Pubdate: Thu, 04 Dec 2008
Source: Metrowest Daily News (MA)
Copyright: 2008 MetroWest Daily News
Author: Paul Campos
Note: Paul Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado
Bookmark: (McCaffrey, Barry)


Upton Sinclair once remarked that it's difficult to get a man to
understand something when his salary depends on him not understanding

This observation is borne out by the reactions of Barry McCaffrey to
the extraordinarily damning revelations contained in a very long
front-page New York Times story, regarding McCaffrey's role as a
military analyst for NBC.

The story, which is remarkably detailed and well sourced, really has
to be read in its entirety. The gist of it is that McCaffrey, a
retired general, has spent the last few years getting paid a whole lot
of money by defense contractors to go on TV and shill for their
products, while giving his audience the impression that he's providing
them with a disinterested analysis of what the U.S. military ought to
be doing in Afghanistan and Iraq.

McCaffrey, in short, is a very well compensated player in the
immensely profitable game of dividing up the hundreds of billions of
tax dollars we stuff into the rapacious maw of our military industrial

(As another Times story detailed back in April, the Pentagon actually
had a whole program, since shut down, to provide supposedly
"independent" retired military personnel, including McCaffrey, with
administration talking points for the purpose of selling - quite
literally - the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.)

Here is how the game is played: Current defense contractors, and
companies that hope to get a piece of the multibillion-dollar tax
dollar action, hire retired generals to use their influence and
connections to push their products on TV, in the guise of doing
"analysis." In addition, someone like McCaffrey, who is particularly
well connected with the military establishment, can and does get
special access to key decision makers in the Pentagon, allowing him to
lobby for his corporate clients even more effectively.

This access in turn helps amplify McCaffrey's media "platform," which
then further benefits his value as a lobbyist. (This is what is called
"positive synergy" in our business schools, and "getting over" in the
argot of inner city drug dealers).

But none of this has ever been disclosed to NBC's viewers, to whom
McCaffrey continues to be presented as a disinterested analyst, rather
than a particularly well-connected corporate shill.

And what is McCaffrey's reaction to the revelation of his - shall we
say - complex relationship to his journalistic subject matter? He is
deeply shocked that anyone could possibly imagine that anything he
says on TV could be motivated by anything other than pure patriotism,
and his dedication to the task of helping America spread freedom
throughout the world.

NBC, it appears, takes a similar view: although it, like the other
television networks, has now managed to go for seven months without
even mentioning the earlier Times story - a story that seemed to
demonstrate the networks are violating the most basic norms of
journalistic integrity, by failing to disclose the egregious conflicts
of interest besetting people like McCaffrey.

This attitude is warranted if one believes that - in one of those
remarkable coincidences that seem to occur only at the highest
echelons of political, economic and social power - the financial
interests of McCaffrey are precisely the same as the interests of the
American taxpayer (not to mention the people of Afghanistan and Iraq).

That of course is possible but the first rule of journalism is that
the audience should be given the information it needs to make up its
own mind about such matters.

In the days ahead, I will be curious to see how people like Keith
Olbermann and Rachel Maddow - liberal gadflies who host news programs
on the NBC family of networks - cover this story.

Olbermann in particular has spent the last couple of years consciously
echoing the style of such giants of journalism as Edward R. Murrow. He
should consider what Murrow would have to say about this sort of thing.

Paul Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado.
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