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Old 04-04-2003, 04:13 PM   #31
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I htought this was a cute reference guide for propoganda/

Detecting disinformation, without radar
By Gregory Sinaisky

How to tell genuine reporting from an article manufactured to produce the desired propaganda effect? The war in Iraq provides us plenty of interesting samples for a study of disinformation techniques.

Take the article "Basra Shiites Stage Revolt, Attack Government Troops", published on March 26 in The Wall Street Journal Europe. Using its example, we will try to arm readers with basic principles of disinformation analysis that hopefully will allow them in the future to detect deception.

The title of the article sounds quite definitive. The article starts, however, with the mush less certain "Military officials said the Shiite population of Basra ... appeared to be rising". "Military officials" and "appeared to be" should immediately raise a red flag for a reader, especially given a mismatch with such a definitive title. Why "officials"? Were they speaking in a chorus? Or was each one providing a complementary piece of information? A genuine report certainly would tell us this and also name the officials or at least say why they cannot be identified.

Why "appears to be"? There are always specific reasons why something "appears to be". For example, information about the uprising may be uncertain because it was supplied by an Iraqi defector who was not considered trustworthy and has not been confirmed from other sources. Again, every professional reporter understands that his job is to provide such details and it is exactly such details that make his reporting valuable, interesting, and memorable. If such all-important details are missing, this is a sure sign to suspect intentional disinformation.

Going further down the article, we see even more astonishing example of the same vagueness. "Reporters on the scene said that Iraqi troops were firing on the protesting citizens ..." For an astute reader, this short sentence should raise a whole host of questions. Were the above-mentioned reporters Western media reporters embedded with the troops? What was their location and the distance from which they observed the event?

Obviously, being inside a besieged city with riots going on is an exceedingly dangerous business. Why were the names of the reporters distinguished by such shining bravery concealed from us, instead of being proclaimed with pride? Why do they not want to tell us where they were observing from and how they managed to get there? In any case, under the circumstances, being closer to the scene than the distance of a rifle shot, say one kilometer, merits a special explanation. Now, an interesting question is, what are the visual clues allowing a reporter to distinguish, at such distance, between an uprising and, let's say, troops firing on looters or many other possible explanations for the same observation?

The only cue I can think of is not visual, but an aural cue from an editor requesting the reporter to report what we cannot explain as anything but an attempt of intentional disinformation. Given a very specific nature of the disinformation produced in this particular case, its obvious potential effect on both resisting Iraqis and anti-war public opinion, we cannot see any other explanation for it, except that The Wall Street Journal directly collaborates with the psychological warfare department in the Pentagon.

Some unexpected light on the story is shed in "UK: Iraq to feel backlash in Basra" posted on also on March 26. In this article, the original report on a civilian revolt is attributed to "the British military authorities and journalists", again unnamed. Here, the chorus of "the officials" singing in unison with "journalists" makes the somewhat more specific and exceedingly bizarre statement: "We have radars, that, by tracing the trajectory of mortar rounds, are able to work out the source, as well as the target location, which in this case were civilians in Basra." So, now we know that the uprising in Basra was detected by British officials and journalists watching a radar screen! This amazing British radar can even tell an Iraqi official from a simple citizen and a civilian from a soldier! Moreover, it apparently can read minds and determine the reasons people fire on each other!

Truly, there is a big lie in the information attributed to British officials. Or maybe I am wrong and this is an example of the famous British sense of humor deployed to get rid of pestering American correspondents? Chorus of American correspondents: "Is there an uprising going on in Basra? There must be. My editor told me to report it. You say, how would you know? That's impossible, my editor told me ..." British official: "All right, chaps. I see it on the radar." Sounds of cellphone dialling and keyboards rattling ...

To conclude: Remember the following first rule of disinformation analysis: truth is specific, lie is vague. Always look for palpable details in reporting and if the picture is not in focus, there must be reasons for it.

Want to know the names of rising stars of disinformation to watch? The Wall Street Journal article was "compiled" by Matt Murray in New York from reports by Christopher Cooper in Doha, Qatar, Carla Anne Robbins and Greg Jaffe in Washington, and Helene Cooper with the US Army's Third Infantry Division in Iraq.

(Copyright 2003 Gregory Sinaisky)

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Old 04-04-2003, 04:17 PM   #32
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First of all Pax, aren't you a conservative?
I thought you were from your opinions on other posts here.

Anyway - FOX News to me is a nasty little habbit. A vice if you will. I love it.

There are some things that I have noticed.

This started during the WTC crisis - I am convinced Fox just makes stuff up to call it news.

I believe Shepard Smith's eyes are contorlled by two different people in the control booth with remote controls.

I like O'Reilly although sometimes he is heavy handed and an ass.

I like Hannity and Colmes.

Geraldo is an ass (but I like hjim.)

Fox is just a dirty little habbit. Once you realize that you can free your mind and watch it. Because think:

aren't they still more entertaining than CNN and NBC???

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Old 04-04-2003, 04:21 PM   #33
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If you like Geraldo, you'll love this. I just catching up on internet news and found this.
Cable News Networks Bring in The Snipers

By Lisa de Moraes

Thursday, April 3, 2003; Page C01

War has broken out between MSNBC and Fox News Channel.

Fox News star Geraldo Rivera lobbed the first grenade on Monday, when he appeared on Fox News Channel to deny reports that the Pentagon was expelling him from Iraq for revealing sensitive information.

"It sounds to me like some rats at my former network, NBC, are spreading lies about me . . . trying to stab me in the back. . . . MSNBC is so pathetic a cable news network they have to do anything they can to attract attention," he said, surrounded by members of the 101st Airborne.

MSNBC fired back with a segment on Tuesday about how Geraldo had become part of the Iraq war story, with anchor Lester Holt interviewing TV Guide senior editor Max Robbins.

Immediately after that segment, MSNBC cut to a promo that featured a waving American flag and the following printed message:

"MSNBC makes a pledge to all Americans. We will keep you informed by providing valuable, objective reporting. We will not compromise military security or jeopardize a single American life. We take both duties seriously. Let us know how we're doing." It included the network's e-mail address in the ad.

Yesterday morning, both sides continued their assault, using the crawls at the bottom of the screen.

MSNBC, in its crawl, told its viewers that the Pentagon had tossed Geraldo.

Actually, the Pentagon on Monday initially had said that Geraldo was being removed because he had "compromis[ed] tactical information." For broadcast, the FNC correspondent had sketched in the sand the location of various coalition forces and described a plan by one unit to join the surrounding of Najaf. He gave "real-time information about a unit's location, their mission and their pending activity, which would clearly aid the enemy," according to Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman. But, The Post's Howard Kurtz reported, after FNC Chairman Roger Ailes called a Defense Department official, the Pentagon amended that, saying the situation was under review. By yesterday the Pentagon's official position, Whitman told The TV Column, was that Fox News Channel had "pulled [Rivera] out of the theater," and that Fox News "completely understood our concerns and they took the matter seriously."

Meanwhile, Fox News Channel, in its crawl, reminded viewers that MSNBC had sacked Arnett on Monday in response to what FNC described as a public outcry.

MSNBC and its parent NBC fired Arnett over an interview with state-owned Iraqi TV, in which he said that America's "first war plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance" and that "our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces . . . help those who oppose the war." That firing was a bit odd, given that MSNBC and NBC had been insisting all along that they never actually hired Arnett, who was officially over there in his capacity as a National Geographic TV employee.

At some point yesterday, FNC asked MSNBC to correct its crawl to say Geraldo had voluntarily left Iraq. FNC's position on the Geraldo affair is that he volunteered to return to Kuwait "after learning of concerns that he may have inadvertently violated the rules governing embedded journalists." MSNBC refused to make the change. So yesterday afternoon, around 3:30 p.m., FNC brought out its heavy artillery: a sensational 15-second ad blasting the network it had until that moment steadfastly referred to as "irrelevant."

"He spoke out against America's armed forces," roared the ad, which featured footage of Arnett giving his career-busting interview to Saddam Hussein's TV network.

"He said America's war against terrorism had failed. He even vilified America's leadership.

"And he worked for MSNBC.

"Ask yourself," the ad continued, "is this America's news channel?" (FNC apparently did not get the memo that MSNBC had dumped its short-lived "America's NewsChannel" brand in favor of "NBC News on Cable 24/7.")

The ad ends with FNC's usual sales pitch: We report, you decide, fair, balanced, blah, blah, blah.

Yesterday we contacted both sides to see if they couldn't try diplomacy first.

"It's interesting that they now find us relevant, since as recently as just a few weeks ago they deemed us irrelevant," MSNBC spokesman Jeremy Gaines told us. "I find it outrageous that they'd run this promo while they continue to employ Geraldo Rivera."

MSNBC also says the promo that ran following its Geraldo segment had been produced during the war in Afghanistan. Who knew news channels kept promos in the can so long.

Over at FNC, the response was no longer that "MSNBC is irrelevant" -- which was some progress, since that line was getting really stale.

"MSNBC should be more concerned about being an embarrassment to GE than [about] who we employ," the network said.

In their spare time yesterday, both news networks covered the carnage in Iraq.

2003 The Washington Post Company
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Old 04-04-2003, 05:03 PM   #34
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that fight reminds me of Pleaba
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Old 04-04-2003, 05:36 PM   #35
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What the heck? Do you mean PLEBA?
It's a little early for drinking on the west coast.
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Old 04-04-2003, 05:38 PM   #36
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Old 04-04-2003, 06:20 PM   #37
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All the Cable News Channels have their slant. None of them are without bias. If you don't like FOX there are several other choices out there. No one is forcing anyone to watch a particular channel.

Personally, I think all the Cable News Channels are overdoing it as far as the War coverage is concerned. It just doesn't need to be on 24 hours a day.
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Old 04-04-2003, 06:52 PM   #38
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Originally posted by Lemon Meringue
All the Cable News Channels have their slant. None of them are without bias. If you don't like FOX there are several other choices out there. No one is forcing anyone to watch a particular channel.

Personally, I think all the Cable News Channels are overdoing it as far as the War coverage is concerned. It just doesn't need to be on 24 hours a day.
I agree. It is non-stop war. I'm sure other things are happening in the US but damned if I know what else.

Except for SARS. I think this is a big issue that will only grow, especially because the local & national news aren't paying enough attention.

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Old 04-04-2003, 08:59 PM   #39
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Originally posted by The Wanderer
well, to be fair, come up with some specific examples where they are not "fair" or "accurate"
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Old 04-04-2003, 09:48 PM   #40
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Lemon Meringue and Scarletwine are right: 24 hours a day is just exhausting.

Ouizy: I'm not sure. I like to think of myself as a moderate, I guess, but more importantly I would at least *like to think* that I examine individual issues free of context or prejudice and then form my own conclusions. Do I do this? Maybe not all the time. But I try.

I have some conservative opinions, I guess, but most conservatives would not let me call myself one--which is probably for the best.
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Old 04-05-2003, 02:33 AM   #41
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Thought this was interesting, regarding the U.S. government's control of the flow of information to the media.


An Army of Propaganda

By Kari Lydersen, AlterNet
March 31, 2003

Embedded reporters. Weapons of mass destruction. Surgical strikes.

It's no coincidence that Americans, and others around the world, are echoing the exact same phrases and news bites at the same times with near-military precision. It's the result of a slickly orchestrated public relations campaign on the part of the military and the U.S. government that is borrowing the best practices of the corporate PR world.

In an effort coordinated by the White House Office of Global Communication (which also coordinated press coverage of the war in Afghanistan), everyone connected to the government during the war on Iraq is echoing a pre-scripted message of the day.

According to PR Week, a trade publication of the PR industry: "The OGC, an office born out of post-September-11 efforts to combat anti-American news stories emerging from Arab countries, will be key in keeping all U.S. spokespeople on message. Each night, U.S. embassies around the world, along with all federal departments in DC, will receive a 'Global Messenger' e-mail containing talking points and ready-to-use quotes."

The PR industry, as many may know, was actually started by the military during World War I, when persuasive techniques were developed to recruit soldiers.

"After the war a lot of those people went to work for the private sector and are seen as the grandfathers of PR," says Laura Miller, associate editor of PR Watch (, a corporate and media watchdog group. "They were very up front about the fact that [in their opinion] in a democracy, public opinion needs to be controlled by a small number of people who know what's best for the public."

In the case of the war against Iraq, that means that there should be no confusion or dissent about the aims and progress of the war. In what was apparently meant as a compliment to the OGC network, PR Week noted that, "The network is intended not only to disseminate, but also to dominate news of the conflict around the world."

Sanitizing the Conflict

One aspect to this kind of domination of the news is the control and manipulation of viewpoints and information coming directly from the government.

The Bush administration has also been hard at work on limiting and ideally silencing opposing or challenging viewpoints and factual narratives coming from other sources. The administration has attacked Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based and state-funded media outlet which is the primary news source for much of the Arab world.

On March 25 the New York Stock Exchange revoked Al-Jazeera's credentials. Meanwhile hackers have prevented either its Arab or English-language sites from being accessible in the U.S. And the administration has pressured Qatar amir, Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, to force Al-Jazeera to give more emphasis to their versions of events.

Far from being anti-U.S. or pro-Saddam Hussein, media critics note that Al-Jazeera is widely seen as a moderate, balanced outlet that offers plenty of airtime to U.S. officials. Al-Jazeera actually drew the ire of the Iraqi government for reporting on Hussein's lavish birthday celebration.

It has drawn intense fire from the U.S. for airing video of the interrogation of American POWs, which the U.S. says violates the Geneva Convention.

"The POW footage has been shown by numerous TV stations around the world, yet Al-Jazeera was singled out by the U.S. government and demonized," said Lamis Andoni, an independent journalist and analyst who has covered the Middle East for over two decades. "They [the U.S. administration] want one story line to be out there, but they cannot control the story line when there are other stories like Al-Jazeera's."

A sanitized view of the conflict serves an important political purpose for the U.S. administration, both in downplaying the vulnerability of U.S. troops and dehumanizing and de-emphasizing Iraqi casualties, especially of civilians. In keeping with this strategy not only is it unacceptable to show video of the American POWs, but also images of death in general.

Erich Marquardt, editor and publisher of, found this out when his site was shut down by its Internet provider after posting photos of U.S. prisoners of war and dead Iraqi civilians. Journalism professors and media experts note that while there has not yet been widespread blatant censorship, U.S. media outlets in step with the government have practiced their own form of carrot and stick self-censorship.

Stars and Stripes Forever

A few high-profile journalists with anti-war or anti-administration sentiments have suffered actual retribution for their views. Talk show host Phil Donahue had his show pulled by MSNBC because, according to inside memos leaked to the press, his anti-war and left-leaning views were contrary to the current patriotic fever. Meanwhile MSNBC recently awarded a show to right-wing shock jock Michael Savage, who among many other things has referred to young urban gunfire victims as "ghetto slime."

While actual demotions or firings like Donahue's are relatively rare, University of Texas journalism professor Robert Jensen notes that ambitious journalists are made all too aware of how their coverage of the war could affect their future careers.

"This is more a system that rewards those who comply than punishes those who don't," said Jensen, author of the book "Writing Dissent." "There are only a couple dramatic cases where people were punished, but then it doesn't take many demonstration cases to scare people away. And the rewards the system offers are quite tangible if you play the game you'll get this; if you don't play the game you might just get that."

Jensen says that overt displays of patriotism from journalists should be considered just as taboo as blatant anti-war sentiment. "Journalists make the claim of being neutral, but you have journalists saying we're neutral but we're also patriotic," he said. "Yet patriotism is a political position, it's not a neutral position. You can't be both."

Clear Channel, the largest owner of radio stations in the country, has scrapped even any pretense of objectivity with its sponsorship of pro-war rallies in major cities throughout the U.S.

Embedded in War

One reason patriotism seems to be running so high among journalists covering the war from Iraq is the "embedded reporter" system. This new strategy has roughly 500 journalists from different media outlets actually integrated with troops, traveling and living with them. While this offers a decent number of reporters first-hand views of the action, critics say the drawbacks are far worse than the benefits.

"It is unusual to have this many reporters with this much access to the battlefield, but that access has come at a high price," said Rachel Coen, an analyst for FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting).

The embedded reporters' work is highly regulated by government officials. They are not permitted to interview Iraqis without permission and they cannot interview soldiers off the record, drastically reducing the likelihood that troops will say anything negative about the U.S. effort. And it's only natural that reporters who are living and traveling with soldiers in such close quarters will quickly form strong bonds and camaraderie with the troops.

As with a journalist who gets too friendly with any source, this presents an ethical dilemma.

"Embedding is a way to kill the press with kindness," said NYU media studies professor Mark Crispin Miller. "You absorb reporters into the advancing military unit, and they're psychologically inclined to see themselves as part of the military operation. They even dress like soldiers."

During the Vietnam War, growing media skepticism and coverage of the conflict played a major role in turning public opinion against the war. But Robert Jensen said he sees two main types of stories coming from the embedded reporters and neither of them fills the need for big-picture accurate reporting.

"First are the human interest stories what are they eating, what are they doing for fun?" he said. "Those are valid stories, but they aren't very important in helping the public understand the nature of the conflict. The other kind are just narrating the movement of troops we're going down the road, we're going down the road some more, there are people shooting at us. Those are reports that are very dramatic, but what do they tell us about the war, about the politics of war, about the lies we're being told by the Bush administration?"

Casualties of Truth

Reports from FAIR document how truth has been one of the major casualties of the media's unquestioning reliance on government sources. On March 20, reporters from NBC, NPR, ABC and other outlets reported as fact the military's assertion that the Iraqis had used banned Scud missiles. However two days later the Joint Chiefs of Staff reported that in fact no Scud missiles had been fired. Similarly on March 23 various media trumpeted the government's claim that a chemical weapons factory had been found near the town of Najaf, though a day later that claim was totally debunked.

With increasing Iraqi civilian casualties and military setbacks, however, the press is slowly being forced to admit that things aren't all rosy.

"The recent reverses the U.S. has suffered have made some of the coverage better than it might otherwise have been," noted Mark Crispin Miller. "Over the last couple of days they've had to admit that the spin we're getting from people like Rumsfeld is just false."

Ideally, many say, journalists' skepticism and media outlets' willingness to criticize the administration will grow if the war drags on and casualties on either side mount.

"It's a really interesting gamble they've taken with this embedded reporter thing," said Laura Miller. "They are hoping the journalists will do their PR work for them, and so far they have been. But there are so many journalists there, and journalists do have this idealist streak in them. So if things go bad, and the journalists are at the right place at the right time, or the wrong place at the wrong time, depending how you look at it, they could be reporting some crazy stuff."

Kari Lydersen writes for the Washington Post and is an instructor for the Urban Youth International Journalism Program in Chicago.

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