It's hard to keep up the scandals these days. I’m revisiting the Iraqi newspaper propaganda scandal for two reasons. The most immediate one is that another, more timely post directly relates to it. The more important issue is that we’ve yet to hear much more detail about the whole thing, despite Pentagon promises to investigate it (I find it hard to believe they didn’t know what went on).
Really, it’s sadly unsurprising that Iraqi newspapers were paid to run pro-American articles crafted by the U.S. military but supposedly written by independent journalists. Sigh. Given the illegal NSA wiretaps, the Pentagon’s illegal collection, retention, and sharing of domestic spying material, the FBI’s rampant use of national security letters and the CIA’s secret black op prisons, I’m not sure even the most ardent conspiracy theorist could keep up with all the very real abuses.
The Los Angeles Times first broke the story about the Iraqi newspapers in this article Mark Mazzetti and Borzou Daragahi. You can hear NPR's initial report here, complete with a nauseating conservative apologist who assures us propaganda is really no big deal.
The use of propaganda in Iraq is both stupid and ineffective. If you want to build credibility, the last thing you do is something like this… it's likely the truth will come out at some point, and then no one will believe you anymore.
It's hard to shake the feeling that for the Bush administration, Freedom of the Press ideally means playing uncritical stenographer for the latest talking points. After all, we've had Jeff Gannon/Guckart, a plant in the White House Briefing Room, Armstrong Williams, one of several columnists illegally paid to shill a dubious Bush policy, and an unrelenting array of staged photo ops and town halls... Not that we should forget to mention the Miller maneuver, in which the administration leaks specific misinformation to a prominent reporter, her paper prints it, and then the administration holds up the paper saying, 'See? It's not just us! The New York Times says so too!' ...with the deliberately misleading implication that the admittedly sloppy and credulous Times independently confirmed the information... (this did not happen just once, or only with Judy Miller, although Tom Tomorrow captures the process nicely here.)
Meanwhile, Scott McClellan has (at least) twice accused journalists, including veteran journalist Helen Thomas, of being terrorist sympathizers for not buying the party line he's selling.
And in the last few weeks, at least two conservative think tank members have admitted to accepting money from Jack Abramoff to write columns favorable to his clients...
By the way, if you missed the footage of troops being coached in their responses to Bush bak in October, The Daily Show has the funniest coverage of it here. The White House transcript can be read here. I also find it particularly telling that the soldier who specifically brings up 9/11 to Bush was not just a coached soldier, but an army PR flack. Gotta keep hammering home "9/11"!!! Bush will always invoke 9/11, the only question is how long it will take him. Sometimes it takes as long as seven minutes, while other times he does in under 30 seconds.)