restricted access Chapter 5. Coercion and Consent: Narrative Countermeasures in the Battle for "Hearts and Minds"
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5 + Coercion and Consent Narrative Countermeasures in the Battle for “Hearts and Minds” Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate. —Edward W. Said, “Blind Imperial Arrogance” Commanders must recognize and continuously address that this “The American way is best” bias is unhelpful. —U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual The preceding three case studies examined rumors and their function in narrative landscapes. In the case of Mas Selamat, a family of rumors about his escape sparked an online critique of government policy and efficacy. The different rumors intersected with pop culture iconography (movie posters, for example) and contributed to narratives positioning Mas Selamat as an outlaw hero rather than a terrorist threat. In the case of the Stack House facility in Iraq, a mosaic of rumors about the denizens and activities inside the compound smoothly integrated into a dominant narrative of the U.S. forces as Crusaders, eroding public support for both the U.S. troops and their Iraqi SWAT partners. The bovine poisoning rumor also fit into this narrative system , negating any goodwill that could have been generated by the veterinary outreach program, which itself was an attempt to effect change in a narrative landscape. And in Indonesia, government officials planted the rumors of Noordin Top’s anatomical deformity and its supposed link to homosexuality. This introduction of salacious rumor into a heteronormative society via a state-sponsored whisper campaign altered the narrative trajectory of Noordin Top, who did not receive an apotheosis as a martyr, and of Jemaah Islamiyah, painting one of its leaders as a hypocrite. We have treated rumors as an observable phenomenon, with specific characteristics, and made the case that they are a serious phenomenon requiring attention in the context of strategic communication. Our discussions have analyzed how these rumors function as components of narrative systems, how they achieved narrative coherence and fidelity, and how they worked against the interests of governments and organizations. In this final chapter, we turn our attention to what can be done by a government or organization that faces a rumor threat. How can strategic communication teams defuse these narrative IEDs? Specifically, we discuss a range of narrative countermeasures by drawing upon a recent example of strategic communication witnessed by co-author Daniel Bernardi, who was part of a U.S. Navy team that faced a rumor threat in Ambon, Indonesia, and was able to leverage the research underway to write this book in his efforts to mitigate the rumor mill there. In June 2010 a U.S. Navy advance echelon team (ADVON) of five officers, including Bernardi, and one civilian accountant was sent to Ambon to prepare for the arrival of the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19), one of the Navy’s two dedicated hospital ships (figure 5.1).1 The Mercy was the flagship of the annual Pacific Partnership mission, a disaster relief and training exercise that “is designed to strengthen alliances, improve U.S. and partner capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief and improve security cooperation among partner nations.”2 In addition to U.S. Navy and Army medical personnel, members from non-governmental agencies (NGOs) were onboard.3 The 2010 mission also included partner and host-nation navies from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. The hospital ship had already visited Vietnam, Cambodia, and the North Maluku region of Indonesia when it arrived in Ambon on 26 July 2010. Planning for the Pacific Partnership visits to host-nation ports had been underway for six months prior to the Mercy’s departure for Southeast Asia. These planning efforts were supplemented by ADVON teams dispatched to ports such as Ambon prior to the ship’s arrival. The U.S. Navy ADVON team facilitating the Mercy visit to Ambon was charged with working “with and narrative landmines 136 through” the government of Indonesia and the Indonesian Navy, which meant that it coordinated all activities primarily through Indonesian naval officers. This arrangement was designed to build command-level interoperability between the U.S. Navy, the Indonesian military, and other regional partners to emphasize the cooperative arrangement between the countries, countering the common global perception of the United States as paternalistic or, worse yet, the “playground bully.”4 The entire team had just over four weeks to finalize arrangements with local government and medical officials, hire contractors, identify local...


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Subject Headings

  • Rumor in mass media.
  • Rumor -- Political aspects.
  • Rumor -- Social aspects.
  • Islamic fundamentalism.
  • Terrorism -- Religious aspects -- Islam.
  • Terrorism and mass media.
  • Mass media -- Influence.
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