More on the Hoodwinking of America


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Perhaps it’s a much belated mea culpa for letting Judith Miller run around cheerleading for “War! War! War!” in the first Bush term, with no more back-up than Bush Administration talking points. Whatever the reason, The New York Times published a (long) blockbuster today, along the lines of

BREAKING! Military analysts on your teevee are full of it!

Well, anyone with a lick o’ sense knows that. But it’s nice of the NYT to flesh it out so thoroughly.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

Oh, yeah, and there’s this obviousity:

Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

And the Times isn’t relying on bits of gossip this time, either.

The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Not only were the dividing lines obliterated, the “analysts” knew which side they were on.

Though many analysts are paid network consultants, making $500 to $1,000 per appearance, in Pentagon meetings they sometimes spoke as if they were operating behind enemy lines, interviews and transcripts show. Some offered the Pentagon tips on how to outmaneuver the networks, or as one analyst put it to Donald H. Rumsfeld, then the defense secretary, “the Chris Matthewses and the Wolf Blitzers of the world.” Some warned of planned stories or sent the Pentagon copies of their correspondence with network news executives. Many — although certainly not all — faithfully echoed talking points intended to counter critics.

Critically, the work of the “analysts” went straight to the heart of darkness:

By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

…a strategic decision was made in 2002 to make the analysts the main focus of the public relations push to construct a case for war. Journalists were secondary.

From there it gets slimier. There’s big access and big money along with the big lies.

And as we all know, there’s big money down the hole. And one big economy down the tubes. And big casualties, including more than 4,000 dead Americans who died for lies. And a big, chaotic, shoot ’em up mess.

Oh, and the article twice points out the cozy relationship between the “analysts” and General David Petraeus. One could call the good General’s credibility into question, but that may result in a stinging rebuke from Congress itself!

Glenn Greenwald indicts the news media for their own complicity in this hoodwinking of America:

The most incredible aspect of the NYT story is that most of the news organizations which deceived their readers and viewers by using these “objective” analysts — CBS, NBC, Fox — simply refused to comment on what they knew about any of this or what their procedures are for safeguarding against it. Just ponder what that says about these organizations — there is a major expose in the NYT documenting that these news outlets misleadingly shoveled government propaganda down the throats of their viewers on matters of war and terrorism and they don’t feel the least bit obliged to answer for what they did or knew about any of it. (And it doesn’t appear that Barstow even asked the NYT itself to comment about what they knew or what their procedures were when using these sources). CNN did answer by claiming they were unaware of these relationships and rely on their sources to disclose them.

Greenwald should not be surprised, of course, and I’m sure he isn’t, really. As David Podvin and Carolyn Kay pointed out in “Democracy, General Electric Style,” it’s all about the bottom line. Why own a media company if it isn’t going to serve your corporate interests? Whether it’s tilting the election against Gore, or getting hundreds of thousands of people killed and an entire country in ruins, what of that?

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