nettime's_roving_reporter on Sun, 5 Mar 2000 21:42:06 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Psyops in Media War

Trouw [NL]
25 February, 2000

Military Had No Influence, Says CNN
By Abe de Vries

ATLANTA - The American network CNN has admitted on Wednesday to Trouw
that last year five U.S. Army specialist in the use of audiovisual
media in psychological operations (psyops) have worked at it's main
office in Atlanta for six months. CNN rejects the view that its
journalistic integrity has been endangered by the cooperation with the
U.S. Army. Also, CNN does not think wrong appearances have been made,
which should have been avoided. Mahoney: "These military were only
involved in news production under supervision of senior CNN employees.
They have not decided what CNN should report and what not. Our staff
is committed to neutral, fair, accurate and responsible reporting. CNN
sticks to the highest standards in journalism." According to a
spokeswoman, Megan Mahoney, "five military have learned, mainly in the
role of observers, about the different tasks and responsibilities in
our newsrooms". CNN denies that psyops specialists could have been
involved in the production of news about the war in Kosovo, as a Major
of the U.S. Army Information Service said on Monday. The military
worked at CNN in the period from June 7th until the end of December,
each for ten weeks. This would mean that during the war they only were
with CNN in the last week. Mahoney says they were internees. Two
worked in a television department, two in a radio department and one
in satellite communications. Before 7 June there would have been no
military personnel working for CNN. A spokesman for the U.S. Special
Operations Command, Walter Sokalski, said that the psyops specialist
were assigned "to study the process of collecting and distribution of
information at CNN, the technical side of it". Sokalski: "The American
army must do more with less. They examined the logistics of a
worldwide organization: how can you work on such a big scale and still
be efficient?" The military unit to which the internees belonged is
the Third Psychological Operations Battalion (POB), part of the
airmobile Fourth Psychological Operations Group in Fort Bragg,
North-Carolina. This POB is the only active unit of the American army
which can print flyers, posters and newspapers and do radio and
television transmissions. Most psyops personnel has a university
degree in psychology or in one of the social sciences. In armed
conflicts or during periods of rising tensions, troops like this are
expected to disseminate "information" to influence public opinion. A
second goal of psyops is to frighten opponents on the battlefield.
During the war in Kosovo leaflets were spread which contained a
message for the soldiers of the Yugoslav army: that they had to choose
between "a certain death" or desertion. In April, anonymous "military
officials" delivered one such a leaflet to a CNN-reporter. The
outplacement of American psyops specialists at CNN was, according to
Mahoney, a one-time affair. "It was a temporary program which will not
be continued."

23 February, 2000

Specialists in 'psyops' worked for CNN
By Abe de Vries

WASHINGTON, ATLANTA - Last year, CNN has for a short period of time
employed military specialists in "psychological operations" (psyops).
This was confirmed to Trouw by a spokesman of the U.S. Army. The
military could have influenced CNN's news reports about the crisis in
Kosovo. "Psyops personnel, soldiers and officers, have been working in
CNN's headquarters in Atlanta through our program 'Training With
Industry'," said Major Thomas Collins of the U.S. Army Information
Service in a telephone interview last Friday. "They worked as regular
employees of CNN. Conceivably, they would have been working on stories
during the Kosovo war. They've helped in the production of news."
These military, a "handful" according to Collins, have stayed with CNN
for at least a couple of weeks "to get to know the company and to
broaden their horizons." Collins maintains "they didn't work under the
control of the army." The temporary outplacement of U.S. Army psyops
personnel in various sectors of society began a couple of years ago.
Contract periods vary from a couple of weeks to one year. CNN is the
biggest and most widely viewed news station in the world. The intimate
liaisons with army psyops specialists raise serious doubts about CNN's
journalistic integrity and independence. The military CNN-personnel
belonged to the airmobile Fourth Psychological Operations Group,
stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. One of the main tasks of this
group of almost 1200 soldiers and officers is to spread "selected
information." American psyops troops try with a variety of techniques
to influence media and public opinion in armed conflicts in which
American state interests are said to be at stake. The propaganda group
was involved in the Gulf war, the Bosnian war and the crisis in
Kosovo. So far CNN has not commented on the allegations. "I don't
believe that we would employ military personnel, it doesn't seem like
something we would normally do," said CNN-spokeswoman Megan Mahoney at
first, on Friday evening. But when the U.S. Army Information Service
confirmed the news, Mahoney said she would have to contact CNN's
senior officials. However, on Sunday evening CNN could still not issue
an offical statement. CNN's coverage of the war in Kosovo, and that by
other media, has attracted criticism from several sides as having been
one-sided, too emotional, simplifying and too heavily based on NATO
officials. On the other hand, journalists have complained about the
lack of reliable information from NATO; for almost all of them it was
impossible to be on the battlefield and file first-hand reports.

Background story:

The American army loves CNN

BELGRADE - In the first two weeks of the war in Kosovo, CNN produced
thirty articles for the Internet. An average CNN-article mentions
seven times NATO politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, NATO
spokesmen like Jamie Shea and David Wilby, and other NATO officials.
Nine times words like refugees, ethnic cleansing, mass killings and
expulsions are used. But it seems the so-called Kosovo Liberation Army
(0.2 times) and the Yugoslav civilian victims (0.3 times) never
existed for CNN. Concentration on one central message is a favorite
technique in audiovisual mass media, but it holds also a high place
with military personnel trying to win a war using "psychological
operations" (psyops). Number of viewers and the interest of the state
can shake hands, provided there's a lot of simplifying and mystifying.
The news that CNN employed psyops specialists leaves really only this
question to be answered. Did the military learn from the television
makers how to catch and hold the attention of the viewers? Or did the
psyops people maybe teach CNN how the U.S. government could be
assisted in gathering political support? CNN, no doubt about that,
will soon declare that the military ofcourse didn't influence their
news. However, this whole thing looks very bad. And appearance counts
too. The commander of the Fourth Psychological Operations Group,
colonel Christopher St. John, implied beginning of February on a
closed military symposium on special operations, held in Arlington
(Virginia), that the cooperation with CNN was a textbook example of
the kind of ties the American army wants to have with the media.
According to the French magazine Intelligence Newsletter, in a report
in its latest edition, in particular the Kosovo experience was
evaluated at this symposium. In the Kosovo crisis there was no
military censorship, as was in place during the Gulf war. This time
NATO tried with more subtle methods to regulate the flow of
information. The U.S. Army leadership seems to have concluded that new
and more agressive measures in psychological warfare are needed. Not
only do the psyops people want to spread handpicked 'information' (and
keep other news quiet), the army wants also to control the Internet,
to wage electronic warfare against disobedient media, and to control
commercial satellites. NATO's message in the Kosovo war was simple.
That's how it should be in effective psyops. NATO had to confront
Serbian troops who committed genocide, waged war to facilitate the
return of Albanian refugees, and bombed Yugoslavia very careful, to
avoid if possible 'collateral damage'. Mass media like CNN took this
message at face value and didn't ask too many disturbing questions.
Probably with this very soothing motto in mind: that half a truth is
still far away from being a lie. The war in Kosovo was far less bloody
than the one in Bosnia; many Albanians fled Kosovo from fear of
bombings or on orders of the KLA; NATO killed more than 500 innocent
Yugoslav civilians in 'accidents'; by using imprecise and outdated
cluster bombs NATO has, according to many experts in international
law, violated the Geneva Conventions - but all of that, it seems, was
not, or not really, worth mentioning. Still, the psyops people in
Arlington were not completely satisfied. In their opinion, too much
information about the unplanned results of the bombings has come to
the surface. Rear-admiral Thomas Steffens of the U.S. Special
Operations Command (SOCOM) reportedly would like to have the capacity
to bring down an 'informational cone of silence" over areas where
special operations are in place. What that can mean in reality was
shown by the bombing of the Serbian state television RTS in Belgrade.
Fourteen people died. Another high-ranking officer of SOCOM, colonel
Romeo Morrissey, said in his review that NATO should have taken out
the Serbian radio station B-92. The B-92 coverage of the bombings did
not correspond at all with the information NATO brought out on its
press shows in Brussels. Journalists who regularly logged in on the
internet site of B-92 had succeeded, bit by bit, in undermining NATO's
message. And that is something psyops people don't like. Psyops people
love CNN.

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