Posts Tagged ‘war’

Harry: Prince of Propaganda

Prince Harry is the ultimate recruitment poster boy for the Call of Duty generation. As a soldier Prince, he is in his element: today’s media is plastered with pictures of him in subtle battle dress, poses framed by an apache helicopter gunship, underlining his sense of purpose and presenting him in hero-like dimensions.

From Las Vegas to Camp Bastion, Harry’s headlines – both good and bad – build a modern heroic monomyth around him. He may be a professional soldier – but am I alone in preferring to read about his rock ‘n’ roll hedonism rather than this latest “I killed in Afghanistan” meme?

Hadley Freeman made an apt caricature of Harry’s media appearance in the Guardian, comparing them to “an especially sloaney university’s production of Top Gun (it’s the sunglasses)” and bringing attention to the media “omerta” that surrounds him.

Despite spending a considerable amount of money keeping Harry physically safe, the investment seems to be missing when protecting his image during his end-of-tour media commitment. Arguably, his complacent PR minders dropped their guard. However, some of these soundbites are already having negative resonance in the region he works hard to improve.

Harry uses the language of the squaddie in his interviews, comparing his experience to that of a computer game. Such comments have angered senior officials who have said it is disrespectful to those who died alongside Captain Wales.

Criticising the media was another own-goal – by now the prince should know better and should rise above the clichéd clamour. Harry is popular with the crowd, so why does he allow his cynicism towards the Third Estate create future tensions?

Harry’s comments have been a media failing for the military, diplomacy and his supporters here in the UK. As Rob Crilly pointed out in his recent Telegraph article, the fight against insurgents will be “as much about PR salvoes as it is about rockets and bullets”. Flippant comments have handed extremists a propaganda prize that will have a far more enduring sting than the inconvenience of the media junket.

Bombing in Libya

As the bombs rain down on Libya, there are already people looking beyond the images of the destruction wreaked who are eager to get in to the country, post-conflict. Big PR will be planning already how to own the hearts and minds of the world with regards to Libya.

There will be lots of meetings, lots of plans made and lots of meaty contracts to be carefully divvied up amongst shiny, eager contractors. Just like Iraq, there will be a lot of folk making a lot of money once the bombs have stopped dropping. It will be interesting to see how many of them are Libyan.

Surely the best PR the West could get is to prove that some lessons have been learned in the last ten years…

Tony Blair’s Cunning Stunt

If any politician was going to pull off the greatest stunt of a generation, it really had to be Tony Blair. And, by committing all the proceeds from his memoirs (as well as the £4 million advance) to the Royal British Legion’s Battle Back challenge centre, a project that will provide state-of-the-art rehabilitation services for seriously injured troops returning from the frontline, he has done exactly that.

The book can now be read guilt free, knowing that the proceeds will not be lining Blair’s pockets but helping soldiers returning from the frontline. It’s got all the talkability that Mandelson’s book lacked, it’s released in a season when most politicians are on holiday and the only serious competition it has for the front pages are Kelly Brook celebrating naked month by dyeing herself orange and parading in a series of ever-skimpier frocks and Joe McElderry coming out of the closet in the hope that it’ll shift a few more units of his debut album. 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 »

The BBC and Aid for Gaza

Listening to Mark Thompson on this morning’s Today programme, justifying the corporation’s decision not to allow the broadcast of an appeal on behalf of the Disasters Emergency Committee for Gaza, I was distressed. The thrust of his argument was that he didn’t want the BBC’s impartiality being damaged. I am not sure about the semantics but I fail to grasp how is the BBC’s impartiality would be prejudiced by asking others to raise money for the victims of an act of war, by a state using the most lethal arsenal of weaponry against a defenseless population.

The only crumb of comfort is that the appeal has probably benefited from the barrage of publicity surrounding the discourse. After endless debates on TV and radio and acres of print generated in the newspapers, the issues of the appeal have been distinctly elevated. My belief is that the oxygen of publicity and nature of the outrage will most likely motivate and inspire more people to donate and help the appeal.

Vivid and arresting images are commonplace in the sort of appeal films that follow a humanitarian crisis. Unforgivably lurid imagery of the awful damage poverty, starvation and war in every appeal for 30 years means that it’s possible that the viewer is anaesthetised to the impact of this genre of film.

The perception of this type of broadcast is that, thanks to the ubiquity of the imagery, it lacks impact and the intent to shock is muted. If this is the case, then the fact that the BBC are still not willing to show the Gaza appeal – a move that Sky are supporting as well – may well result in the general public responding to the humanitarian disaster in Gaza in a more expressive, compassionate and positive manner than they would have done if it had been shown.