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Thread: War in the Information Age

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default War in the Information Age

    23 Feb. Los Angeles Times commentary - War in the Information Age by Donald Rumsfeld.

    Our nation is engaged in what promises to be a long struggle in the global war on terror. In this war, some of the most critical battles may not be in the mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Iraq but in newsrooms in New York, London, Cairo and elsewhere.

    Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part we our government, the media or our society in general have not.

    Consider that violent extremists have established "media relations committees" and have proved to be highly successful at manipulating opinion elites. They plan and design their headline-grabbing attacks using every means of communication to break the collective will of free people.

    Our government is only beginning to adapt its operations for the 21st century. For the most part, it still functions as a five-and-dime store in an EBay world.

    have just returned from Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. In Tunis, the largest newspaper has a circulation of roughly 50,000 in a country of about 10 million people. But even in the poorest neighborhoods you can see satellite dishes on nearly every balcony or rooftop.

    Regrettably, many of the TV news channels being watched using these dishes are extremely hostile to the West. The growing number of media outlets in many parts of the world still have relatively immature standards and practices that too often serve to inflame and distort rather than to explain and inform. Al Qaeda and other extremist movements have utilized these forums for many years, successfully adding more poison to the Muslim public's view of the West, but we have barely even begun to compete in reaching their audiences.

    The standard U.S. government public affairs operation was designed primarily to respond to individual requests for information. It tends to be reactive, rather than proactive, and it operates for the most part on an eighthour, five-days-a-week basis, while world events and our enemies are operating 24/7 across every time zone. That is an unacceptably dangerous deficiency...
    23 Feb. Washington Times commentary - Rumsfeld's Complaint by Arnaud de Borchgrave.

    Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cannot believe how a biased media has made the job of fighting the bad guys harder than ever. The media broke the stories about torture at the Abu Ghraib prison; the U.S. military paying for favorable articles in the Iraqi media; competing with America's extremist detractors in poisoning Muslim minds about the United States; criticizing the liberation of an Iraq enslaved by Saddam Hussein.

    U.S. public affairs officers and their operations, the defense secretary said, had fallen down on these non-career-enhancing jobs. Wish it were that simple. It could be fixed in a jiffy.

    The problem appears to be one of failure to connect the dots; in some cases, failure even to see them...

    Connecting all the dots in the Defense Department is no mean feat for a defense secretary. And connecting the Pentagon to all the other dots that have displaced America as the shining citadel on the hill is apparently beyond Mr. Rumsfeld's purview. But he should realize blaming MSM (mainstream media) and public affairs officers is tantamount to disinformation.

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    The problem with our media is that it is highly centralized, five major conglomerates monopolize almost all outlets. Four of the five even share forty board members, and all five share over 140 joint ventures; it is a plutocratic cartel for international corporate interests. Even Fox News is full of it.
    Last edited by GorTex6; 02-23-2006 at 05:51 PM.

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    Council Member zenpundit's Avatar
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    Default Media and strategic influence

    Please excuse my intemperence here but I feel the need to rant a bit.

    The television media has become centralized it is true under corporate consolidation but that has hardly altered the political -cultural cast of newsrooms and editorial boards which remain moderately left of center on average. As I see it, we have two unrelated problems here:

    1. The MSM is intellectually homogenized with a distinct " herd mentality" of people of a certain outlook and big journalism school background that produces largely superficial reporting that jams all events into the 100 year old Pulitzerian news frame. For more on this see Paul H. Weaver's _News and the Culture of Lying_.

    2. That being said, the USG has no Strategic Influence policy worthy of the name. To call our efforts in the war of ideas incompetent would be to cast a slur on incompetents everywhere. The merely incompetent simply shoot themselves in the foot - of late, we lobb grenades at the enemy and manage to blow off our own genitals on live global television. Repeatedly.

    A short list of problems that come to mind just off of the top of my head:

    No setting of strategic information objectives by the POTUS through the NSC.

    No coordination of military and civilian agencies in terms of message discipline. Or within either the military OR the civilian agencies. In short, no information " jointness". Four plus years into a war, no less.

    No process by which to methodically identify the multiple audiences that each message is going to reach and how they will perceive it.

    Little effort to differentiate intellectually between public diplomacy, covert influence and pure disinformation operations. For that matter, no consideration of how our own disinformation is blowing back at us via the MSM !

    An inability to craft messages with an a priori comprehension of the target audience worldview so that our message is culturally relevant and persuasive.

    Insufficient linguistic capacity to interpret the OODA loop for information warfare.

    Investment in media that is not perceived by the target audience as credible or independent (i.e. al-Hurra comes across as a transparent shill unlike the VOA and Radio Free Europe during the Cold War).

    I could go on.

    Our opponents are guys who glory in ghoulishly beheading people. The fact that we are having trouble pulling even with them is an indictment of our efforts. Yes, the MSM is unhelpful but we do not have our act together.

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    Council Member St. Christopher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GorTex6 View Post
    The problem with our media is that it is highly centralized, five major conglomerates monopolize almost all outlets. Four of the five even share forty board members, and all five share over 140 joint ventures; it is a plutocratic cartel for international corporate interests. Even Fox News is full of it.
    If I'm a savvy strategic communications professional in the USG, like maybe one of the early directors of the USIA, I don't see that as a hindrance... I see it as an opportunity.
    Tenere terrorum,
    St. C

    "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing."
    ---Socrates

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    Quote Originally Posted by St. Christopher View Post
    If I'm a savvy strategic communications professional in the USG, like maybe one of the early directors of the USIA, I don't see that as a hindrance... I see it as an opportunity.
    Agree - less people to manipulate. It'd be a hell of a lot easier to get chummy with about 20 producers of TV shows to have them give you favorable coverage than it would be to get chummy with 200 bloggers.

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    Council Member St. Christopher's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian View Post
    Agree - less people to manipulate. It'd be a hell of a lot easier to get chummy with about 20 producers of TV shows to have them give you favorable coverage than it would be to get chummy with 200 bloggers.
    There ya go. I've been wrestling with how we "mobilize" the Fourth Estate for a while now. Don't think there are any easy answers (especially considering govt ability to even MAKE those kinds of overtures to media corps), but at the end of the day, those guys are ALL businessmen.
    Tenere terrorum,
    St. C

    "True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing."
    ---Socrates

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    Council Member kehenry1's Avatar
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    Default Private v. Private

    Well, where are all the private businessmen willing to put forth a lot of dough to get a movie made or program out there?

    We are seriously unorganized compared to the "other" entities. The ones that are still trying to squash talk radio due to its competition?

    and, we can't be doing any smucky, heavy handed "god bless America" stuff either because it gets rejected for what it is: heavy handed.

    You know, we are just too sophisticated for that.

    But, we like war movies. We like people who triumph. We actually do like "good over evil". And we are really fond of certain periods of time in our history when it did.

    Ought to start there and move out.

    You know, the movie "saving private ryan" had a great deal to do with pushing the WWII memorial forward. The Patriot with Mel Gibson. a few others like that really kind of hit the sweet part of society. even 300.

    JD Johannes probably has some great film that should be seen on public TV, not just private purchases. Fox. History Channel. Military Channel. WE have access. We just need to focus.
    Kat-Missouri

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    Quote Originally Posted by kehenry1 View Post
    But, we like war movies. We like people who triumph. We actually do like "good over evil". And we are really fond of certain periods of time in our history when it did.

    Ought to start there and move out.
    How does that help me (us) when I'm trying to explain to someone who is all gung ho and has a"bomb 'em all" mentality that our hands are not tied in Iraq? They look at COIN that way, and we should figure something out so they can get better educated about COIN operations. (myself included)

    And how does this "good vs evil" concept help any when so many people already have an 'attitude' towards Muslims? IMO, we're trying to get people away from the good vs evil idea. It just seems to me, that only makes more enemies.

    Think reconciliation.
    Last edited by skiguy; 09-29-2007 at 09:57 PM.

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    Council Member kehenry1's Avatar
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    Default good v. evil

    Well, I never thought a good war movie had to end with everyone dying, but maybe a better representation would be a drama like Schindler's List and "good v. evil" even in a coin situation, ought to be easy to convey. There is good and evil. We should leave no room for moral equivalence. Even Oscar Schindler had to figure that out in the end. Hollywood and the media do that quite nicely already anyway.
    Kat-Missouri

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