Not too long ago, the Pentagon was caught paying the controversial PR Firm Bell Pottinger $540 million to create fake videos against Iraqi terrorism. The point behind these videos was to create an anti-terrorism bias in people’s heads and to track terrorist sympathizers. The ways that the fake videos were used is a bit more insidious.
One of the ways that Bell Pottinger used to track potential terrorists was to create CDs with fake “pro terrorism” content. If you play that CD in a computer, you need an internet connection to run it… And I think you see where this is going. The Pentagon is alerted to the fact that you opened the file, and keeps an eye on you. AND, if the SAME file shows up somewhere else in the world, it shows that it was spread. Now you’re very suspicious, because you both viewed “pro terrorist” content AND you distributed it.
I hope I don’t have to go into too much detail about why this is a problem. The US government is not allowed to use deceptive propaganda on their own citizens, so they’re following the letter of the law by outsourcing it to another country. This is deceptive, and follows a disturbing “ends justify the means” philosophy. This is a dangerous precedent to set.
The company also created videos that were designed to look like Arabic TV. They would shoot low-fi cellphone-type footage and edit it with Arabic voiceovers, then send the whole mess over to Arabic TV stations to present a type of anti-terrorism bias. This by itself isn’t TOO much of a problem, but since it came with a package of propaganda that IS harmful, it must be considered alongside everything else.
This is an issue that requires a lot of thought and consideration. On the one hand, people should not be dying from terrorist attacks, PERIOD. Terrorism is immoral and evil and a scourge. However, a government cannot take “any means necessary” in order to fight evil. And using fake terrorism videos to track people, even common people, seems to be a bit out of line. There are good ways and bad ways to fight terrorism, and espionage has its place, but this reeks of an operation with no accountability. You have to keep this sort of thing secret, but secrecy breeds tyranny eventually. When you don’t have to answer to anyone, what incentive do you have to follow moral rules?
Although terrorism is a real issue in society today, we cannot condone governments fighting it any way they see fit. We need safety AND accountability. When you remove one of those things, bad government is sure to follow.