"O wretched countrymen!"
By David Peterson at May 07, 2008
When I first read that long (7,500-word) report in the April 20 New York Times about how the "Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform" the "expert military analysts" employed by the U.S. corporate media "into a kind of media Trojan horse -- an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks," about how "members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated," and about how, in what I take to be the honest words of one their very own, FOX News's former Green Beret-turned-military analyst Robert Bevelacqua, "It was [the Pentagon] saying, 'We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you'," my mind turned instead to the other Trojan horse, to the sacking of Troy, and to the warnings ahead of time that went unheeded:
"O wretched countrymen! what fury reigns?
What more than madness has possess'd your brains?
Think you the Grecians from your coasts are gone?
And are Ulysses' arts no better known?
This hollow fabric either must inclose,
Within its blind recess, our secret foes;
Or 't is an engine rais'd above the town,
T' o'erlook the walls, and then to batter down.
Somewhat is sure design'd, by fraud or force:
Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse."
But this concedes far too much, I'm afraid; and we need not wax poetic to understand the fate of the
According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, "there was virtually no mainstream media follow up to The Times's expose." Indeed. The Project found that in terms of sheer coverage, the "Texas polygamy story" (about which I will leave it up to the reader to decipher) far outranked The Times's exposé of the resounding successes enjoyed by the Pentagon at one corporate media venue after another. If the Pentagon tried to plant its propagandists for White House war-policy, achieving thereby what it calls "message force multipliers" for the war-party-line, the Pentagon succeeded. Thus the state of "journalism" in the USA today.
"Although there was some discussion of The Times's scoop in the blogosphere," the Project continues, the Index -- its ongoing survey of 48 different media venues -- "found only two related stories in the week of April 21-27, both of them in the April 24 PBS NewsHour broadcast" -- a guest appearance by the Center for Media and Democracy's John Stauber. "In the cable news universe, where many of these analysts worked, silence greeted the story."
Numbers-wise, this isn't quite accurate. (For a more accurate representation of post-April 20 coverage of this story, see the material I've archived below. And even this doesn't begin to do justice to how much commentary it generated in the so-called Blogosphere.)
Nevertheless. Thematically, the Project's point is most certainly accurate. Since April 20 -- or at any other time in recent decades -- a report about how the U.S. governing system resorts to lies and well-paid liars to prevent its 24-hour-a-day crisis in legitimacy from mushrooming up in the consciousness of the mass of citizens who live under its rule, lacks "traction" within the rest of the Media Fortress.
As Chris Spannos points out, even though Fortress New York Times broke the frickin story, and devoted huge resources to it, "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."
Don't worry: There will be no mea culpa forthcoming for its own complicity. No corrections. No retractions. No nothing.
mad with zeal, and blinded with our fate,
We haul along the horse in solemn state;
Then place the dire portent within the tow'r.
Cassandra cried, and curs'd th' unhappy hour;
Foretold our fate; but, by the god's decree,
All heard, and none believ'd the prophecy.
mad with zeal, and blinded with our fate,
"Military Analysts," Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Though as John Stauber notes, the "Military Analysts" archive assembled by the Pentagon uses a "format that makes it impossible to easily search them and therefore difficult to read and dissect.")
"Media Generals: Editors Respond to 'NYT' Revelations," Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher, April 21, 2008
"Retired Officers, Still Doing The Pentagon's Work on TV?" Howard Kurtz, Washington Post, April 21, 2008
"Duped About Torture," Dan Froomkin, Washington Post, April 21, 2008
"The United Military-Industrial Complex," Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, April 22, 2008
"Reviewing Pentagon Propaganda & The New York Times," Chris Spannos, ZCom, April 22, 2008
"Favored generals carry Bush's flag," Elizabeth Sullivan, Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 27, 2008
"Shameful Days: Why Won't the Media Pursue the Pentagon propaganda Scandal," Arianna Huffington, Huffington Post, April 30, 2008
"Media Passes on Times's Pentagon Piece," Project for Excellence in Journalism, Pew Research Center, April 30, 2008
"Pentagon deception, media complicity," Joyce Hoffmann, The Virginian-Pilot and Ledger-Star, May 4, 2008
"Pentagon's Propaganda Documents Go Online," John Stauber, Center for Media and Democracy, May 6, 2008
"'O Wretched Countrymen!'," ZCom, May 7, 2008