Monday, April 28, 2008

"Take nothing for granted"

I saw the headline at the top of the April 20 issue of The New York Times but couldn’t bring myself to read the story until a week later. I was steeling myself.

The story headlined “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” is proof that in Eisenhower's farewell address, the president and former military commander got it only partly right when he warned of the military-industrial complex.

As several letter writers have noted, what we have is a military-industrial-media complex.

The story by David Barstow lays bare an entire cadre of retired military brass serving as media shills for the administration and the Iraq War. Since 2002, most of the "analysts" have mouthed the Bush administration's flawed and deceitful positions. It turns out they were in the employ of military contractors who reap billions from the war. In short, many of the allegedly objective analysts were trapped and compromised: speak out against the administration and the war (as in, tell the truth) and you and your clients or employer will suffer the consequences.

Eisenhower's warning and then some is all in the story:

Military — check.

Industrial — check.

Media — check.

The one thing it isn’t, is complex.

The other truism illustrated by the story is from the late, great Neil Postman: “The more you watch (TV); the less you know.” Actually, it’s worst than that. The more you watch, the more deceived you become.

I do not believe for a minute that the Bush Administration is the first to use PR smoke-and-mirrors techniques to deceive the public, to pay off military contractors and to send American soldiers to their deaths for unworthy causes.

But this story by David Barstow catalogs deceit heaped on deceit — in detail, thanks to the Times obtaining original documents through he Freedom of Information Act. Barstow reports that the ethically challenged TV networks allowed it all to happen, duping the public repeatedly. (Surprise, “fair and balanced” FOX was the worst of the lot.}

If there’s good news here it’s this: something must have gone wrong along the way, because the public, despite the lies and distortions, has seen through the scam. Seven in 10 want to get out of Iraq.

So much for bought-and-paid-for military authority figures.

The other thing that is happening is that TV network news operations are losing their viewers. Thanks to the lies and distortions of the “key influentials” and “message multipliers,” as the military analysts were called by their Bush administration handlers, the networks can expect to lose a whole lot more.

Three post-scripts.

• As the story appeared in the Times, much of the story was obliterated by some ham-handed page layout person and asleep-at-the-switch proofreaders. Someone forgot to use “text runaround” so that a graphic obscured blocks of text. Read this story on line.

• We’ve seen numerous military analysts on the PBS’s Lehrer NewsHour, but for some reason, the story fails to mention them and whether they too are tainted by ties to the arms industry and the administration. In a NewsHour broadcast segment about the Times story, correspondent Judy Woodruff said, “For the record, the NewsHour briefly put five military analysts on a retainer in 2003, but none of them attended Pentagon briefings while on retainer to the NewsHour.”

Significantly, what she did NOT say is whether the NewsHour analysts work for or consult the arms industry — a clear conflict of interest.

• Here are Eisenhower’s words as he left office:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Question: How can the public be “alert and knowledgeable” when the news media are duped by and compliant to the Military-Industrial Complex? Some networks, such as NBC, are even owned by huge defense contractors.

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