Help Me Reach 12 on the Manly Scale of Absolute Gender

If you like the patriotic work we're doing, please consider donating a few dollars. We could use it. (if asked for my email, use "")

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Fourth Estate: A For-Profit Government Propaganda Machine

Fourth Estate: A For-Profit Government Propaganda Machine
Image © Austin Cline
Click for full-sized Image

Over the past couple of weeks it has been revealed that Pentagon-approved military analysts had been feeding Pentagon-approved propaganda about the war in Iraq to various news and media outlets. These analysts were presented as if they were independent experts even though they did little more than repeat and reinforce the government's position, thus enhancing the perception that the Bush administration was doing the right thing. At least some of these analysts also had financial relationships with defense contractors, which meant that they would personally benefit from the increases in defense spending if enough people believed the government-written propaganda they were touting.

Anyone who has paid much attention to liberal blogs is aware of this scandal, but that's part of the problem: most people probably aren't very aware of what's happened because the news media themselves have almost completely refused to report on it; in the few cases where reporting has occurred, it's been an effort to justify their actions and dismiss any accusations of wrongdoing. Most people will thus continue to think that the news media is trustworthy and responsible, believing reports which may well be lies created by a corrupt relationship between media organizations, corporate owners that depend on Defense Department contracts, and a government that has demonstrated no qualms about dispensing with truth, morality, or justice in the pursuit of its authoritarian political goals.

Either the news media outlets were aware of how the military analysts they used were approved shills for Pentagon policies (and in many cases, had a financial interest in military contractors) or the media did not know any of this. If they did know, or if they should have known had they exercised due diligence when choosing military analysts, then presenting those analysts as if they were independent voices and without clearly stating their biases is the same as lying to the American public — and not just lying, but lying in a way that has helped get more Americans and Iraqis killed.

This means that the news media was not only corrupt in the sense that they allowed themselves to be used by the government to promote government propaganda, but also in that they care more about maintaining positive relationships to people in power than in protecting the lives or interests of the average American citizen. Remember that the next time someone tries to tell you that our corporate-owned media play a positive role in checking the power of the government.

The best case scenario is that the media outlets had no idea that their military analysts were actually working for the government and directed to promote government propaganda as if it were a neutral viewpoint. If that is the case for any outlet, then the only responsible course of action now is to immediately and loudly decry what has happened and completely restructure their own internal procedures in order to ensure that this won't happen again. Such a reaction is necessary to reassure the public that the news organization can be trusted — but have you seen any of them do this? I haven't.

Few would be able to do so because there is evidence that many of the major players definitely knew in advance that they were only using military analysts that were approved of by the government, that their military analysts had a financial stake in increased military spending, or both. The absence of any effort to report on this issue by almost any news organization, and the failure of any of them to make amends, suggests very strongly that they all knew far more than has been revealed thus far.

Presenting government-approved analysts as if they were independent voices violates many unwritten norms of journalism, but using analysts with financial interests in defense contractors who stand to make more money from increased defense spending violates unambiguous written rules of journalism. Not only were those financial ties not disclosed, but it was also kept hidden that, in some cases like NBC, the news media are owned by major defense contractors who also stand to make more money by increased defense spending.

In the process, the corrupt collaboration of news media with Pentagon-approved military analysts was used to create an atmosphere conducive to increasing the number of troops in Iraq and keeping them their longer. They didn't just sell out themselves in order to create stories with higher ratings, they sold out the American as well as the Iraqi people. No price can be put on the lives lost, and the untold billions wasted in Bush's failed military endeavors may bankrupt both nations for generations to come. Instead of "no blood for oil," maybe we should be saying "no blood for General Electric's profits" and "no blood for NBC's ratings."

Can a news organization be trusted if their reporting on a topic includes only government-approved analysts whose message varies only in how they rephrase the government's position and agenda? No. Can a news organization be trusted if their reporting on a topic includes analysts who have a financial interest in a particular outcome of the story, but this interest is never disclosed? No. Such behavior is not merely irresponsible but is, as noted more than once so far, corrupt.

This corruption extends from the top of every news organization involved and extends down to every journalist and producer who worked with these military analysts. It even extends outwards to news organizations not otherwise involved in the scandal but who have refused to report on it, thus helping preserve the corrupt environment in which such behavior can occur at all. If your local newspapers and television stations haven't reported on this — and preferably with several updates — perhaps you should contact them to ask why. Make it clear not only why the story is important, but how silence about it serves to make the situation worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.