February 24, 2011

A Runaway Reporter

I've dealt with many different kind of communications mediums over the years, and have been tasked at various times to engage in persuasive communications. One of the most most basic kinds of communications, it simply seeks to win the favor, approval, and/or consent of the target audience. It is practiced in nearly every level of human interaction, from a parent convincing a young child to perform a task to a salesperson or marketer attempting to convince a client that "Solution X" will provide an answer or solve a problem. It's used by public officials trying to convince voters to select them, and it is used by journalists and propagandists to shape public opinion.

An article the Rolling Stone attempts to make this behavior into a major political scandal. It sounds quite nefarious; a military psychological operations team is tasked with creating presentations to convince visiting congressional representatives.

But when you read past the hyperbole and insinuation endemic throughout the article, you come realize that there isn't any "there," there.

A military unit normally tasked with understanding, targeting and persuading the local population was pressed into service to more or less Google the records and positions of visiting dignitaries in order to tweak boilerplate presentations to match the VIPs preferences and learning style, so that military briefers could more effectively communicate with them and then achieve a favorable response. Objectively, that appears to be all there is to this story.

Subjectively, this is the story of a disgruntled employee attempting to cast his former employer in the worst possible light, pounced upon by a journalist that has previously found fame and fortune sensationalizing a similar story. Both of these men have obvious motives. What is far less clear is their case that anything remotely unethical—much less illegal—took place in what were essentially corporate marketing operations that in an of themselves were utterly ordinary in execution.

Michael Hastings make his career when he interviewed General Stanley McCrystal and ultimately ended his career. He's trying so hard here to repeats his past success. It's too bad the apparent facts refuse to back his desire for more attention and fame.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at February 24, 2011 03:56 PM