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War and Peace: Digital Media's Diverse Role

Streaming media technology continues to play a valuable role in the communications strategies both of the U.S. military and its critics. On Friday, General John H. Tilelli, president and chief executive officer of the United Services Organization (www.uso.org) urged USO facilities to expand their Internet video services to support the U.S. Armed Forces as they prepare for possible military action against Osama Bin Laden and the Al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Operation Deliver America, which was created last year by the USO using services provided by Spotlife (www.spotlife.com) and Logitech (www.logitech.com) allows U.S. military personnel to receive personal video messages from their friends and family. The video service, which was deployed in U.S. bases in Europe and Asia in time for the holidays last year, should be expanded to include many U.S. military bases which are now under "lock-down" conditions due to the September 11 terrorist attacks, General Tilelli said in a statement.

Logitech has donated 100 Webcams for the USO operation, following an earlier donation of 100 cameras when the service was created a year ago. Spotlife has also provided its services to the USO free of charge. More than 2,500 military personnel have posted video messages on Spotlife’s dedicated USO channel so far, says Rick Mitchell, director of public relations for Spotlife.

The USO is a non-governmental organization that provides entertainment and communication support services for U.S. military personnel and their families, including a network of "cyber-canteens" offering free Internet access and e-mail services in addition to the video messaging service.

Meanwhile, film director David Van Eyssen, one of the architects of BMW’s highly acclaimed online ad campaign "The Hire," has made a short film about non-violence in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. The 60-second film, entitled "Peace Poem" ( www.icecandy.com/stonetiger) was conceived prior to September 11, for a group of non-profits including Sokka Gakai International, a Buddhist organization. But in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, Van Eyssen believes that the film can be "interpreted more widely," so he re-shot the ending using Mahatma Gandhi’s phrase, "be the change you want to see."

"The film is ultimately about the idea that we make our own choices, and our own reality," says Van Eyssen, who was color-timing the original version of the film when the planes struck the World Trade Center and Pentagon. The original version of the film used a different Gandhi quotation ("First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then you win"). Suspecting that the argument for non-action might not be universally well received in post-terrorist-attack America, Van Eyssen dropped it in favor of the more ambiguous "be the change you want to see."

According to Van Eyssen, the advertising industry is in the midst of unprecedented recalibration as nervous advertisers reconsider the nature of American culture and opinion in the wake of the attacks. The industry could display a "tonal shift" in the weeks and months to come, particularly in relation to its depiction of violence and security-related issues, although it is too early to say whether this shift will be permanent. Whether advertising will have to reflect a more serious and elegiac tone in American life, or continue its obsession with more trivial matters, also remains an open question, Van Eyssen says.

The Ad Council (www.adcouncil.org) has produced two public service announcements in response to the September 11 tragedy. One features a montage of Americans from several different races and ethnicities uniting to say the phrase "I Am an American" (http://webcast.mediaondemand.com/ad_council/20010924/crisis_tv_american_30_rp.ram ). The other is a message from First Lady Laura Bush encouraging parents to reassure their children that they are safe (http://webcast.mediaondemand.com/ad_council/20010924/crisis_tv_laurabush_30_rp.ram).

On Monday, the Ad Council announced the launch of a new series of radio and print PSAs designed to encourage Americans not to discriminate against Arab-Americans and Muslims in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

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