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?

Dana Perino And Fox News On Repressive Regimes And Propaganda

Idiot FoxEd Brayton at Science Blogs has caught a classic example of hypocrisy from a member of the class that made an art of it: the Bush administration.

Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino was on Fox News this weekend and commented on a video produced for the White House web site. She was appalled that the administration would post videos in support of its own agenda and implied that it represented some kind of affront to a free press and democracy:

[T]he White House decided through its own media — they have a robust new media shop and they’re creating their own news and they’re posting it, and all the networks said that they’re not going to show it. But creating your own news is something that happens in repressive regimes. And a democracy is — it is critical to have a good, strong free press in a democracy.

Let’s dissect the idiocy of this comment. First of all, you cannot accuse the White House of “creating your own news” in the sentence following your observation that “all the networks said that they’re not going to show it.” If no news network is showing it then it is simply an informational video available only to visitors to the White House web site.

Secondly, if anything, this affirms the strong free press Perino is lamenting. Obviously they are making up their own minds with regard to what they consider news. If they they don’t want to broadcast the President’s video, they don’t have to. And according to Perino, they aren’t.

But most importantly, Perino has deliberately withheld her own complicity with assaults on the free press as a member of Bush’s press team. It was the Bush administration that repeatedly packaged phony news reports that they distributed to television stations with the intent that they be broadcast in whole. These pseudo-news reels were produced with a fake “anchor” and were aired by many stations without disclosing that they came from the Bush propaganda studio.

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government’s role in their production.

This sort of deception was routine in the Bush years. They were also caught paying Armstrong Williams under the table to write glowing reviews about their education policy, “No Child Left Behind.” The Bush Pentagon was entangled in a scandal wherein they paid editors of Iraqi newspapers to publish articles secretly written by American soldiers praising the war effort and the occupation of Iraq. And let’s not forget Jeff Gannon, the right-wing mole who was planted in the White House Press Corps under Bush. Or the irrepressibly corrupt Kenneth Tomlinson, who chaired the Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

SpinComThen there was what may be the worst episode of propaganda aimed directly at Americans in our nation’s history: SPINCOM. This was a program run out of Bush’s Pentagon that served up former generals to news networks as military analysts. They were trained by the Pentagon to promote the administration’s agenda and were rewarded with access and contracts for the defense companies they represented. And none of this was disclosed to viewers, or even to the networks.

The abuse of an independent and unfettered press under Perino and her bosses was unparalleled. For her to criticize the current administration for posting some videos online, while ignoring her own participation in a full-blown propaganda operation, specifically targeting the media and the American people, is the pinnacle of hypocrisy and dishonesty. Add to that the fact that she made these assertions as an employee of Fox News and it is at least evidence of the following: She and Fox are bona fide experts on repressive regimes and propaganda.

The News Corpse 2009 Retro-Speculum

Looking back on 2009 can be a harrowing experience. There has been much that many people would rather not recollect. It was a year that began with dreadful economic suffering. From there it went on to unprecedented political division, animosity, and disappointment from virtually every perspective. And it ended with a reminder of our vulnerability to violent extremists at home and abroad. For that reason, like the mythical Medusa, it may be best not to look back on 2009 directly.

Nevertheless, News Corpse has compiled some moments that, for our own good, ought not to be forgotten.

SPINCOMMedia Malfeasance of the Year:
SPINCOM. In 2008, David Barstow wrote an article for the New York Times detailing how television news programs were employing Pentagon-trained military analysts to promote the Bush administration’s agenda for an unnecessary and illegal war in Iraq. In 2009, that article won a Pulitzer prize, a Golden Keyboard from the New York Press Association, and an Emmy nomination. Yet the article and its author never once appeared on television to discuss it. Despite Barstow’s many accolades and awards, the story was blackballed by the same TV producers who hired the phony pundits (who were also enriching themselves as consultants for the military contractors who benefited from the war). And by refusing to report on one of the most egregious examples of propaganda ever directed at the American people by their government, they also covered up their own complicity in cheerleading for the war.

2010 Prediction:
Someone famous will die while fleeing from police in a high-speed TV chase after being caught cheating on a spouse for a new reality show.

ACORN: Pimp. Prostitute, BoratThe Pimp & The Prostitute
What passes for journalism took a huge hit in 2009 when a couple of rightist activists dressed up for a Halloween expose on what they regarded as America’s most feared enemy: community organizers. James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles played the roles they were made for, a pimp and a whore, as they visited offices of ACORN. The results were dishonestly edited videos that were played incessantly on Fox News despite having zero news value. The pair never appeared on any other television news network as they were closely guarded by their mentor Andrew Breitbart, and their patrons at Fox. Sadly, the other networks acquiesced by reporting the story despite having no access to the pseudo-news team.

2010 Prediction:
Osama Bin Laden will buy Philip Morris, thus taking responsibility for killing 197,000 more Americans EVERY YEAR than he did that one time on 9/11.

Glenn Beck Rodeo ClownColor of Change We Can Believe In:
After Glenn Beck called the President a racist, a previously little-known group embarked on a boycott campaign directed at Beck’s advertisers. By last accounting Color of Change had persuaded over 80 advertisers to pull or withhold their ads from Becks show. What’s more, they compelled a retraction from the DefendGlenn web site (whose proprietor, Gary Kreep, is a story unto himself) that had been falsely disparaging the boycott efforts.

2010 Prediction:
Twitter will fold when its enfeebled users decide that 140 characters is too many to comprehend. It will be replaced by Blather, where messages are restricted to 26 characters and you can only use each letter of the alphabet once. The media will herald it as a phenomenon.

Fox News Tea PartyThe Tea Party Delusion
What can be said about the year’s most overblown non-story: The Tea Party Movement? Never has there been a less significant amalgamation of disruptive whiners that received more attention from a controversy-challenged media. The Tea Baggers were always just a noisy minority who were fully sponsored by right-wing lobbyists and Fox News. But near the end of the year a poll was released that revealed the truth, even though the true part was ignored. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll hit the airwaves proclaiming that Tea Baggers (at 41%) were more popular that Democrats (35%) or Republicans (28%). What they didn’t report, although it was in the same poll, was that 48% of respondents knew very little or nothing at all about the Tea Baggers. When almost half of the country doesn’t know who you are, you are not much of a movement.

2010 Prediction:
Fox News will lie. (I know. That one was too easy, but it’s New Year’s Eve and I have a party to go to).

Undisputed Scumbag Pundit Hall of Shame
This award is a tie due to the presence of two so thoroughly deserving Scumbag Pundits. These despicable cretins earned their awards by claiming a couple of the most repulsive utterings ever contemplated in the press:

Retired Lieutenant Colonel, Ralph Peters: “Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.”

Former CIA employee Michael Scheuer: “[T]he only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States.”

And just for fun, I now present the Comedy Colonoscopy Award for 2009. So far as I know, there was only one entry. But it’s a doozy:


The Pentagon Approved Press Corps

Stars and Stripes is reporting a disturbing initiative emanating from the Pentagon’s communications office:

“As more journalists seek permission to accompany U.S. forces engaged in escalating military operations in Afghanistan, many of them could be screened by a controversial Washington-based public relations firm contracted by the Pentagon to determine whether their past coverage has portrayed the U.S. military in a positive light.”

This is another example of the government attempting to color the coverage of military affairs in favorable terms. It is nothing short of propaganda, which is illegal when conducted by government agencies and aimed at the American public:

“No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress.” [Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, div. G, title II, 624, 118 Stat. 2809, 3278 (Dec. 8, 2004). (The language of the prohibition has remained virtually unchanged since 1951.)]

What makes this story something of a surprise is that this isn’t the Bush Defense Department implementing this policy – it’s the Obama administration. And to add further to the offense, the contractor hired by the Pentagon to perform these screenings is The Rendon Group, a PR firm that was used by the Bush administration to justify the phony war in Iraq by producing false reports that asserted the presence of weapons of mass destruction. Rendon was also responsible for the Iraqi National Congress, a front group formed to oust Saddam Hussein. Ahmed Chalabi, a criminal, liar, and, not surprisingly a favorite of American neo-cons, was installed as the head of the INC.

There is no justification for the sort of manipulative practices revealed by Stars and Stripes. The press should not permit themselves to be controlled by government and/or military bureaucrats. And there is no excuse for the current White House to affiliate itself in any way with the disreputable likes of the Rendon Group. If this President expects to be taken seriously as a reformer, and an advocate of transparency and honest governance, this relationship with Rendon must be discontinued immediately.

Update 8/30/09: Good news. The Pentagon has canceled the Rendon contract. That was fast.

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.

Media Milestones And Millstones For 2008

At the conclusion of a year that few people will miss, it is time once again to indulge in the hackneyed cliche of annual list-making. While some events are already etched into our collective memories (i.e. the election of our nation’s incoming, first-ever, African-American president; the shoe attack on our nation’s out-going, worst-ever, remedial president), other events may be more subject to fading recollection as a new year of stimuli compete for a place in America’s short attention span.

It is in this spirit that I submit the following collection of awards in the hopes of preserving these moments for history, if not for comedy.

Starting with the history-making presidential election, Barack Obama wins the Somebody Had To Say It Award for this:

Obama: “I am convinced that if there were no Fox News, I might be two or three points higher in the polls. If I were watching Fox News, I wouldn’t vote for me, right?”

Sticking with the campaign theme, Sarah Palin has repeatedly demonstrated her ignorance of the media’s role in public life. She believes that it is unconstitutional to criticize her, and that she is the one to restore the media’s credibility. That alone would be enough to merit an award, but Palin wins the What Constitution? Award by showing Carl Cameron of Fox News that she has no comprehension of the Constitutional role of the office she sought:

Palin: “The vice president, of course, is not a member – or a part of the legislative branch, except to oversee the Senate. That alone provides a tremendous amount of flexibility and authority if that vice president so chose to use it.”

Of Course, Palin has her fans – like Ann Coulter who along with Human Events Magazine named Palin Conservative of the Year. But that was not enough to pry away the Fatuous Infatuation Award from Rich Lowry of the National Review:

Lowry: “I’m sure I’m not the only male in America who, when Palin dropped her first wink, sat up a little straighter on the couch and said, ‘Hey, I think she just winked at me.’ And her smile. By the end, when she clearly knew she was doing well, it was so sparkling it was almost mesmerizing. It sent little starbursts through the screen and ricocheting around the living rooms of America.”

On the plus side, CNN’s Jack Cafferty played a stream of gibberish from Palin’s interview with Katie Couric. After which he said that if you aren’t afraid that she is a 72 year old heartbeat from the presidency, you should be. Then Wolf Blitzer tried to cover for Palin by saying that she was just trying to squeeze a lot into her answer. Cafferty’s reply earns him the Anchor Smackdown Award:

Cafferty: “Don’t make excuses for her. That was pathetic.”

I suppose I should give an award to Palin’s running mate…what was his name? Oh yeah…John McCain certainly deserves a mention for his aggressive attacks on the media. But that’s all he gets. While it takes real guts for a former press darling who hosts barbecues for his reporter pals to turn on them when the next object of media affection pops up, the act for which I will remember McCain is his promotion and exploitation of Samuel Wurlzebacher – aka Joe the Plumber – whose name is not Joe and who is not a plumber. Despite his obvious deficiencies, Plumber Joe became a staple of Fox News, particularly business chief Neil Cavuto. On one notable occasion, Cavuto queried Joe on the subject of Barack Obama’s patriotism. And for his response Joe gets the McCarthyism Reprise Award:

Wurzelbacher: “Oh you know, [Obama’s] ideology is something that is completely different than what democracy stands for, so I had some question there. In my opinion.”

However, Joe will have to be satisfied sharing this award with News Corp Chairman, Rupert Murdoch, who also earned this honor in an interview with Cavuto:

Murdoch: “[Obama’s] policy is really very, very naive, old fashioned, 1960’s socialist.”

Old Rupert was destined to have an over-representation on this awards program. That’s partly because of the expansive nature of his media empire, but mostly because that empire is a repulsive purveyor of smears and propaganda. There is so much of it that I could devote an entire set of awards to News Corp alone. Consequently, I’ll focus here on the more peculiar instances of journalistic abuse. Starting with Amy Chozick of the Wall Street Journal who wins the Biggest Loser award for an article titled, “Too Fit to Be President?” which asks:

Chozick: “…in a nation in which 66% of the voting-age population is overweight and 32% is obese, could Sen. Obama’s skinniness be a liability?”

Then there is Fox News’ own Liz Trotta, winner of the Death To America Award for her public call for assassinating Obama:

Trotta: “…and now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama …uh… Obama … well, both if we could.”

And don’t think I’ve left out the Grand Wizard of Fox News, Bill O’Reilly. Oh…where to begin? I’m going to skip over O’Reilly’s generous offer not to lynch Michelle Obama, and his assertion that 200,000 documented homeless veterans don’t exist, and even his delicious submersion into lunacy as demonstrated in any of the “Don’t Block the Shot / Dodge Us at Your Peril / We’ll Do It Live” rants. For some reason I get a kick out his delusional conspiracy theory that the TV ratings are fixed and that Nielsen is intent on destroying him. Never mind the fact that he is number one in those ratings and he frequently cites them as evidence of his ego-starved greatness. So for inventing enemies around every corner, O’Reilly gets the Paranoia Strikes Deep Award:

O’Reilly: “The bottom line on this is there may be some big-time cheating going on in the ratings system, and we hope the feds will investigate. Any fraud in the television rating system affects all Americans.”

When O’Reilly isn’t threatening “the folks,” his colleagues in conservative crime are doing it. Rush Limbaugh is this year’s recipient of the Domestic Terrorist Award for exhorting his listeners to attend the Democratic Convention and to “Screw the World! Riot in Denver!”:

Limbaugh: “[T]he dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. That’s the objective here.”

Glenn Beck, not to be outdone, issued his own threats. But in an attempt to boost the degree of difficulty, Beck went off the scale. In November he told a story of how we had been accosted in a diner by a hostile trucker who threatened to run him down. He summarized the experience by saying that, no matter how much he disagreed with someone, he would never say such horrible things – not even to Michael Moore. However, just a few months prior, Beck said this about Moore and, thus, earned his Serial Hypocrite Award:

Beck: “Hang on, let me just tell you what I’m thinking. I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore, and I’m wondering if I could kill him myself, or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. No, I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know, and I could just be choking the life out – is this wrong?”

The Grand Prize for a year of countless media atrocities is reserved for a despicable act of greed and betrayal. Actually, it is a pattern of acts that has persisted for many years, but came to a head during the Bush administration and was courageously uncovered by the New York Times. It has been called the Pentagon Pundits scandal, though I call it SPINCOM. It centers around an initiative to stack the press with analysts who were willing to lie to support an illegal war and to fatten their own wallets. The Times gets the Milestone of the Year Award for revealing the rancid corruption of the media, the military, and the Bush warmongers:

NY Times: “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.”

Sadly, the heroic work of the Times was largely ignored by the rest of the press, particularly television. Of course, the TV news networks were the most aggressively abusive employers of the tainted pundits. It would have taken a powerful dose of integrity to criticize behavior that they were in the thick of engaging in. The failure to cover such a controversial issue that impacts so directly on themselves is further evidence of a media community that is untrustworthy and uninterested in serving the public. However, the story in the Times has resulted in an investigation at the FCC and another proposed in the next Congress. So, hopefully, some accountability will be brought to bear.

The fight for honest and independent journalism will continue into the new year. While there are some promising signs accompanying the incoming Obama administration, there will undoubtedly be much work to do. So in the spirit of optimism and renewal, and hopes for better future, I wish everyone a…


SPINCOM: General Barry McCaffrey Sells Out The Troops

Last April the New York Times published a story about how retired generals were using their status to enrich themselves and promote the Bush administration’s wartime agenda. They disseminated Pentagon produced propaganda they knew was false in order to protect either their access to the media or their profits.

This weekend the New York Times followed up on the story with a focus on one of the former generals involved in the program: Barry McCaffrey. But the scope of the program was much bigger than any one man.

“Through seven years of war an exclusive club has quietly flourished at the intersection of network news and wartime commerce. Its members, mostly retired generals, have had a foot in both camps as influential network military analysts and defense industry rainmakers. It is a deeply opaque world, a place of privileged access to senior government officials, where war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests and network executives are sometimes oblivious to possible conflicts of interest.”

The Times observed that “Few illustrate the submerged complexities of this world better than Barry McCaffrey” as they delved into details about how he deliberately misrepresented his honest appraisal of the affairs in Iraq in order to retain the favor of his Pentagon handlers and his business clients.

The whole article is well worth reading to gain real insight into the incestuous relationship between government agencies, greedy consultants, and a media that fails to disclose the web of conflicted interests that entangle their so-called independent analysts.

There are presently investigations being conducted by Congress, the Pentagon, and the FCC, but it remains to be seen if they will adequately address, and punish, the participants in this program. But Americans should be concerned because this is perhaps the most flagrant propaganda assault our government has ever directed at its own citizens. Not to mention that it is a betrayal of the military men and women whose very lives hang in the balance of these lying war profiteers.

And how does the media cover this issue? [chirp…chirp] If they were to cover it, it would sound something like this: