Monday 29 March 2010

Shaping public opinion in Europe

Worried that France and Germany could go the same way as Holland - and that governments could fall or founder over policy on Afghanistan - the CIA drew up a classified document in March outlining possible PR strategies to shore up public opinion in both countries.
The PR strategies differ for each country. In France, the CIA reckons that a campaign based on public sympathy for Afghan refugees and women would be the most effective.
In Germany, it suggests concentrating on the fear of the consequences of defeat - drugs, more refugees, terrorism - and also the loss in Germany's standing within NATO.
How do I know this? Simple. The document has now been leaked onto Wikileaks.
Dated 11 March 2010, the document was written by "a CIA expert on strategic communication", who is a member of what the CIA calls its Red Cell, which has been charged by the Director of Intelligence with thinking "out-of-the-box".
The Red Cell document notes the interesting paradox that although more than 80 per cent of German and French respondents in a recent poll were against further deployment of troops to Afghanistan, only around one per cent identified Afghanistan as the most urgent issue facing their nation.
However, it argues that with upcoming regional elections in both France and Germany, an increase in military casualties could "become a tipping point in converting passive opposition into active calls for immediate withdrawal."
The kind of communications advice it offers is very specific:
"Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF role in combating the Taliban because of women’s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive skepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission."
We are not being manipulated, are we?

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