An anti-Semitic web site called the "Barnes Report" is distributing fake whistleblower memos on media bias in the Iraq war that attempt to exploit public skepticism about the accuracy of U.S. news coverage. Excerpts from the alleged memos appear on a series of web pages titled "Controlling the News." The "memos" instruct reporters to avoid showing scenes of violence from the war and to stress images that depict U.S. policy in a favorable light.
"As the war seemingly comes to an end with US troops in the centre of Baghdad, the propaganda war from both sides has become even more desperate," writes Charles Whelan, a former New Labour flack, for PR Week's UK edition. "The Iraqi minister for information has had a job to do made more difficult by the hour. The poor man was forced into making statements at his daily press briefing about how the brave Iraqi troops had expelled the Americans from Saddam Hussein Airport.
"The front line in the war for hearts and minds in the Arab world and
beyond is here, at the U.S. Central Command headquarters and media
center," writes the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof from Doha, Qatar. Kristof gives the Bush administration credit for reaching out to the foreign press, noting that Al Jazeera was assigned a front row seat for press briefings while the Times was in the second row. But he suggests international journalists see through the spin.
"The Office of Global Communications, a controversial agency created by President Bush in January, has blossomed into a huge production company, issuing daily scripts on the Iraq war to U.S. spokesmen around the world, auditioning generals to give media briefings and booking administration stars on foreign news shows," the Chicago Tribune's Bob Kemper reports. "The communications office helps devise and coordinate each day's talking points on the war.
"If till now the coalition forces have been the ones surprised by the apathy of the Iraqi population and the cool welcome given them, apparently it is now Saddam Hussein's turn to be surprised," writes Zvi Bar'el. "The initial pictures from the battle for Baghdad show Iraqi citizens starting to wave cautiously to the U.S. and British soldiers bearing down on the capital.
PR Week commentator Paul Holmes writes that "the 'embedding' of reporters in military units is the most brilliant
strategic decision of this entire campaign, since its effect appears to
be the transformation of usually intelligent reporters into Pentagon
[Public Relations Officers]. As someone in the administration obviously realised, it's hard to
hold on to journalistic integrity when you're dependent for continued
"In the good old days, the US used to tell a lie -- crass propaganda -- and it would stick for a long time. Journalists would have to scurry for months before they could expose the lies, but by then it would be almost irrelevant," writes London-based economist Paul de Rooij
"It's no coincidence that Americans, and others around the world, are echoing the exact same phrases and news bites at the same times with near-military precision. It's the result of a slickly orchestrated public relations campaign on the part of the military and the U.S. government that is borrowing the best practices of the corporate PR world. ... The PR industry, as many may know, was actually started by the military during World War I, when persuasive techniques were developed to recruit soldiers.
"Bush planners appear to have left television off the
initial [bombing] target list because they wanted to use it to
administer Iraq immediately after the war and to limit the
damage to civilian infrastructure. Reports from Iraq, however, suggest that the American
restraint was seen by many Iraqis as an indication of Mr.
Hussein's resilience, undermining the allied message that
his days were numbered. There are, in fact, two parallel battles underway. One is
the intense assault American forces are mounting to set