August 20, 2006
Killed With Their Own Megaphone
(Please excuse the minimal links and lack of photo credits. The soon-to-be expatriated BAG is literally in mid-relocation.)
Adnan Hajj not withstanding, why would Hezbollah — along with other Islamist political factions in the Middle East and Asia — need to stage photo ops when they (and their PR operatives) are using conventional savvy to run circles around the MSM?
When the history of spin is recorded, I think we will look back on these past four weeks as the official passing of the Rove era. To the extent the “war on terror” has been the mother of all perceptual battles, the Administration (and its proxy, the American media) has finally been done in.
Looking at this latest Economist cover, I can’t help but think of Karl’s first post 9/11 propaganda volley, capturing Bush standing in the still-smouldering ruins of the World Trade Center with that bull horn. Jeez, it’s one thing for Hezbollah to declare outright victory. It’s another thing, though, for a prominent Western publication (right under the nose of Bush’s GWOT poodle) to design, print and deliver the announcement.
What brought “us” down in the perceptual war was the usual — cultural arrogance, and what might be called “media superiority syndrome.” It’s hard to believe, but I’ve see very little sign that anyone — either in the main stream press or at the White House — has paid much attention to the media story of the decade: the explosive take off and rapid maturation of Arab media (and now, the concomitant rise in media savvy). (“Yeah, so they got David Frost. Big deal!” I can hear Karl muttering.)
The tendency to see Islamists as unsophisticated, even primitive third-world rabble rousers is exactly what allows someone like Ahmadinejad — who, at some point, probably attended the GOP propaganda camp via correspondence course — to take apart that fossil, Mike Wallace, on 60 Minutes. If this was the low point in western Mid-East coverage, this pic is indicative of how much the Iranians, in particular, are playing with our sets.
Here’s Wallace pontificating, probably confused as to when he finally gets to meet the terrorist. The Iranian, in contrast, is relaxed, smiling, totally (Western-) friendly. And the guy to the right? Well, isn’t that Rove’s posture when he’s off to the side listening to Bush?
Was the ludicrous 60 Minutes piece the low point, however, or was it actually the photo gallery in which The New York Times implied that a guy killed by an airstrike could somehow still work a rescue crew? How could they miss this guy in the companion photos accompanying what Michelle Malkin calls “The Pieta?”
They missed him because of the assumption that guerilla war is somehow a creature apart from media war. They missed him because of the assumption that objectifying poor Muslims in war-torn Lebanon is near as straight-forward as documenting destitute Muslims in the seductive islands of hurricane-torn Indonesia. And, in the best Howell Raines/Jayson Blair tradition, these guys (in their Western minds) were so consumed with getting the money shot, they failed to realize that Hezbollah is not just out to humiliate Bush and Israel, but to undermine the Fourth Estate as well.
(images: credits to follow)