20 April 2008

Sticks, Stones and Glass Houses

The paper that brought you Jayson Blair and Judith Miller has a front-page story (with multi-media) portraying retired military officers you see on cable news outlets as dupes, puppets and co-conspirators of the Pentagon. At least during the 2006 "Generals Revolt."

After reading the story, I was at a loss why it got 7,000+ words and front-page real estate. Essentially, it said the NYT sued the Pentagon for "8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records" and found that nobody did anything wrong! Which is pretty amazing, actually.

I went looking for insightful commentary and found Bateman writes (and I agree) that:

Seriously, somebody at the NYT headquarters needs to consider instituting a random drug testing program over there because the intellectual loops one has to tie oneself into to come to their thesis are worthy of Jayson Blair’s style of “reporting.”
OK, that's not really the insightful part. I do recommend reading his post because it is very good. He also links to Allard's 2006 Warheads: Cable News And the Fog of War.

Andy Cline writes that the NYT piece is really about the "massive craft failure in American journalism."
By putting the onus on the analysts, the oxymoronic institution of television news has simply declared: Journalism is not practiced here.
Uhhh, because the newspapers do a better job of vetting their "experts" and providing full disclosure?

You can also go back and read what the NYT told us in 2006:
The Defense Department has issued a memorandum to a group of former military commanders and civilian analysts that offers a direct challenge to the criticisms made by retired generals about Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The one-page memorandum was sent by e-mail on Friday to the group, which includes several retired generals who appear regularly on television, and came as the Bush administration stepped up its own defense of Mr. Rumsfeld. On the political front, Republican strategists voiced rising anxiety on Saturday that without a major change in the course of the Iraq war, Republican candidates would suffer dearly in the November elections.
Shocking, I know. In 2003, the NYT had this to say about the retired military talking-heads:
Some receive occasional briefings from the Pentagon, but like most reporters, they stay current by checking with their friends in the military and studying all the public information they can gather.

On the other hand, their evident sympathies with the current commanders, not to mention their respect for the military and immersion in its doctrines, sometimes seem to immunize them to the self-imposed skepticism of the news organizations that now employ them.

Rarely, unless pressed, do the generals bluntly criticize the conduct of the war, a detailed review of their recent remarks discloses. Instead, they tend gravely to point out the timeless risks of combat.
You can decide for yourself how much weight you give the opinions of former military "experts" on the TV and in the newspapers. You can also figure out which ones are pro-Administration or anti-Administration. Pro-war or anti-war. Pro-$ or ... uhh, they're all pro-$! Who's not pro-$?

Well, they didn't join the military to get rich, right?

UPDATE:
Military Analysts
These documents were released to the New York Times regarding the Pentagon's Military Analyst program.
The NYT's Selective, Misleading Pentagon Story

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