The Bush administration and members of Congress have called for renewed efforts to improve America's image in the Islamic world, with Bush worrying aloud that the U.S. is losing the propaganda war to Islamic extremists. "I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us," Bush said. "We've got to do a better job of making our case." An expensive advertising campaign in the Arab world, coupled with beefed-up Voice of America broadcasts, is making little headway as these PR efforts encounter a skeptical audience.
The UK Guardian reports, "Only five days after the bombing of Afghanistan began, Mr Blair made the extraordinary admission that the west was in danger of losing the propaganda war in Muslim states. He said: 'One thing becoming increasingly clear to me is the need to upgrade our media and public opinion operations in the Arab and Muslim world. There is a need for us to communicate effectively.'"
Dr. Nancy Snow spent two years working within the ranks of America's official propaganda organ, the United States Information Agency, and then surgically exposed the inner workings of the organization in her acclaimed publication, Propaganda Inc. In this interview with the Guerrilla News Network, Dr. Snow breaks down the covert history of U.S. propaganda efforts both inside and outside of the country's borders. Tracing the strategies employed by top propagandists like George Creel and Walter Lippman, Dr.
"The five major television news organizations reached a joint agreement yesterday to follow the suggestion of the White House and abridge any future videotaped statements from Osama bin Laden or his followers to remove language the government considers inflammatory," reports the New York Times.
U.S. politicians such as Congressman Tom Lantos are trying to understand why "the white venom of hate is oozing" from countries like Indonesia to Pakistan, "two nations that we have helped enormously since they gained independence.'' The solution, they think, might be better public relations, such as a new international advertising campaign now being planned by Charlotte Beers, the new U.S. Undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. If he wants to know why the PR isn't working, however, Lantos should review a little history.
The U.S. armed forces are waging a propaganda war in Afghanistan with leaflets, radio broadcasts, and food according to an AP story. "The effort involves information soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, a division of the U.S. Air Force's Special Operations Command. The psy-ops soldiers have planes to scatter leaflets, mobile print shops that can be dropped by parachute and loudspeaker systems to blare messages. The soldiers use local languages to reach people on the ground.
If the United States is embarking on the first war of the 21st century, and one that the president has said may be "secret even in success," then the damming up of information out of Washington is part of the strategy. Although the administration says it is not engaged in censorship, officials throughout the government readily say they have been ordered to be circumspect about their remarks. The caution extends even to the sanitizing of government Web sites -- including large-scale digital maps and a report on the poor security at some chemical plants.
In a TomPaine.com commentary, Institute for Public Accuracy's Sam Husseini warns of the chilling effect the Federal Communications Commission, the agency that controls broadcast licenses, could have on reporting U.S. military actions. Husseini recalls the Pentagon Papers, an internal report on Vietnam that few media outlets would touch for fear of drawing expensive and threatening FCC investigations.
The "war on terrorism" has made life easier for President Bush's image handlers, reports Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, who describes the way journalists have come to "rely on Bush's inner circle for behind-the-scenes color about the tense atmosphere" inside the White House.
A front-page story by USA Today reporting that US special forces had already been covertly operating in Afghanistan for two weeks has stirred up controversy for journalists. At issue is whether USA Today's story, which was picked up by AP and CNN, may have endanger US military forces. The Boston Globe writes, "with the administration stressing the need for secrecy and stealth, some of the public reaction [to the USA Today story] accused journalists of unpatriotically divulging covert military action.