Keep A Certain Distance Between Media & the Truth- War Propaganda(1)

As Winston Churchill once said: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." Truth and lies are so close to each other that one key element to control media in a propaganda is to control the distance between media and the truth.

In the film made by BBC 2, "War Spin", there were generally two ways to control the media in Iraq War:
1. Get media close & personal;
2. Keep media at a certain distance to make sure what they get is a prepared sitcom instead of the truth.

For the first part, embedded journalists were used by Pentagon and UK armies. Based on the film, those journalists admitted themselves that being involved directly in the frontier, it was difficult to keep objective positions as they were supposed to. Some even got a bit carried away by wearing military uniforms and joining the fights. Under such situations, the perceptions from these embedded reporters of the military and the war itself would tend to be positive and supportive. Media people are always keen on first-hand facts. Therefore, to make themselves believe that they are "close and personal" to the "facts" is usually effective regarding media control.

The second part is to set up a "media center" miles away from the real battlefield and put all the journalists and reporters in the media center, feed them everyday with a planned & prepared brief meeting,in which all the information comes from the military. The media people were geographically close to the war, but far far away from "what's really happening". Although doubts and question would be raised eventually, it was quite handy in terms of controlling the media for a quite long time at the beginning.

War is one specific field for propaganda. More generally these methods can be applied to broader areas, such as politics. When seeing the scene of daily brief meetings from military filled with reporters raising their hands all the time, it reminded me instantly of the unforgettable May in 2008 for China.

Only an hour after the Earthquake, Prime Minster Wen was already in the helicopter to the stricken area, with the order of transferring troops for help at the same time. It was said to be one of the fastest military reaction in history. However, the restraining of foreign reporters coming to the quake area in the first couple of days created quite negative impact on the central government (as similar as issues before). Because the media cant get close and personal to the story, doubts and negative feedback were created---"What on earth is going on there that you don't want us to see?" Later on the disaster actually turned out to inspire numerous stories about humanity and love as more and more media was allowed in.

Lessons were learned when Xin Jiang Incident happened in 2009. The government gave an unprecedented quick & open gesture to brief and invite all major foreign medias to Urumqi at the first moment. Western reporters got the news even earlier than local newspapers. Meanwhile, daily briefing was also held. Therefore the media people could feel they "are at the frontier to face the truth", which helped the reports and features to be more neutral and even supportive.

So to control the media in a propaganda, distance matters. The worst would be completely shut the media away, which would only push the media to a confronting position, with no where near being controllable but skeptical. On the other hand, embedding the media into the incident at real time would gain their support much easier as reporters can hardly escape the influence of getting involved. As one of the BBC reporter said in War Spin: " Of course you should try to be as objective as you can. But do bear in mind they(British Army) feed you and they protect you."

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