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Propaganda Wars

By Best Ace in Op-Ed
Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 06:29:37 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Despite all the talk about this being a new kind of war, there is precious little evidence that George Bush or his de facto foreign minister Tony Blair have fully grasped the significance of what this means. The first weeks of this campaign have played out in a very familiar fashion - cruise missiles are fired, bombers knock out an assortment of strategic targets, and if necessary, ground troops will be sent in to finish the job. That this is a war against a new kind of enemy which is using a new kind of tactics does not seem to have made a difference. The result is that although the allies may be winning the military war, the equally important propaganda war is anything but won.


If the US is serious about `draining the swamp', then the propaganda war will ultimately dictate whether it succeeds, but its efforts so far in this area have been uninspiring to say the least, and when compared to the public relations efforts of Osama Bin Laden, they appear downright amateurish. Protestations by Donald Rumsfeld that the US is doing its utmost to avoid civilian casualties ring hollow when Al Jazeera is broadcasting daily pictures of bombed out houses and bandaged children lying on hospital beds.

The dropping of food rations in Afghanistan has likewise met with reactions varying from indifference to downright cynicism. Jordanian newspaper Al-Ra'i printed a cartoon showing an aircraft dropping bombs and food rations together, while Pakistan newspaper the Frontier Post described the food drops as `a joke in very poor taste'. Further reports of the similarity between the food packages and unexploded cluster bomblets has done little to improve matters.

Whether or not the US is actually bombing civilians (with ordnance or food) is beside the point. In the propaganda war, what counts are the perceptions of people around the world, and of Muslims in particular. If there is one man who knows this more than most, then it is the Pakistani President, General Musharraf, who has been walking the tightrope between overwhelming anti-bombing sentiment on the one hand, and the demands of the US government on the other. He has repeatedly been calling for the bombing to stop during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, knowing that continued bombing undermines claims by Western leaders that they are not waging a war against Islam. Speaking in Paris on Thursday, he tried to highlight the issue of public relations, '[The bombing] is being perceived in the whole world as if this were a war against the poor, miserable and innocent people of Afghanistan'. This is, of course, partly self-preservation. General Musharraf will be the first to feel the backlash if the undercurrents of Muslim disapproval with the bombing explode into the open.

Perhaps recognising that the West is losing the war for hearts and minds, Mr. Bush has done what Western politicians do when they have public relations problems. He called in the people from Madison Avenue. The Pentagon has signed up public relations firm the Rendon group to a four-month contract worth $400,000, in an effort to help it 'orient to the challenge of communicating to a wide range of groups around the world'.

The hiring of the Rendon group follows on from the setting up of a media center in Islamabad designed to counter 'untruths and lies', and the appointment of former advertising executive Charlotte Beers to the post of Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, or as some cynics have called it, the `secretary of state for propaganda'. Ms. Beers has not lost time in defining her role. `We are having people who are not our friends define America in negative terms,' she told Advertising Age magazine. `It is time for us to reignite the understanding of America'. And to the House International Relations Committee last month: `It's not what we say, it's what they hear. So the burden is now on us to act as though no on has ever understood the identity of the United States, and redefine it for audiences who are at best cynical'.

The New York Times columnist Frank Rich weighed up her prospects in an article* two weeks ago: 'Maybe we're losing the battle for Afghan hearts and minds in part because... [Ms. Beers] is a CEO (from Madison Avenue) chosen not for her expertise in policy or politics but for her salesmanship on behalf of domestic products like Head & Shoulders shampoo. If we can't effectively fight anthrax, I guess it's reassuring to know we can always win the war on dandruff'.

Meanwhile, from his cave in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden has been directing his own public relations with the help of a camcorder and Al Jazeera. Bin Laden may or may not be `psychotic', as the real British Foreign Minister Jack Straw described him, but there is no doubt he is a smart man when it comes to public relations. Goebbels himself would have been impressed. By refusing to confirm or deny any involvement in the attacks in New York and Washington, he has undermined Western attempts to portray him in the Muslim world as a hate figure. Even more importantly, he has turned this into a war against Islam. Despite all the Western rhetoric to the contrary, and whether or not bin Laden is a religious zealot with an intolerance of all things non-Islamic, by repeatedly focusing on Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the Palestinians, he has managed to create an air of legitimacy around himself. Even moderate voices in the Muslim world are not convinced by the US. An editorial this week in Pakistan's English language daily, Dawn, warns the US and its allies to tread carefully: 'Already, the Muslim world feels deeply hurt by Washington's carte blanche to Israel for its genocidal policies against the Palestinian people. Add to it Washington's persistently hostile policies toward such Muslim countries as Syria, Iran, Libya and Sudan and one at once detects a strong anti-Muslim slant in American policies'.

With such volatility in the region, Ms. Beers is going to have her work cut out if she is to convince the world that America is not the Great Satan that bin Laden portrays it as. With so much at stake, the West will hope that she succeeds.



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Propaganda Wars | 56 comments (53 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
Presumption of guilt (4.12 / 8) (#4)
by tudlio on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 01:33:25 PM EST

Why is it that if the United States continues prosecuting a war against an Islamic country during Ramadan, it's considered evidence that the United States is prosecuting a war against Islam, but if Iran (or Iraq, or Egypt, or Syria, and so on and so forth) prosecutes a war against an Islamic country during Ramadan, it's not?

I'll answer my own question: it's because there's a presumption of guilt. The United States is presumed to be guilty of trying to destroy Islamic culture (or fundamentalist Christian culture, or traditional Native American culture, and so on) because what the United States means to so many people is globalizaton, and the process of globalization seems to so many people to be about destroying their culture and their comfort for the sake of crass material gain.

The sad part of the story is that globalization is a process that no one, not even the United States can control. You can strike out at the United States all you want, but you're not going to stop globalization.

And to forestall any responses along these lines: yes I know that there is much in U.S. history that would lead Islamic states to believe the United States was an anti-Islamic power. On the other hand, there's even more in the histories of those same nations to support such a theory, if you chose to interpret it that way.




insert self-deprecatory humor here
Culture (4.00 / 6) (#7)
by Weezul on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 04:35:16 PM EST

The U.S. cultural exports *are* destroing fundamentalist islamic culture. How would Jerry Falwell react if 80% of our porn and most of our ideas about gay rights were comming from Canada or Mexico? That dose not mean we should feal guilty about it. We are who we are and we can prance around naked if we want.

Now, economic globilization is a diffrent story since there really are gov. policies which cause problems for third world countries, but religious people blow up buildings for cultural reasons, not economic ones. Plus, they seem to blame the Jews for economic globalization. Clearly, the U.S. and Europe are much more fitting targets, but it's always been fashionable to blame Jews for economic problems (ala the Nazis). Also, middle easterners are not the perimary group afected by economic globilization. South America and Asia have infinitly more to complain about, but they are not the ones blowing up buildings since they don't give a damn about our cultural exports.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
Wrong! (3.57 / 7) (#9)
by wji on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 05:17:01 PM EST

It has nothing to do with globalization, miniskirts and CNN. People burn down McDonald's over that. They don't fly planes into buildings. People in the Middle East are upset by real things not abstract issues like globalization. Bin Laden is a fanatic. He'd probably hate us if we widthdrew from the entire Middle East, stopped Iraq sanctions, and cut off millitary aid to Isreal. But 'the swamp' mentioned in the article (actually, that term comes from Mao Tse-Tung) of the Middle East is a volatile brew of contempt for America's policies -- crushing sanctions in Iraq which have starved over a million but failed to keep weapons of mass destruction out of Saddam's hands, unending support for Isreal regardless of how many kids get shot by their 'Defense' forces, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It's the swamp that bin Laden needs. Without it, he's a crazy guy in a cave ranting about America. With it, he has the potential to lead what amounts to a mass revolution. And guess what? Bombing Afghanistan with peanut butter and bean paste is not going to change anyone's minds outside of America. The media outside of the US is far more independent and skeptical than the one Rumsfeld et al. are used to dealing with -- the one that spun the Gulf Slaughter into an orgy of patriotic mass celebration. America can't spin away the truth in the middle east.

In conclusion, the Powerpuff Girls are a reactionary, pseudo-feminist enterprise.
[ Parent ]
I don't buy it (3.66 / 3) (#19)
by Weezul on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 11:59:08 PM EST

The main stream U.S. media is not claiming that the ARabs hate us for cultural reasons. Yes, the far right U.S. media is making irrational claims that this is some sort of ware for freedom, but that's not what I said.

Actaully, I would have beleived all the things about Israel and Iraq being at the bottom of this situation, but Arab experts on the middle east and my Arab friends convinced me it's not true. These Arab experts literally said "Israel is not as importent as most Americans beleive." The truth is that many Muslems are affraid of the U.S. destroing they culture. I'm going to trust people with some personal perspective on the matter.

BTW> I'm not claiming the war is the best solution.. I have no idea what to do to solve the problem.

"Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." - Benito Mussolini
[ Parent ]
US-Centric view you seem to have (2.50 / 2) (#10)
by PresJPolk on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 07:16:25 PM EST

So you're saying that US culture is just so powerful, so irresistable, that merely making it available to people will inevitably destroy any other culture?

If a muslim buys a Coke and watches Baywatch, it's because that person made a choice.

[ Parent ]
Replying To: US-Centric view you seem to have (4.00 / 2) (#21)
by kzin on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:05:08 AM EST

If a muslim buys a Coke and watches Baywatch, it's because that person made a choice.
That's exactly the point; it is you who have a US-centric view. Placing "a person's choice" as the holiest of values is a very American (and to a large extent, European) sentiment. Many cultures don't share it.

[ Parent ]
Islamic Law (2.00 / 1) (#37)
by PresJPolk on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 12:58:20 PM EST

They only get the choice if the country they are in *gives* them the choice. Who let these imports into the country in the first place?

Let islamic countries patrol their borders and ban the imports, rather than expecting the US to be the policeman for the world. Very simple.

Look at the failure of the US drug war. If the islamic world is going to conduct a Hollywood war, it will fail just as miserably.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps, (none / 0) (#49)
by Happy Monkey on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 11:29:01 AM EST

Placing "a person's choice" as the holiest of values is a very American (and to a large extent, European) sentiment. Many cultures don't share it.

Put when those in power start killing those who don't choose to follow (the leaders' interpretation of) tradition, then it's sort of disingenuous to say that the culture doesn't share the value. If force is required to maintain values, then they are not the actual values of the culture. At the very least, if the majority of the people do agree wit hthe leaders, those who oppose that cultural system should be allowed to leave.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Cultural relativism and the Western ideology (none / 0) (#50)
by kzin on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 01:53:12 PM EST

At the very least, if the majority of the people do agree wit hthe leaders, those who oppose that cultural system should be allowed to leave.
According to your values and mine, they should. But what if they are traitors? What if they are criminals? Should they escape punishment for their deeds and flee to other countries? Would you say it is the right of any American prisoner too?

I am not a cultural relativist. I believe we might eventually be able to agree on at least a practical set of moral rules by which to live. But my point was unrelated to that. There is a misconception that the Western culture (or should I say, neo-Helenism) is some kind of a metaculture that has the capacity to co-exist and assimilate all other cultures and value systems everywhere, unchanged. That is very far from the truth as I see it. Even if you strip the Western culture from everything it has that does not contribute directly to co-existance, you will still have heck of a lot of value systems that will remain completely incompatible with it and will attempt to fight it and people who live by it ferociously. I am not saying that the Western culture is a bad idea; only that it co-existing with other cultures might still be a bit of a problem.

[ Parent ]

Hang on a sec'........ (4.66 / 3) (#13)
by THoliC on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:01:53 PM EST

Ermmmm:

Why is it that if the United States continues prosecuting a war against an Islamic country during Ramadan, it's considered evidence that the United States is prosecuting a war against Islam, but if Iran (or Iraq, or Egypt, or Syria, and so on and so forth) prosecutes a war against an Islamic country during Ramadan, it's not?

Well....pardon me for butting in here....and I concede I may well be off target....and naive....and ignorant....but....maybe....just maybe....it's....well....perhaps....because they are Islamic countries too??!!


"Wanderlust,
has got us both,
looking for a bed today..."

[ Parent ]
Islamic countries (3.00 / 1) (#14)
by PresJPolk on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:26:17 PM EST

That's exactly the point. It's a double standard.

If US action during Ramadan is anti-Islam, how can Iran and Iraq be considered Islamic countries when they conducted their wars right on through Ramadan.

[ Parent ]
Well.... (4.00 / 1) (#16)
by THoliC on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:44:40 PM EST

It may be a double standard, but it's hardly the case that the war is considered anti-islamic (by some) because it's been decided to continue through Ramadan. Many people (mostly muslim), here in the UK and elsewhere, were condemning the war as 'anti-islamic' long before this issue of Ramadan raised its head.

The point is that in any war between two muslim states (regardless of whether it is occuring during Ramadan or not), neither side can possibly be accused of being anti-islamic: It's the inane rhetoric I object to.

Besides: Apart from a very famous 'break' in the first world war (where football was played and the Germans won on penalties yet again...) there was no 'contemplative pause for Christmas' during either world war one or two. Why should you unfairly expect muslim countries to behave any differently? Seeing as we're talking double standard's here.....


"Wanderlust,
has got us both,
looking for a bed today..."

[ Parent ]
Obviously, but... (5.00 / 2) (#24)
by tudlio on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:31:23 AM EST

You've pointed out the obvious. Now go a little further into the logic.

If military action during Ramadan is an offense against the Islamic faith, then it should be an offense against the Islamic faith irrespective of who conducts the military action.

If military action by the United States against Afghanistan is an offense against the Islamic faith, then it should be an offense against the Islamic faith irrespective of when it occurs.

What appears to be a commonly held belief, however, is that military action during Ramadan by the United States is an offense against the Islamic faith, and that doesn't follow.

When Musharraf says stop the bombing during Ramadan, he's saying that the United States cannot prosecute a war in the Middle East under the same conditions as an Arab state could. He's saying the United States has to prove that it's not attacking the Islamic faith. And he's saying that (IMHO) because his constituents presume that the United States is attacking the Islamic faith.

That's the point I was trying to make.




insert self-deprecatory humor here
[ Parent ]
Important Double Standard (4.25 / 4) (#18)
by DarkZero on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 10:30:25 PM EST

How what you do is perceived is based on who you are. Think of it this way... I'm white. If I called a black man a "nigger", society would think it's fine for me to get my ass kicked, and that black man would probably want to kick my ass. If a black man calls a black man a "nigger", it's not even offensive. At all. That's the difference between Muslims attacking Muslims during Ramadan and the US attacking Muslims during Ramadan. If the Muslims are keeping it in the family, it's not seen as such a bad thing to fight during Ramadan, because obviously, neither of them could be construed as intentionally insulting Islam, because they're both Islamic. Much like the black man calling the other black man a nigger, it's implied that neither of them is insulting their race/religion, because both parties are from that race/religion. If the US attacks during Ramadan, though, it could easily be construed as anti-Islamic, especially since Bush has now given us a precedent of being anti-Islamic with that whole "Crusade against Evil" blunder.



[ Parent ]
nigger vs. nigga (5.00 / 2) (#30)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 03:42:19 AM EST

If a black man calls a black man a "nigger", it's not even offensive. At all.

Well, some people claim the words "nigger" and "nigga" are not the same-- the first one is an insult indeed, the second one an expression of solidarity. Though this is an extremely controversial topic.

And of course, the US public media discussion about it is extremely myopic. The use of words for "black" as markers of affection is all over Afrocaribbean cultures, or cultures influenced by them. In Haitian, the word nčg (etymologically from the French negre `black') means "man, guy, fellow". In Lousiana Cajun French, "neg" is an affectionate term; Viens icitte, mon neg "Come here, my friend". (It bears mentioning that Cajuns are white.) In Cuban Spanish, "negrito/a" is also an affectionate term-- you can find it all over salsa music: Baila conmigo mi negra "Dance with me my (black) woman". The woman doesn't have to be black for the sentence to be appropriate. You can see this repeated in other countries in the Hispanic Caribbean, say, Venezuela or Panamá.

In the US it is well attested that "nigga" can be used as a term of affection, even for people who are not black. This is not different from other societies in the New World where African slaves were imported. The difference is that the US has been institutionally very overtly white supremacist compared to other countries.

--em
[ Parent ]

Japanese use "nigga" as a term of affect (none / 0) (#31)
by theboz on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 08:58:07 AM EST

Here's a video to prove it. I was rather shocked after seeing this video as to the type of langauge they use.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Well written reply (none / 0) (#36)
by The Great Satan on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 11:57:30 AM EST

<applause>


Check out my comic at www.shizit.net/alpha. Or take care of your post hardcore music needs at www.shizit.net. Or ignore this lame self-promotional spam.
[ Parent ]
Attacks coinciding w/holy days (none / 0) (#46)
by DaBunny on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 05:26:40 PM EST

Along the same lines, why was a sneak attack specifically planned for the single day Yom Kippur (Yom Kippur war of 1973) acceptable to the same people who now call for a month-long ceasefire for Ramadan?

[ Parent ]
One small worry: (4.00 / 3) (#5)
by spacejack on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 02:20:10 PM EST

There's a reason American corporations hire advertising agencies within the countries they wish to sell their products in, rather than using their own. They had better be damn sure they're listening to their international consultants on this one -- American media usually tends to rub the rest of the world the wrong way. I'd be a lot more optimistic had they hired a British firm. Maybe get Ridley Scott... I think he made a pretty cool ad for some British telecom recently.

(Tangentally.. did anyone ever see the movie "Jewel of the Nile"?)

yeah, but... (1.00 / 1) (#26)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:51:32 AM EST

ref:
(Tangentally.. did anyone ever see the movie "Jewel of the Nile"?)
Yeah, but there was that cool Muslim guy in the Indian Jones movies.



[ Parent ]

Cartoon? (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by J'raxis on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 03:03:01 PM EST

This one?

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]

We lost the PR war early (4.12 / 8) (#8)
by epcraig on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 05:05:59 PM EST

Best of luck to the administration overcoming the "Crusade" characterisation of anti-terrorism in the first days after the attacks. When one preaches crusade, one needs to recall who was on the receiving end of such historic efforts, because Muslims and Jews do remember, even if Protestants have alarmingly shorter memories.
There is no EugeneFreeNet.org, there is an efn.org
Protestants (5.00 / 2) (#25)
by rusty on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:33:24 AM EST

The protestant memory really only goes back to 1517. The last crusade was in the thirteenth century.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Albigenses (none / 0) (#54)
by cyberbuffalo on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 09:51:59 AM EST

I think he is referring to the crusade against the Albigenses. They really weren't Protestants though, but some people like to group any heretical Christian sect as being Protestant.

[ Parent ]
Nope (none / 0) (#56)
by epcraig on Sun Dec 16, 2001 at 07:49:58 PM EST

I was referring to the Protestants' adoption of the term "Crusade" as in Billy Graham's evangelist efforts, or the Campus Crusade for Christ. It's a relatively innocuous term from that quarter.

Protestants who use the term associate it with Richard the Lion Hearted, Robin Hood, broadswords against scimatars & such romanticism.

Jews think of the sack of ghettoes in the Rhein, Italy, and the expulsion from Spain, even Russian Pogroms.

Orthodox Christians remember a sack or two of Constantinople.

Muslims remember lots of slaughters in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Mr. Bush's ignorance of other cultural contexts of the term "Crusade" will come back to haunt him, even after the last Al Qa'ida fighter leaves Afghanistan or gets killed trying. The President preached a Crusade, without thinking at all of what non-Protestants might associate with that concept. The blowback of his ignorance will linger long after the victories.
There is no EugeneFreeNet.org, there is an efn.org
[ Parent ]

<sarcasm> Yay Propoganda! </sarcasm> (3.50 / 4) (#11)
by NicholasRP on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 07:31:19 PM EST

Maybe it is just me but this is the exact reason I don't even watch TV anymore. I hate ads that try to force a lifestyle on me. I hate listening to the president speak some carefully worked speech full of spin. It's all a load of crap. I think Von Hayek's ideas on how seperation of people from the state is a bad thing really really apply here. We've got a crap load of people in office right now that are trying to take away our rights, give more power to corporations, and tell us that they have done no wrong. Fuck them. I dunno, if it gets any worse my ass is moving to new zealand and hearding sheep for a living.

Getting memory addresses instead of your objects at 4am is no bueno. ~Nick
<sarcasm> freedom of hate / love speech < (3.50 / 2) (#12)
by mami on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 07:52:27 PM EST

the ultimate tool to avoid wars - according to Libertarians, AFAIK.

Let 'em talk, they will die anyhow with hate / love propaganda or without it.

Hmm, that doesn't sound nice and right, does it ?

[ Parent ]

Garbage in, Garbage out (4.00 / 2) (#15)
by PresJPolk on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 08:29:55 PM EST

It's not just computers whose output is of the same quality as the input.

If you sit and whine, and whine, and whine, and insist that *everyone* is corrupt, and there's *nothing* that can be done, and don't actually learn about how it works, and don't ever dare take part, how is anything actually going to change to your liking?

So go ahead, go to New Zealand. You're not of any use to us here. Let the sheep put up with your whininess.

[ Parent ]
Maybe you never read Von Hayek (3.66 / 3) (#20)
by NicholasRP on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 01:46:38 AM EST

But with the degree of seperation all ready in place the United States is no longer a democracy. It is a socialistic republic of aristocrats supported by big business and... you guessed it... MONEY. You are the exact and directed audience of the propaganda wars. You have vitally proven the point that money can and will be able to purchase any goal or directive. But for arguments sake, let's say I did have some fractional power to change things. I probably wouldn't get as far as my block in trying to dissuade the mass-media automitons from participating in their democracy. Have you ever read the Declaration of Independence? You wanna know how many extremist groups have tried to claim the same thing? For god sakes just look at the civil war! The Right to Seperation is vastly overwhelmed by the governments made up right to persistence and preservation. I dunno...I dont want to get into a massive argument with someone that simply Doesn't Understand the government they support. But whatever, you know good ol' joes like you call it whining and say to take part. And educated people call it observation and say "open your fucking eyes"

Getting memory addresses instead of your objects at 4am is no bueno. ~Nick
[ Parent ]
Socialistic? (4.00 / 2) (#23)
by rusty on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:25:22 AM EST

I think you meant "oligarchic".

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
state run coporations (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by The Great Satan on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 11:25:26 AM EST

He might mean that there isn't a lot of difference between a state run corporation and a state sponsored corporation ( a corporation preserved from a free market death through government subsidies and bail outs).


Check out my comic at www.shizit.net/alpha. Or take care of your post hardcore music needs at www.shizit.net. Or ignore this lame self-promotional spam.
[ Parent ]
Watching NZ media is quite interesting... (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by admcg on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 10:01:46 PM EST

We get a mixture of US and UK reporting on this, and the US coverage just looks mentally unbalanced. The feeling here is a lot of "what a load of raving lunatics", bin Laden and Bush both!

From this side of the world, it looks like a really bad idea to travel to the US right now; I'm seriously considering cancelling a trip next month.

There are things to do here besides sheep too... they may be the backbone of the economy, but only a small proportion of the population are directly involved. Good luck with immigration, though, you'll need it.



[ Parent ]

TV vs Net (5.00 / 2) (#22)
by rusty on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:23:50 AM EST

I get the vast majority of my news from the net, and I have much the same experience watching TV news these days. It's so... bizarre. Every time I catch a tv news broadcast now, it seems to consist of three items of "news" that I knew three days ago, and have already discussed in great detail, followed by some kind of dramatic 90-second expose on something which isn't an issue (What You NEED To Know About Smallpox!), and then a couple heartwarming stories about [firefighters|policemen|local business|the flag|pets|kids].

It's so vapid. I'm scared to even try to find out if this is the major source of news for most of America. I'm almost positive it is, though.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Not all US news sources are so bad (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by demi on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 03:08:39 AM EST

As far as I know, while the majority of Americans do watch a network news or CNN report of some kind daily, they also read newspapers, which I have found to be much more reasonable and factual than, say, Dan Rather. Local news casts, even in big city markets, are a complete joke.

The News Hour with Jim Lehrer is very fair, factual, and usually offers discussion on the most important issues, on a much more intelligent level than Crossfire or Politically Incorrect. In fact there are a lot of excellent news programs on PBS that pretty much everyone who lives near a large city will have access to. There is also C-SPAN which has been airing some foreign news conferences (the only one that I take seriously).



[ Parent ]

True, true (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by rusty on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 03:38:10 AM EST

Local TV news is useless. Network TV news is next-to-useless. Cable TV news is all over the map, but mostly identical to network TV news.

There are a few really good newspapers here, like the Washington Post, and (ergh, I hate to admit it) The New York Times (which I still hate, but not because I think their news coverage is bad -- it isn't). The majority of American newspapers, though, suck almost as bad as network TV news. The Christian Science Monitor is another good paper for news coverage. But guess what newspaper has the highest circulation in the US? Yup, USA Today. Which is less accurate and reliable than the Post's comics page.

All of the above tend to have better coverage on their websites than in any other medium (despite the NYT's ardent efforts to make it as difficult as possible to use). And if I had to name one "best ever" source of non-net news, it would be NPR with a bullet.

Anyway, enough of my yammering. The point was that there are good options, yes, but they aren't reaching people. The Mass Media continues to tell the largest number of people the most dubiously relevant (or accurate) information, which has resulted in a frighteningly uninformed populace, as everyone would expect it to.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Newspapers (none / 0) (#40)
by epepke on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:21:42 PM EST

When I was in New York about a week and a half after the attacks, the very best coverage came from Newsday, a daily tabloid. It was much better than the New York Times or the Washington Post.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Interesting (5.00 / 1) (#41)
by rusty on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:29:08 PM EST

That's interesting. Yeah, and then we have this whole war thing, where all the rules pretty much went out the window, for a few weeks. What was reliable before and what wasn't suddenly didn't seem to matter anymore, for a while. But I don't know how lasting the reversal could be. I don't see any new media superstars from 9/11 coverage. It seems like most places have gone back to their normal roles.

____
Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Newpapers? (2.00 / 1) (#34)
by The Great Satan on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 11:33:34 AM EST

You're kidding, right?

They still make those?


Check out my comic at www.shizit.net/alpha. Or take care of your post hardcore music needs at www.shizit.net. Or ignore this lame self-promotional spam.
[ Parent ]
entertainment media (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by The Great Satan on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 11:49:59 AM EST

"We get a mixture of US and UK reporting on this, and the US coverage just looks mentally unbalanced. The feeling here is a lot of "what a load of raving lunatics", bin Laden and Bush both!"

Looks the same from the U.S. perspective. "Mentally unbalanced?" Check. "Raving Lunatics?" Check.

"From this side of the world, it looks like a really bad idea to travel to the US right now; I'm seriously considering cancelling a trip next month."

It's been a while since I've visited a major city but I think the media has given you the wrong idea. The U.S. isn't in particularly bad shape. I wouldn't blame you for not wanting to fly though.


Check out my comic at www.shizit.net/alpha. Or take care of your post hardcore music needs at www.shizit.net. Or ignore this lame self-promotional spam.
[ Parent ]
Bush has never heard of postmodernism. (4.75 / 4) (#27)
by demi on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:56:08 AM EST

The result is that although the allies may be winning the military war, the equally important propaganda war is anything but won.

Great point, BestAce, although I would argue that in this kind of engagement the propaganda war is far more important than any military action. After all, I don't really think there is any question over whether the combined might of a US and UK expeditionary force could destroy all of the Taliban forces and members of Al-Qaida too. From the beginning it was recognized that Afghanistan is a very 'target-poor' environment, whose population was still recovering from decades of strife. For the US military to wage war there only reinforces the stereotype of a big bully pushing around weaklings, a hypocritical hegemon, determined to have its way no matter what the cost. There are reactionary political elements (some of them marginal, some of them mainstream) all over the world that have ascended to power by exploiting this stereotype that we have done absolutely nothing to counteract.

What we are supposed to do is support our actions with intelligent and compelling arguments. What we have done instead is resort to moral absolutes, which in the eyes of the postmodern Western world have absolutely no rhetorical meaning. Hiring some marketeer to makeover our image in the Islamic world isn't going to help when people in America and Europe are repeating the same old blather about our 'corporate-controlled' media telling the world lies, etc. Our rhetorical fight has to become smarter, and more meaningful, and it should begin in North America and Western Europe. The people in the Islamic world that we have a reasonable chance of reaching are more closely attuned to western sources of information than Al-Jazeera anyway.

The political dialogue in this country has degenerated to the point of utter meaninglessness. Public officials are not able to describe what they believe in, what their opinion is, or what their intented actions are without using an endless stream of qualifiers. Our own President is not capable of forming a complete sentence in his native language. Have all of our best thinkers become lawyers, entrepreneurs, and physicians? Has public service in the United States become such an unattractive career choice, that we cannot fill the gigantic vacuum in this country for resonant, assertive ideas?

Bin Laden may or may not be `psychotic', as the real British Foreign Minister Jack Straw described him, but there is no doubt he is a smart man when it comes to public relations. Goebbels himself would have been impressed.

There is nothing new about any of his ideas that makes them especially attractive or even resonant. He changes his tune every time there is an interview. What has made his face and voice so powerful is the complete absence of any intelligent or effective rebuttals. He basically spouts a combination of Islamist doctrine and some reactionary anti-US invective. His public relations 'secret' is to simply stay alive, now that we really want him dead. He has a million different options on his plate right now.

There is one more thing I would like to add. During the month of Ramadan, millions of Muslims worldwide will visit mosques for a month of worship and contemplation. They will take some time out from their work lives to concentrate on prayer, sometimes spending several hours a day in religious gatherings. In muslim countries, citizens do not always enjoy the right to assemble for political reasons, but they are obviously compelled to participate in the fasting. What things will be on their minds during that month?



Re: Bush has never heard of postmodernism. (none / 0) (#39)
by Moneo on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 01:45:34 PM EST

After all, I don't really think there is any question over whether the combined might of a US and UK expeditionary force could destroy all of the Taliban forces and members of Al-Qaida too.

I'm not so sure about that one. The US can certainly defeat any force in conventional warfare, certainly. Afghanistan, however, is very likely to turn into a guerilla war. The Taliban is on the verge of being driven out of Kabul, but that hardly accomplishes anything. Once US/Northern Alliance forces have taken the cities the real test will begin -- guerilla forays from the mountains against stationary forces in cities. Let us also remember what this war is (supposedly) all about: getting bin Laden. Not driving the Taliban out of Kabul, not establishing a new regime in Afghanistan. The US cannot legitimately claim to have won this war until they have captured or killed a man who is currently in hiding in the Afghan mountains, not in Kabul.

He changes his tune every time there is an interview. What has made his face and voice so powerful is the complete absence of any intelligent or effective rebuttals. He basically spouts a combination of Islamist doctrine and some reactionary anti-US invective. His public relations 'secret' is to simply stay alive, now that we really want him dead.

This is simply not true. Osama bin Laden has been very consisent in his grievances and demands in various interviews: His primary goal is the cessation of what he calls "the US occupation of the Holy Land [Saudi Arabia]" and the overthrow of the Saud family dictatorship (and its replacement with a "properly Muslim" government). He touches on other Arab/Muslim interests (Iraq, Palestine, etc) both because they are secondary issues with him and as a means of gathering support in the Arab/Muslim world.

His face and voice are his public relations 'secret' and their strength does not come from the lack of intelligent response (although that certainly reinforces their appeal). As I have mentioned in other posts, Osama bin Laden a highly charismatic, very eloquent individual -- far more so than either Blair or Bush. His mastery of the language is impeccable, his delivery flawless and his sincerity painfully evident. In addition, he is addressing grievances shared by many in the Arab world. That is why he is popular, not because the West has failed to put together a cogent response to his broadcasts.
Propaganda plays the same role in a democracy as violence does in a dictatorship. -- Noam Chomsky
[ Parent ]

OBL isn't what he is made out to be. (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by demi on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 03:44:44 PM EST

Osama bin Laden has been very consisent in his grievances and demands in various interviews: His primary goal is the cessation of what he calls "the US occupation of the Holy Land [Saudi Arabia]" and the overthrow of the Saud family dictatorship (and its replacement with a "properly Muslim" government).

It may be true that his prime motivation was the quartering of US troops on Saudi Arabian soil (the defiling of the Holy Land). But for the last five years he has used that same argument and it has not been particularly resonant. Reverting to theocratic government is not very popular either (even Iran has begun to secularize). Talking about US troops in Saudi Arabia occupies a very small proportion of the issues OBL touches upon in each release. He desperately needs to attach himself to mainstream political currents so that attacking OBL will mean attacking mainstream muslim beliefs. THAT is how you win a propaganda war.

He touches on other Arab/Muslim interests (Iraq, Palestine, etc) both because they are secondary issues with him and as a means of gathering support in the Arab/Muslim world.

He needs whatever support he can get. Saddam tried the same thing in the Gulf War when he launched SCUD missiles at Israel and claimed that the invasion of Kuwait was part of driving the imperialists/oppressors out of the Middle East. It's actually the same rationalization that Japan, the Soviet Union, have used after an invasion. OBL is cornered and he has managed to blur the distinction between himself and more legitimate political activists in the region. The results are predictable (vide supra).

As I have mentioned in other posts, Osama bin Laden a highly charismatic, very eloquent individual -- far more so than either Blair or Bush.

I'm sorry, but I think you are buying into a packaged idea here. OBL's message is far more effective in the Middle East because he reduces matters to moral absolutes where being a bystander is not an option. When Bush and Blair do the same thing, they are roundly criticized in the West for being deceptive and opaque (and justifiably IMO). There is nothing eloquent at all about OBL's messages, primarily because they re-iterate sentiment that is already circulating in the Middle East. What goes into a particularly stirring editorial in an Egyptian newspaper on Monday will be re-iterated by the Taliban and Al-Qaida on Friday. It is very difficult to form arguments that appeal broadly to any audience in the West nowadays, although Blair is doing his best (I don't know what Bush is doing).

His mastery of the language is impeccable, his delivery flawless and his sincerity painfully evident. In addition, he is addressing grievances shared by many in the Arab world.

I agree absolutely that his calm visage is a potent weapon. After all, the Taliban have claimed that we lack the belly to fight in Afghanistan. Amidst the chaos, there is this serene and determined man, determined and unbroken, against the Western leaders who are coming under attack from their own side. There is very little that OBL has to do in this situation but remain alive and defiant of the 'folly' of US military might. Time is on his side.

Osama bin Laden is a folk hero, like Robin Hood. I think his popularity is to a large extent independent of his ideas (although they can only help). His very few words are interpreted endlessly by people in the Western world who think he is more like the Arabic version of Che Guevara (who was also US trained). As long as people view him as a political revolutionary and de-emphasizing the major threat to the Middle East that he presents, then it makes no difference what rhetorical approach we take.



[ Parent ]

Several points (4.66 / 3) (#45)
by Moneo on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 04:52:56 PM EST

You're correct in much of your interpretation. For example, reversion to a theocratic government does not appeal to most people in the region; I had no intention of implying that it did. Yes, OBL does attach himself to mainstream Arab sentiment (Iraq, Palestine), but he does so not only as a propaganda move, but because he shares those sentiments.

In one area, however, I cannot agree with you:

I'm sorry, but I think you are buying into a packaged idea here. OBL's message is far more effective in the Middle East because he reduces matters to moral absolutes where being a bystander is not an option.

No. OBL's message is effective in the Middle East because he addresses issues which resonate with people in the region -- the continuing bombing of Iraq by the U[S|K] and the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestine (with US support). As for his eloquence and charisma: I'm offering my opinion as someone who is fluent in English and functional in Arabic and who has watched Bush, Blair and bin Laden speak in recent months. I am also expressing the opinion of several other Arabs with whom I have spoken -- there has been everything from admiration of his rhetorical capability to statements that he is 'the prophet returned'.

I think a more appropriate comparison than Robin Hood or Che Guevara would be Hitler or Alexander -- magnetic personalities, regardless of your stance on their ideology.

Regardless of whether or not he is connected to the September 11th attacks, I do not condone bin Laden's techniques (I don't condone the US' techniques, either, but that's another discussion). I do, however, recognize and admire his eloquence and rhetorical ability (particularly the video released at the commencement of the war in Afghanistan).
Propaganda plays the same role in a democracy as violence does in a dictatorship. -- Noam Chomsky
[ Parent ]

you are very fortunate. (none / 0) (#48)
by demi on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 06:18:07 PM EST

I'm offering my opinion as someone who is fluent in English and functional in Arabic and who has watched Bush, Blair and bin Laden speak in recent months.

If you are able to at least partially understand the broadcasts or unedited material, you have my envy. What I would not give to be able to do the same!

I am also expressing the opinion of several other Arabs with whom I have spoken -- there has been everything from admiration of his rhetorical capability to statements that he is 'the prophet returned'.

Yeah, I have also turned to my friends from the middle east for much-needed perspective. They are much more circumspect than your friends, although nobody can deny that he has won over many hearts and minds.



[ Parent ]

Ramadan (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by The Great Satan on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 11:16:48 AM EST

"calling for the bombing to stop during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan"

Does the Northern Alliance get a vote on this? Aren't they also Muslims?


Check out my comic at www.shizit.net/alpha. Or take care of your post hardcore music needs at www.shizit.net. Or ignore this lame self-promotional spam.
Huh? (none / 0) (#38)
by chipuni on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 01:24:42 PM EST

I didn't know that the Northern Alliance was dropping any bombs...
--
Perfection is not reached when nothing more can be added, but only when nothing more can be taken away.
Wisdom for short attention spans.
[ Parent ]
Bombs and Ramadan (none / 0) (#42)
by A Trickster Imp on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 02:42:51 PM EST

> knowing that continued bombing undermines claims
> by Western leaders that they are not waging a war
> against Islam.

On the other hand, one could argue exactly the opposite. This is a secular war against fanatics who claim Islam, and are trying to portray it as a Holy War even though they know it isn't. The Moslim leaders know it isn't, *especially* the ones who are claiming otherwise to the kept masses.

There is no shortage of Islam's equivalent of Jerry Falwell and Pat Roberston in every even remotely Islam country out there.

Do you trumpet the cause, concerns, and beliefs of the unwashed masses who buy into Roberston? Why not? Because you know it's a bunch of hogwash.

So stop worrying about what a bunch of uneducated, hate-filled people in another country worry about.








[ Parent ]
No (none / 0) (#47)
by Best Ace on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 05:42:20 PM EST

'stop worrying about what a bunch of uneducated, hate-filled people in another country worry about'

I think that is a very dangerous proposition. Nobody in the West was worrying about what the 'hate-filled people in another country' were thinking before the World Trade Center was attacked. The reason people do so now, but do not listen to the likes of Jerry Falwell is that it was the 'hate-filled people in another country' and not Jerry Falwell that killed 6000 people in the US. If that is not a reason for worrying about what these people think, then I don't know what is. Whether or not their beliefs are a 'bunch of hogwash' is irrelevant, its all about propaganda and perception.

If America wants to follow your advice and continues to ignore what the Islamic terrorists are saying, then that is its perogative, but it should not then be surprised if more terrorist attacks occur.

[ Parent ]

They aren't (none / 0) (#52)
by The Great Satan on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 08:46:09 PM EST

The U.S. is providing air support to back the Northern Alliance's ground forces. The Northern Alliance are Muslims as well and as far as I can tell intend to continue their advance through Ramadan. Unlike the rest of the Muslim world I would imagine the Northern Alliance would want the U.S. to continue bombing the Taliban. Otherwise the Northern Alliance is going to take more casualties.


Check out my comic at www.shizit.net/alpha. Or take care of your post hardcore music needs at www.shizit.net. Or ignore this lame self-promotional spam.
[ Parent ]
We're a democracy! (5.00 / 2) (#44)
by gblues on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 04:17:17 PM EST

Democracy is immune to the powers of propaganda. Civilization III taught me this.

Nathan
... although in retrospect, having sex to the news was probably doomed to fail from the get-go. --squinky
Ramadan (none / 0) (#51)
by Macrobat on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 07:43:18 PM EST

One thing I don't get about the proposal to stop bombing during Ramadan--wouldn't that be tantamount to saying yes, the Taliban really are legitimate representatives of Islam? That hardly seems to be the message we want to put out to the world. Maybe we're damned if we do, damned if we don't, but it hardly seems to make sense that we should bomb them one day and treat them like holy men the next.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.

Ramadan (none / 0) (#53)
by Best Ace on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 06:16:25 AM EST

I guess pausing the bombing for Ramadan is not for the benefit of the Taliban, it's more for the benefit of the rest of the Muslim world. In any case, after more than a month of bombing, there can't be many targets left in a country that was already a rubble park. Ramadan might be a good excuse to pause and take stock of the situation.

[ Parent ]
True (none / 0) (#55)
by Macrobat on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 02:06:52 PM EST

I guess that's what I mean by "damned if we don't." Although the way things have been going for the last few days, it looks like the bombinq campaign may already be over.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

Propaganda Wars | 56 comments (53 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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