Sunday, April 20, 2008

US Media Military Analysts Tainted

"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" reports The New York Times in today's issue.

The Times goes on to say, "The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air."

Implicated in this scandalous PR and pay-off campaign by the Pentagon are the big name media such as ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox and Wall Street Journal. Each claims they weren't aware of the conflicts of interest of the retired military officers who were presented as "independent analysts". These "independent analysts" names include retired generals Barry McCaffery,Jeff McCausland, Wayne Downing, Paul Valley, Joseph Ralston, Don Shepherd,Montgomery Meigs, and Thomas G. McInerney. Many of these "independent analysts" were flown to Guantanamo, described as the "gulag of our times" by Amnesty International, and they tried to help the administration whitewash the US misdeeds at the notorious and illegal prison. The NY Times breaking this tainted analysts story has had its own journalists such as Judith Miller involved in promoting the Iraq war using false information about WMDs provided by the Bush administration prior to the Iraq invasion.

The big US media share major responsibility for the misguided policies of President George W. Bush. They became the cheerleaders for the Iraq war immediately after 911 in spite of the fact that Iraq had no role in it. They remained "in bed" with the Bush officials for a long time and only recently have they begun to criticize the current administration as the disastrous results of Iraq became apparent.

It seems that the current administration truly believes in Alexander Hamilton's proclamation that "the masses are asses". At least, that's the conclusion one can draw from their attempts to use the media to mislead the American people to support their wrong headed policies. However, they must remember the words of another great American: Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

1 comment:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Paul Krugman's Op Ed in NY Times on 10th anniversary of Iraq war:

So did our political elite and our news media learn from this experience? It sure doesn’t look like it.

The really striking thing, during the run-up to the war, was the illusion of consensus. To this day, pundits who got it wrong excuse themselves on the grounds that “everyone” thought that there was a solid case for war. Of course, they acknowledge, there were war opponents — but they were out of the mainstream.

The trouble with this argument is that it was and is circular: support for the war became part of the definition of what it meant to hold a mainstream opinion. Anyone who dissented, no matter how qualified, was ipso facto labeled as unworthy of consideration. This was true in political circles; it was equally true of much of the press, which effectively took sides and joined the war party.

CNN’s Howard Kurtz, who was at The Washington Post at the time, recently wrote about how this process worked, how skeptical reporting, no matter how solid, was discouraged and rejected. “Pieces questioning the evidence or rationale for war,” he wrote, “were frequently buried, minimized or spiked.”

Closely associated with this taking of sides was an exaggerated and inappropriate reverence for authority. Only people in positions of power were considered worthy of respect. Mr. Kurtz tells us, for example, that The Post killed a piece on war doubts by its own senior defense reporter on the grounds that it relied on retired military officials and outside experts — “in other words, those with sufficient independence to question the rationale for war.”

All in all, it was an object lesson in the dangers of groupthink, a demonstration of how important it is to listen to skeptical voices and separate reporting from advocacy. But as I said, it’s a lesson that doesn’t seem to have been learned. Consider, as evidence, the deficit obsession that has dominated our political scene for the past three years.

Now, I don’t want to push the analogy too far. Bad economic policy isn’t the moral equivalent of a war fought on false pretenses, and while the predictions of deficit scolds have been wrong time and again, there hasn’t been any development either as decisive or as shocking as the complete failure to find weapons of mass destruction. Best of all, these days dissenters don’t operate in the atmosphere of menace, the sense that raising doubts could have devastating personal and career consequences, that was so pervasive in 2002 and 2003. (Remember the hate campaign against the Dixie Chicks?)

But now as then we have the illusion of consensus, an illusion based on a process in which anyone questioning the preferred narrative is immediately marginalized, no matter how strong his or her credentials. And now as then the press often seems to have taken sides. It has been especially striking how often questionable assertions are reported as fact. How many times, for example, have you seen news articles simply asserting that the United States has a “debt crisis,” even though many economists would argue that it faces no such thing?

In fact, in some ways the line between news and opinion has been even more blurred on fiscal issues than it was in the march to war. As The Post’s Ezra Klein noted last month, it seems that “the rules of reportorial neutrality don’t apply when it comes to the deficit.”

What we should have learned from the Iraq debacle was that you should always be skeptical and that you should never rely on supposed authority. If you hear that “everyone” supports a policy, whether it’s a war of choice or fiscal austerity, you should ask whether “everyone” has been defined to exclude anyone expressing a different opinion. ...