Corporate Media’s War-Industry Pundits

Analyzing a range of TV news outlets, journalists at The Lever found viewers are often not informed when hawkish “experts” on Ukraine are employed by the weapons industry. 

Leon Panetta, right, a former U.S. defense secretary, CIA director and White House chief of staff, regularly appears on corporate media without disclosing his ties to the military-industrial complex. (Screengrab)

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

U.S. corporate media outlets are saturated with pundits — many of them ex-military or national security officials — who take to the airwaves to promote hawkish policies and actions in Ukraine and elsewhere without disclosing their own ties to the arms industry, according to a report published this week.

Analyzing punditry across a range of outlets including CNN, MSNBC, and NBC News, Aditi Ramaswami and Andrew Perez at The Lever found that the networks failed to inform viewers that many of their expert guests who called for supplying Ukraine with more weapons to defend against Russia’s invasion were currently employed by the weapons industry or its advocates.

“I think it’s awesome you can be a consultant for a company that manufactures certain missiles and go on NBC or CNN and say how important it is that we get more of those missiles shipped out, with no one saying [by the way], this guy works for the missile company,” Perez sardonically quipped in a tweet promoting the report.

The revolving door between the national security, private and media sectors has become a prominent feature of the military-industrial complex. Perez and Ramaswami note that the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that 20 of the 22 featured American guests appearing on corporate networks’ Sunday politics programs in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year had ties to the arms industry or its boosters.

Unsurprisingly, many of these experts argued against ending the longest war in U.S. history. Few, if any, disclosed their conflicts of interest.

Revolving Door

“This type of revolving-door behavior should be prohibited for military officials to serve in a private capacity representing military contractors,” Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, told The Lever. “If not prohibited, it should be disclosed to everyone so when they’re going on television trying to affect [President Joe] Biden’s policy on whatever war they have in mind, they ought to be straightforward.”

However, as Perez and Ramaswami point out, “the Ukraine crisis and the potential for greater conflict have been a goldmine for defense contractors, sending stocks skyrocketing and prompting sharp increases in defense spending.”

FAIR editor Jim Naureckas told The Lever that “the people who have the most interest in influencing the direction of the coverage are weapons-makers. They have the most direct financial stake in the way we cover issues of war and peace. Unfortunately, they are interested in more war and less peace.”

Perez and Ramaswami write:

“Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, U.S. defense stocks in leading companies like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin have surged, and they are expected to continue rising in the coming months. And in the wake of Russia’s invasion, President Biden signed into law a spending package that directs a record-breaking $782 billion towards defense — almost $30 billion above his initial request.

The bill signed by the president authorizes $6.5 billion in military aid for Eastern European countries, including $3.5 billion in new weapons for Ukraine. This is in addition to the $1 billion already spent on arming Ukrainian forces with weaponry such as Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon’s Stinger surface-to-air missiles.

Various former U.S. officials appearing on corporate media news programs have ties to these and other companies or groups representing their interests. Leon Panetta, a former defense secretary, Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) director and White House chief of staff, regularly appears as a television guest expert. On CNN last week, he asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin only understands “force” and that “the United States has to provide whatever weapons are necessary to the Ukrainians, so that they can hit back, and hit back now.”

Neither CNN nor Panetta disclosed that he is a senior counselor at Beacon Global Strategies, a military industry consulting company whose clients have reportedly included Raytheon.

Another Beacon Global Strategies employee appearing regularly on network and cable news programs is former Pentagon and C.I.A. Chief of Staff Jeremy Bash, who went on NBC’s Meet the Press days after Putin’s invasion and called for arming Ukrainian forces so they could “shoot Russian aircraft out of the sky, open up those tanks with can openers, like the Javelins, and kill Russians.”

Beacon advisory board member and retired U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis has frequently appeared on MSNBC, where he once said the solution in Ukraine is to “flood the zone” with ” troops, tanks, missile systems, warships, all the above, in order to send a signal to Vladimir Putin.”

“What we ought to do is give the Ukrainians the ability to create a no-fly zone,” he said. “More Stingers, more missiles that can go higher than Stingers.”

FAIR’s Naureckas told The Lever that “everyone involved is aware of the transaction that is going on.  Journalists know this as well, but you can’t admit it because that would spoil the grift if you said, ‘Here’s a person who’s funded by the weapons industry to tell you about this crisis.'”

“It should be the reporter’s instinct to explain the agenda of the people they are quoting,” he added, “but because this is such an integral part of what is done in the journalism system, you can’t give away the game.”

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

17 comments for “Corporate Media’s War-Industry Pundits

  1. Susan J Leslie
    April 15, 2022 at 13:14

    Why are we in the west such small thinkers? We need to be visionaries instead of reactionaries…

  2. Vera Gottlieb
    April 15, 2022 at 04:48

    The US will never ever be an ‘honest broker’, regardless in which situation. Too many pundits being paid by all those parties out to lie to the public for their interests and profits, to keep us quiet and docile. An odious and shit disturbing nation…the ‘beacon on the hill’ gone dark long time ago.

  3. Realist
    April 15, 2022 at 03:23

    If you bustards keep playing your cards right, you might finally entice the Russian military command and President Putin to decide that, since Washington and Nato are the source of all the damage they have incurred in Ukraine (the Ukrainians themselves being mere pawns in a proxy war), then military strikes against American and Nato sites are entirely justified. Congratulations, you imbeciles will have just initiated the WWIII you seem to have wanted for ever so long. The strikes will, of course, include hits on American cities, and eventually they will be nuclear! Let’s see how fast Lord Biden’s opinion polls plummet then. The only bad feature is that if the voters (how many ever are left after the nuclear strikes) simply remove the Democratic administration we will still be plagued with you infernal warmongering neocons, since you migrate so easily and readily between the only two viable political parties which are both stark raving insane and which both practice every known example of war crimes ever committed and solve their PR problem by simply projecting their own heinous actions on to the other side. In other words, there’s not an honorable person anywhere near Washington, or any of the other power centers, available to replace the human excrement now in control.

  4. cezrcyfer
    April 14, 2022 at 22:55

    There’s so much good information on this site. I will try to keep up. Will check back often. Thank you.

  5. Kalen
    April 14, 2022 at 18:07

    We know from the past that media has been infiltrated by agents of national security agencies as operation mocking bird and many other evidences proved. But now we are not taking about infiltration we are talking about total ownership of MSM media and full integration of western media as (CIA 5 eyes) main psychological warfare tool on one hand targeting western and foreign audience to redirect, obfuscate of fabricate motivations for arbitrary policies on the other hand directly operationally engaging in ongoing hostilities on various frontlines of perpetual proxy wars that exemplify growing resentment among global oligarchic elite physical facing limits of growth and exploitation that directly impacts outlook their profit and global economic control.

    A good analog of the situation would be global gangsters trying to encroach on each other’s realms of influence and control as there are no new territories to conquer.

    Uncanny, nonchalant attitude of western blabbering leadership puppets to horrible possibility of nuclear WWIII their irresponsible hysterical words seem to provoke can only be explained by gangsters analogy where bosses do not want to destroy their enemy business but simply gain more share or take over it. Those western puppets know that there will be no nuclear war, or so they were assured by their masters.

    We must remember that there’s is no ideological conflict among global oligarchic elites, no one wants to wipe out capitalism or dismantle oligarchic rule or empower people to self rule over their own societies in fact they all east and west eagerly coordinate and harmonize their domestic socioeconomic policies according to one purpose: increase oligarchic profit and control over their economies and societies in unison strictly controlIng politics, eroding civil liberties and free speech . Global oligarchy is United in enslaving, exploiting , , manipulating, dividing and conflicting working class worldwide which is primarily purpose of warmongering and provocations using real or fabricated human rights abuses as emotional whip.

    In such context there is nothing for working people’s worldwide to gain from those proxy wars except deaths and bills to pay for them. Ironically history repeats itself in strange ways. As much as in 1914 as today Rosa Luxemburg ‘s anti war speech applies as she said paraphrasing “I am not a pacifist, as I enjoy good fight, and I would like to see elite aristocrats, oligarchs fighting their differences to death, I would even pay to see it but don’t you dare to spill one drop of working people’s blood to settle elites’ petty quarrels.” Most booed her out of stage calling he Tsarist stooge. In Europe alone over 10,000,000 paid with their lives to settle those little petty quarrels, bruised ego offenses while Luxemburg was assassinated. Those ignorant of history are bound to repeat it.

  6. rosemerry
    April 14, 2022 at 15:47

    One of the main factors which I find abhorrent is the personal vindictive tone constantly used against the Russian president, who has been elected several times, has a high approval rating and is obviously well-read, well-informed, intelligent and with huge reservoirs of knowledge on a wide range of subjects. NONE of these characteristics can be applied to the present POTUS, whose vicious personal comments are even worse than those of Barack Obama. This fanatical hatred is not a basis for a reasonable foreign policy, and the use of partisan “experts” in the media ensure that even well-meaning US people gradually accept the usually lying “facts” spouted by former generals and those with MIC connections and plenty of cash to ensure their recommendations to the public are NOT in the public interest, but in that of the MIC corporate coffers.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      April 15, 2022 at 04:52

      A shit disturbing and odious nation…Too many people literally addicted to the ‘social’ media and not paying attention to what goes on. A social media that is anything but social. And too many people incapable of thinking for themselves…or afraid.

  7. Lois Gagnon
    April 14, 2022 at 14:31

    As Chris Hedges has said many times, “We have undergone a corporate coup d’etat.” The whole shebang is controlled by the same interests including the legacy media; public broadcasting as well. The only way to fix it is to change the economic system that is at the core of the whole mess. We are in for a fight that will test the resolve of the most ardent advocates of peace and justice. Bankers play for keeps.

    • Manifold Destiny
      April 15, 2022 at 04:56

      Yes, great quote. However, Chris correctly attributes it to John Ralston Saul. If you haven’t read him, I highly recommend Voltaire’s Bastards, The Unconscious Civilization (these books are now over 25 years old but are still highly apropos), and On Equilibrium.

      When Chris uses the term “courtiers,” he got that from Mr Saul as well. JRS argues that this term, the masculine version of the arguably more pejorative “courtesan” is an appropriate application for all the “yes” men and women who litter the halls of government, academia and mainstream media in this Age of the Dictatorship of Reason in the West. Reason alone dictates the logic of going along with the “Machine,” the “Narrative,” the “Big Lie,” or whatever you want to call it – because, hey, it’s justifiable because reason dictates I’m only doing it in my self-interest.

      JRS further argues that since the Enlightenment, Western societies have turned to “reason” as the end-all and be-all of modern civilization to the unfortunate exclusion of other equally important human characteristics such as Creativity, Ethics, Common Sense, Intuition, and (a big one) Memory, feeding into the Orwellian quip, “He who controls the past controls the future…”

  8. renate
    April 14, 2022 at 14:14

    We all know about lobbyists and that all government officials will end up in the lobbying business. Rep. Tauzin and the pharma industry come to mind also. Government officials should be banned from lobbying for at least 5 years after they leave government. The elected officials really legalized corruption.
    Being skeptical, one can suspect that big defense contractors in Sweden and Finland are manipulating public opinion the same way to make the two neutral nations become members of NATO. The MIC is the only group of people to gain, that way they could sell weapons to Ukraine and jump on the gravy train too. What other explanation could there be for the people to give up their neutrality and prosperity that came with it?

  9. Caliman
    April 14, 2022 at 12:42

    But this is the whole point of US foreign policy: care and feeding of the Mil-Ind empire, better labeled MICIMATT. Unlike many traditional countries in the old world, we don’t do empire building and spheres of influence primarily for national security reasons with economic theft as a side benefit. Our national security is manifestly protected by oceanic moats and large, weak, and friendly neighbors.

    No, ever since 1898, the point of foreign affairs has been power and money for connected persons and corporations. Started in Cuba, Philippines, Central America (United Fruit, etc.) and then went on steroids after WW2 and again after 2001 allowed our unipolar moment to shine.

    So there’s no wonder MSM (the middle M in MICIMATT) acts as they do: they are part and parcel of the racket (as Smedley Butler called it) … they play their role propagandizing the population into agreement and compliance and get a cut from the action.

  10. mgr
    April 14, 2022 at 12:22

    In other words, it’s not journalism anymore but rather just an infomercial. Seems to be no way out of this house of mirrors. If the American public will not stop it, it will certainly not be changed by government. For one thing, that would mean that the Biden admin would have to stop lying about what’s going on in Ukraine and more importantly what Washington’s true interests are in fomenting it. This, of course, is the real lie. The one that they hope to deflect from with all the nonsense about “getting into Putin’s head.” I wonder who came up with that particular marketing angle. Sounds like they are handling things ad hoc. Mirrors and more mirrors, but then, eventually, cracks.

    What I have read is that after the public begins to realize that all their information is deflection and spin, they give up and stop trusting anything. Then they simply resign themselves to doing and thinking whatever they are told by whoever seems to have the most authority. As it has been said, “If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.” So much for American individualism. Once true perhaps, but now just an illusion. Nonetheless, once the economic effects start to kick in and *shopping-itself* is threatened, there’s going to be some real trouble, I think. There are some things in America that you just don’t mess with…

    • RS
      April 14, 2022 at 17:05

      mgr the American people won’t stop anything. Most people in the US are ignorant, thanks to the media. All they know is what they are told. There is another issue as well. The American people are pre-progammed to think Russia is evil. This has been going on for decades. In my generation movies like “Dr. Strangelove” and “Failsafe” both highlight the possibility of war with Russia. In addition the racial angle plays a part as well. No one gets excited about killing Asians, blacks and off-white people of the Middle East. But Europe–white people live there they have discovered. Consequently, all consuming reporting is going on. Every newspaper has been covering Ukraine for the front page since the invasion began and almost no one understands why our how it started. The tragic thing that may become more tragic as events continue isa that it could be easily stopped by diplomacy.

      • mgr
        April 15, 2022 at 03:05

        RS: Yes, well put, thank you. I too was there for “Dr. Strangelove” and “Failsafe.” Can you imagine making those movies today? Things have become much more shallow, I think. A democracy depends on an educated and involved public. The public must keep a strict eye on the powerful. Government has no inherent power of its own (“We the people…”). People are sovereign. But if they are too lazy or distracted to take on that responsibility, well, you see what we get. The powers that be work tirelessly to keep the public divided and fighting among themselves or against phantoms. It’s the mushroom approach; keep them in the dark and feed them shit. It only stops when the public decides to actually be responsible for what their country does in their name.

  11. Cesar Jeopardy
    April 14, 2022 at 12:05

    This article sums it all up nicely. It’s only omission AFAICT is failing to note that it was the sage wisdom and “advice” by these people that created the ongoing messes in the first place. They are certainly not the right people to advise on how to end the SMO in the Ukraine for example.

    • Vera Gottlieb
      April 15, 2022 at 04:55

      When I hear the word ‘expert’ (regardless of subject) I literally shudder and always ask myself…yeah, expert…and who is paying you to say what you are stating?

      • Jim Mitchell
        April 16, 2022 at 17:09

        JFK reminded us that an expert is just someone from out-of-town…

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