James Harff

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.

4 thoughts on “James Harff

  1. shinichi Post author

    In April 1993 Jacques Merlino, associate director of French TV 2, interviewed James Harff, director to Ruder Finn Global Public Affairs, a Washington DC-based public relations firm that had been hired by the Republic of Croatia, the Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the parliamentary opposition in Kosovo. (Because of the sanctions placed against the government of Yugoslavia, the Milosevic government there has not been allowed to hire a public relations firm.)

    Merlino asked Harff how he used a file of several hundred journalists, politicians, representatives of humanitarian associations, and academics to manufacture 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.[Croatian] President Tudjman was very careless in his book, Wastelands of Historical Reality. Reading his writings one could accuse him of anti-Semitism. [Among other anti-Semitic statements, Tudjman claimed that “only” 900,000 Jews were killed in the Holocaust, not six million—MC.] 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 Croation and Bosnian past was marked by real and cruel anti-Semitism,” Harff continued. “Tens of thousands of Jews perished in Croation 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 chamber of Auschwitz. No one could go against it without being accused of revisionism. We really batted a thousand in full.”

    Merlino replied, “But between August 2nd and 5th, 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.”

    —Jacques Merlino, “Les vérités yugoslaves ne sont pas toutes bonnes à dire” [The truths from Yugoslavia are not easy to report], Paris: Editions Albin Michel S.A., 1993. Quotations reported by Sara Flounders in “NATO in the Balkans,” 1998, International Action Center, New York.

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  2. shinichi Post author

    高木徹はジム・ハーフをモデルに『ドキュメント戦争広告代理店 情報操作とボスニア紛争』という本を書いた。今でも、ハーフのことを「米国きっての国際PRエキスパート」だとか「真のワシントンの住人」などといって持ち上げ、「アメリカの空気を体現するのは彼のような人物である」とまで言っている。

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