Western media accounts have generally offered sketchy details about last week's bloody prison riot in in Qala-i-Jhangi, a fort on the outskirts of Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. In most reports, the riot is described as an unprovoked uprising by suicidally fanatical Taliban soldiers.
War / Peace
Journalist Richard Lloyd Parry visited the village of Kama Ado, which has ceased to exist after "American B-52s unloaded dozen of bombs that killed 115 men, women and children." According to the US Department of Defense, however, nothing happened there. "A Pentagon spokesman, questioned about reports of civilian casualties in eastern Afghanistan, explained that they were not true, because the US is meticulous in selecting only military targets associated with Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida network.
Many San Francisco listeners were outraged when media conglomerate Clear Channel Communications fired San Francisco radio personality David Cook (AKA "Davey D"). Cook was fired after leading a heated anti-war debate on his program. Was he the latest casualty of growing intolerance to independent views?
PR Week writer Douglas Quenqua asks, "Should the administration draw on the propaganda models of past conflicts to communicate the current war against terrorism?" He recounts the history of past efforts by the U.S. government to mold public opinion, beginning with the Creel Committee during World War I. "In the first few months of our current conflict, we have seen countless entities -- government and otherwise -- launch individual attempts at diplomacy," Quenqua writes. "The Pentagon has hired its own PR firm. Navy Planes are dropping leaflets on Afghanistan.
"The remarkable military progress of the war in Afghanistan has bought the United States breathing room on the global public relations front," writes political science professor Peter Feaver. "But in the crucial theater of European public opinion, the war on terror is far from won. Indeed, if President Bush is serious about extending the conflict beyond Afghanistan, he will need all the PR help he can get to persuade our European allies to stay on the bandwagon." Feaver examines the differences between European and U.S.
NPR's Brooke Gladstone takes a look at wartime propaganda. She talks with authors Alan Winkler, Phillip Knightley, and Rick MacArthur about propaganda used to support various U.S. military campaigns. Gladstone concludes her report with a quote from French playwright Jean Anouilh: "Propaganda is a soft weapon. Hold it in your hands too long, and it will move around like a snake and strike the other way."
The Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA), which has fought against both the Soviet occupation and Islamic fundamentalists, has issued an appeal to the world community. "The people of Afghanistan do not accept domination of the Northern Alliance," it states. "The retreat of the terrorist Taliban from Kabul is a positive development, but entering of the rapist and looter NA in the city is nothing but a dreadful and shocking news for about 2 million residents of Kabul whose wounds of the years 1992-96 have not healed yet. ...
After the Taliban fled Kabul, BBC reporter John Simpson inspected an abandoned building where he claimed to find instructions for assembling a nuclear weapon. Actually, the document he filmed was a 1979 spoof from the Journal of Irreproducible Results, which publishes humorous parodies of scientific writing. If terrorists used this document to build a weapon, they're in worse trouble than they realize.
TV news crews that followed Northern Alliance forces into Kabul mostly provided celebratory coverage of victorious soldiers waving, crowds of people celebrating in the streets, and men defiantly shaving their beards. For the correspondents on the ground, however, the mood was less euphoric. "You can't trust anybody you see with a gun," said NBC news director David Verdi. "You just don't know. It's really like the wild, wild West.
Public Campaign, an advocacy group that campaigns for election finance reform, has launched a new website called HowDareThey.org to challenge wartime profiteering by corporate lobbyists. The site features information on topics such as the airline bailout, airline security weaknesses, the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs like Cipro, and the "economic stimulus package" that recently passed the House of Representatives. "We have our hands on our hearts, saluting the flag, mourning the people who are dead, and at the same time these special interests are trying to pick our pockets.