Thursday, January 11, 2007


If you don't read anything else this week, read this Newsweek article: "We're Losing the Infowar." It's disturbing and fascinating.

The article analyzes the way Iraqi insurgents use basic net-roots media technology to spread their propaganda. With cell phone cameras, laptop computer editing programs, and the internet, these guerilla fighters are much more efficient at crafting and speading their message than the United States is. Perhaps the most interesting point the article makes is that insurgents sometimes attack US forces for the sole purpose of filming it. Then, they use that footage to recruit new forces and suggest that the US is losing and retreating. The most disturbing point the article makes is that the US is not only powerless in stopping insurgent propaganda; it is also unable to spread an effective message of its own.

Propaganda and media manipulation have always been key elements to any war effort. As a main component of the military's Psychological Operations (PsyOps), the strategy seeks to win the "hearts-and-minds" of various constituencies.

For years, the United States excelled at this part of warfare. From James K. Polk's declaration of "American blood on American soil" to the Committee on Public Information during World War I, and the Office of War Information during World War II, US commanders controlled most of the information about the wars in which it was engaged. They were masters at using it to drive victorious war efforts.

With the "democratization" of media, information is no longer controlled by a limited number of groups. The proliferation of cell phones, digital cameras, editing software, and internet applications has allowed anyone to manipulate information to fit an agenda.

Last night, President Bush used the traditional media to deliver his new message. This Newsweek article argues that the US is losing on that front, too:

"But at least as critical to success may be whether Bush is convincing. A draft report recently produced by the Baghdad embassy's director of strategic communications Ginger Cruz and obtained by NEWSWEEK makes the stakes clear: "Without popular support from US population, there is the risk that troops will be pulled back ... Thus there is a vital need to save popular support via message."

Today, another traditional media outlet seems to confirm Ginger Cruz's worries: two Washington Post headlines proclaim "Most Americans Opposed to Bush's Iraq Plan" and "Democrats Aim to Block Funds for Plan."

If that's the message we're hearing over here, imagine how the folks in Baghdad are spinning it.


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