Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Military Strategy: Co-Opt Bloggers

If you can't beat them join them--or use them. That time-honored American strategy for dealing with threatening social change has been on the table for bloggers, with a study for U.S. Special Operations Command suggesting "clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers."

According to Wired, a 2006 report for the Joint Special Operations University proposed "putting them on the payroll" to "verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message."

The co-author, a Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, reports "positive feedback" for the proposal, which warned of the danger of "blowback," as in the case of the military being caught paying Iraqi journalists for enthusiastic reporting on the US occupation.

Bribing bloggers is an iffy idea, as various attempts to put them on campaign payrolls have shown (pace John Edwards), but co-opting social change is built into American society with a momentum of its own.

In the 1960s, the Hippies launched a "revolution" against materialism and hypocrisy but, after relentless media exposure, ended up self-destructing. Underground newspapers started taking advertising, the editors became TV celebrities and, on the streets of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, national magazine reporters in psychedelic dress were interviewing one another for photo spreads. A year later, the cover stories read "Love Is Dead."

Blogging is too big and diverse to suffer such a fate, but if the military is considering moving in, it may be time for online reporters and talking heads on cable TV to be on guard against what Supreme Court Justice Learned Hand called "a multitude of tongues" beginning to sound more like a single voice.

1 comment:

Grace Nearing said...

In some ways, it's already started. I got a sternly worded response from Lee A. Rials, Public Affairs Officer at the School of the Americas (now the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) when I wrote a post about the SOA. Turns out it wasn't just a one off. Rials personally responds to many bloggers who write unflatteringly about the SOA. This exchange is a classic.