"There's never been a war fought in this environment before," Donald Rumsfeld [said.] "Today we are fighting the first war in the era of e-mail, blogs, BlackBerries, instant messaging, digital cameras, the Internet...The U.S. government still functions as a five-and-dime store in an eBay world."
To hear the Defense Department tell it, modern communications technology is creating a ripe environment for anti-US propaganda, delivered straight to Americans' computers, according to News.com.
Rumsfeld didn't mention YouTube, but apparently, it's the power of video images that is really concerning an administration that has been especially aggressive about controlling the message, emasculating the media, and unleashing swift-boaters.
"The enemy is taking propaganda straight to the American people," said Nancy Snow, associate professor at California State University at Fullerton and author of "Propaganda Inc." "You have to give them credit for utilizing the power of this new medium. They're using cheap technology, but today anybody with a video camera can make his own movie and broadcast it."
The article describes anti-US videos like "Iraq-The Truth," in which a narrator says: "People of America, we wish to share with you our thoughts on the events we experienced. Despite the madness we have endured we see no harm in presenting you with the criminal nature of your newly elected emperor."
But it's not just propaganda from anti-war activists or even from insurgents themselves. Soldier-created videos that give voice to anger and dissatisfaction with participating in the war may be even more concerning to the Pentagon. After all, returning Vietnam vets talking about the atrocities they committed played a huge part in turning public sentiment against the war.
Perhaps the best example of this is the controversial video called "Hadji Girl." The clip shows Joshua Belile, a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq, singing a song about falling in love with an Iraqi girl before being ambushed by her family and being forced to kill them. Belile has reportedly said the song was meant as a dark joke but it enraged many Muslims.
On the other hand there are countless videos of soldiers engaged in the rock-n-roll business of the Army in Iraq.
There's the video titled "Iraq Airstrike" that appears to be taken by U.S. troops confronting an insurgent position. A bomb explodes on a building and the voices in the background whoop it up. "Sucks to be your a--," one of the voices says. "See you in hell, dog. See you in hell."
Ultimately, video is never unfettered reality. The 10-minute vids on YouTube offer the perspectives of their videographers. If it's unfiltered by the media or the government, it's certainly filtered by the agendas and experiences of those posting the videos. But as Rumsfeld says, it is a new environment.