Category Archives: drive-by media

Seek Truth and Report It

From Ace of Spades via TigerHawk via Dissecting Leftism. Ace tears into the increasingly desperate Big Media:

No one — no one — ever got into the media to report on local car collisions or new and exciting federal farm subsidies.What they got into the media to do was to tell people how and what to think, and its that prerogative of the Intellectual Aristocracy, and not the unglamorous business of information collection, collation, and dissemination, that they’re crying about losing.

Note that they do not dare actually state their belief that they are specially qualified to do the thinking for the American public. They can’t say such a thing. The public would laugh at their presumption — some idiots went to a one year finishing school (and not a particularly academically demanding one besides) and now they have the special privilege of deciding what the public should think about each and every issue?

So instead they have to make the argument dishonestly — whining about a job that isn’t seriously threatened in order to preserve the job they really fret about losing, but a job which no one ever asked them — let alone beatified them — to do. How reporters got conflated with analysts and general-purpose experts without portfolio is anyone’s guess. But that conflation having been made (at least in the minds of some, particularly their own), they’ll be damned if they’re going to give that gig up now.

Ace was griping about an editorial in the LA Times. But he’s talking about a well known journalistic “type,” the idealistic journalist who wants to “make a difference,” break “the next Watergate,” to “speak truth to power,” and “stick it to the man.” And judging by the evidence in every paper, the wire services and papers are chock full of such bozos.

The central problem with journalism today is that journalists do not do their central mission well.

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Associated Propagandists Gets Another One Wrong

In a classic case of a news organization getting the story wrong by 180 degrees, we have this AP article.

U.S. Plans Missile Bases in Europe

Associated Press Writer

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — The United States has entered a decisive phase in a plan to set up missile defense sites in Eastern Europe – a system Washington says is aimed at protecting itself and its allies against potential attacks from the Middle East. (source)

In AP’s world, a Missile Defense site becomes a Missile site. Because in AP’s world, missiles intended to kill people and destroy cities are no more terrible and terrifying than missiles intended to stop missiles of the first type. Causing death and destruction to others is morally equivalent to preventing death and destruction of your own. 1984 has come true and AP is the Ministry of Truth. AP has truly come to mean “Associated Propagandists.”

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AP Lobbies U.S. Congress Against Surge

Here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, AP makes clear that its agenda is to oppose the President of the United States in everything he does, and most especially in this war. In no particular surprise to anyone, Zawahiri agrees with AP.

Also joining AP in its lobbying effort, NYT and Reuters.

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The Counterjihad Infowar 2.2: Narratives at War

Updated: Title

Josh Manchester writes of narratives and counternarratives, of soldiers and journalists, of traditionalists and multiculturalists, at TCS Daily.

When it comes to ground forces, the American press has a standard template for wartime narratives. Developed in wwii_soldiers.pngWorld War II, it has morphed over the years (to the detriment of the perception of our forces) but has remained largely intact. Much of it has reflected the nature of the wars in which the US has become involved.

The Standard Narrative goes something like this: There is a massive deployment of US forces to the far side of the world. This action is more or less just and warranted. The troops charge into battle, sometimes many battles. All the while, there’s an understanding everywhere of an end-state – a point at which the war’s goals will have been accomplished and then, most importantly, everyone can come home.

Throughout all of this there is a standard typecast character: the American enlisted infantryman. Usually he is portrayed with undercurrents of victimhood (this is one of the innovations in the Standard Narrative since WWII.). We see such images in the recent gaffes of Senator Kerry and Congressman Rangel, in which they respectively questioned the intelligence and alternative employment prospects of military personnel. Running through this undercurrent are a couple of others: a sort of class warfare vibe, in which it is assumed that only the poor do the fighting, and a related guilt vibe, in which it is posited that since the troops are merely pitiable, poor, undereducated, unemployable automatons, the best way to “support” them is to bring them home. This entire panoply of implied images even applies when troops are painted in a semi-heroic light. See Forrest Gump.

There’s one more aspect to the Standard Narrative: frequent “horror of war” type memes.

Many have long complained that the press tells the wrong stories about everything, but that they are even worse at telling stories about war than other topics. This seems to be because instead of telling the story as it happens, they overlay the events they report into a story they brought with them. This is why the stories told by reporters bear only a funhouse mirror resemblance to the events they report. This is because reporters believe act as if they are fiction writers, not reporters.

Maybe an example of how these stories work will help.

One typical war story pattern is Supplication, as in the Seven Samurai or the Magnificent Seven. A village of ordinary people is plagued by renegade soldiers who have become bandits. They send a Supplicant to find some rough men to protect them and promise them all sorts of inducements.

In the Seven Samurai, it continues like this, with the second half of the plot being Deliverance. The warriors come and fortify the town, trying without much success to stiffen the backbone of the villagers and turn them into fighers, and finally defending the town against the renegades. Almost all the warriors die heroically in battle. One or two survive, and are rushed out of town by the disgusted and frightened villagers.

If you paid close attention, you will realize that Supplication and Deliverance is exactly the story that was told by Operation Desert Storm. The villagers were Kuwait. Saddam and his army were the villains. America and the Coalition was the power that brought deliverance.

These two dramatic situations come from a list of 36 that is terribly useful for writers of fiction, if somewhat less than prescriptive. Long ago, a fellow named Georges Polti wrote a book of the 36 basic dramatic situations that he believed all literature could be reduced to. Though the book must be in the public domain by now, the most faithful explanation of it online appears to be here.

  1. Supplication – Persecutor, Supplicant, a Power in Authority
  2. Deliverance – Unfortunates, Threatener, Rescuer
  3. Revenge – Avenger, Criminal
  4. Vengeance by Family upon Family – Avenging Kinsman, Guilty Kinsman, Relative
  5. Pursuit – Fugitive from Punishment, Pursuer
  6. Victim of Cruelty or Misfortune – Unfortunates, Master or Unlucky Person
  7. Disaster – Vanquished Power, Victorious Power or Messenger
  8. Revolt – Tyrant, Conspirator(s)
  9. Daring Enterprise – Bold Leader, Goal, Adversary
  10. Abduction – Abductor, Abducted, Guardian
  11. Enigma – Interrogator, Seeker, Problem
  12. Obtaining – Two or more Opposing Parties, Object, maybe an Arbitrator
  13. Familial Hatred – Two Family Members who hate each other
  14. Familial Rivalry – Preferred Kinsman, Rejected Kinsman, Object
  15. Murderous Adultery – Two Adulterers, the Betrayed
  16. Madness – Madman, Victim
  17. Fatal Imprudence – Imprudent person, Victim or lost object
  18. Involuntary Crimes of Love – Lover, Beloved, Revealer
  19. Kinsman Kills Unrecognised Kinsman – Killer, Unrecognised Victim, Revealer
  20. Self Sacrifice for an Ideal – Hero, Ideal, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  21. Self Sacrifice for Kindred – Hero, Kinsman, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  22. All Sacrificed for Passion – Lover, Object of Passion, Person or Thing Sacrificed
  23. Sacrifice of Loved Ones – Hero, Beloved Victim, Need for Sacrifice
  24. Rivalry Between Superior and Inferior – Superior, Inferior, Object
  25. Adultery – Deceived Spouse, Two Adulterers
  26. Crimes of Love – Lover, Beloved, theme of Dissolution
  27. Discovery of Dishonor of a Loved One – Discoverer, Guilty One
  28. Obstacles to Love – Two Lovers, Obstacle
  29. An Enemy Loved – Beloved Enemy, Lover, Hater
  30. Ambition – An Ambitious Person, Coveted Thing, Adversary
  31. Conflict with a God – Mortal, Immortal
  32. Mistaken Jealousy – Jealous One, Object of Jealousy, Supposed Accomplice, Author of Mistake
  33. Faulty Judgment – Mistaken One, Victim of Mistake, Author of Mistake, Guilty Person
  34. Remorse – Culprit, Victim, Interrogator
  35. Recovery of a Lost One – Seeker, One Found
  36. Loss of Loved Ones – Kinsman Slain, Kinsman Witness, Executioner

Operation Iraqi Freedom was presented by Bush’s team with multiple storylines, which is why it was never widely accepted.

Obtaining: Saddam desired WMDs with George W. Bush opposing and the UN as impotent Arbiter. When the WMDs don’t turn up, then this story gets twisted inevitably into a story that turns on foolishness, whether real or perceived.

Daring Enterprise: George W. Bush going against Saddam with Democracy for Iraq as his goal.

Loss of Loved Ones: Saddam was the executioner who slayed hundreds of thousands, their kin bore witness at his trial.

Ambition: Saddam had an ambition to be the big cheese in the middle east by using terror and weapons of mass destruction, and was halfway to wriggling out of sanctions by means of judiciously placed bribes at the United Nations and other places. But George W. Bush stood against him.

Even worse, political opponents and media have added to the confusion by casting it as Madness, Disaster, Revolt, or Fatal Imprudence, all with George W. Bush as the tragic figure and Saddam as a bit player.

What is to be done with these? Now that we know the kinds of stories that reporters are using to frame and make meaning of the events that they see, those they interview can suggest a frame for the story. Reporters are lazy, just like everyone else. Though some are pathological and will always look for a way to frame events in the worst possible light, most will be thankful for a frame they can use to produce a coherent storyline. When speaking with reporters and other influential folks, always suggest a storyline that serves the purpose of the counterjihad.

More on the Counterjihad Infowar here and here.

Commenters on Chester’s article include: Small Dead Animals, The Adventures of Chester, Yeah Politics

Related: Counterterrorism Blog

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The Counterjihad Infowar, Part I

Belmont Club has a must-read article up about the Blogosphere at War, including a scheme for how logically rigorous Counterinsurgency and Counter-Jihad materials can be flowed up from the Blogs into the old Media: newspapers; television; and such. Read it all!

Wretchard’s key insight, one left unstated, is that the center of gravity for the world-wide Counterjihad is within the minds of Americans. It is not in the minds of Europe, or Iraq, or the middle east. America is the world’s sole Superpower, and if America decides to do something then nothing can or will stop it. The necessary and sufficient requirement for the Global Counterjihad to happen and to win is for Americans to decide it will happen. As the center of gravity is within the minds of Americans, the American media has a crucial role to play. So far, the American media’s role has been to trivialize and vacillate at best, and to betray operational secrets and provide aid and comfort to the enemy at worst.

December must have been the month of counterinsurgency, or perhaps the new seriousness about Iraq and Afghanistan prompted by the 2006 elections has brought counterinsurgency to the fore and 2007 will be the year that Counterinsurgency becomes the organizing theme. In any case, there is a lot of information about counterinsurgency now available, and Wretchard’s contribution is only the most recent.

The US Military recently released two book-length PDF files about Counterinsurgency.

  1. The first one is US Army manual FM 3-24 “Counterinsurgency” released in December 2006. It covers the kinetic, political, and information warfare components of Counterinsurgency without going into the fight in the media.
  2. The second one is the Military Review’s October 2006 Special Edition: Counterinsurgency Reader, which covers some of the material that was too politically hot to cover in an official manual.

The article in the Counterinsurgency Reader that is the most fascinating begins on page 118. The Decisive Weapon: A Brigade Combat Team Commander’s Perspective on Information Operations, by Colonel Ralph O. Baker, U.S. Army, is a hard-nosed confessional of a sort that describes how a brigade commander came to an understanding of how to effectively manage the public face of military operations in Iraq.

A guiding imperative was to produce and distribute IO products with focused messages and themes more quickly than our adversaries. Only then could we stay ahead of the extremely adroit and effective information operations the enemy waged at neighborhood and district levels. We were also initially challenged in working through the bureaucratic IO/PSYoP culture. We often faced situations where we needed handbills specifically tailored to the unique circumstances and demographics of the neighborhoods we were attempting to influence. However, the PSYoP community routinely insisted that handbills had to be approved through PSYoP channels at the highest command levels before they could be cleared for distribution. This procedure proved to be much too slow and cumbersome to support our IO needs at the tactical level.

Good reasons exist for some central control over IO themes and products under some circumstances, but information operations are operations, and in my opinion that means commander’s business. IO is critical to successfully combating an insurgency. It fights with words, symbols, and ideas, and it operates under the same dynamics as all combat operations. An old army saw says that the person who gets to the battle the “firstest” with the “mostest” usually wins, and this applies indisputably to information operations. In contrast, a consistent shortcoming I experienced was that the enemy, at least initially, consistently dominated the io environment faster and more thoroughly than we did. our adversary therefore had considerable success in shaping and influencing the perceptions of the iraqi public in his favor. The ponderous way in which centrally managed PSYoP products were developed, vetted, and approved through bureaucratic channels meant they were simply not being produced quickly enough to do any good.

A few pages later he describes how this worked in the field.

As an illustration, on 18 January 2004 a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBieD) during morning rush hour at a well-known Baghdad checkpoint called Assassin’s Gate, a main entrance into the Green Zone. This attack killed about 50 Iraqis waiting at the checkpoint. While we were managing the consequences of the incident, which included dealing with a considerable number of international and Arab media, i was instructed not to release a statement to the press—higher headquarters would collect the facts and release them at a Coalition-sponsored press conference to be held at 1600 Baghdad time.

Unfortunately, the terrorists responsible for this bombing were not constrained from engaging the press. While precious time was being spent “gathering facts,” the enemy was busily exploiting to their advantage the ensuing chaos. The message they passed to the press was that Coalition Soldiers were responsible for the casualties at the checkpoint because of an overreaction to somebody shooting at them from the intersection; that is, the terrorists were spreading a rumor that the carnage on the street was not the result of a VBieD but, rather, the result of an undisciplined and excessive use of force by my Soldiers.

As precious time slipped by and with accusations multiplying in the Arab media and tempers heating up, we made a conscious decision that our field grade officers would talk to the press at the site and give them the known facts; in effect, we would hold a stand-up, impromptu press conference. We also decided that in all future terrorist attacks, the field grade officers’ principle job would be to engage the press—especially the Arab press—as quickly as possible while company grade officers managed the tactical situation at the incident site.

Subsequently, when such incidents occurred, we took the information fight to the enemy by giving the free press the facts as we understood them as quickly as we could in order to stay ahead of the disinformation and rumor campaign the enemy was sure to wage. We aggressively followed up our actions by updating the reporters as soon as more information became available. as a result, the principal role of field grade officers at incident sites was to engage the press, give them releasable facts, answer questions as quickly and honestly as possible with accurate information, and keep them updated as more information became known.

Our proactive and transparent approach proved to be an essential tool for informing and influencing the key Iraqi audiences in our AO; it mitigated adverse domestic reaction. our quick response helped dispel the harmful rumors that nearly always flowed in the wake of major incidents.

I’ll stop excerpting from this eye-opening article after this final excerpt (emphasis mine). In this excerpt, the Colonel describes the observations that shaped his brigade’s IO operation.

Our approach to conducting IO evolved over time, out of the operational necessity to accomplish our mission. We were probably a good 3 to 4 months into our tour before we gained the requisite experience and understanding of key IO factors. We then began to deliberately develop a structure and mechanism to systematically synchronize our information operations throughout the brigade. The following observations ultimately helped shape our operational construct:

  • It is imperative to earn the trust and confidence of the indigenous population in your AO. They might never “like” you, but I am convinced you can earn their respect.
  • To defeat the insurgency, you must convince the (silent) majority of the population that it is in their best personal and national interest to support Coalition efforts and, conversely, convince them not to support the insurgents.
  • For information operations to be effective, you must have focused themes that you disseminate repetitively to your target audience.
  • Target audiences are key. You should assume that the silent majority will discount most of the information Coalition forces disseminate simply because they are suspicious of us culturally. Therefore, you must identify and target respected community members with IO themes. if you can create conditions where Arabs are communicating your themes to Arabs, you can be quite effective.
  • Being honest in the execution highly important. This goes back to developing trust and confidence, especially with target audiences. If you lose your credibility, you cannot conduct effective IO. Therefore, you should never try to implement any sort of IO “deception” operations.

In a later post, I hope to merge the insights in Wretchard’s and Col. Baker’s articles into a more complete, focused plan of action that can be used by those in the Counterjihad movement to get the hostile media (other than Fox News Channel and talk radio) to publish our message.

UPDATE 5 Jan 2007: See Part II here.

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US Military Casualties Down from 2005 to 2006

Mudville Gazette has news that you’d be hard pressed to find in the AP, or Reuters, or any paper that runs their wire stories.

The year total of 816 as of Saturday morning, is on course to be slightly lower than last year’s 846 U.S. fatalities.

The number of U.S. wounded also declined this year, from 5,947 in 2005 to 5,676 so far this year.

(We should also note that the majority of troops wounded in Iraq returned to duty within 72 hours.)

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Do Conservatives need a BBC strategy?

The Britain and America blog writes that The GOP needs a BBC strategy

The Republican Party needs to wake up to the power of the BBC as a media player in America. Its online services, in particular, are widely read in the US and BBC foreign coverage informs how many US journalists see the world. I sat in the White House three years ago and recommended that the GOP develops a strategy to work with London-based media. I met other GOP officials with the same message earlier this year but nothing GOP appears to have been done.

The BBC remains a respected brand around the world but opinions like those above are not impartial. They do not amount to a public service. They could have come straight from editorial pages of The Guardian or The New York Times.

Conservatives already recognize how skewed towards 60’s style Che Guevara hero-worship the BBC is. It’s too bad, since given their druthers most American conservatives would be anglophiles. But the Beeb isn’t alone.

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