Adam L. Silverman, PhD*
COL Lang asked me to take a look at The Israel Project's (TIP) 2009 Global Language Manual that came up in the comments to his recent News of the Day post. I think there are two different issues with TIP's manual. The first is that we really do not know everyone they distributed this to. The Bio page for TIPs president indicates that she meets regularly with Israeli leaders and works regularly with other pro-Israeli organizations. As the Jerusalem Post seems to confirm and indicate that the TIPs manual was presented to Israeli leadership by its author, we can reasonably conclude that it has been accounted for in Israel's diplomatic and information operations.
The bigger question, which is harder to answer, is who exactly this strategic communication initiative is aimed at. It does not seem as if it will change many minds in Europe, the Middle East, or the non-Arab Muslim world. Rather it really seems aimed at American audiences, specifically politicians, the think tank crowd, and both Jewish and Christian Americans who view Israel positively, but might need to have their positions butressed and reinforced. Overall I really think it is intended for elected officials, their staffers, the think tankers, and the professional Jews and Christians we see on TV, hear on talk radio, and read in print - individuals who may not, and in the case of the professional Jewish and Christian Americans, clearly do not really represent the much more diverse views of these issues than we are repeatedly led to believe.
The second issue is one I have made here before: the professional political and campaign operatives that have achieved a high profile here in the US working for either Democrats or Republicans do NOT just work here. They also work on campaigns in Canada, Britain, Israel, and other countries. That's why, if you follow news from these places, we are seeing more and more that the rhetoric, strategies, and tactics uses, as well as the policies proposed, are all beginning to look more and more similar. Just this AM I read a piece that I found over at Ballon Juice (SST is on their blogs that they read, so I return the favor) that indicated that Canadian election officials are looking into a dirty tricks robo-calling initiative that benefited Canada's Conservative Party. This is something that is widely done here in the US and in almost every case that is an attempt to disrupt an election it winds up tied back to consultants to Republican candidates or to conservative causes (these types of calls, as part of a whispering campaign that also included flyers, killed Senator McCain's chances in SC in 2000 by insinuating that the daughter he had adopted from Bangladesh was really an out of wedlock daughter that was the result of an adulterous affair he had with an African-American woman.
In the case of this report, TIP has employed Frank Luntz, DPhil (his doctorate is from Oxford, I think in government, which is what they call political science). Dr. Luntz has been the go to messaging specialist for the Republican Party and a number of conservative causes and institutions for about 20 years now. One of his earliest pieces of work, related to the Contract with America, was developing the language that Republicans should and should not use, specifically the language that was to be employed to market it (and beat Democrats and Democratic initiatives and allied organizations up with). The problem is that Dr. Luntz's methods and results have come into question. He has been censured by both the American Association for Public Opinion Research and the National Council on Public Polls. Given the concerns raised over his methods, it is hard to know whether his messaging advice will work, because there is no way to know if the data it is based on is, if I may use the term, kosher.**
* Adam L. Silverman is the Culture and Foreign Language Advisor at the US Army War College (USAWC). The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of USAWC and/or the US Army.
** Dr. Luntz's work for Republicans and conservatives has, as the reporting at the links note, been contested, as utilizing flawed methodology, data, or both. That said his recommendations have been repeatedly and consistently followed and applied by Republicans for over twenty years very successfully. Some of this is the ability of Republicans and conservatives to select a message or messages and then do a tremendous job staying on them over and over again (abetted by a news media that seems less and less interested in news and more and more in access and perqs). Even if the theme or meme does not seem to be going anywhere, like Solyndra, they still hammer it over and over, and as a result have so moved the social, political, economic, and religious framing of ideas in the US (the so called Overton Window), that the center is now so far to the right in the US that Republican stalwarts of the 1970s and 1980s would be considered, at best, Republicans in Name Only (RINOs).