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The Pentagon and Bush Admin Pushing The Same Planted Journalism in Iraq as They Did in The U.S.: Idiotic

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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Reader Comments

Global Village Idiot

December 3, 2005 08:40 AM

Good for the Times for exposing yet another back-asswards attempt by the BA to get people to like us.

It was the LA Times that broke the story... The NYT was just following on the coattails of the LAT.

Adam Saunders

December 4, 2005 07:37 PM

Many times evil just stems from laziness. They saw paying off the journalists as the easiest way to get the stories they wanted, and as per usual, the administration assumed it wouldn't get caught.

It is absolutely amazing just how many "perception management" campaigns they've totally botched recently. You would think that the administration was intentionally trying to ruin their reputation and the reputation of the US.


December 7, 2005 07:47 PM

What is this post supposed to be about? It is so, so tiresome to have to listen to these gratuitous, morally superior op eds where there should be straight business reporting. Why do you people need to constantly preen like this? Keep it to yourself, unless you're writing a politcal column. Or, at he very least be a tad original. This is the last time I'll come back to waste my time on this blog.


January 7, 2006 02:59 PM

I feel sorry for Ken. The fact is that this type of commentary is necessary. If Americans can't trust what they read about the "successes" of the Administration's programs - here or in Iraq - because they don't know if the journalist was on the take or not, then why should we expect those in Iraq to trust their own new "free" press. There is nothing morally superior about pointing out that the Administration is trying to buy an image in what is supposed to be a free press; in fact the story needs to be retold each time a new instance is found and be linked back to previous occurrences so that we don't forget. Otherwise, those in the Administration who like to rewrite history as well will have put a different spin on it by the time the matter becomes critically important to Americans, such as at election time.

red bull

May 2, 2006 10:09 AM

Yeah... Bush is naturaly born cowboy...

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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