Sunday, December 11, 2005

Telling the US side of the story to approved targeted audiences

What the fuck sort of day is this? Today’s NYT obits page reported the death of not one but two people who wrote (very different sorts of) books I own, Roger Shattuck and Robert Sheckley, then during the day Eugene McCarthy and Richard Pryor die. How did I not know Pryor was one of the writers of Blazing Saddles?

Boy I hope no one is reading any of that for the first time here.

The Sunday Times says that the only pictures ever published in Russia of Putin’s daughters are over a decade old.

“The enemy in Anbar province is different from that in other areas of Iraq,” a Pentagon release begins intriguingly, only to crash and burn in the next sentence, when it turns out that they are all “rejectionists,” a term that made its debut in Bush’s November 30th speech, and which is remarkable for the amount of information it completely fails to convey. Is this the grand sum of 3 years of accumulated knowledge about the enemy? The Pentagon people peddling this piffle prefer to remain “on background,” as well they might; you do have to wonder about a Pentagon release in which Pentagon officials aren’t willing to be named. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of a Rejectionist Party, and I would even suggest a motto: “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” Has a ring to it, doesn’t it? But as an intellectual category, it tells you nothing about the aspirations and ideas of the people to whom you apply the category (it’s not like any Iraqis actually consider themselves to be “rejectionists”). Indeed, it denies they have any aspirations or ideas we need to pay any attention to; it’s the same dismissive taunt, “They have no ideas, they just trash ours,” the Republicans like to use about the Democrats. To call your opponents rejectionist is to stigmatize, even criminalize disagreement.

The NYT has a good long story about American semi-secret propaganda efforts in Iraq and, in the last part, Afghanistan. Says a psyops colonel, “We tell the U.S. side of the story to approved targeted audiences.” In Afghanistan, the Pentagon gives money to 30 radio stations, including one named... wait for it... Peace, and a newspaper of the same name. Without disclosing the relationship, of course. Says AID’s rep in Afghanistan, whose name is evidently also a secret, “We want to maintain the perception (if not the reality) that these radio stations are in fact fully independent.” That’s called lying. AID also funds something called Voice For Humanity, which hands out iPod-like devices (pink for women, silver for men!) in both countries with get-out-the-vote messages, which can’t be used for anything else, just like those North Korean radios that can only receive state radio.

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