U.S. Government

PR at the FBI

Tompaine.com has run an opinion page advertisement in the New York Times decrying the FBI's recent PR campaign to improve its image in the wake of now public disclosures that it dropped the ball in regard to the 9/11 terrorist attacks: "Americans are entitled to a full accounting of the problems at FBI headquarters -- Who is responsible? Who will be held accountable? Using public relations tactics to change the subject and to defuse the political consequences short-circuits needed reforms and does the nation a disservice."


Bush to UN: 'We're Changing the Climate, So What?'

"In an extraordinarily secretive maneuver, the Bush administration has subtly altered its position on global warming, officially admitting that there is a crisis while still declining to offer policies to combat it," reports the Guardian. "A government report to the UN says that global warming exists, that it is man-made, and that it will transform the environment - all points that the current US government, while never actually denying, has been reluctant to accept.


The FBI's Shifting Story

"To fabricate an alibi for his nonfeasance, and to cover up his department's embarrassing cut of the counterterrorism budget last year, Attorney General John Ashcroft - working with his hand-picked aide, F.B.I. Director 'J. Edgar' Mueller III - has gutted guidelines put in place a generation ago to prevent the abuse of police power by the federal government," writes conservative pundit William Safire.


Ari Fleischer, "Flack from Hell"

Writing for the New Republic, Jonathan Chait humorously deconstructs White House spokesman Ari Fleischer's spin tactics, which he first encountered when Fleischer represented Republicans on he House Ways and Means Committee. "Fleischer has a way of blindsiding you, leaving you disoriented and awestruck," he writes. "Much of the time Fleischer does not engage with the logic of a question at all. He simply denies its premises - or refuses to answer it on the grounds that it conflicts with a Byzantine set of rules governing what questions he deems appropriate.


H&K's Baby Incubator Story Still Debated

"Lauri Fitz-Pegado, the former Hill and Knowlton staffer who promoted the story about armed Iraqi troops tossing Kuwaiti babies out of their incubators - one of the biggest PR stories of the `90s - is now handling PR for the Cayman Island Cultural Center in New York," noted O'Dwyer's PR Daily on May 28. "H&K, on behalf of the Citizens for a Free Kuwait front group of exiled royals, produced a 15-year-old girl 'Nayirah' who testified that she saw Iraqi troops committing the atrocity in a Kuwaiti hospital. She testified before the Congressional Human Rights caucus in Oct.


World War II All Over Again

"The widely publicized and highly orchestrated public relations campaign adopted by the Bush administration in this 'war on terrorism' is eerily reminiscent of the propaganda war waged during World War II," says Frank Mankiewicz, vice chairman of Hill and Knowlton (the PR firm that orchestrated the campaign to win public support for the war in the Persian Gulf).


Axing the Tough Questions

The recent disclosure that President Bush received a general warning before Sept. 11 of possible hijackings prompted a firestorm of spin. Conservative pundits and politicians fought back on cue, showing impressive message-discipline as they argued in unison that criticism of the president amounts to treason in the face of terrorism. Democrats "need to be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions," said Vice President Dick Cheney (without specifying any "incendiary suggestions" that any Democrats had actually made).


Secure Often Means Secret Post-9/11

"In the eight months since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, the Bush administration has moved more quickly than any administration since World War II to make government activities, documents and other information secret," reports USA Today. "Hundreds of thousands of public documents have been removed from government Web sites. Other public information has been edited, and access to some materials has been made more difficult.


Flacks Americana

Franklin Foer looks at the rise of John Rendon, whose PR firm is working for the Pentagon in the "war on terrorism." Using techniques that he learned running U.S. election campaigns, Rendon focuses on media strategies (as opposed to "grassroots PR," which Foer suggests would be more effective at combatting Muslim fundamentalism). He has a reputation for overcharging for his services, which are sometimes shockingly inept. So why does the government keep hiring him to run propaganda campaigns in places like Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans and Afghanistan?



Subscribe to U.S. Government