Communication

The project I am working on is threatening to kick my ass, but there is nothing to do for it. Sometimes you just have to commit totally to see change and communication in the world, for that I will allow my ass to be kicked. I have no illusions of grandeur here; it is, after all, only a two day conference. However, people will be offering and exchanging ideas across the academic border and I am thrilled. We have activists attending, peace advocates attending, academics attending, reporters for Miami and California attending–all folks who wish to change the status-quo of communication. We have young folks attending and older folks attending and a good mix of academics and community.

This brings me to the post I have been thinking about whenever I have had a moment this week to do so. Communication.

Rumsfeld, this week, commented that we are losing the media war and must “mount a far more aggressive, swift and nontraditional information campaign to counter the messages of extremist and terrorist groups in the world media.” (Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post).

See the Seattle Times and the Washington Post.

Beside the few news articles, I have seen next to nothing from folks considering the consequences of such a project. I attended part of a communication and argumentation conference this weekend, seeing some speakers I highly respect, and one speaker suggested that the type of communication coming out of politics, especially this administration, is a rhetoric that demands and asks of its audience no cognitive awareness. It structured in the same way that ad campaigns for M&M and Gap Jeans are structured. That is, we are not asked to think, only to believe.

What Rumsfeld is saying is frightening and dangerous, especially since he believes that his, and the current US administration, rhetoric is not of the extremist kind. Make no mistake, it is extremist rhetoric and it is very threatening. What he finds so threatening is that people are starting to doubt the righteousness of American leadership that would shun the UN when it wishes, but support the UN when it’s beneficial. Open the way for a McDonalds and KFCs, strip malls and movie theatres that will dislocate traditional jobs in a small village somewhere in the South–displacing local merchants and citizens. Push privatization of services at the cost of the populists’ health while at the same time pay for a 24/7 aid car and staff to follow Vice President Dick Cheney around wherever he goes. The protestors objecting to the offending cartoons are not only burning down churches and embassies but also KFCs—you must ask yourself why? The rhetoric does not match the realities of the proposed program.

There is another side to Rumsfeld’s proposal that should concern us greatly. Tyson from the Washington posted reported:

The speech follows a top-level review of Pentagon strategy and resources released earlier this month that concluded: “Victory in the long war ultimately depends on strategic communication.”

What does this mean for you and me and everyone else? It means that communication, if the Pentagon has its way, will be controlled by the military. Am I falling into the conspiracy theorist category here? No, I do not think so. This administration has continuously tried to hone in and control dissenting voices whether it was an anti-Bush person attending a Bush rally or requesting libraries to hand over internet searches from its patrons, or requesting the same from Yahoo or Google, controlling mass media, producing fake news conferences, producing fake news articles in Iraq, monitoring emails and other modes of communication, publicly denouncing dissenters as defeatists and the like. If the Pentagon succeeds in composing and implementing “strategic communication,” we need to ask what they mean, specifically, when they say “strategic.” We need to ask because of past examples of “strategic” control of communication. We also need to ask ourselves if the message currently being spread by this administration is the message we want spread? If so, well then, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. If not, then you need to read between the lines of these reports. Listen to what is not being said! If we object to the control that China has over what information can be accessed by its citizens, you should object to the proposal of “strategic” control here in the US.

The Omnipotent Poobah posted an interesting essay this week titled: We’re Confident We’re Not Confident. Core to his post is how confidence can turn to arrogance in the blink of an eye. In many ways, he asks the question: Is this Bush Administration confident or arrogant and how do we draw the line between the two? This is an important question and, in the end, we must ask ourselves if we want their arrogance controlling our communication. I, for one, don’t.

This will likely be my last post until next week as preparation for the conference I am working on takes me away from my computer most of the day and night. When I get back, I will post some pictures from the conference as well as information on the topics discussed. I am also taping the speakers and it would be great if I could find some way to publish it on the web. I am not sure how to go about this, but we shall see.

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