Return of the Five O'Clock Follies?

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Pretty useful L.A. Times article today detailing a debate within the Pentagon about the increased blending of military psychological operations and public relations. Excerpt:

The Pentagon in 2002 was forced to shutter its controversial Office of Strategic Influence (OSI), which was opened shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, after reports that the office intended to plant false news stories in the international media. But officials say that much of OSI's mission—using information as a tool of war—has been assumed by other offices throughout the U.S. government. […]

"The movement of information has gone from the public affairs world to the psychological operations world," one senior defense official said. "What's at stake is the credibility of people in uniform." […]

One recent development critics point to is the decision by commanders in Iraq in mid-September to combine public affairs, psychological operations and information operations into a "strategic communications" office. […]

Partly out of concern about this new office, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, distributed a letter Sept. 27 to the Joint Chiefs and U.S. combat commanders in the field warning of the dangers of having military public affairs (PA) too closely aligned with information operations (IO). […]

"Pretty soon, we're going to have the 5 o'clock follies all over again, and it will take us another 30 years to restore our credibility," said a second senior Defense official, referring to the much-ridiculed daily media briefings in Saigon during the Vietnam War.

The article goes on to say that advocates for greater propaganda cite the September Defense Science Board report about America's image problem abroad. Of course, the DSB laid partial blame on the White House's foreign policy, and "perception of intimate U.S. support of tyrannies in the Muslim World," but there are only so many recommendations at a time one can heed.

NEXT: Filling Rather's Void...

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  1. I for one welcome the coming Ministry of Truth, and Propose we erect a Ministry of Love to help us with our self-esteem problem.

  2. I for one am pessimistic about the (always seemingly imminent) collapse of our government’s “credibility.” The one tiny grain of salt that I’ve been taking with the complaining about how Bush has squandered our nation’s credibility is this: No one really believed us to begin with!

    The real reason I’m pessimistic is because the coming change isn’t from “credible” to “not credible” — it’s from “credibility matters” to “credibility doesn’t matter.” Credibility doesn’t matter when conflicts are fought out rather than reasoned out, and we all know which of those options our nation’s leadership prefers.

  3. I’ll see your Ministry of Love, and raise you a Minstry of Silly Walks.

    I’ll get my coat …

  4. “Of course, the DSB laid partial blame on the White House’s foreign policy, and “perception of intimate U.S. support of tyrannies in the Muslim World,” but there are only so many recommendations at a time one can heed.

    Sweeeeet. Matt shoots and scores.

    I was stationed in the Med in the mid 80’s and had only AFRTS for news. At the time, that basically amounted to heavily filtered civilian news. Any story that might embarrass some politician was cut. So most of what got reported was just fluff. The one ‘hard hitting’ story that got through was the troubles of Jim and Tammy Faye. Guess by that time, all their political connections had been severed. Night after night, for weeks on end, we watched Tammy Faye breakdown on camera. It was the highlight of each day.

  5. So, when CNN discovered that the Pentagon was testing the enemy’s preparedness in an effort to protect American lives…CNN promptly informed the enemy of that fact?!

    Twist it any way you want, if Ernie Pyle had been “honest” with his listeners like that, he would have found himself before a firing squad, and rightly so.

  6. “perception of intimate U.S. support of tyrannies in the Muslim World,”

    Silly Muslims. Where would they ever get that idea?

  7. The InfoWar officer for CENCOM should be sacked and sent to run ROTC at Berkeley. As near as I can tell, he/she has been totally ineffectual in running an effective agitprop campaign.

    For starters: where is the highly-photogenic official commentator, whose visage and enthralling voice hit our TV screens daily? Direct-commission Catherine Bell from JAG into the USMC – the cameras would love her.

    Even more importantly, where is the irresistibly informative weblog from the plucky medic sergeant [I had a Sarah Michelle Gellar look-alike back in the day] that gives us daily insights into the blazing front-line action and PEGS the hit-o-meter EVERY day.

    When is the epic Iraqi war movie [“Liberators” would be a good title] coming out with Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, Angelina Jolie, Jude Law and Sean Bean [who dies in the first 20 min, as usual]. Filmed at Fort Irwin & 29 Stumps, with Capt. Brian Csontos, USMC, as technical advisor!!

    Will the fantastic new Anti-terror RPG/FPS/RTS game set for the X-box and PC break all sales records for the holiday season? [with a patch that replaces Jihadi-boys with Barney’s]

    This InfoWar is being fought at the level of popular culture and the current battle staff does not even know where the battlefield is located!!

    Think not? OK, quick check: how did the MSM learn of the abuses at Abu Gharib?
    Answer: CENCOM briefed it to them last November, AFTER charges had been filed. Then they found the pictures those idiots sent home in e-mails and the MSM ran with it.

    Remember? . . . .
    Why Not? . . . .
    Who is winning? . . . .

  8. Funny how every country we fight seems to have a “minister of propaganda”, but we don’t. It seems like a guy with that title wouldn’t have a lot of credibility. People in other countries probably don’t even know they have a MoP because they’ve been so deluded with propaganda. Poor bastards.

  9. The most important question is, Why is Al-Jazeera not considered propaganda by its consumers?

    We are in a situation where the path to credibility is to say something negative about the US, even if you obviously make it up.

    I know some will say this is all about Israel, but you’ll have to pardon my skepticism. How can the same Jordanians who are disenfranchising their Palestinian population after already having herded them into ghettos be upset at the treatment of Palestinians?

  10. “Why is Al-Jazeera not considered propaganda by its consumers?”

    For the same reason that Fox News isn’t considered propaganda by its fans, nor is the New York Times considered propaganda by its fans: the fans LOVE being told what they want to hear.

  11. How can the same Jordanians who are disenfranchising their Palestinian population after already having herded them into ghettos be upset at the treatment of Palestinians?

    They’re upset that there isn’t a Palestinian nation for them to exile their Palestinians to. 🙂

  12. “We are in a situation where the path to credibility is to say something negative about the US, even if you obviously make it up.”

    Having an official ministry of disinformation, even if they deny it exists – because that of course is it’s first piece of disinformation – means everything, and I mean everything, that comes out of the US has to be considered unreliable. That kind of shafts credibility right there.

    If that wasn’t bad enough the US is, or is perceived to be, good enough to be highly effective in spreading the message they want to give. That means that any news source that agrees with the government line is suspect, leaving only those that disagree to be considered credible. We may not know the truth, but we know we definitely won’t get it from the government.

    I know other agencies in the world will spread their own disinformation, so all news sources have to be treated with a pinch of salt, but there are enough of them that you can get a sense of the true picture by reading competing reports over a period of time and making a value judgement. Unfortunately this means existing personal beliefs are unlikely to be challenged.

    What will save the credibility of information coming from the US is having the government repeatedly exposed by the US press so that we think your ministry of disinformation is inept – that will actually increase the chance we listen to what we hear. Your ministry is doing a very good job of looking inept at the moment, sneaking through the true disinformation whilst we think they are failing. Nice work!

    Oh, I don’t trust my government any more than the US one, so this isn’t an anti-American bash, for once.

  13. Ok, Welch, so self-righteous defense of CNN’s duty to its viewers is the order of the day? Fair enough.

    So, since you’re so indignant, do you have any comment on the soft-padding and lies CNN purposefully put out on behalf of Saddam Hussein before the war? Hell, CNN’s own bureau chief admitted to suppressing negative stories and putting out the Ba’athists propaganda! Remember Peter Arnett?!

    Or is it that your only objection is to the American media playing a role on our behalf?

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