Propaganda: "The first story out wins" Posted by: mcq
on Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Ilana Freedman makes a point that is incredibly important in the propaganda war now clearly being waged in the Middle East.
The West - and in particular, the Western media - remains hopelessly naive about terrorist manipulation. My own way of putting it is: "The first story out wins." Hezbollah, Hamas, the various PLO factions and al Qaeda all use this principle to influence world opinion and decision-makers.
Hezbollah and Hamas have proven particularly adept at manipulating world opinion by ensuring theirs is the first story out about various "tragedies" and "atrocities". And it doesn't hurt that they have those among the press corps who have no problem Photoshopping photos to further manipulate opinion. But Freedman's point is well taken. Once the story is out, and most of the time, as we see, the version presented is uncritically passed along, it becomes the version accepted and remembered by most of the world.
I still see various commenters and bloggers who refer to the Palestinian family killed on the beach by Israeli artillery fire when, in fact, numerous investigations showed that it was instead most likely a Palestinian mine or IED. And, of course, Jenin is still referred to as a a "massacre" by many who haven't taken the time to hunt down the facts.
That's because corrections and followups usually don't get the play that the breaking story gets. Qana is another example of one in which apparently exagerated numbers were uncritically accepted and reported. Evidence is now being uncovered that casts doubt on other aspects of the original story as well.
One of the problems exacerbating this situation that Freedman points to is access. In southern Lebanon, access can only be granted by Hezbollah. Without such access, journalists are prevented from doing their jobs.
CNN's Nic Robertson, to his credit, has admitted that his July 19 report from Lebanon was influenced by Hezbollah-imposed constraints. "They designated the places that we went to," he said.
"Hezbollah has a very, very sophisticated and slick media operation," Robertson has noted. "They can turn on and off access . . . You don't get in without their permission." CBS correspondent Elizabeth Palmer adds, "Hezbollah is determined that outsiders will only see what it wants them to see." In other words, if you want to capture the sights and sounds of the war in Lebanon, it is Hezbollah who will provide your admission ticket.
Part and parcel of that "admission ticket" is reporting the event the way Hezbollah spins it. If you don't your ticket will be cancelled.
Interestingly it has recently become a cottage industry among blogs to review and catch photos which seem to be both retouched and staged. And make no mistake about it, some of what the world sees is indeed staged. But, without critical analysis, it is presented to the world as real and the damage is done. While certainly news organizations can send out dozens of "kill picture" alerts, the pictures still survive and, at least in the case of the internet, propagate.
When discussing war, I often use the term "force multiplier". Well the propaganda effort is no less a war than any other. And Freedman correctly identifies the effect of the uncritical acceptance of stories from organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas:
The better we in the West understand how the enemy uses the media, the more effectively we can defend ourselves from the impact of its message. The stories of Qana and Jenin are only two among many. But they send a strong message that our media, which provides instant news coverage around the globe, can also be a force multiplier for misinformation. We must view it with a critical eye, and measure the message with intelligent skepticism and a clear understanding of the dynamics that lie behind it.
Frankly, right now there should be come photo editors out of work at Reuters. But my guess is there aren't. Until and unless news services understand how they are being used in an organized propaganda effort by these forces it will continue. And until they decide that getting it right is more important than being first, this will continue. It is all about cynically using the medias own culture against them that Hezbollah and Hamas use to ensure they are the beneficiaries of the propaganda truth that "the first story out wins".
But I see what I do because the Israeli Defense Forces have made no effort to hide this war away. Although I'm bunking in a building full of soldiers, I have no minder telling me what message I'm supposed to carry away, what I'm "really" seeing. Despite the lies in all too much of the media, the Israelis are struggling to fight a moral war - against enemies who know no morality, fanatics who trot out the same dead baby repeatedly for sensation-hungry cameras.
He also provides a good summary of the differences between the two sides presently fighting for those interested in understanding it:
What's striking is that every Israeli round is aimed at a military target. Even though the intensity of the firing increased today, as the IDF intensify the offensive, there's no wanton destruction - just the ugly necessity of war.
But Hezbollah's rockets aren't aimed. They're merely pointed. In the general direction of Israeli cities and towns. Simply put, the Katyushas are terror weapons. That difference sums up this war for any decent human being.
Until and unless news services understand how they are being used in an organized propaganda effort by these forces it will continue.
But for many in those news services, they still don’t see it as propaganda. It is the truth. They focus not on the fact that images are manipulated, nor that the narrative unwaveringly walks Hizbullah’s path, but only upon horrors of Israeli caused death and destruction. They are ideologically predisposed to do so.
And until they decide that getting it right is more important than being first, this will continue.
I worry that that day is far away. When ratings and circulation seem to depend so much on being first with the news then how often can we rely on the breaking news stories for accuracy? Perhaps I am being overly cynical.
I think the problem is compounded by the tendency for many (myself included) to take the first report at face value when we see/hear it in the midst of our ongoing lives. This is not always the case of course as our attitudes to news stories are shaped by our own bias and prejudices. However it is incumbant on the media to provide corrections or updates with as much fanfare as the initial report if the evidence merits it.
Peters is spot on. How anyone can be sympathetic to the barbaric enemy that Israel is fighting against is beyond me. The difference between the Iranian Foreign Legion (Hezbollah) and the Israeli Defense Force is “night and day.”
1. America currently lacks the strategic communications systems it developed during WWII and during the Cold War. Both were very effective. Part of this is due to the ineptitude of the Bush Administration [it is tough to communicate against an enemy if you avoid defining who they are and instead "war" on tactics like terrorism or "things they have" like possible WMD], part is arrogance - the world knows we are good guys and our high tech wondertoys will always win the day. Part is utter ignorance - if the Muslims only understood us better they would want all the great stuff we can buy as well and are just waiting to moderate their religion if only they can vote.
2. The American public has been drilled and drilled by that private media we rely on - that the core of American liberty is to have a thoroughly Anti-American free press. And unlike WWII or the Cold War, where the press was expected to pull with other Americans in common struggle, now the public has had 40 years of indoctrination that the "free press" role is to embarass and undermine leadership and "speak truth to power" by weakening war efforts. And much of the public now firmly believes that any "government" media is tantamount to Overturning the Constitution by "robbing" the private media of some presumed monopoly. The implanted meme is any government run media, even one outreaching to Muslim nations is totalitarian - and unacceptable.
3. The radical Islamist enemy is highly intelligent, like many people held down by beliefs, their backwardness in modernity is no manifestation of collective stupidity. They will put their best and brightest into what is most important, and these days that happens to be Jihad. Their "armed groups, financial, and support networks" for action against the enemy infidel are set up as continuously learning, continuously improving organizations. They find the media and courts in the infidel lands invaluable intelligence tools on what they are doing right, what mistakes they made, what mechanisms exist to detect and catch them before they achieve mission objectives over the Jews and pigs.
It is quite impressive. After the millenium bomber was caught, the media reported that the Border customs agent reported the Algerian-Canadian packing the explosives appeared sweaty and nervous. By early 2001 Islamists had taking this "lesson learned" into the terror camps where recruits were vetted on ability to remain calm while on mock missions, or be severely beaten until they got it right or dropped from jihad teams...In the USA and Europe, what happened in Washington State was adopted into dry runs....where team leaders observed how 9/11 hijackers and bombers reacted to pressure as they went through security, even being singled out and questioned, but would have to be freed because to "crime" was committed on the probing missions. Five 9/11 were in fact flagged and questioned an hour before they smacked into us. Postscripts of the Commission stated that the 5 were "remarkably calm and self-assured". The media reports on the Millenium Bomber had helped the other Islamoids tremendously.
Media reports on other programs of detection, media and court documents the Islamists obtain within days or hours after being made public are similarly invaluable.
4. The Islamist enemy has studied well how the pre-Cold War Communists, Fidel, 3rd World thug-run liberation movements, the Sandinistas, and North Vietnamese captured the love of Western intelligensia, Euro elite’s media organs, 3rd World press, and in America - turned the powerful liberal Jews owning so much of the media power of Hollywood and American news sources —-to their purposes.
And employed similar techniques...."working" with those groups to tell their stories and get them out, while intimidating those same groups with "loss of access" or worse, plus PC and Multiculti threats - if they tell the other side.
So far it has worked magnificently.
By 1945, Hollywood had cranked out over 60 anti-Nazi movies, hundreds of propaganda shorts. About a third as many against the Japs. And carefully explained in their product what was wrong with the beliefs and culture of the Axis. And 100s of movies after WWII that had Nazis and Japs as villains. All while in the 100 year history of Hollywood there are only a small handful of movies against communists. Virtually none on Castro, the "thug-liberators", Vietnam’s brutal commies. And none, really, so far - against the radical Islamist forces - other than cartoonish "terrorists" carefully disassociated from Islam filling "bad guy" schill spots. And our news media typically puts out 20 anti-American atrocity stories to every 1 our foes are involved in on the pretense that "it is more important to point out our own faults than the enemies, because we can change our own...." And follows the same general rule in bashing Israel, or Britain...
5. This historical trend has worsened even further by local Islamists working part-time for CNN, Reuters, NYTimes - but full time for violent radical Islam - penetrating and planting news in those agencies. Sort of like if we had Nazi stringers supplying us with "events" during that war. And worsened because of a near-universal belief in elites running media that America is a greater threat than radical ISlam to "world peace and justice". And Bush must be defeated!
6. The example is already there. We used, according to the people of East Europe and Cubans fleeing - the mechanisms of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Marti - highly effectively. The Soviets used masterful disinformation campaigns themselves against America on "Negro civil rights", Vietnam, and the neutron bomb. Bush has hesitated to embark on strategic communications because he is unsure of the message and naively considers radical Islamists "fellow-believer kinda folks" who just need to vote in order to moderate their faith and rejoin the "Religion of Peace". I think the strategic communications will only start effectively once Bush is out of office.
******************* We can do somethings about this, but I fear America has been beaten into internia for now by media attacks on us, Bush hatred, and a sorry record of Bush and neocon bungling... It will take more American blood shed by the Jihadis to get us moving again. Only by more piles of dead American citizens in the Homeland will we learn, and the next President dare say the Enemy’s name.
In the meantime, watchdog groups can point out and help remove terrorists and hard-core radical Islamist ideologues who are employed within Reuters, UPI, AP, CNN, al-Jazeera. They can catch the Rathers and Peter Arnetts when their anti-America ideology all but forces them to commit journalistic fraud. Watchdogs can point out to advertisers and subscribers of the Times that the NYTimes spiked the story on how Islamofascists target our women soldiers at Gitmo guarding them with urine, feces, and semen "cocktails" thrown at them almost daily, obscene acts directed against them, the routine epitaphs of "sl*t, c*nted pigs, b*tch c*wards unfit to guard Muslim men - while running 79 stories so far on US troops "abusing" criminals and Islamists at Abu Ghraib.
And the people can insist that national defense secrets revealed by the NYTimes, CBS, Washington Post be investigated. And, if guilty of crime - the treasonous folks under Tisch, Sumner Redstone at CBS/Viacom be fired. The people the Meyer Family has at Wash Post be canned. And at the Times - the whole Sulzberger Family be removed from total ownership and control for seditious activity against their host country going back to Vietnam days if not their whitewash of Bolshevikism and the mass murders of the Soviet and China that surpassed what the Nazis did.
Seems that Hezbollah is running a war, which includes a propaganda war, but a war nonetheless. More in the mold of WW2.
Both Iraqi wars were really media events, with shooting and bombs, but not really a hell bent war. The pansy ass idiots at the networks have come to believe that this is way wars are supposed to be .. for their consumption.
I work in marketing/advertising, and I see two marketing techniques being used here.
"First to market", similar to "first story out wins", is one of the most powerful aspects of marketing when you can use it. The first to market gets to frame the discussion about a product/service/idea, and they frame it in their favor. Many people not trained in marketing or politics don’t even realize the discussion has been framed, and carry on happily within the frame. Hezbollah has succeeded in framing the war information around the destruction within Lebanon, not within Israel. This is to their advantage.
Another proven marketing technique being used is "redefining the competition". Again, many people not trained in marketing don’t see this. People can easily tell when you puff your product/service/idea up, but redefining the opposition’s is more subtle. In election politics this has become "mud slinging" and well known, so it isn’t as effecting in that arena any more. But it still works in other places. Hezbollah, after framing the discussion, is using propaganda to redefine Israel within that frame.
The resulting idea being marketed is:
Israel isn’t defending itself while trying to avoid civilian casualties in Lebanon, Israel is on an unjustified rampage that is destroying Lebanon and killing its citizens.
If someone told me this was an idea that Hezbollah wanted to market in the media, I’d say the method they are using so far is a very good one to do it.