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Shrugging Off the Shackles of Propaganda 
by Mark Hand
June 27, 2004

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A review of The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda by Mickey Z. (Common Courage Press, 2004).

What if every American were handed a toolkit that could be used to break down the lies of the war planners in Washington? Would it be enough to cleanse our minds of the diet of myths we’ve been fed our entire lives about the righteousness of our military and its foreign interventions?

Candor on the topic of war has always been in short supply in the United States, probably because there hasn’t been much demand from a passive American public.

Without exception, the American mass media frames U.S. military action as an intrinsically benign force. While commentators are allowed to question military strategies, the mass media does not permit critical analysis of the foundation on which the U.S. empire rests. The topics of imperialism and militarism, for example, have always fallen outside our propaganda system’s acceptable range of discussion.

So it’s unsurprising that most Americans will look askance at someone who, albeit rationally and convincingly, debunks myths and assumptions behind U.S. military action. Which leads us back to the question posed above about whether Americans raised on the myth of the U.S. military promoting only democracy, freedom and justice abroad are clever enough to step outside their belief system long enough to face reality.

A good way to test the strength of the U.S. indoctrination system would be to have every American read Mickey Z.’s new book, The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda. If someone can read this book in its entirety and still believe in the sanctity of U.S. military action, past and present, then we can safely say the ruling elite are getting more than their money’s worth through their control of the nation’s educational system, mass media and political system.

But I bet a fair number of readers would begin to see their beliefs about U.S. foreign policy pried open if they were to make use of Mickey Z.’s “toolkit” on U.S. war propaganda. In a user-friendly handbook, Mickey goes spin-by-spin, providing what he describes as “information that challenges the myopia and amnesia cultivated by state and corporate propaganda.”

In Spin #1, Mickey confronts the “Sleeping Giant” myth in which the U.S. government portrays itself as the do-gooder that minds its own business unless provoked. He notes that once we recognize that the United States is not and never has been a sleeping giant victimized by unprovoked sneak attacks, “we are then faced with another unpleasant reality … America has unleashed its fair share of military surprises … and often makes no secret of this paradox.”

Spin #2 covers the myth of “Good Wars,” which was the theme of Mickey’s first book, Saving Private Power: The Hidden History of ‘The Good War’. “By whipping the original Axis of Evil in a noble and popular war,” he writes, “the United States and its allies can now wave the banner of humanitarianism and intervene with impunity across the globe without their motivations being questioned.”

In the next chapter, “U.S. vs. Them,” Mickey explains that Spin #3 “plays into our worst fears — the bogeyman — and it all started with the near-extermination of indigenous people.”

Mickey dissects the widely held belief that once actual fighting begins, all Americans must unite behind our troops to ensure their safety through victory (Spin #4). He explains that when we’re told to “support the troops,” we are “being compelled to support the polices that put those troops in harm’s way.”

Spin #5, “The Devil Made U.S. Do It,” is highly relevant in today’s no-holds barred “war on terrorism” in which torture is condoned as a legitimate instrument against stateless enemies. “Like the reluctant parent who informs their bare-bottomed offspring that the ensuing spanking will hurt them more than the child, the U.S. is sometimes forced to spank those who simply won’t roll over in the face of superior force,” he contends.

Mickey examines the misnomer, “Surgical Strikes,” in the chapter on Spin #6. “Hollywood deifies weapons of war: ‘our’ weapons never miss, rarely kill the innocent, and look really cool when wielded by a millionaire with muscles,” he writes.

In revealing the seventh deadly spin, Mickey notes how a war’s victors stamp their actions into closure with a moral seal of approval: the war crimes tribunal. “The U.S. has almost always ended up on the winning side, so far at least, and therefore hasn’t had to accept responsibility for more than two centuries of its own atrocities,” Mickey writes.

Given the fact that humans empowered the seven deadly spins outlined in his book, Mickey is hopeful that another group of people will eventually be able to reverse course and loosen the extreme militarism and nationalism that grips our society. “Change should and must be imagined possible,” he writes. “The events and deceptions outlined in this book are not a force of nature or the result of some preordained theology. … Other decisions could have been made; other outcomes could have resulted.”

At just over $10 a copy, I recommend that people buy several copies of The Seven Deadly Spins, keep a copy for yourself, donate a few to your local library and schools, and then distribute the remaining to your friends and family. If enough eyes are opened to the tragedy of perpetual war and the propaganda that sustains it, as outlined in Mickey’s book, perhaps a peaceful tomorrow won’t seem as far-fetched as it does today.

Mark Hand is editor of Press Action ( He can be reached at

Other Articles by Mark Hand

* The Empire Strikes Out
* The Dirty War of the Tough-Minded Liberals: Democrats Seek to Disappear Chomsky, Nader
* Preemptive Attacks and Humanitarian Wars

* The Empire Strikes Again
* The Cascading Power of a Myth
* The Struggle Against Going Mainstream
* Cockburn and the Workers World Party