"We want to maintain the perception (if not the reality)"

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This New York Times update on the Pentagon-propaganda story includes the following new (to me) info:

  • There is a 1,200-employee psy-ops unit at Fort Bragg churning out unsourced, one-sided news stories for Iraqi and Afghani audiences. Sometimes the articles are attributed to the "International Information Center."
  • The Lincoln Group, the Pentagon contractor paid to place many of these stories, has "planted more than 1,000 articles in the Iraqi and Arab press and placed editorials on an Iraqi Web site."
  • "The two men who ran [The Lincoln Group] had no background in public relations or the media."
  • The Pentagon "took over the Taliban's radio station [and] renamed it Peace Radio," and the U.S. Army publishes a sister newspaper called Peace. "An examination of issues from last spring," the Times reported, "found no bad news."
  • The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) "finances about 30 radio stations in Afghanistan but keeps that from listeners." USAID spokeswoman Peggy O'Ban explained: "We want to maintain the perception (if not the reality) that these radio stations are in fact fully independent."

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  1. Remember Voice of America? Remember Radio Free Europe?

    Remember those openly and proudly American news sources?

    Why is the world’s greatest liberal beacon, the hope of millions of immigrants, hiding behind sock puppets? Why do we suddenly fear an open airing of views?

  2. As much as I oppose the imperial direction our foreign policy has been going. I can’t get that worked up about this story. Sure our government is being scummy and deceitful again. However, I’m more pissed off at the propaganda they’re inserting into the domestic media (that I consume) than I am over what they’re doing in some conquered land where the locals wouldn’t know a free press if it reported colonoscopy results.

  3. Because propaganda is a useful and necessary tool, and repeated readings of Cato, Thomas Paine and the U.S. Constitution probably won’t have much effect.

  4. Hey Warren,
    How upset are you over the propaganda put out by the liberal media and the Howard Deans of the Democratic party? Probably not at all.

  5. Yeah, Warren, how can you criticize the government for running covert propaganda campaigns, when liberals – liberals! – are allowed to appear on television shows and speak their minds?

    How can you even sleep at night, you monster?

  6. “Because propaganda is a useful and necessary tool”

    Adolf?

    Joseph?

    Is that you?

  7. All propaganda is not necessarily bad, dimwit.

  8. All propaganda is not necessarily bad, dimwit.

    …unless you get caught at it.

  9. If you’re telling the truth, you should have nothing to fear from identifying yourself as the speaker.

    If, on the other hand, your intent is to deceive, I can see why you would want to conceal your identity.

    And, sure, it is always a great thing for government to deceive. That’s what capitalism and freedom of speech are all based upon, right? That the best at deceiving the public will always win out, right?

    There’s a reason why totalitarian regimes are always heavily invested in propaganda. Because you are correct – it is necessary and useful for them.

    I guess if you’re a Buckleyite and want to see a totalitarian regime on our shores, then I can see why you would be such a cheerleader for these policies…

  10. Most of what’s going on today is stuff that we’ve done before. But either they’re getting more blatant about it/worse at covering up, or the watch dogs are becoming more alert.

    Either way, their attitude is no longer to deny it or insist that it’s just a few bad apples. Rather, the attitude seems to be “Eh, well, there’s really nothing wrong with torture/propaganda/indefinite detention/insert Stalinist shit here.”

    Our leaders used to sweat when they were caught pulling Commie crap. Now they just shrug it off.

    God/Rand/Feynman/Ford(just finished Brave New World) help us.

  11. USAID spokeswoman Peggy O’Ban

    Oh, come on, they can do better than that. How about Shane MacSpinster, Helen DeMagogue?

  12. The real interesting thing will be when they start changing their own public record to suit their needs. After all, if they made up the story in the first place, what would hold them back from “tweaking” it?

    This all sounds very familiar, and while my tinfoil hat is still securely stowed in my trunk, I’m going to drop the 1984 reference.

    The scary thing about this is that our giant bureaucracy and industrial-military complex is gaining valuable practical experience at deceiving a populace through a supposedly free and open media.

    And yes, propaganda is always bad. Ideas and philosophies that have value do not have to be supported by subterfuge.

  13. WW2 and the Cold War cast the US as the good guy in the struggle. Since we’ve been branded by the theofacists as the great satan we need to get our message to people using a different brand.

  14. thoreau;

    “Why is the world’s greatest liberal beacon, the hope of millions of immigrants, hiding behind sock puppets?”

    What’s wrong with sock puppets? Some of my best friends are sock puppets.

  15. you should have nothing to fear from identifying yourself as the speaker.

    Unless your enemy has had a couple of generations to propagandize your target audience into believing everything you say is a lie. Then you might want to get your message out without hanging a sign around it “this comes from someone you believe is a liar.”

  16. John,

    Was that sarcasm? If not, you get the non sequitur award today!

    What does our government putting up radio towers to talk our country up, using our money and our military have anything to do with Howard Dean speaking on TV?

    And to answer your silly question for myself (not Warren), I’m just as upset about the partisan diarrhea put by the liberal media and the Howard Deans of the Democratic party as I am over the partisan diarrhea put out by the conservative media and the Rumsfelds of the Republican party.

  17. R C-

    Trust takes a very long time to earn, and a very short time to lose. The only way to do this is the hard way.

  18. the best way to show people you’re not a liar is to lie.

    HOLY SHIT! FREEDOM REALLY IS SLAVERY!

  19. Not too long ago we were told that:

    1) This War on Terror will last a very, very long time, maybe our entire lifetime.

    2) The main goal here is to spread liberal values and transform a region.

    Now we’re told that messages must be transmitted ASAP, rather than earning trust the old-fashioned way. And if that means using the techniques of propagandists, well, that’s how war is.

    And dhex nailed it.

  20. I’m finding myself having a hard time getting worked up over this given the existence and widespread reach of Al Jazeera, Reuters, the Beeb and others, and that it’s a war.

    And, you don’t even need a sock, just some makeup…(s’alright)

  21. Liek others, my problem with this whole operation isn’t that we’re engaging in propaganda; it’s that we’re just so bad at it! I know high school newspaper reporters who could come up with better writing than this Lincoln Group nonsense.

    I still say a legion of freckle-faced 1950s boys on soapbox scooters delivering copies of GRIT magazine would be a better approach. I’m sticking by this plan.

  22. Yeah, I’m the guy who posted “Why are we Outsourcing torture to Romania or Poland when American torturers are unemployed?”

    But we are we producing Spam for Iraqi & Afghani markets in Fort Bragg?

    Don’t the nice people who answer my credit card company’s phones in Bangalore speak a language that’s closer to Arabic or Afghan than the people in Fort Bragg?

    Outsource Propaganda!

    Do

  23. The Pentagon “took over the Taliban’s radio station [and] renamed it Peace Radio,” and the U.S. Army publishes a sister newspaper called Peace. “An examination of issues from last spring,” the Times reported, “found no bad news.”

    Oh no, where will people get their bad news about the war now!? Maybe CBS, BBC, CNN, Reuters, ABC, NBC, Al Jazeera….
    I’m outraged that the US military isn’t spending more money to highlight reasons why the locals should oppose the US military. We all remember FDR’s famous WWII broadcast entitled “Hey Japanese, if this atomic bomb thing doesn’t work out, we’re going to have to have a conventional invasion of the home islands that will produce so many casualties we might even be willing to accept the continued divine status of Hirohito as a condition of your surrender, so keep fightin’ hard!”

  24. I’m outraged that the US military isn’t spending more money to highlight reasons why the locals should oppose the US military.

    Why don’t we just have the US military pay to produce pieces that it owns up to, and tell the truth. Leave it to others to produce reasons why the locals should oppose the US military. It might not work quickly, but maybe we should just try to show that we’re trustworthy, and not a high-handed imperialist superpower. Or maybe this propaganda machine is telling the truth, it’s just telling the truth about what the US has become that it stoops to such methods and then isn’t embarrassed when they come to light.

  25. I have to agree with Miss Information. For the last 4 years I’ve had people telling me that America’s international image is one reason we were attacked. (Not our ACTIONS, mind you, but our bad PR) and that if we had done a better job of polishing our image, we wouldn’t be in this mess. If that argument is true, isn’t propaganda preferable to actual war?

    /Devil’s Advocate

  26. linguist,

    there is nothing wrong with propaganda. There’s a lot wrong with sucking at it. No propaganda is better than bad propaganda.

    Let’s put it this way, if Random Mullah tells his flock that “America lies about being for freedom” or some such, and then we prove him correct, that does far more harm than good.

  27. “An examination of issues from last spring,” the Times reported, “found no bad news.”

    An examination of NY Times articles found no GOOD news.

    The government is simply providing the balance so sorely lacking in the anti-American media.

  28. An examination of NY Times articles found no GOOD news.

    The government is simply providing the balance so sorely lacking in the anti-American media.

    The whole “anti-American” thing is really becoming quite boring. If that’s the best you can do to respond to substantive criticism of policy, then you have nothing. Or, in terms you might better understand, yo mama.

  29. linguist-

    I’ll be the first to advocate fighting with words instead of bullets, but deception doesn’t seem like the best way to improve our image in the long term.

  30. My God, it almost sounds like we’re at war or something.

    This ain’t exactly Soviet-style totalitarian press control. A few positive stories are not the end of the world or a threat to the idea of a free press. In fact, we’ve taken far more extreme measures before.

    People forget FDR essentially took over American news (they promised favorable war coverage in return for not officially taking them over, which was his original proposal), wiretapped the news agencies’ offices, and had the Pentagon churning out pro-war propaganda right here at home to brainwash the American public. Somehow, we survived.

  31. Remember Voice of America? Remember Radio Free Europe?

    Yep. I remember them being called propaganda, too.

    As long as the stories meet a basic level of truthfulness (say, a bit higher than the Mary Mapes TANG memo standards) I don’t see the big issue, though I think disclosure and transparency is preferable.

    To the military, the press is the enemy, and vice-versa. Look at their political leanings and their thoughts on the war and you’ll find they are generally diametrically opposed.

  32. Oh, and lastly let me note the free press helped lose the Vietnam War in numerous ways, most egregiously by misreporting Tet as a military defeat, helping sentence tens of millions of Vietnamese to decades of oppression when a little more effort to enforce the Paris Accords might have led to a South Vietnam as free as South Korea.

    Our enemies don’t need an anti-American propaganda machine; we already have one.

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