Tuesday, December 06, 2005

How to Make Enemies and Embarrass Your Friends

Producing fake "news reports" to push initiatives such as the Medicare drug benefit insurance plan, "Iraqi-American-man-in-the-Iraqi-street" reaction to the fall of Baghdad, and other subjects.

Purchasing favorable mentions from columnists (who initially "neglected to mention" the payments) for the Healthy Marriage", No Child Left Behind and abstinence-only programs.

Sanctioning the start of a "strategic disinformation" agency that would put biased propaganda into the news stream of our own allies.

Flat-out refusal to publish authenticated counts of civilian dead on the ground in Iraq.

Domestic disinformation on just what equipment and manpower was being allocated/used in the Gulf of Mexico states as mitigation for the back-to-back devastating hurricanes.

Building a Potemkin village with an "unscripted and spontaneous" interview with troops on the ground in Iraq.

Trying to revise the transcripts of an official White House briefing.

Paying civilian Iraqi newspapers to print stories with "positive spin" that were actually written by U.S. armed forces personnel (but don't tell the readers)

All are attempts to "manipulate the media coverage" (if one is being charitable) or "create propaganda for consumption at home and abroad" (if one is not being charitable)

Now, it appears that someone (of *course* not anybody in the G.W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration) has arranged for a right-wing piece of puffery doggeral to be inserted into the textbooks of an English-Language course for Pakistani 16-year olds.

The 16-line poem, titled "The Leader," is composed to have the first letter of the first line of each verse spell out the name "PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH."

(See the BBC article for the full poem).

From the BBC's article:
Officials cannot explain how the poem entered the curriculum. Pupils are being told to ignore it.

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says it is a bizarre episode which has left education officials short of explanations.

At first they put the poem's appearance in the grade 11 textbook down to a coincidence.

Then on Monday they said it may have been downloaded from the internet by a textbook writer, and later approved for publication by the curriculum committee.

An education ministry spokesman argued that the poem was a good description of a true leader - which might explain how it got through the vetting process.

But the poem has prompted criticism in local media in Pakistan, where there is opposition to President Pervez Musharraf's support for the US-led "war on terror".

Some opposition members say the poem shows the government has gone over the top in its support for the US.

Pakistan's government has denied any deliberate attempt to promote the US president.

The education ministry said it would remove the poem from the textbook and discipline the person responsible for including it.

I first saw the poem itself yesterday, when someone pinned up the text on a bulletin board in the common lunch room at work. I didn't think much about it. Semi-clever in intent, bad verse, otherwise.

Then today the poem was gone,and had been replaced with a print-out of the BBC article.

Pakistani President Musharraf is in a delicate position -- he is trying to keep his own country from flaring into civil war, provide some logistical and basing support for some of the U.S. planes that are being used for offensives inside Iraq, and keep his own head on his shoulders.

This does *not* help.

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