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Posted by: David Kiley on December 01, 2005
Someone once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
I give you the nicely reported story by The New York Times today about the Pentagon planting pro-U.S. policy stories in Iraq newspapers.
From the Times: “The Sands Are Blowing Toward a Democratic Iraq,” an article written this week for publication in the Iraqi press was scornful of outsiders’ pessimism about the country’s future.
“Western press and frequently those self-styled ‘objective’ observers of Iraq are often critics of how we, the people of Iraq, are proceeding down the path in determining what is best for our nation,” the article began. Quoting the Prophet Muhammad, it pleaded for unity and nonviolence.
But far from being the heartfelt opinion of an Iraqi writer, as its language implied, the article was prepared by the United States military as part of a multimillion-dollar covert campaign to plant paid propaganda in the Iraqi news media and pay friendly Iraqi journalists monthly stipends, military contractors and officials said.”
Could this be the brainchild of Bush advisor Karen Hughes (pictured above) who learned a lot of what she knows from White House domestic policy advisor Karl Rove, and who is currently in charge of selling the U.S. image in the Arab world?
Some very good reporting has been done about how the Bush Admin has been paying news commentators to tout its policy, and how they have sent video news releases touting its education policy, for example, to lazy, cheap local TV stations that run them as news. And they have been rapped on the knuckles and kicked in the behind for doing so, especially during last year’s election.
But no matter. Can’t do it here, but we can do it over there. That’s the thinking. Yipes. Is U.S. credibility not hurt enough abroad right now? This is a bad business. Paying for journalism is always a bad business.
A friend of mine at a Korean company told me that his Korean boss questioned why the U.S. unit was spending money to put product samples into the hands of journalists for reviews. “Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just pay them?,” the Korean exec asked. This , of course, is normal practice in the Korean home market—-paying for write-ups. But we don’t do it here—not without getting punished, and fired, for it anyway.
Good for the Times for exposing yet another back-asswards attempt by the BA to get people to like us. What the BA has been doing is called propaganda of the worst stripe.
What is especially troubling is that there is another way to go about it. There are Iraqis favorable to Americans with printing presses and webistes and TV frequencies. And there are ex-pats I have met who try to keep fledgling media afloat in Iraq. Wouldn’t the military and America have looked better if they simply channeled or promoted advertising money into those efforts that would support the people trying to advocate the U.S. cause? Did they have to go so far as to write the copy for them?
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