Saturday, December 03, 2005

We Had to Deceive in Order to Protect the Truth

The Washington Post, on the U.S. military's planting of "news" favorable to the Americans in Iraqi newspapers:

The U.S. military command in Baghdad acknowledged for the first time yesterday that it has paid Iraqi newspapers to carry positive news about U.S. efforts in Iraq, but officials characterized the payments as part of a legitimate campaign to counter insurgents' misinformation.

In a statement, the command said the program included efforts, "customary in Iraq," to purchase advertising and place clearly labeled opinion pieces in Iraqi newspapers. But the statement suggested that the "information operations" program may have veered into a gray area where government contractors paid to have articles placed in Iraqi newspapers without explaining that the material came from the U.S. military and that Iraqi journalists were paid to write positive accounts.
In describing the program, military officials said third parties -- including the Washington-based Lincoln Group -- were sometimes hired to distribute the articles to newspapers to protect publishers that might have been targeted by insurgents if they were known to accept material from the military.

Officials said one unanswered question they have is whether the Lincoln Group intentionally misled newspapers by presenting the articles as freelance journalism, obscuring the fact that the material came from U.S. armed forces.

Lincoln Group officials would not discuss specifics of the contract. Laurie Adler, a spokeswoman for the company, said yesterday that Lincoln Group has been promoting truthful reporting across Iraq.

"We counter the lies, intimidation, and pure evil of terror with factual stories that highlight the heroism and sacrifice of the Iraqi people and their struggle for freedom and security," Adler said in a written statement. "We are encouraged by their sacrifice and proud to help them tell their side of the story."

Oh, come off it. The "enemy" always lies, intimidates, and terrorizes with its pure evil ways. "Our side" is always heroic and self-sacrificing and struggling for freedom. Sounds like the military's idea of the truth is just as much propaganda as Al Qaeda's is.

Which brings up an important point. Somebody in the MSM needs to challenge the assumption that the planted articles were the truth, and the only problem was the failure to make clear that the source of the "factual information" was the U.S. military. This is not just about "the military using covert methods to get favorable information into print"; it's about whether the "information" is actually disinformation, designed to gain military advantage by preventing any facts, truths, or unpleasant realities being put out that contradict the military's carefully crafted message. In other words, the Washington Post and other papers should be writing that the U.S. military paid Iraqi journalists to write propaganda favorable to the U.S. side -- not that the military paid Iraqi journalists to write news favorable to the U.S. side.

Of course, Al Qaeda puts out propaganda and calls it truth also; but that's why they are called the bad guys. They don't care about the truth if the truth makes them look bad. We care about the truth even when it does make us look bad. Right?

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