In war, truth is the first casualty. Aeschylus
I recently came up with the story of Private Lynch. A 19- year -old wounded girl that was rescued by the US soldiers in the Iraq war when she was at the hospital and a “prisoner” . She became a symbol of triumph and an icon of the war as her story was all over the media. As I was watching the BBC documentary "War spin" that showed the footage from her rescue that the soldiers had taken I was fascinated by the whole atmosphere of the video. I felt like I was watching a Hollywood action movie. In the next few minutes I realized that I was.
The fact is that the video was intended to raise the moral of the public in the USA and it was also perfectly directed to do so. The US army communications team wanted this video to be in the media to make everyone a witness of what is “really” going on in Iraq. You still can’t find anything’s wrong in this story? Well it all proved to be untrue. Private Lynch was perfectly healthy and not wounded, she was held under very good circumstances and everybody was treating her really well. So what did she have to be rescued from? And this is the point where PR comes.
The Private Lynch case is only one from the tactics that the US army communications team followed in order to transfer the atmosphere of the war back home. So at this point I couldn’t help but wondering. Does the truth belong in war communications? Probably not I would say. And since no one likes the word lie, a better one is “spin”. So if you are interested on learning all the tactics that the US army PR team followed keep reading. You might learn a lot.
First of all the big idea of the team was to embed six hundreds journalists with the military. You might think that this is something that can help them to correspond more accurately but it is not only that. The strategy was to shape the public’s opinion. How? By controlling the pictures that were transmitted, the words, and as they thought the victory would come really soon. But can this be totally objective? Of course not. The point was to control the message, not to bear the truth.
Have you ever watched a war movie? Like the “Black Hawk down”? Well this was another strategy of the US PR team. The Pentagon worked really close with the Hollywood producers. They wanted the movies to depict the facts not probably as they were in reality, but definitely in an ideal way. What also got my attention is the “Profiles from the Frontline” a reality TV show following US forces in Afghanistan, human stories told through the eyes
of the soldiers, supported by Donald Rumsfeld. The Pentagon approved. Surprised yet?
By watching the documentary you will see that the US army communications team had thought thoroughly the strategy that was needed in order to shape people’s opinion and to get the message of the patriotic, heroic atmosphere, across. Was it successful? Don’t be hurry and say No. In Public Relations is sometimes hard to tell right from wrong. There are many things that we should take into consideration. And I have to say that as a citizen those tactics appalled me. But as a PR professional, I have to admit. I am intrigued. What about you?