Information Warfare: How Good News Saves Lives

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December 5, 2005: The mass media recently got all excited about reports that American psychological warfare units were paying journalists and editors in Iraq to publish stories. The U.S. officers were using the program to get out news of the accomplishments of American forces in Iraq. This included reconstruction, and the reduction in terrorist attacks. In many parts of the world (and some parts of the United States), it's considered common practice to pay journalists to run stories they might not have otherwise run. Indeed, what we currently consider the profession of journalism started out using that as a basic busniess model. When newspapers became a mass media two centuries ago, they did so on the basis of "pay to play."

The United States is unique in that the idea of "independent journalism" developed. We still use the term, "fair and impartial," but the period when that was generally true is receding. In most of the world, this pay-to-play access to the media can be a matter of life or death. In Iraq, where the "if it bleeds it leads" attitude also applies with the local media, getting out some positive, and truthful, stories, can save lives. Such stories discourage the bad guys, and encourage more Iraqis to get involved in their own defense. The American psychological warfare and intelligence operations have, over the last two years, been able to greatly expand the number of pro-American, and pro democracy, Iraqis. This has resulted in more tips about terrorist operations, and a lot fewer terrorist victims. That should be news in the United States. But it's good news, so it isn't news worth publishing.

 


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