Twitter: New Face of Propagandist Reporting

By Partho, Gaea News Network
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

twitterWho could have ever imagined the social networking sites would play the front-runners in real time journalism? For quite some time now the military units are employing the social networking tools as weapons for information warfare. This has been pushed further with US forces - Afghanistan (USFOR-A) being pushed to use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to break news from the front lines. The brains in Pentagon have realized that the vital challenge in Afghanistan is getting ahead of the strategic communications cycle of the insurgency.

The military strategy to win over the news cycle is to be on the offensive, set the agenda, respond quickly and get bad news out early before your adversaries have the chance to capitalize on it. This would be a counterinsurgency against the Taliban tactic that resorts to exaggerate, and  sensationalize news to cause civilian casualties. According to top spokesman for USFOR-A, Col. Greg Julian, the Danger Room is trying to counter the manipulative information with speed, accuracy and transparency in our reporting.

The most important part is what kinds of information these tools relay. USFOR-A is using its Twitter page to post a tally of enemy dead. The tweet read, there are six militants responsible for attacks in the province who were killed in the Wardak Province.

It is controversial to publicize the enemy body counts and clearly a departure from the commonplace practices. This event remind of the speech by Gen. Tommy Franks, then-head of U.S. Central Command, that proclaimed

We don’t do body counts.

Counting the dead enemy doesn’t seem a good measure for success when your real goal is to win the support of the population.

Now, if US military has adopted a strategy to win people faith why is it using Twitter to post the body counts. Possible this could be a strategy to gain people’s support back a home. This agenda behind the propaganda is evident from a statement by Michael Phillips of The Wall Street Journal, spokeswoman for the 101st Airborne Division that reads,

It’s a concern that at home, the common perception is this war is being lost

Clearly, the new-media is playing the propagandist tool to earn support for US diplomacy.  Time will determine the success of social networking tools against old-school media like shabnameh (”night letters“) or fast-talking Taliban propagandists. Standing on the verge of Information Age, we can interpret the ongoing event as an indicatin to shift of paradigm that would see the social networking media emerge as the future of propagandist armory.

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