Monday, 26 January 2009

War, Propaganda and PR

The break is over and we are back to class for the second semester. Ever thought of war as propaganda and Public Relations? Well, the class started with a discussion on war and propaganda.
The discussion was interesting and informative. We were asked to assume we are Heads of a PR division in the Ministry of Defence. The exercise was to come up with 3 key tactics to achieve a mission as PR practitioner if there was to be a war.

After deliberations in small groups, most of the groups came up with ideas with strong words such as persuade, military, civilians, convince that are significant in the mission to be achieved.
Some of the interesting tactics included:
- Dehumanising the enemy
- Portraying a negative image of the enemy
- Use of media -- getting messages across and support from media
- Demonstrating that there's a capable military among others.
However, one needs to ask questions like, how much transparency do you need in PR in war and how do you control the media? But things not to forget are that normal rules of credibility still apply and to be careful about exaggeration of messages.
Reflecting on tactics used during war to control the media, it left me wonder if the information Journalists are reporting is true about these wars.

After the discussion, we watched a short film titled ’War Spin: The Media and the Iraq War’. The film is about the rescue of Jessica Lynch story, the U.S. Central Command Media Center in Iraq, and how journalists war embedded in covering the war.
Analysing this film got me thinking about ethics in Journalism as well. Seeing how journalists were embedded with front line troops and only getting briefings from a warehouse. One reporter, Michael Wolf, challenges the system at CentCom and is banned from asking any more questions. Another Journalist in the film who tried to be independent described how he tried to be objective during the war, but media minders manipulated the message and suppressed reports, forbidding pictures.

Some of the rules of spin were reflected in this film. For instance: rule number 1. to keep off certain issues and rule number 2. one message and sticking to it....

After thinking through that first session of the semester and reading some articles on war and propaganda, I wanted to know more. I came across the video below and thought it would be interesting to share it.

Edward Bernays on Propaganda and Public Relations

Another interesting video on Edward L. Bernays on Propaganda and Public Relations. In this video Bernays who is considered one of the fathers of the field of public relations talks about how he had to find another word for propaganda, which is PR and helped define it. Also we see one of his strategies, the one that really propelled him into fame in the late 1920s, was getting women to smoke. Women didn't smoke in those days and he ran huge campaigns for Chesterfield. Listen for some more in this video.