Military Propaganda Pushed Me Off TV
In the fall of 2002, week after week, I argued vigorously against invading
In my 2006 book, Cable News Confidential, I explained why I lost my airtime:
There was no room for me after MS
Except for the brazenness and scope of the Pentagon spin program, I wasn’t shocked by the recent New York
The biggest villain here is not Rumsfeld or the Pentagon. It’s the TV networks. In the land of the First Amendment, it was their choice to shut down debate and journalism.
No government agency forced MSNBC to repeatedly feature the hawkish generals unopposed. Or fire Phil
I’m all for a Congressional investigation into the Pentagon’s
But I’m also for keeping the focus and onus on CNN, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, even NPR – who were partners in the Pentagon’s mission of “information dominance.” And for us to see that American TV news remains so corrupt today that it has hardly mentioned the
It’s important to remember that at the same time corporate TV outlets voluntarily abandoned journalistic ethics in the run-up to
As for the major TV networks, they were not hoodwinked by a Pentagon propaganda scheme. They were willingly complicit, and have been for decades. As FAIR’s director, I began questioning top news executives years ago about their over-reliance on non-debate segments featuring former military brass. After the 1991 Gulf war, CNN and other networks realized that their use of ex-generals had helped the Pentagon dazzle and disinform the public about the conduct of the war.
CNN actually had me debate the issue of ex-military on TV with a retired US Army colonel. Military analysts aren’t used to debates, and this one got heated:
ME: You would never dream of covering the environment by bringing on expert after expert after expert who had all retired from environmental organizations after 20 or 30 years and were still loyal to those groups. You would never discuss the workplace or workers by bringing on expert after expert after expert who’d been in the labor movement and retired in good standing after 30 years. . . . When it comes to war and foreign policy, you bring on all the retired generals, retired secretaries of state.
THE COLONEL (irritably): What do you want, a tax auditor to come in and talk about military strategy?
ME: You hit it on the nail, Colonel. What you need besides the generals and the admirals who can talk about how missiles and bombs are dispatched, you need other experts. You need experts in human rights, you need medical experts, you need relief experts who know what it’s like to talk about bombs falling on people.
Before the debate ended, I expressed my doubts that corporate media would ever quit their addiction to unreliable military sources: “There’s this ritual, it’s a familiar pattern, a routine, where mainstream journalists, after the last war or intervention, say, ‘Boy, we got manipulated. We were taken. But next time, we’re going to be more skeptical.’ And then when the next time comes, it’s the same reporters interviewing the same experts, who buy the distortions from the Pentagon.”
A few years later, during the brutal US-NATO bombing of
GOODMAN: If you support the practice of putting ex-military men, generals, on the payroll to share their opinion during a time of war, would you also support putting peace activists on the payroll to give a different opinion in times of war, to be sitting there with the military generals, talking about why they feel that war is not appropriate?
SESNO: We bring the generals in because of their expertise in a particular area. We call them analysts. We don’t bring them in as advocates.
It’s clear: War experts are neutral analysts; peace experts are advocates. Even when the Pentagon helps select and prep the network’s military analysts. Shortly after the
Of all the excruciating moments for me – after having been terminated by MSNBC along with Phil
A leading figure in the Pentagon’s pundit corps, no one spewed more nonsense in such an authoritative voice than McCaffrey – for example, on the top-notch advanced planning for securing
After the invasion began, McCaffrey crowed on MSNBC: “Thank God for the Abrams tank and the Bradley fighting vehicle.”
No federal agency forced NBC and MSNBC to put McCaffrey on the air unopposed. No federal agency prevented those networks from telling viewers that the general sat on the boards of several military contactors, including one that made millions for doing God’s work on the Abrams and Bradley.
Genuine separation of press and state is one reason growing numbers of Americans are choosing independent media over corporate media.
And independent media don’t run embarrassing promos of the kind NBC was proudly airing in 2003:
Jeff Cohen is the founding director of the