Mark Greenbaum of the Christian Science Monitor looks at Sarah Palin's new job being a celebrity pundit on Fox News Channel: "Palin is a true, Hollywood-type celebrity with a bestselling book and millions of adoring fans. She may have designs on the presidency, but she evidently wants to soak up the perks and adulation of her celebrity first, and she has done that with gusto. ...
Is there a difference between covert propaganda and secretive campaigns to shape public opinion on controversial issues? The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) apparently thinks that there is.
The GAO recently ruled that the Pentagon pundit program did not break the law against taxpayer-funded domestic propaganda. The program involved some 75 retired military officers who serve as frequent media commentators. From 2002 to 2008, the Pentagon set up meetings between the pundits and high-level Department of Defense (DOD) officials. The Pentagon's PR staff not only gave the pundits talking points, but helped them draft opinion columns and gave them feedback on their media appearances. The Pentagon also paid for the pundits to travel overseas, following carefully-scripted itineraries designed to highlight successes in Iraq and humane measures at the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
One of the things I hope to do with my post is to call out misleading statements and statistics, outright lies and illogical assertions by opponents of meaningful health care reform—and to rat out the front groups that insurers and other special interests are funding to kill reform or, failing that, shape it to their benefit.
I'm starting with a biggie, conservative author and columnist George Will, who suggests in his June 28 column in The Washington Post that, because of the complexity and expense of reforming the American health care system, maybe we would be better off just leaving well enough alone.
Well enough? For him, maybe. He's got a great gig at the Post and as a TV network pundit, and he has sold lots of books, so he probably doesn't have to worry, as most other Americans do, about being just one layoff away from joining the 50 million other men, women and children in the ranks of the uninsured. And even if the Post gave him a pink slip this afternoon, chances are he has stashed enough away that he can afford to shell out the nearly $13,000 that the average annual premium for decent family coverage costs these days (and that was in 2007).
The continuing saga of the Pentagon pundit program just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser, as Alice in Wonderland might say.
From 2002 to 2008, the Defense Department secretly cultivated more than 70 retired military officers who frequently serve as media commentators. Initially, the goal was to use them as "message force multipliers," to bolster the Bush administration's Iraq War sell job. That went so well that the covert program to shape U.S. public opinion -- an illegal effort, by any reasonable reading of the law -- was expanded to spin everything from then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's job performance to U.S. military operations in Afghanistan to the Guantanamo Bay detention center to warrantless wiretapping.
In April 2008, shortly after the New York Times first reported on the Pentagon's pundits -- an in-depth exposé that recently won the Times' David Barstow his second Pulitzer Prize -- the Pentagon suspended the program. In January 2009, the Defense Department Inspector General's office released a report claiming "there was an 'insufficient basis' to conclude that the program had violated laws." Representative Paul Hodes, one of the program's many Congressional critics, called the Inspector General's report "a whitewash."
Now, it seems as though the Pentagon agrees.
The National Organization for Marriage, "a national organization that opposes same-sex marriage is targeting New Jersey in a $1.5 million advertising campaign." The group is also running ads in Iowa, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. The television spots warn that supporters of same-sex marriage "want to change the way I live. ... That means wedding photographers and marriage counselors could be labeled bigots and sued if they oppose working with same-sex couples," they claim.
NPR notes that "times could hardly be better at the Fox News Channel, the cable channel liberals love to hate. ... Ratings estimates from Nielsen Media Research indicate audience levels are up significantly -- to extremely high levels for cable news -- making Fox News among the highest rated of all basic cable channels.
The "majority of American journalists covering climate change, energy, and environment understand that human industry is primarily responsible for global warming," writes Curtis Brainard. Unfortunately, "a small minority of pundits -- most of whom are talking heads and columnists, rather than hard news reporters" is "still trying to deny the well-established basics of climate science.
After outing the Pentagon's pundit program -- which recruited some 75 retired military officers who are frequent media commentators, to serve as the Bush Administration's "message force multipliers" -- New York Times reporter David Barstow profiles one particularly conflicted pundit,