Archive for April, 2008

Control

He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future.
– George Orwell

I think that quote is so appropriate for what is happening in our country right now and is for a large part of what my work in general is about. The present and the past is a story told by whoever has the power to control the telling.

To understand how this is being done in broad daylight read “Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand” by David Barstow published in the New York Times on April 20, 2008. The article outlines how Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon, and the Bush Administration manipulated the telling of facts about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the progress of the war in Iraq by using retired military personnel, many of whom were on the boards of military contractors, as puppets to spout their carefully scripted rhetoric in the name of objective journalism.

Here are some highlights:

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.

By early 2002, detailed planning for a possible Iraq invasion was under way, yet an obstacle loomed. Many Americans, polls showed, were uneasy about invading a country with no clear connection to the Sept. 11 attacks. Pentagon and White House officials believed the military analysts could play a crucial role in helping overcome this resistance.

The analysts, they noticed, often got more airtime than network reporters, and they were not merely explaining the capabilities of Apache helicopters. They were framing how viewers ought to interpret events.

The group was heavily represented by men involved in the business of helping companies win military contracts. Several held senior positions with contractors that gave them direct responsibility for winning new Pentagon business.

In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive “war of liberation.”

At the Pentagon, … staff marveled at the way the analysts seamlessly incorporated material from talking points and briefings as if it was their own.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”

 

 

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Liberty

ben

Eye Opening

It is funny the things around us that we don’t notice in the rush of everyday life. Awhile ago I came across this article, “United We Stand: Fresh Hoagies Daily” by Carrie Rentschler, Carol Stabile and Jonathan Sterne on the web site “Bad Subjects.” All I can say is I wish I had noticed this and photographed it. The article starts:

Driving around Pittsburgh the week after September 11th, we couldn’t help but notice that something had changed in the roadside landscape: the signs. Where roadside marquees once announced the arrival of new managers at tire shops and $.99 “values” at fast food restaurants, they now combine those messages with short, patriotic expressions — mostly cliches or variations on cliches. The sign from which this essay takes its name is a great example: a convenience store advertises its own brand of fast food, with its own brand of patriotism. These signs can be found all over the Pittsburgh landscape. The pictures that accompany this essay were taken in late October on a strip of highway leading from Butler, PA into Pittsburgh, and within the city itself. Roadside marquees can only say a little to passers-by, but as a pervasive cultural phenomenon, they can be read more deeply.