The Stone City

Words Made to Last

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Wingnuts and Dreck

At Vodkapundit, Stephen Green has a long analysis of the media's crucial role in the current "long war". Mr. Green writes:
What I didn't see then - but what I do see today - is what "taking the initiative" really means.
It means, fighting a media war. It means, turning the enemy's one great strength into our own. Broadcast words, sounds, and images are the arm of decision in today's world.
And if that assessment is correct, then we're losing this war and badly.
Mr. Green goes on to document examples of media power -- the debacle of First Fallujah is a particular example -- and call for more responsible media. I want to add a few thoughts to that analysis.

Mr. Green's calls, if heeded, can bolster our defenses and prevent our collapse from within. [Unlike Mr. Green, I do not believe that the existence of the West is threatened; I share the Belmont Club's view that the worst-case outcome is a terrorist attack sufficiently horrible to be met with overwhelming retaliation, leading to massive loss of freedom in the West and hideous loss of Islamic lives. Thus, rather than "collapse from within", I would say "quiescence until new horrors are unleashed". But this is a quibble, and not directly relevant here.] That is, the U.S. media represents our defensive front in a media-centric struggle. What is the offensive front?

The Cold War answer was Voice of America, a state news and propaganda organ for a struggle between states. While that may still have some role to play, it has two fatal weaknesses as a primary offensive weapon.

First, it is too easy. We can envision a "Voice of Iran" which would present the opposite vision, at minimal cost, and degenerate the debate into a back-and-forth of indistinguishable accusations and unverifiable claims to superiority. Second, it lacks the power to convince in a media-savvy world. The listeners or viewers who believe in the evil of America -- and are surrounded by others who believe similarly -- will find it easy to dismiss. [This differs from the Cold War situation, where the populace of enemy states was not our enemy.]

The Terror War requires a new media weapon, an in-depth bombardment of information against the dark heart of ignorance. It needs personal voices, each different, which cannot be discredited en masse. It is one thing to claim that Voice of America lies; but how can enemies claim that everything you read on the Internet is a lie?

They cannot; and that is why many are so eager to strangle this flow of information into their countries. A great battle of the Terror War is being fought at the U.N., as its dictators struggle to stop our media offensive at their borders without shutting down their own telecommunications. Yet this battle has excited little commentary.

Another offensive front is American media, the liberal Hollywood dreck that so angers the right blogosphere. Here, the context is the message, and the context speaks of America's awesome wealth and casual freedom. There's a weapon for you. How can the joyless streets of sharia seem attractive?

They cannot; and again, our enemies fight on the defensive. Another battle, against America's "cultural invasion", is also being fought at the U.N. The "Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions" is a Maginot line against America's media onslaught.

Mr. Green has made the case for considering this a media war. These are our weapons. Ready to rumble?

[Update 10 November: At Belgravia Dispatch, guest blogger Edward Djerejian has related thoughts, though he is calling for a reinvigoration of the government-driven approach.]

[Update 3 December: Welcome, Vodkapundit readers! Those interested in the long-term view may wish to read Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.]