Tuesday, October 10, 2006
All propaganda has to be popular and has to adapt its spiritual level to the perception of the least intelligent of those towards whom it intends to direct itself.
— A. Hitler, Mein Kampf
The pig is back at the trough and the farmer is happy to slop it. Its first visit to the trough was early in the Iraq war when Farmer Bush hired the pig known formally as the “Lincoln Group” to write favorable news about the war Farmer Bush was waging in Iraq. The Pentagon prepared fictional news releases describing how well the war in Iraq was going and gave them to the Lincoln Group. The Lincoln Group then translated the text into Arabic and disseminated it in Iraq under the by-lines of Iraqi shills. That made it look like the news reports were news reports even thought they described a make believe Iraq that no one except Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld believed in.
If Farmer Bush had remembered the reaction to news of the piggy’s visit to the trough when it was originally reported, the Lincoln Group would not have been awarded another contract. He doesn’t and it was.
On September 27 the Associated Press reported that the Lincoln Group had been awarded a two-year contract. It won’t be translating Pentagon fiction. It will be writing its own in the form of talking points and speeches for American forces in Iraq. According to the report its job is to build support around the world for the military’s goals in Iraq. In addition it will be monitoring news outlets such as the New York Times, Fox Television and the satellite channel Al Arabiya. The report does not say why the monitoring is important.
My advice to the Lincoln Group is to make hay while the sun shines. Here’s why. The very day its hiring was reported, another Bush invention to eventually impinge on the freedom of the press hit the papers.
According to the New York Times’s Eric Lipton, Homeland Security Department has provided $2.4 million to a consortium of major universities to develop software that would “let the government monitor negative opinions of the United States or its leaders in newspapers and other publications overseas.” That is described as “sentiment analysis.” The universities working on the project include Cornell, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Utah. The system is being tested on articles published in 2001 and 2002 and is designed to identify potential threats to the United States. If the project is successful it will not be necessary for Mr. Bush to hire the Lincoln Group to keep track of those who think he’s a greater danger to the world than the terrorists he delusionally believes he’s defeating. If the software is successful, Mr. Bush will be able to keep track of what others think of him more quickly than when the information had to be gathered manually. The Lincoln Group will be replaced by software.
The project has not escaped notice. Andrei Sitov is the Washington bureau chief of the Itar-Tass news agency of Russia, a country that has long treasured a free press. Mr. Sitov expressed the hope that the new software would not go beyond its stated purpose and be used to stifle criticism about an American president or administration. Lucy Dalglish, the executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said of the project: “It’s just creepy and Orwellian”.
There is nothing to suggest that the Lincoln Group is working in Thailand although it could to good advantage. That country has just had a coup and among its sponsors’ many goals is one to make the coup look good, just as Mr. Bush wants to make Iraq look good. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the generals who sponsored the coup have, mimicking George Bush and the Lincoln Group, told the army-owned television channel to produce a program CNN can broadcast in order to show that the coup was a step forward for democracy and not, as an uninformed observer of coups might think, a step backwards. According to Yongyuth Nayalaert, an official in the TV station who could have taken the words from the mouth of George Bush describing the reasons for hiring the Lincoln Group: “We are producing a short feature about the transfer of power to generate a more positive impression of what happened.” If CNN does not want to broadcast the film that creates a favorable impression of the coup, the generals should consider hiring the Lincoln Group. If it can put the Bush sponsored disaster in Iraq in a favorable light, it will have no trouble doing the same in Thailand.