The Media and the Military

The media and the military

‘Loose lips sink ships.’ This old cliché reflects the fact that even in the pre-Internet age, there was a pervasive sense that public perception and knowledge of the military must be controlled to bring a mission to a successful conclusion. The public’s right to know must be balanced with the security of a mission. Additionally, public perception can have a powerful influence upon troop morale, as demonstrated during World War II in a positive way and in Vietnam in a negative fashion. The military has historically tried to control the media’s portrayal of the armed services.   However, today, sensitive to the growing difficulty of exercising control over information in the digital age, it has tried to work with new technology, rather than attempted to stifle all forms of expression online and tried to avoid the appearance of creating propaganda.
Almost every fighting force has used slanted information, since the beginning of time. Propaganda can include using information in a selective fashion, demonizing the enemy in a black-and-white fashion, reinforcing common values and reasons for fighting, and appealing to people’s hopes and fears.   Propaganda is not necessarily overly negative—in fact, during World War II, the media’s portrayal of the German SS did not fully account for the true extent of the horrors that were being perpetuated by the Nazis in Europe. However, propaganda does clearly express a very particular point of view.
While certain top secret information cannot be widely disseminated by the media by law, the media can still exercise a powerful influence on the public’s perceptions of events. The media has grown even more polarized, many argue, in recent years, which can make winning the hearts and minds of the American public even more difficult. The importance of persuading the foreign media should likewise not be underestimated, given the need for support for the US mission by a wide coalition of nationalities....