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The War of the Tiger and the Elephant: When the Military and the Media Collide

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This paper describes myths about military operations, how they get started and the harm they can do. It looks at the role of the media in Vietnam, El Salvador, Mexico and Kosovo and conveys to the reader a greater understanding of the realities of the 21st Century media and identifies strategies for military leaders to consider as they impact with the media. The conflict between the military and the media is longstanding and uncomfortable for both, as both depend on each other to accomplish their respective missions. The military cant afford to retreat from media assaults by dismissing them as the enemy or insignificant to the process. The media while not friendly in the short run is not the enemy in the long run, nor is it insignificant-ever. At times, a proper media strategy may be a persistent attack on elements of the media spreading false or factually inaccurate stories. It may mean seeking out competitors and giving exclusive interviews to accomplish this. Myths must be killed early on or they will generate lives of their own. Military leaders need to understand myth creation and what to do about it. This paper advocates some ways to do that. Finally, as the media is changing technically through 24 hour news cycles and Internet web services and substantively through less accurate reporting, so must the tools and resources available to senior military leaders to deal with them. Enemies and adversaries understand the press and how to manipulate them. So must the military. This paper proposes a few ideas on organizational changes which might further that cause. In the end, a reader should come away with the view that a healthy and respectful military-media relationship, may have to be somewhat combative.

Subject Categories:

  • Administration and Management
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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