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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

The Pentagon’s hidden media hand « Previous | |Next »
May 2, 2008

David Barstow in the New York Times disclosed how the Pentagon information apparatus has used friendly military analysts in a publicity campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance. This group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated.

David Barstow offered an unparalleled look inside a sophisticated Pentagon campaign, spearheaded by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in which at least 75 retired generals and other high military officers, almost all closely tied to Pentagon contractors, were recruited as "surrogates." They were to take Pentagon "talking points" (aka "themes and messages") about the President's War on Terror and war in Iraq into every part of the media -- cable news, the television and radio networks, the major newspapers -- as their own expert "opinions."

These military analysts made tens of thousands of media appearances and also wrote copiously for op-ed pages (often with the aid of the Pentagon) as part of an unparalleled, five-plus year covert propaganda onslaught on the American people that lasted from 2002 until now.

Update: 3 May
Glenn Greenward at Salon is one of the few to address this issue explicitly. He says

In general, the establishment media almost completely excludes critiques of their own behavior, and discussions of the role the media plays in bolstering deceitful narratives is missing almost entirely from media-controlled discourse. One of the most significant political stories of this decade, if not this generation -- the media's full-scale complicity with the Government in the run-up to the Iraq war -- has never been meaningfully discussed or examined on any establishment television network, including cable shows.

He says that no fundamental critique of the role the media plays, the influence of its corporate ownership, its incestuous relationship with and dependence on government power -- among the most influential factors driving our political life -- are ever heard in the mainstream media. Greenwald adds:
Media companies simply freeze out -- try to render invisible -- any matters that reflect negatively on what they really do, what their true function is. They propagandize most vigilantly when it comes to stories revealing the true role they play in our political culture.

The mainstream media pretend that they are watchdogs for democracy when they are the lapdogs of the government and well-connected corporate interests.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:27 AM | | Comments (6)
Comments

Comments

Gary

My last couple of posts are about his scandal. It hasn't had the attention it deserves. The mass media protecting their own perhaps. Or just plain embarrassment.

Kevin,
yes, you're right. There has not been a peep from the major news media and networks at the center of the storm in the US and Australia. Yet the integrity of their reporting on the Iraq war is directly implicated by this story about the Pentagon manipulating public opinion given that the role of the press and the media is to expose such things.

Kevin,
there have been some exceptions. Howard Kurtz in his Washington Post media column raised the issue. He says:

It's hardly shocking that career military men would largely reflect the Pentagon's point of view, just as Democratic and Republican "strategists" stay in touch with aides to the candidates they defend on the air. But the degree of behind-the-scenes manipulation--including regular briefings by then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other officials -- is striking, as is the lack of disclosure by the networks of some of these government and business connections.
With an aura of independence, many of the analysts used their megaphones, and the prestige of their rank, to help sell a war that was not going well. Not all marched in lock step, of course, and a half-dozen former generals broke with the Pentagon in 2006 to call for Rumsfeld's resignation. But the networks rarely if ever explored the outside roles of their military consultants.

I've seen nothing in Australia about the use of security experts re the Iraq war wwho were billed as impartial experts but who were pro-war military analysts functioning as part of a carefully orchestrated propaganda effort.

Peter,
you'd expect the propaganda from the Pentagon. The media’s role as accomplices in this propaganda operation is what is disturbing. The media wanted cheerleaders for the war and in doing so they expressed a disdain for democracy.It's a media failure.

The Editors of The Nation say about the lapdog media:

There are always honorable exceptions, but the tendency of the corporate press is to serve as stenographer for the powerful rather than the muscular check and balance intended by the country's founders. Rapid consolidation has brought us dumbed-down media, with broadcast and cable networks that rarely challenge the status quo, even as they maintain their monopolistic stranglehold on the airwaves. What do the people get in return? A diet of "news" and commentary with retired generals telling us quagmire wars are going well, former CEOs telling us a sputtering economy is "basically sound" and former political aides telling us presidential campaigns are about lapel pins and made-up scandals.

They say that the The constant is a major media system that, with all too few exceptions, sacrifices real journalism for access and abandons debate on real issues for manufactured controversy.

Some blokes named Chomsky and Herman have even analysed this cosy media/govt/pentagon/corporation love fest in a book called "Manufacturing Consent". Yeah I know you fellas are familiar with it but it's nice to see some US commentary playing catch-up.