'But we've got idiots doing this,' Part III:
Repeat: I don't think the paid propaganda controversy is a big deal (or as Andrew Sullivan says, 'BFD'). But I am drawn to it. So to determine whether the dispute is about ethics or, well, stupidity, I went right to the contracting source: Lincoln Group
, the company hired by the Pentagon to help with its 'strategic communications' needs. Here's Lincoln Group's blurb about itself:
"Lincoln is a visionary team that combines 'can do' with creativity and discipline."
At this point we're leaning distinctly toward corporate PR 'stupidity.' Delving deeper into the web site (go to 'about us' for 'professionals' bios), you find that the main partners, while reportedly qualified in many fields, don't have a lot of, er, media experience. At this point we're leaning very heavily toward 'stupidity.' Digging even deeper into the web site, you see them bragging about putting messages on water bottles handed out to Iraqis as part of Lincoln's $100 million 'strategic communications' campaign. Now we're in full stupidity-listing-to-starboard mode. Check out this site
for more on Lincoln's background (via TPM
OK, it seems Lincoln Group, apparently wired to the max with fellow D.C. firms specializing directly or indirectly in government contracts, has as 'advisors,' among others, Oryx Communications
, which brags on its web site: "Our business model is tried and true: Provide outstanding service and products to help your business' communications needs." Etc., etc.
Fast forward: Now we learn that the Iraq newspapers where stories were allegedly planted are facing threats
from murderous insurgents -- thanks in part to the American media splashing the newspapers' names around the world in stories but thanks mostly to the PR geniuses who used them and didn't think of the logical outcome.
So I'm indeed left with this verdict about the propaganda campaign: Stupidity. Not unethical, per se. Not the end of Western journalism as we know it, definitely. Just stupid. It took the administration until June 2005
to unveil its classic Unleash the Private Sector approach to propaganda and within months it's screwed up.