Would the proposed Canadian military propaganda initiative be used to promote the purchase of new fighter jets?
It’s possible (and worrisome) that if new fighter jets were seen as a national interest priority by the Canadian military (as is almost certainly the case), that a proposed Defence Strategic Communications group could seek to influence popular opinion in favour of that $19 billion expenditure and even collect information from the social media accounts of those who are actively opposing this purchase.
On November 2, Ottawa Citizen journalist David Pugliese reported: “The Canadian Forces wants to establish a new organization that will use propaganda and other techniques to try to influence the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of Canadians, according to documents obtained by this newspaper.”
Pugliese adds: “The new Defence Strategic Communication group will advance ‘national interests by using defence activities to influence the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of audiences,’ according to the document dated October 2020.”
“Target audiences for such an initiative would be the Canadian public as well as foreign populations in countries where military forces are sent.”
“The initiative also proposes the creation of a new research capability established to analyze and collect information from the social media accounts of Canadians, non-governmental organizations, industry and the news media, according to the report.”
Pugliese also notes: “[Defence Minister Harjit] Sajjan had originally approved the weaponization of public affairs initiative, started in 2015, along with a separate but significant expansion of military propaganda capabilities for various units [but his office says] that the plan, at least for now, is not authorized to proceed.”
In his book A Propaganda System: How Canada’s Government, Corporations, Media and Academia Sell War, Montreal-based author Yves Engler argues that the Canadian military already has the largest public relations apparatus in this country.
Engler has also noted that in 2007, at the height of Canada’s war in Afghanistan, the Conference of Defence Associations (CDA) Institute was awarded a $500,000 contract by the Department of National Defence to produce opinion pieces, letters to the editor and media references in major Canadian newspapers.
In the late 1980s, anti-war activist Petra Kelly wrote: “We spend billions on weapons research… Why not invest in peace studies and peace actions? We need training centers, public campaigns, and educational materials.”
Similarly, the Canadian Peace Initiative is committed to the establishment of a Department of Peace within the Government of Canada that would support “a culture of peace and assertive non-violence in Canada and the world.”
The continued weaponization of strategic communications by the Canadian military takes us further away from those visions of peacebuilding.
The full article by David Pugliese can be read at Canadian military wants to establish new organization to use propaganda, other techniques to influence Canadians.