December 2, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Trying to avoid “bias” by turning a blind eye to the realities of political and economic power?
Back on 4/5/08, if you remember, it was reported by the NY Times that since 2002 at least 75 retired generals were receiving briefings secretly by the Pentagon while proceeding to continually offer the public “expert” military analysis on numerous news forums. But did you catch the latest NY Times piece on 11/29/08 by David Barstow? Remarkably, one of those retired-generals, Barry McCaffrey, who happens to be a four-star general, continues to serve as an NBC military analyst even as he rakes in profits from military contractors. Ah yes, you also remember that NBC is owned by General Electric Co. – itself a leading military contractor. Well you should also know that McCaffrey, according to Barstow, who began making appearances on several programs as early as the weeks after 9/11, has not only “with few exceptions…consistently advocated wartime policies and spending priorities that are in line with his corporate interests” but has also "immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism," and, "long been a force in Washington’s power elite.”
By the way the photo above? That's the General on the left with NBC "analyst" Wayne Downing in 2006 after speaking with President Bush. McCaffrey has also reportedly met "Congressional leaders from both parties" for "war consultations." Rest assured that McCaffrey has also had "a contentious relationship" with Donald Rumsfeld.
But then the bomb is dropped:
“Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.”
I’m convinced that these crusty military hard-ons are just waiting to declare martial law to suspend civil liberties and take over the state. But before any of that happens, the story illustrates how power elites move within the high circles of politics, economics, and media, and collude by chewing each other's soundbytes. The story also demonstrates how denying the big elephant in the room ends up staging for the public the legitimation of false or misleading "analysis" and “debate.” (Maybe Charlie Rose isn't an idiot after all?) The sheer presence of power not only constrains open honest discussions about going to war but sets policy options and political possibilities as well. Sure professional analysis may surely look scientific, neutral, and antiseptic, as well as practical and cautiously wise; for others, however, it all too often is an accomplice to established orders and “business-as-usual.” Indeed political debate can easily revolve around disagreements as to the nature of how problems are defined and “put on the agenda,” as well as over simple conflicts of priorities and “interests.
Check out Media Nation and FAIR for some more on General McCaffrey.
But was this the way things had to turn out? Circulating elites. Revolting elites. Empire wants passive but patriotic subjects.

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