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TV's Response to Pentagon Propaganda? Never Happened

by Josh Silver

Last week, it was a mudslinging debate hosted by ABC. This week, it's revelations of pro-war propaganda on nearly every major television news outlet.

The quest for quality journalism and for the truth about the fast sell on the Iraq war just hit a new low. And today, in the ensuing days, our loyal Bush lapdog news outlets are either dismissing the damning revelation or pretending it never happened:

Sunday's New York Times' article exposing a secret Bush administration campaign to infiltrate the media with pro-Iraq war "analysts" is enraging and is likely illegal. Trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of casualties later, we learn that the drum beat to war was led by a choir lip-synching the Pentagon's talking points.

And no one -- not the network officials, not the military analysts, and certainly not the White House -- can walk away from this scheme with clean hands. Of course, propaganda has always played a role in the government's wartime strategy. But the extent to which the American people were duped into trusting military officials in the build-up and ongoing pursuit of the Iraq war -- aided and abetted by the largest news outlets -- is as devious as it gets.

We need more than an empty reprimand of these propaganda pundits. Congress must investigate the Pentagon's "hidden hand" in driving war coverage, and the defense contractors, military analysts and national news media who went along for the ride.

The Department of Justice must launch an investigation to determine if the Pentagon broke the laws prohibiting government sponsored covert propaganda. But don't hold your breath. As Senator Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) said in a Capitol Hill hearing this week, Bush-appointed DoJ officials are so MIA on government accountability, they should all be "on the side of milk containers."

This is not a partisan issue. Democrats, Republicans and everyone else are the victims. Public interest groups have launched an effort to pressure our lawmakers to act; to send a resounding message that the American people will no longer tolerate government lies, half-truths, and manipulations in the media.

Many of the network officials interviewed by the Times "acknowledged only a limited understanding of their analysts' interactions with the administration" and said analysts were not expected to disclose their financial conflicts before being broadcast as an expert.

Shame on the media for their irresponsible and shoddy reporting, for their unwillingness to vet sources, and for being compliant lapdogs when we needed snarling watchdogs.

Welcome to a familiar refrain. America's media system is dominated by a handful of giant corporations obsessed with making money, and terrified of upsetting the apple cart. Problem is, critical, accountable journalism questions authority, stirs the pot, and almost always spills more than a few apples. It even scares away a few coveted advertisers and pisses off politicians who would otherwise hand over policy favors, earmarks and tax breaks worth millions.

Every time you see the media fail to inform and enlighten -- a failure you can witness every time you turn on your TV or radio -- don't get mad, join the ranks of Americans who are realizing that the fight for media reform is perhaps the most important political fight of our time. A fight who's outcome will determine whether our nation will continue its Orwellian slide into propaganda and falsehood, or become the enlightened democracy we so desperately want to live in.

Josh Silver is the executive director of Free Press (www.freepress.net), the national, nonpartisan media reform group.

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