Today’s NY Times story about the role military analysts have played in attempting to move public opinion about the war in Iraq is amazing, although certainly unsurprising. The Administration, back in 2006, laid out this game plan quite plainly:
Correspondents say that in recent months victory in the battle for public opinion has become a new front for the Bush administration.
In a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations, Mr Rumsfeld said some of the US’ most critical battles were now in the “newsrooms”.
“Our enemies have skilfully adapted to fighting wars in today’s media age, but… our country has not,” he said.
…The US must fight back by operating a more effective, 24-hour propaganda machine, or risk a “dangerous deficiency,” he said.
Government communications planning must be “a central component of every aspect of this struggle”, he added.
Of course, this article was talking about winning hearts and minds in the Muslim world. But this obviously applied domestically, as well.
The real story here, though, is the lack of scrutiny and vetting on the part of the news media:
Some network officials, meanwhile, acknowledged only a limited understanding of their analysts’ interactions with the administration. They said that while they were sensitive to potential conflicts of interest, they did not hold their analysts to the same ethical standards as their news employees regarding outside financial interests. The onus is on their analysts to disclose conflicts, they said.
It’s certainly no wonder that people have such little faith in the news media.