The American Bear


How Bahrain works Washington | Ken Silverstein

Bahrain’s chief Washington lobbying organization is Qorvis, which also represents controversial autocratic clients such as Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea. Qorvis doesn’t seem to do much for Bahrain (or its other clients) other than put out a steady stream of press releases at PR Newswire. For example, after Bahraini security forces in July raided the offices of Doctors Without Borders — human rights activists allege this was part of the government’s effort to deny medical services to injured protesters — Qorvis distributed a statement saying the medical group was to blame because it had failed to obtain the proper permit to operate in the country.

Such releases are not aimed directly at public opinion so much as at Google and other search engines. A steady stream of press releases serves to push news stories lower in search engine returns; when it comes to Qorvis’ clients, the news is almost invariably bad so burying it makes sense. “Qorvis’ releases are pure propaganda and it doesn’t even bother flogging them to journalists,” said the lobbyist cited above. “They just trot the stuff out so there’s something else to read on Google when one of their clients fucks up.”

Then there’s [Tom] Squitieri, who has worked for a range of domestic and foreign clients through his own P.R. firm, TS Navigations. On the domestic front, he has helped — according to his list of “key accomplishments — “craft and lead the campaign to reposition Taser International from a severe crisis communication dilemma” and won an exemption for an unnamed tobacco processing company from “congressional legislation giving the FDA regulatory control over tobacco.”

On the foreign front he (like Qorvis) worked for the Kurdistan Regional Government, whose representatives he hooked up with journalists and professionals in the wider communications community” including “sign and banner makers” and “event planners.” He also wrote speeches for Kurdish officials, like one delivered to the World Affairs Council in West Palm Beach earlier this year that had his Kurdish client quoting ’60s Yippie Abbie Hoffman about the virtues of democracy.

For Bahrain, Squitieri tweets and blogs. He puts on airs of objectivity and impartiality yet his paymaster’s point of view, delivered in hackneyed prose, is obvious.

Read the whole thing →

I put up an angry post about one of Squitieri’s puff pieces 2 months ago. Take a look, if you’re interested.

Tom Squitieri: A Lighter Shade of Gray

"Its just rival narratives". From the piece (I highlighted some key phrases of the "objective" journalistic technique):

While critics claim that the government uses disproportionate force against protestors, there is also sufficient evidence that some of the protestors have violently attacked the police. There is graphic video attesting to each sides’ claims — yet selective viewing in order to prove one’s black or white point.

"People are talking at each other, not with each other - we need to emphasize that there were mistakes on both sides,” said Sheikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, chief executive of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board. Or as Simon Henderson wrote, “So whether this battle takes place in the streets or at the ballot box, it comes down to rival narratives, and you can take your pick.”

[…] Tom Squitieri is a journalist and is also working with the Bahrain government on media awareness.

At the above link - some PR Journalism for the Kingdom of Bahrain. A puff piece with the usual “both sides have made mistakes” and some “unruly youth” tales to disturb an uninformed audience. Not one mention of the peaceful beginnings of the uprising, the GCC invasion, the repressed Shi’a majority, the expulsion of journalists (with a special lawsuit against Independent reporter Robert Fisk), the egregious human and civil rights abuses against healthcare professionals and sports professionals on top of the abuses on the protesters themselves, or the recent sale of U.S. Arms to the region - just some “we’ll work it out at the ballot box. *wink*. Come visit soon!”

The origin of the piece is best explained by this:

The Crown Prince of Bahrain has visited President Obama and State Department officials recently, complaining he was worried about Bahrain’s “image” for tourism. The country has recently retained the services of two high-profile US-based public relations firms to represent it.

PR Journalism, folks. Shameful career choice.