Learning to Spin: Understanding Media the Middle East Conflicts

Article excerpt

Behold the media consultant. Usually a migrant from the world of mainstream media, and roughly equivalent to the thief who teaches security, the media consultant, or "coach," will teach you how media works and show you how to "work it." I confess that I do it myself. Given the power of the bully pulpit to shape public opinion, the media consultant has no shortage of clients. Mother Theresa spoke for many when she so famously remarked, "I would rather bathe a leper than face the media."

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Events in the Middle East in this summer of 2006 can, alone, provide most of the lessons a student of the media machine might need. Here are a few of them. Like the rain, they will serve the righteous and the wicked alike.

THE STARK SECRET OF INFLUENCE IS REPETITION. SELECT A MESSAGE STATEMENT AND STICK TO IT--NO MATTER WHAT.

If, for example, you are accused of unethical behaviour--war crimes or crimes against humanity, whatever--do not answer the charge. Simply repeat your position until it becomes indelibly connected with the event (e.g. "I have the right to defend myself"; or: "I am being held to impossible standards."). As history has shown us ("I am not a thief." "I did not have sex with that woman." "I was only following orders."), it is impossible to overdo this.

STAY STRICTLY WITHIN THE SEMANTICS OF THE DAY.

Take the time to use those words that, following much carefully coordinated public-relations work, resonate with audiences everywhere: Refer faithfully to terrorists, terrorism, security, 9/11, etc. Unfamiliar, abstract concepts like "state terrorism" are better left off the table.

ORGANIZE YOUR SUPPORTERS TO INTERVENE WITH THE MEDIA ON YOUR BEHALF.

Remember that more people read the letters to the editor than the paper itself. Train your community to make your arguments there, i. …