Monday, May 01, 2006

Al Qaeda Wields Press as Terror Weapon

Terrorists use the press and public relations as weapons, said a study released Wednesday by Arizona State University.

"People are surprised the jihadis think of the media as a weapon," said Steven Corman, director of the school's Consortium for Strategic Communication and a Defense Department consultant on communications networks and counterterrorism.

Are you surprised? What people are surprised?

"Jihadis pursue these strategies using sophisticated, modern methods of communications and public relations," Mr. Corman said. "There's evidence in the documents that jihadis segment audiences and adapt their message to the audience."

I am currently writing a document discussing this very subject. In order to combat their messages, we must be able to recognize what each message says and who it is targeting. Our own information program must be geared towards the same. Here is an example at Jihad Media being aimed at Nicarauga, Cuba and other South American countries. This is not just a war between the US and terrorism. This is world war. The only difference is that not all of the weapons explode, shoot or cut physically, yet the media weapon is the sharpest of all and contributes to the "death by a thousand cuts".

Mr. Corman and co-author Jill Schiefelbein said the Arizona study is a response to "controversies about efforts by the U.S. to influence foreign media coverage of jihadi activities. ... While we deliberate such issues, the jihadis are busy executing a communications and media strategy of their own."

Mr. Corman offered six measures to counter al Qaeda's media savvy. He recommended that the United States try to improve its credibility with Muslim audiences, "degrade" the jihadis' outreach efforts, draw attention to terrorist messages that contradict Islam, deconstruct idealized historical concepts, systematically disrupt Internet operations and seek assistance from sympathetic American Muslims.

Even "benign" websites such as Islamiway there are messages of "resistance" and "war" (mirror site). On the BBC message sites it's an open forum. They gear street protests towards photo ops. They have used staged video and photos to push the message that there are "many", they are "deadly" and that the "kuffar" cannot touch them because of holy warriors for Allah. And the media sucks it up as if they were receiving war film from the front lines instead of the equivelent of Nazi Rally at Nuremburg. Worse, we have not educated Americans and others how these programs work, how propaganda is created and the difference between a news released and outright manipulation of the press.

Lastly, I am still amazed that so many people either a) think it is wrong to try to press US influence through the media or b) others think we should drop it because we can meet those needs through other means (like blogs). The truth is, we need a very comprehensive information war. The truth is, we have not excepted that yet. In the brave new world, "the truth will set you free", unfortunately, the enemy is trying to chain us down with lies, half truths and spectacular fanfares; all things that people will believe because it is easier and more stirring. Like watching the Jihadis perform a Wagner Opera on one hand and then turning to the American Theater to hear "Mary Had A Little Lamb" while the instructor insists the children keep their voies down because it's not proper to sing so loud.

Read the rest.

We're being fools. The first recommendation is for the DoD: Create a Department of Information. Second? Coordinate with State more closely to develop a more comprehensive information program. Third, take some money that is being spent on things like new APCs or other weapons systems and spend it on an information war. If not taking money from there, the new budget at DOD and State should have a substantial increase in their respective budgets to perform these operations. This ought to include hiring market executives and copy writers to develop "Campaign America". State run programs are equally agregious in their entire inability to sell America. They are worried about offending people, not selling them something. We have to sell "America" or we don't win. It's that simple.

Marketing executives and agencies often write ads or cooperate with agencies in foreign countries in order to sell all kinds of American products. It's time people stopped thinking inside the box and bring out the best in America: Private Industry.

Who better to commit a benign information war on behalf of State than people who conduct information wars against each other every day?

DoD needs to hire some ad executives and copy writers as well, but such people should be ready to conduct a less than "benign" information war. Again, who knows how to do it better? Who has contacts? Who has access to and understands market analysis? Private ad agencies and ad executives. And, generally, these groups of people know they must tell the truth about the product or it's false advertisement and trouble for the product and the agency. We're talking about building a better picture with the truth.

If the DoD and State do not want to create an internal Department of Information, they need to outsource and quickly.

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