Revealing the Prickly Side of Imperial “Soft Power”
by Billy Anania
A collaboration between Carriage Trade and Rectangle, Hearts and Minds analyzes the deceptive repackaging of Western imperialism.
At its core, colonialism is an exercise in smoke and mirrors. The colonized subject becomes an object of state terror while historically, government agencies and the media have repackaged these imperial projects as “foreign aid,” giving way to more indirect neocolonial endeavors. Back home, the rhetoric remains the same; politicians’ fiery speeches continue to convince their domestic population that intervention abroad is in their best interest.
Public relations campaigns do much of the heavy lifting in manufacturing deceptive appeals to “peace” and “democracy,” and otherwise misleading through psychological operations (or psyops). During the Vietnam War, President Lyndon B. Johnson told wealthy business owners that “the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there,” as part of a counterrevolutionary strategy to suppress the Viet Minh army. He used the phrase “winning hearts and minds” in 28 public statements to sell the war.