Posts Tagged ‘america’

Fundamentalism and the Dark Arts of Propaganda

As I write this from Los Angeles, the news ticker is awash with the minutiae of the horrific bombing that took place in Boston today as marathon runners crossed the finishing line. Doctors are telling stories of innumerable injuries and amputations; eye witnesses are giving accounts of terror and confusion; the President is offering platitudes until the truth can be established, and pundits are hypothesizing about who the culprits might be.

The narrative is expanding in all directions.

At the time of writing, no one has yet come forward to take responsibility for the events, but make no mistake, this attack was designed for the 24/7 news cycle. It is no coincidence that the bomb was set to explode in front of the cameras at the finishing line on a day when international eyes would be upon the area.

Fundamentalists of all persuasions have an innate understanding of narrative and the power of the shareable story, as often the existence of their ideology depends on it. These doctrines have spread and proliferated because they are pure, stripped-down and unblighted by complication, providing simple, black-and-white answers to difficult questions that stand out in a sea of grey.

Unfortunately, terror has been a part of the fundamentalist press kit for millennia, and has secured the sure-fire spread of noxious messaging for centuries.

If you examine propaganda’s most secret causes, you will come to different conclusions: there will be no more doubting that the propagandist must be the man with the greatest knowledge of souls. I cannot convince a single person of the necessity of something unless I get to know the soul of that person, unless I understand how to pluck the string in the harp of his soul that must be made to sound. If we underestimate their understanding of the basics of PR and the battle is lost – these zealots are schooled in the dark arts.

Sarah Palin and the Language of Violence

Reading and hearing about the shootings in Tucson, Arizona I am more and more struck by the awful ironies of this tragic event. That Gabrielle Giffords should be a pro-gun Democrat is strange enough, but the fact that her life has been saved by a trauma surgeon just back from Iraq, whose skills have been learned in the heat of the war, makes it ironic.

Add to that the fact that the 9 year old girl who died was born on September 11 2001 and you have a indictment of the past decade of American politics wrapped up in one neatly symbolic bundle. Read the rest of this entry »

Breaking X Factor in America

This weekend the nation gathers around the TV once again, to watch the X Factor final; the uber-karaoke contest live from the Wembley’s Amphitheatrum Flavium, thumbs poised for pollice verso. Tomorrow we will marvel at the victor who, with scrupulous and unaffected dignity, will be giving thanks to the loyal viewers for allowing him or her to live the dream.

Predicted viewing figures suggest a modern record which will grab the headlines and refocus attention on the Dark Lord himself, Simon Cowell. You know, he who can walk on water, the saviour of ITV, the man who has redefined event TV.

I, on the other hand, will be more interested to see how the narrative of the next chapter of Simon Cowell’s personal story shapes as he moves the X Factor juggernaut to trundle through America. Will his throne be exposed as a bench covered with velvet?

The man charged with managing this important move is Matt Hiltzic. Evidently, he told a friend of mine last weekend that he has been appointed as chief strategic advisor on X Factor, working directly with Cowell. Read the rest of this entry »

No More Heroes?

It was saddening to read about the death of Eileen Nearne, aged 89, who had lived a reclusive life for 20 years and had few if any friends and a niece who lived abroad and last managed to visit her 6 months before she died.

It’s always sad to see someone left so alone in the world, but doubly so with Nearne as it turned out she was a war hero in the Second World War and none of her neighbours knew. A member of the Special Operations Executive during the war, she had parachuted behind German lines, been captured twice and talked her way out of trouble before being incarcerated in a labour camp – which she then escaped from and went on the run until the American troops arrived.

This modest woman spoke to no one about her exploits in the last 20 years of her life and was only saved from a council grave by the discovery of wartime French currency, her MBE and various letters that have now been sent to the Ministry of Defence.

But saddest of all is the sort of stories that are appearing in the tabloids at the moment – Wayne Rooney’s sex life still rules the roost Read the rest of this entry »

The Pakistan Flood PR Failure

Given the scale of the flood disaster in Pakistan, it is distressing to see that the British media seems to be missing any sense of urgency about it. Any coverage seems to be being abrogated in favour of the urgent news that Wayne Rooney may have slept with prostitutes.

I am beginning to wonder if there is any racism involved here, ingrained in our reaction. The country is in turmoil, but we are busy with shaming and hounding our sportsmen. America is busy too – attempting to stave off a nut with a church to his name who wants to burn the Koran on September 11th. But the PR pressure and energy the American government is expending on saying that this bigot is wrong could surely be better spent helping the Pakistani people. We are talking about a disaster on a magnitude as great if not greater than Haiti. And yet nothing seems to be happening. Read the rest of this entry »

Advice for a Young PR Hopeful

Whilst I was in Edinburgh last week a young publicist, just starting out, bounced up to me, having recognised me, and asked if I’d give her some advice on the publicity game.

We sat down for a cup of coffee and I asked her what she was working on. She told me that this was her second Edinburgh and that she was working on three shows for a producer who was going places. Alarm bells went off in my head at this, so I quizzed her a little about her circumstances.

It turns out that, after the 13 hour coach journey up to the Festival, she was bunked down in a flat procured by the producer, which she was sharing with two other people, and that she was earning £100 a week for the entire four week run of the Festival.

This struck me as deeply exploitative – a producer who wouldn’t even stump up the train fare had hooked an enthusiastic young publicist on the promise of greater things to work on if all went according to plan. Read the rest of this entry »

Interesting Times

When will they stop, all those insistent tweets linked to advice-giving sites? All those sites hungry for clicks, all of them helpfully suggesting that folks should be interesting if the want to be successful on Twitter? They’re as predictable as Chelsea Clinton marrying a hedge fund manager.

What does ‘interesting’ mean, anyway? How do you define interesting? The people seen as interesting in the brave new webworld tend to be the types giving away news about techie developments which is frankly only interesting to a vocal minority. Read the rest of this entry »

The Publicity Spin Drier

The Mel Gibson/Oksana Grigorieva row that has been consuming America whole for the last few weeks has taken a new turn, according to the TMZ website, with Oksana’s publicist Steve Jaffe leaving for pastures somewhat less argumentative.

The big question racing round the media and the net is: did Jaffe walk or was he pushed? But in an age when the big news organizations are repositioning themselves as verifiers of the news, given the predominance of the blogosphere and the Twitterati as breakers of the news, it’s never going to be as cut and dried as that.

According to RadarOnline, and quoted in the Mail, Jaffe has stated: “The case was so all encompassing in terms of my time and the strict orders by the judge. I have other clients in serious crises who require my time.” Read the rest of this entry »

Starless in Hollywood

I’ve been travelling around California for the last 10 days, taking in the sights and sounds and meeting people on a research trip for a book on the ways that sexuality has been used to create fame. Hollywood is a spawning ground for media whores, after all. I thought I’d be taking time out of blogging, but there are three celebrity stories subsuming the news in the USA at the moment and I could not let them pass as, even by my own standards of morbid interest, the American news coverage of Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson and Rachel Uchitel’s latest shenanigans is overkill.

Mel Gibson’s everywhere, in stories relating to the tapes that are allegedly of him violently, angrily haranguing the mother of his youngest child, Oksana Grigorieva, in racist, sexist and vulgar terms. It smacks of a put-up job to me, but it’s a story that will run and run.

Lindsay Lohan, in case you missed it, is also in trouble, serving ninety days in jail for drink-driving offences. If you were judging by the amount of comment and analysis the story’s getting, you’d expect her to have been found guilty of triggering an unprovoked nuclear attack on the Falkland Islands or something similar. Not that Lohan will serve her time – the latest reports suggest that she could serve as little as nine days “because of overcrowding”. Read the rest of this entry »

Aid Ships, Oil Slicks and PR Wars

The confidence and utter belief in the State of Israel the Israeli government have displayed, as they justify their violent attack on the ships attempting to bring aid to Gaza, is breathtaking. Both factions in any war tend towards insanity of some sort, but Israel organise theirs with terrifying rigour.

They have an enormous number of silent supporters waging their PR war for them, and some not-so-silent ones. Take the NeoCon pollster and political consultant Frank Luntz, for example. After the Gulf War, he advised American Jewish leaders to incorporate mention of Iraq into every mention made of Israel because “Saddam will remain a powerful symbol of terror to Americans for a long time to come. A pro-Israeli expression of solidarity with the American people in their successful effort to remove Saddam will be appreciated.”

Israel has a global network of people helping them ride any PR storm. There is always a PR storm and they always seem to ride it. After Gaza residents, in the wake of the Haiti disaster, started a well-documented campaign to send money to Haiti because they were ‘in the same state’, a number of bloggers reporting this were attacked and, in some cases, silenced. Read the rest of this entry »