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Dayside's Honest Analysis

Reported by Janie - December 15, 2005

Yesterday (12/14) Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick, the hosts of Dayside, tackled the issue of the US Government planting pro-US stories (aka propaganda) in Iraqi news outlets. They chose to interview Bill Gertz (National Security Expert for the Washington Times and a Fox News Analyst) along with Hussein Ibish (Executive Director for the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership). As I watched with trepidation, I was shocked to see a completely honest analysis, completely breaking from the Bush Administration's stance.

JH: "The Pentagon plans on spending part of its $300 million psychological warfare budget on a PR campaign overseas. The idea is basically to place positive stories about the US in foreign media, without revealing the source. Is that right?"

MJ: "Is this a US special ops operation?"

BG: "Yes, this is basically what the military calls information operations and the problem is this is really an intelligence function but the CIA basically lost its capability to do this kind of operation and one of the problems is that the military kind of takes a sledgehammer approach to these things, which really require a lot of subtlety. It's not clear exactly what's going to be placed, but if it's simply countering bad news, it's kind of a losing strategy, they need to go on the offensive."

MJ: "General Casey came out in the last 24 hours and said 'what we're doing here is all about truth and fact', but if that's the case Hussein, why would you have to pay a company to spread it around?"

Comment: Couldn't have said it better myself!

HI: "No, this is not the way to do it. Actually, whoever is in charge of this, directly responsible, in the Pentagon for coming up with this should go. This is a firing offense, this is so wrong and so, it's both immoral, it's not the kind of thing the US government should be doing. But it's also extremely counter productive. The biggest problem we have, especially in the Middle East, is that people don't trust us, and when we say we're interested in Democratic reforms and creating Democracies and building up free press, people don't trust us. And when they see something like this, it only reinforces that fundamental suspicion. That fundamental lack of trust. So this is just absolutely crazy and calamitous, and whoever came up with the idea really should be reassigned if they're in uniform, and if they're not in uniform, they should go."

JH: "It's not just through newspapers and the obvious media, it's through websites, radio, television. Novelty items you're talking about. T-shirts, and even bumper stickers. By show of hands, who thinks this is a good idea to do this type of campaign?" (Not that many raised their hands)

Audience Member: "I think it's a good idea, I disagree with Mr. Ibish because we really need a marketing campaign if you will. All we've heard about on the war on terror is military action, and we need to see more spokes to this plan to win this war."

HI: "I strongly agree with that. There has to be a much stronger political component to the war on terror and countering the radicals and extremists that's very important. But you don't do that by bribing journalists to print positive spin that you want. You don't counter the sort of prostitute journalist with other prostitute journalist."

JH: "Because then the people will be wondering what else is fed into that."

HI: "They won't believe a word you say. They just won't believe a word you say. By the way, I think in the long run, what we would benefit from a free and open press in the Arab world and Iraq. This paints every journalist as potential agent of Western governments. It's terrible."

AM: "The only comment that I have, is that with all the negative media that we have, not everyone is able to see all the positive points of the Iraqi war."

MJ: "Are you willing to have a group like the Lincoln Group pay Iraqi newspapers for positive stories?"

AM: " Well, they're not willing to probably provide a balanced…"

MJ: "Are you willing to do that?"

AM: "Yes, I am willing to pay that because…"

MJ: "Ooo, isn't that what Saddam was doing?"

AM: "I don't like that."

Comment: While I was watching the segment, I was thinking to myself, this is a campaign that Saddam Hussein himself would be proud of, but when I heard my thoughts actually spoken by Jerrick, I almost fell out of my chair. He strayed from his usual right-wing talking points, and took on a Bush disciple by pointing out the truth. Major kudos to Jerrick for showing integrity and standing up for what is right. The audience member on the other hand could only say "I don't like that", as if Jerrick was personally persecuting her. Another Bush follower that just couldn't handle being presented with the truth, especially from the least likely of places - Fox.

David Gergen, who was basically minimalized in this segment was allowed to get in less than one minute at the end to promote the idea of opening Hussein's archives to Iraqi journalists, just so they can see how bad he really was. Although, I doubt the Iraqi people, who lived under his dictatorship, are clueless to his atrocities.

Ibish got the last word in: "The good news from Iraq is that I switched to Geico."

Comment: Ibish was a fantastic guest, and really outlined the problems with inserting pro-US propaganda into Middle Eastern outlets. The hosts went right along with his arguments, and went so far as to challenge the guests that supported the Bush administration on this issue. Even Huddy, whom I have berated in the past for her lack of journalism skills, seemed to have a firm and honest grasp of this issue.

The one question that nagged me during this segment was whether or not Saudi Prince Al-waleed bin Talal may have had a hand in shaping Fox's policy for this topic. As Ellen reported the other day, Prince Al-waleed bin Talal owns more than 5% of News Corp, and has forced Fox to change their view point in the past.

As I reported last month (which can be read here, here and here), the hosts of Dayside were attempting to connect the riots that were occurring in France to terrorism, with absolutely no proof. This went on for about a week before they dropped the subject entirely even as the riots continued to rage. According to FrontPageMag.com, the Prince boasted that this coverage was changed due to his intervention. Could this story on propaganda have been vetted through the Prince first?

While the answer remains unclear, for once the Dayside viewers left the show taking with them truth and honesty.

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