Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Information War: Cameraman reveals secrets of al-Qa'eda propaganda war

This is what I'm talking about in turn around time and smooth productions:

An al-Qa'eda propagandist has revealed the inner workings of the terrorist network's media machine, describing how he was summoned to a hideout in Afghanistan to shoot a video of Osama bin Laden's deputy.

Qari Mohammed Yusuf, a cameraman, described in an interview with the Associated Press news agency how a courier brought a summons to him. It read: "The emir wants to send a message."

The emir, meaning prince or commander, was Ayman al-Zawahiri, who wanted to broadcast a message of defiance proclaiming that he had survived an American air strike.[snip]

Yusuf, an Afghan, said he is one of a half-dozen cameramen used by Zawahiri. Most are Arabs, and not all are known to each other, he said. He claimed that he had been a loyal and trusted servant of the Egyptian terrorist leader for several years, and in the interview gave no detail that could identify where Zawahiri's hideout might be found.

But he described how a van converted into a computer-equipped "mobile studio" was sometimes used for editing by al-Qa'eda technicians and would visit Pakistani cities such as Peshawar or Lahore, where videos were then produced for the bazaars or for transfer to Arab television.

The speed with which the Taliban and al-Qa'eda manage to respond to events in Afghanistan and churn out propaganda has frustrated commanders. "The Taliban are winning the propaganda war," said one senior British officer in Afghanistan.

Telegraph | News | Cameraman reveals secrets of al-Qa'eda propaganda war

This is the type of production that they are able to put together and have out within 48 hours: Mujihadeen World Cup

Over the weekend, I went to visit Centcom and catch up on the press releases that, during the week you can often get before they roll up on the AP wires cut and pasted with some details missing. However, I noticed, once again, over the weekend, all of the tech guys must have been gone because the last press release date on Sunday night was from Friday.

The terrorists don't rest and neither do their information machines. To act like this on going and continuous, daily war can be fought Monday through Friday 8 to 5, as if it was not a significant part of the over all war, is just inconceivable to me.

Further, I was watching video of a repelled assault. In the video, the soldiers get up high and fire out. They are talking about things they see and what's going on, but you can't see what's going on beyond the soldiers firing out. You can't see the people, you can't see their targets. You can hear the men talking about what is going on, then you see one of them let off a grenade from his grenade launcher and an explosion where it lands, but you can't see what he hits, who he hits or anything else.

For all anybody knows, he could have been grenading a falafel stand. NOt that I think that was happening since I could see incoming rounds smacking off the concrete walls around them, but it does not rival the big explosions and destroyed humvees on this propaganda piece by the insurgents.

We're not in this game. We're not even close to playing this game. We're still acting like the media should send embeds (which they won't) in the manner of free nations where free press cover the important aspects of the day or make "compelling stories". The only thing compelling they can come up with are pictures of alleged abuse and "massacres", much of which ends up being BS propaganda in the first place; things they can't and won't verify, but often referred to as the "objective" truth.

What's funny is that the press often does say that reports are "unverified", but usually at the end of the article or televised spiel. By then, most readers or viewers have already determined in their mind that, if it is being reported, some information or other verification occured that legitimizes the report as the truth. Largely because most people don't really know how the media works. People imagine that "unverified" means they've gotten the info from a fairly reliable source, but haven't been able catch that second or third person to give it the complete thumbs up.

"Fairly reliable" equates to "you heard it here first." Regular Joe coming home from ten hour work day and flipping on the news channel believes exactly that. Then, when parts of the story start falling apart, the media will make some lame disclaimer on page A9, three sentences at the bottom of the page near some small advertisements of the same size. Advertisements that people typically skip over so they skip those corrections, too.

The media will say that they do that because, by time they learn new info, the story is often already dead or the correction info is mentioned in some other area or story (though not referred to as a "correction"). That may be half the story, but no one who has worked in business management where their reputation is a large part of getting and keeping customers (all businesses), should be fooled into thinking that there is a second and very real reason that newspapers put the corrections in the back pages or online corrections are put on the original article in archives without listing them up front as a new part of a story (and then linking to the archive) or that the televised media says two sentence corrections before telling you "the other news of the day".

It is simply not good business to admit that you have a problem or have had an incident, even if they are simple errors that don't result in any harm to the customer or contractors. A few admitted errors equals bad business rep. When your rep is based on the truth and accuracy, admitting in public in 12 point type that you told something that was not the exact truth (even if it was not exactly your fault), is a rep killer. No one is going to do that unless their arm is twisted off (like Rather - who still didn't; or Mapes; or Isikoff and the Koran desecration, etc, etc, etc).

I did not mean to get off on a rant about the media. I do believe I am not overstating the case for how and why media does business. But, the military nor the government has recognized how this process works or, if they have, they haven't figured out how to produce information, verifiable and viewable, that the media will pick up or doesn't cover.

Those slick Iraqi Freedom Journal videos are okay, but the stories are not often compelling except to someone who really watches the military or is enlisted in it. Frankly, to compete with the jihadists, they are going to have to do more than show Lt This or Colonel That talking about generic recent operations, standing around in their digital cammies, helmets and goggles inside the FOB (no, we don't necessarily need graphic dead bodies all the time, but I would definitely go for more than is currently being shown).

I've said before, the info war needs to be Steve Austin: smarter, better and faster than ever before.

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