The IFC Media Project: Bill Kristol & Pentagon Propaganda

Two weeks ago during our big media panel discussion with Arianna Huffington, we watched portions of the second episode of The IFC Media Project -- about the war in Iraq.

Afterwards, Bill Kristol pooh-poohed our series because our piece on the Pentagon's propaganda tactics had featured retired General Barry McCaffrey.

Kristol argued that McCaffrey was a poor poster boy for the Pentagon's attempts to control the media's storyline about the war effort because McCaffrey was an independent voice, one not quick to kowtow to the Bush administration.

Our piece on the administration's propaganda efforts dissected the architecture behind both the military analyst program - detailed this past spring by David Barstow in the New York Times and the military's embedded media program.

Each was designed to control the media's view of the war and how the war was reported. By controlling the media, the administration sought to control public perception.

It would be easy to blame the administration for this kind of truth twisting, but that's not what our show is about and, frankly, it's not the government's job to report the news.

In this war effort, the US media has continually and almost unbelievably failed to ferret out our government's true intentions. By the Pentagon's own admission, the embedded media program was established to control US public opinion and ensure support for the war.

And as David Barstow revealed in April, the point of the military analyst program was to use these retired generals as "force multipliers," feeding them talking points and giving them unfettered access so they could relay the "true" face of war to the American people.

Bill Kristol's protestations at that media panel that Barry McCaffrey was somehow an independent voice in this field of propaganda were entertaining at the time, but this past Sunday, David Barstow dropped another bombshell article in the New York Times, this one all about - who else? - Barry McCaffrey.

Barstow wrote:

"His access is such that, despite a contentious relationship with former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Pentagon has arranged numerous trips to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots solely for his benefit.

At the same time, General McCaffrey has immersed himself in businesses that have grown with the fight against terrorism.

The consulting company he started after leaving the government in 2001, BR McCaffrey Associates, promises to "build linkages" between government officials and contractors like Defense Solutions for up to $10,000 a month. He has also earned at least $500,000 from his work for Veritas Capital, a private equity firm in New York that has grown into a defense industry powerhouse by buying contractors whose profits soared from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, he is the chairman of HNTB Federal Services, an engineering and construction management company that often competes for national security contracts.

Many retired officers hold a perch in the world of military contracting, but General McCaffrey is among a select few who also command platforms in the news media and as government advisers on military matters. These overlapping roles offer them an array of opportunities to advance policy goals as well as business objectives. But with their business ties left undisclosed, it can be difficult for policy makers and the public to fully understand their interests."

Either willfully or just ignorantly, our news media has fed us a steady diet of corrupted news, relying on experts they do not vet and information they often cannot substantiate.

The Pentagon's propaganda strategy worked so well only because so many of our news outlets failed to question where they were getting their information, and who was giving it.

Our show's mission is to call out the folks who got it wrong and to commend the journalists who do it right. Bill Kristol could learn a lot from Barstow's excellent article about General McCaffrey. Ideology is no excuse for the Pentagon's bad behavior and it's an even worse excuse for a spirit of journalism that routinely fails to tell the whole story.

But the propaganda show was last week's episode. This week on The IFC Media Project we conduct a scientific experiment to see how screaming pundits affect your brain and we explore the art of distraction in a 24-hour news cycle gone mad.