The joy-boys and jingle-writers at Hezbollah have been working overtime to imprint their message on Beirut and the world. The Christian Science Monitor reports today that street-banners quickly popped up after the Israeli conflict proclaiming devastated neighborhoods are "Made in the USA." Hezbollah's PR office -- yep, they have one -- has been churning out pins, hats, stickers, banners, and flags, as well as TV commercials airing across the Arab world. Sound familiar? Don't let anybody tell you that radical Islamic fascists don't love America!
Nobody should be surprised that the world's best organized terror group has a corporate division of flaks to rival Coca-Cola. Damned good ones, too. As much as we might like to see the presidents of Syria and Iran wearing "I'm with Stupid" T-shirts, it ain't gonna happen. Hezbollah's greatest public-relations effort has gone into actually taking care of many of the war's innocent bystanders. Like it says in the Koran: When you give a man a souvenir baseball cap, he has a souvenir baseball cap (even if he has no idea what baseball is) ... if you rebuild a man's house, mend his shrapnel wound, give him $15,000, feed his family for a year and tell him it's all Israel's fault, who needs a souvenir baseball cap?
Yes, it's gonna take more than snappy slogans. One side can't merely declare itself the winner of a war and print a million "We are the Champions!" T-shirts to hand out. Advertising is more illusion than reality. Ask yourself: Have we ever truly settled Coke-vs-Pepsi? Tastes great vs. less filling? Ginger or MaryAnn? Has it mattered?
Our problem in America is that we have many more competing messages than in the controlled media environments of the Middle East. We embrace dissent, but it can be terribly confusing and loud. Many people tune out or turn off messages with which they don't already agree. Do you think that the people of Lebanon, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and other Islamic states are confused about who the good guys and bad guys are?
One wonders if the War on Terror might be better fought from Madison Avenue. If there's one thing Americans do better than everybody else it's advertising. If American flaks can make you believe your dismal life will be transformed by gelled shoe inserts, feminine napkins with wings, earwax candy, pet rocks and Reality TV .... then we can win this war, dammit!
That's why we need to introduce democracy in that part of the world. So they can be just as confused as we are.