The New York Times reports that a bunch of ex-military on-air “analysts” are in bed with both military contractors and the Bush administration:
Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.
Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.
In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.
This is what governments do. Republican governments. Democratic governments. They spend their subjects’ money shaping their subjects’ opinions, so that they can spend more of their subjects’ money.
No doubt most of the talking head generals and colonels believe sincerely that they were acting in the best interests of the people they have devoted their lives to serving. It is simply that we “civilians” do not really know what we need to know in order to decide wisely for ourselves, and so public opinion needs to be massaged a bit to generate political support for policies that truly do protect us. If the well-meaning soft paternalism of concerted propaganda and financial self-interest happen to coincide, then all the better. Our guardians will only be better motivated to guard us! (And, really, after a lifetime of service, don’t they deserve to get theirs?) Crucially, no one here is forcing anyone to support the administration’s policies. It’s just a bit of a nudge, from people who know better.