Feeling left out…

Ken Silverstein follows up on a previous post of his about… 

a program run by the Pentagon’s Office of Public Affairs. This program seeks to bypass the mainstream press by working directly with a carefully culled list of military analysts, bloggers, and others who can be counted on to parrot the Bush Administration’s line on national security issues.

I’m a milblogger, off the beaten path, but still a milblogger. Heck, I’m even card-carrying (not much a profile, I know, but still…). Well, perhaps I won’t parrot somebody’s line (unless I agree 100%), so I might not have what Silverstein sees as entry creds.

Not to restate the obvious, but OPA isn’t practicing “Public Affairs” as much as “Private Affairs” because, well, they aren’t exactly reaching out the public. I remember debates within the “public diplomacy” crowd that said if it ain’t wide open, it ain’t “public diplomacy”. We know there are similar debates in the PA community. Remember OSI?

If PA is used to speak directly to the US public (PA officers speak to foreign publics, but nevermind that for now) and they have an inherent responsibility to tell the truth, what part of the truth is absent from the OPA conference calls that a simple guy like me can’t be in on?

What does this say about the current purpose of PA? Where does it fit into Strategic Communications, that concept that may be DOD’s answer to Public Diplomacy, a concept that is so poorly defined and executed that a new “theory” of “smart power” is required to return PD to its roots? But perhaps I digress….

Admin note: this post seems as good as any to create a new category on “public affairs” to focus on IO focused on US domestic audiences, a topic I had lumped into PD for simplicity.

7 Replies to “Feeling left out…”

  1. Your automatic assumption that OPA lies is probably why nobody thought inviting you would be very productive.Your plaintive bleat that you’re a milblogger, too, touches my heart strings. I don’t claim to be one myself, but I don’t mind being mistaken for one, especially by genuine, CAC card-carrying, M-4-totin’ milbloggers blogging from theater . Most of the military arc of the blogosphere supports the troops and supports their mission and I am proud to be blog rolled on Blackfive and linked to in the Mudville Gazette and emailed by CENTCOM. I view that as recognition. Others see it as parrothood. Some see CNN showing al Qaeda snuff films as good journalism. Others recognize it as giving aid and comfort to the enemy. Not much room for compromise between these points of view.
    Silverstein demands transparency from pro-Administration communicators while Reuters needs none in their identification of Lebanese photographers and AP needs none in their identification of Sunni Iraqi stringers. God forbid that the Pentagon should succeed in getting its message past the gate keepers of the Drive-By Media.
    No one, on any side, should let themselves be used to spread the administration’s gospel, sez Silverstein. In other words, no one who agrees with the Commander-in-Chief and supports the Department of Defense and wants our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to succeed should be allowed to speak.
    At least not anyone who can pretend to journalistic standards, he adds. Who besides “journalists” still pretends journalists have standards?

  2. Cannoneer No4, long time no talk. Quite the rail you have here, some of which I agree with (disclosure by the media itself), but the bit about your linkage is nice but not to any point here. Your comment may be directed at Silverstein’s post, but not mine. Re-read the post, No4.But to make it simple for you, OPA’s role is to conduct public affairs. In some circles that means reaching out the public with honest and direct answers. By restricting the audience, questions are limited, but so is the possible dissemination of the facts.
    No4, I half-mockingly stated that I’m a milblogger because if you read my blog, it isn’t a “milblog” in the sense of Blackfive, Mudville, Badgers Forward, or your blog for that matter. What is MountainRunner? That’s something for you and other readers to decide.
    I admire your links and we can compare who links to each other in terms of quality and quantity, but that’s not the point either. And we certainly won’t get into offline connections and conversations because that’s definetly not the point.
    You touch on IO w/ the CNN films, but yet you don’t seem to recognize the role of OPA and others in the information war, choosing instead to divide the world into the camps of the screaming liberals and the “parrots”. I’d like to think this blog is outside that spectrum and observing (or to the right of middle if forced). Your argument, while screaming of censorship by the left, assumes selectivism by the right is the solution when creativity and co-option is required. But that’s hard work, of course. Just like effective COIN requires more thinking, but OPA, as my extract from the Silverstein post highlights, prefers the easy method.
    I’m interested in hearing why you’d think my participation would not be “very productive”.

  3. Very interesting post, I may have to weigh in. I had gotten a few JFCOM/CENTCOM PAO emails, but they were canned and no one responded when I asked “Is this a one-way communication or a dialogue?” so I ignored the invitation.To the Cannoneer – just an observation, public affairs is much more complicated than “reaching out the public with honest and direct answers” and you ought to know better than to suggest so. PA – in any agency, in any group – is the spin cycle to explain what their organization’s official policy answer is. One can suggest that strategic communications is the art of convincing a given audience to trust that you provide “honest and direct answers” but the PA’s job also includes carrying the agency’s water and not apologizing.
    Same goes to Blackfive – it’s not a dialogue with “brothers and sisters of the armed forces” if the dialogue you’re getting is sanatized and blessed by OSD. So please spare us the line on how this “roundtable” is just an effort by you to get the “real deal.” Please. Talk to the hand.

  4. MR, your participation in a Blogger’s Roundtable may very well be productive. Whether it produces anything OPA wants is the question.I am not the one who divided the world into screaming liberals and “parrots.” The world has been divided that way since Nixon. You think you are above the fray, an observer. You’re not.
    Jason, do you expect to be taken seriously and treated as an intelligent individual?

  5. Cannoneer – An interesting rant. Lets start with what “OCPA” is and the type of ethical behavior PAOs are supposed to practice. The Office of the Chief of Public Affairs led by a Major General (who at this time is NOT a school-trained PAO) and a seasoned staff of career PA professionals know far better than to engage in an Information Operation such as selectively releasing information to only particular media outlets. That constitutes a manipulation of information. PAOs are to release information without bias, without spin and in full compliance with SAPP (Security, Accuracy, Propriety and Policy) to any and all journalists that are interested in the story (not that that happens all the time). If they are conducting such actions I would be concerned.As for credibility with CENTCOM, allow me to crack the shell on that one for you. There are a minimum of two reserve-activated enlisted personnel who sit in Tampa and conduct searches via Technoratti. When they find a blogger who MAY be writing about anything to do with the Global War on Terror and MIGHT either be critical or seem to have a high traffic rate, they approach the blogger with a standard form letter requesting the ability to place their graphic on his/her page and, if you APPEAR influential , you will be placed on the mailing list. You see it’s a numbers game and it’s reported up the chain as such. There is no validation of credibility as much as you HAPPEN to be writing about a topic that concerns them.
    Lastly, as a former PA soldier, I find the MountainRunner blog much more intellectually stimulating than your average milblog due to the fact that the issues have global implications, with or without a war ongoing. Information is in everything we do, just as you as an IT expert know which is why forward looking blogs such as this one stimulate thought and discussion. You would be well-served to consider some of the material involving Public Diplomacy and the practice of it.

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