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This message of peace, tolerance and understanding is brought to you by the US Army

September 5, 2009

by open speech and simpleNPR has a must-read special on a covert propaganda campaign in West Africa and the Sahel, run by AFRICOM and aimed at militant Islamism:

The Sahel program is reminiscent of a controversy first brought to light when the Lincoln Group, a private public relations firm, was reported in late 2005 to have been producing pro-American press coverage in the Iraqi media on behalf of the U.S. military. Many in the defense community argued that these sorts of information operations, carried out through local “voices” rather than explicitly foreign ones, were precisely what was needed to marginalize extremists. “This project is not about the U.S. government, it is about sending a message of peace and tolerance to the people of these nations that our U.S. ambassadors and Department of State believe is important,” the Africom spokesman told FP, referring to the Sahel project.

“The substantive message carried by this campaign is for the population to adopt and reflect an existence that involves peace, tolerance, and understanding, thereby turning against violent extremist ideology,” the draft PWS reads. “[T]his campaign provides the host nation governments a platform from which they are able to condemn acts of violent extremists as inconsistent with these themes and the character of the population.”

There is so much to write about this, but such mushy ad lingo makes me lust for blood, and I shall be busy stabbing art directors for the rest of the evening. Read the rest, while I go wash the PR slime off of my computer screen, using the patented ModerateMuslim™ water bottle that a friendly, soft-spoken gringo gave me:

Among its strategies will be using certain “advertising vehicles,” such as mosquito nets and water bottles, without explicitly disclosing that they are coming from the U.S. government. The aim of the program is to encourage a local national identity of peace, thereby portraying extremism as a trait “inconsistent” with “the character of the population,” according to the document.

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