Philip Agee, the CIA agent/whistleblower. explained in his book (CIA diary) that one of the key propaganda techniques they used was getting stories into “third world” newspapers and then using these as “local” assessments of the International Communist Conspiracy. It was called “surfacing”, I recall [and, reluctant anymore to trust my memory, I’ve googled – see end of this post…]
I was reminded of the term when reading a VERY interesting account of exactly where Malcolm Gladwell comes from, and what he has written about tobacco and corporations etc.
The specific bit is this –
For those not familiar with public relations industry lingo, “third party” refers to a PR technique in which a corporation’s marketing message is delivered to the public through seemingly independent journalists, academics, non-profits, think tanks and other respected “third parties” in order to bolster the credibility of “the message” and to conceal the ties between the message and the messenger. In other words, Gladwell was seen as a secret tobacco-industry propagandist.
In journalistic terms, “third-party advocate” simply means “fraud.” But here’s a more nuanced description of the third party technique and its importance to corporate messaging from a Burson-Marsteller PR expert, courtesy of SourceWatch:
For the media and the public, the corporation will be one of the least credible sources of information on its own product, environmental and safety risks. Both these audiences will turn to other experts … to get an objective viewpoint.
Developing third party support and validation for the basic risk messages of the corporation is essential. This support should ideally come from medical authorities, political leaders, union officials, relevant academics, fire and police officials, environmentalists, regulators.
Ah, bless the Tinterwebs.
From an online version of CIA Diary…
Headquarters’ propaganda experts have visited us in ISOLATION and have displayed the mass of paper they issue as material for the guidance of propaganda throughout the world. Some of it is concerned only with local issues, the rest often has world-wide application. The result of the talks was to persuade most of us that propaganda is not for us – there is simply too much paperwork. But despite that, the most interesting part of propaganda was obviously the business of orchestrating the treatment of events of importance among several countries. Thus problems of communist influence in one country can be made to appear of international concern in others under the rubric of ‘a threat to one is a threat to all’. For example, the CIA station in Caracas can cable information on a secret communist plot in Venezuela to the Bogota station which can ‘surface’ through a local propaganda agent with attribution to an unidentified Venezuelan government official. The information can then be picked up from the Colombian press and relayed to CTA stations in Quito, Lima, La Paz, Santiago and, perhaps, Brazil. A few days later editorials begin to appear in the newspapers of these places and pressure mounts on the Venezuelan government to take repressive action against its communists.