Top Journalists Warn That Trump Is A ‘Clear And Present Danger’ To The First Amendment

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been rife with insults and attacks. His targets have included women, minorities, veterans, and anyone who dared to criticize him. However, no object of his scorn has been been more aggressively attacked than the media. Trump calls them dummies, losers, scum, and sleazy, and “jokes” about killing them. He revokes the press credentials of people or organizations he doesn’t like, including the Washington Post, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, Fusion, Univision, and more. For a couple of hours he even boycotted Fox News.

Donald Trump

The overt hostility that Trump displays for the Fourth Estate is unprecedented for someone seeking the presidency. And his tendencies toward authoritarian suppression of free speech hasn’t escaped the press he so fervently despises. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now recently interviewed two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists on this subject (video below). Their anxieties at the thought of a President Trump are worthy of the attention of all Americans.

David Barstow of The New York Times, and David Cay Johnston of The Daily Beast, and author of the book “The Making of Donald Trump,” had much to say about Trump’s aversion to freedom of the press. Here are a few excerpts:

Barstow: The letter that [Trump’s lawyers] sent to us before we published took the position that unless we had the specific blessing and permission of Donald Trump to write a story about his tax returns, we would be in violation of the law.

That, of course, is false. A journalist doesn’t require the permission (much less the blessing) of a public figure to publish a story.

Johnston: [Trump] called me at home on April 27th to threaten to sue me. Some of the freelance articles that I have written were lawyered way beyond all reason, out of fear. And I’ve had two news organizations say, “We can’t report that, because we’re afraid that Donald Trump will sue us.”

This is an example of the sort of intimidation that often causes editors to self-censor their reporting.

Johnston: If he gets elected, he will have the power of federal law enforcement. I’m not worried if he threatens to sue me, as he has, if he loses. But if he wins, he could put you and I and [New York Times editor] Dean Baquet on no-fly lists. And the courts have been very reluctant to let people off those, if the government claims national security. He can do all sorts of things to mess up your life. And he’s made it clear he will do this. He talks as if the president is a dictator with unlimited power, who doesn’t need to pay attention to Congress or to the courts. […] That’s what these threats of litigation should really concern the voters about.

Trump and his legal henchmen have already made the sort of threats described above. In one particularly chilling incident his lawyer, Michael Cohen, warned a reporter not to publish a story on Trump or he was “going to mess your life up.” Continuing the tirade he ranted “I’m warning you. Tread very f*cking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be f*cking disgusting. You understand me?”

Barstow: I think that anyone who cares about an independent free press should be paying closer attention to these kinds of threats, simply because they’re not normal.

Ya think? And these final two statements summarize the gravity of the threat that Trump poses, as envisioned by two esteemed and courageous reporters:

Barstow: I think that Mr. Trump, especially given the positions he’s staked out over the course of this campaign and his whole lifetime, would represent a really significant threat to the tradition of an independent free press in the United States.

Johnston: I think Donald Trump represents a clear and present danger to the liberties of the people, to the idea of the First Amendment. By his own words, he’s made it very clear, if he were president, he would do everything he could to suppress any speech that he doesn’t agree with or he sees as damaging to what he’s doing.

Trump has already had a noticeable effect on the public’s opinion of the media. A recent poll by Gallup shows that trust in the media has sunk to historic lows. According to Gallup this was largely driven by “Trump’s sharp criticisms of the press.” This despite the fact that Trump has had uncommonly positive coverage throughout the campaign. A study from Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center on Media provided the confirming data.

Nevertheless, Trump responds to coverage that is less than adoring by reverting to the tactics of a wannabe dictator. He even promised that, as president, he would “open up our libel laws” governing the media so that he “can sue them and win lots of money.”

Now that may not be the sort of project on which a president ought to be spending his precious time. However, it’s precisely what one would expect from Donald Trump. It combines his compulsion for vengeance against his perceived enemies with an opportunity to further enrich himself. It’s a win/win for Trump, but a lose/lose for America.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

UPDATE: The Committee to Protect Journalists issued an “unprecedented” statement declaring Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump “a threat to press freedom unknown in modern history.”

Fox News Propagandist Caught And Arrested, Charged With Fraud

Wayne Simmons has been a frequent guest on Fox News for many years, providing what they said was expert analysis of intelligence and military issues from an experienced professional. Fox often relied on his commentary to inform their audience about serious national security issues as they arose in the news. But as it turns out, Simmons had lied on his resume to the federal government when seeking employment and contracts, and now he is under indictment for “major fraud against the United States, wire fraud, and making false statements to the government.”

Fox News

The FBI arrested Simmons and released a statement alleging his unlawful conduct, including misrepresenting his experience in the CIA and other intelligence services. From the FBI statement:

“According to the indictment, Simmons falsely claimed he worked as an “Outside Paramilitary Special Operations Officer” for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1973 to 2000, and used that false claim in an attempt to obtain government security clearances and work as a defense contractor, including at one point successfully getting deployed overseas as an intelligence advisor to senior military personnel. According to the indictment, Simmons also falsely claimed on national security forms that his prior arrests and criminal convictions were directly related to his supposed intelligence work for the CIA, and that he had previously held a top secret security clearance. The indictment also alleges that Simmons defrauded an individual victim out of approximately $125,000 in connection with a bogus real estate investment.”

Simmons’ appearances on Fox News were fairly routine bits of rightist propaganda, exactly the sort of thing you would expect to see on Fox. In one of his most recent bookings he was on “Your World with Neil Cavuto” where they had this paranoid exchange:

Simmons: We’ve got at least nineteen paramilitary Muslim training facilities in the United States. Are you kidding me? What are they gonna do, go hunt deer during deer season? No! They’re using paramilitary exercises to plan and execute these type of operations all over the United States. And when it happens it’ll just be you and I saying “I told you so.”
Cavuto: Well, I hope you’re wrong my friend, but you’ve been uncannily prescient on a lot of this stuff.

Simmons went on to assert that…

“We are in a global war against an Islamic jihad. Until they get rid of these ‘no-go zones,’ you go out and put razor wire around them, turn off the water, and catalog them as they come out.”

Simmons probably loved the WWII Japanese interment camps, too. Of course, there weren’t any “no-go zones” in the U.S., but his remarks were delivered shortly after another Fox News “expert,” Ryan Mauro, had made similar false assertions about no-go zones on Bill O’Reilly’s show. Simmons even mentioned Mauro’s claims in his discussion with Cavuto. Those same claims were later cited by a domestic terrorist who was arrested for plotting an attack against a community of peaceful Muslim-Americans in upstate New York.

And while we’re on the subject of no-go zones, yet another Fox “expert,” Steve Emerson, charged that they were rampant in Paris. For that the network was forced to retract the claim and apologize. And all of it was hilariously skewered by a French TV program. However, they never retracted or apologized for the claims that nearly got a Muslim-American community massacred.

Other noteworthy appearances on Fox News saw Simmons referring to Obama’s election as “the coronation of the boy king;” claiming that the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 had to be a sophisticated state sponsored attack; calling the Obama administration the worst administration this county will ever have known; saying that the best thing that could happen for this administration and State Department is that we are attacked because it takes all of the decision making away from Obama.

Really? The “best” thing that could happen is for us to be attacked? Sadly, that’s not the only time a Fox News guest suggested that. But perhaps the most ironic appearance Simmons made was on the November 15, 2007, episode of The Big Story with John Gibson and Heather Nauert. The segment was about a CIA/FBI agent that had just been found guilty of fraud and deception. Simmons said that …

“This has exposed the raw nerve, if you will, of a flaw in the background check, and without a background check, without knowing who we’re hiring, and who we are employing to protect our nation, we are in big, big trouble.”

No kidding, Sherlock! How Simmons could have the gall to comment on that matter knowing what he knew about himself is mind-boggling. It is the behavior of a sociopath. Keith Olbermann called it right when he made Simmons the Worst Person in the World.” way back in 2006 for using a hoax to justify government spying on American citizens.

What’s frightening about the revelation that Fox News was relying on an impostor to provide analysis of national security is that the phony analysis he provided may have been exactly what Fox News intended. That’s because Simmons was identified as a participant in the Pentagon Military Analyst Program – an initiative developed during the Bush administration to dispatch retired officers, and other alleged experts, to the media in order to push their agendas in Iraq and elsewhere. The program was revealed in a Pulitzer prize-winning article by David Barstow for the New York Times. Barstow wrote that…

“To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.”

“Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.”

“The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

So Simmons was a covert asset in the Bush campaign to spread war propaganda. And he remained a Fox News regular long after Bush was gone. Now he’s been arrested as a fraud. In that regard he isn’t much different than anyone else at Fox News. Virtually their entire roster is engaged in the same partisan deception on behalf of an extremist right-wing agenda. They all tell the same lies and they all work hard to disinform the American people.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Now that one of their veteran liars has been caught, Fox News has not bothered to report on it at all. Which is not surprising. They surely don’t want people to know that one of their favorite commentators has been feeding them BS for years. Because once they do that, the rest of the dominoes will fall.

[Update:] Fox’s Bret Baier addressed the Simmons arrest on Special Report. In a thirty second segment he said…

“Government contractor and occasional Fox News guest Wayne Simmons has been charged with lying about his supposed career with the C.I.A. Prosecutors say Simmons broke the law by lying about his credentials on applications for consulting work. Simmons made appearances on Fox as a national security and terrorism expert. However, he was never employed by the channel and was never paid by Fox.”

Whether or not Simmons was on Fox’s payroll is irrelevant. He was a regular source of tainted information on serious subjects for which he pretended to be qualified. The glaring omission in Baier’s comment was that he did not apologize to viewers for repeatedly presenting a fraud on the air, nor did he officially retract anything that Simmons said. Baier seems to think the lack of a paycheck is absolution for engaging in disinformation. And it begs the question: If Fox wasn’t paying him, who was?

When Will The Media Fight Back?

Almost two years ago the New York Times published an article that revealed how intermingled the media had become with Pentagon efforts to advance the pro-war agenda of the Bush administration. The author, David Barstow, identified the networks and their “analysts,” many of whom were also lobbyists for defense contractors. Most of the television press went to great lengths to keep this story under wraps. The article later won a Pulitzer prize and still the electronic media ignored it.

Now the Nation has published an article that expands on this theme. They have documented numerous incidents of corporate lobbyists appearing on TV as analysts without divulging their corporate affiliations:

“Since 2007 at least seventy-five registered lobbyists, public relations representatives and corporate officials–people paid by companies and trade groups to manage their public image and promote their financial and political interests–have appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CNBC and Fox Business Network with no disclosure of the corporate interests that had paid them.”

In such an environment it becomes difficult to trust that we are getting honest, impartial assessments of the issues that are covered by these networks. But it isn’t just about issues. Politics in the press is just as badly tainted by contributors who have blatant self-interests that they are pursuing. In today’s New York Times they finally noticed that Fox News has become a private broadcast facility for Republican politicos. In a bit of unintended comedy the article’s author, Brian Stelter, observes that there is an obvious benefit for Fox News candidates like Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. Then adds…

“The benefit to the viewers is less clear. Some experts say the arrangements can cloud the objectivity of the news organizations.”

The main problem with that appraisal is that it presumes that the objectivity of news organizations like Fox is not already hopelessly clouded. Fox’s roster of “contributors” is infested with Republican uber-partisans like Karl Rove, Dana Perino, Dick Morris, Laura Ingraham, etc. And that doesn’t even include the presidential hopefuls that Stelter had referenced. At least he has come to recognize what I wrote about over a month ago when Fox hired Sarah Palin:

“Palin is joining fellow Republican 2012 presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum on the Fox roster. When Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty sign up we can declare Fox the official farm team for the GOP.”

Every day, in every way, Fox News becomes more and more an arm of the Republican Party. And with every step farther into that abyss they become less and less discreet about their bias. Their top news executives admit publicly that they consider themselves the “voice of the opposition.” They overtly promote Republican candidates and events. They have practically ceased to make any effort to hide that they are primarily functioning as a PR agency for the the GOP.

The question I have is, why hasn’t the rest of the media accepted this reality and adjusted their relationship with Fox? Fox ought not to be treated as a peer when it is, in fact, a player. It should not be off limits to point it out when Fox acts as a cheer leader for the right. The media should have the integrity and the guts to stand up when Fox displays its overt hostility for Democrats and progressives with whom they disagree. The media should not be afraid of calling out Fox’s unethical practices. Fox doesn’t have any problem attacking the rest of the press. They do it frequently, and with deliberate malice.

The victims of Fox’s assaults must defend themselves and their profession. By cowering in the shadow of Fox they will only harm their own interests. Their ratings will suffer and their audience will resent them. And the once noble vocation of journalism will get ever weaker. When will the honorable elements remaining in the media fight back?

Emmy News: Nominations – PBS 41 / Fox News 0

The Emmy nominations for News and Documentaries were released today by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. PBS scored the lion’s share with 41 nominations, including two more for Bill Moyers, who has won more than 30 Emmys already. CBS was a distant second with 23. One notable name missing from the list of honorees is the #1 cable news network in the country, Fox News. There are two principle reasons for the absence of Fox News.

First, Fox claims to have declined to participate because they believe that the Emmys are biased against them. That’s a rather piddling complaint that, more than anything, exposes their self-centered pettiness with an attitude that recalls a school child taking the ball and going home.

The more likely reason for their Emmy snub is that Fox is not actually a news network and, knowing this, they are acknowledging that nominations will not be forthcoming. I suspect that they are preparing to submit their programming for Emmys in the drama and, perhaps, comedy categories, where they have a better chance of being recognized. Of course then their other fictional fare, like “24” and “The Simpsons” will have to compete against the far more flagrant fiction produced by Fox News. Whatever will they do?

Well, we can expect Bill O’Reilly to issue a blistering condemnation of the Academy shortly. He did the same thing when the Peabodys snubbed him (again), despite honoring Moyers and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on multiple occasions. What does it say when a comedy network’s fake news programs receive more plaudits from their journalism “peers” than a network that pretends to be a bona fide news enterprise? And furthermore, what does it say about the viewers of a so-called news network that is held in such ill repute by other news professionals?

Amongst the Emmy hopefuls is David Barstow, the New York Times reporter who wrote Message Machine. This article, which has already won a Pulitzer Prize and the New York Press Club’s Golden Keyboard, described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

Despite the acclaim the article has received, Barstow has still yet to be invited to tell this important story in any conventional media venue. The only in-depth broadcast interview was conducted by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now. This may be the most egregious example of a heralded, Pulitzer caliber investigation being so brazenly suppressed. The obvious explanation is that the media organizations that have actively blackballed the story are also the subjects of it. They are the news enterprises employing the compromised Pentagon Pundits, and they have a vested interest in preventing the truth from getting out.

Now that the report has been awarded another honor, will Barstow’s phone start to ring? Will the media pay attention to what may be the worst instance of propaganda executed by the U.S. government against its own people? At the very least, MSNBC has a special obligation to pursue this story. They have a contractual relationship with the New York Times, and their own John Harwood is a frequent guest on both MSNBC and CNBC. Why on earth wouldn’t the Times be lobbying to promote a story by their own Pulitzer award winning reporter who has now been nominated for an Emmy?

Contact MSNBC and tell them to book David Barstow:
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews

SPINCOM: Still A Deafening Silence

A couple of weeks ago, I posted this story on David Barstow, the author of Message Machine for the New York Times. Yesterday, the New York Press Club awarded Barstow it’s Golden Keyboard Award. Barstow had previously won a Pulitzer for the story.

Message Machine described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

To date, Barstow has still not been invited to appear on any of the major news networks to discuss his article. The allegations have been investigated by Congress and by the Inspector General of the Pentagon. The Department of Defense halted the programs exposed by Barstow. He is continuing to receive accolades from his peers, but none of this is enough to persuade television news editors to book him.

We can eliminate Fox News as a potential host for a discussion with Barstow. But at the very least we ought to be able to get MSNBC to schedule a segment or two. Feel free to give them some encouragement.

Contact MSNBC:
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews

Why We Need A Blogosphere

Television news was a great idea. Just think of it: A box that sits in your living room and brings you important information from around the block or around the world. Sounds too good to be true. And apparently it is.

Whatever value television adds to the distribution of news must be weighed against the harm it produces through its incorporation of bias, selective editing, and the pursuit of its own self interest.

SpinComFor example, last year David Barstow of the New York Times wrote a meticulously well researched and documented story that should have sparked a national uproar. The story described how the Pentagon in the Bush administration conspired to train and deploy former military personnel to spread propaganda in support of the war in Iraq. And if that weren’t bad enough, the program also permitted them to use their high profile media platform to enrich themselves and the defense contractors to whom they were attached.

Barstow’s story was received with what some call a “deafening silence,” particularly from the TV news community. Then, last week, Barstow won a Pulitzer Prize for the story. The silence built into a crushing whisper. Even progressive media icons like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow only glanced over this story. Obviously there are strong arm tactics being employed to prevent the public from learning that our government purposefully and unlawfully engaged in propaganda directed squarely at us. The TV news networks are simply covering their own asses since it was primarily their facilities that hosted the phony military analysts.

Yesterday, Barstow was interviewed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to discuss the announcement that the Pentagon inspector general’s office had withdrawn its own report that had previously exoneraed the program. In the interview Goodman asked Barstow to comment on the lack of reporting on his story. Barstow said…

“You know, to be honest with you, I haven’t received many invitations-in fact, any invitations-to appear on any of the main network or cable programs. I can’t say I’m hugely shocked by that.”

“On the other hand, while there’s been kind of deafening silence, as you put it, on the network side of this, the stories have had-sparked an enormous debate in the blogosphere. And to this day, I continue to get regular phone calls from not just in this country but around the world, where other democracies are confronting similar kinds of issues about the control of their media and the influence of their media by the government.”

“So it’s been an interesting experience to see the sort of two reactions, one being silence from the networks and the cable programs, and the other being this really lively debate in the blogosphere. “

When an important and newsworthy story that exposes government wrongdoing at the highest levels – a story that appears on the front page of the New York Times and wins a Pulitzer Prize – cannot get the attention of television news outlets, there is something seriously wrong with that medium. When a respected journalist has to console himself with having his story get traction only on the Internet, it tells us a great deal about how corrupt the corporate-run news divisions of America have become.

Barstow should not have to be satisfied with generating lively debate in the blogosphere. The revelations in his article illustrate a betrayal of trust on the part of our government. The public deserves and needs to know the facts about this affair. But the failure of the television news enterprises to responsibly carry out their duties is also a betrayal of trust. How are we supposed to rely on their journalistic integrity if they refuse to exhibit any?

I don’t expect Sean Hannity to be issuing an invitation to Barstow anytime soon. Fox News has always been as deeply integrated into the Bush administration’s propaganda machine as any of these Pentagon Pundits. But if Olbermann, Maddow, Ed Schultz, or even Chris Matthews don’t extend an invitation to Barstow, then we need to let them know that they are failing to serve the public and they are buckling under to a media conspiracy to keep the people ignorant.

If it embarrasses NBC/MSNBC to admit that they participated in this charade, they need to suck it up, take responsibility, and ask for forgiveness. Permitting these phony analysts on their air was bad enough. They should not compound the offense by attempting to cover it up.

Barstow is right about the blogosphere. But we need to shape it into something more than a forum for debate. We need to use it to make the old media behave responsibly; to hold their feet to the fire. And this is as good an issue as any with which to assert that principle.

Contact MSNBC
MSNBC General
Keith Olbermann
Rachel Maddow
Ed Schultz
David Shuster
Chris Matthews

News Blights: The SPINCOM Edition

Item 1: The Fox Network has announced that it will not carry President Obama’s press conference on Wednesday, the 100th day of his presidency. ABC, CBS, and NBC have all committed to carrying it. Note that this is the Fox broadcast entertainment network, not the cable news channel, which has declined to air the presser. Still, there is some irony in that Fox has chosen to air an episode of the series “Lie To Me” instead. That’s something with which Fox should be familiar. Note also that the Fox News network has previously declined to air several Obama press affairs, even when the other cable news nets carried them.

Item 2: Newspaper circulation data for the six months ending March 2009, shows that Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post suffered the worst decline (-20.55%) of all of the top 25 papers measured by the Audit Bureau of Circulation. That does not compare well to the New York Times that declined only 3.55%. The New York Daily News fared worse (-14.26), but still not as bad as the Post. The Wall Street Journal was up a fraction.

Item 3: A study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found the nightly newscasts devoting nearly 28 hours to Obama’s presidency in the first 50 days, about twice as much as Bush and Clinton. Of course, they weren’t facing the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression when they entered office. The study went on to report that 58% of the Obama stories on ABC, CBS and NBC, contained some positive elements. That’s a little more than half, so it could be regarded as fair and balanced. But the network that turned that phrase into a logo had only 13% positive analysis. Slanted much?

Item 4: Speaking at the Milken Global Institute Conference, Rupert Murdoch articulated a position that may come as a surprise to many, including the clowns on his news network. As reported in his own Wall Street Journal: “He said complete nationalization of the biggest banks might have been a good thing; it would have allowed the government to break up the banks’ businesses and sell them as smaller entities. That way, ‘there would be no more too big to fail firms,’ he said.” But Glenn Beck said that that way there would be Socialism!?! Rupert’s in big trouble now.

Item 5: Last year the New York Times published a story about the media using retired military analysts that were provided and trained by the Pentagon to speak approvingly about the war in Iraq and other war on terror operations. In addition, some of these allegedly neutral analysts were also on the payroll of defense contractors with vested interests in the war effort. None of these associations were disclosed by the media. Subsequent to the story in the Times, the same media virtually blacked out any reporting on the controversy. Last week the author, David Barstow, won a Pulitzer prize for the article. Guess what? The media somehow failed to report on Barstow’s award, even when reporting on the Pulitzer’s announcement of other winners.

Mind War – The Pentagon’s Propaganda Assault On America

“World War Three will be a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” ~ Marshall McLuhan, 1968

SpinComThe New York Times has now documented the sad prescience of McCluhan. In an in-depth examination of supposedly independent, retired military analysts, the Times’ David Barstow has uncovered what may be the most brazen attempt at propaganda ever initiated.

“To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.”

“Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.”

“The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.”

It should come as no surprise that the Bush administration would manipulate the press to shape public opinion. The press, of course, are their willing accomplices. Rupert Murdoch of Fox News even admitted it publicly. And the Pentagon has been caught doing the same in Iraq. The Associated Press reported that the U.S. military secretly paid Iraqi newspapers to publish stories intended to portray operations there in a positive light.

But the scale of this program, the fact that it was directed at Americans, and the added wrinkle of financial corruption and greed at the expense of thousands of lives, is thoroughly without precedent. The article reveals that there was deliberate intent on the part of the government to define what constituted news and to replace the analysis of independent journalists with that of hand-picked and conflict-laden Pentagon mouthpieces. It was further disclosed that many of these spokespersons provided commentary they knew was false in order to protect either their access to the media or their profits. These former military officers clearly were not protecting their troops.

“It was them saying, ‘We need to stick our hands up your back and move your mouth for you,’ ” Robert S. Bevelacqua, a retired Green Beret and former Fox News analyst, said.

That’s just one of the more than 150 retired officers participating in this program, most of whom worked for – you guessed it – Fox News. One Fox News crony, Paul E. Vallely, called it a “MindWar” – using network TV and radio to “strengthen our national will to victory.” Another analyst, General Conway, confessed that “The strategic target remains our [the American] population.” He went on to callously trivialize the loss of U.S. troops as incidental to winning in the court of public opinion and, he might as well have added, in the marketplace of war profiteering.

The scope of deceit and greed that this program encompasses is mind boggling. Read the whole story at the New York Times. Then visit FreePress where they are collecting signatures to urge Congress to further investigate this breach of the public trust.