Hacks & Spooks
The Media and the Intelligence Services
London South Bank University
Friday 4 April, 2.30pm
This research symposium considers how the relationships between the media and the intelligence services shapes contemporary coverage of war and conflict.
Prof Richard Keeble (University of Lincoln), Journalists and the Secret State
Dr Piers Robinson (University of Manchester), Propaganda, Organised Political Persuasion and the Case of the Iraq Dossier
This event is free and open to all, but registration is required for visitors to LSBU. Click here for your free ticket.
Agenda-building struggles in the War on Terror: Secrecy, Silences and Persuasive Misdirection
This paper presents some of the conclusions from an in-depth study of the agenda-building struggles of the Bush and Blair political administrations (and those of their successors in the US and UK) over their use of torture to gain intelligence for the War on Terror (2001-12). Given that the Bush Administration’s torture-for-intelligence policy, initiated soon after 9/11, was kept secret for several years, as remains the level of complicity of the UK (and at least 44 other governments), this analysis deepens our understanding of processes of Strategic Political Communication (SPC), and exposes dominant political discourses on the torture-for-intelligence policy in the USA and its key ally, the UK.
Using a comparative case study methodology combined with elements of Michel Foucault’s archaeological analysis, the paper focuses on the ‘strategies’ (the ‘themes and theories’ (Foucault 2003 : 71) that invest statements with a particular authority within a particular institutional practice), especially SPC strategies of secrecy, silencing and persuasive misdirection.
Vian Bakir is Senior Lecturer in Journalism at Bangor University. She is author of Torture, Intelligence and Sousveillance in the War on Terror: Agenda–building Struggles (2013), and of Sousveillance, Media and Strategic Political Communication: Iraq, USA, UK (2010). She is co-editor of Communication in the Age of Suspicion: Trust and the Media (2007), and Associate Editor of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism (forthcoming, 2014). She is editing a Special Issue on Intelligence Agencies & Agenda-Building for The International Journal of Press & Politics. She is on the editorial board for Media, War & Conflict; The Open Political Science Journal, and The Mediterranean e-journal of Communication and Media.
Journalists and the Secret State
The links between intelligence and journalists – and their increasing importance particularly since the 1980s – remain largely hidden despite the massive recent coverage given to the revelations by WikiLeaks and former CIA analyst Edward Snowden. This talk will examine how the secret state operates alongside the so-called democratic state, and will explore ways in which whistleblowers, mainstream corporate journalists and ‘independent investigative’ reporters relate to the secret state. Given the epistemological complexities involved the talk will end with no firm conclusions – just a series of questions…
Richard Keeble has been Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln since 2003. Before that he was the executive editor of The Teacher, the weekly newspaper of the National Union of Teachers, and he lectured at City University London for 19 years. He has written and edited 26 publications and has lectured in many countries including Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, Egypt, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, India, Israel, Malta, Montenegro, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, US. From October 2014 he is to be Visiting Professor at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia.
Propaganda, Organised Political Persuasion and the Case of the Iraq Dossier
Drawing upon conceptual work from the fields of political marketing, military perception management and propaganda studies, this talk presents a framework designed to analyse acts of government information and disinformation. It is argued that government communication, especially with respect to foreign policy, contains a complex matrix of information, misinformation, and disinformation which is, in turn underpinned by varying degrees of misperception, self-deception and intentional deception. By way of demonstration, this conceptual framework is applied to UK communication campaigns in recent conflicts, specifically the 2002 dossier on Iraqi WMD. It is shown that the dossier was fundamentally misleading about the intelligence and that deliberate deception through omission and distortion was involved.
The analysis presented has wider implications: First, models of political communication need to move beyond their current focus on media-source relations, to examine the mechanisms of organised political persuasion and organised political coercion that shape the information environment within which media exist. Second, the logic of liberal accounts of the democratic peace is potentially short circuited by the influence of organised political persuasion activities. More generally, scholarship needs to engage more fully with the problematics thrown up by organised political persuasion and its consequences for war and peace and democratic control over foreign policy formulation.
Piers Robinson is Senior Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester. He has an international reputation for his research on the relationship between communications, conflict and world politics. His most recent book, Pockets of Resistance: The British Media and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq (Manchester University Press, 2010), analyses UK media coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. His book The CNN Effect: the myth of news, foreign policy and intervention (Routledge, 2002) analyses the relationship between news media, US foreign policy and humanitarian crises. Other work on media, conflict and international politics has been published in leading journals including Journal of Communication, Journal of Peace Research, European Journal of Communication, Review of International Studies and Media, Culture and Society amongst others. He is has served as an editor of the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism and is on the editorial board of Media, War and Conflict.