Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How Dirty Is Our Media

Since the New York Times revealed the Pentagon’s propaganda campaign and use of “surrogates and message-force multipliers” to sprinkle fairy dust on our failed Iraq misadventure, we’ve been learning a lot about the astonishing breadth and depth of this misinformation campaign.

Most interesting is the Pentagon’s massive document dump, which through the miracle of the internet allows ordinary dweebs like you and me to read transcripts and e-mails between the Pentagon and these propaganda mouthpieces. Folks like ThinkProgress and Talking Points Memo are combing through these files and have posted some interesting things. For example, one military analyst who is also a radio host promised a “softball” interview of Gen. Casey on a right-wing radio show, prompting a Pentagon flack to warn:
Just fyi, probably wouldn't put "softball" interview in writing. If that got out it would compromise jed and general casey.

What’s astonishing to me is, despite the tremendous effort and energy put into this propaganda program, it’s been an utter failure. The Pentagon went all out to seed the news media with Iraq War boosters and friendly faces who promised to be “on message,” yet the majority of Americans still think the Iraq War was a mistake and the occupation has been mishandled. Truth wins out, people, every single time.

I spent a little time wading through the document dump today and really came face to face with evidence of our massively corrupted right wing media. Of course, we always knew the Fox folks were cheerleaders for the Bush Administration, but looking through these documents, we see Fox News and right-wing radio in deep collusion with the Pentagon propaganda machine. They were active, willing, knowing participants.

A favorite is this April 18, 2006 briefing with then-Secretary Rumsfeld and General Casey. At one point an analyst marvels to Rumsfeld:

“You go on O’Reilly and you’ve got him eating out of your hand.”

On page 14 of the transcript, Rumsfeld gloats about Gen. Russell Honore calling journalists stupid:

Question: Right. One of the things that impressed me about how the initiatives (inaudible) after the hurricane in New Orleans was when Honore chastised the press about getting stuck on stupid. [Laughter].

Secretary Rumsfeld: It was wonderful. Can you imagine? I’d like to think I was a genius and I had him located there to -- [Laughter] - just in case there was a Katrina. But it was just an accident. The guy is fabulous.

Actually, Honore was discussing Hurricane Rita, and chastising the media for having the temerity to ask what lessons from Katrina would be applied to the Rita evacuation effort (you can watch a YouTube clip of Honore here.) Right wing media pundits like Michelle Malkin ate it up. They love it when someone gets tough with CNN reporters because they see themselvs as perpetual victims in a world where their extreme views have them inreasingly marginalized.

This certainly doesn’t let the rest of the mainstream media off the hook, it does seem that the folks at CBS, CNN, etc. were at least for the most part sloppy and incurious, but not necessarily knowing participants in a government misinformation campaign. You can't say that for the right wing media, though.