Going back some time I’ve been curious about the sudden influx of high-ranking retired military brass showing up on news channels to give us their “unique” insight into the war and other military matters. At first I assumed it was a typical domino effect. It could have started with a single network and then the others saw the benefit and followed suit with their own military analysts.
These men have shown up on the networks trading on their expertise and suggesting that the only reason they can speak up now is because they’re retired and have the ability to be frank. It all comes off as being extremely credible, powerful and insightful. The analysts would mention that they still have friends in active duty at the highest levels and have talked with them about progress (or lack thereof) in the war and other areas of contention. They made it clear that they had an understanding of events that couldn’t be matched by other sources.
What the public didn’t know is that these analysts were anything but objective. In a New York Times piece the truth has come out on this issue. It turns out that the vast majority of the analysts were being paid by military contractors and others to put a positive spin on all things war. Another fact to come to light is that the Bush administration was very much behind this effort to steer the message from within the networks themselves by providing access and one-sided information to these “experts”. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would routinely call these analysts together to discuss messaging and how to present a unified front to keep the spin on the war positive.
Mind you I’m not upset with the analysts. This sort of thing isn’t surprising to me. That is, I’m not surprised about the analysts themselves. What I am upset about is the lack of proper vetting these men received from all the networks. How could this go on for so long and so wide without any of the networks realizing these guys were all spewing out the same administration talking points and not question it?
The New York Times found that the Pentagon referred to these analysts as “message force multipliers”. Are you kidding me? Worse, the information shows that many of the analysts reported back directly to the Pentagon information about what was going on inside the networks—stories that would be coming up that needed to be put down and so forth. They offered advice on how to turn the tables on the very networks that were paying them. The Pentagon would refer to them in their own documents as “our analysts” and how they could be used to “push back” stories that didn’t suit the suggested storyline of the administration.
In many cases the Pentagon would provide the script for the analysts and send them out to spread the word. They would then turn around, after the analysts provided their “insight”, and point to these comments as proof of the claims they were making. It must be accurate because all these retired analysts are seeing it the same way, right?
The bottom line is that our press once again failed us here and this is yet another example of the myth that the media is dominated by liberal bias. Every single one of them fell in line with this process and none of them called these analysts into question. It was a typical “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy between the networks and the analysts. We, as a people, were dupped as a result.