Pentagon, TV Networks Fear Debating Iraq Propaganda Scandal - Stauber vs. Zelnick on NewsHour

This Sunday's stunning, front-page New York Times revelations of the Pentagon military analyst program have been met with a wall of silence and cover-up on network television news. America's TV networks -- ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and FOX -- are where most Americans get most of their news, and they are the main culprits in allowing Donald Rumsfeld and Torie Clarke to turn them into the primary propaganda tool for selling the Iraq war to the public.

PBS NewsHour covered this issue in a televised debate April 24 pitting me against Robert Zelnick, former ABC Pentagon correspondent and now chair of the Boston University journalism department. (Zelnick is also affiliated with the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank.) No one from the Pentagon would agree to appear on the PBS show, nor would anyone appear from any of the guilty TV networks.

My debate with Zelnick is now on YouTube, where you can watch it yourself. The NewsHour report on the Pentagon pundits that preceded our debate is also online, and if you have a slow internet connection (or if you find my face and voice too irritating to tolerate), you can also read the online transcript.

As I said during the program, I was shocked at Zelnick's cavalier dismissal of this illegal propaganda campaign as business as usual. He even claimed that the Pentagon program was helpful in giving the public more information. Zelnick is an unabashed supporter of the Bush Administration first-strike attack on and occupation of Iraq. Even so, for a man who runs a major journalism school to be so welcoming toward illegal government propaganda is itself stunning and speaks volumes about what is wrong with journalism in the United States.

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I've been receiving many emails about my appearance. This one comes from a journalism professor with a different viewpoint than Zelnick:

Thank you for pointing out the absurdity of Bob Zelnick's statements on PBS's Newshour this evening. I teach journalism at a community college, and when my students and I discussed the NYT piece this week, even these young journalists were outraged. Thank you for not allowing Mr. Zelnick's warped representation of journalism to stand without a challenge.

Maybe I should have put this question to Bob Zelnick, point blank: "Professor Zelnick, are you now or have you ever been a willing instrument in a Pentagon propaganda campaign to sell a war and manage public opinion and media coverage of it?" That question should now be asked every time a military pundit appears on TV to give his or her "expert" opinion.

Of course, the TV networks themselves won't ask it. They're busy hiding from this scandal, not covering it. That's why we need you to make sure the word gets out. Send an email to your friends. Sign the petition that our friends at Free Press have started. And if you haven't read the New York Times story, make sure you do (Here's the link.) It's great to see the Times doing some hard-hitting, important journalism that actually questions government propaganda instead of spreading it.