How Not to Conduct Propaganda Efforts

U.S. Suffers Self-Inflicted PR Wounds

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You've heard it all before: The U.S. media is biased against the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. You may have heard claims that CNN is doing PR work for Al Qaeda by showing video of snipers killing U.S. military (see any number of military blogs). Perhaps you've seen charges that American journalists "in the field" aren't remotely near the field and have a certain flair for exaggeration (read this piece by Michael Fumento--which would be funny if it weren't such a sad statement of how things really are). And, if you look hard enough, you'll even find references to "The Global Media: A Work Paper for Invading the US Media," reportedly posted on jihadist websites. (Boy, ain't the interwebs something!?)

And what's the U.S. military doing in the meantime? Shooting itself in the foot, perhaps.

Michael Yon, best known in marketing world as the guy who tried to sue Shock! magazine out of existence, has a telling piece in The Weekly Standard in which he hammers the military making infantry embeds a thing of the past. Yon is about as pro-American and pro-military as they come, so when he writes a piece called "Censoring Iraq: Why are there so few reporters with American troops in combat? Don't blame the media," you have to assume the military is sort of dropping the ball on this one. (Full disclosure: Yon, himself, has been denied press credentials by the military).

According to Yon, in September of this year, there were nine embeds (as opposed to all those bureau people living it up in Bagdhad) with the U.S. military: "Three were from Stars and Stripes, one from the Armed Forces Network, another from a Polish radio station who was with Polish forces, and one Italian reporter embedded with his country's troops. Of the remaining three, one was an author gathering material for later, leaving two who were reporting on a regular basis to what you might think would be the Pentagon's center of gravity: American citizens."

And, finally, a key point from Yon: "This information blockade is occurring at the same time that the Pentagon is outsourcing millions of dollars to public relations firms to shape the news. This half-baked effort has the unintended consequence of putting every reporter who files a positive story under scrutiny as a possible stooge."