Maybe we’ll eventually get to the bottom of just what the Pentagon was up to when it cultivated the TV networks’ supposedly independent military analysts as part of a massive PR push to support Bush Administration policy in Iraq. Well, it’s pretty obvious what it was up to. But maybe we can better learn the full scope of the domestic PR effort undertaken.
The New York Times‘ April expose on the massaging of public opinion through “message force multipliers” (a term only the Pentagon could come up with) has now prompted at least two investigations. The program was suspended following the initial NYT report.
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.”
The investigations come after the House last Thursday passed an amendment to this year’s military authorization bill mandating investigations by the DOD IG and the GAO. Democrats argued that the program amounted to illegal domestic propaganda. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) called the program part of “a military-industrial-media complex” (with apologies to Eisenhower).
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.”