Spin and silence

by John Quiggin on May 22, 2008

Glenn Greenwald reports that the story of secret Pentagon efforts to set up a group of supposedly independent military experts, who then ran the Administration line on network TV, detailed in the New York Times a month ago, has made the standard transition from “we don’t illegally manipulate the news” to “of course we did that, why are you still making a fuss about this old story“.

No news, or even meta-news there. What’s really striking is that, as far as I can tell, none of the TV networks implicated in the story have reported it on-air in any way, and most have made no response at all (with the exception of CNN, none responded substantively to questions from the NY Times, and I haven’t seen anything since). And with the story now in the old news category, they have clearly succeeding in keeping it from their viewers, with the exception of assiduous readers of the NYTimes or blogs. Apparently, if it isn’t on TV, it didn’t happen. And of course, if it is on TV, it probably didn’t happen either, at least not the way we get to see it.

{ 19 comments }

1

greensmile 05.23.08 at 1:14 am

given I take my news from a wide sample of web sources and watch little TV, I might have missed a story but now that you mention it…nope not a peep out of the willing [knowing?] enablers of this propaganda campaign.

2

greensmile 05.23.08 at 1:15 am

given I take my news from a wide sample of web sources and watch little TV, I might have missed a story but now that you mention it…nope not a peep out of the willing [knowing?] enablers of this propaganda campaign.

Anyone else have data counter to John’s observation?

3

Joshua Holmes 05.23.08 at 2:13 am

Awesome. Now whenever anyone says, “Hey, General So-and-so says things are great!” I can promptly ignore it.

4

HH 05.23.08 at 2:52 am

The acceptance of “spin” as a form of argumentative prowess in our culture has effectively normalized dishonesty. Accordingly, there is no longer any shared expectation of a responsibility to truthfully report events in our society.

The pernicious consequences of the normalization of dishonesty are clear to any thoughtful person, and we shall all bear these consequences.

5

bi 05.23.08 at 4:43 am

Q Why was the program kept secret?

MR. STANZEL: You can talk to the Defense Department. It was their program — which they’ve discontinued.

Q Who was in charge at the White House?

Someone forgot to insert

MR. STANZEL: …………

at this point in the transcript. Hahahah. :)

(Which, by the way, I’ve archived.)

 – bi, International Journal of Inactivism

6

noen 05.23.08 at 6:36 am

Expect this to all change 180 degrees if Obama is elected. “Spin” will suddenly be demonized and every pundit will get the vapors at the slightest hint of it from the Obama administration.

7

Doug 05.23.08 at 9:31 am

Wag the Dog has been a helluva lot less funny during the GWB administration. 241 days to go.

8

abb1 05.23.08 at 2:05 pm

The thing is, I suspect that most people assume that all the major media institutions are an extension of the government. Some of these institutions are more sympathetic to the Democrats, others to the Republicans – and this is where where the drama lies, to most people.

The Fox News is too pro-Republican, the CBS (or whatever) is too pro-Democratic, etc. The fact that these institutions channel, one way or another, views and messages of the major government cliques is natural, it’s expected; it doesn’t shock, doesn’t surprise.

It’s also seems natural (and has been proclaimed openly) that in the times of crises (and around these times) the the major media institutions must support the government. That is their duty. No Shock, no surprise there; everyone knows this is the way it is, this is the way it’s always been, it is what it is.

Not that different from Pravda, really. You read the propaganda, you guess what’s going on, you become good at it, then you start enjoying it sorta like the crossword puzzle, you enjoy being clever. So, you see, it’s all for the best. It can’t be different.

9

functional 05.25.08 at 4:07 pm

“Illegally”? What are they supposed to have done that is even arguably illegal? Cite a specific American law if you can. Thanks.

10

Righteous Bubba 05.25.08 at 4:44 pm

Antideficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341.

11

Righteous Bubba 05.25.08 at 4:48 pm

The Antideficiency Act.

GAO: There Are No Federal Funds for Publicity and Propaganda

On 17 February 2005, the GAO issued a memorandum to the heads of all federal agencies advising that expenditure of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda purposes violates the ADA. (64) The objective of GAO’s memorandum was to emphasize the publicity and propaganda prohibition–especially with regard to prepackaged news stories. (65) The GAO stated that during the year preceding its memorandum, it found some federal agencies violated the publicity and propaganda prohibition and also the ADA by obligating appropriated funds to purchase prepackaged news stories. (66) Nevertheless, the GAO further advised that agencies could avoid violating the ADA if the news stories contained an appropriate disclaimer. (67)

Congress has prohibited the use of appropriated funds for publicity or propaganda in each of its annual appropriations acts since 1951. (68) Consequently, because there are no appropriated funds available for this purpose, any expenditure of appropriated funds–even one dollar–would necessarily violate the ADA’s prohibition against obligating funds in excess of the amount available in an appropriation. (69)

12

John Quiggin 05.25.08 at 10:26 pm

Score: Well-informed CT readers 1, Trolls -100

Thanks, rb

13

harold 05.25.08 at 11:17 pm

The major media is owned by companies that directly benefit from military spending. It is simply a cost of business to help the Pentagon provide propaganda.

14

Righteous Bubba 05.26.08 at 12:47 am

Score: Well-informed CT readers 1, Trolls -100

Thanks, rb

I don’t want to take credit for being well informed…I’m fiddling around with a computer that can access Google. Perhaps functional is telegraphing comments to CT.

15

Ozzie Maland 05.26.08 at 3:35 am

I don’t believe Greenwald has addressed the story I believe to be more scandalous than the media-planted generals, that being US support for the Iraqi terrorist group called MEK (or MKO). Juan Cole touched on that subject last year, briefly:
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 9 Aug 2007

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Iranians hit back at US charges at the security meeting in Damascus, saying that the US and Iraq were not in a position to lecture others on terrorism as long as they gave refuge in Iraq to the Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MKO or MEK), which is responsible for numerous bombings and other terrorism in Iran. The US State Department acknowledges that the MEK is a terrorist organization, but the Pentagon is using it against Iran anyway.

A more detailed description of US abetting of the terrorist group is at
http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/4/10/211056/036

Under international law, a country which abets terrorists is, well, “co-guilty.” In light of US support for the Nuremberg Trials, there should be a lot more hand-wringing about this issue in MSM.


Aloha ~~~ Ozzie Maland ~~~ San Diego

16

gandhi 05.26.08 at 8:41 pm

This is from TPM today:

The Department of Defense inspector general announced last Friday that it was undertaking a investigation of the program, and the Congress’ own General Accountability Office has “already begun looking into the program and would give a legal opinion on whether it violated longstanding prohibitions against spending government money to spread propaganda to audiences in the United States.”

Of course we have had quite a lot of enquiries that have gone nowhere, particularly with DoD.

Meanwhile, the TV networks have remained largely silent, as their credibility and transparency have been tarnished by the revelations about the program. As Media Matters has documented, the military analysts named in the Times piece appeared or were quoted more than 4,500 times on broadcast networks, cable news channels, and NPR. One minute they were giving ostensibly objective analysis, the next they were fawning over Rummy in private as “the leader.”

Meanwhile, in Canberra, the Libs are still busily pretending that the ABC has a leftwing bias… I guess if you believe the Murdoch media is telling it straight down the line, that’s how things might look.

17

functional 05.27.08 at 1:57 pm

Good catch, assuming that the Anti-Deficiency Act does apply here. That said, because I had not seen any discussion of the Pentagon issue that cited that federal law, I had no reason to believe that anyone knew what they were talking about. I still don’t think that Mr. Quiggin could have cited that law; it’s by sheer luck that he happened to have been right.

18

Righteous Bubba 05.27.08 at 4:31 pm

19

John Quiggin 05.28.08 at 1:18 am

Updated score: CT 2, Trolls -500

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