FCC to Probe “Hidden Hand” Analysts

The Federal Communications Commission is looking into whether the Pentagon’s program to use and leverage retired officers as “message force multipliers.” David Barstow broke the story in The New York Times earlier this year. Today, writing in the Congressional Quarterly, John M. Donnelly’s reports the FCC launched a probe to “address congressional questions about a Pentagon program viewed by some lawmakers as propaganda.”

The FCC is looking into whether TV networks and certain on-air analysts broke the law by failing to disclose to viewers that the apparently independent analysts were in fact part of a Pentagon-funded information campaign, a spokesman for the commission said.

“What I can confirm is that the enforcement bureau at the FCC is looking into this matter, and I can confirm that they have sent letters in connection with it, seeking information,” the spokesman said late Tuesday, without elaborating on when the inquiry began or who its targets are.

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The War of Ideas: UK edition

The new Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, Jim Glassman, reinvigorated the concept that the “War of Ideas” is central to our national security. It is, as he describes it, a field of battle whose purpose is to “use the tools of ideological engagement — words, deeds, and images — to create an environment hostile to violent extremism.” While admittedly the phrase isn’t perfect, as he acknowledges, it conveys purpose and mobilizes the Government for the struggle minds and wills.

How do you arm yourself for this struggle? You understand the adversary and its support systems. In the case of Al Qaeda, an organization that has arguably lost much of its central operational capabilities (although there are arguments it is rebuilding and gaining strength), you undermine the brand on which hopes and myths are based. To be effective, the message must reach all elements of societies in all corners. The key effort must be to separate the base from the group and to isolate the group. Creating questions in the support group and the ‘swing voters’ that the adversary cannot answer, has proven it cannot answer, reduces the moral, social, and financial support, not to mention their ability to recruit.

On this point, read The Guardian’s Britain’s secret propaganda war against al-Qaida:

The document also shows that Whitehall counter-terrorism experts intend to exploit new media websites and outlets with a proposal to "channel messages through volunteers in internet forums" as part of their campaign. …

The report, headed, Challenging violent extremist ideology through communications, says: "We are pushing this material to UK media channels, eg, a BBC radio programme exposing tensions between AQ leadership and supporters. And a restricted working group will communicate niche messages through media and non-media." …

The government campaign is based upon the premise that al-Qaida is waning worldwide and can appear vulnerable on issues such as declining popularity; its rejection by credible figures, especially religious ones, and details of atrocities.

The Whitehall propaganda unit is collecting material to target these vulnerabilities under three themes. They are that al-Qaida is losing support; "they are not heroes and don’t have answers; and that they harm you, your country and your livelihood".

Of course, this isn’t original. A certain element of the Defense Department has been working the angle of attacking Al-Qaeda’s brand for a year or more. What is new is that it’s in the public sphere.