Saturday, December 10, 2005

Does the Left Brand Know What the Right Brand is Doing?

Today's story in the New York Times on how "The Military's Information War is Vast and Often Secretive" inspired me to seek out the website of the Lincoln Group in my quest for primary sources. I found out that that this company that specializes in public diplomacy has printed voter materials for post-conflict elections while simultaneously doing branding for petrochemical companies.

I would advise any visitor to their slickly designed homepage to hit the refresh button several times to puzzle over the question of how a giant game of chess, a sky filled with flags, twins reading a newspaper, a mullah on a radio tower, carved mythical creatures guarding a globe showing Asia and the Middle East, a mosque reflected in the facets of an office building, and a crowd of Japanese villagers bearing a shrine are all related in the company's visual rhetoric.

"Recent examples of our work" apparently run the gamut from water bottles with psy-ops labels to children's cartoons with anti-terrorist messages. They also did a promotional video for the security forces of an unnamed nation in which "our client faced tremendous identity and public confidence issues as they built up their internal capacity to defend and protect their citizens." My guess would be they are referring to the United States.

I also visited the website of another firm mentioned in the article, The Rendon Group, which actually provides an ideologically mixed (although slanted) bibliography of websites. In addition to representing a constellation of tourist havens in the Caribbean, this company has been involved in some hilariously famous disinformation schemes that targeted U.S. citizens: Rendon designed the education campaign about the Y2K computer bug and information about the occupation of Kuwait before the first Gulf War.

Although Rendon did hire a Saddam Hussein impersonator to create fake broadcasts, they weren't the source of the famous "babies dumped out of incubators" story. That was Hill and Knowlton, whose website now boasts first and foremost of improving attendance at a dolphin amusement park.

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