On the ‘Journalistic Bankruptcy of War Commentary’

The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch has propaganda watchdog Diane Farsetta asking (12/5/08) “when will the cable and network television stations that featured the Pentagon’s pundits tell viewers that their war commentary was anything but independent?” Her “prime example” is NBC analyst former general Barry McCaffrey, who shilled Bradley Fighting Vehicles to the Pentagon and news audiences without revealing he was paid by the combat vehicle’s supplier.

It’s regrettable, but perhaps not surprising, that a military man wouldn’t appreciate the need to disclose such conflicts of interest in his media appearances. McCaffrey’s response… does not address the issue of disclosure….

However, the reporters at NBC News also failed to understand the importance of disclosure. NBC News president Steve Capus claimed that while McCaffrey is not held to the network’s conflict-of-interest rules because of his status as a consultant, he is an “independent voice” whose business interests simply don’t impact his commentary. According to emails obtained by Glenn Greenwald, NBC coordinated its response to Barstow’s article with McCaffrey. Worse, NBC has yet to report on the Pentagon pundit scandal.

What “further shows the journalistic bankruptcy of war commentary,” according to Farsetta, is the fact that “In the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, McCaffrey had ‘significant doubts’ about the size of the U.S. invasion force and the lack of post-invasion planning. Yet, in his appearances on NBC and its cable affiliates, McCaffrey was a cheerleader for the imminent war.” Farsetta tells us that even “days before the invasion, McCaffrey told Tom Brokaw that he had no ‘real serious’ concerns about invading Iraq.”

See FAIR’s publication Extra! Update: “Network News Blackout on Pentagon Pundits” (6/08) By Isabel Macdonald