has been suggested that Hollywood has been working with the United States government for a long time. Some have said that Hollywood is "the unofficial ministry of propaganda for the Pentagon". Information obtained under FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) confirms that thousands of Hollywood films have received backing from the CIA and the US Department of Defense and other US agencies to promote America's "good guy" narrative. These include 24, Army Wives, Flight 93, Homeland, Ice Road Truckers, NCIS, Transformers, Iron Man, Terminator, etc.
Documents obtained recently under FOIA show that the relationship between the US national security establishment and American entertainment businesses is much deeper and more political than ever acknowledged.
4. Books and Literature: Starting with the Cold War, the American CIA has infiltrated and influenced books and literature to promote the American official "good guys" narrative. "Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World's Best Writers" by Joel Whitney reveals how great writers such as Baldwin, Márquez, and Hemingway were recruited as soldiers in Cold War.
Editors of top literary magazines were used as a vehicle for this infiltration. The first time the CIA's connections to the Paris Review and two dozen other magazines came to light was in 1966. The CIA used multiple guises to financially support young, promising writers as part of a cultural propaganda strategy with literary outposts around the world.
The United States government has developed and aggressively controls and promotes America's standard narrative that "we are the good guys and those opposing us are the bad guys". This narrative glosses over the history of native American genocide, enslavement of Africans and the CIA sponsored assassinations, coups and proxy wars in the developing world. In a couple of recent interviews, US President Donald Trump has acknowledged the problems with the American narrative. Nevertheless, the American narrative is promoted using a multi-pronged strategy that includes the use of think tanks, popular entertainment, books and literature and the mainstream media.