S-Space Researcher Institutes (연구소) American Studies Institute (미국학연구소) 미국학 미국학 Volume 35 Number 1/2 (2012)
A Factual Myth: American Soldiers, Project 100,000, and the New Standards Men
- Albrecht, Robert T.
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 미국학연구소
- 미국학, Vol.35 No.2, pp. 153-178
- New Standards Men; Project 100,000; opinion leadership; elite opinion; factual myth; public opinion
- The term factual myth is used to describe a mixture of truth and distortion. Factual myths are significant since studies show that many members of the general American public rely on cues provided by elites to determine their support or opposition to the policies and activities of their government. When elites disseminate factual myths they do more than simply repeat a half-truth. They impact the democratic choices of significant segments of the American population.
Factual myths should be distinguished from opinions. Factual myths are statements made as fact that are non-truths. Not all non-truths rise to the level of factual myths, but when a sufficient number of elites parrot the same non-truths, a factual myth is created that once entered into the public mind is very difficult to change. This paper illustrates the creation of a factual myth in American society in the period immediately before and following Operation Iraqi Freedom－the factual myth that US soldiers serving in Iraq were mentally or socially inferior to their peers in civilian society. Some of the people disseminating the factual myth probably believed its veracity because of a program operated several decades earlier by the Department of Defense that intentionally brought into military service men who were mentally unqualified to serve. This program, called Project 100,000 by its originator Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, brought approximately 354,000 mentally deficient young American men into military service during the Vietnam War. Some of these men served honorably and well while others failed. More than 2,000 of them died in combat. Many of these men, in their public interactions with others, unintentionally created a general impression of American soldiers as mentally inferior. It was an impression that persisted well beyond 1971 when the program ended.Examples of elite opinion expressed in the period following Operation Iraqi Freedom which led to the creation of a factual myth regarding the quality of the soldiers serving in Iraq re provided. A review of the research which establishes that elite opinion influences public opinion regarding the publics perception of the validity of government actions and policies is covered. Then the basis for the factual myth is examined－Project 100,000. The paper closes with suggestions for mitigating the effects of factual myths in the future.
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