Hey Iraq, mind if we write your newspapers for you? Thanks, Uncle Sam.

Today’s LA Times reports that “the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.”

Oh. Okay. So we talk and talk and talk about all the democracy we’re giving the Iraqis, but in the meantime, the usual propaganda routes aren’t enough — I mean, creating our own Arab-language television network just to report on all the happy-goodness going on in Iraq isn’t enough, right? — so now our military has taken the step of paying to place favorable stories written by Americans into Iraqi papers.

It gets worse. Check out the fifth paragraph of the LAT story:

The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group’s Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.

What? Let me get this straight — our soldiers are writing the stories, and then we (US taxpayers) are paying a contractor to do the translation and then sneak the stories into the Iraqi paper by any means necessary.

Great. Message to Iraqis: You’ll think what we tell you to think, and you’ll write what we tell you to write, and you’ll read what we tell you to read.

Is this how democracy works?

[tags]Iraq, newspapers, journalism[/tags]

2 Replies to “Hey Iraq, mind if we write your newspapers for you? Thanks, Uncle Sam.”

  1. This thing makes my blood boil. I blogged about it today too. I think that transparent dealings between public affairs and journalism is a moral imperative.

  2. Well, actually, this is how our democracy is working right now. That’s not good news, but it’s the truth.

    Remember the dust-up about a year ago when it came out that the Bush administration was paying “independent news commentators” like Armstrong Williams to talk nice about its education plan?

    And remember when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put out VNRs that looked like real news to promote his reform programs?

    If they’d just play it as straight PR, I wouldn’t mind. As long as you know the source, you can take that into consideration. But hiding the source is just plain unethical. And trying to cover it up afterwards is just plain stupid. When will they ever learn?

    (I also blogged on this)

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