Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Information Operations

Captain Jeffrey Poole, the Marine Public Affairs Officer, sends the Belmont Club this explanation of Information Operations:


Marine Corps Doctrine defines the goal of Information Operations as to ‘influence a target audience’ while the goal of Public Affairs is to ‘inform a target audience’. When people hear the term IO they think of some sinister manipulation of the truth; however, the 2nd Marine Division’s IO campaign is designed to distribute information local Iraqis need to know such as rules for approaching a checkpoint, what sets you need to take when approach by a convoy or patrol, also basic news. As Bill Roggio pointed out when he went on an IO patrol with an Army PsyOps team, they were busy posting handbills of where the polling sites for the elections would be located.

Public Affairs, on the other hand is strictly information designed to educate a target audience. All my press releases conform to the Associated Press Style Guide for journalists. These rule don’t allow for editorializing, deceit, or lies of omission or commission. Phrases such, “huge weapons cache discovered”, “operation will deal a huge blow to the insurgency” will not be found in our releases. Nor will any demonizing of insurgents or terrorists.

The Courier Journal of Louisville, Kentucky describes lays out it misgivings about relationship between the military and the media from one correspondent's point of view.  What follows is excerpted.

Just the process of working on that story has revealed many things to me about my own country. I'd like to share some of them with you:

  • Lesson One: Many journalists in Iraq could not, or would not, check their nationality or their own perspective at the door.
  • Lesson Two: Our behavior as journalists has taught us very little. Just as in the lead up to the war in Iraq, questioning our government's decisions and claims and what it seeks to achieve is criticized as unpatriotic.
  • Lesson Three: To seek to understand and represent to an American audience the reasons behind the Iraqi opposition is practically treasonous. ... "Dexter Filkins, who writes for The New York Times, related a conversation he had in Iraq with an American military commander just before we left. Dexter and the commander had gotten quite friendly, meeting up sporadically for a beer and a chat. Towards the end of one of their conversations, Dexter declined an invitation for the next day by explaining that he'd lined up a meeting with a "resistance guy." The commander's face went stony cold and he said, "We have a position on that." For Dexter the message was clear. He cancelled the appointment."
  • Lesson Four: The gatekeepers -- by which I mean the editors, publishers and business sides of the media -- don't want their paper or their outlet to reveal that compelling narrative of why anyone would oppose the presence of American troops on their soil.
  • Lesson Five: What it's like to be afraid of your own country. ... "Once the story was finished and set to come out on the street, I was rushing back to the States -- mostly because we could no longer work once the story was published -- and I found I was scared returning to my own country. And that was an amazingly strange and awful feeling to have. Again, you could call me paranoid, but the questions about what might happen to me once in America -- where at least I would have more rights -- kept racing through my brain."

The imperative was to tell all sides to the story, including the enemy's.


Implicit in the model of Western warfare is that the warrior should never seek to persuade. That job has been assigned to the diplomats and civilians -- including the press. The most subversive thing imaginable is a military as good with words as it is with guns. That division of labor has been coextensive with the origins of uniformed armies. As old as the distinction between men in uniform and franc tireurs. Men under discipline might  be allowed the occasional inarticulate "hoo-ah" but politics was to be left to civilians. But in the second half of the 20th century a strange thing happened. The neat division between uniformed and un-uniformed combatants collapsed; and the firewall between man-at-arms and man of letters disappeared. For example, the man who conceived the screenplay of the Battle of Algiers was Saadi Yacef, himself was a combatant in the Algerian War. The Village Voice has this interview with him.

It's been almost 50 years since Saadi Yacef, revolutionary hero of the Algerian war of independence, leapt across the terraces of the Casbah in Algiers, fleeing from French forces. (Later, he'd play a character very close to himself in the legendary film he co-produced, The Battle of Algiers, which was based upon his memoirs.)

He got to star in his own play. The Western warrior was only allowed to die upon his shield. There was in the enemy camp no distinction between the uniformed combatant and civilian, no line between the word and the deed; and they considered this a natural state of affairs. For the journalist at the Courier Journal there was the conviction, sincerely held, that a hard wall should separate the men who kill and the men who convince; between the profession of journalism and that of arms. And so Dexter Filkins had no problem with the unnamed American military commander until that commander had the temerity to stray into territory that was Filkins' and Filkins' alone. "We have a position on that", the commander said. And the problem of course, was that the commander should have no position on that, whatever the cost in lives, whatever the consequences.

The problem was less acute when as in the past Hollywood and the newspapers could be relied upon to fight the information war. Bugs Bunny made fun of Hitler. Humphrey Bogart outwitted Major Strasser. Gary Cooper played Cloak and Dagger. But when journalism decided that convincing the enemy was not their department; that their function was more akin to providing check and balance they left a huge hole in the US military's capabilities, which all of a sudden found the enemy had abilities (think Al Jazeera) in an information-critical world it could not match; and whose members, since they wanted to live, keenly felt the need to redress. For example, they wanted to counter the idea that it was a holy thing to blow up women and children; wanted to promote the notion that democracy was a good in and of itself. They wanted to 'influence a target audience' not simply in Iraq, but throughout the world. In a world where the military was not allowed to use its full force they sought to compensate with the power of words. And that proved the most forbidden act of all.

If there is any evil greater than war itself it must surely be to make war without meaning it; to recruit allies without intending to stand by them; to send men into battle without purposing victory; to embark on campaign of arms that we ourselves do not believe in; and to kill in preference to persuasion. But maybe there's a greater. One writer at Slate argued that a worse danger is the conceit that any message is worth persuading others to believe. "The notion of evil has become profoundly maladaptive. Today, saying our enemy is 'evil' is like saying a preventable tragedy is 'God's will': It's a way of letting ourselves off the hook for crimes committed in our name. Not incidentally, it's also a way for our enemies to let themselves off the hook." They don't need to be let off the hook; they were never on it.


Blogger Jake said...

I think some of the problem about using the word evil is who is the message for. If the message is for the enemy, then telling them they are evil is counter productive. No one sees themselves as being evil and thus will dismiss the message as being wrong out of hand.

On the other side of things the message is not always about changing the enemies' mind but instead about explaining to ourselves and potential allies why we are right. In that case, discribing someone as evil is useful as a contrast to what we are doing (or should be doing) right.

12/28/2005 05:18:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Note to self:
Remember not to demonize the women stoning throat slashers.
They do not fight for their countries...
They do not fight for their people...
We dedicate this series / action figure to the daring Kevin Sites at the battlefront and the many more who has lost their lives for the honorable cause.

It is not even their war...

12/28/2005 05:22:00 AM  
Blogger tckurd said...

This one's easy. Let's examine the 5 rants using Ned Flanders lexicons:

1) Sin of partisanship
2) Sin of Being a Whining Brat Jumping Up and Down for What You Want But Don't Get
3) Sin of Treasonous activities
4) Sin of Jealousy
5) Sin of Extreme Paranoia - I mean, out of control paranoia. "[sic]I'm afraid to return to America"

Whatevers, media. Grow up. That's why we stop watching/reading/buying you. The infomercials and advertisements are better. You are dead to me.

12/28/2005 05:40:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmo said...

Lessons learned at the Courier-Journal?

Hardly. The list is a collection of assumptions and straw bogeymen that this 'correspondent' likely took with him to Iraq, preserved carefully throughout his time in the green zone surrounded by other like-minded fantasists.

That these delusions are shared widely by journalists who've never set foot in Iraq, and were shared widely even before the invasion of Iraq, is the tip-off.

If journalists truly provided the dispassionate coverage they claim to offer, I'd sit up and listen to this sort of thing. But when they place themselves so completely at the heart of their tired, fraudulent narratives, well, this is what you get.

12/28/2005 05:40:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This all, in reference to the Mohammedans, spins back to Mr Newt's 90% Solution.
as a Government we are unprepared to promote or even acknowledge the superiority of the US position.

The US Military posts hand bills, the Opfor uses satelitte TV.
The enemy performs staged video events, we cannot pay for editorial placement.

In the past Hollywood filled the propaganda slot for US. From 'Mr Smith goes to Washington' to 'High Noon' our message was transmitted to the World.
Now, instead of Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper, the US is represented by George Clooney and John Travalta. Syriana and Swordfish tell the American Tale, today.

The Government is illequipped for this Battle. The White House's Press Secretary is proof enough of that.

Blogging in english will not reach the masses in Tehran, nor change the course of Mohammed's horde.

Mr Murdock should be persuaded to expand into the Arab and Persian markets with his Sky Networks, subsidized and then left alone.
The tide could be turned.
Free flowing information is the key to Victory, we should be pumping it out, we're not.

Look at how radio help turn the tide, here in the US, why would it not work in Iraq or Iran?

Why are the Imams given free voice, while we pass out handbills and remain silent?

12/28/2005 05:47:00 AM  
Blogger nonomous said...

Don't forget the money angle. It pays to tintilate the American audience with 'insurgent' interviews. Bill Roggio has to pay his own way, but the Courier Journal correspondent is being paid to bring back the juicy details that will sell copy.

When that correspondent says " I found I was scared returning to my own country.", he was really saying "It was surprising that someone would take my story seriously, I was just entertaining couch potatoes. It won't get any American soldiers killed."

12/28/2005 05:56:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

they both pay their own way, it is just that Mr Roggio is closer to his clients.
It is reason, perhaps, why the WaPo reporter that misreported about Mr Roggio, Jonathan Finer, was not allowed to go to Iraq. His reporting skills did not rate the frieght. The WaPo Management correctly, it seems, decided Mr Finer was not worth the $30,000 expediture required to field him.

12/28/2005 06:07:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...


Seems to me the uniformed US forces in Iraq cross the line into civilian roles in other ways apart from being men of arms to men of letters.

We read on this blog and others, the many instances where the US commanders are involve in rebuiding infrastructure in Iraq. Not just brick and mortar, but the training of new leaders in Iraq the ways of democratic leadership.

We hear no complaints from the left about these most critical types of influence our forces have there. Mostly because they are things the nattering class left behind a generation or two back. Not to mention they know so little about what it takes to run an actual democratic government that these activities unnoticed - like arriving at work in the morning and not remebering going through all the intersections you know you had to pass to get there.

The left (and others) are most critical of the US forces information efforts simply because they beleive this is where they have their monopoly.

12/28/2005 06:15:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/28/2005 06:25:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Christopher Hitchens writes this about "Information Operations" in Iran:

" ... try for state-level rapprochement and simultaneous economic and cultural openings, or an aggressive policy of helping internal opposition to the regime. The two might not be mutually exclusive. Millions of Iranians have satellite dishes and relatives in the West; there is a large and restive Kurdish minority that has been much encouraged by developments in Iraq; feminist and other dissident movements are extensive. It is sometimes argued that such groups do not want to be seen or painted as agents of the U.S. government. Very well, then, here is a great project for American human-rights and pro-disarmament and "civil society" groups to undertake. Whatever the case, it cannot be that such a despotic and arrogant regime feels that it can meddle everywhere without any cost to itself. ..."

The piece can be read at in it's complete version

12/28/2005 06:32:00 AM  
Blogger enscout said...

There's only one way that the ME is going to be dragged forward, kicking and screaming, across twelve centuries of advancement. That being for the lone superpower to use every tool in it's arsenal, every degree of authority found necessary to accomplish the task. The left, having no such power or authority, is best simply ignored, as usual.

12/28/2005 06:54:00 AM  
Blogger Soldier's Dad said...

I can find no precedent for the concept of "Leaving your nationality at the door"

If a journalist feels it necessary to renounce their citizenship, then they should actually renounce their citizenship.

People who live in NY City, who root for the Red Sox, quickly learn that their opinion is unwelcome.

12/28/2005 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger steamboat said...

" I found I was scared returning to my own country." The only way this happens nowadays, is via a guilty conscience for what he may have written. The occassion when I experienced this apprehension was upon my return from VietNam. No guilty conscience, but bewilderment that long-hair who knew me would call me a baby-burner. Well, Mr. does it feel?

12/28/2005 09:23:00 AM  
Blogger fjelehjifel said...

Some days I think we are not fighting an information war with our enemies so much as we are fighting an information civil war amongst ourselves: MSM vs. the center-right blogosphere, for example.

Yesterday's pushback on the Washington Post's hit piece on Bill Roggio was just the latest skirmish. I hesitate to draw any grand implications here, except to posit that we may not win the information war overseas before we settle the fight here at home.

If the media is going to be skeptical as is its wont, fine. I'd consider it a major victory if we could just convince the MSM to apply its skepticism equally to all sides and not fall for the jihadist's information tricks, like the reported loss of Ramadi.

If Bill Roggio could figure out that particular propaganda ploy and report it, why couldn't Reuters?

Perhaps the goal should be to convince the MSM to live up to its own self-professed standards of being objective, fair, balanced, etc.

12/28/2005 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

The MSM will not change, and as 'Rat points out, they still have the numbers, but they don't have the truth, and their numbers are falling.
We need to increase our audience further.
(Wish Gibson would fund a Willis, Arnold, and Gibson war movie instead of another work of high art.)

12/28/2005 01:17:00 PM  
Blogger Evanston said...

Wretchard, the Commentary on your post was poetic and absolutely accurate. FFE is also correct to expand on your post from yesterday regarding Bill Roggio, essentially that this is the MSM vs. the Center-Right Blogosphere. Folks, welcome to my world. I watched every network news show and read Time magazine continuously from age 13 to 33. I joined the Marine Corps at 22. I learned over time that our biggest enemy is the Press. Reagan's move in banning the media in Granada (I was in NROTC at the time) was a master stroke. The Vietnam generation (men like Steamboat) who trained me absolutely hated the media. With time, I experienced events personally that were twisted to such outrageous proportion by the MSM that I stopped watching TV. I now cannot name a single Network anchor, nor even a local newscaster. I read online editions of the NY Times, LA Times, and WaPo articles routinely along with Center-Right online publications and the Blogosphere and rely on my own brain to figure out what's going on instead of the camera angles and intonations of the network talking heads. If I have a point, this is it: NOW THAT I AM RETIRED I CAN PLAINLY SAY WHAT ALL MILITARY MEN WERE SAYING IN IRAQ -- THE MSM IS OUR BIGGEST ENEMY. PERIOD. HAS BEEN FOR MY ENTIRE CAREER. The first Gulf War put them off balance, since our lopsided victory could only be criticized as too effective (see Highway of Death) but now they simply ignore what we do. They only care to print Islamofascist propaganda and create media figures like Ms. Sheehan and Gen Clarke (what a jackass). The Courier Journal reporter knows who he is. He is the enemy of every soldier, sailor, Marine, Airman, and decent American. The Decisive Battle is here in the U.S. and we need men like Wretchard (with our ally, Australia) and the rest of the Center-Right Blogosphere to be more assertive than ever. Make PayPal contributions to the Belmont Club and urge your friends/relatives to cancel any subscriptions to Leftist MSM publications, with a reason on "why" included. "Why?" Because your newspaper/magazine hates every hope of decent people and every value by which we live their lives.

12/28/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

No TV in my house since 1969!
I too can name few celebrities, but I have heard of a "Walter Cronkite," and watched Frank Reynolds for 3 years!

12/28/2005 02:00:00 PM  
Blogger Dymphna said...


I've been meaning to say I like your new form -- commentary at bottom. It gives you poetic license...which I must say you use so well that if I didn't know where you hailed from I'd swear you were Gaelic.

Never mind...this newly intense examination of the media is much to my liking. Like Doug, we are TV-less. Not necessarily out of virtue, though. We knew we'd get sucked into the nothingness of watching vacantly. Also were afraid of having the constantly evolving almost-porn commercials around our kid.

You (and the commenters) have fisked this "journalist" quite well. Imagine in WWII if one of our reporters had an appt to talk to a German. Jeez. These guys so thorougly don't get it that communication isn't even possible. And the sad thing is, this dude thinks he's showing us his wonderful boundaries.

Date with an "insurgent", huh? They call that move traitorous back in reality. But the MSM doesn't live in reality.

Imagine there's no MSM
It's so easy if you try...

12/28/2005 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Kaplan is on Hewitt talking about our Warriors for Good
with no voice.

12/28/2005 03:09:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

"Not necessarily out of virtue, though.
We knew we'd get sucked into the nothingness of watching vacantly.
Also were afraid of having the constantly evolving almost-porn commercials around our kid
Sounds close enough to virtue for me!
Some way past porn already out there, I think.
The famous breast commercial featured feigned sex in the background from what I hear.

12/28/2005 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...


Maybe the media-as-fiscalizer model makes sense within the context of a democratic nation at peace. "War" if we are in it, is a phase change. If so, nobody wants to treat as such, preferring to regard it as peace with dramatic backdrops and sound effects.

One way out of this problem is to simply say: OK, America is not at war. The enemy is fundamentally so overmatched that we can afford to treat counterterrorism and even the invasion of foreign countries as a police action. Then all this politically correct stuff sort of makes sense. You Mirandize Zarqawi, give the Al Qaeda lawyers, wait for a court order before you get a wiretap on terrorists, etc. You encourage the press to tell 'both sides of the story' because then terrorism becomes another form social rebellion, no different from the Trenchcoat Gang in Columbine, which we should seek to 'understand'. Or, like Spielberg, you buy 250 video cameras for Israelis and Palestinians and tell them to share the videos as the formula for peace. He really did this, according to press reports.

But if we choose to regard the enemy as other than cardboard caricature, capable of inflicting real damage on the world, capable of invading and taking over whole countries, able to field at least eventually, nuclear weapons, then operations against them are acts of war. War as in operational secrecy, sudden attack, relentless defense. War as in persuading them to give up. Give up or die.

The problem, I think, is that the public hasn't made up its mind whether we are fighting a police action or a war. My guess is we're at war, but due to the success of the armed forces, it "feels" like peace. This is the most dangerous of all states, like having cancer but being under medication which masks the symptoms.

12/28/2005 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

War "coverage" as networked infomercials for the incestual MSM.

12/28/2005 03:16:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

A window that is closing fast
One of the major stories of 2006 will be Iran's continued development of nuclear weapons, and this likely will constitute the biggest story of the year as far as Israel is concerned.

Israel appears to believe that the imposition of sanctions by the U.N. would be sufficient to ease the danger since, according to testimony by Mossad Chief Meir Dagan, "forty percent of Iran's fuel needs are imported."

However, the Israelis see the window for effective sanctions as closing fast.
I have little hope that the U.N. will take timely action regarding Iran, which means the likelihood of Israeli self-help in 2006 is considerable.
- Powerline

12/28/2005 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Evil is a cardboard caricature to the mind of a leftist.
(except for Bush and his supporters, of course)

12/28/2005 03:24:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Kaplan sees the Philippines as the Ultimate Barometer (not Iraq) for our cause wrt to terrorism and China.

12/28/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

So what do you suppose the MSM reporter intended to ask "the resistance guy"? Would he have trailed along, too, if he had been invited to watch a suicide bombing or an ambush planned for American soldiers, since he's all prepared to be non-judgemental and all?

Finally, before the MSM reporter left the U.S., do you suppose he and his editor ever sat down and discussed moral lines in the sand, that he's allowed to do this, but not that, and if so, did they discuss what the limitations were and why there were limitations set? Is watching a Christian schoolgirl be beheaded one step over the line, but watching a "resistance guy" prepare an IED would be acceptable?

12/28/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Great Post on Judge Lamberth and FISA
FISA Court Prevented Al Qaeda Taps Before 9/11
How soon (and conveniently) the media forget.
Behold this passage from the May 2002 issue of the DNC organ, Newsweek

12/28/2005 03:37:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

" Is watching a Christian schoolgirl be beheaded one step over the line, but watching a "resistance guy" prepare an IED would be acceptable?"
They should prepare an ultimate Collage Scene with a Christian schoolgirl being beheaded in the foreground, kids taking candy from a GI exploding in the background, and some buried women being stoned on the side.
Great experience/opportunity for a brave and heroic Stringer.

12/28/2005 03:42:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

What does a Heroic Action Photographer say at the end of a long days work?

"That's S'nuff."

12/28/2005 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Dymphna said...


The fiscalizer meme is going to change. The NYT jumped the shark with its recent leak. All they've gotten for their efforts is an improvement in Bush's poll numbers. People want to feel safe and Journalists do not induce feelings of security...their Bubble is getting thin in some places...this venue being just one of them.

12/28/2005 04:01:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Centrist Democrats hit anti-Bush tactics

Some centrist Democrats say attacks by their party leaders on the Bush administration's eavesdropping on suspected terrorist conversations will further weaken the party's credibility on national security

12/28/2005 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/28/2005 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

The Sleep Tight Agenda
"yelling about it out loud, but quietly relieved it's being done"
- Syl

12/28/2005 04:23:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Rasmussen: 64% Approve of NSA Intercepts

12/28/2005 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Karridine said...

"Style Guide for journalists"--

Great! Now if only we could get copies of this to the Associated Press, they might report truthfully and-


Oh. Sorry, everybody.
Disregard the above.

12/29/2005 04:49:00 AM  
Blogger Gary said...

I noticed that every Starbucks I have gone into has several copies of the NYT. I wonder what part of their circulation is derived from Starbucks? I go somewhere else for coffe now.

12/29/2005 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

Maybe the 'writer at SLATE' who thinks nothing is good enough to persuade may, in fact, believe that no one is worthy of adoration...

...while I choose to stand, with others, FOR righteousness, decency, honor, love and justice; knowable from ancient records, to very old records of Moses and the patriarchs, to old records of the righteousness of Christ in Jesus, to the most recent chapters of The Greatest Story Ever Told: the Life, Suffering and Victory of the Glory of God, the Lord of Hosts.

If I read SLATE often, I too might be disheartened at the clergy's brazen disregard of warnings (cf. II Peter 2:1) to the contrary and the clergy's subsequent and frequent 'scoffing and denial' of the Return of the Righteousness that is Christ, in His New Name (Rev 2:17, 3:12).

Information, long withheld by clergy in order to oppress sincere believers, is now wielded in order to prolong the suffering and blindness of believers in both the east and the west.

The Global War Against Terror is also part of a world-wide war against ignorance, cupidity, dishonesty, misogyny, racism, materialism and injustice.

Every human being has one life, during which to choose for or against.

12/29/2005 08:40:00 AM  
Blogger trish said...

"The problem, I think, is that the public hasn't made up its mind whether we are fighting a police action or a war. My guess is we're at war, but due to the success of the armed forces, it 'feels' like peace."

- Wretchard

It doesn't "feel" like either. What it "feels" like is some indeterminate state between the two. And the rules according to which most of our forces within CENTCOM operate, along with the policies that determine them, confirm this.

"War" is far too grandiose a term to describe this state of affairs; "peace" does not yet apply.

Years before OEF and OIF, a paper on force restructuring at PNAC
described this set of circumstances, not without approval, as military operations of "indeterminate length, involving ambiguous objectives and interminable skirmishes." Once upon a time this would have been regarded as something to avoid. No longer.

12/29/2005 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Cori said...

FYI, although it's virtually impossible to tell from the Courier Journal's lay out, the author is a woman, and her background is actually very interesting (read the inset box.)

As always, I find your take on IO, and the way you fold this article into that, very interesting.

I had just seem it as a glimpse into one reporter's perspective.

-- Dauber

12/29/2005 04:27:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

For the purposes of discussion, let's assume the posters here are factually correct in their assertions that the MSM has a liberal bias as regards war coverage.
The King Kong-of-an-unanswered-question, then, is why? More specifically, why have conservatives failed to acquire media success? For example, the Washington Times is clearly more conservative, or perhaps what the posters here would call "fair and balanced," than its rival The Washington Post.
Yet the where the WaPost is profitable, the WaTimes LOSES 7 million dollars a month, according to some estimates. Moreover the Washington Post is excerpted around the world in English-language papers from Japan to Russia and recently allied with the Wall Street Journal to boost that paper's political coverage. By every significant objective measure, the liberal paper is successful and the conservative one is a failure. Why?
A similar dichotomy exists in New York, where the NY Times claims both the esteem of elites and nationwide readership that elude its rival, Rupert Murdoch's right-of-center, or ``fair and balancedTM,'' New York Post.
The Washington Times and the New York Post are full of exactly the kind of stories the posters here are yammering for: positive coverage of the U.S. role in Iraq and negative coverage of the nation's "official" enemies. If this is what Americans want, why aren't these papers beating their rivals?
The conservative view is represented in books, newspapers, television news, movies, talk radio and blogs. The complaint, then, can't be that conservatives aren't represented, but that they aren't represented prominently enough.
Again, we need to ask why. Clearly, conservatives can dominate talk radio, for example. But why can't the right come up with a successful metropolitan daily newspaper?
Lack of money isn't the problem. Rightists from Rupert Murdoch to Rev. Sun Young Moon and Conrad Black are pouring BILLIONS into conservative media, but still no dominant newspaper or network TV news channel.
So let the complainers here just keep peeing in the wind. But if you really want to think you're making suggestions about how to "fight back" against the "liberal" media, shouldn't you first ask yourself why media conservatives have failed in the first place?
My answer to the question is simple: the premise is false. The conservative media is already successful beyond its audience numbers. There is no successful major metropolitan daily newspaper that's conservative, because there is no major metropolis that's conservative. The New York Times is successful because it accurately reflects the priorities and worldview of its readers, who happen to make up large majorities in places like New York city, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tokyo and so on.
More important, even papers like the NY Times include many conservative columnists and do a better job than their rivals of presenting complete, balanced reporting, because that's what their liberal readership demands.

12/29/2005 06:38:00 PM  
Blogger ledger said...


Well, said.

The MSM have several major obstacles to overcome before they can gain legitimacy.

First, they are of Vietnam age group where the MSM was the Fourth pillar in government. That has rapidly diminished due to the Internet and web logs. They do not have the power they used to have - yet are still clinging to the notion that they can pull-off another "Vietnam." Glory day's die hard.

Second, the MSM is extremely malleable. They are quick to take the latest tip and spread "stories" without fact checking. And, they maybe on the pad. Look a CNN's admission that they were a mouth piece for Saddam.

It's doesn't end there. Defense lawyers frequently use the press to try the case in the court of public opinion. We see it all the time. Defense attorneys will always show their client as a clean cut children's book writer as in the Tookie Williams case.

Third, the MSM has become an elitist club. As such they are heavily biased towards the left. The bias is so bad it reeks.

Further more, they frequently use "stringers" instead of their own boots on the ground. This soon turns into a wag the dog situation where the "stringers" start controlling the MSM. The stringers start off advertising "the inside scoop" and rapidly turn that into an agenda machine for the enemy. Some of those on site "stringers" may just happened to be close to the enemy and then project the enemy's cause directly through the MSM. It's circular game. The greater the MSM relies on foreign "Stringers" the greater the "Stringer's" influence over the MSM becomes. Soon the "news" is simply enemy propaganda.

12/29/2005 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Pofarmer said...


You're a couple set of information sources to old. Who reads the papers? I don't. There's lots of other ways to get information nowadays.

12/29/2005 10:24:00 PM  
Blogger McDaddyo said...

Pofarmer declaims:
``You're a couple set of information sources to old. Who reads the papers? I don't. There's lots of other ways to get information nowadays.''

What makes you think I only read the newspapers. I mean, I'm reading your comment, so that makes it pretty obvious I'm taking in the right-wing blogosphere's finer things, isn't it?

But really, you miss the point. If nobody reads the NY Times or listens to CBS News, you can't call it "mainstream" can you?

12/29/2005 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger trish said...


Was it "our biggest enemy" during Phase I - the initial combat operations of OIF? The embed program of that timeframe and the press that came out of it were deemed huge successes.

Was it "our biggest enemy" in Desert Shield/Storm? Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo?

Is it "our biggest enemy" in Afghanistan?

Was it "our biggest enemy" during the majority of our involvement in Vietnam?

Is the greatest danger that military men and women face actually the mainstream press coming out of this campaign?

Tell me another one.

12/30/2005 09:06:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston said...

McDaddyo asks "Why have conservatives failed to acquire media success?" Answer: because there has been an oligopoly in news coverage -- the economies of scale required to have reporters on-the-spot favored a self-selecting clique. If I may generalize further (which of course I will, but hopefully you will understand that the brevity of posts requires a bit of simplification) folks who pursue journalism are more "artsy" than the general population. Good writers who want to make $$$ become attorneys. Good writers who are "people persons" and sympathetic to the underdog are more likely to become journalists. Welcome one and all to the new millenium. Experts in various fields can "publish" online and be found by the inquisitive, and as Wretchard notes the force of their arguments is now important, not just their "bona fides" as awarded by their MSM brethren. Further, Cable and radio now provide many more outlets than can be squelched. See Fox News for media success. The fact that not one of the Big 3 (ABC, NBC, nor CBS) has chosen to break away from a liberal market niche shows the cultural inertia of the liberal MSM. If you wish to measure "media success" (the words used by McDaddyo) in dollar terms, one of them would differentiate its product more toward the conservative end. I am curious, can anyone tell me if any one of the Big 3 networks has an identifiably different product than the others, either ideologically or at least in presentation (presumably favoring a certain demographic)? Realize, too, that the definition of "media success" must be broadened because many folks (like myself) have dropped TV viewing altogether and consume news from both liberal and conservative online outlets. Using a broader definition of media to include the Web, conservatives have attained success and are building on it more every day. Good questions, worthwhile discussion, including Trish's questions/statements that I hope to answer in a few minutes.

12/30/2005 10:30:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

". The New York Times is successful because it accurately reflects the priorities and worldview of its readers, who happen to make up large majorities in places like New York city, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tokyo and so on.
More important, even papers like the NY Times include many conservative columnists and do a better job than their rivals of presenting complete, balanced reporting, because that's what their liberal readership demands
So if 60% of the residents of the Kremlin were satisfied with Pravda's coverage, we should have accepted it as fair and balanced, and UNBIASED?

12/30/2005 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston said...

Trish asks a series of questions: Q: Was the Press "our biggest enemy during Phase I?" A: you have never had to escort the media around, they are a hindrance operationally so please specify by what standard their presence was a "huge success." Our military successes speak for themselves, the slightest operational pause in OEF and OIF and immediately we heard "quagmire" predictions and "Vietnam" comparisons. The only success for the military was in making journalists who made such comments look silly, but the media NEVER take action against the self-appointed experts who are wrong, time after time. The embeds do nothing for us. We are better off taking our own footage and releasing it.
Q: "Was it 'our biggest enemy' in Desert Shield/Storm?" A: The news coverage was extremely amusing. Reporters were shocked at our effectiveness. After decades of writing how our weapons don't work and characterizing servicemen as brutal idiots, journalists were amazed to see articulate officers conduct press briefings and witness our extremely lopsided victory. To repeat a comment from my first post, they managed to criticize us for being TOO EFFECTIVE (see the "Highway of Death" affair. Also for bulldozing enemy in their own trenches. Like there is a nice way to kill someone)! Well, the media now at least has the good taste to wait until something goes slightly awry (see Quagmire and Vietnam comments) before providing their "hugely successful" assistance. Q: "Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo?" A: Huh? How did the press help in Haiti? Somalia was a disaster at the end because someone (did the Press ever find the responsible party?) decided we shouldn't bring out own tanks (that would not play well in the Press) and instead we relied on our "allies" for backup. The MSM loves it when we have matter if they're not there when it counts, which brings us to Bosnia. Explain again what the U.S. did there, I don't recall our involvement. Bosnia is right in the backyard of the morally superior French and Germans and UN and they did nothing while thousands were massacred, but heaven forbid if a military officer like myself questions the true character of our "allies" or the UN to the MSM. Thank you for mentioning Kosovo, my personal favorite. What a WHITEWASH in favor of Clinton. Remember the rationale for Kosovo, mass killings/graves? Do some research and tell me how many mass graves were discovered there. Clinton unilaterally and without provocation invaded a sovereign country and to this day neither he nor candidate (former general) Wesley Clark had to answer for it. Saddam defied the terms of the 1991 peace treaty, numerous UN resolutions, killed 300,000 of his own citizens (some with WMD -- poison gas) yet the media continue to act like it was a LIE to think Saddam had WMD and question the basis for the war. They never show interviews where military people support the war (because we do overwhelmingly -- and yes, I was in Iraq in 2004) but Cindy Sheehan gets page 1 coverage. Rumsfeld makes a perfectly logical comment to the effect that "you go to war with the equipment you have" and all his detractors get air time for weeks. How much help is the media? Zip. Except in encouraging our enemies to think they have a chance. Q: "Is it "our biggest enemy" in Afghanistan?" Yes, look at the headlines. What we are facing is an expectation (from the supposedly intellectual elite) that "Rome be built in a day." After calling the initial war incorrectly (it'll take years, Quagmire headlines, etc.) they now poo-poo how poppy cultivation has increased (claiming the Taliban had cut cultivatin when it was really due to a drought) and how Islam is still culturally important in the country. They ADD NOTHING operationally or strategically to our effectivess. Again, we'd be better off releasing our own footage. Q: "Was it 'our biggest enemy' during the majority of our involvement in Vietnam?" Now this is a great question, I mean that sincerely. I was just a kid during Vietnam and have scattered memories of the media coverage, but it was the most graphic ever allowed. And such coverage will never be allowed again. Why? With all my heart I know this better than you -- war is horrible, absolutely horrible. Sending graphic images to TV screens every night does no one any good IF IT PROLONGS THE CONFLICT. And while you may believe that the MSM is helpful to "bringing the troops home" it more often encourages our enemies. Where is the media coverage of the GREAT DEFEATS our enemy has suffered. They have, you know! And not just in military terms. I may seem obnoxious to you, but let me truly "talk down" to you here: military professionals understand that war is a continuation of political policy by extreme means, it is not a separate sphere. We have worked diligently toward removing a minority (Sunni Arab) in Iraq that has oppressed others through terror. We have set up a new constitution and elections to re-direct the energies of all in that nation toward reasonable cooperation. By "reasonable" I mean in terms of where they are beginning -- multicultural standards, if you will. Which of us had a minor in Arabic and took all available courses in Arab/Middle Eastern history and Islam at a "name" (not military) school as an undergrad? Yours truly. My fellow officers understood going in that we would not replicate even the questionable democracy of say, Chicago(?) during our time there but that democracy would work well-enough to eliminate the threat to the U.S. The media has (1) been in shock at the democratic turnout (2) always emphasized the negatives (3) consistently imposed their own standards (like what a "fair" trial should be for Hussein by western standards, as opposed to how truly fair this trial has been and will be by middle eastern standards). What I am saying is that, contrary to stereotypes, it is the media that has a uni-cultural expectation that it imposes on us and it completely neglects the ultra-violent, ultra-hateful nature of our enemies and it refuses to credit us with their defeat. My greatest pleasure, however, is that I do not need to "tell you another one." The victories of OIF and OEF, that have been sealed (there ain't no going back, baby) tell it all. The MSM did its best to undermine us whenever possible and it failed. Once upon a time, I too believed that an unfettered press is always a good thing. If I would wish a curse upon you (which I do not), it would be that some incident happens in your life that is newsworthy and you or a loved one ends up being covered by the Press. Then sadly you will understand why military professionals do not believe that the MSM, as it exists today in the U.S., adds anything of value to the conduct or conclusion of a war.

12/30/2005 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

"How much help is the media? Zip. Except in encouraging our enemies to think they have a chance. "
Well, at least that's SOMETHING.

Really great post, I will copy and save for further use.

12/30/2005 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

But I didn't read carefully enough, again.
Should mention that Trish's hubby is currently in Afghanistan, and I'm sure you, like me and everyone here, prays for the best.
(and pass the ammo to the press, just in case one cooks off in their red hands.)

12/30/2005 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger NahnCee said...

mcdaddyo makes an extremely valid point that I hadn't considered before: that if there is a demand for more balanced news in the general population, why hasn't some entrepreneur successfully risen to speak to that demand.

I think the point mcdaddyo makes about the MSM responding to the demands of their audience in (blue) big cities is valid. The editors and owners of these newspapers (not the 6:00 news programs as much, which are currently just 30-60 minutes of oatmeal filler) are writing to the people they have lunch and drinks with. They accuse Bush of being in a bubble, but time after time, and election after election, the real bubble is the one that the editors and writers in the big newspapers are living in.

However, I would like to point out that here in LA, at least, our "big newspaper" is in an active death spiral because it is *not* giving the people what they want, either locally, nationally or internationally. Their liberal bent has become so nauseatingly obvious that Republicans have all cancelled subscriptions. And because they won't lower themselves to write about LA topics (or even Hollywood/movie industry topics) the local power brokers are also mad at the LA Times.

It seems to me that the rise and increasing power and authority of the internet and blogging speaks to mcdaddyo's question of where is the alternative. Just because we don't pay for it doesn't mean that it isn't a viable candidate to overthrow the LA/NY Times (and Strib), and because it is free and electronic it presents itself as a TOTALLY new alternative in an evolutionary leap sort of way.

12/30/2005 06:30:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

One problem with the folks in NY City is that living in such an Avant and Opulent Place, they have real difficulty even IMAGINING some kind of "attack."
No bubble problem there.

12/30/2005 06:36:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Oren said...

One observation on the entrepreneurial issue: Schumpeter aptly observed that capitalism is characterized by 'creative destruction'. But, there is no guarantee at all that creation of new value precedes or even proceeds in parallel with the destuction, or that the new value chain looks like the old. Just ask Wang, or the White Star Line, or what's left of AT&T.

Passing the hat to send Bill Roggio to Iraq definitely feels like the inefficient, larval stage of something new, but one may reasonably doubt that the butterfly that emerges will look anything like the current MSM.

12/30/2005 11:35:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Excellent and Elegant!

12/31/2005 03:39:00 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Victor Davis Hanson .

Third, our affluent society is at a complete disconnect with hard physical work and appreciation of how tenuous life was for 2,500 years of civilization.

Those in our media circus who deliver our truth can't weld, fix a car, shoot a gun, or do much of anything other than run around looking for scoops about how incompetent things are done daily in Iraq under the most trying of circumstances.
Somehow we have convinced ourselves that our technologies and wealth give us a pass on the old obstacles of time and space — as if Iraq 7,000 miles away is no more distant than Washington is from New York.

Perhaps soldiers on patrol who go for 20 hours without sleep with 70 pounds on their back are merely like journalists pulling an all-nighter to file a story. Perhaps the next scandal will be the absence of high-definition television in Iraq — and who plotted to keep flat screens out of Baghdad.

12/31/2005 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger ledger said...

Btw, Wretchard you are climbing the ladder when Captain Jeffrey Poole writes you. But, I suspect that Captain Poole (if that is his real sir name) has read the numbers and figures you have some moxie at your web log (you did relatively well at the Wizbang Web log Awards). Keep up the great writing.

Evanston, your post was spot on. You are correct in calling the alphabet "news outlets" an oligopoly. They are and they are interlinked giving them tremendous power. And, they have been fat, dumb, and happy for too long. It is time for a change.

1/01/2006 01:10:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston said...

Doug, Ledger and others, thank you for taking the time to read my comments. Tim Oren made a great point that "Bill Roggio to Iraq definitely feels like the inefficient, larval stage of something new." The MSM is in trouble on 2 related counts (1) on the consumer end, they are losing market share to the Blogosphere, and (2) on the production end (that is, actual generation of news) institutions such as the government can choose to leak to, or provide friendly access to, the Blogosphere (hence the importance of Wretchard's posts asking "What is a Journalist?"). It is amusing to read how the MSM feels betrayed, and how dastardly it is for both news consumers and producers to be able to choose their preferred media outlet. Nonetheless it is a sad, mirror image of the betrayal we have all felt over the years. As a (former) military man I took pride in defending freedom of the press, sincerely, but let's look at the resignation of CNN's Chief News Executive, Eason Jordan, in Feb 2005. According to CNN's own news release, Mr. Jordan spoke at an economic forum in Davos, Switzerland and several participants said he told the audience that U.S. forces had deliberately targeted journalists. Mr. Jordan denied making the remarks but resigned. A few points: (1) How many of you, presumably avid followers of this sort of news, have forgotten about it already? Reason: because these sorts of allegations are so commonplace. (2) Davos organizers said the session was off-the-record and refused to release a transcript. If a conservative, e.g., Sean Hannity were alleged to have made such remarks, some sort of transcript would have "leaked" or Hannity (if innocent) would have insisted on release and would produce favorable witnesses. See and for more. The MSM was more interested in how quickly Mr. Eason retreated from his position, NOT what got him there in the first place. The MSM protects its own. (3) Easongate wasn't (directly) about politics, like Rathergate. It was about the characterization of U.S. soldiers, Marines, and their leaders -- not just as stupid, or dishonest -- but as murderers. This goes beyond being adversarial (the military trying to "spin" or control the news, the MSM trying to break stories and make careers). This is the MSM seeing the military as ITS ENEMY. Public Affairs officers like Capt Poole do their best, but when someone else views you as the enemy (and sees any gestures to win their "hearts and minds" as insidious) then you need to change, or possibly end, the relationship. Hence inviting the Blogosphere into USMC's official media "tent."
Bottom line: mutual suspicion between the military and media is natural and healthy, but career servicemen know the MSM has made us out as the "bad guy" ever since Vietnam. And not just to please a particular audience, it's because they truly believe we are malevolent. Good folks like Trish think better of the MSM. I used to, too, so believe me I sympathize and wish it were so! But this terrible state of affairs is why Capt Poole and his brethren are inviting Bill Roggio to Iraq and I congratulate them (and the Chain of Command) on having the cajones to take on the MSM.

1/01/2006 12:23:00 PM  
Blogger Pyrthroes said...

Nihilism is content-free. "Nothing" provides sufficient rationale: If it exists, destroy it. Rowling's name for them, "Death Eaters", should enter the language. All the fancy commentary, the allusions to political persons and so-called "ideas" provide mere smokescreens for the nihilistic impulse. Read Conrad's "Under Western Eyes"... in practice, Russian nihilism faded, but the Wahabi death-cult slimes ahead. Attentuating these impulses with "liberal" rhetoric fools only oneself. The fleas of a thousand camels already infest the armpits of Iranian mullahs, Talabani theocrats, sociopathic sadists such as Saddam Hussein, the Assads, and others of their ilk.

As of tomorrow, let no more grain-laden T-2 tankers dock in Alexandria. And what will poor Hosni do then?

1/06/2006 02:33:00 PM  
Blogger peepin2me said...

Hi, That was an excellent article. I kindly request you to post it in my "articles directory" so that it benefits both of us. You will get more traffic to your blog while I will get top class content. SO, I hope you understand that its a win-win situation for both of us. Articles Universe - Free Articles for reprint in text, html and RSS formats.

1/07/2006 09:58:00 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Powered by Blogger