Getting Burned

The weirdest job in PR: reflections on life as a 'terrorist' spokesman

But today's global communications mean that messages meant for the bad guys can reach U.S. audiences, says Sam Gardiner, a retired colonel and military professor who tracks military pronouncements. And 24-7 news operations are prone to quickly report —and belatedly correct—disinformation like the Falluja feint. Plus, Massing says, while reporters in Iraq are skeptical of what the military says, they are hemmed in by rules governing whom they can talk to in Baghdad's Green Zone and deterred by continued violence from venturing out of that area. Sometimes, the military action itself seems to have a PR angle. One of the first U.S. targets in Falluja was a hospital that had been a major source of civilian casualty reports during the first attack on the city in April. There may have been a military objective for GIs in effectively shutting down the hospital, but there was undoubtedly a PR effect.

"I think that the news management," Massing says, "was an essential part of the offensive."

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