Hold the front page! Heck, on second thought, hold three full inside pages as well. Notify the Pulitzer jurors. The New York Times has a blockbuster scoop. Its ace reporter, David Barstow, has uncovered shocking evidence that . . . the Pentagon tries to get out its side of the story about Iraq to the news media.
Are you surprised? Outraged? Furious? Apparently the Times is: itâ€™s found a new wrinkle in what it views as an insidious military propaganda campaign. You see, the Defense Department isnâ€™t content to try to present its views simply to full-time reporters who are paid employees of organizations like the New York Times. It actually has the temerity to brief retired military officers directly, who then opine on TV and in print about matters such as the Iraq War.
As I read and read and read this seemingly endless report, I kept trying to figure out what the news was here. Why did the Times decide this story is so important? After all, itâ€™s no secret that the Pentagonâ€“and every other branch of governmentâ€“routinely provides background briefings to journalists (including columnists and other purveyors of opinion), and tries to influence their coverage by carefully doling out access. …
I think I got to the nub of the problem when I read, buried deep in this article, Barstowâ€™s complaint that the Pentagonâ€™s campaign to brief military analysts â€œrecalled other administration tactics that subverted traditional journalism.â€ But the Times would laugh at anyone who claimed that activities â€œsubversiveâ€ of Americaâ€™s national interest are at all problematic. After all, arenâ€™t we constantly told that criticismâ€“even â€œsubversiveâ€ criticismâ€“is the highest form of patriotism? Apparently itâ€™s one thing to subvert oneâ€™s country and another thing to subvert the MSM. We canâ€™t have that!
How dare the Pentagon try to break the media monopoly traditionally held by full-time journalists of reliably â€œprogressiveâ€ views! The gall of those guys to try to shape public opinion through the words of retired officers who might have a different perspective! Who might even be, as the article darkly warns, â€œin sync with the administrationâ€™s neo-conservative brain trust.â€
The implicit purpose of the Timesâ€™s article is obvious: to elevate this perfectly normal practice into a scandal in the hopes of quashing it. Thus leaving the Times and its fellow MSM organsâ€“conveniently enoughâ€“as the dominant shapers of public opinion.
21 Apr 2008