Throughout history, despots have utilized propaganda to their advantage. Media can provide brutal dictators and terrorists the cover to further their mission. In recent days, President Assad of Syria has increased his social media activities and keeps attracting followers – as tens of thousands of his people have been killed in a brutal civil war and he is increasingly shunned by world leaders.
Today for the 1st time, PR firms have been warned if they work for dictators they will be “punished.” Anonymous Operation Bahrain proclaimed they will attack the websites of supporters of the government of Bahrain – and specifically warned PR firms. A press release issued said “This may include western PR firms who are paid to white wash the crimes of the dictator in Manama.” While the government is described worldwide as one of the world’s most brutal regimes, they have spent $32 million on US and UK PR agencies since the start of protests in February 2011 to help burnish their image.
Clearly, it works – CNN refused to air a documentary, “iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring,” which apparently featured footage of government forces shooting unarmed protesters. Police in the country continue their brutality – but $32 million as detailed on www.bahrainwatch.org goes a long way. Some of the PR companies working for the country include Bell Pottinger, BGR Group, Hill+Knowlton, Joe Trippi & Assocs, M&C Saatchi, Qorvis Communications (who was hired by Saudi Arabia post 9/11), and Sorini, Samet & Assocs.
Hamas, Hizbullah, and others have used professionals to lobby for them with the media and the public, yet there has never been a warning like this before. Indeed, it will be interesting to see the reaction of the tight-knit PR community to the Anonymous proclamation.