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War: PR By Other Means
HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.
In a recent address to the Canadian Journalism Foundation, veteran journalist and blogger David Frum spoke about the changing landscape for news and information. One of his main points is the rising importance of what he calls "strategic communications."
In broad terms, strategic communications is the skillful use of information to achieve a strategic goal -- a form of soft power difficult to counter. Those who wish to challenge Israel’s legitimacy and turn it into a pariah state use strategic communications as their primary weapon.
Frum points to coverage of the Gaza flotilla as an example of strategic communications in action:
The boat organizers hoped to focus international condemnation on Israel. Their plan backfired when Israel released video footage of the knife-armed boat crew savagely attacking Israel commandos.
This incident is a microcosm of modern warfare. Yes there was actual violence in which actual people got hurt. But while in traditional warfare, the purpose of violence is to impose one power’s will by force upon the enemy, the violence in modern war is deployed to shape global public opinion. War is PR by other means.
Frum makes a vital point. Gaza flotilla organizers knew they could not smash Israel’s blockage of Gaza, but they understood how to use strategic communications to marshal pressure on Israel to ease the blockade. It is difficult to imagine how the international community would have reacted had Israel not supplied its own strategic communications on the form of videos.
The movement for cultural boycott against Israel is another example. Every time an international performer is scheduled to appear in Israel, boycott organizers pressure the artist to cancel. When they do cancel, it sends a powerful message to their fans – that appearing in Israel is not acceptable, that Israel is not a legitimate place to perform. Even those who do not have a grasp of the political situation understand the message – that Israel must be shunned.
Those who care about Israel must learn to think in terms of strategic communications. It has never been as easy to spread and share information as it is today. In real ways, it can change the world.
Previously in Alex's series: iPhone Apps Enter Mideast Political Battlefield
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This is not PR, it is war related propaganda, and it is as old as war itself.