Propaganda 2.0

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With the recent revelation that the military was paying Iraq newspapers to run positive stories about the US fresh in our minds, now comes a peak behind the scenes at our military’s effort to win the “information war.”

From the NY Times:

The recent disclosures that a Pentagon contractor in Iraq paid newspapers to print “good news” articles written by American soldiers prompted an outcry in Washington, where members of Congress said the practice undermined American credibility and top military and White House officials disavowed any knowledge of it. President Bush was described by Stephen J. Hadley, his national security adviser, as “very troubled” about the matter. The Pentagon is investigating.

But the work of the contractor, the Lincoln Group, was not a rogue operation. Hoping to counter anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world, the Bush administration has been conducting an information war that is extensive, costly and often hidden, according to documents and interviews with contractors, government officials and military personnel.

The campaign was begun by the White House, which set up a secret panel soon after the Sept. 11 attacks to coordinate information operations by the Pentagon, other government agencies and private contractors.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the focus of most of the activities, the military operates radio stations and newspapers, but does not disclose their American ties. Those outlets produce news material that is at times attributed to the “International Information Center,” an untraceable organization.

Lincoln says it planted more than 1,000 articles in the Iraqi and Arab press and placed editorials on an Iraqi Web site, Pentagon documents show. For an expanded stealth persuasion effort into neighboring countries, Lincoln presented plans, since rejected, for an underground newspaper, television news shows and an anti-terrorist comedy based on “The Three Stooges.”

Like the Lincoln Group, Army psychological operations units sometimes pay to deliver their message, offering television stations money to run unattributed segments or contracting with writers of newspaper opinion pieces, military officials said.

Now, from what I’ve gathered from this article, the media outlets in the Middle East are more than happy to take our money to run postive, but accurate, stories about the US.

However, since people know about this now, the chilling effect of America’s military propaganda aparatus has just begun on the hearts and minds of those sympathetic to our cause in the Middle East.

True, this propaganda cause is noble, but could it ultimately do much more harm than good? Quite possibly. Again, people don’t like to discover that the news they’ve been reading has been bought and paid for. That is a jouranlistic no-no and goes against the very tenets that many democracys pride themselves on.

And really, if you knew that MSNBC of Fox News was being paid to run favorable stories, would you take any positive story about the US’s advances in Iraq seriously?

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