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April 21, 2008

We're not all stooges

The New York Times report Sunday on how the Pentagon used a group of former generals to buttress its claims about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has produced the usual denunciations of the Mainstream Media.

Some military commentators, however, weren't buying and didn't allow themselves to be bullied. See, for example, McClatchy columnist Joe Galloway's memorable account of a 2005 lunch with then-defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

UPDATE: From Sen. Carl Levin's office ...

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., has asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates to investigate claims laid out by the New York Times on April 20 that the Pentagon gave special treatment to retired military personnel who served as TV analysts in support of the administration’s policies.

"While the media clearly have their own shortfalls for paying people to provide 'independent' analysis when they have such real and apparent conflicts, that doesn't excuse the Department’s behavior in giving both special treatment and valuable access to analysts who provide commentary in favor of DoD's strategy, while not offering similar access to some other analysts and cutting off access to others who didn’t deliver as expected," Levin wrote in a letter to Gates.

A copy of Levin's letter to Gates can be viewed here (.pdf format).

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Comments

COL (ret.) Frank S.

The whole area of military expert opinion and where and when it should be expressed publicly or privately is addressed in a well-reasoned paper in the most recent issue of "Parameters".* There are complex issues whenever an expert expresses an opinion on a “wicked problem,” and public expert opinions with political overtones are perhaps among the most ethically-laden landscapes in which experts labor.
Of course, maintaining a concealed “agent of influence” relationship to what are purported to be “independent” military (or other experts) experts in a journalistic setting is a technique richly developed through history: by the Soviets, North Vietnamese, Chinese (both Communist and Nationalist), the Germans, and other former opponents. Experts in propaganda expect such gray or black manipulation of the media and journalism. Sometimes the agents know they are being played, sometimes they don’t. Typically, when these manipulation roots are exposed, the so-called experts are seen (regardless of their other credentials or the merits of their specific opinions) as public relations or propaganda shills, and their ethics and the ethics of the media employing them are suspect. Such blow-back sometimes does little good for the cause that manipulated the gray and black “agents of influence” and occasionally in the past such exposure single-handedly invalidated the manipulation effort. [For anyone interested, a nice historical example of this is Leslie’s “The Formation of Foreign Public Opinion in the Spanish Civil War: Motives, Methods, and Effectiveness.”]
Given today’s shallow, entertainment-focused, profit-driven, celebrity-hypnotized corporate media outlets, such sponsored shilling and manipulation is probably an excellent investment now, and becoming more useful and effective every day. How many people will read the NYT article, how many will care, and how many (or rather, how few) will see the implications for the media, public debate, or the national interest? The odds grow stronger that not only will you get away with it, but that exposure will have little or no impact.
Orwell had it right about the “Ministry of History,” he was merely wrong about the dates.

*“Revolt of the Generals: A Case Study in Professional Ethics” by Martin L. Cook (.htm format) (.pdf format)
PARAMETERS US Army War College Quarterly Spring 2008, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 1 http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/Parameters/08spring/contents3.htm

Richard D.

Dr./Col. Ken Allard (mentioned in the NYT article) was one of my professors. When he says he felt "hosed" by the DoD, I believe him. He was remarkably candid about his thoughts on the military and Bush administration with us in his class.

billjpa

Of course you are not all stooges. BUT (and I know that you were just waiting for the but-Ha) since so much of the media reporting regarding Iraq drives its information from unnamed sources and they, the media, don't credit its sources publicly, what has resulted is the belief that these sources are presenting the TRUTH! And as Capt Hook said in Peter Pan, "that's the canker that gnaws"!
To paaraphrase the popular, -who is the source and who is paying their way?, what we are left to accept as truth is the TRUTH! Well, as Mr Galoway has succeeded in doing, as wel as the Mc organization in general has continud to do, is TELL US THE TRUTH!Now one might posit- That ain't asking too much- is it?
So, let the stooges beware. Since the msm appears to refuse to tell the truth (in general) thank goodness that the net has appeared. And, as the MC blogs have displayed, there is a need for the truth.
The greatset blame should be heaped on the members of the media that have chosen to be "The Stooges" and they should be NAMED! Over and Over Again!

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"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

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