Sunday, March 13, 2005


Propaganda At The SAEN

SAEN Military writer Sig Christenson has a column on today's front page that can only be described as an op/ed disguised as a news report. The headline is "Whose Truth is True." There is plenty wrong with the story, but let's dispense with the obvious first. My biggest question would be why can't both truths be true? The question asked in the headline implies that either the MSM or the Pentagon is lying, but I would say that both sides are telling the truth. The Pentagon has seen how negative the coverage of Iraq is by MSM outlets like the SAEN, and has initiated a program to report the other side of the story. Sig Christenson makes it clear what he thinks when he categorizes the Pentagon's side of the story as "propaganda" early in his report:
While Pentagon officials see the digitized electronic stories as a high-tech revolution in public relations, a kind of cyber-age news release, critics use the p-word when discussing the military's image-conscious efforts: propaganda.

In order to prove his point that the news the Pentagon is reporting cannot be relied on, Sig brings up something that has nothing to do with the issue being discussed:
The Bush administration, they say, has established a pattern of attempting to mislead the public with self-promotional material that imitates news stories.

The administration paid columnists to promote its agenda and aired TV spots touting its Medicaid prescription program and No Child Left Behind policies with a phony reporter, a violation of the rules forbidding the use of tax money for propaganda.

Fine, the Bush Administration paid some columnist to promote items such it's Medicaid prescription plan and No Child Left Behind, but that has nothing to do with the Pentagon releasing positive news about Iraq. In light of the overwhelming negativity of news about Iraq from MSM outlets like the SAEN, why shouldn't the Pentagon attempt to get out news that shows the whole picture? Regular readers of SAEN Watch know that on an almost daily basis I point out that the SAEN never has anything positive to say about events in Iraq; whether it be the pictures it shows or stories it runs. In case you need a refresher see here, here, here and here for just a few examples. If you still are not convinced that the SAEN ignores positive events in Iraq you can also see SAEN Watch's "Yay Iraq" series here, here and here. Okay, now back to the task at hand, Sig Chistenson's "report" in today's paper.

The story by Christenson cites several critics of the Pentagon's DVIDS policy. The critics that Christenson uses highlights perhaps more than anything the liberal tilt of the article. First we have former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta who is quoted as saying:
But ex-White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta worries that the military's electronic PR operation is taking Americans into uncharted waters. He said it raises questions about the need for journalistic standards and the operation's potential to shape American public opinion.

"We're living in a time when technology and the news is flying around the world, and on one hand (the project) assures the rapid communication of news, but on the other hand it also opens up the potential for abuse," said Panetta, who served during President Clinton's first term.

"The kind of abuse that basically you can flash this stuff so fast technologically it can appear and be used before anybody finds out there's something wrong with it."

Surely the thought crossed the authors mind that what Panetta says is politically motivated propaganda itself? Well, maybe it didn't because next Christenson quotes University of Houston "propaganda expert" Garth Jowett about his views:
"Now their lives are being not only made easier for them, but it's also being made easier by an officially sanctioned government agency, and that clearly is to the detriment of objective reporting inside the United States."

Clearly by asking a "propaganda expert" his views of what the Pentagon is doing reveals that Christenson had an agenda going into this article. Next we have another impartial critic in Democratic Representative Solomon Ortiz of Corpus Christi:
"It's got to pass the smelling test, and I don't think it passes," he said.

The only people in favor of the program that Christenson quotes are military personnel. I find it hard to believe that an independent voice could not be found to support what the Pentagon is doing, but then that wouldn't fit with the bias Christenson is basing his story on. Did it ever occur to Christenson that the Pentagon has been forced into this by the negativity of the MSM's coverage of Iraq, and to a lesser degree, Afghanistan? In fact, no where in the story does Christenson imply that what the Pentagon reports is false, he just calls it propaganda. And to top it all off, Christenson writes that critics say:
The Bush administration, they say, has established a pattern of attempting to mislead the public with self-promotional material that imitates news stories.

Again, he is talking about events that have nothing to do with the Pentagon's DVIDS program, but past instances where columnists were paid to promote the Administration agenda on Medicare and the No Child Left Behind act.

Perhaps Mr. Christenson should have reviewed the definition of propaganda before he wrote his story. If he had he would have seen that what the SAEN reports on a daily basis about Iraq is in fact propaganda. Here is the first definition of propaganda from
1. The systematic propagation of a doctrine or cause or of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause.

The editors of the SAEN do not support the Bush administration or the war in Iraq and therefore report only negative stories from Iraq. This clearly fits into the definition above of "the systematic propagation of information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such a doctrine or cause." The SAEN wants you to believe that only the Pentagon is guilty of spreading propaganda when in fact the SAEN is just as guilty. The crime here is that the SAEN does it under the ruse of being an independent news organization.

Update 3/14/05: Funny that Christenson didn't mention the Clinton Administration's use of this same tactic:
The practice, which also occurred in the Clinton administration, is continuing despite President Bush's recent call for a clearer demarcation between journalism and government publicity efforts.

It's more whining from the liberal media. Long ago they decided to inject themselves into politics to push their left-wing agenda. Now, they complain that politics is getting into the media to return the favor.

But, not just any politicians. The NY Times reports that this practice started with the Clinton Administration, yet we heard no complaints from the SAEN. Apparently, this is ok as long as they are all fellow travelers.
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