Geniuses, INFO WAR
OTTAWA – Canada plans to boost its propaganda reach by tapping into mobile phones in Afghanistan to send text messages, run contests and drive listeners to its military-run, Pashto-language radio station.
It's a fairly crude, transparent tactic in the high science of counter-insurgency, but the military sees it as a way to better connect with local Afghans in a war-torn land where the cellphone is one of the fastest growing, and only reliable, means of communication.
The capability, to be set up this summer, will encourage Afghans to sign up for text-message alerts from defence officials and to enter military-run contests awarding prizes to lucky locals, according to public tendering documents.
It will also let Afghans send text messages to Rana-FM, a radio station set up by the military in 2006, and have them read on the air, half a world away at the broadcast centre in Kingston, Ont. The station, whose name means "light" in Pashto, is staffed by Afghan-Canadians, and mixes messages from Canadian and coalition officials with news programming and popular music aimed at teenage and young adult listeners in Kandahar.
Rana-FM manager David Bailey described the station in 2007 as key to "winning the information war" against the Taliban and demystifying Canada and Canadians for Afghan listeners. Defence department officials were unable yesterday to comment on the new text-message initiative.