All entries for Wednesday 03 January 2007

January 03, 2007

Saddam the execution – the official movie

It’s interesting how the scandal around the mobile phone video of the execution of Saddam Hussein really highlights the problems for those seeking to control communications and messages in the modern era.

On the day of the execution an official video was released of a calm and controlled scene, only to be followed a day later by a mobile phone video which contradicted the official version with shouts, taunts and a somewhat chaotic mood.

It’s a simple example of how difficult it is for organisations to manage the news in the way they used to and how much control has been lost.

Is this a good thing? It’s easy to argue that it’s always better to tell the truth in these matters, but Saddam is an interesting case here in that the former version of events was less likely to stir up trouble than the latter. Was the Iraqi government justified in trying to create an impression of calm in the interests of a broader peace when the alternative would have been to run the risk of greater conflict.

My own feeling is that you have to deal with the truth. This case demonstrates that you can’t hide reality anymore – trusting a PR person to manipulate a situation or manufacture a reality is a risky stratgey when every bystander has a mobile phone and news networks are desperate for footage. The exercise has been an absolute disaster for the Iraqi government and most likely for the US and British as well.

On top of the misdirection and communication failures of Abu Graib, the Mirror photos, warblogs and the weight of content on the web perhaps we need to start trying to deal with reality rather than struggling to create and control a fiction.

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