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Revolving Door Shills on TV Need an ‘Outing’

These guys are the 'Message Force Multipliers' of 2020. If there are no disclosures coming, we need to crowd-source this.

Just like David Barstow’s explosive investigative report on the Pentagon’s “Message Force Multipliers” in April 2008, Lee Fang at The Intercept has done us a tremendous favor by pointing out that many of the so-called military experts who are making the rounds this week to talk about the U.S.-Iran confrontation in Iraq are in fact paid shills for the defense industry.

That’s right: David Petraeus, Van Hipp, Jeh Johnson, John Negroponte (and these are just the ones featured in Fang’s piece)—all have ties to the Big 5 contracting companies like Lockheed Martin and Raytheon (whose stocks are soaring in response to recent events) and/or work for venture capital firms that invest in these companies. In fact, General Jack Keane, who is reportedly at the elbow of the president, advising him directly, while alternately appearing on FOX News to congratulate him after launching kinetic attacks like killing Gen. Soleimani, currently serves as a partner for such a firm (SCP Partners) and has worked for General Dynamics and Blackwater.

Read all of the greasy details here, but key here, according to Fang is this:

Many of the pundits who appeared on national television or were quoted in major publications to praise the president’s actions have undisclosed ties to the defense industry — the only domestic industry that stands to gain from increased violence. (emphasis mine)

Whether they are not disclosing their ties to producers or the hosts don’t bother to mention it on air doesn’t matter. It’s called ethics and journalistic integrity. Due diligence. Honesty. None if it seems to be in evidence here.

“It is imperative that viewers are aware when their news commentary is coming from someone with a financial incentive tied to the topic they’re coming on, especially when so many lives hang in the balance,” Gin Armstrong, who’s with the Public Accountability Initiative, told Fang.

Quite right. This seems so simple, yet this practice of deception—and it is a deception—has been going on for decades. But that doesn’t mean we have to swallow it passively. Think of all the damage that was done in the run-up to the Iraq War and after the invasion, when former military generals were cultivated by the Pentagon and delivered to the networks and cable shows as commentators for years, helping to sell the war and pacify public opinion when conditions on the ground went sour.

The “Afghanistan Papers” revealed last month that hundreds of government officials and military officers knew for years that the war was lost and that the American people were being sold a bill of goods throughout the entire 18-year campaign. By their silence and complicity they served as enablers. How many of them have cycled through the revolving door to the private sector and have served as “experts” in any media capacity (authors, speechmakers, pundits) to promote those lies back to the American people? If they hadn’t, might there be more public pressure to end the war in Afghanistan and bring our troops home (14,000 still there) today?

We are quick to dismiss social media as a medium for political and corporatist propaganda, engendering the divisions and divisiveness in a society already riven by anger and tribalistic behavior. Using this medium to expose these conflicts and to pressure the hive to disclose their guests’ conflicts of interest (if they in fact insist on having these shills on air) would be in the spirit of our best journalistic impulses: informing the public, giving people all of the tools available to form their own opinions—clear of smoke and mirrors—about critical national security policies made in their name.

This is where it starts:

Judd, who runs Popular Information, and Jason Paladino, who reports for the Project on Government Oversight (aka POGO, which has been tracking the revolving door for decades), are on to something. Collectively we need to shame the media when they do not disclose their guests’s conflicts of interest, and thank them when they do. Maybe at some juncture they will get the point and realize that there are plenty of ex-military and government officials out there who have thoughtful things to say (like Doug MacGregor, Larry Wilkerson, a ton of TAC writers, and even TAC critics too) but are not compromised by their vested interest in promoting an interventionist global posture and American military primacy.