Big Media Mum on Syria Pundits' Ties to Defense Industry

Report finds prominent corporate media pundits and highly-cited think tanks had largely undisclosed intelligence and arms industry links

Media discourse in the buildup to potential U.S.-led attacks on Syria was monopolized by experts and think tanks with links to arms and intelligence industries. Despite this conflict of interest, these financial relationships were not disclosed in a vast majority of media appearances, the non-profit research organization Public Accountability Initiative revealed in a report released Friday.

Twenty-two commentators presented as experts during the so-called corporate media debate about military attacks on Syria have ties to "large defense and intelligence contractors like Raytheon, smaller defense and intelligence contractors like TASC, defense-focused investment firms like SCP Partners, and commercial diplomacy firms like the Cohen Group," the report finds. Of 111 appearances in major media outlets, the ties of these 22 commentators were disclosed a total of 13 times. A majority of these commentators voiced support for a U.S.-led attack on Syria.

Stephen Hadley is just one of the analysts profiled by the study. "[H]e has voiced strong support for a strike on Syria in appearances on Bloomberg TV, Fox News, and CNN, as well as in a Washington Post op-ed," the study reads. "Though he has a financial stake in a Syria strike as a current Raytheon board member, and is also a principal at consulting firm RiceHadleyGates, he was identified all four times only as a former National Security Adviser to George W. Bush."

Ali Issa, organizer with the War Resisters League, told Common Dreams these revelations are disturbing but not shocking. "That the Washington Post gave room to Raytheon's director is not surprising," he said. "Otherwise, how could the U.S. maintain its deeply unpopular policy of spending $1.3 trillion on military-related spending this year alone?"

In addition to these commentators, seven think tanks with industry ties were "cited 144 times in major US publications from August 7th, 2013 to September 6th, 2013," the report finds. The Brookings Institution, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and The Institute for the Study of War were the most frequently referenced of the think tanks profiled.

Report authors say the failures cited are not unique to this year's Syria debate. During the Bush administration era, defense industry-tied experts--whose conflicts of interests were often not disclosed by the media--built support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, they note. The report authors charge, "[T]he media continues to present former military and government officials as venerated experts without informing the public of their industry ties."

Issa told Common Dreams, "What we see in the Syria debate case is the powerful media and public-relations arm of the military-industrial complex."


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