Buying the news: Big deal or no biggie?


Of ongoing reports that the Pentagon hired a PR firm to offer Iraqi newspapers cash to run positive stories ginned up by the flacks, Steve M at The Tension opines: “I am not so sure what the big news is here. Paid content in the U.S. is part of the free market of ideas … The fact that the U.S. government may be using paid content against terrorists is nothing more than an exercise in psychological warfare.” Steve stresses “the difference between a dictator who runs the media and controls the press — and a free enterprise media who can decline to accept the paid stories. “


Joining Steve M in the “big whup” camp is Chuck Simmins of You Big Mouth, You who scoffs: “If this is indeed happening, so what? If you toss away the myth that news and reporting is some sacred, undefilable calling, this story becomes a non-starter.” He adds: “When I look at the front page of my local paper, most of the stories were not written by their employees. Newspapers use stories from AP or Reuters all the time. Providing content to newspapers is a well-established business.” This is merely a story “that Old Media wants to dig up and spread around,” says Simmins, “to fight off the trespassers on the holy ground of news reporting that Jayson Blair and Judith Miller struggled so hard to protect.”


Also shooting the messenger is Dmastio at One Word Editorials, who is neither surprised nor troubled by the “Pentagon … using cash to help shape news coverage in Iraq to make us look better and the terrorists, worse.” Dmastio reserves his outrage for the MSM, asking: “What have the L.A. Times and New York Times done with their front-pagers other than make our propaganda less effective?”


Bothered (but not surprised) is Billmon, who blogs:”Now the thrust of the story … is the utter hypocrisy of preaching democracy and transparency while secretly bribing journalists to print government propaganda. But knowing what we already know about how the Cheney administration and the semi-official media (Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Judy Woodward, etc.) operate here at home, it’s not exactly a surprise to learn the same techniques are being used to shape the information ‘battle space’ in Iraq.” What does surprise Billmon is that Ahmed Chalabi’s newspaper was reportedly among the outlets paid “to reprint pro-American propaganda” because, he asserts, “you’d think that after the hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies lavished on Chalabi and his surrogates, they’d be willing to comp the Pentagon on the articles — the same way the casinos comp the high rollers on their hotel rooms.”


At War and Piece, Laura Rozen alerts readers to a passage in Knight Ridder’s latest contribution to the story:

Knight Ridder investigation has found that the American military’s information operations have been far more extensive. In addition to the Army’s secret payments to Iraqi newspaper, radio and television journalists for positive stories, U.S. psychological-warfare officers have been involved in writing news releases and drafting media strategies for top commanders, two defense officials said. On at least one occasion, psychological warfare specialists have taken a group of international journalists on a tour of Iraq’s border with Syria, a route used by Islamic terrorists and arms smugglers, one of the officials said.

Rozen’s translation? “In plain language: Rumsfeld is using psyops specialists and information warfare specialists on U.S. journalists! That is the headline.”


Speaking of Donalds, it seems that Donald J. Trump has just now noticed Judy Miller’s retirement from the New York Times and uses that news today to take the Times to the boardroom: “I would like to see [the Times] focus on the facts once in awhile. Otherwise, they might as well hire some fiction writers and poets and get some really high quality literature on their pages instead of potboiler news. If I’m going to spend my time reading, I want to make sure it’s quality time.”


Now there’s a sin against humanity: wasting Trump’s time. What’s next, New York Times?

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.