Sunday :: Jun 18, 2006

Marketing Campaign to Sell America Failing

by Mary

Yesterday I noted how the Bush administration has been doing a bang-up job in creating a government that was an enemy to the common good. Today, the topic is about one of their greatest failures: how they are failing even to achieve what they want with their extensive marketing campaigns. The Bush administration is a firm believer that they create their own reality by their acts and sheer audacity therefore all that really needs to be conveyed in their communications with the public and the world is their reality. Once we have all been exposed to their reality, then by God, it is reality.

The problem is that the reality they continually tout has been awfully hard to perceive by the hoi polloi. In fact, after years of engaging in a battle for the hearts and minds of the world using the full power of scientific marketing the administration has created a reality where the US image is perceived negatively by growing numbers of people throughout the world. Karen Hughes, whatever you are doing isn't working.

Where else is the message failing? Oh yeah, in Iraq. Why even the US Ambassador is having a hard time seeing the reality of a free and democratic country that has turned the corner. Just before Bush's photo-op designed to show that he takes Iraq seriously, the Ambassador was sending a cable that things were going pretty badly in the country. As Ambassador Khalidzad noted:

Although our staff retain a professional demeanor, strains are apparent. We see that their personal fears are reinforcing divisive sectarian or ethnic channels, despite talk of reconciliation by officials. Employees are apprehensive enough that we fear they may exaggerate developments or steer us towards news that comports with their own worldview. Objectivity, civility, and logic that make for a functional workplace may falter if social pressures outside the Green Zone don't abate.

It seems that the non-Bushian reality of the outside civil war zone is leaking into the Green Zone.

And what about that glorious campaign to wage war on the battlefield of ideology and values? Well, Daniel Schulman's comprehensive piece in the CJR provides a comprehensive history of how the Bush administration has long been willing to blur the lines between providing truthful information to the public and waging psychological warfare and the results of these tactics.

A senior PAO who recently returned from Iraq told me that he was most troubled by IO’s dealings with the Iraqi press. “Normally all things media go through PA channels, where truth is the currency,” he said, asking that he not be named since his candor may not serve him well during an upcoming Pentagon assignment. “When you have IO dealing with local media — especially in a country with no experience with a free press — I think you run the risk of undermining the military’s credibility and/or sowing distrust with the local population when IO operators seek to influence, and use truth-based information rather than the simple truth.” He continued, “Perhaps Iraq is a unique situation, but I think some of our IO efforts may have hurt our overall efforts at supporting an elected government and democratic, free institutions. Saddam fed the people propaganda for decades — should we continue to feed them propaganda and expect them to support us and/or their elected officials?”

...If the press, foreign and domestic, remains fair game for psychological operations, the military, as well as the media, could be headed for a credibility crisis. “There are some people who will say we have to do whatever it takes to win this war,” said Pamela Keeton, who is now the director of public affairs and communications for the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded nonpartisan organization that focuses on conflict resolution. “I think there are places where we need to draw the line — and one of them is using the news media for psyops purposes. It will get to the point where the news media won’t trust anybody, and the people won’t trust what’s being quoted in news articles.” Propaganda, even the kind intended for specific audiences, can turn up anywhere — on the news wires, in newspapers, on blogs or Web sites. “They’re not going to know that they were written by some information-warfare guy,” she said. In the hands of policymakers, she continued, these skewed stories can then be used for political ends — to show that the Taliban is disintegrating, say, or that Iraqis are taking the initiative to protect and rebuild their country, or that the war on terror is going better than it really is. She seemed less than hopeful that the damage could be contained. “It’s a Pandora’s box.”

A significant problem with using disinformation to "create reality" is people need to have accurate and truthful information to make good decisions, but our sources of information are contaminated with suspect and dishonest stories.

We are becoming a country that cannot believe anything our government says to us because they have been so dishonest in so many ways for so long. On this front, Bush and his compatriots have surely lost their battle to create their reality. But what they have sown is distrust, cynicism and a whole boatload of conspiracy theories - not exactly what they had thought they would create with their scientific marketing plan.

Mary :: 4:48 PM :: Comments (33) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!