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c. Seek improved media understanding of the military through more visits by commanders and line officers to news organizations.
a. CJCs should recommend that the Secretary of Defense host at an early date a working meeting with representatives of the broadcast news media to explore the special problems of ensuring military security when and if there is real-time news media audiovisual coverage of a battlefield and, if special problems exist, how they can best be dealt with consistent with the basic principle set forth at the beginning of this section of the report.
1. The panel became convinced during its meetings with both media and militery representatives that any current actual or perceived lack of mutual understanding and cooperation could be largely eliminated through the time-tested vehicle of having reasonable people sit down with reasonable people and discuss their problems. Although some of this has occurred from time to time through the years, there has not been enough, especially in recent years. The panel envisages that these meetings would be between ASD (PA) and/or his representatives and the senior leadership of both media umbrella organizations and individual major news organizations. number of media representatives appearing before the panel
said that they thought the media would be happy to participate in such a program. The program should include use of the Chiefs/
Directors of Public Affairs of the Services, some of whom are already doing this.
2. Such meetings would provide an excellent opportunity to discuss problems or potential problems involving future military operations/exercises such as pooling, security and troop safety, accreditation, logistic support, and, most importantly, improving mutual respect, trust, understanding, and cooperation in general.
3. The panel does not exclude any news organizations in this recommendation, but practicality will lead to emphasis on meetings with major organizations. It would be equally useful for commanders in the field and their public affairs officers to conduct similar meetings with local and regional media in their areas, some of which are also underway at this time.
4. Both the panel and the media representatives lauded the efforts underway today to reinsert meaningful public affairs instruction in service schools and colleges. Mang officers are sheltered from becoming involved with the news media until they are promoted to certain assignments where they suddenly come face-to-face with the media. If they have not been adequately informed in advance of the mutual
with each other, they sometimes tend to make inadequate decisions concerning media matters. In this connection, several media representatives told the panel they would be, and in some cases have already been, delighted to cooperate in this process by talking to classes and seminars.
5. Several media representatives also were enthusiastic about undertaking an effort to inform their employees about the military, primarily through visits of commanders and other appropriate personnel to their headquarters or elsewhere in their organizations. It was also apparent that some media are concerned with this problem to the point that they are taking an introspective look at their relations not only with the military but other institutions.
1. The panel agreed that public affairs planning for military operations involving allied forces should also consider making plans flexible enough to cover allied media participation, even in pools in some cases.
2. It was pointed out to the panel and should be noted that planners may also have to consider the desires of U.S. Ambassadors and their country teams when operations take place in friendly foreign countries. Some of these problems can, of course, be handled by the commanders and senior public affairs personnel on the scene, but they should be alerted to them in advance.
3. The media representatives all agreed that U.S. media should have first priority in covering U.S. military operations. The panel generally agreed that this must be handled on a case-by-case basis, especially when allied forces are involved.
perhaps politely critical would be a better term -- relationship between the media and the government, including the military, is healthy and helps guarantee that both institutions do a good job. However, this relationship must not become antagonistic an "us versus them" relationship. The appropriate media role in relation to the government has been summarized aptly as being neither that of a lap dog nor an attack dog but, rather, a watch dog. Mutual antagonism and distrust are not in the best interests of the media, the military, or the American people.
In the final analysis, no statement of principles, policies, or procedures, no matter how carefully crafted, can guarantee the desired results because they have to be carried out by people the people in the military and the people
in the media. So, it is the good will of the people involved, their spirit, their genuine efforts to do the job for the benefit of the United States, on which a civil and fruitful relationship hinges.
The panel believes that, if its recommendations are adopted, and the people involved are infused with the proper spirit, the twin imperatives of genuine mission security/troop safety on the one hand and a free flow of information to the American public on the other will be achieved.
In other words, the optimum solution to ensure proper media coverage of military operations will be to have the military -- represented by competent, professional public affairs personnel and commanders who understand media problems working with the media -- represented by competent, professional reporters and editors who understand military problems nonantagonistic atmosphere. The panel urges both institutions to adopt this philosophy and make it work.
· in a
Two Routes to the Wrong Destination: Public Affairs in the South Atlantic War
Lieutenant Commander Arthur A. Humphries, US Navy
he conflict in the South Atlantic in mid-1982 between Argentina and
and its effects on public opinion in a crisis. This undeclared limited war for the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas, also provides us with a classic view of the differences in public information policies in an authoritarian government and in a democratic society. My intent is not to discuss the morality of propaganda, sophism, or blatant lying by a government in a crisis but to account for its existence and explain why and how it happens, along with the less oblique problems of misinformation and speculation.
There has been a tendency in the wake of the crisis to compare the public affairs or news aspects to America's experiences in the Vietnam conflict. I don't think that Vietnam provides an apt comparison. While both Vietnam and the Falklands were limited wars, there were too many dissimilarities to allow for historical analogy, especially in the area of public information. There was a great deal of time for the US Military Assistance Command in Vietnam and the government back home to plan and set up facilities for the press corps in Vietnam. The news media also had a great deal of time to develop attitudes about, and strategies for, approaching that particular crisis. There was no such urgency in Vietnam as we saw in the South Atlantic. But there was one striking similarity-the capability for immediate mass communication.
Mass Communications. There was the potential in the South Atlantic to show the folks back home a vivid, real-life, real-time picture of men from two opposing nations on two ordinary and theretofore unimportant islands doing some very permanent, ugly things to each other. After the Vietnam Tet Offensive of 1968, the American public, and for that matter the whole world, saw a sample of South Vietnamese-style capital punishment-a real execution of an enemy soldier, via their television sets in their own homes. That is not the sort of thing that would engender support at home for a war. If you want to maintain popular support for a war, your side must not be seen as
Public Affairs in the South Atlantic War 57
ruthless barbarians. Realistically, you cannot expect them always to be portrayed as knights in shining armor, either.
When relatives of servicemen see their boy, or someone who could be their boy, wounded or maimed, in living color, through imagery right in front of them, that tends to erode their support for their government's war aims. That happened during the Vietnam war. We know what happened to public opinion as a result of repeated doses of blood and guts given to a public that wasn't prepared to cope with it. The issue remains, then: What can a government do about that sort of problem, given the factors of high-tech communications capabilities and a worldwide public attuned to freedom of information?
The Public Affairs Problem. Public opinion was vital to the initiation and the conduct of the South Atlantic war. Except in a totalitarian state a war cannot be conducted without first mobilizing the public; but there are certain public affairs strategies and tactics which can work and others that are not likely to work in the process of mobilizing and exploiting public support for a war. What were the strategies and tactics used by the belligerents in this conflict to achieve and maintain public support? Were they effective? How were those strategies facilitated? As the primary media for the belligerent governments' messages, what were the reactions of the print and electronic news organizations to those strategies and tactics? What wisdom is gained about the ways of mobilizing and exploiting public support for a war in a modern industrial democracy?
Wisdom Relearned. The public affairs wisdom gained from the Falklands war certainly wouldn't be considered conventional wisdom, that is, in a society accustomed to free information. The unconventional wisdom might play badly in such news and mass communication jungles as Rockefeller Center in New York or Fleet Street in London. The unconventional wisdom plays well, however, in Buenos Aires; there is little or no choice but to accept it there. Yet, in spite of a perception of choice in a democratic society, the Falklands war shows us how to make certain that government policy is not undermined by the way a war is reported.
Here's the wisdom: control access to the fighting, invoke censorship, and rally aid in the form of patriotism at home and in the battle zone. Both Argentina and Great Britain showed us how to make that wisdom work. One of Britain's correspondents from World War II, the father of Falklands war correspondent Max Hastings, made the point then and it can still apply: "Objectivity can come back into fashion when the shooting is over." And, when the war was over, the armchair PAO quarterbacks could reflect with some objectivity that the disinformation from the British government and military was intended to deceive the Argentines; whereas the disinformation from the Argentine junta was intended to deceive the Argentine public.