Hearts and Minds: Uncovering the Wars of Ideas and Images Behind the Global War on Terror
The Battle for Hearts and Minds Uncovering the Wars of Ideas and Images Behind the Global War on Terror: A Study of Media Performance and Influence, Propaganda, and Strategic Communication
Author: Timothy S. McWilliams
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (2011)
Binding: Paperback, 286 pages
During the Global War on Terror, multiple wars of ideas and images played out as belligerents and various competing political interests sought to influence multiple public spheres toward their desired political goals. At the same time, the international media played a vital role in framing the issues, debates, and events in the arena of ideas that accompanied the conflict. These wars of ideas and images had profound effects on domestic and international public opinion, which not only influenced events and operations during the conflict, but also threatened the outcome. This study traces these wars of ideas and images from the prewar debates following September 11, 2001 through military action in Afghanistan and Iraq. It not only examines how belligerents and various competing political interests sought to shape public opinion toward their political objectives during the Global War on Terror, but also examines both media performance on the battlefield and the media’s role in shaping public opinion, policy, and events during the war. As a foundation for understanding media’s role in modern wars of ideas, this study also provides a crucial examination of media’s influence on U.S public opinion and policy during important events in U.S. history, to include a fresh examination of media performance and influence during the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam. This study is essential for anyone wanting to understand the wars of ideas and images that accompany military conflict and international crisis, the challenges of reporting combat, and the media’s power to influence public opinion and policy. Thoroughly researched and meticulously cited, this important multi-discipline study significantly contributes to the history and understanding to today’s conflicts.
Winter 2011 Reading List
McWilliams, a Marine Corps reserve officer and co-editor of a previous anthology of American experiences in Iraq, has written this book to track the “wars of ideas” that were fought in print and over the airwaves concerning American military actions taken by occupation forces in the Middle East since 2003. McWilliams argues that much of the media coverage of these events has been based on thin and incomplete information, on ignorance of military organization and training, and, in many cases, on political bias. He supports his argument by examining news coverage of day to day occupation activities and by looking at detailed events, and coverage, of actions in Fallujah and Al-Anbar province. McWilliams’s references to coverage of these actions by Al-Jezeera News and some European news outlets provides an interesting contrast to how American news agencies carried the stories; these contrasts illuminate the “hearts and minds” struggle behind the daily efforts of soldiers to carry out their duties and survive. Drawing upon an examination of news coverage of the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam as a comparative model, McWilliams concludes that both the military and the public still have much to learn about the differences between media perception and on-the-spot reality.
Hearts and Minds concerns the often stormy relations between media coverage of military actions overseas. It does not contain detailed descriptions of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan or examinations of the strategy or tactics in those actions. It will appeal primarily to readers with an interest in the political and policy aspects of the war on terrorism and especially in military-media relations in connection with it.
Reviewed by:Terry Shoptaugh (October 2011)