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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/21/08

From embedded journalists to embedded media Generals

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"The news and truth are not the same thing." Walter Lippmann, (1889-1974)

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Two months after the revelation that the Pentagon used retired military officers to sell Iraq war, corporate media continues its criminal silence over the issue. The New York Times revealed last April that in summer 2005, confronted with a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay, the Bush administration prepped some 75 retired military officers to serve as paid television commentators. The Bush administration has used the retired military officers, many of whom had conflicting ties to defense contractors, as media Trojan to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks, the New York Times pointed out.

Disclosure of the program triggered a furor among the public and in Congress where Rep. Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat and 40 others members of Congress, sent a letter to the Inspector General (IG) to investigate how high-ranking officials within the Defense Department were allowed to operate a program 'aimed at deceiving the American people'.

Tellingly, the news chiefs and on-air hosts at CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, and CBS, had little reaction to the revelations concerning the "Embedded Media Generals." Why, because the corporate media is a fully-integrated part of the state power-structure.

Today, just six corporations have a forceful grip on America's mass media. When "The Media Monopoly" first appeared on bookshelves in 1983, author Ben Bagdikian explained, "50 corporations dominated most of every mass medium." With each new edition, that number kept dropping -- to 29 media firms in 1987, 23 in 1990, 14 in 1992, and 10 in 1997. Published in 2004, the sixth edition of "The Media Monopoly" documents that just a half-dozen corporations - Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, Viacom (formerly CBS) and General Electric's NBC - now control most of the media industry in the U.S.   

To borrow Peter Phillips of the Project Censored,  " ... the media in the United States effectively represents the interests of corporate America, and ... the media elite are the watchdogs of what constitutes acceptable ideological messages, the parameters of news and information content, and the general use of media resources."

The control of the opinion-molding media is nearly monolithic. All of the controlled media - television, radio, newspapers, magazines, books, motion pictures speak with a single voice, each reinforcing the other. Despite the appearance of variety, there is no real dissent, no alternative source of facts or ideas accessible to the great mass of people which might allow them to form opinions at odds with those of the media masters.

They are presented with a single view of the world ..... It is a view of the world designed by the media masters to suit their own ends - and the pressure to conform to that view is overwhelming. People adapt their opinions to it, vote in accord with it, and shape their lives to fit it.

The responsibility of the media is to report the truth. The idea of free speech is that an ordinary citizen should be able to freely and fully can express his or her views. But major media today are tending to favor news stories on sex scandals, celebrity events, and crime, leaving less or little room for analytical news on important social issues.

In the words of Noam Chomsky, like other corporations, media corporations sell a product to a market.

"The market is advertisers - that is, other businesses. The product is audiences, [and] for the elite media, [they're] relatively privileged audiences. So we have major corporations selling fairly wealthy and privileged audiences to other businesses. Not surprisingly, the picture of the world presented reflects the narrow and biased interests and values of the sellers, the buyers and the product."

Many cultural critics, such as Ben Bagdikian, Michael Parenti and Noam Chomsky have pointed out that in order for American adventures abroad, it needs to "manufacture" the consent of the American people. To quote Noam Chomsky again: It is ... necessary to whip up the population in support of foreign adventures. Usually the population is pacifist, just like they were during the First World War. The public sees no reason to get involved in foreign adventures, killing, and torture. So you have to whip them up."

The hiring of about 75 former military officers was no more than a state-sponsored propaganda effort to sell Iraq war. The Embedded Media Generals, who acted as military analysts for major news outlets were given V.I.P. access to the Pentagon, with regular briefings by the then Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a sponsored trip to the Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.

Hence this revelation of Majorie Cohn, president of the National Lawyers Guild is not surprising: "During the run-up to the war on Iraq, the Pentagon gave its 'analysts' talking points: Iraq has chemical and biological weapons; Iraq is developing nukes; Iraq could give its WMD to Al Qaeda; and an invasion would be quick and cheap. This disinformation campaign was designed to condition Congress and the American people to accept Bush's illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq."

Probably, the Embedded Media Generals were used to put in practice the thesis of Edward L. Bernays, the originator of modern public relations, who wrote a book in the 1930s, titled: "The Engineering of Consent." His thesis was that ideas and attitudes can be shaped by messages communicated time and time and time again - enhanced by the so-called "third party endorsement" - such as that conveniently provided by retired generals and colonels.

The embedded media Generals followed the Embedded Journalists who helped the military to manage access to the battle field in Iraq war and spoon fed the so-called independent media, the stories that it needed the American public to watch. As many as 775 reporters and photographers were traveling as embedded journalists. 

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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