Posts Tagged ‘news’

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.

Freedom of Information: The Changing Function of the Comms Industry

There was a great post by Kevin Bakhurst on the BBC editors’ blog the other day explaining the changes to the nature of the newsroom in the post-social media age. Bakhurst gives a pretty considered rundown of the challenges poseblue td by social media, not least the fact it almost always has someone else be first with the scoop, as well as its benefits for newsgathering, research, and understanding the zeitgeist. It’s great to see journalists so honestly and humbly engaging with the great communications innovation of our time.

However, I think what really needs to be assessed- not just by journalists, but by all of us in the communications industry- is what exactly the social media landscape means for our role and our image. Journalists no longer find the scoops, PRs no longer control the conversation, Marketing people no longer enjoy hegemony over public information. These are no longer problems to be considered: they are facts, known to public and media alike.

As a consequence, how do the communications industries present themselves and their function? If the newsmakers are, often, not seen as sleuths and explorers, then what are they?
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Fanning the Flames

Why in God’s name is the media giving this bloody Pentecostal minister in Florida so much press? Pastor Terry Jones is simply a dangerous and deranged attention seeker. Look, I understand it’s a news story, but if the media had ignored him the frenzy could have been easily abated.

Jones has succeeded in projecting his need to be self-important onto a world stage and to use his religion to put down another religion. The US media, which gave Jones the oxygen of publicity, should hang their collective heads in shame. All that’s been achieved is a dangerous fanning of the flames of extremism and further terrorist activity. Read the rest of this entry »

No More Heroes: The media, football and built in obsolescence

Today’s edition of the Sun features an exposé of Wayne Rooney’s recent night on the tiles as his team-mates “completed rigorous pre-season fitness tours”. It is a typically irked and excitable article, chipping away at the veneer of sporting heroism that has been liberally applied to Rooney and his sporting colleagues in the past.

The article is desperate to get people fulminating about spoilt football players in the wake of England’s World Cup flop, on the assumption that these football “legends” are heroes and idols for the nation’s kids who are betraying their legions of fans by going out and being normal. They are doing nothing of the sort. Read the rest of this entry »

Will the Revolution Not Be Advertised?

It may be stating the bleeding obvious, but we all know the media is changing rapidly – every few months, something comes along that fractures the old order more and more. The latest is the iPad, one more thing in a long line of technological advances that are making it easier for brand and public to connect without the need of the old certainties.

So what will shape the future? And who will shape it? The screaming headline in PR Week warning of ad agencies encroaching on PR territory misses the point a little, I feel. A good PR agency is stronger than people think.

“Ad agencies have always been a threat,” a friend in PR admitted the other day. “WPP et al have been buying PR agencies for decades. What matters is contacts, culture, energy, creativity, bullshit and bollocks. And, of course, your last piece of coverage. And that means scum-sucking, news-junky, urban cosmopolite ambidextrous grasshoppers like us.” Read the rest of this entry »