Archive for category Media News

Books: Trust Me, I’m Lying, By Ryan Holiday

You are probably wondering why a book like this would be reviewed on a website like Feral Jundi? Well for one, FJ is a blog and blogs are a crucial element to media marketers and their schemes. So after hearing about this book over at Global Guerrillas and at Shlok Vaidya, I wanted to check it out.

In the book you will hear about simple but effective methods that Ryan Holiday uses to get a story of his choosing, be it fake or whatever, up to the national levels of media. One of them is called ‘trading up the chain’, and it basically a how-to on how to hack the media machine. Very useful information to marketers, and very dangerous information for those with malicious intentions in mind.

Specifically, Ryan discusses the Terry Jones Koran Burning incident as one example of a lethal ‘trading up the chain’ scheme. To quote Ryan from the book, he says this about the incident.

One kook, one overeager young journalist, unintentionally show why trading up the chain–feeding the monster–can be so dangerous (though for Jones, very effective). They weren’t just turning nothing into something. The beast these blogs built up was set off needless bloodshed.

You can trade up the chain for charity or you can trade up it to create funny fake news–or you can do it to create violence, hatred, and even incidentally, death. I’ve done the first two, while others, out of negligence or malice, have done the latter. At the end of the day, intentions are not a justification I’m going to hide behind. There is enough blame to go around. -Page 29

The ‘one’ journalist he was talking about was a college student named Andrew Ford, a freelancer working for Agence France-Presse. This was the guy that broke the media blackout directed at Terry Jones and his scheme, and once Andrew decided to post a story about Terry actually burning the Koran, the rest of the media could not resist. Especially the second tier blogs that highly depend upon pageviews and advertising. Then once those sites grabbed the story, the national media could not resist either, and then the thing just blew up all over–causing a stir throughout the world of Islam–and causing riots/deaths in places like Afghanistan.

So the question is, could a person or group ‘trade up the chain’ in order to kill or cause harm to an enemy?  Imagine hiring Ryan to conduct a campaign against Al Qaeda or the Taliban, and tasking him to use his dark arts of media manipulation to cause some serious headaches for these folks?

Also imagine the enemy reading such a book, and further adding to their ability to hack the media and create buzz for their cause?

This trading up the chain method was also comically evident in the military and technology blogging industry recently. The Duffle Blog posted a funny but fake story about a new bayonet system the DoD was about to purchase, and the popular upper tier Gizmodo blog picked it up as a ‘real’ story. Of course they finally figured out that it was not true, and they had to make the edit. But I wonder how close this was to being picked up by the national media? Or if this story got legs in some corner of the world where they actually thought it was real? Interesting stuff.

The other reason why I was interested in this book is I wanted to understand how I can protect the integrity of this site, but also if I could gain any insight as to why stories go viral–or what gives a post legs. Stuff like how to format a title, or what really grabs a reader.  For that, there are ideas in the book that are extremely valuable. Check it out and let me know what you think? –Matt

Buy the book here.

Buy the Kindle version here.


Trust Me, I’m Lying

By Ryan Holiday

You’ve seen it all before. A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation. What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this. Usually, someone like me.
I’m a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, my job is to control blogs—as much as any one person can.
In today’s culture…
1) Blogs like Gawker, Buzzfeed and the Huffington Post drive the media agenda.
2) Bloggers are slaves to money, technology, and deadlines.
3) Manipulators wield these levers to shape everything you read, see and watch—online and off.
Why am I giving away these secrets?  Because I’m tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it. I’m pulling back the curtain because I don’t want anyone else to get blindsided.

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Media News: As The World Becomes More Dangerous For Reporters, Security Contractors Offer Many Solutions

I am always interested in the various security contracting markets out there, and the media security market is one that has grabbed my interest lately. From providing training to media folks for war zone survival, to actually protecting journalists and reporters in war zones, this industry has potential.

The reason I feel it has potential is that all of these revolutions popping up as a result of the Arab Spring, along with the current wars, are areas that matter to all of the major media players and their viewers. Especially as the cost of fuel rises as a direct result of actions in the middle east. But these areas are extremely dangerous to cover for journalists and reporters.

So basically you have a situation where the networks want the story on the ground, but it is extremely dangerous to send folks in there. But they do send them in there, and sometimes they send their folks in with competent security specialists that can watch their back. But what about the freelance journalists who do not have the money for such protection?

Well for them, the solution is to get trained up and become a one man or woman freelance journalist/security specialist. The problem there is that a freelancer is put into a position where they are more concerned with security of self and their team, as opposed to getting the story.

Some of today’s freelance journalists are actually prior-service. Guys like Michael Yon, who is former SF, are able to navigate the complexities and dangers of a war zone pretty well. They know how military forces work in these conflict zones, and they know what is feasible and what is not in these places.

On the other hand, most freelancers are not prior military. They do not make a lot of money and they expose themselves to a lot of risk in these conflicts. They do not have the backing of a major network and they make their money off of the shot or story or video footage they were able to capture. So cost is a big factor to these guys, and hiring security is expensive.

Which brings me to my next point. Perhaps if freelancers are not able to invest in training or contract the services of a security specialist, then maybe another means of financing could work?  I am talking about profit sharing. To combine freelance journalists with security specialists, and then both can split the profits from whatever material is obtained?

Another idea is to crowd fund trips, much like how Michael Yon operates, and include the security costs in the project. If you have a website and proclaim that you want to report on the situation in Syria, then present the costs of the trip on your website and start working the phone lines as they say? Especially if you are able to tap into some Syrian diaspora that wants the world to see what is happening to their country.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that media become easy targets in these countries. A government that is quelling a rebellion using heavy handed methods, are not keen on the media reporting on those actions. So for a government to target that media and either make their lives difficult or even kill them, is very easy. Especially if that reporter does not have a security specialist watching their back and planning accordingly. The statistics show just how dangerous it has been for journalists, and especially since 2004. Imprisonments have shot up as well this last year and life has become very dangerous for journalists in conflict zones.

So the question I have is if there ‘is’ an increase in the use of security specialists?  I would speculate that yes, there has been an increase in our use. I would also speculate that war zone training has increased over the last couple years. Especially medical training. Perhaps the Committee to Protect Journalists could do a story on that and if anyone has anything else to add about this industry niche, I am all ears. –Matt


As Security Field Matures, the Risks Multiply
By Frank Smyth
Less than 20 years ago, the field of journalist security did not exist. “There was no security, no body armor, no training,” said Heather Allan, head of news-gathering for Al-Jazeera English and a former NBC News bureau chief.
In the 1990s, journalists’ deaths in the Balkans and Africa underscored “the need for a systematic approach to journalists’ physical security,” said Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Columbia University-based Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma. The shock of the September 11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq made the journalist security field, at least for a time, a growth industry.
Today, the need for safety preparation has never seemed greater. Traditional threats to journalists persist at the same time that new dangers are either emerging or becoming apparent. Sexual assault, civil unrest, organized crime, digital security, and trauma are all recognized challenges to press freedom and safety, and leading news organizations are either modifying the military-oriented training courses, or developing their own security practices and curriculum. Still, money for security training is limited, and employers struggle to adapt their preparation to the myriad dangers. “We’ve quickly had to change our view of security,” said David Verdi, vice president of worldwide news-gathering for NBC News.

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Media News: Sergeant Moore’s Social Coup

This is actually pretty interesting if you take a step back and see what has really happened here. The back story is that a Marine named Sgt. Moore originally posted a youtube video to ask actress Mila Kunis to be his date for the Marine Corps Ball. This ball is a celebration of the Marine Corps Birthday that is held every year, and she accepted! Good for Sgt. Moore and Semper Fi.

Now how is this a ‘social coup d’etat’? In reality, Mila Kunis and this Marine would never purposely seek one another out, just because of the vastly different social circumstances of each party. Mila is a celebrity in Hollywood, and Sgt. Moore is serving in Afghanistan. Actresses typically do not go to Afghanistan to specifically date military men. They might go there for a USO tour, but not to find dates.  And socially and even economically, both the celebrity and soldier live in some very different worlds. Now of course this date does not mean that they are now connected at the hip and actually interested in one another. But they both are certainly going to be hanging out for one night together at this ball, and that is pretty cool. I could even see Hollywood making some show about the whole thing. Who knows?….

But it is this collision of two very different worlds that grabs my interest, and it is cool to check out the dynamics of how it happened and snowballed. Youtube is a tool that anyone can use, and the potential for a video to go viral or be passed around and seen by a lot of people, is open to anyone with a good idea. I first learned about this video on Facebook, because someone watched it, and passed it around on FB.  Guess what, I passed it around as well. The thought of a celebrity going to the Marine Ball with this Marine, was a cool idea and everyone was very supportive of this Marine’s gumption to post such a thing. It is that image of a actress and Marine, going to the ball together, which has created the viral effect of the idea itself.

Once this idea came out, and people agreed with it and celebrated the idea, then guess what? People support what they help to create, and Facebook/Twitter/blogs etc. all allows people to pass around the idea and show their support for it.  They also know that the more people they pass around this idea too, will equate to them being rewarded with a ‘thanks’ and a ‘like’ out there in the world of cyber democracies. Passing around a good idea, makes you a ‘good idea’ within your online community.  That is the incentive, and everyone wants to be the purveyor of good ideas within their social networks. That is why I passed it around on my Facebook account, and that is why my friends passed it around as well.

It get’s better, because now you have this massive viral video explosion going on in the social networks of the world, and meanwhile, little ol’ Mila Kunis has no idea what is about to hit her. When you watch the video where she found out about this video and invitation, she was shocked and had no idea how to respond until her co-host Justin Timberlake clued into the big picture and said ‘this needs to happen’ wink, wink. She said she would go, and that is what sealed it.

I am sure afterwards she was contacting her PR guy and trying to figure out what happened.  They have also clued into the fact that if she does not go, that it would be extremely negative publicity for her. But the main point here is that Sgt. Moore performed a social coup, and was able to get this celebrity elite to go on a date with him to the Marine Ball! A celebrity that would have never had connected with this Marine within the normal societal rules and structures we live in today. Hell, for all we know, Kunis might be an anti-war, thumb her nose at soldiers, Hollywood liberal. But that doesn’t matter if true, because she will be the bad guy now if she doesn’t go.

Finally, this little incident has inspired others (mimicry strategy), because another female Marine named Corporal De Santis has asked Justin Timberlake to accompany her on a date via youtube to the Marine Ball. lol I speculate that he will go, just because if he doesn’t, he will look like a hypocrite for telling Kunis to go and not going himself. Plus, it is all good PR for the movie that Kunis and Timberlake are promoting called Friends With Benefits. The Marines benefit from this PR as well. Stuff like this makes Hollywood happy too if these leads to more revenue and an increase in star power for these two actors. The power of viral videos and social media, continues to amaze me. –Matt

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Al Qaeda: Usama Bin Laden Is Dead!!!!

This is incredible news, and I am writing this as it is coming over the news. Usama Bin Laden is dead and it sounds like his body has been recovered, and identification has been made. President Obama is soon to come on the television and make the announcement. This is such awesome news.

By the way, all of Al Qaeda and it’s supporters better watch out–because you are next!…… –Matt

Edit: An American team was tasked with killing or capturing UBL at a mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There was a firefight, and OBL was killed in the firefight. The body was identified by DNA and all of this was confirmed by President Obama in his speech.

Edit: CNN Reports that it was Navy SEALs that came in by helicopter to assault the mansion that UBL was at. Supposedly one of UBL’s sons was killed in the attack as well.

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Media News: Mission Essential Personnel Calls Out ABC News Over Report On Linguists

Marc Peltier, MEP’s chief operating officer, said in an interview with ABC News that he had “no reports from the field” of translators who could not communicate in Dari or Pashto, and said the company has received “100 percent outstanding” ratings from the Army and shared a copy of what he said was an internal company survey that showed 82 percent of its customers were satisfied with the performance of its translators. An attorney accompanying Peltier to the interview said the company would answer Funk’s allegations in court, and not in the media.


     I am not going to comment too much about the case between Mr. Funk and MEP, because I really don’t know enough about it. What I will comment on though is how ABC News decided to attack this company in such an obvious way. I would be cheering on this news broadcast if in fact their stuff was true or unbiased, but there are too many details that we are not privy too. I just cannot see how this mainstream media outlet thought that this was appropriate? It is more bashing of companies for the sake of ratings I guess?

     The show was completely one sided and the viewer is made to think that the translator in the film they showed from Afghanistan was one of MEP’s translators. This was not the case after reading MEP’s statement, and I was shocked. Who is ABC News for misleading the viewer, and especially when there were so many variables with this case?

     Also, I despise the idea of poor translators going out into the field like anyone else. I have witnessed exactly what poor translation services can produce. But really, if the government has identified poor service by MEP and they were not at all satisfied with the translators performance, then they should have reflected that in the customer surveys and reviews. Or better yet, they should have fired MEP and went with a better company. It makes no sense to keep paying for poor services, if in fact you are getting poor service. It’s called exercising your power as the consumer and the government does a terrible job of this. –Matt

Edit: 09/14/2010- Check out David Isenberg’s excellent post about the subject here.  He didn’t have much good to say about ABC’s track record on reporting and he pointed out many holes in this case.

Edit: 09/23/2010- The American Spectator did a story on this recently.


Mission Essential Personnel Response To ABC’s 9/8/2010 Broadcast


Mission Essential Personnel today released the following statement in response to the ABC News story “Whistleblower Claims Many U.S. Interpreters Can’t Speak Afghan Languages.”

MEP is an American success story and a responsible partner to the U.S. Government and to service members around the world. Our linguists play a critical role in sharing the United States’ message of goodwill and deciphering the hidden messages of those who seek to harm Americans. MEP’s linguists risk their lives each day to accompany brave troops into the field, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice to advance the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, while saving many lives. While there are always challenges on a changing battlefield, MEP, in partnership with the U.S. military, has helped bring a greater level of peace and stability to Afghanistan.

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Industry Talk: Stability Operations Industry–Opportunity And Risk, By Bullet Proof Blog

     I liked this article, and it is a concept that all of the companies need to really wrap their heads around in today’s times.  It is all about crisis communication, and it sounds like Mr. Levick is the guy to talk to about doing this kind of thing.  What is cool is that he has plenty of contractor history to learn from and he is also reaching out to individuals in the industry like Doug to get a feel for what’s what.

     This article also goes well with the interview Mr. Levick did with Doug Brooks, so I recommend watching that if you can.

     Now something I would like to hear from the author is how he would have dealt with the Nisour Square incident differently than how BW and State dealt with it back then?  Most of all, how would his firm handle the crisis management for such an incident if it happened again in the near future? He briefly touched on this contractor army that DoS plans on using in Iraq, but I would have liked to hear some details on how a true crisis management expert would handle the complexities of this industry’s incidents that tend to get so much attention.  We need all the help we can get, because no easy solutions have materialized and companies are still getting sucked into crisis that not only embarrasses them, but embarrasses their clients as well. These incidents also negatively impact the war effort, and it is certainly important for companies to not cause that kind of harm.

     As to an example of current crisis communication, DynCorp actually sent me a company release about the auto accident in Kabul.  But because of the speed of information spread in Kabul and online, and how the negative aspects of the news spread, I just don’t know how you can stop the impact of such a thing?  Or maybe DynCorp did all they could and this was the way to do it? They certainly responded quickly online to those of us trying to cover this stuff, and at least attempted to fill any information gaps that biased media or even the enemy was trying to fill with their own versions of the story.  I wonder how he would rate DynCorp’s crisis management and communications, both in Kabul and online? How would you guys rate it? Interesting stuff. –Matt


Stability Operations Industry: Opportunity and Risk

Richard Levick

August 18, 2010

For one not uncontroversial sector of the defense industry, President Obama’s recent reaffirmation of a timetable for Iraqi troop withdrawal means new business opportunity, accompanied by heightened scrutiny — and predictably severe penalties for failure to comply with professionally, as well as politically, dictated operational standards.

The industry in question is called “stability operations,” a broad term that denotes activities by private contractors to support military, peacekeeping missions and disaster relief. To ensure safe and secure environments outside the United States, their multifarious deliverables include protecting vital infrastructure, training indigenous military and non-military forces, responding to emergencies, body-guarding key personnel, overseeing project logistics, assuring medical provisions, demining hazard zones — and so forth.

During the Iraq War, unwanted attention fell on a few such companies amid allegations of fraud and abuse. Now that the West’s role in the war is largely ending, and the role of the industry in Iraq will grow apace, those past mishaps are going to have a strong continuing influence on public perception. Fairly or not, the bigger the future role of the contractors, the more mistrust they can expect to engender.

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