Posts Tagged ‘Propaganda’

Mayors Against Illegal Guns Crassly Exploits AZ Shooting With Facebook Ad

February 1, 2011 Leave a comment

[Updated] Check out this utterly crass and opportunistic ad that just appeared on Facebook featuring the mugshot photo of Jared Loughner pitching a message in support of gun control.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns Facebook Ad

Mayors Against Illegal Guns Facebook Ad

The ad is linked to the webpage of Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a petition to implement gun control measures.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns Petition Page

Mayors Against Illegal Guns Petition Page

Apart from the vulture-like timing, there are at least a couple of things wrong with the ad (not the least of which is the reality that none of the measures proposed by MAIG would have stopped Loughner given that he legally-purchased his firearms from licensed vendors):

  1. It uses Jared Loughner’s image to endorse something without his permission.  As near as I can remember, we’re still living in the United States where we afford the accused due process before they’re convicted.  Talk about “poisoning the well.”
  2. Even the Dalai Llama would likely find it difficult to muster sympathy for Loughner, but the reality is in all liklihood he is severely mentally-ill.  Exploiting the fearsome, contorted visage in his mug shot is nothing short of macabre and cruel (and ultimately contributes to the stigma that mental illness carries with it – making it less likely that others will seek treatment).
  3. As if reality weren’t scary/horrible enough, it also appears the MAIG doctored the photo of Loughner; cutting his head out of his mugshot photo and pasting it into a body wearing a hoodie and standing in front of a criminal line-up backdrop.  I guess a suspected shooter in a white t-shirt isn’t menacing enough; he needs to be stereotyped by clothing as well?
Apparently Doctored Photo of Jared Loughner in MAIG Ad

Apparently Doctored Photo of Jared Loughner in MAIG Ad

In the communications field, it’s important to contextualize your message and relate it to current events.  This, however, is a rather cynical and unethical application of those principles.

Shame on the MAIG for exploiting the tragedy to serve their political ends (after the nation has had a long, deliberate discussion about precisely how misguided that practice was immediately after the tragedy) and shame on Facebook for approving that ad for publication.

Is the Era of CGI Disinformation Near?

January 31, 2011 Leave a comment

During a recent episode of WNYC’s On the Media (“Tunisia’s Twitter Revolution?”), foreign policy blogger Marc Lynch described how the advent of social media empowered the citizens of Tunisia to revolution by making it palpable and real:  “In a sense, you almost have to see the images of other people braving the military, going out in the streets, before it even occurs to you to say, you know, I could do that, too.”

It occurred to me that just as video could empower citizens to act on behalf of a dissident group protesting a government, so too could government video compel those same citizens to different action (or inaction).

It’s long been the practice of authoritarian governments to plant representatives among the dissident population to act out in ways that discredits he dissident movement.  The Tunisian government just engaged in this sort of action during the recent uprising.

Osama Bin Laden Propaganda Leaflet Dropped on Afghanistan

Osama Bin Laden Propaganda Leaflet Dropped on Afghanistan

Back in 2002, the US government was dropping leaflets in Afghanistan that clumsily asserted that Osama bin Laden had betrayed his supporters and retreated to living in the western world as a wealthy, well-dressed and mustachioed socialite.

As the cost of computer-generated animation and HD video production equipment continues to drop, it puts the option of creating highly-realistic videos that depict complete fabrications.

Conspiracy theorists be damned.

That power to create realistic video forgeries will soon be within the power of smaller governments, or even branches of government agents – to say nothing of individuals (if it isn’t already).

Even though such forgeries would eventually discredited with sophisticated computer analysis of the footage, it’s a very tantalizing prospect for many people.  Too tantalizing.

Moral arguments aside, in the age of radical transparency that we now live in (where crowdsourced armies of citizen analysts can martial their efforts), attempting to use technology to create disinformation videos is utterly ill-advised.  As all PR pros and the Nixon administration know, lying about something is often infinitely worse than owning up to the reality.

Assuming that the US government operates on the up-and-up (and even it has its lapses) it still makes one worry that, given the speed with which the US government is outsourcing its intelligence operations, a tangentially-connected department or contractor could engage in such an action – which would ultimately have disastrous effects on the image of the US abroad.

Here’s to hoping I’m just blowing smoke; I’m not confident that “truth will out” in time to avoid disastrous consequences, given the cutthroat competition in the news media to break news first which frequently sacrifices accuracy for sensation.

Unsatisfied With the News Media’s Coverage of Your Disaster? – Create Your Own News Media!

June 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Scandal-plagued BP has resorted to drilling for its own news in the wake of the tidal wave of negative coverage of its Gulf Oil Spill from the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.  The company has dispatched its “reporters” from its internal newsletter (Tom Seslar and Paula Kolmar) to file reports from the company’s point of view.

As you can see from this hilariously over-the-top bit of fawning praise from Kolmar, the company’s perspective is markedly less critical of the company than the mainstream media:

“Triangles, circles, v-angles: precision shapes at sea executed by shrimping vessels and choreographed by skimming perfectionists to stop any oil from potentially getting close to Alabama’s coast. Though there isn’t oil close to shore, practices and rehearsals occur almost daily in preparation. […] From the relative comfort of a large square deck with a cold bottle of water always in hand, and an air-conditioned TV room with comfy sofas a level below, I witnessed beauty preparing to face the beast. Miss Jasmine, the most experienced local shrimping vessel, beautifully painted with a colourful dragon streaming along her sides, pulled the folded boom in place. Then gently pulling along her side, another vessel took on a rope from Miss Jasmine. With barely a pause, the two boats moved apart at the same speed, spreading the boom into a v-shape just like birds form in the sky. […] A ballet at sea as mesmerising as any performance in a concert hall, and worthy of an audience in its own right.”

If you like Kolmar’s work, you can read some of her earlier pieces like “Musical Interlude: How BP is Helping New Orleans Residents Rebuild, Two Years After Katrina.” Another interesting piece I turned up was “Grassroots Success in Colombia: For the past 20 years, BP and Colombia have grown together through good times and bad.” I was also able to find a reference that may have also written for “Oil Mill Gazeteer” the official publication of the International Oil Mill Superintendents Association.

BP has actually been filing their own reports since May 10th, but Seslar’s report appears to be the first one to make it into the public consciousness where it’s being lampooned by Rachel Maddow, BoingBoing, Talking Points Memo, Daily Kos and even the Columbia Journalism Review and Wall Street Journal (which acquired a copy of BP’s internal newsletter “Planet BP”).

This phenomena isn’t actually new for an oil company; Chevron engaged in a similar activity – hiring former CNN anchor Gene Randall to favorably report on the company which was packaged into a 60 Minutes-esque newsmagazine piece.

All of this comes at an interesting time, as the fragmentation of the media is collapsing the old business model the news industry has relied on for decades.  As we’re increasingly able to slip into our own insular worlds, surrounded only by media that confirms our notions of the world – I wonder if this strategy will become increasingly effective for reputation management.

Even if the public knows to be skeptical of content directly from BP, there’s an increasing opportunity this content will be picked up by a third party media outlet where “news laundering” can take place (just like money laundering, news laundering attempts to conceal the original source of information in the hopes of making it appear legitimate).

As staff are slashed from budgets, overworked reporters are increasingly leaning on public relations people to supply them with material for their reports as opposed to investigative reporting (which can be an expensive and sometimes fruitless venture – making it antithetical to the healthy bottom line of a profit-driven corporation).  Translation: less news will be told by objective third parties.