‘Open Secret’

May 8, 2008

In the long run, probably the biggest news story of the year so far is the unspoken one, a seemingly open secret.

The New York Times expose a couple of weeks ago on the Pentagon’s public propaganda machine, enlisting retired military types to wax eloquent on TV news about the ongoing disasters in Iraq and Afghanistan, should have opened a legitimate can of worms.
Decider George let his boys whip-up some infomercials using a cast of lying, out-of-work (but not out of money) warmongers.
The Times article should have caused a massive, shit-stink.

Not hardly a ripple.
The reason: TV networks are co-conspirators and have been conducting a kind of de facto blackout, not once mentioning the story.
The general public mass of US peoples are clueless, ignorant and un-blissfully unaware:

  • Even with countless media outlets available these days, a Sunday New York Times cover story could always be counted on to send a jolt through the television news cycle.
    But apparently that’s no longer the case. Indeed, reporter David Barstow’s 7,600-word investigation of the Pentagon’s military analyst program — whereby ex-military talking heads, often with direct ties to contractors, parroted Defense Department talking points on the air — has been noticeably absent from television airwaves since the story broke on April 20.
    While bloggers have kept the story simmering, Democratic congressional leaders also are speaking out, calling for investigations that could provoke the networks to finally cover the Times story — and, in effect, themselves.
    On Tuesday, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and John Dingell (D-Mich.) sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin “urging an investigation of the Pentagon’s propaganda program” to determine if the networks or analysts violated federal law.
    The FCC request follows DeLauro’s April 24 letters to five of the most powerful network executives: NBC News President Steve Capus, ABC News President David Westin, CBS News President Sean McManus, FOX News chief executive Roger Ailes and CNN News Group President Jim Walton.
    Only ABC and CNN have responded so far, according to DeLauro, who is not the only member of Congress calling attention to the Times story.
    Both Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) have written to the Government Accountability Office, seeking an investigation into whether the Pentagon aided in connecting military analysts with contractors.
    “I decided to push this issue hard because ever since The New York Times exposé appeared, the silence has been deafening,” Kerry said in statement to Politico.

    “We are in a time when stories can have a second life,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism. A few years ago, if a story did not generate attention after a week, it could be considered dead, said Rosenstiel, who cited the instance of how bloggers revived the U.S. attorney firings story.
    Rosenstiel’s organization tracked the mainstream media for a week after the Times story and found that out of approximately 1,300 news stories, only two touched on the Pentagon analysts scoop — both airing on PBS’s “NewsHour.”
    — Michael Calderone & Avi Zenilman, politico.com/news, (5/8/08)

A second life, too, for the politicians, who are covering their asses.
What the hell they been doing the last two weeks when the story never appeared, night after night, on cable and network news?
Online the Times article was bounced around, on blogs especially, some even probing the legalities of the Pentagon’s operation.
One legal insight came in a story from the Center for Media and Democracy revealing how big Don Rumsfeld and his boys pulled together an illegal information system in which they would control how Decider George’s military adventures were viewed by US peoples via the television screen.
No regard for the law whatsoever.

  • The Pentagon military analysts program unveiled in last week’s expose by David Barstow in the New York Times was not just unethical but illegal. It violates, for starters, specific restrictions that Congress has been placing in its annual appropriation bills every year since 1951. According to those restrictions, “No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress.”
    As explained in a March 21, 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service, “publicity or propaganda” is defined by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to mean either (1) self-aggrandizement by public officials, (2) purely partisan activity, or (3) “covert propaganda.” By covert propaganda, GAO means information which originates from the government but is unattributed and made to appear as though it came from a third party.

    In the case of the current Pentagon pundit scandal, however, the Pentagon clearly was assisting in the preparation both of articles and statements by private sector supporters. It did not simply provide “informational materials” that had been “created in the normal course of business.” Rather, it sat down with the retired military analysts, worked closely with them on drafting talking points, and in some cases scripted language for them to write in written commentaries, and deployed them as message amplifiers and surrogates without disclosure.

    It doesn’t have to be this way. If the U.S. Congress had the will to take action, it could create real mechanisms for enforcing the law and ensuring compliance. This is important for reasons that go beyond the issue of whether anyone supports or opposes the current war in Iraq. So long as government agencies are allowed to continue getting away with covert domestic propaganda, the public is left unable to know whether the opinions of “independent” analysts are truly independent. During the Vietnam War, official Pentagon statements became so mistrusted that the term “credibility gap” was coined to describe the distance between official statements and public perceptions. The government’s use of “surrogates” posing as independent experts extends the credibility gap not just to public officials but also to seemingly independent, private citizens and the news media. Until accountability exists to prevent abuses like Pentagon analyst program from continuing with impunity, the public will have to assume that anyone who appears on camera espousing views sympathetic to the White House (or, for that matter, to other government agencies) has been secretly trained, recruited and given financial incentives to do so.
    — Diane Farsetta and Sheldon Rampton, prwatch.org, (4/28/08)

Maybe the open secret won’t be so secret anymore.

Don’t count on it, though.
So far, Decider George and his nefarious crowd of minons have managed to slip throughg the legal cracks, sometimes by resigning, like Harriet Miers, Josh Bolton, and good, ole, Uncle Karl Rove, still chicken-shitting away from answering Congressional subpoenas.

And while at least John Yoo, the Justice Department official involved in those torture memos, agreed finally on Tuesday to testify before the House Judiciary Committee (along with former AG John Ashcroft), the chances of pinning anything on Decider George and his shit-slippery boys slim to none.

What’s not an open secret, though, is the world hates the US president.

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