Monday, April 21, 2008

Breaking news...

... the government and the corporate media present a distorted view of the war in Iraq!

That's the rather unsurprising finding of a recent investigation published by the New York Times, which at lesser times (which is more often than not) tends to serve as one of the primary vehicles for war propaganda, as evidenced by Judith Miller's sensational (and entirely erroneous) front-page reports on Iraqi WMD's prior to the war, and Michael Gordon's continually shoddy reporting about alleged Iranian "meddling" in Iraq today.

That the Times investigation found that most "military analysts" on television and radio were actually Pentagon propagandists raking in cash from the military-industrial complex is not a revelation. After all, it makes sense that those who will most benefit from military conflict are likely to be its chief advocates. It also is unsurprising that the State would seek to propagandize on behalf of its wars and assorted "national security" policies. And it's certainly not news that the major media outlets are complicit in this activity, for even when they're not wholly owned by defense contractors (like NBC/General Electric is, for instance), they are run by people who are entirely invested in perpetuating the establishment, American imperial mindset -- the same mindset that sees nothing wrong with having a two minute debate on the merits of bombing another country immediately followed by a five minute debate on whether Britney Spears is a fit mother.

To the political and media elites, war is simply another policy option to be debated as casually as an actress' wardrobe. Foreign military interventions are as American as apple pie in eyes of the establishment (and exploding bombs are always good for ratings), and advocating the use of military force inherently makes one "serious" in this militaristic environment. Rather than the burden of proof being placed on those who agitate for state-directed aggression against foreigners, in Washington the onus is on the advocates of peace to explain why they want so many Americans to die. In the eyes of the ruling class it's always 1938, all perceived enemies are invariably at least a little bit like Hitler, and the American military is always landing on the beaches of Normandy.

Once that is understood it comes as no surprise that major media outlets would book military analysts who share this view of"American exceptionalism" -- that the United States is the world's knight in shining armor, on call to police the globe. Questioning the stated reasons for war is something best left to naive hippies and others of dubious patriotism, and there's no better way for the liberal media to shore-up its patriotic credentials than by having blood-thirsty, ass-kicking former military men telling the American public how necessary war is -- and, damn it, just how cool it will all bee, what with all those high-tech gadgets of "shock and awe" and everything. Booking war critics like General William Odom or Scott Ritter? Bah, Amy Goodman can keep 'em.

Of course, every once in awhile some intrepid journalist will question this media consensus, sometimes even from the platform of one of the chief propaganda outlets themselves, as reporter David Barstow does in the Times. So rather than continuing to throw more scorn at the Times, here's an excerpt from Sunday's piece on the media's love affair with military propagandists:
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.

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.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

The irony of the piece being published in the Times, and one duly noted by Barstow, is that many of these military propagandists lied to the public not only through the lens of a CNN or Fox News camera, but from the comfortable perch of the Times op/ed page:
Over time, the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers, although some participated only briefly or sporadically. The largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets. But analysts from CBS and ABC were included, too. Some recruits, though not on any network payroll, were influential in other ways — either because they were sought out by radio hosts, or because they often published op-ed articles or were quoted in magazines, Web sites and newspapers. At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times.

Read the rest.

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