Reviewing Pentagon Propaganda & The New York Times

The Sunday edition of the New York Times ran a very candid cover story about a carefully orchestrated Pentagon propaganda campaign masquerading as objective journalism in the form of military analysts appearing on Fox News, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, and the New York Times. The propaganda campaign sought, not only to manipulate public perception of U.S. imperial war making in Iraq, the "War on Terror," human rights abuses and torture in Guantánamo Bay, but also to vie for military contracts in on-air "news" reports.


The story, written by David Barstow and titled "Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand" says the Pentagon "…effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air." 


The article is well researched and worth reading, however, most regular users of Z will notice that Left analysts have been saying what the Times has decided was a cover story, forever, and so will be less surprised by the articles information. It’s also not surprising that no one will be off to storm Fox, CNN, or the other "news" media networks. Why? Because everyone already knows and expects elites to use their control over access and information to, as the Times puts it, "transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse," an "instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks." Retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst Robert S. Bevelacqua described the propaganda effort bluntly, "It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you.’ "


However, it’s more than simply a few manipulative elite behaving in poor fashion, but an institutionalized practice—"a coherent, active policy."


The Times sued the Defense Department gaining access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts, and records that the Times says reveals a "symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated."




"Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as ‘message force multipliers’ or ‘surrogates’ who could be counted on to deliver administration ‘themes and messages’ to millions of Americans ‘in the form of their own opinions.’"


The report is damning and the audacity of senior Pentagon officials shine through when the Times says that records repeatedly show the administration enlisted analysts as a "rapid reaction force" to counter critical coverage, including by the Pentagon’s own correspondents! An example is given where news coverage revealed troops in Iraq dying because of inadequate body armor and a Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues "I think our analysts—properly armed—can push back in that arena."


The Times manages to have its own spin on various aspects of the story, presumably to portray itself as a liberal bastion of critical inquiry. For instance there is repeated use of language in sentences and phrases designed to steer readers away from reality. For example, this sentence:


"With a majority of Americans calling the war a mistake despite all administration attempts to sway public opinion, the Pentagon has focused in the last couple of years on cultivating in particular military analysts frequently seen and heard in conservative news outlets, records and interviews show." 


And this sentence:


"Some of these analysts were on the mission to Cuba on June 24, 2005—the first of six such Guantánamo trips—which was designed to mobilize analysts against the growing perception of Guantánamo as an international symbol of inhumane treatment."


The two phrases, one in each sentence respectively, "calling the war a mistake" and "growing perception," avoid that there were reasons given by the Bush administration for going to war, and there are international standards designed to ensure that people are treated with a standard of human dignity, guilty or not, of a crime, and that in the first instance, the reasons the administration gave for the necessity of going to war were wrong, and in the second, the growing perception of prisoners treatment as inhumane at Guantánamo is related to the international standards. These are called "facts" and the Time’s use of language is very crafty in its avoidance of these inconveniences.


However, still, the article is very informative noting that over time "the Pentagon recruited more than 75 retired officers,"…"that the largest contingent was affiliated with Fox News, followed by NBC and CNN, the other networks with 24-hour cable outlets." The Times continues saying analysts from CBS and ABC were included while noting other mediums in which the "analysts" proved "influential."


The Times fails to note how extensive its own reliance on the so-called "military analysts" was for its own reporting, noting in a single sentence on page four of the on-line version of the report, "At least nine of them have written op-ed articles for The Times." No other indication is mentioned.


Far from an extensive assessment, a search for the phrase "military analysts" in the Times online archive from September 11, 2001 to April 22, 2008 yields 174 results, the first appearing September 14, 2001. The results listed are all separate articles not how many different "military analysts" were sourced in each article. Searching without quotes i.e. military analysts instead of "military analysts" yields 3,111 results. Searching with quotes is more accurate.


Searching the archive from March 20, 2003, the day the U.S. launched cruise missiles into Iraq beginning its invasion and also around the time the propaganda campaing is reported to have begun, to April 22, 2008 yields 126 results. As above, these results do not indicate number of different sources per article. Searching without quotes i.e. military analysts instead of "military analysts" yields 2,247 results.


Continuing further in the article, you’ll get to read how the architects of this propaganda delivery system "marveled" at how the "analysts" parroted the Pentagon’s message "verbatim" as if it were their own, "saying it over and over and over."


The report even provides recent propaganda examples that, according to the Times, inside the Pentagon and White House, were viewed as "a masterpiece in the management of perceptions."


Edward Bernays would be proud and Pentagon propagandists would probably be flattered, wallowing in delusions of their right to dominate the world.

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