Monday, April 21, 2008

Big News! Military Analysts On TV May Not Be Impartial!

Big news! The retired pro-military men who show up on TV all the time telling pro-military lies may be getting their pro-military talking points from the Pentagon! Who would have guessed?

Big news! Many of them are making money off the war, and/or working for military contractors! How astonishing!

Big news! Anyone who doesn't push the approved message doesn't get invited back! Can you believe it?

Big news! There's a huge piece about all this at the New York Times, "Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand," written by David Barstow, who won't be on TV anytime soon.
In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

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 [...]
I don't understand what Barstow means by "appearance of objectivity". To me, there's nothing "objective" about a military man in uniform on commercial television. "Retired" or not, it always looks like "PROPAGANDA!!"

And of course it is, as Barstow details in many ways, none of them astonishing in the slightest.
Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But 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.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”
Who could have known?