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  1. #1
    Council Member MountainRunner's Avatar
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    Default Iraqi Insurgent Media: War of Images and Ideas

    Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) that "reveals weaknesses In Sunni-Insurgent media war" (h/t Noah at Danger Room + MountainRunner)
    • Sunni insurgents in Iraq and their supporters worldwide are exploiting the Internet to pursue a massive and far-reaching media campaign. Insurgent media are forming perceptions of the war in Iraq among the best-educated and most influential segment of the Arab population.
    • The Iraqi insurgent media network is a boon to global jihadist media, which can use materials produced by the insurgency to reinforce their message.
    • Mainstream Arab media amplify the insurgentsí efforts, transmitting their message to an audience of millions.
    • The insurgent propaganda network does not have a headquarters, bureaucracy, or brick-and-mortar infrastructure. It is decentralized, fast-moving, and technologically adaptive.
    • The rising tide of Sunni-Shi'ite hate speech in Iraqi insurgent media points to the danger of even greater sectarian bloodshed. A wealth of evidence shows that hate speech paved the way for genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
    • The popularity of online Iraqi Sunni insurgent media reflects a genuine demand for their message in the Arab world. An alternative, no matter how lavishly funded and cleverly produced, will not eliminate this demand.
    • There is little to counter this torrent of daily press releases, weekly and monthly magazines, books, video clips, full-length films, and even television channels.
    • We should not concede the battle without a fight. The insurgent media network has key vulnerabilities that can be targeted. These include:
      • A lack of central coordination and a resulting lack of message control;
      • A widening rift between homegrown nationalist groups and Al-Qaeda affiliated global jihadists.
    There are interesting examples in the report, including one about an alleged (my word) Sunni rape victim, Sabrin al-Janabi, that was leveraged to the hilt to foment anger against Shi'a and the government.

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    Default Slicking The People

    If our political propoganda was 1/10th as slick as our commercial propoganda is, the IO war would be over already. That's something to ponder.... we sell the hell out of sodas and shoes and pills and you name it, but can't seem to do much to counter the anti-American/Western Democracy propoganda, or for that matter, promote the Western, Democratic image. Foist a wholesome image of American/Western freedom on a Muslim target audience and it will be countered with images of gay rights parades, dogs being pampered and fed better than many humans, topless beaches and drunken revelry, the message being: that is what they call freedom. Yup, them folks don't highly regard many of our freedoms. I was reading about honor killings in Jordan and how progressive elements there want stiff penalties enacted for these crimes but the elected Reps decline to do so, saying it would promote immodesty and lude behavior amongst the people. I read too where the UN is reporting that in the very near future, half of the human population will be living in cities: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19458575/ High density, high IO value, a fact of nature. We got our work cut out for us, no doubt about it.

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by goesh View Post
    If our political propoganda was 1/10th as slick as our commercial propoganda is, the IO war would be over already. That's something to ponder.... we sell the hell out of sodas and shoes and pills and you name it, but can't seem to do much to counter the anti-American/Western Democracy propoganda, or for that matter, promote the Western, Democratic image. Foist a wholesome image of American/Western freedom on a Muslim target audience and it will be countered with images of gay rights parades, dogs being pampered and fed better than many humans, topless beaches and drunken revelry, the message being: that is what they call freedom. Yup, them folks don't highly regard many of our freedoms. I was reading about honor killings in Jordan and how progressive elements there want stiff penalties enacted for these crimes but the elected Reps decline to do so, saying it would promote immodesty and lude behavior amongst the people. I read too where the UN is reporting that in the very near future, half of the human population will be living in cities: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19458575/ High density, high IO value, a fact of nature. We got our work cut out for us, no doubt about it.
    I've always been a bit uncomfortable with the idea--which is heard a lot--that we are less successful than we might be in the "war of ideas" either because we are just doing a bad job of selling our message, or because we are not optimally organized for "strategic communications."

    I think a bigger part of the explanation is that much of the world just isn't buying what we're selling. We assume that everyone wants to be like us, and I don't think that's true. When I give talks, I often explain in this way. In the 1970s when American auto manufacturers were getting the snot knocked out of them by Japan, rather than admit that the reason was the poor quality of their cars, they just assumed that they needed better ad campaigns.

    I don't mean to imply that the car we're selling is of low quality, but it's just not for everyone. We like our F150 4X4 Quad Cab, but figure the only reason every one doesn't buy one is because we haven't advertised it enough. In reality, people who live in urban areas with tiny streets and pay $6 a gallon for gas may not want one.

    There are some pretty serious implications of this line of thinking. We say that the "war of ideas" is central to the conflict we're engaged in. OK. But we also seem to assume that once we get our ducks in a row, we'll "win" the "war of ideas" (whatever the heck that means). But what if we can't? That undercuts our whole strategy. What, then, should replace it?

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    I would tend to agree with this, Steve. Most folks I've come into contact with overseas might want parts of the "American Experience," but that doesn't mean they want the whole thing. Our political system is pretty much unique to us, and many of its concepts do not translate well to other locations. The same thing goes for our social systems and networks. People ARE different, no matter how much we may wish it were otherwise, and not everyone aspires to "Be Like Mike" or whatever slogan you choose. The demise of history education in our schools may have something to do with this, combined of course with the cultural jingoism that has haunted America almost since its beginnings. There's also, I think, a distinct feeling of inferiority (not spoken of but certainly there) when dealing with other powers and countries, especially those in Europe.

    The "War of Ideas" as it exists now is, to me, very Ameri-centric and deals with flawed assumptions. It's also incomplete. By way of a muddled example, when I was in Germany in the early 1980s "Dynasty" and "Dallas" were both immensely popular on German TV. Many of the people I met there were convinced that all Americans were rich, slept with each others' wives or close relations, and were always scheming about something. These days they get their "informed views" about America from MTV, Jerry Springer, and Desperate Housewives, not to mention our movies (there's an old Tank McNamara cartoon that ties to this...he reassures Japanese visitors to the LA Olympics by telling them that Harry Calahan is in charge of security). Most of our IO stuff doesn't even seem to acknowledge this, let alone understand it.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member SteveMetz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    I would tend to agree with this, Steve. Most folks I've come into contact with overseas might want parts of the "American Experience," but that doesn't mean they want the whole thing. Our political system is pretty much unique to us, and many of its concepts do not translate well to other locations. The same thing goes for our social systems and networks. People ARE different, no matter how much we may wish it were otherwise, and not everyone aspires to "Be Like Mike" or whatever slogan you choose. The demise of history education in our schools may have something to do with this, combined of course with the cultural jingoism that has haunted America almost since its beginnings. There's also, I think, a distinct feeling of inferiority (not spoken of but certainly there) when dealing with other powers and countries, especially those in Europe.

    The "War of Ideas" as it exists now is, to me, very Ameri-centric and deals with flawed assumptions. It's also incomplete. By way of a muddled example, when I was in Germany in the early 1980s "Dynasty" and "Dallas" were both immensely popular on German TV. Many of the people I met there were convinced that all Americans were rich, slept with each others' wives or close relations, and were always scheming about something. These days they get their "informed views" about America from MTV, Jerry Springer, and Desperate Housewives, not to mention our movies (there's an old Tank McNamara cartoon that ties to this...he reassures Japanese visitors to the LA Olympics by telling them that Harry Calahan is in charge of security). Most of our IO stuff doesn't even seem to acknowledge this, let alone understand it.

    Well, *my* life is pretty much like Dynasty and Dallas--you mean yours isn't?

    What we should have done is forced any foreign television network that wanted to broadcast Dynasty and Dallas to also broadcast Roseanne.

    In some ways, the dissonance is even deeper. At the most basic level, we value personal freedom among almost everything else. In Arab cultures one could make an argument that justice, honor, and dignity are far more important. Then we couldn't understand why the political system we designed for them, which optimized personal freedom rather than justice, honor, and dignity, didn't take root the way we expected.

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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Agree completely about the basic differences, Steve. But we (and I mean the collective policy-maker 'we') can't even seem to grasp the more obvious differences I mentioned, let alone the deeper stuff.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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