Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Balance of Generals - Fair and Balanced Explanation, part II

If you haven't looked at NPR's ombudsman's page explaining NPR's participation in the Pentagon domestic propaganda program, its worth a look. There are a few problems: as mentioned in my post below, NPR simply claims no major distortions took place, and then treats its own assertions as evidence. For example Ombudsman Shepard writes, "While Scales and Rhame may not have been vetted by NPR, it doesn't appear that either had any glaring business conflicts." She later adds, that "both Gjelten and NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman say Scales does not spout the Pentagon's line." Holy crap! I guess if Colorful Gjelten and Hummin' Tom Bowman say it, then it's just got to be true.

Perhaps the most glaring - and unaddressed - aspect of the ombudsman's piece is how it reveals the overwhelming dominance of pro-US military/Pentagon representatives on NPR. Shepard mentions that General Scales of the NYT's report "appeared on different NPR news shows - a total of 36 times in 2003, including 11 times during NPR special news reports in first days of the war" and "since February 2003, he has been on NPR 67 times, most often (28 appearances) on All Things Considered (ATC)." Shepard also refers to yet another retired general NPR hired, Thomas Rhame, and writes that "Rhame has appeared on NPR news shows 48 times -- 43 of them in 2003."

I can understand why NPR might consult an ex-general or two when the country goes to war - but where was any counter-balance to the generals. During the time periods mentioned, did we get to hear from dissenters and leaders of the anti-war movement? Did we get 67 or 48 appearances from the likes of Kathy Kelly, Chalmers Johnson, Noam Chomsky, Scott Ritter, Daniel Ellsberg...etc? How about 30 times, or 20 times? Not a chance.

This complete reliance on US military and security insiders is well illustrated in the lousy reporting on Tuesday's Morning Edition. In one story, Inskeep talks to a West Point analyst, Brian Fishman, about al-Qaeda's Zawahiri answering questions on the web. Of Zawahiri's Q&A tactic Fishman notes "You know this is a fascinating technique. It's not the first time it's been used by an insurgent or a militant organization that we've seen." And Inskeep smugly reminds us, "Now we should mention that this is not a free and open debate. He's choosing which questions to take on and which ones to ignore." I had to laugh at both comments since it made me think of another extremist who took on staged questions and the fate that befell those who weren't part of the script.

Later Guy Raz looks into the US Army's internal debate regarding counterinsurgency. The reporting is strictly limited to members or retired members of the armed forces, and as always, NPR doesn't refer to any of the long, shameful history of US counterinsurgency operations that have tortured and killed millions since WWII.

Perhaps if NPR cut its addiction to generals and former generals they'd actually start asking questions of those in power and challenging the official line. Then instead of covering a debate only after it breaks out in the Pentagon, they'd start the debate themselves. Or NPR could do the hard, slogging investigative work of exposing the US government's exploitation and lies regarding the death of a famous soldier instead of following the story only after his mother has done all the work that they should have been doing all along.

Investigative reporting...challenging those in power? I know, it's a wacky idea.


Anonymous said...

Their heads are so far up the Pentagon's ass, it's a wonder their announcers can breathe.

Porter Melmoth said...

If they chose to NPR could tap many retired military personnel who are critical of BushCorps's neocon agendas. Gen. William Odum for starters...

Anonymous said...

This is ironic considering the hordes of flacks NPR uses to pre-screen the questions asked by audience on every single one of their talk shows. I'm sure this lack of consistency is lost on npr management.

Porter Melmoth said...

I remember that Kevin Phillips (a curmudgeon I admire) used to be on NPR quite a bit, but now he's WAAAY too lefty.

Anonymous said...

Have you read any of the analysis that Brian Fishman has done up at West Point? He's hardly the person NPR would interview if they were looking for a Bush Administration syncophant. Quite the contrary.

Anonymous said...

And the other day in the ThinkProgress comments regarding this "trojan horse" debacle, some posters were defending NoPR stating "NPR & PBS reported on this while the networks remained mum." Well whoop-dee-doo! Were I registered there, I would have rebutted on how despite 'such a noble act' they'd given themselves a reprieve from their own complicity in pushing the oversized equine ruse.

They're not even fun to freeload off and mock while I listen anymore. Headlines only for me.

Mytwords said...

Responding to anon: I would hardly accuse NPR of being simply Bush loyalists. My gripe with NPR is that its ideological range is so disgustingly narrow: extending from the far right to nothing more leftist than a democratic centrist position - all the while grounded in an unquestioning belief in the right of the US to dominate the world militarily and economically whether through hard or "soft" power. Any genuinely leftist, anti-imperialist, or progressive perspective is either ridiculed, mocked, or - as is usually the case - just excluded. Fishman may be smart and interested in serious analysis of jihadi documents as his website articles indicate (which would put him at odds with the rigorously stupid Bushists), but his commitment is to the US military machine, which puts him firmly within NPR's narrow range of acceptable voices.

Anonymous said...

...while grounded in an unquestioning belief in the right of the US to dominate the world militarily and economically whether through hard or "soft" power.

And how is this different from the goals of the CIA? I can certainly see the self-important ones being snookered by some slick ivy-league 'credentials'.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Kevin Phillips, check him out at Democracy Now.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is one of the most serious signs of this overall global crisis of American capitalism?

KEVIN PHILLIPS: Well, not to single out just one, I have an approach I use to say that normally when a country is—United States is—heading into a recession, there are one or two, sometimes three, factors that you worry about. But at this point in time, the American economy, you can think of it as being kind of in a shark tank, and there are like six or seven sharks, and you don’t usually see anything like that number.

Of course NPR won't have him. They want Happy Talk!

Porter Melmoth said...

Yes, Kev's new book is pretty hot.

Democracy Now! is more of a beacon than ever.

(I actually stumbled across an autographed copy of 'The Exception to the Rulers' in a bookstore recently... !)

Anonymous said...

Waydago! Got yerself another Cursor link for this entry! Huuuurrrrray!

(I dug Kev-Phil's spot on Moyers back in the day - wasn't that on the old 'NOW'?)