Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Fear

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"The Uses of Fear" is the title of chapter five of the book, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush's War on Iraq.

Key points

  • Bush's ratings in the polls were at 53% approval a few days before March 18, 2003 when he declared war on Iraq, His ratings jumped 13% when he announced his decision to go to war.
  • Terrorist organizations also use public relations techniques to help them attract maximum media attention.
  • Propaganda "seeks to bypass the rational brain altogether and manipulate us on a more primitive level, appealing to emotional symbolism…appealing selectively to certain aspects of human nature - the most primitive aspects, because those are the most predicable."
  • Bush and his administration linked patriotism and consumerism after 9/11.
  • During this war on terrorism, the government can collect more information about its citizens (due to the Patriot_Act_I), yet withhold information from its citizens (using the excuse that the national security doesn't allow them to divulge details).

Discussion Questions

  1. Talk about the term propaganda. Does the word apply to the United States? Can propaganda be used in a democracy?
  2. How can the Pentagon start up a program (Total Information Awareness) again that Congress killed merely by changing the program's name (to Terrorist Information Awareness)?
  3. How has the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) changed during this administration?
  4. Do you buy the argument that SUVs and Hummers are so popular because they are aggressive vehicles that make people feel safer?


  1. You can see the Detroit Project commercials that didn't air online. Compare these ads to the anti-drug ads that link drug use to terrorism. The anti-drug ads were also controversial, but aired during the Super Bowl. Is there a double standard?
  2. Read the USA Patriot Act passed by Congress in 2001. What aspects stand out the most to you? What are the Constitutional issues raised by the Patriot Act? What do you think of the rationale that if you are not doing anything illegal, you have nothing to hide and should not be worried about things like the Patriot Act?
  3. What are some ways that fear is used to motivate a people to act or to convince them to believe something?