Friday, September 16, 2005

Manufacturing War (1): Kosovo Bombing

When Hitler's Minister of propaganda, Dr Joseph Goebbels said: "Tell a lie hundreds of times - and it becomes a truth", he knew what he was talking about.

Mordern wars and media (more specifically, PR agencies) have grown together (after all, the PR industry was an born out of WW-I).

Here are excerpts from an interview with Mr. James Harff (director of Ruder & Finn Global Public Affairs) given to Mr. Jacques Merlino, associate director of French TV 2, in Paris in October 1993.

(Ruder & Finn is a public relations company, and was working for "the Republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as for the opposition in Kosovo" during the early 90s...)

Harff: For 18 months, we have been working for the Republics of Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as for the opposition in Kosovo. Throughout this period, we had many successes, giving us a formidable international image. We intend to make advantage of this and develop commercial agreements with these countries. Speed is vital, because items favourable to us must be settled in public opinion. The first statement countsThe retractions have no effect. .

Question: What are your methods of operation?

Harff: The essential tools in our work are a card file, a computer, and a fax. The card file contains a few hundred names of journalists, politicians, academicians, and representatives of humanitarian organizations. The computer goes through the card files according to correlated subjects, coming up with very effective targets.

The computer is tied into a fax. In this way, we can disseminate information in a few minutes to those we think will react (positively). Our job is to assure that the arguments for our side will be the first to be expressed.

Question: How often do you intervene?

Harff: Quantity is not important. You have to intervene at the right time with the right person... ...

Question: What achievement were you most proud of?

Harff: To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked from this angle. President Tidjman was very careless in his book "Wastelands of Historical Reality". Reading this writtings, one could accuse him of of anti-semitism.

In Bosnia, the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in his book "The Islamic Declaration". Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by a real and cruel anti-semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps. So there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile towards the Croats and Bosnians. Our chalenge was to reverse this attitude. And we succeded masterfully.

At the beginning of August 1992, the New York Newsday came out with the affair of (Serb) concentration camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three big Jewish organizations... We suggested to them to publish an advertisement in the New York Times and to organize demonstrations outside the U.N.

This was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the (Muslim) Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind.

Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated. But, by a single move, we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys, which would hereafter play itself.

We won by targeting Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with the use of words with high emotional content, such as "ethnic cleansing", "concentration camps", etc. which evoked images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. The emotional charge was so powerful that nobody could go against it.

Question: But when you did all of this, you had no proof that what you said was true. You only had the article in Newsday!

Harff: Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it known that Newsday affirmed it... We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to be moral.


As another article mentions:

"Public relations firms have also played a major role in misinforming the public by sending out a steady stream of press releases to the American and European media, as well as to the United Nations, with the primary purpose of painting the Serbs as barbarians. Ruder Finn, a major PR firm, sent out reports that Serbian men had raped 50,000 Muslim women. This highly publicized report led women around the world to condemn Yugoslavia, and the Serbs in particular. A subsequent investigation by the United Nations revealed that 800 rapes occurred, and that they had been committed by Serbs, Croatians and Bosnian Muslims alike. Again, the correction went unnoticed by the media.

In 1995, the city of Srebrenica, a terrorist base for Islamic forces in Bosnia, was attacked by Serbian troops. The media reported the massacre of 8000 Muslim men, and the Serbs were immediately accused of a campaign of genocide. Such accusations brought pressure to put Serbian leaders on trial, and a War Crimes Tribunal, controlled by NATO and held in the Hague, proceeded to do just that. Nevertheless, the bodies from the alleged Srebrenica massacre have never been found, leading one to ask, on what did the tribunal base its charges of genocide? Three weeks after the battle of Srebrenica, Croatian General Agim Ceku led a devastating artillery bombardment of the Krajina, a Serb-inhabited region of Croatia. Nearly 250,000 Serbs were ethnically cleansed from the Krajina in advance of the Croat onslaught. Since the US had covertly aided the Croats in what was called Operation Storm, the massive Serbian tragedy went virtually unreported in the North American media, in contrast to the media blitz covering Srebrenica."

... Of course, the Kosovo massacre/liberation/bombing (or whatever!) was neither the first - nor the last - in a recurring phenomenon of the violent 20th century. We still carry its legacy - and illusions - into this century...

Western PR Wars
PR Firms Create an Appearance of "Genocide"
Media on Trial
Operation Storm

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