Saturday, August 23, 2008

Toru Takagi / The War Public Relations Company

Since the Yugoslavia conflict of the 90s, the international society has thought Serbia as evil. Why do most people think only Serbia as evil, not Bosnia? Why did people have strong concern about the Yugoslavia conflict even though they didn’t have oil and economic power. For the former question, I thought the reason why was, Serbia was the strongest in Yugoslavia. For the latter question, I thought the reason why was, Yugoslavia is in Europe and people are white. However, I have changed my thoughts after reading this book. At least in the Bosnia conflict, it was the power of an American private company labeled that Serbia as “evil” and Bosnia’s Muslims became “Victims”.

Before surveying this book, let me summarize the Bosnia conflict. Yugoslavia union consisted of various ethnic groups. After the strong leader Tito’s death and the Cold War ending, every ethnic group wanted to have their own nations. At first, Slovenia and Croatia became independent. Next, when Bosnia-Hercegovina tried to become independent, a problem arose.

Slovenia consists of Slovenian and Croatia consists of Croatian. On the other hand, Bosnia-Hercegovina consists of 40% Muslim, 30% Serbian and 20% Croatian. Serbian and Croatian dominate the mainland, Serbia and Croatia. However, Muslims have only Bosnia-Hercegovina. If Bosnia-Hercegovina became independent, Serbian people and Croatian people in Bosnia, would become an ethnic minority group because they are isolated from the mainland. So Serbian and Croatian representatives left Bosnia government. After all, Bosnia-Hercegovina was ruled by a Muslim government, even though the country containing two other ethnic groups. However, the “Ethnic minority group” Serbian had a stronger military power than the Muslim’s because of the support of Serbia. This unbalance between “weak mainstream” and “strong branch” became the origin of the conflict.

The first scene of this book is the US visit of Dr. Haris Silajdzic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia-Hercegovina. He had the mission: if Bosnia was attacked by Serbia, the international society will be in favor of Bosnia, not Serbia. He succeeded to make the meeting with the Secretary of State Baker and received the following advice; if Bosnia want the US’s power, you need to control the opinion of the US people. A civil-right activist, who was a friend of Silajdzic, introduced him to Jim Harff of PR company, Ruder Finn. PR companies’ works is to generate positive opinions for their client. Jim Harff was the man whose clients were nations.

Harff and the president Finn decided to accept the offer for their company's fame and position among the PR company world. Their committee of ethics didn't forget to confirm that Muslims were the real "victims" and this work had no problems on ethical ground.

Then, Harff started to support Silajdzic all out as a professional. At first, Harff set up many press conferences, because Silajdzic was very good at English. Harff frequently reported Bosnia's tragedies to people of importance, to change the public opinion using the Bosnia-Hercegovina Fax-Update. Healso set up oppoturnities for Silajdzic to appear on TV programs and give interviews to journalists. (After these interviews, Harff and Silajdzic never forgot to write thank you letters to the journalists.) He made "stage directions" for Silajdzic, not as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, but as a witness who had just seen Bosnia's tragedy right then. (Actually, he was staying at the US all the time, and didn't go back to Bosnia.) These steady efforts bore fruits and the US people began to be interested in Bosnia.

Meanwhile, a phrase made Bosnia's position among the US public change dramatically.

Harff thought that it was important to get Americans to recognize that Bosnia's problems were concerned with "democracy" and "human rights". Therefore he decided to use the phrase "ethnic cleansing" when he received the news that Serbian had selected and exiled Muslims from their dwelling village.

This phrase was appropriate for stimulating American's human-rights-mind. If this phrase had been "contemporary holocaust", American Jewish people might think the phrase a blasphemy for holocaust victims. However, the phrase "ethnic cleansing" was no problem. In additon, this one phrase was enough to express Bosnia's tragedy strongly. Harff started to use this phrase for most Bosnia reports.

This effort produced much effect. In the May, journalists didn't know the place where Bosnia was correctly, but in the July, some ordinary American people began to declare to adopt Bosnian children who lost their parents. At that time, The UN Secretary-General Ghali (born in Africa) said that there were at least ten places which had more serious conditions than Sarajevo. It was true, but international society criticized that saying intensively. At last, on 9th of July, President Bush used the phrase "ethnic cleansing" to blame Serbia at CSCE (Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe).

Of course, Serbia didn't keep silent. At the end of July, President Milosevic asked for Millan Panic to be the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia Union. Panic was the man who had sought refuge in the US, established a medicine company and succeed in business. In the US, he made an appeal to the US people tosupporting Serbia using an advocacy ad. Milosevic thought that Panic was useful for changing the evil image of Serbia (At that time, the Yugo Union was almost the same of Serbia.) After his inaugurating the President, Panic gathered his close subordinates who were good at English and sent them abroad to make an appeal known as "changing Serbia". And like Bosnia, he delegated his subordinate to get a powerful PR company on his side. However, he realized Serbia's delay.

The powerful PR companies had already contracted the other Yugoslavia members. Panic's subordinate managed to find a good PR company which hadn't contracted with other nations, but the company replied that they couldn't contract with Yugoslavia Union because it meant being against economic sanctions. For that reason, Panic asked a Serbian in America to make a contract with a PR company for Serbia, and this PR company accepted Panic's offer.

At precisely that same time, the second phrase "concentration camp" appeared. The origin was the news that Serbian made a concentration camp of Muslims. The news was from a New York tabloid and the reporter didn't confirm the information firsthand, only that he had heard that a man had apparently escaped from a camp. Harff understood the importance of this article, he wrote the news on the Fax-Update. This second phrase became popular in mass-media like the first phrase "ethnic cleansing".

Because of this second phrase, the PR company which had decided to contract with Yugoslavia refused the contract. The company told Yugoslavia that they couldn't make Yugo-support-image under such circumstances. Panic on the verge of Yugoslavia's image collapsing, visited Bosnia the Government suddenly by himself with ABC TV reporters, but during the visit, a member of the TV crew was shot and killed, so the meeting between Panic and Bosnia's Prime Minister canceled. On the 22nd of September, the UN exiled the Yugoslavia Union.

These Harff's strategy succeeded for both Bosnia and Ruder Finn. Nevertheless, Silajdzic didn't pay much money (only $90,000) and was in a bad mood whenever paying money. On the other hand, Harff received an award of their PR company world. Ruder Finn got many businesses. The clients were the companies which had defective products, if these companies had made bad decisions without consulting with Harff then the companies would have collapsed.

Now, I admit that if you can make the public opinion of the US be on your side, it means that you make the public opinion if the whole world in your side. A private company can change a nation's destiny – that's American company's power.

I also realized the importance of the ability of English among the international society. Silajdzic was proficient in English, so he could made direct messages to the US media. His English ability meant strong power of their PR plan.

The strongest point that I realized from this case is the power and importance of presentation skills, personal relationships and eagerness in "communication". Harff triumphed based on these factors. His work made Serbia's images worse than reality, I understand some people were blamed for that. However, I also think Harff's work deserves praise. At least, he didn't tell a lie.

After this case, Harff became independent and now he is the CEO of Global Communicators Inc. If Harff had supported Rwanda and Sudan, their destiny might have changed dramatically.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

David Snowdon / Aging with Grace

The world of abbeys is suitable for medical studies. All nuns never smoke and have the same situation of medical treatment, meal and living. Due to the same situations comparative research is easy. Why do some nuns have Alzheimer disease and other nuns not under such the same situations? The author, David Snowdon (Ph.D.), focused on this point and studied it.

The fact he found at first surprised me who know next to nothing about aging. The better educated nuns, the less death rate they have at all age. Research at Massachusetts (of the public) before this study showed the same results. However, this research showed people who graduated only elementary school have higher smoking rate and lower level medical treatment than other educated people. They have the cause. On the other hand, nuns also have the same tendency under the equal environments.

Proceeding the study, the author realized the existence of precious documents for study at abbeys. They are short autobiographies that nuns wrote when they entered abbeys. He assumed that he could research the relationship between Alzheimer disease and nuns' intelligence at their younger age. Then, he turned to Dr. Susan Kemper, who is the specialist for aging and language ability.

Dr. Kemper proposed him the research for "meaning density" of sentences in nuns' autobiographies. "Meaning density" is the number of propositions in every ten words. The author researched the mutual relations of "meaning density" in nuns' autobiographies at their younger ages and the cognition tests results for Alzheimer disease at their older ages. After that, he found clear correlations between the two.

In other words, people who had the high literate abilities to write high "meaning density" sentences tended to have a smaller chance to develop Alzheimer disease.

However, some people criticized the way of this study. They say, such high-meaning-density sentences might be relatively too complex and unintelligible. The unintelligible sentences show writers' low language ability. The author argued that all the autobiographies that they analyzed featured correct grammar and expressed clear thought properly. He declared that high-meaning-density sentences never mean unintelligible.

On the other hand, the author had the question as follows: Hemmingway's sentences are famous for his concise style. If we analyze his sentences, what result do we find? Dr. Kemper's reply: High-meaning-density sentences don't always compose excellent literature.

It surprised me that language ability at younger ages affects everyday life at older ages. It might be natural that we want to do something for our children for their future lives. Dr. Kemper gives us good advice, the answer is read to children. According to her advice, meaning density depends on vocabulary and the ability to read and understand. She said that to increase vocabulary and the ability to read, the best way is to read books to a child when he / she are infant.

Of course, the cause of Alzheimer disease isn't only language ability. It depends on genes, habit of smoking, having enough vegetables. This book gave me a new viewpoint as even the language ability affecting Alzheimer as the same way of other facts.

It was also interesting to me, the way found the results. Not only the author but also the Sisters co-operated in the study. They hand in their writings, tests and their brain after their death. I was intrigued by both the unexpected results and the process of the study.