“The Pentagon gave a controversial U.K. PR firm over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda program in Iraq, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.” This story recently broke into search bars everywhere. The story goes that the DOD paid a PR firm to help craft terrorist videos.
We don’t do enough of this. We shouldn’t we be resourceful to fight the enemy? The Islamic State weaves lies and creates false narratives in their videos. They are information operations. Something that is probably underutilized in modern U.S. warfare. Carly Fiorina, during the Republican primary debates, encouraged the government to reach out to Silicon Valley when in need. She implied that when she was CEO of HP, she felt out of touch with the government. She didn’t feel that Uncle Sam was tapping the valley. We should be using whatever resources we can.
Beyond this PR firm there is another resource that we haven’t utilized. Hollywood should go to war. I don’t mean sending Comedians forward as Bono suggested, either.
This fight, to a great extent, is due to a void of communication between the West and those who feel marginalized elsewhere in the world. The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) tracks propaganda and information throughout the Middle East. There’s plenty of evidence that shows an alternate narrative propagated in countries where we have vested interest. So, why is it we aren’t using our substantially professional and powerful media agencies?
Whatever the content, it can be employed in a variety of ways that governmental agencies can solve. But, the media, Hollywood, and other thought leaders can help frame arguments to persuade others. Persuasion and the power of perception are what we lack. Our culture and way of life have an overall positive reputation. However, in the Middle East and other theatres, our presence is more complex and wholly separate from our ‘cool’ culture.
On the other side of things. They spent 500 Million USD for this operation. That sounds absurd. It cost $18 Million USD to produce “Predator.” That film inspired me to want to join the military in the first place. It was a shade of money compared to terrorist videos I’ve never heard of. My question is: what impact did we get for half a billion dollars? What level of professionalism was there? If we wanted to go this route – why didn’t we turn to Hollywood? If we have, great. But maybe films for everyone can begin to normalize these wars and highlight the good that’s being done.
What could we have done with our schools and infrastructure with that money? Why is it difficult to get domestic spending and so easy to get funding for projects abroad? It seems counter-intuitive. Our future is the most pressing national security concern. The next generation will be running this mess, and they’ll judge this generation’s decisions. During their snapchat breaks, naturally.
The fact that we paid a PR firm to aid in information operations should not come as a surprise. Besides the fact that paid patriotism for NFL games occurred should be way more alarming. That’s a case where someone has gone off the reservation and are influencing citizens within our own sovereignty. That’s more reminiscent of 1984 than hiring a PR firm to help wage a war where information is as powerful as tanks.
Featured image courtesy of es.redskins.com.