Friday, March 10, 2006

The terrain of the information battlefield

If a blogger goes to Iraq largely at his own expense to cover a war he believes has been incompletely reported by the regular newspapers, this is the way he is characterized by the Washington Post:

Roggio's arrival in Iraq comes amid what military commanders and analysts say is an increasingly aggressive battle for control over information about the conflict. Scrutiny of what the Pentagon calls information operations heightened late last month, when news reports revealed that the U.S. military was paying Iraqi journalists and news organizations to publish favorable stories written by soldiers, sometimes without disclosing the military's role in producing them. ...

In addition, the military has paid money to try to place favorable coverage on television stations in three Iraqi cities, according to an Army spokesman, Maj. Dan Blanton. The military, said Blanton, has given one of the stations about $35,000 in equipment, is building a new facility for $300,000 and pays $600 a week for a weekly program that focuses positively on U.S. efforts in Iraq.  ...

The Post went on to say Roggio was credentialed by the American Enterprise Institute, an allegation that Roggio denies.

After military officials in Baghdad said Roggio could not be issued media credentials unless he was affiliated with an organization, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization in Washington, offered him an affiliation, according to an entry on Roggio's blog. He and two other bloggers launched a new Web site a month ago ( ), where he has posted many stories about his time with the Marines. Most provide detailed accounts of patrols or other outings on which he accompanied U.S. forces.

Roggio replied:

I was not credentialed by the American Enterprise Institute. This would be impossible as the needed press credentials must be provided by a media organization. A friend suggested I approach the American Enterprise Magazine, which is a periodical published by the American Enterprise Institute. We were unable to work out an agreement, so I searched for an alternative.

Another friend suggested I contact The Weekly Standard. Richard Starr was happy to help and provided the necessary credentials to embed. Also, Rod Breakenridge of the Canadian talk radio show The World Tonight kindly provided documentation for credentials as well. The two letters allowed me to successfully embed, and there were no questions about my credentials in Baghdad or elsewhere.

On the other hand, the Washington Post has largely missed this story. It turns out that Al Jazeera invited a hundred bloggers, all expenses paid, to a symposium in Qatar earlier this year to promote its stations. One person who wrote on the subject was Alvin Snyder.

One of the most controversial recent events in the blogosphere was the 2nd Annual Al Jazeera Forum in Qatar in February, where at least 100 blogger-delegates had all travel and accommodation costs covered, courtesy of their host sponsor. Another instance involved 25 bloggers who were hired by Holland's tourist bureau to fly to Amsterdam, stay in a five-star hotel and tour the city with an unlimited credit card. And, oh yes, the bloggers might decide also to write about the great tourist destination, but were not obligated to do so.


At least one blogger disclosed the Qatar trip to their readers according to Snyder.

Professor Marc Lynch, who wrote about the Al Jazeera conference in his blog Abu Aardvark, believes his ethics are intact because "travel and accommodations plus a small honorarium is the absolute norm for academics giving talks. It isn't the least bit controversial, and 'ethics' doesn't arise at all….I give a dozen talks a year, and every one offers the same – the only variation is the size of the honorarium."

Professor Lynch is being forthright according to Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute, because "professionals" who earn their living by research and writing are expected to have a different set of standards from amateurs.

academics have very different standards than journalists. So you end up with two sets of standards, one for the 'professionals' and one for everyone else. That's why I think transparency is so important. If the audience can at least discern which writers are financially independent in their pursuit of topics and who might have a conflict of loyalties.

Caveat emptor. Let the reader beware.


Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

Aziz links the Aardvark on Wafa Sultan and al Jazeera.
It seems their programming is more various than I (at least), was lead to believe. ;)

3/10/2006 06:42:00 PM  
Blogger Free West said...

The medium is the message. A blog is a pure comment stream. No guarantees beyond the crystallized word-play.
Nothing new under the sun. Content is what counts: the power of the convincing argument. Easy to transform any medium into a propaganda stream. From comment to propaganda, many shades of gray.

Sometimes the sheer stupidity of juxtaposed information can easily provide the intelligent reader with insight into the author's intention. Insanity usually pokes out like a sore thumb. The arab media in particular seems unable to comprehend the depth of its own hateful insanity and the contradictions which it spews forth. During the cartoon fiasco, for example, the shameless contradictions in the arab media are ridiculous to the extreme, spouting hatred of the West and at the same time giving tips on how to emigrate to the West...
Most rational observers should rightfully see that the middle east is a geopolitical insane asylum.

3/10/2006 06:44:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Clinton got $650,000 or so from the UAE, but that is also little reported, or commented on.

It's a free market of ideas, of course, some are just worth more than others.

3/10/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

for freedom said...

"The medium is the message. A blog is a pure comment stream. No guarantees beyond the crystallized word-play.
Nothing new under the sun."


i disagree...and i think McLuhan would as well.

the global internet is
"something new under the sun".

and nobody can control it.
(if not for lack of trying).
that too is
"something new under the sun".

the 'Net is also demonstrating its nature as McLuhan described the history of techincal innovations/obsolescence:
by shining a light on the
obsolecence of One-to-Many communications
(RatherGate,Eason Does Davos,etc.).

3/10/2006 11:29:00 PM  
Blogger gumshoe said...

"Caveat emptor.
Let the reader beware."

Wretchard -

hop over to Wolfgang Bruno's
website for a read on
his idea for a form of
"information warfare":

Sunday, March 13, 2005
The Electronic Gutenberg
By Wolfgang Bruno


"Even if new media may in the short run actually assist Islamic extremism, it is conceivable that in the longer run, new media will challenge the very existence of Islam as we know it. The Internet and Muslim exposure to Western society has also created the first organized networks of ex-Muslims in history, the counterpart to the Jihadist websites. These ex-Muslim sites may still be of marginal importance, but it is hard to overestimate the monumental threat they pose to Islamic orthodoxy. Infidels should make use of this combination of ex-Muslims, the Internet and greater Western freedom of speech in a deliberate effort to copy the example of 16th century Europe. We should make a selection of, say, 20 or 30 of the best critical books written about Islam by ex-Muslims and non-Muslims. Pay the authors a substantial amount of money for the manuscripts, or buy the copyrights from whomever owns it. Make sure they understand that they receive a one-time sum in return for sharing their work with humanity. After this, the books in their full length should be made available in English on the Internet, perhaps later in translations into other major languages. From then on, anybody who wants to can freely download, copy, republish and reprint the books. This would trigger a chain reaction, as the printing press did with Luther’s pamphlets. The information would spread around the planet faster than CAIR can say “Islamophobia”. The genie would be out of the bottle, and no amount of intimidation, hacker attacks or “hate speech” lawsuits could return it to the bottle."

3/11/2006 12:30:00 AM  
Blogger A Jacksonian said...

That is why I like Roger L. Simon's characterization of Pajamas Media [and I paraphrase, with apologies]: 'Fair and balanced? No, we seek something else... Honest and Transparent'

Much, much preferable. I will take someone who is open about where they stand and how they see things against any unknown media individual spouting something. After seeing subjects I know pretty well being horribly mangled by multiple MSM reports across the spectrum... I consider them as *entertainment* and to be devoid of facts.

They can often provide information, but as in particle's momentum from: position, velocity and spin. I get very little of the first, much of the second and they do try to hide the third. So when there is heavy coverage of something minor and I get lots of it, I know the rest of the energy is spin-related. And oft-times there is no new position, no new speed, so all the remaining energy is spin.

Just my twisted view of the world of media.

Now if only it were *entertaining*.

3/11/2006 08:45:00 AM  
Blogger speaker-to-animals said...

That is why I like Roger L. Simon's characterization of Pajamas Media [and I paraphrase, with apologies]: 'Fair and balanced? No, we seek something else... Honest and Transparent'
that is a lie.
consider the example of the so-called "Hwang Cloning Scandal" coverage.
Do any of you know that absolutely no cloning was involved in Hwang's experiments? He was attempting SCNT, somatic cell nuclear transfer on unfertilized oocytes, trying to make artificial adult stem cell lines.
The PJM coverage was a bunch of biased hysterical untruth.

3/11/2006 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Karridine said...

I grew up with newspaper translations of 'Official Pravda Truth' and learned young that there were people who...

uhm... didn't think well, or weren't allowed to write in a manner which objectively supported the assertion of "rational thought"!

Serving on the NorK DMZ, speaking Korean, I learned to see the same aberration in Korean, in official Communist-ese, about '...the running-dog, imperialist white wolves voraciously gnawing the pitiful bones of our Korean comrades in Seoul..."

It was more than stilted and bizarre, it was meme-city mangling of the very POSSIBILITY of rational thought and considered dialogue!

Stewing in that spiritual poison for 60 years has made North Korea a diseased and crippled nation, in virtually every measurable metric!

3/12/2006 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Tavarish Comrade Karridine,

You are now no longer a civilian, but a future soldier of the Glorious Army! You will be addressed and will address others by their rank. You will call me Tavarish Starshi Sargent (Comrade Senior Sergeant). I will call you Tavarish Soldat (Comrade Soldier) when you have completed further training and been reassigned to your new unit.

3/12/2006 08:19:00 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Bin Laden Fan Clubs Go Online
"Weblogs are much used at times of crisis, such as during the June 2003 student demonstrations, when they were the main source of news about the protests and helped the students to rally and organize," the group's report says.
Militants, too, are flourishing on Web sites. On Orkut, at least 10 communities are devoted to praising bin Laden, al-Qaeda, or jihad (holy war) against the United States. They can be found easily through a simple English-language search of the site.
The largest bin Laden community has more than 2,000 members, according to Orkut's tracking data, available on the site. It has a link to the site of the Islamic Army in Iraq, the group that claimed responsibility for and released a video of a bombing Dec. 2 that killed 10 Marines in Fallujah.
"They're one of the largest insurgency groups in Iraq today," says Rita Katz, director of SITE Institute, a Washington non-profit that tracks terrorist activity online for government and private clients, including the Department of Homeland Security. SITE gathers data by infiltrating and monitoring message boards and other sites that terrorism supporters frequent.
English-speaking visitors to the sites can find videos of attacks, see pictures of dead U.S. soldiers, and read an English translation of the Iraq-based wing of al-Qaeda's latest communique before it is available in English anywhere else, Katz says. "We know for sure that al-Qaeda is trying to recruit as many as possible from the Western societies, not people who look like Arabs," she says. "This is a good place to be if you want to recruit people like that."

3/12/2006 08:24:00 AM  
Blogger Evanston2 said...

speaker-to-animals says PJM is guilty of "hysterical untruth" regarding Hwang. I have no problem believing it, though it would be awful nice if you provided a link or quotation from an online article. You fault PJM for making unsubstantiated claims, and then you don't substantiate your own.

3/13/2006 05:07:00 PM  

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