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Sorry, Old Media. The Pentagon not only has the right to defend its policies, it has a duty to do so. 4/20/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Pentagon.

The NY Times and its genuflecting, kneejerk-reacting followers on the Internet are in a tizzy that the Pentagon actually had the nerve to — brace yourself — defend its policies, and even put them in the best possible light. Oh, the horrors. Doesn’t the Pentagon know that if Old Media does not agree with their policies, they must simply and silently allow the mainstream outlets to complain until the public loses all confidence in its government?

Where did Old Media get this idea that government could not defend itself? Well, it sure wasn’t from Thomas Jefferson. In a letter to George Washington, he said “No government ought to be without censors, and where the press is free, no one ever will. If virtuous, it need not fear the fair operation of attack and defense. Nature has given to man no other means of sifting out the truth whether in religion, law or politics.” Note the word “defense” — exactly what Jefferson expected the government to do.

And, they sure could not have gotten the idea that government could not defend itself from the “father of modern journalism” himself, Walter Lippmann. He served on President Wilson’s Creel Committee, whose purpose was to influence public opinion toward supporting U.S. intervention in World War I. Incidentally, their tactics included fabrications and wire-tapping. (H/T: Terry Heaton)

No, this “bedrock principle” that government cannot defend itself came from a TV show — a 1971 CBS brodcast called “The Selling of the Pentagon” (H/T: Richard H. Reeb, Jr.). It delivered a no-holds-barred attack on the public relations practices of the Department of Defense, charging that the Pentagon had become a huge propaganda machine selling outmoded cold-war attitudes and sheer militarism to the American people in order to win their consent for military solutions to international problems. Some charged that CBS’ film slicing and editing had distorted and misrepresented the remarks of 2 Pentagon spokesmen. When CBS President Frank Stanton refused to provide an investigating Congressional Committee with outtakes, he became an instant hero among his fellow journalists, though not of a public that might want to know the truth. Perhaps it’s time for the people to ask journalists to defend their own policies.


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