So, What's New With Armstrong Williams?

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That's what Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page wanted to know:

When I called to ask how he felt about the new Iraq revelations, he said, after a long pause, "very unpleasant." […]

"Once people find out," he said, "everything you say is going to be questioned. No matter what you say, they're going to wonder if you're just saying it because you believe it or because you're being paid to say it."

The episode also illustrates how reluctantly the administration is learning a painful public relations lesson, he said: "Once you lose your credibility, it's a long hard road to get it back."

I guess $241,000 doesn't buy as much as it used to….

That's actually not the most interesting part of Page's column.

As a former Army public information specialist in my youth, I am hardly naive about the strategic uses of propaganda. But your propaganda is severely neutralized if people don't even believe you when you're telling the truth.

That's what we learned during an earlier war when I was a young draftee in the Pentagon's Defense Information School, then in Indianapolis. Believe it or not, we were well instructed in the highest ethics. The best response to a lie, we were told, is the truth, not spin. Otherwise, when the truth inevitably comes out, people inevitably will wonder why you went to so much trouble to hide it.

Judging by the small sample size of e-mails I've received from Iraq vets and former DoD PR contractors, that last bit rings bitterly true for some of those with boots on the ground.

Link via USC's valuable Public Diplomacy weblog/newsletter, which flags down 40 items like this and this every day.

I made the Armstrong Williams/Iraq connection back in January, and talked about the GAO's softball propaganda findings in the December issue.

NEXT: Follow That Car!

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  1. Item: Credibility of statments from covertly-paid sources not respected.

    Next up: Ron Bailey interviews Jack Abramoff about the free market paradise in the Northern Malvinas, and someone who totally isn’t on staff with the George C. Marshall Foundation tells Global Warming theorists to cool it!

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