Going to war: PR and Spin

aban1396lThe cliché goes ‘actions speak louder than words’. But is this the same in times of war?

War and PR have an interesting history with each other in that some of the earliest forms of PR came about during WWII in the form of propaganda. However, at that time it had less of a negative connotation. Propaganda then were leaflets, articles and posters aimed at drumming up national support for wartime efforts. Modern day propaganda is seen as manipulative and bias information that serves to persuade people to think or act in a certain way.

In arguing whether wars are spun and not won, some thought-provoking arguments came about.

Perhaps one of the most well know examples of how public relations spun a war is the invasion of Iraq under President Bush to seek out weapons of mass destruction. The media was filled with the President saying that terrorist were not going to threaten peace and that America would be invading Iraq to ensure global safety. The media used public safety to gain support for the invasion, however no weapons of mass destruction were ever found. Billions of dollars were spent and countless lives were lost in the efforts in a war who’s success is inconclusive.

Conversely, how could a war be spun in modern times? Technological developments and regular use of the internet empowers the public to be more involved in what they see in the media that before. Citizens can fact check for themselves, learn both sides of an argument and spot any irregularities in the news they receive. They can form their own opinions on an issue and this is why ‘propaganda’ doesn’t work in a modern era. Such access to information makes it nearly impossible to hide or spin information.

It’s no secret that PR seeks to influence the way publics act or think and that the government actively uses PR to gain the support of citizens. And they definitely have the money and power to do so. However, in the recent Edelman Trust Barometer report government leaders and the government are trusted less than any other sector. What this says to me is that the government has little to do with public influence and that, in fact, actions do speak louder than words.

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Brett Ashley Bridges

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