December 01, 2005

Destroying Credibility

Listening to the BBC tonight, one topic was about the fake stories being planted in the newly independent media in Iraq. As Laura Rozen wrote on her blog, the problem with finding out fake stories have been place in the news creates a credibility issue for everything, not just the stories that were exposed as paid advertising.

The BBC found a Bush apologist who thought that this behavior was perfectly understandable because so many people were frustrated that the "good news" story wasn't being told. After all the TV news focuses on the latest IED explosion and a talking head, and the wonderful things being done in Iraq get lost.

Well, boo-hoo. The Bush apologists are the "let the market rule" true-believers and they've been watching our news cycle go from news about candidates, debates, issues, to devolving into the "if it bleeds, it leads" media that never has anytime to devote to real politics or issues because it is chasing after the next fear-mongering or sensational story. And if you live in Iraq, a story about a car bomb blowing up a mosque with multiple deaths would be the lead of the news no matter how many good news stories there were. Wouldn't that be the top story of the day if it happened here? If someone was living in Baghdad where it was scary to leave your house (see Riverbend), then how effective would the "good news" story be in making you think things were getting better?

The problem with putting fake "good news" stories in the press, once it is known that the US government is putting out propaganda in the "free" press, the natural reaction would be to discount all good news stories as fake.

And as Knight-Ridder says, many in the military agree that this was a stupid thing to do and more likely to hurt than help.

Many military officials, however, said they were concerned that the payments to Iraqi journalists and other covert information operations in Iraq had become so extensive that they were corroding the effort to build democracy and undermining U.S. credibility in Iraq. They also worry that information in the Iraqi press that's been planted or paid for by the U.S. military could "blow back" to the American public.

Eight current and former military, defense and other U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington agreed to discuss the payments to Iraqi reporters and other American military information operations because they fear that the efforts are promoting practices that are unacceptable for a democracy. They requested anonymity to avoid retaliation.

Amazing how often the word "democracy" flows off Bush's tongue without any real understanding about what democracy really means. Laura says it well:

In plain language: Rumsfeld is using psyops specialists and information warfare specialists on US journalists, and by extension, the American public. That is the headline. And it's awfully similar to the tactics used by dictatorships, isn't it? It's really incompatable with democracy.

Posted by Mary at December 1, 2005 11:11 PM | Media | Technorati links |