James Harff

James-HarffThat was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the [Muslim] Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind. Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated.
By a single move we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys which would hereafter play itself We won by targeting the Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with use of words with high emotional content such as ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, etc., which evoke images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. No one could go against it without being accused of revisionism. We really batted a thousand in full.
(But when you did this, you had no proof that what you said was true. All you had were two Newsday articles.)
Our work is not to verify information. We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it widely known that Newsday affirmed it…. We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to moralize.

2 thoughts on “James Harff

  1. shinichi Post author

    Excerpts from an interview with James Harff (1993)

    http://islandnet.com/plethora//yu/fascists.html

    The conceptual structures of today’s world are perhaps more than at any other time in history based on ORGANISATIONAL misapplication of INDIVIDUAL abilities to deceive and to use force (violence). It is a logical fallacy (error of category) to conclude that what is “good” for the individual must be “good” for society, the military, or business – and in the recent past there have repeatedly been warnings that the human species may be reaching the point where it will destroy itself on account of being ignorant of this fallacy.

    Whether we consider physicians doing cruel experiments on concentration camp inmates or prisoners of war, whether we look at the brutality of torturers, the detached killing precision of fighter pilots, or the nonchalance with which a state’s secret police – the backbone that is supposed to support and defend the state’s integrity – can engage in drug trading, money laundering, and domestic terrorism, or whether we face the business-as-usual manner in which spin doctors and propaganda companies conceive and execute their campaigns, we will recognize what I would call moral dissociation or loss of moral consciousness. A German philosopher not long ago spoke about the “banality of evil”, and that seems to me an apt description of how this moral dissociation manifests itself.

    In the Nuremberg trials the defense “I was only following orders” was not admitted, instead it was established that every human being must be accountable, at the end, for having applied, or at least tried to apply, a basic sense of morality, that there are certain boundaries one must never cross…

    And now I would like to invite you to read the following excerpt from an interview with James Harff, director of a Washington based PR firm, which was recorded in 1993.

    — quoted article: —

    […]

    How did the Serbs come to be viewed as fascists in this conflict? This characterization has now become an accepted fact, an issue beyond debate. It makes U.S. motives seem unimpeachable and on the side of good against evil.

    In April 1993 Jacques Merlino, associate director of French TV 2, interviewed James Harff, director of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C-based public relations firm. The interview shows the role of the corporate media in shaping a political issue.

    Harff bragged of his services to his clients–the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the parliamentary opposition in Kosovo, an autonomous region of Serbia. Merlino described how Harff uses a file of several hundred journalists, politicians, representatives of humanitarian associations, and academics to create public opinion. Harff explained: “Speed is vital . . . it is the first assertion that really counts. All denials are entirely ineffective.”

    In the interview, Merlino asked Harff what his proudest public relations endeavor was. Harff responded:

    “To have managed to put Jewish opinion on our side. This was a sensitive matter, as the dossier was dangerous looked at from this angle. President Tudjman was very careless in his book, Wastelands of Historical Reality. Reading his writings one could accuse him of anti-Semitism. [Tudjman claimed the Holocaust never happened.] In Bosnia the situation was no better: President Izetbegovic strongly supported the creation of a fundamentalist Islamic state in his book, The Islamic Declaration.

    “Besides, the Croatian and Bosnian past was marked by real and cruel anti-Semitism. Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croatian camps, so there was every reason for intellectuals and Jewish organizations to be hostile toward the Croats and the Bosnians. Our challenge was to reverse this attitude and we succeeded masterfully.

    “At the beginning of July 1992, New York Newsday came out with the article on Serb camps. We jumped at the opportunity immediately. We outwitted three big Jewish organizations–the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, The American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress. In August, we suggested that they publish an advertisement in the New York Times and organize demonstrations outside the United Nations.

    “That was a tremendous coup. When the Jewish organizations entered the game on the side of the [Muslim] Bosnians, we could promptly equate the Serbs with the Nazis in the public mind. Nobody understood what was happening in Yugoslavia. The great majority of Americans were probably asking themselves in which African country Bosnia was situated.

    “By a single move we were able to present a simple story of good guys and bad guys which would hereafter play itself We won by targeting the Jewish audience. Almost immediately there was a clear change of language in the press, with use of words with high emotional content such as ethnic cleansing, concentration camps, etc., which evoke images of Nazi Germany and the gas chambers of Auschwitz. No one could go against it without being accused of revisionism. We really batted a thousand in full.”

    Merlino replied, “But between 2 and 5 August 1992, when you did this, you had no proof that what you said was true. All you had were two Newsday articles.”

    “Our work is not to verify information,” said Harff. “We are not equipped for that. Our work is to accelerate the circulation of information favorable to us, to aim at judiciously chosen targets. We did not confirm the existence of death camps in Bosnia, we just made it widely known that Newsday affirmed it…. We are professionals. We had a job to do and we did it. We are not paid to moralize.”

    […]

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  2. shinichi Post author

    In April 1993, French television journalist Jacques Merlino visited the Washington headquarters of Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs to interview the man in charge of the Balkan contracts, James Harff. Merlino asked Harff what he considered his proudest achievement in this operation. The answer: “Having succeeded in putting Jewish opinion on our side.” The image of both Croats and Bosnian Muslims risked being tarnished by their involvement in the persecution of Jews during World War II. “Our challenge was to turn that around”, Harff told Merlino, and this had been done thanks to the “camps” story. In the first days of August 1992, the Long Island newspaper Newsday published reports from its Bonn correspondent Roy Gutman, based on interviews in Zagreb, telling of horrendous conditions in Serb-run internment camps in Bosnia. Seeing the potential impact of comparison with Nazi “death camps”, Ruder Finn immediately contacted three major Jewish organizations, the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, and the American Jewish Congress, suggesting they publicly protest. They did. This launched the demonization of Serbs as the new Nazis. In 1993, Ruder Finn was awarded the Silver Medal of the Public Relations Society of America in the category “crisis communication”.

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