Monday, April 21, 2008

Big Brass Payola

For those who didn't catch the New York Times' article, it turns out that the retired military leaders who were being used by virtually every major American news outlet, almost every single one parroting administration talking points word-for-word in the lead up to and during the war, were on the payrolls of defense contractors who stood to make massive amounts of money...say it with me...because of the war. Yet, these folks were put forward as independent, objective voices and repeatedly quoted as if they were autonomous authorities.

Arguing by authority, of course, is fine. But as any good critical thinking students knows there are three components to being someone legitimately cited in an argument from authority. (1) Actual material existence in the real world -- none of this "You know, I read somewhere that..." nonsense. (2) Expertise in the field in question -- an authority needs to be someone we have indubitable reason to believe would actually would know the answer to the question at hand because of experience and education. (3) Independence -- it must be someone who does not stand to profit from having us believe one way or the other, even a perceived conflict of interest is enough to rule someone out as an authority.

Here were people who were getting a significant sum of money in order to do PR for the defense contractors they work for and who were being fed talking points from the administration and yet are willingly given rhetorical camouflage by those people whose job it is to be critical investigators. A working democracy requires a well-informed electorate and instead we get deliberate deception.

Yet, as Glenn Greenwald (the smartest man in the blogosphere -- and one heck of writer) points out this made not a single Sunday news show nor was commented upon by none of the major news outlets -- including the New York Times itself.

After Judith Miller, the staged toppling of the Saddam statue, Pat Tillman, Jessica Lynch, the fake Falloujah announcement,...and now this, at what point does the American media simply become obsolete? At what point do our main media outlets simply become noise that fails to be taken seriously?