"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.
If the United States is embarking on the first war of the 21st century, and one that the president has said may be "secret even in success," then the damming up of information out of Washington is part of the strategy. Although the administration says it is not engaged in censorship, officials throughout the government readily say they have been ordered to be circumspect about their remarks. The caution extends even to the sanitizing of government Web sites -- including large-scale digital maps and a report on the poor security at some chemical plants.
In a TomPaine.com commentary, Institute for Public Accuracy's Sam Husseini warns of the chilling effect the Federal Communications Commission, the agency that controls broadcast licenses, could have on reporting U.S. military actions. Husseini recalls the Pentagon Papers, an internal report on Vietnam that few media outlets would touch for fear of drawing expensive and threatening FCC investigations.
The "war on terrorism" has made life easier for President Bush's image handlers, reports Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, who describes the way journalists have come to "rely on Bush's inner circle for behind-the-scenes color about the tense atmosphere" inside the White House.
A front-page story by USA Today reporting that US special forces had already been covertly operating in Afghanistan for two weeks has stirred up controversy for journalists. At issue is whether USA Today's story, which was picked up by AP and CNN, may have endanger US military forces. The Boston Globe writes, "with the administration stressing the need for secrecy and stealth, some of the public reaction [to the USA Today story] accused journalists of unpatriotically divulging covert military action.
The Associated Press reports "Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld promised Tuesday his department will not mislead the press as part of the campaign against terrorism." That sounds good, but a careful reading of the story indicates that Rumsfeld has left the door wide open to government media manipulation. The public relations industry was in fact born in and grew out of the U.S. government's World War One propaganda campaign, and government propaganda has been critical in recent U.S.
The U.S. Department of State is under growing pressure from the Central Intelligence Agency to destroy its inventory of an official history of U.S. relations with Greece during the 1960s and to replace it with a new, sanitized version. The book, titled "Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS), 1964-1968, volume XVI," has already been printed but has drawn last-minute objections from the CIA because it includes a handful of documents that allude to CIA intervention in the electoral process in Greece some 35 years ago.
CBS's new dramatic series about the Central Intelligence Agency, called "The Agency," brings into question the relationship between the network and the government agency. CBS has received input on scripts and support from the CIA for the program, which premieres this month. Jeff Cohen, founder of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and Newsday columnists, compares the new series to the sixties TV-show "The FBI," produced by ABC with the blessing and cooperation of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.