Included below is a segment of President Eisenhower’s farewell speech. In this speech, he warned of the pitfalls of letting the industries that supplied the growing permanent military grow too strong and too powerful. The warning was made in the abstract, but the concern he imagined was real. It’s not that there’s a vast conspiracy but the human failings of close business relationships and friendships and influence that combine to undermine the best interests of the nation.
We have a story like that playing out right now that provides a window into this problem and how much it’s corrupted our mainstream journalism. I passed on a link to the original reporting back in April that disclosed the ties various on-air military analysts had to defense contractors and the special briefings they were getting from the Pentagon on what message they needed to get out to the people. If not exactly propaganda, this is very much like it.
Well, the same reporter, David Barstow, has followed up his original reporting with a new, detailed look at one particular analyst, General Barry McCaffrey, who is a military analyst for NBC. The articles describes, in some detail, the kinds of relationships McCaffrey was able to take advantage of and the rules of the game.
Ultimately, my conclusion on this is that I don’t want to get analysis from someone like General McCaffrey. He makes money by encouraging more spending on the military. He immediately toed the administration line when he dared to criticize Rumsfeld and found his access cut off. That access is obviously critical to his business interests and, thus, he predictably backed down in his public statements.
Glenn Greenwald today has a rundown of NBC’s damage control. NBC has, apparently, no intention of taking McCaffrey off their list of analysts, and continues to defend their continued failure to disclose his financial ties to their viewers.
The issues here are pretty clear to me, and I encourage you to read the above pieces in their entirety (I know they’re quite long). The reliance and deference to “experts” would be fine if those experts didn’t have an agenda of their own. The only safe thing to do, as consumers of news, is to ignore what these guys have to say unless the network or newspaper or magazine discloses their potential conflicts of interests or pledges to hold analysts to their disclosure policy as required for their regular employees and reporters.
I also find it interesting that the parent company of NBC is GE, which has a rather large defense business itself. This is one of the real problems with the ongoing consolidation of the media landscape. These people have enormous influence and warped incentives when it comes to the truth.Curious how he would assess our current Pentagon and procurement process today. I also wonder what he and Generals would think about the campaign being waged by defense contractors to tie defense spending to GDP?