December 3, 2005

Buy an Ad, Go to Liberal Heck

Hatched by Dafydd

I've refrained from commenting on the "evil military destroying freedom of the press in Iraq" story because -- unlike the mainstream media -- I actually wanted to get the facts before throwing myself off the Conclusion Cliff. And now we have some.

Recall that the charge, leveled by a group of anonymous "military officials" and published in the Los Angeles Times, was that the American military, as part of a devious, underhanded PsyOps program, was bribing Iraqi newspapers to publish propaganda pieces that were actually written by intelligence officers; the poor newspaper editors, the charge went on, had absolutely no idea that they were being covertly manipulated by their American spymasters, in blatant violation of the Rights of Man, international law, and the Iraqis' sacred First-Amendment rights.

After actually investigating the facts of the case, however, the Pentagon has explained what was really going on. From "Military Explains News Propaganda in Iraq," by Lolita C. Baldor

"If any part of our process does not have our full confidence, we will examine that activity and take appropriate action," said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman in Iraq. "If any contractor is failing to perform as we have intended, we will take appropriate action."

Johnson did not specify what changes, if any, might be considered.

The remarks came after days of reports and criticism that the military was covertly planting in the Iraqi media stories that, while factual, gave a slanted, positive view of conditions in Iraq. [One presumes that a slanted, negative view of conditions in Iraq -- which we see every day from the same Los Angeles Times that breathlessly broke the tendentious version of this story -- would have been perfectly fine. -- the Mgt.]

U.S. military officials in Iraq said articles had been offered and published in Iraqi newspapers "as a function of buying advertising and opinion/editorial space, as is customary in Iraq."

Coalition forces compiled the material, and the Washington-based Lincoln Group was authorized to pay Iraqi papers to run the articles, which were supposed to be identified in that way, said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Warner, who went to the Pentagon Friday for an explanation, said the program was carefully monitored by military leaders and was reviewed by attorneys to ensure it complied with the law.

In other words, the huge "scandal" is that Coalition forces commissioned American soldiers to write "factual" accounts (nobody disputes that they were factual) of military engagements and rebuilding efforts, to counter the malicious lying by the terrorists and the American and international MSM. These accounts were handed to a third party in order to protect the Iraqi newspapers from reprisals by Zarqawi. The stories written by the soldiers were run as ads and paid commentary, which is a normal way to get your message out in Iraq; and they were supposed to have been identified as having been written by American soldiers.

But somehow, attribution didn't always get attached. Who could be responsible for that? Was it deliberate "propaganda," as the Associated Press has taken to calling it?

In fact, the Times even admitted that typically, the stories were identified as adverts, and were sometimes run in special fonts, typographies, and colors. But evidently, not every Iraqi stringer working for the Lincoln Group identified the purchaser as the Coalition when he sold the stories.

Why might they not do this? The answer is easily deduced from the Los Angeles Times story that started the whole "scandal" investigation, "U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press":

After he learned of the source of three paid stories that ran in Al Mada in July, that newspaper's managing editor, Abdul Zahra Zaki, was outraged, immediately summoning a manager of the advertising department to his office.

"I'm very sad," he said. "We have to investigate."

The Iraqis who delivered the articles also reaped modest profits from the arrangements, according to sources and records.

Employees at Al Mada said that a low-key man arrived at the newspaper's offices in downtown Baghdad on July 30 with a large wad of U.S. dollars. He told the editors that he wanted to publish an article titled "Terrorists Attack Sunni Volunteers" in the newspaper.

He paid cash and left no calling card, employees said. He did not want a receipt. The name he gave employees was the same as that of a Lincoln Group worker in the records obtained by The Times. Although editors at Al Mada said he paid $900 to place the article, records show that the man told Lincoln Group that he gave more than $1,200 to the paper.

Al Mada is widely considered the most cerebral and professional of Iraqi newspapers, publishing investigative reports as well as poetry.

Zaki said that if his cash-strapped paper had known that these stories were from the U.S. government, he would have "charged much, much more" to publish them. [Emphasis added -- here, there, and everywhere]

And there you have it. Let's apply Occam's Razor to this conundrum.

  1. The Coalition decides to counter the agitprop of the enemy by employing the powerful engine of the truth.
  2. For this truth, they turned to the actual soldiers in the field, who wrote stories.
  3. Coalition media folks handed them over to the Lincoln Group to be placed with attribution in newspapers.
  4. The Lincoln Group decides the best way to do this is to use Iraqi stringers, just as AP, the L.A. Times, and every other non-Arab news source in the Middle East uses.
  5. The stringers discover that when they inform the newspapers the ads are being bought by the Coalition, they get charged a lot more. They hit on a scheme: they don't tell the newspapers and don't get receipts. The newspapers charge $X dollars to place the stories as ads; the stringers inform the Lincoln Group that they had to fork out $Y, where Y is significantly larger than X. The stringers pocket the difference.

But of course, this reality doesn't make for a good scandal-mongering story; and it also doesn't fulfill the urgent task of portraying the American military and the war effort as sleazy, disreputable, and distasteful. So the Los Angeles Times works itself into a lather of moral indignation -- and Hurricane Plantgate forms off the southwestern coast.

Some of the charges in the L.A. Times story are unintentionally just hilarious. Here are my favorites:

  • "Though the articles are basically factual, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said."


  • "According to several sources, the process for placing the stories begins when soldiers write "storyboards" of events in Iraq, such as a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on a suspected insurgent hide-out, or a suicide bomb that killed Iraqi civilians.

    "The storyboards, several of which were obtained by The Times, read more like press releases than news stories. They often contain anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials; it is unclear whether the quotes are authentic."

    [Note: the very same story making this accusation contains not a single named primary source; every source is anonymous! They are identified only as "military officials."]

  • Finally...

  • "'Absolute truth was not an essential element of these stories,' said the senior military official who spent this year in Iraq."

    [Quelle horror!]

So it goes. The whole imbroglio turns out to be a tempest in a molehole. But in the meantime, the Los Angeles Times dumps yet another shovelful of Shinola on the heads of the American military. And the Pentagon now must waste weeks explaining to the allies, the Iraqis, and the American people that no, they were not engaging in some horrible, Soviet-style propaganda campaign; that they're not against freedom of the press; that they're not anti-American; and that they're not fighting dirty, even though the terrorist enemy is and always will.

But that's the way the liberals' covert war against America has always been fought: another day, another slander.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 3, 2005, at the time of 12:03 AM

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» From The Pot Meets Kettle Department from
Since I've not been closely following the back and forth over the LA Times' "propaganda" article, I get absolutely no credit for making the following connection - "According to several sources, the process for placing the stories begins when soldiers w... [Read More]

Tracked on December 3, 2005 4:30 AM

» Buy an Ad, Go to Liberal Heck - the Rest of the Stories from Big Lizards
In our post from a week and a half ago, Buy an Ad, Go to Liberal Heck, we exploded the conventional "wisdom" anent the Los Angeles Times's infamous story claiming that dastardly PsyOps officers were tricking gullible Iraqi newspaper editors... [Read More]

Tracked on December 12, 2005 6:37 AM

» Lessons Learned In the Propaganda War from Big Lizards
After last December's flap over the Coalition paying Iraqi newspapers to plant "propaganda" -- which is what the New York Times labeled truthful, pro-democracy stories -- even an optimist could be excused for thinking we would, quite naturally, abandon... [Read More]

Tracked on March 3, 2006 5:53 PM


The following hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi

check this

The above hissed in response by: matoko kusanagi [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 3, 2005 10:00 AM

The following hissed in response by: directorblue

Faux outrage over real news.

Isn't it amazing that the MSM ignored CNN's admission it white-washed coverage of Iraqi atrocities... so that it could retain its Baghdad bureau.

The only saving grace in this matter is the MSM's continued circulation slide and Nielsens disintegration.

[Click my sig for more info on CNN and Iraq]

The above hissed in response by: directorblue [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 3, 2005 5:03 PM

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