The April 25, 2011 Washington Post Slams DOD for “influencing media in a foreign country – particularly those where U.S. troops have fought – is not very good, and recent attempts by US military units have been even worse” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/for-us-managing-foreign-media-is-a-no-win-proposition/2011/04/23/AFhTRlkE_story.html) Also the photo source.
Walter Pincus essentially feels DOD is wasting tax paper money with extensive contractor and military efforts to impact foreign media especially in areas where the US has extensive combat forces He blasts activities in Iraq and quotes a source (a writer from the New Yorker) describing how US efforts have established Afghanistani media moguls (Saad Mohseni, chairman of the Moby Group and his brothers).
According to the New Yorker source (Kenneth Auletta) a USAID (State Department Agency) grant jump started their business which has blossomed to produce a variety of “reality” TV programs. Auletta wrote that the programming has a more profound impact on the Afghan people then would a newscast.
Much of this is of course déjà doo – doo meaning I’ve seen this sh*t before. First of all TV is entertainment even the news is entertainment. Most TV, reality shows in particular are not intended to appeal to the Harvard Business School (or Yale as in the case of Mr. Pincus) crowd. In some countries TV is among the few escape vehicles that the people have. For example in Bosnia during my 1997-98 tour there Venezuelan soap operas were among the most popular shows.
I guess I didn’t get what problem Mr. Pincus was trying to highlight. There are certainly quite a few: contractors and media enterprises require heavy funding that could perhaps be used elsewhere; citizens are naturally pre-disposed to regard foreign troops on their soil as a bad thing; should governments have the power to influence media in the first place?
All of those seem to be profound topics worthy of discussion, but to me, throwing the military under the bus in a couple of dismissive sentences is shoddy journalism. Did Mr. Pincus mean ISAF? Did he mean DOD or did he mean the actions of PSYOP/MISO teams on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. Perhaps he was actually criticizing President Obama for the lack of an overarching information engagement strategy. No matter, the opinion piece falls short on several counts.
Unfortunately PSYOP lacks the clout to counter this rhetoric as it bounces around Capitol Hill. Our challenge is to insure that the accomplishments of our PSYOP forces receives at least as much ink as their alleged failures.