Monday, July 21, 2003

Managing information flow to your advantage

There are more precise definitions of propaganda around, but I think the above just about sums up the purpose of it. So how can information be managed to your advantage?

Take the recent case of the Iranian twins. Before the operation, the "event" was hyped until epic proportions. You could hear news about it almost every hour every day for days. But once the operation failed, news coverage paled in comparison. Why the discrepancy?

First, let us try to understand why the operation was given special treatment (no pun intended). For any dissemination of information, it has to serve "someone" - be it the originator, the recipient, and/or any third-party directly or indirectly affected by the information.

So in this case, who are the main beneficiaries of such media hype?
Raffles Hospital: For obvious commercial reasons. If the operation is successful, the reputation of the hospital will receive a huge boost. Risky gamble? You bet!
Singapore: Another first again for the nation, in its relentless pursuit of "excellence" at the expense of… correction, at all expenses.
Surgeons: Personal glory - who wouldn't want to be involved in something that's making the headlines?
Media: It's all a "numbers game". What better ways to boost viewership and circulation figures than manipulating Singaporeans who have exhibited a soft spot for people in various plights (whether real or played up by the media)? Sympathies abound when the media stage-managed the pitiful conditions of SARS victims, kidney patients, etc.

It must be noted, however, that this media circus could not have gone on for so long without the blessings of the authorities. As to which authorities could have been involved, don't ask me. Draw your own conclusion - it's safer that way.

Once the operation failed, the interests of the various parties highlighted above were no longer served. Hence the drastic reduction in coverage (read: propaganda), and a feeble attempt at damage control.

All this in the hope that the failure (and the related ethical issues) will be forgotten quickly. Again, this could not have been possible without the blessings of the authorities.

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