What will it take, for the Defense Department officials involved to be held responsible for an illegal government propaganda campaign? Why don't news professionals realize that they need to vet their commentators and disclose any potential conflicts of interest to their audiences? When will the cable and network television stations that featured the Pentagon's pundits tell viewers that their war commentary was anything but independent?
An in-depth article on one of 75 retired military officers covertly cultivated by the Pentagon to be its "message force multipliers" recently raised these questions yet again. Retired general, NBC News analyst and industry consultant Barry McCaffrey is a prime example of "a deeply opaque world," where "privileged access to senior government officials" and "war commentary can fit hand in glove with undisclosed commercial interests," writes New York Times reporter David Barstow.
Science reporting "is more and more the direct product of PR shops," according to Charles Petit, a veteran science reporter who runs MIT’s online Knight Science Journalism Tracker.
"Public relations firms across the country predict massive layoffs in the coming months due to recent legislation outlawing the firms' most lucrative practices," according to an article in a spoof edition of the New York Times, dated July 4, 2009. The real Times reports, "In an elaborate hoax, pranksters distributed thousands of copies ...
"Barack and socialism? No, our country deserves better," implored Mark Williams.
It was only a few minutes into the October 22 rally staged by Our Country Deserves Better, a political action committee (PAC) formed to oppose the Democratic presidential candidate. But Williams, a conservative talk radio host from California, was just getting warmed up.
"Barack Obama represents people who are ashamed of this great country, who believe that this great country is the evil in the world and that, in their revisionist history, they cast us as the villain," Williams claimed. "And if we dare question them ... like Joe the Plumber: 'Mr. Obama, what are you going to do to my taxes?' That was enough for the dogs who support the ideological left to go after Joe the Plumber and shred him. ... There's no such thing as sacred, among the unholy left. They vilify this nation, and they vilify those of us who support it. ... [It's] the same kind of thuggery of the left that's used by totalitarian regimes around the world to silence opposition."
Towards the end of the rally, Williams invoked a long-discredited smear against Obama that seems designed to play on fears of his "otherness": that he's not really a U.S. citizen. "We all know that Barack Obama is not qualified to be president of the United States, beyond being above the age of 35 and probably an American citizen," said Williams, emphasizing the word "probably." He laughed and then repeated: "Probably. Even money."
Unlike his hypothetical conservatives cowed by leftist thugs, Williams will not be silenced.
The British government's second public consultation on nuclear power, "which was run by a company linked to the Prime Minister's personal pollster," has been criticized for material that was "inaccurately or misleadingly presented." In response to a complaint from the environmental group Greenpeace, Britain's Market Research Standards Board ruled that the Opinion Leader firm presen