Spot the Trojan horse

At Democracy Project Bruce Kesler takes a look at the 7,000-word New York Times story on “the hidden hand” of the Pentagon behind television military analysts of the Iraq war. According to the Times:

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to 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.

In its relentless effort to undermine the American war effort in Iraq from inside the United States, the Times itself is something of a Trojan horse. And the Times notes that at least several of the soldiers decamping from the Pentagon’s “media Trojan horse” are unwitting:

Many analysts strongly denied that they had either been co-opted or had allowed outside business interests to affect their on-air comments, and some have used their platforms to criticize the conduct of the war. Several, like Jeffrey D. McCausland, a CBS military analyst and defense industry lobbyist, said they kept their networks informed of their outside work and recused themselves from coverage that touched on business interests.

One specific effort to which the Times briefly refers sounds like a benign effort to rebut misinformation of the kind my daughter wrote about here for NRO as a National Review intern with no input from the Pengaton whatsoever:

Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”

The Times likens the Pentagon public relations project on which it reports to other lame efforts by the administration that have “subverted traditional journalism.” Kesler observes: “It’s not until near the end of the long article that we find, without quantification relative to those commenting otherwise,” the Times’s acknowledgement:

In interviews, several analysts reacted with dismay when told they were described as reliable “surrogates” in Pentagon documents. And some asserted that their Pentagon sessions were, as David L. Grange, a retired Army general and CNN analyst put it, “just upfront information,” while others pointed out, accurately, that they did not always agree with the administration or each other. “None of us drink the Kool-Aid,” General Scales said.

Likewise, several also denied using their special access for business gain. “Not related at all,” General Shepperd said, pointing out that many in the Pentagon held CNN “in the lowest esteem.”

Kesler comments:

TV talking heads come from the thousands of for-profit lobbyists and non-profit foundations and think-tanks. They’re all feeding at the public trough, and many are closely allied with particular government agencies. Many have unique experience and expertise. Their obvious partisanship or ideological stance could, also, be questioned and made more transparent by their hosts, and the New York Times could write many 7000+ word articles about them, one-by one by industry and policy. The same sort of networks of relationships, of briefings, of potential for self-aggrandizement or profit could be described, as was done here to — in my opinion, slime — military analysts. We shouldn’t hold our breath waiting, however, as most are profiting from views the New York Times likes.

Michael Goldfarb tersely adds: “I suspect most will appreciate the irony of the New York Times judging retired military officers as insufficiently objective in their analysis of the war in Iraq.”


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