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Jan. 31st, 2008 @ 04:52 am it's a PR problem so it requires a PR solution
My free time is such that when threads like yesterday's break out, I have to bail out at some point. I wasn't too impressed with what I was getting across in that thread anyway, so it'd be easier to revisit it someday than to tie off all the threads.

Official: U.S. enemies 'eating our lunch' online:
Glassman's comments Wednesday echoed a November speech by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in which he said the United States needs more speed, agility and cultural relevance in its communications.

"Public relations was invented in the United States, yet we are miserable at communicating to the rest of the world what we are about as a society and a culture, about freedom and democracy, about our policies and our goals," Gates said.
One of the surest ways to spot a company in a death spiral is if you see it treating all its problems as PR problems.

"Our software crashes every five minutes."
"We need to help our customers better understand why that's ultimately to their benefit."
"We lost sixty million dollars last quarter."
"It's important to help wall street view those results in the proper context."
"The entire programming staff just quit."
"Issue a press release highlighting our commitment to employee mobility."
"Wouldn't it be smarter to fix the software, focus on making a profit, and find out why the programmers quit?"
"Hey! Do I tell you how to do your job?"

Other countries aren't perceiving us the way they're supposed to, and it's because we're doing a poor job of communicating that we're all about freedom and democracy.
Glassman said the United States must overturn a misconception in the Muslim world that it is a military threat, that it wants to weaken and divide the Muslim world and spread Christianity.
Wait a second, Muslims have gotten the idea that we're a military threat!? Who is in charge of PR around here? Given all those billions we've spent invading and occupying iraq, how did we forget to budget for a few press releases to the Muslim world? I'm going to fulfill my civic duty and whip one up right now to set this ship straight. So much avoidable misunderstanding!


USA Not A Threat To Muslim Countries
WASHINGTON, DC (January 30, 2008) - The USA is not a military threat to Muslim countries, announced the USA today. "The USA is not a military threat to Muslim countries!" shouted a high-ranking military official stationed in one of the Muslim countries the USA is currently occupying, straining to be heard over the firefight his unit was engaged in with some local Muslims. "We are not a threat to Muslim countries because we're plumb out of soldiers! It's just common sense that we can only occupy so many Muslim countries at any given time!" After taking a brief break to make orphans out of some more Muslim children, the official continued "Freedom! Democracy! Beacon of Hope!"

John Q. Soulless, White House Media Relations



Nancy P. Propagandist To Head White House Media Relations
WASHINGTON, DC (January 31, 2008) - Nancy P. Propagandist is the new head of White House Media Relations, stepping into the role ably filled by John Q. Soulless, at least up until yesterday. John has decided to pursue an exciting opportunity in the seventh circle of hell.

Nancy P. Propagandist, White House Media Relations
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut, introduced Glassman to the committee, saying the public diplomacy post is "the closest thing to a supreme allied commander in the war of ideas and one of the most important posts in Washington."
Did he just say "supreme allied commander in the war of ideas" or did I dream it? Are we ready for that?

"Sir! We've got Hobbes and Spinoza pinned down at the Polish border, but they've summoned reinforcements! Kierkeguaard is coming at us from the east and Heidegger is providing air support!"
"Damn this war of ideas... damn it all to hell."
"Sir! We need a decision right now or we're going to be overwhelmed with enemy ideas!"
"Fall back. We'll meet up with Nietzsche and Sartre and prepare for another assault."

If you wonder what sort of man is capable of saying "supreme allied commander in the war of ideas" with a straight albeit drool-flecked face, don't miss this profile in the new yorker:
Lieberman likes expressions of American power. A few years ago, I was in a movie theatre in Washington when I noticed Lieberman and his wife, Hadassah, a few seats down. The film was “Behind Enemy Lines,” in which Owen Wilson plays a U.S. pilot shot down in Bosnia. Whenever the American military scored an onscreen hit, Lieberman pumped his fist and said, “Yeah!” and “All right!”
I have it on good authority that he also pumps his fist whenever we make a confirmed kill in the war of ideas. Recent fist-pumping episodes include habeas corpus ("Yeah! Take that, magna carta!"), the taboo against torture ("All right! How'd you like that, mr. enemy combatant?") and any remaining sliver of the moral high ground ("Yeah! Outta the way, sliver! We can't beat a ragtag bunch of fanatics without getting our hands dirty!")
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Date:January 31st, 2008 01:26 pm (UTC)
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Yet the movie example is such an excellent reflection of the American psyche. Ideas, and the ability to communicate them, were once a Western cultural tradition. They no longer are, having been replaced by respect for displays of physical power. Witness the decline in popularity of professional wrestling (in which "rhetoric"-driven storylines are as important as the actual in-ring acting) as it is replaced by the very real violence of mixed martial arts.

One core meme has launched this national attitude, in my mind, a brilliantly-constructed phrase that has taken on a self-evidential truth status: "They hate our freedom."

One needs only to listen to David Cross' bit on the statement (or simply use their brain for ten seconds) to realize the ridiculousness of this characterization (fallacy one: there is no they. fallacy two: what freedom?). Yet it so masterfully combines the historical American patriotism and the more contemporary pro-victim attitude popularity (see also The War On Christmas, etc) that it provides all any short-minded American needs to know about our place in world politics.

A world that respects America is a world that feels no need to attack us physically and is more comfortable engaging with us economically. A reflexive America will find the change needs to start from within, but to say anymore would be redundant. Just watch the Michael Jackson video "Man In The Mirror."
Date:January 31st, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
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In re "What freedom?": I'm a woman. I have a lot more freedom here than I would in a Muslim country.

While there were certainly also political/military issues like US bases in Saudi Arabia, disgust at western culture was one of the things that played into 9/11.
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Date:January 31st, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC)
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More freedom vis-a-vis a Muslim country, yes. Yet there are many countries in which your civil rights as a woman are protected far more than the United States.
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Date:January 31st, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC)
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The phase of the moon was one of the things that played into 9/11, too. It's pure propaganda that disgust at western culture was an important factor. Disgust at western culture is a fine source of rhetoric when you're out there recruiting for the jihad, but the reason people throw their lives away to take other lives has way more to do with the things that we DO (occupying holy land, bombing muslim countries, starving people through sanctions, propping up regimes, unconditional support of israel, etc. etc.) than anything that we ARE.

Of course you are constantly told that we are hated for what we ARE, both because that offers a perfectly black and white narrative and because it draws the maximum attention away from what we DO.
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Date:January 31st, 2008 02:44 pm (UTC)
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Applause for the deft way you tied the health of the American psyche to the fortunes of professional wrestling. All right, who saw that one coming?
Date:January 31st, 2008 03:57 pm (UTC)
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Not me. But I'm still consumed with images of the guy driving by the dead deer and his subseqent decision tree (do I drag it out of sight? etc.). Perhaps it met its demise at the hands of a professional wrestler?
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Date:January 31st, 2008 02:09 pm (UTC)
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Oh dear. My head's exploded.
Date:January 31st, 2008 02:15 pm (UTC)
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It's hard to win the war of ideas when the nation's leading law enforcement officer won't say on the record that waterboarding is torture. Oh, if HE were waterboarded, that he thinks is torture. But when it happens to someone else (foreigners, brown people, anyone the Prez thinks is icky) then he can't say for sure.

That whole war in Iraq thing doesn't help. Nor do the xenophobes who think the best way to address immigration is to fence in Mexico. And the fact that we elect people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Joseph Lieberman to the highest offices in our government doesn't speak well for us. Nor does the fact that our elected geniuses would appoint someone like Glassman to a role they consider the "supreme allied commander in the war of ideas". I predict Glassman will lead us to victory on the same day the Dow Jones average reaches 36,000.
Date:January 31st, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)
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Glassman quote: "We have to be honest. If we tell them lies they are going to figure that out very quickly."

This suggests a couple of things. First, that his objection to lying is practical and not moral. I accept that as pragmatic reality at some level, but I'm disturbed by the idea that what should be a careful, seldom-used exception to a rule of conscience is looked at only from an efficiency standpoint.

That said, I think Glassman is correct that we should us PR in an effort to correct obvious lies and misdirections told by our opponents. When AQ plants dead baby bodies in a bomb crater to blame us for them, we should do what we can to correct that record. We can have a fair debate about whether we ought to have dropped the bomb in the first instance, but the factual premises to that debate should be as accurate as fairly possible.

I'm not enough of a cynic yet to really believe that my Captain America view of the United States is entirely invalid.
Date:January 31st, 2008 11:29 pm (UTC)

Dow 36000

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I just wanted to note, again, for emphasis, Dow 36000.
Date:January 31st, 2008 11:35 pm (UTC)


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Just a note on style regarding your mini-piece "USA Not A Threat To Muslim Countries." We like to break the quotes into their own graphs. Notice how the first two graphs are structured in the 'eating our lunch' article.

Also, it's cool to break into a quote if the quote is essentially finishing the thought you led in with. See the last graph for an example of this.

Press releases and news articles will follow this format. Features, editorials and opinions like "The Lorax" will have less rigid standards for style, and to some degree verifiable facts.

I was never here.
Date:February 5th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)

Circles of hell

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I would have thought John Q. Soulless' expertise would have led him to a position in the eighth circle of hell...