A perceptive Singaporean diplomat and scholar, Kishore Mahbubani, was asked two years ago what puzzled him about America’s competition with Osama bin Laden. Mahbubani replied: “How has one man in a cave managed to out-communicate the world’s greatest communication society?”
I and many others have often expressed frustration at the way that America has refused to act effectively in the information battle-space of the Global Jihad and Counterjihad.
Richard Halloran describes likely strategies for future national communications at Parameters, Autumn 2007:
The traditional channels for communication—the printed press, radio, television, and motion pictures—are supposedly well understood by political leaders, government officials, diplomats, and military officers. Despite years of experience in dealing with journalists of all stripes, however, those leaders are often inept. James Lacey, a reserve Army colonel and a freelance journalist, once wrote: “Thousands of officers who spend countless hours learning every facet of their profession do not spend one iota of their time understanding or learning to engage with a strategic force that can make or break their best efforts.”22 The same could be said of leaders in other walks of public life. Thus the role of the printed press, television news, and radio news are needs to be underscored. They are an essential element of strategic communication—not the only element, by any means, but one that is vital to successful mass communications. Seven basic principles for dealing with the press are:23
- Project a professional and civil attitude, neither pandering to the press nor evincing hostility. The old saying applies: “You catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a barrel of vinegar.” Besides, the journalists own the printing presses and buy ink by the 55-gallon drum.
- Understand that there is no such institution as “the media.” The press, television, and radio are too diverse, too competitive, and too unruly to be classed as an institution. The biggest difference is between print and broadcast. Print reporters need time and explanation; broadcasters need pictures and sound bites.
- Learn the ground rules, which is press lingo for the rules of engagement. Know what is on the record, on background and not for attribution, and off the record. The safest rule is always tell a journalist only what you want to see in the newspaper or on the air.
- Lying to the press is never permissible. Idealistically, it would be an ethical violation. Realistically, the liar will probably get caught and his credibility will be destroyed. A time may well come when you need the press to believe you, and they won’t. Lastly, the truth is easier to remember the next time around.
- Mind your own business and discuss matters pertinent to your nation, service, rank, and position. Never speculate since what you say could be overtaken by events. Never answer a hypothetical question, for the same reason. Never submit to an ambush interview, when the camera catches you off guard.
- Anticipate, don’t wait for the news to happen, go make the news. Muslims are killing more Muslims than are Americans, but US officials rarely make a point of this. Also, be ready to react as the press and TV will be there. Like Murphy’s Law, assume that “what can leak out will leak out.”
- Never let a mistake stand. Form robust “truth squads.” Uncorrected mistakes get into the public domain and databases to acquire a life of their own and are often repeated and compounded. Moreover, journalists don’t learn unless their mistakes are pointed out.
The Internet is the newest battlefield for strategic communication, and one that the United States so far has conceded to Islamic terrorists. The Economist magazine had a solid report on the Muslim infiltration of the Internet for its “jihad,” or struggle, against America. It said “the Internet gives jihadists an ideal vehicle for propaganda, providing access to large audiences free of government censorship or media filters, while carefully preserving their anonymity. Its ability to connect disparate jihadi groups creates a sense of a global Islamic movement fighting to defend the global ummah, or community, from a common enemy.” The Economist, which is edited and published in London but circulates widely in the United States, continued: “The ease and cheapness of processing words, pictures, sound, and video has brought the era not only of the citizen-journalist but also the terrorist-journalist.” The magazine asserted that “battlefield footage of American Humvees being blown up to shouts of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ (God is Great) appear on the Internet within minutes of the attacks taking place. In short, the hand-held video camera has become as important a tool of insurgency as the AK-47 or the RPG rocket-launcher.
Deception should be rigorously forbidden in strategic communication. Sun Tzu reminds us “all warfare is based on deception,” an adage that lieutenants leading platoons and admirals commanding fleets have long embraced. In the modern world of pervasive communication, however, it is all but impossible to deceive an adversary without also deceiving allies, friends, neutrals, and most important, the citizens of one’s own nation. For this reason, psychological operations, which rightly include disinformation and other deceptions, should not come under the purview of the Office of Strategic Communication. Rather, psyops should be kept in the Special Operations Command or spun off to the Central Intelligence Agency or wherever else might be appropriate. Everything in the realm of strategic communication should be as truthful as human endeavor can make it.Tell the truth even though sometimes, for security, you can’t tell the whole truth.
These communications strategies suit US Government communications, and also communications from American patriots who understand that the Truth is in America’s favor: Truth about America; about the Bloodthirsty, Evil Terrorists and Jihadists who have declared War on America and the world; about Israel; about Russia; and the corruption endemic at international organizations such as the UN. More of the truth, and less of the destructive Jihadist, Communist, and Post-Modernist propaganda that infects academia and the media, are needed.
Truth is powerful. Truth is enough. Truth is what we need. Desperately.
Spread it around.