Militarized Media: A Steady Diet of War Hawks, Spies and Liars
March 29, 2018
Jeff Cohen / TruthDig & Norman Solomon / TruthDig
When the "War on Terror" was launched in 2001, mainstream media started a parade -- a narrow parade of hawkish retired military and intelligence brass promoting war as the response to the crime of 9/11, predicting success and identifying foreign enemies to attack. It's now the 15th anniversary of the tragic invasion of Iraq. Just as they did in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, MSNBC and CNN now serve up a steady parade of war-hawks, spies and liars, presenting them as credible and almost heroic.
A Steady Diet of War Hawks, Spies and Liars
Jeff Cohen / TruthDig
(March 26, 2018) -- When the "War on Terror" was launched in 2001, mainstream media -- especially cable TV news -- started a parade. It was a narrow parade of hawkish retired military and intelligence brass promoting war as the response to the crime of 9/11, predicting success and identifying foreign enemies to attack.
We can look back at this parade and laugh at the total nonsense dispensed. But the more human response is to cry -- over the toll, still mounting, of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond, and violent instability across the region, including countries that were relatively stable and prosperous on Sept. 10, 2001. (Not to mention militarization and loss of civil liberties at home.)
I witnessed the parade of disinformation from inside cable news, where I worked as an on-air contributor at Fox News and MSNBC at the beginning of the War on Terror. In fact, this parade eventually knocked me off the air -- and out of my job at MSNBC, three weeks before the US invasion of Iraq.
It's now the 15th anniversary of the tragic invasion of Iraq. The huge mainstream media failure in the run-up to the invasion is taught in college journalism courses, including mine.
Who can forget CNN's Chief News Executive boasting that, before the Iraq invasion, he'd sought prior approval and received "a big thumbs up" from the Pentagon on the ex-generals that CNN featured as allegedly independent analysts?
Who can forget David Barstow's 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning expose for The New York Times-- based on 8,000 pages of internal Pentagon emails and transcripts -- showing that network TV's hawkish retired generals were not only being paid by big military contractors, but were being spoon-fed talking points and spin by the Pentagon month after month as they paraded on TV?
Who can forget that NBC/MSNBC's top military analyst, ex-Gen. Barry McCaffrey, relentlessly pushed for war based on falsehoods ("thousands of gallons of mustard agents, sarin, nerve agent VX still in Iraq"), offered continuously ridiculous punditry (like praising Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's advance-planning of the Iraq occupation), and famously crowed on MSNBC, "Thank God for the Abrams tank and the Bradley fighting vehicle" -- without mentioning his role at military contractor IDT that made millions for doing God's work on the Abrams and Bradley?
Who can forget all these things?
I turned on the "progressive" news channel a few nights ago to see Chris Hayes politely interviewing Gen. McCaffrey. Did Hayes -- during the week marking the 15th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq -- press McCaffrey on his role in that disaster? Perhaps demand an explanation or an apology? No. The topic was Trump's weird attraction to Putin. That's a worthy topic. But Barry McCaffrey as expert and arbiter! Still?
Just as they did in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, MSNBC and CNN now serve up a steady parade of war-hawks, spies and liars, presenting them as credible and almost heroic as long as they criticize the despicable man in the White House.
I'd turned to MSNBC that night after disgustedly turning off Anderson Cooper softly interviewing a CNN contributor who seems to appear every hour: ex-National Intelligence Director James Clapper. You remember Clapper? Five years ago this month, Clapper famously perjured himselfbefore the US Senate by denying NSA bulk surveillance. His perjury is not a topic that CNN asks Clapper about -- while he discusses the lack of ethics and honesty in Team Trump.
When it comes to Trump critics, CNN and MSNBC regularly serve up a basket of elite deplorables from the military/intelligence establishment -- for example, the appalling ex-CIA Director John Brennan and horrific former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin. The hollowness of their Trump critique on "liberal cable news" was on display last week when both men endorsed Trump's choice for CIA chief, torture-overseer Gina Haspel.
I'm worried about anti-Trump activists, even some quite progressive, who've come to see corporate news channels like CNN and MSNBC as their saviors. It's a dangerous illusion.
A few points to consider:
Not all foes of Trump are allies of progressives -- especially the hawks, spooks and perjurers who parade across CNN and MSNBC every night.
Progressives should be wary of the growing alliance between Clintonite/MSNBC-style liberals and neo-con militarists forever in search of the next enemy -- an alliance that began before the Trump campaign and will likely continue after Trump is deposed (hopefully soon).
Trump is doing enormous damage to our country and the world -- but you won't see most of it on MSNBC or any mainstream outlet that covers the Trump White House as a TV soap opera.
When you hear nightly on CNN and MSNBC about Putin's "attack on our democracy," let's not forget that -- whatever impact Russia had on the 2016 election (evidence so far suggests it was small) -- "our democracy" has been under attack for decades by internal enemies: big money control of both major parties, corporate media dominance, Democratic subservience to Wall Street, Republican suppression of voters of color and youth, an archaic election system protected by both parties, etc.
Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. He co-founded the online activism group RootsAction.org in 2011 and founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986.
Is MSNBC Now the Most Dangerous Warmonger Network?
Norman Solomon / TruthDig
(March 1, 2018) -- The evidence is damning. And the silence underscores the arrogance.
More than seven weeks after a devastating report from the media watch group FAIR, top executives and prime-time anchors at MSNBC still refuse to discuss how the network's obsession with Russia has thrown minimal journalistic standards out the window.
FAIR's study, "MSNBC Ignores Catastrophic US-Backed War in Yemen," documented a picture of extreme journalistic malfeasance at MSNBC:
* "An analysis by FAIR has found that the leading liberal cable network did not run a single segment devoted specifically to Yemen in the second half of 2017. And in these latter roughly six months of the year, MSNBC ran nearly 5,000 percent more segments that mentioned Russia than segments that mentioned Yemen."
* "Moreover, in all of 2017, MSNBC only aired one broadcast on the US-backed Saudi airstrikes that have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. And it never mentioned the impoverished nation's colossal cholera epidemic, which infected more than 1 million Yemenis in the largest outbreak in recorded history."
* "All of this is despite the fact that the US government has played a leading role in the 33-month war that has devastated Yemen, selling many billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia, refueling Saudi warplanes as they relentlessly bomb civilian areas and providing intelligence and military assistance to the Saudi air force."
Meanwhile, MSNBC's incessant "Russiagate" coverage has put the network at the media forefront of overheated hyperbole about the Kremlin. And continually piling up the dry tinder of hostility toward Russia boosts the odds of a cataclysmic blowup between the world's two nuclear superpowers.
In effect, the programming on MSNBC follows a thin blue party line, breathlessly conforming to Democratic leaders' refrains about Russia as a mortal threat to American democracy and freedom across the globe. But hey -- MSNBC's ratings have climbed upward during its monochrome reporting, so why worry about whether coverage is neglecting dozens of other crucial stories? Or why worry if the anti-Russia drumbeat is worsening the risks of a global conflagration?
FAIR's report, written by journalist Ben Norton and published on Jan. 8, certainly merited a serious response from MSNBC and the anchors most identified by the study, Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes. Yet no response has come from them or network executives. (Full disclosure: I'm a longtime associate of FAIR.)
In the aftermath of the FAIR study, a petition gathered 22,784 signers and 4,474 individual comments -- asking MSNBC to remedy its extreme imbalance of news coverage. But the network and its prime-time luminaries Maddow and Hayes refused to respond despite repeated requests for a reply.
The petition was submitted in late January to Maddow and Hayes via their producers, as well as to MSNBC senior vice president Errol Cockfield and to the network's senior manager in charge of media relations for "The Rachel Maddow Show" and "All In with Chris Hayes."
Signers responded to outreach from three organizations -- Just Foreign Policy, RootsAction.org (which I coordinate), and World Beyond War -- calling for concerned individuals to "urge Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, and MSNBC to correct their failure to report on the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and the direct US military role in causing the catastrophe by signing our petition." (The petition is still gathering signers.)
As the cable news network most trusted by Democrats as a liberal beacon, MSNBC plays a special role in fueling rage among progressive-minded viewers toward Russia's "attack on our democracy" that is somehow deemed more sinister and newsworthy than corporate dominance of American politicians (including Democrats), racist voter suppression, gerrymandering and many other US electoral defects all put together.
At the same time, the anti-Russia mania also services the engines of the current militaristic machinery.
It's what happens when nationalism and partisan zeal overcome something that could be called journalism.
"The US media's approach to Russia is now virtually 100 percent propaganda," the independent journalist Robert Parry wrote at the end of 2017, in the last article published before his death. "Does any sentient human being read the New York Times' or the Washington Post's coverage of Russia and think that he or she is getting a neutral or unbiased treatment of the facts?"
Parry added that "to even suggest that there is another side to the story makes you a 'Putin apologist' or 'Kremlin stooge.' Western journalists now apparently see it as their patriotic duty to hide key facts that otherwise would undermine the demonizing of Putin and Russia.
Ironically, many 'liberals' who cut their teeth on skepticism about the Cold War and the bogus justifications for the Vietnam War now insist that we must all accept whatever the US intelligence community feeds us, even if we're told to accept the assertions on faith."
Across a US media landscape where depicting Russia as a fully villainous enemy is now routine, MSNBC is a standout. The most profound dangers from what Rachel Maddow and company are doing is what they least want to talk about -- how the cumulative effects and momentum of their work are increasing the likelihood that tensions between Washington and Moscow will escalate into a horrendous military conflict.
Even at the height of the Cold War during the 1960s, when Soviet Communists ruled Russians with zero freedom of speech or press, most US political and media elites recognized the vital need for détente. They applauded the "Spirit of Glassboro" when the top leadership of the United States and Russia met at length. Now, across most of the US media spectrum, no such overtures to the Kremlin are to be tolerated.
The US government's recently released "Nuclear Posture Review" underscores just how unhinged the situation has become.
Consider the assessment from the head of a first-rate research organization in the nuclear weapons field, the Los Alamos Study Group. Its executive director, Greg Mello, said: "What is most 'missing in action' in this document is civilian leadership.
Trump is not supplying that. In part the fault for this comes from Democrats -- who, allied with the intelligence community and other military-industrial interests, insist that the US must have an adversarial relationship with Russia. There is no organized senior-level opposition to the new Cold War, which is intensifying week by week. This document reflects, and is just one of many policies embodying, the new and very dangerous Cold War."
But -- with everyone's survival at stake -- none of that seems to matter much to those who call the shots at MSNBC.
Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org.
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