“I did not realize how important words and the transmission of information to the public could be until I met Mr. John Rendon in 1999. Mr Rendon, President of Rendon Group, Inc., insists that information is terrain and someone will occupy it, either the adversary, a third party, or us.”
— Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall, Lt Col, USAF, Public Diplomacy: Capturing the Information Terrain on the Way to Victory
What you see here is a pie chart created by the military contracted PR firm Rendon Group profiling a journalist (whose name has been blacked out). The blue portion of the pie chart represents the portion of this journalist’s stories judged “positive;” the red portion represents stories judged “negative.” Journalists whose reporting is judged too “negative” for the military’s taste are targeted for “neutralization.”
“These ground rules recognize the inherent right of the media to cover combat operations and are in no way intended to prevent release of embarrassing, negative or derogatory information.”
The military may make this statement in public, but the Stars and Stripes article provides details of actual profiles of journalists carried out by the Rendon Group for the U.S. military. This is the same Rendon Group that manufactured the “Iraqi National Congress” before the Iraq War: a group that falsely manufactured exactly the evidence George W. Bush needed to whip the nation into a “Weapons of Mass Destruction” hysteria. Even with the Rendon Group’s track record of dissembling and outright manufacture of untruth, it continues to receive millions of dollars to manage the press for the U.S. military. Nowadays, the Rendon Group issues reports that rate journalists’ coverage as positive, neutral or negative, then make recommendations to the U.S. military about how to deal with “negative” journalists. An excerpt from the S&S article:
One reporter on the staff of one of America’s pre-eminent newspapers is rated in a Pentagon report as “neutral to positive” in his coverage of the U.S. military. Any negative stories he writes “could possibly be neutralized” by feeding him mitigating quotes from military officials.
Another reporter, from a TV station, provides coverage from a “subjective angle,” according to his Pentagon profile. Steering him toward covering “the positive work of a successful operation” could “result in favorable coverage.”
Before Stars and Stripes published its story, the military and the Rendon Group directly denied the rating system and recommendations for “neutralization” even existed.
The U.S. military has been caught in a manipulation of our nation’s First Amendment Freedom of the Press. It has been caught in a coverup. These are scandals.
In the meantime, with “neutralized” journalists and screening for embedding assignments, what can you and I really say we know about the U.S. military operation in Afghanistan? When “negative” journalists’ work is “neutralized,” what is being hidden from us? We cannot know. Given the power of the military, the violent nature of current military operations, and the responsibility of American citizens to be active agents of political change, Americans’ manufactured ignorance is an outrage.