The Pentagon and the Press: recap on the 2008 “message force multipliers”

The NYTimes broke an incredible story last April (2008) revealing a vast Pentagon-funded network of surrogate mouthpieces cloaked in the garb of retired military officers, a veritable machine of information dissemination.

Appearing literally thousands of times on various networks, they were posing as disinterested military analysts and supposedly giving their personal opinions and subjective analyses, which were usually pretty peachy (The war is right on track, It’s getting better, Stay the course, Raw, raw, raw).

In fact, they were paid puppets, and were being fed their lines by the Pentagon, which referred to them as “message force multipliers.” Pentagon officials would have big meetings with them to decide exactly what to say and how to spin certain events, and the Pentagon issued them talking points for each interview, which the generals duly spouted to FOX news or MSNBC.

In return the covert bribe they received was exclusive access to certain contracts in Iraq, or exclusive information that would get them a major adavantage over other contractors. Since the generals were connected to various private military contracting companies and those companies were getting the contracts through the inside connections of the generals, the generals were bringing in a bundle of cash in return for their services as paid Pentagon loyalists. Cash for saying what the Pentagon wants. The generals became the Pentagon’s parrots.

Thus, the American public would hear one retired general after another give his “personal” opinion that the war is being well managed and that the administration is doing a good job.

By essentially bribing these generals, the Pentagon was erasing the lines between a state controlled media (which does not report objectively and manipulates public opinion to its design) and an independent media, the journalistic ideal America has always sought after, since only independent reporting could ever critically inform the public about the excesses of the government.

If a tree falls in a forest, but nobody hears it, did it happen? Likewise, if members of a government commit misdeeds, such as massacring some protestors (as in Tibet), but nobody is their to report it because the media is not independent, did it happen? Not for the regular public that relies on the media for their information.

If the Pentagon is controlling the sources of information and saturating the media with its own opinions, then the public does not have a reliable source of information to base its opions upon.

 So what happened next?

The Pentagon did an “internal investigation” and found that everything was peachy keen. No wrongdoing anywhere, everywhere you look. Life is good, all is in order, of course. That was in January. But then the Pentagon’s own inspector general, whose job it is to oversee policy and review these kinds of reports, just finished reviewing the very same report and issued a statement that the investigation’s report was so riddled with contradictions and flawed information  that it was basically useless. That was on May 5th, and here is the article. So the Pentagon repudiates the report, as obvious whitewashing, and removes it from its website.

In yesterday’s Times, columnist Frank Rich writes that turning the page on the past is not something we should be looking to do until we know the extent of the damage. How many times was the law broken and the constitution warped by power-hungry neocons?

In response to the Bush speechwriter who suggested recently that we just “keep on walking” and quit trying to know what misdeeds are lying under the cover of White House whitewash, Rich asks whether such an attitude would have been appropriate at the Nuremburg trials. We’re obiously jumping several factors of gravity here, but I don’t see why the logic woulud be any different. Until we know the extent of the dark side of Bush’s administration, why would we try to turn a blind eye to flagrantly illegal practices? Here’s the article by Frank Rich.

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