Through the media politicians, policymakers, organizations, and governments in general shape the perception of the audience in terms of a specific event or situation, usually to their own benefit. In this week’s reading by Robin Brown, he explains the importance of presenting international events and how the flow of information is utilized. To do this, he uses the example of the “War on Terrorism” that took place after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
The author mentions that the United States has used three different paradigms in communicating the war on terrorism. These are: the Information Operations (IO) doctrine, which is “any effort to attack or defend the information necessary for the conduct of operations”; public diplomacy, which joins international broadcasting, cultural diplomacy, educational exchanges, and overseas information activities; and lastly, political news management, or otherwise known as the ‘spin’, which tries to persuade the public that one side of the truth is actually the reality of it. Brown then goes on to describe the flaws of each paradigm that leads to each one’s loss of effectiveness and credibility. For example, the influence of the IO doctrine in the situation with the Office of Strategic Influence at the Department of Defense (DoD) and its closure, because of the fear the DoD and the presidential communication staff felt of the possible lack of credibility.
Brown tells us that the framing of the war began just after the attacks of 9/11 when President Bush first used the phrase “winning the war against terrorism”, his choice of words eliminated other possible perceptions and considered the attacks the beginning of a war. A war entails a conflict between two parties and the continuous attacks between them until one wins. For me personally, Bush’s words of the war on terrorism were just a way to scare people into supporting a counterattack. At first it was a pretty abstract enemy, just terrorists in general, until suddenly the enemy had a name Al-Qaeda, and a face, Osama Bin Laden. Now it was more personal. Bin Laden on his part worked his media by framing the war not as a counterattack on terrorism, but that it was a war against Islam, a holy war. In this way he gained Muslim supporters. The US countered by saying, “Islam is peace”. This was a way to protect American Muslims, which were being attacked for no reason other than their religious affiliations and to challenge Al-Qaeda’s expressions.
The “War on Terror” manipulated the population in such a way, that people were truly scared of another attack and this made them support an actual war against the “enemy”, but it also made people obsessed to a point where any Arab looking person was attacked and accused of being a terrorist. Obviously, all this fanaticism has died down and now people are much less supportive of the war in Iraq, it’s pointless to continue being there; this supposed ‘war on terrorism’ ended years ago. And I’ll leave it at that, because I could probably go on and on for pages!