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Al Qaeda Has Mastered Media Manipulation in Iraq

In my column in the Examiner I take a look at how Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have mastered the art of media manipulation in Iraq.

An aspect of the war on terrorism that gets too little attention, yet is as important as any other, is the media war. Whether they realize it, members of the mainstream media are participants in the war on terrorism, and nowhere is that more evident than in Iraq.


Blogger Bill Roggio, who has embedded as a journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan, says the enemy's documents reveal that much of their strategy revolves around manipulation of the media. An enemy unable to beat us on the battlefield is employing a strategy of attacks planned specifically for maximum media coverage and effect.

Roggio recently told the Christian Science Monitor that most mainstream media reporters "display a lack of knowledge of counterinsurgency and the role the media plays in an insurgency's information campaign." He says al Qaeda and insurgent groups frequently choose their targets to get specific media coverage they desire.

He cited the way a suicide attack in the Anbar province was reported as an example. "U.S. success in Anbar was immediately negated when al Qaeda conducted a suicide attack in Ramadi in early May, and The Associated Press 'reported' that the attack dealt 'a blow to recent U.S. success in reclaiming the Sunni city from insurgents.' Al Qaeda conducted the attack to generate such an opening paragraph."
...
Until the media start reporting the war in more complete context, it will be impossible for the public to accurately gauge the success or failure of "the surge" or any other aspect of the war in Iraq.

News of even significant progress in any region of Iraq can be silenced with one strategically placed bomb or beheading. Unfortunately, media manipulation is one aspect of the war the terrorists appear to have mastered.

Update: Wow, I wish I had seen this article before writing my column. (Link via Lucianne.) It is some pretty powerful stuff. Here is an excerpt, but read it all.
A tired and disgusted Iowa soldier fired off an e-mail a few days ago, telling family and friends how things are going in Iraq.

A Blackhawk helicopter pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Jim Funk has flown more than 80 combat missions since he arrived there in October.

He described his Boone-based unit's successes after 5,000 hours of flying out of LSA Anaconda, a huge American base north of Baghdad. He talked about the tragedies he and his fellow Iowans have witnessed and his worries of becoming complacent as he goes on mission after mission.
...
His greatest frustration? The performance of the people who deliver the news to the American people.

I'll let him say it, in his own words, in the letter, which found its way to me:

"Hello media, do you know you indirectly kill American soldiers every day? You inspire and report the enemy's objective every day. You are the enemy's greatest weapon. The enemy cannot beat us on the battlefield so all he does is try to wreak enough havoc and have you report it every day. With you and the enemy using each other, you continually break the will of the American public and American government.

"We go out daily and bust and kill the enemy, uncover and destroy huge weapons caches and continue to establish infrastructure. So daily we put a whoopin on the enemy, but all the enemy has to do is turn on the TV and get re-inspired. He gets to see his daily roadside bomb, truck bomb, suicide bomber or mortar attack. He doesn't see any accomplishments of the U.S. military (FOX, you're not exempt, you suck also).


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Comments (26)

"In fact, No Mahdi Army Shi... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

"In fact, No Mahdi Army Shiites are al-Qaeda. Almost all Sunni Arab guerrilla cells are Baathist or Salafi rather than al-Qaeda. Probably of 100,000 guerrillas fighting in Iraq, perhaps 2% could be categorized in some vague way as "al-Qaeda" if you take that term as referring to a franchise. They are mainly foreign fighters and if the US left Iraq, the local Sunni Arabs would slit their throats."

[ . . . ]

http://juancole.com/

Typical republican/right wi... (Below threshold)
JFO:

Typical republican/right wing line: George Bush didn't screw up anything, the (evil) media did. That'll fly with the voters. Keep up the good work.

Lorie, this is just one mor... (Below threshold)
Wieder:

Lorie, this is just one more attempt to lay the blame on the so-called duplicity of the media for being so easily misled by enemy propaganda.

A few anecdotal reports from a milblogger hardly reflect a countertrend in Iraq. When the vast majority of the Iraqi violence is Sunni on Shiite and vice versa, a few alleged violence-staged events by Al Qaida are hardly the substance of what is happening or not happening in Iraq.

The right wing extremists' attempts to lay the bad news blame at the feet of media coverage is just another tactic to deny the reality of the colossal blunder made by Bush with his war of choice.

As to Roggio, any milblogger who trucks w/ the likes of the neo-con war-mongering maniac Ledeen needs to be taken with the utmost skepticism.

JFO, the antique media is e... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

JFO, the antique media is evidently rather easy to manipulate. Read the proceeding post on here. Nifong and crowd played the media like a well tuned fiddle. They are eager to help the wrong side of everything if they think it will help the dying democrat party. Does this indicate a lack of Intel in the media, the democrat party, or both?

How does it feel to be part and party to the death (slaughter) of more people in Southeast Asia (Vietnam surrender after the war was won and over) than were killed in WWII? Surrender is not always a good thing and often leads to disaster. The democrats want to try the same thing again, hoping for different results. They are still worshipping the same cut and run losers.

"media manipulation is one ... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

"media manipulation is one aspect of the war the terrorists appear to have mastered."

I totally agree with that. George Packer (I think) had an article in the New Yorker a few months ago coming to that same obvious conclusion. It's easy and it's a cheap weapon for them to use especially when there is so much sickening "collateral damage" and destruction -- just turn the cameras on.

But that is the way it is but instead of waiting for "the media [to] start reporting the war in [a] more complete context" encourage people to become more informed with a broad range of sources including international news agencies. The information is there if you want it.

But wasn't the American MSM... (Below threshold)

But wasn't the American MSM (in this case CNN) implicit in helping Al QaEda get their sniper film on the air days befor ethe 06 election? Didn't Michael Ware email his Al Qaeda contacts and promise them safe harbor in exchange for the video?

Oh, and #1:
Quoting a rabid anti-Semite and jihadi lover such as Juan Cole (who even Yale thought was too crazy to hire) is like quoting Keith Olbermann on media bias.

JFO -- "Typical republican/... (Below threshold)
Lorie Byrd:

JFO -- "Typical republican/right wing line: George Bush didn't screw up anything, the (evil) media did. That'll fly with the voters. Keep up the good work."

Where did I say that, JFO? I would appreciate it if you would point out where I have ever said that.

"A few anecdotal reports fr... (Below threshold)
Lorie Byrd:

"A few anecdotal reports from a milblogger hardly reflect a countertrend in Iraq. When the vast majority of the Iraqi violence is Sunni on Shiite and vice versa, a few alleged violence-staged events by Al Qaida are hardly the substance of what is happening or not happening in Iraq." -- Wieder

Sorry I was only able to include a few, but there was a 750 word limit on the column. There have been many, many other examples and if you read milblogs you would have seen plenty of them over the past four years. But you dismiss the milbloggers. Heck, what would they know? Many of them have only been fighting and/or reporting from there.

I have admitted Bush has made mistakes. Why can't liberals admit their beloved MSM is not perfect? What is the objection to reporting the whole story? Things are plenty bad in Iraq, aren't they? If all the stories (good and bad) were reported there would still be enough bad news for you all to revel in. I don't understand liberals' objection to reporting all the news from the region. Report it all, in proper context. Again, why is there such objection to that?

"How does it feel to be ... (Below threshold)
Wieder:

"How does it feel to be part and party to the death (slaughter) of more people in Southeast Asia (Vietnam surrender after the war was won and over) than were killed in WWII?" Scrapcrap

It was anti-commie buttwipes like you who pushed the entrance of the US into the VN war. Sorry, the blood is on the hands of war-mongerers like you.

"is like quoting Keith O... (Below threshold)
Wieder:

"is like quoting Keith Olbermann on media bias." eddie bear

I'd love to see you cite chapter and verse as to just how Olberman is biased, apart from the fact that you can't sdtand what he reports.

It's always the same from the right kook world: "Attack the messenger," especially when there is no other way out of the mess you're attempting to defend.

"As to Roggio, any milblogg... (Below threshold)
Lorie Byrd:

"As to Roggio, any milblogger who trucks w/ the likes of the neo-con war-mongering maniac Ledeen needs to be taken with the utmost skepticism." -- Wieder

I apologize in advance for being snippy, but what the heck do you know about Bill Roggio, Wieder? What you are basing your opinion on? How much of his work have you read? Any? If you have read him even occasionally you know that he has been critical of the way many things in Iraq were handled. If you know anything about him you know that he served in the army and in the reserve in the 90's and that he has been embedded as a journalist in Iraq in 2005, Afghanistan in 2006 and again in Iraq in 2006 and January 2007. Why is it liberals think Bill Maher knows more about Iraq than people who have actually been there?

The more open minded you ar... (Below threshold)
Adrian Browne:

The more open minded you are and the more sources you seek out the less the terrorists or MSM can manipulate you.

I'm with the lefties on thi... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

I'm with the lefties on this one, it's not media manipulation.
Albeit for a different reason, can you call it "manipulation" when the media is complicit?
Hell, a case could be made that the media is manipulating our enemies.
How many times do you see some totalitarian say something about "discussion" and "peace process" and other lefty buzz words? It's a whole "chicken and egg" question (yes, I know the egg came first, it's just a figure of speech).

I look forward to the strawman comments about how I'm trying to blame the media for Bush's mess. They always makes me laugh.

Wieder, the bell's ringing.... (Below threshold)
Metprof:

Wieder, the bell's ringing. Better get back to the classroom there at Noam Chomsky Elementary. Whoopee, next period's "Great Leaders in Socialism".

Son, you're an idiot. It's quite entertaining to watch you flail around amongst the adults spewing crap about RVN and other defence/foreign policy issues when you clearly have little knowledge. Keep it up though, I get a good chuckle out of it and look forward to your posts. Please give Markos and the folks at the DU best regards. LOLOLOL

Lorie, you sure have a knac... (Below threshold)
Metprof:

Lorie, you sure have a knack for hitting those special left-wing nerve centers. You surely have studied socialist physiology at some point......lolol.

I get the US death toll rep... (Below threshold)
jpm100:

I get the US death toll reported to me every day, several times a day. If there are no US casualties, I get civilian casualties in its place.

Where's the Insurgent death toll? I'm sure its out there somewhere. But I never get it from the Media. Even a belated one. And certainly not hourly like I do the our casualties.

I'd love to see you cite... (Below threshold)
Proud Kaffir:

I'd love to see you cite chapter and verse as to just how Olberman is biased, apart from the fact that you can't sdtand what he reports.

Wielder, you have to be joking, right?

Olbermann is the single most biased person in the news media today. Name one person he has had on his show who doesn't agree 100% with his liberal viewpoint. At least O'Reilly has people on who disagree with him.

I don't really understand why Olbermann even does interviews with people who just repeat what he says. He could just interview himself using a feed where he is dressed differently.

Keith: So is Bush the most evil person on the face of the earth?

Mr. Olbermann: You are absolutely correct, sir, but Darth Cheney is ceratinly a close second . . .

How many liberals have been "Worst Person in the World"? (Zero) How may terrorists? (Zero) Does he ever report on Islamic terrorism or violence except to blame it on Bush? (No) Name me any words he has ever used to criticize the Democrats or Al Qaeda? (He never has criticized either Al Qaeda or the Democrats.)


How often have liberals bee... (Below threshold)
LoveAmerica Immigrant:

How often have liberals been talking about "torture" by the US military in Abhu Graib and Guatanamo. We would expect 10x the outrage directed towards the terrorists from liberals now.
I don't know how liberals can look at themselves in the mirror given the hindsight of VN and their terrorist-cheering leaders in the media/congress.

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/0524072torture1.html
Torture, Al-Qaeda Style

OMG, I almost responded to ... (Below threshold)

OMG, I almost responded to Wieder again! *slaps self*

Even the U.S.-funded Arab T... (Below threshold)

Even the U.S.-funded Arab TV network Al-Hurra is in on it, including lying to Congress about what they are doing. Power Line has been running a series on how our own funding is being used to promote the terrorists' propaganda. The latest installment is HERE.


Anyone who links Juan Cole as evidence of anything is only providing evidence of their own stupidity.

If we cannot capture/kill B... (Below threshold)
nogo postal:

If we cannot capture/kill Binnie L ...does anybody really believe in Iraq victory?

by the way...does anyone here even care that Americans were also killed by the domestic anthrax killer?

Because the number of brave troops killed "so we can fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here"..increase...

At some point in time ...more of us will be connected to a KIA..
..please...when that happens...tell the family..
..if their loved one did not sacrifice their life....we might have to...

This is a great arti... (Below threshold)
LAB:

This is a great article. He does deserve to be heard if he is this frustrated with what he doesn't see on the news. We are very fortunate that men like him are willing to fight for what they believe in. He refers his regular day as busting his ass, when in reality every day he is laying his life on the line. What he does is very dangerous and he is out there doing it because he understands its importance. He has nothing but my deepest respect.

Wrong Way Olbermann isn't b... (Below threshold)
kim:

Wrong Way Olbermann isn't biased, he's straight ahead.
================================

Until the media start re... (Below threshold)

Until the media start reporting the war in more complete context, it will be impossible for the public to accurately gauge the success or failure of "the surge" or any other aspect of the war in Iraq.

The opposite is actually true. The media is sugar-coating what's really happening in Iraq for the most part. They perform all sorts of self-censorship because they know the American people don't have the stomach to see what's really going on in Iraq. It's a heck of a lot worse than what Katie Couric is showing us.

Thank you Larkin, I can alw... (Below threshold)
Veeshir:

Thank you Larkin, I can always use a good laugh.

Larkin:Does anybod... (Below threshold)

Larkin:

Does anybody watch Couric?




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