Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another PSYOP Contractor in the Spotlight – Not In A Good Way

This being Thanksgiving week here in the US I was worrying that I would not be inspired enough to make my more or less weekly Blog posting, but thanks to USA Today – I was wrong. 

Today’s (20 Nov 12) USA Today published the article “Pentagon overseas propaganda plan stirs controversy”. (see http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/11/19/pentagon-overseas-communications-strategy-stirs-controversy/1715741/)

This article like many other USA Today articles in the past focuses on US “propaganda” and the contractors that provide services to the government. This time the center of attention is the Boston based Rendon Group and its founder, John Rendon. According to the article, “Since 2000, the military has paid the Rendon Group more than $100 million to help shape its communications strategy, analyze media coverage, run its propaganda programs and develop counter-narcotics efforts around the world”.

I’ve heard John Rendon speak and he is indeed someone who knows marketing and his company has provided the government with a lot of services over the years, chiefly in Latin America as I understand it.

What’s interesting about the article?

1.       How is the article positioned to attract readers?

The article screams “propaganda” which is always a red flag and a universally negative word. It leads with the fact that allegedly Rendon’s company once “weeded out reporters who wrote negative stories in Afghanistan and helped the military deceive the enemy in Iraq”. As to deceiving the enemy – are you kidding me? That’s the right thing to do, as for weeding out reporters, apparently the reporter has never worked in Commercial companies where public relations people do this all the time.

      Is there something inherently wrong in outsourcing tasks?

Inherently any organization should be free to work with vendors who it feels can help the organization. As the war in Afghanistan winds down anyone who thinks that ‘green suiters’ aren’t going to be replaced by contractors to some extent should look for a really cheap bridge in Brooklyn.

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen’s quote from a year old interview was injected into the article “"I really do not like the term at all. It confuses people," Mullen said. "It means all things to all people. It's way overused and way overrated. I literally try never to use the term. We communicate as much if not more by our actions. I have become particularly concerned at a time that resources are so precious. It has become a thing unto itself. It is taking resources from the fight, I don't have time for it." I think he was right and that USA Today was trying to imply that these contracts are a waste of time and money.

In short – PSYOP work is put under yet another grey cloud. Members of Congress who are scurrying about looking for ways to save money who read the article are apt to go on a PSYOP/MISO cost cutting witch hunt – yet again.

The need for systematic and aggressive education for the public and Members of Congress seems to escalate any day. Hopefully, the nascent Regimental Association will consider this challenge as a part of their charter. However, serving military need to tread with care if they intend to work with Congress as there are legal and career implications.

Let us all take a moment and give thanks for what we have and our ability to enjoy it in peace. Peace that has often come at a high price to those who serve. To those of you serving today – my thanks and I salute YOU!

Photo Source: http://www.prwatch.org/node/4954, a 2006 article about John Rendon, “John Rendon’s Long, Strange Trip in the Terror Wars

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