USA Today has joined a number of other news media outlets in criticizing Bush Administration restrictions on public access to information. "Americans are being asked to give up their rights to information, with no evidence that it presents any real risk," the editorial states. "Today, the Bush administration is packaging its attempts to restrict information as a way to protect the war effort -- when in fact they could do the opposite. The moves violate the very spirit of freedom that America is fighting for. ... Americans overwhelmingly support the war on terrorism.
"In the days since the United States launched its armed and diplomatic responses to the Sept. 11 atrocities, few phrases have passed the lips of American leaders as often as 'this is not a war against Islam.' But as civilian casualties from American airstrikes in Afghanistan begin to pile up, and as the timeline for military action threatens to stretch into months, growing anti-American riots in the Muslim world are underscoring the message's limited reach."
Like many Americans, Pam Bottaro reacted to the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington with a mixture of horror and utter incomprehension. Although well educated and politically engaged, nothing she had read or seen on television had prepared her for an anti-American backlash. "Why do these people hate us so much?" was the question she kept hearing all around her. As Americans wake up to the need to better understand the world around us, "teach-ins" have come roaring back into fashion.
"Fighting the anti-American fury that fueled the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will require more than bombs, intelligence and diplomacy. This is a job for the public relations industry," writes Carl Weiser, Washington correspondent for the Gannett News Service. He asked PR, advertising and marketing experts what kind of campaign they would create to convince the Islamic world "that this nation is not the Great Satan, but good and generous." Responses included:
The Bush administration and members of Congress have called for renewed efforts to improve America's image in the Islamic world, with Bush worrying aloud that the U.S. is losing the propaganda war to Islamic extremists. "I'm amazed that there's such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us," Bush said. "We've got to do a better job of making our case." An expensive advertising campaign in the Arab world, coupled with beefed-up Voice of America broadcasts, is making little headway as these PR efforts encounter a skeptical audience.
The UK Guardian reports, "Only five days after the bombing of Afghanistan began, Mr Blair made the extraordinary admission that the west was in danger of losing the propaganda war in Muslim states. He said: 'One thing becoming increasingly clear to me is the need to upgrade our media and public opinion operations in the Arab and Muslim world. There is a need for us to communicate effectively.'"
Dr. Nancy Snow spent two years working within the ranks of America's official propaganda organ, the United States Information Agency, and then surgically exposed the inner workings of the organization in her acclaimed publication, Propaganda Inc. In this interview with the Guerrilla News Network, Dr. Snow breaks down the covert history of U.S. propaganda efforts both inside and outside of the country's borders. Tracing the strategies employed by top propagandists like George Creel and Walter Lippman, Dr.
"The five major television news organizations reached a joint agreement yesterday to follow the suggestion of the White House and abridge any future videotaped statements from Osama bin Laden or his followers to remove language the government considers inflammatory," reports the New York Times.
U.S. politicians such as Congressman Tom Lantos are trying to understand why "the white venom of hate is oozing" from countries like Indonesia to Pakistan, "two nations that we have helped enormously since they gained independence.'' The solution, they think, might be better public relations, such as a new international advertising campaign now being planned by Charlotte Beers, the new U.S. Undersecretary of State for public diplomacy and public affairs. If he wants to know why the PR isn't working, however, Lantos should review a little history.
The U.S. armed forces are waging a propaganda war in Afghanistan with leaflets, radio broadcasts, and food according to an AP story. "The effort involves information soldiers from the 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 193rd Special Operations Wing of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, a division of the U.S. Air Force's Special Operations Command. The psy-ops soldiers have planes to scatter leaflets, mobile print shops that can be dropped by parachute and loudspeaker systems to blare messages. The soldiers use local languages to reach people on the ground.