i. From Whom the Smell Roils
This isn’t really a complicated story. But following the subterranean connections might seem so, at first blush.
Let’s start with The Weekly Standard, that wholly-owned Rupert Murdoch money-loser (estimated at over $1 million a year) sop to the PNAC Right, and the Partnership for a New American Century’s founder and chairman, William Kristol.
According to Wikipedia in a prior incarnation:
Like National Review in the administration of Ronald Reagan, [The Weekly Standard] is very popular among United States President George W. Bush’s administration.
The magazine posts more than one million dollars of annual losses. Nevertheless, Rupert Murdoch, the head of the News Corporation, denies that there are any plans to sell it. *
The “loses more than a million dollars a year” quote comes to us from The New Yorker article “Murdoch’s Game” 16 Oct 2006.
[* Gee: you don’t suppose that Rupert Murdoch is subsidizing Irving Kristol’s son William to the tune of $1 million a year in an under-the-table contribution to the GOP do you?]
And The Weekly Standard (surprise!) has a blog. Here’s what it said on Friday, August 1:
That the Times made this allegation in a blog post rather than running it on the editorial page indicates that they either knew the charge was bogus or they didn’t have the nerve to make their case in full view of the public. But in their new role as bloggers, the paper’s editors seem to have all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother’s basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons.
In case you missed it, the Times editors argued that the ad was a “racially tinged attack” on Obama because it juxtaposed the senator with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.
Oh, and the editors also wrote that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis peddled a subliminal racist message when he said that Obama had played the race card “from the bottom of the deck” — because that phrase “entered the national lexicon during the O.J. Simpson saga.”
Posted by John McCormack on August 1, 2008 06:15 PM | Permalink
My goodness, gosh, golly. Isn’t that cozy? I mean, considering that before Michael Goldfarb was hired as John McCain’s official blogger “Deputy Director of Communications,” or, as last week, “McCain spokesman, he was an employee of Rupert Murdoch, writing The Weekly Standard’s blog:
(Bumped) Kristol: So long (for a while) to Michael Goldfarb
Note to our readers: The online editor of THE WEEKLY STANDARD and proprietor of this blog, Michael Goldfarb, has taken a leave of absence effective today to serve as deputy communications director of the McCain campaign. He’ll be focusing on their online activities. We’ll all be assisting deputy online editors John McCormack and Samantha Sault in the herculean task of filling Mike’s shoes for the next five months. Then we expect to welcome him back–unless he’s appointed national security adviser in the McCain White House.
Posted by William Kristol on June 2, 2008 04:47 PM | Permalink
And, when I saw this item, suddenly, the circle closed, and all the dots connected. Devlin Barrett, AP, August 1:
McCain and N.Y. Times continue a long-running bout
By DEVLIN BARRETT – 2 days ago
… The response from the McCain campaign was equally cutting.
“If the shareholders of The New York Times ever wonder why the paper’s ad revenue is plummeting and its share price tanking, they need look no further than the hysterical reaction of the paper’s editors to any slight, real or imagined, against their preferred candidate,” said McCain campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb.
Goldfarb compared the editors to a blogger “sitting at home in his mother’s basement and ranting into the ether between games of Dungeons & Dragons.”
You see, this wasn’t the first time this year that Goldfarb has launched a fatwa against the venerable Gray Lady, the New York Times …
ii: Across the River and into the Sleaze
You need this background to assess intelligently what follows.
On March 4, 2005, Judicial Watch — not an organization known for its “liberality” — filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the Pentagon, noting in the text:
The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 (22 U.S.C. ‘ 1461), forbids the domestic dissemination of U.S. government authored or developed propaganda or “official news” deliberately designed to influence public opinion or policy. The Pentagon has made aggressive use of various information warfare techniques, developing new programs and hiring outside media consultants in executing their various missions in the Global War on Terror.
The headline said it all:
PENTAGON SUED FOR RECORDS ON PROPAGANDA, PSY-OPS AND “PERCEPTION MANAGEMENT” TARGETTING (sic) U.S. CIVILIANS
Pentagon Media Consultants Develop “Empower Peace” Internet Site Aimed at School Children
Of course, the law has rarely been an impediment to this maladministration: in 2004, the Los Angeles Times reported:
PR Meets Psy-Ops in War on Terror
By Mark Mazzetti
December 01, 2004 in print edition A-1
On the evening of Oct. 14, a young Marine spokesman near Fallouja appeared on CNN and made a dramatic announcement.
“Troops crossed the line of departure,” 1st Lt. Lyle Gilbert declared, using a common military expression signaling the start of a major campaign. “It’s going to be a long night.” CNN, which had been alerted to expect a major news development, reported that the long-awaited offensive to retake the Iraqi city of Fallouja had begun.
In fact, the Fallouja offensive would not kick off for another three weeks. Gilbert’s carefully worded announcement was an elaborate psychological operation – or “psy-op” – intended to dupe insurgents in Fallouja and allow U.S. commanders to see how guerrillas would react if they believed U.S. troops were entering the city, according to several Pentagon officials.
In the hours after the initial report, CNN’s Pentagon reporters were able to determine that the Fallouja operation had not, in fact, begun.
“As the story developed, we quickly made it clear to our viewers exactly what was going on in and around Fallouja,” CNN spokesman Matthew Furman said.
Officials at the Pentagon and other U.S. national security agencies said the CNN incident was not an isolated feint – the type used throughout history by armies to deceive their enemies – but part of a broad effort underway within the Bush administration to use information to its advantage in the war on terrorism….
But it didn’t start in 2004, and hasn’t abated here in 2008. From FireDogLake:
By: bmaz Sunday April 20, 2008 12:52 pmBy now you have probably heard that the New York Times has an in-depth piece by David Barstow out for Sunday’s edition on the use by the Pentagon of media “military experts” as propaganda conduits.
It would be nice to be able to say that the revelations in Barstow’s article are shocking, but they are not. Spin and propaganda have, from the outset, been more important to the Bush Administration than efficient and effective performance and truth. This already looks to be a big deal around the blogosphere, everybody will be discussing the general parameters of the story. Dave Neiwert serves up a dissection at FDL (and do click through his links here and here to his earlier pieces at Orcinus in 2004 on Bush Administration psy-op propaganda, they are excellent).
Beyond the face value of the NYT article, however, lurk some more interesting issues. Marcy has, as usual, immediately found one in relation to the spotty history of the NYT on Bushco propaganda, most notably in regard to Judith Miller and the case for the Iraq War (can you say “Sweet Judy Blew Lies“? I can). Here is mine; we know this Pentagon propaganda scheme is crass and loathsome, but is it legal?
Arguably, the answer is no, it is not legal …
Well, any time you can get FireDogLake and Judicial Watch on the same page something’s going on.
I add as my final bit of Pentagonia Orcinus‘ (David Neiwert’s) posting from July 6, 2004, referenced above:
It’s one thing to realize you’ve been had. But even more important, perhaps, is to realize why it’s happened.
The natural reaction that most people have to the discovery that the shots of the statue of Saddam coming down in Baghdad as Americans took control were not, in fact, a spontaneous demonstration, but were part of a carefully staged event for the TV cameras, is one of simple disgust — to remark, as Atrios did the other day, that the incident reveals what suckers the Bush administration has played the public for.
Even more disturbing, however, is to read the L.A. Times report carefully and observe that this project was specifically a product of the Pentagon’s “psychological combat” program:
- The Army’s internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.
Psychological operations — or “PsyOps,” as they are known in lingo — are the subject of a multitude of conspiracy theories, in no small part because they are in fact cloaked in so much official secrecy. Much of the accusatory material that circulates about the programs is bogus, but there are serious scholars who have examined it and remain useful sources of what we do know about them. (A reasonably factual collection of documents can be found at The Information Warfare Site, while this Wikipedia page can give you a quick rundown on what’s known.)
One of these scholars is Christopher Simpson, the American University professor who has written extensively on the subject, notably in Science of Coercion: Communication Research and Psychological Warfare 1945-1960 (an excerpt of which you can read here).
One of the important points that Simpson raises is that the combat field for psychological warfare is not merely the physical field of combat, but the home front as well. In an interview with Simpson, he discussed this point a little further:
From its inception psychological warfare has been the mating of violence on the one hand and what people would call today propaganda or mass communication on the other hand. Another thing that’s interesting about psychological warfare, from its inception it has also targeted the people of the United States, the common preconception is that for better or for worse this is something we do to them. The reality is that from the government’s standpoint, from the standpoint of those who are paying the bills for its development the targets always involve not only foreign audiences but domestic audiences as well.
We have in fact known from even before the outset that the war against Iraq would prominently feature psychological warfare. Most people have assumed that this warfare would be directed against the enemy and the subject citizens. They have not stopped to consider that, by definition, it would also be directed toward the American public as well.
This reality raises a serious concern about the fragility of democracy during wartime. Because under the aegis of a seemingly eternal war, the American government has clearly been involving the public in its psychological combat, and has hijacked the nation’s press in the process. The entire meaning of the Iraq war — and by extension, the “war on terrorism” — is inextricably bound up in the psychological manipulation of the voting public through a relentless barrage of propaganda.
This is why the both the runup to the war and its subsequent mishandling have been so replete with highly symbolic media events — many of them played repeatedly on nightly newscasts — that have proven so hollow at their core But the fact that the military establishment, in the context of the “war on terror,” clearly views the American public as the subject of a psychological combat operation should give us all pause regarding the ability of democracy to withstand this kind of assault.
And then he concludes with this — chillingly, considering that the election he was referring to was the 2004 election:
In the end, I think there is enough innate resistance to this kind of propagandization in a free society to win out. But the November election will be a crucial test of whether or not this is true.
Well, they’re doing it. It’s been used to influence US elections. And it’s illegal.
iii. Islands in the Scheme
Tinker to Evers to Chance: You might recall the Private Beauchamp Affair last summer. Almost a year ago to this day, Goldfarb wrote this in The Weekly Standard‘s blog:
TNR’s “Investigation” Reveals Beauchamp Was Always a Monster
The New Republic has published the results of their investigation into the events described by Private Scott Thomas Beauchamp. The editors say,
we spoke with five other members of Beauchamp’s company, and all corroborated Beauchamp’s anecdotes, which they witnessed or, in the case of one solider, heard about contemporaneously.
Except they didn’t.
The recollections of these three soldiers differ from Beauchamp’s on one significant detail (the only fact in the piece that we have determined to be inaccurate): They say the conversation [mocking a disfigured woman] occurred at Camp Buehring, in Kuwait, prior to the unit’s arrival in Iraq. When presented with this important discrepancy, Beauchamp acknowledged his error. We sincerely regret this mistake.
So just to be clear, the first line of the original piece stated that Beauchamp “saw her nearly every time I went to dinner in the chow hall at my base in Iraq.” That turns out now to be a blatant lie–and one that Beauchamp stuck with after THE WEEKLY STANDARD first asked Foer to reveal the base at which this incident occurred. Further, TNR says in this new statement that “Shock Troops” “was about the morally and emotionally distorting effects of war.” But now we find out that Beauchamp hadn’t even gotten to Iraq when this incident allegedly took place. He was, in fact, a morally stunted sadist before he ever set foot in Iraq.
After recounting this tale, Beauchamp asks a rhetorical question:
Am I a monster? I have never thought of myself as a cruel person….I was relieved to still be shocked by my own cruelty—to still be able to recognize that the things we soldiers found funny were not, in fact, funny.
Relieved that he was still shocked at his own cruelty? After his tour in Germany and the long flight to Kuwait? This whole essay was meant to demonstrate the damage war does to our own troops–but if this incident occurred at all, it only proves that Beauchamp was a vile creep to begin with.
The New Republic editors claim to have “granted Beauchamp a pseudonym so that he could write honestly and candidly about his emotions and experiences” in Iraq. The pseudonym seems to have had the opposite effect, enabling him to write dishonestly and less than candidly about the monstrous behavior displayed before he ever saw a shot fired in anger.
So we’re back to where we started: Has anyone ever seen a badly disfigured woman at Camp Beuhring, or any other camp in the Middle East which might subsequently be revealed as the scene of the crime?
More to come . . .
Posted by Michael Goldfarb on August 2, 2007 05:09 PM | Permalink
“A morally stunted sadist.” Certainly a great way to characterize one of those troops that Kristol’s Thanatocracy is all about “supporting,” right? Well, Goldfarb had a vested interest in this story: he created it and coordinated “milbloggers” THROUGH the Weekly Standard blog, beginning with this, on
Fact or Fiction?
UPDATED 12:37 pm
A mission for milbloggers:
The New Republic runs a piece in this week’s issue titled “Shock Troops” (sub. req.) and authored by Scott Thomas–described by the magazine as a “pseudonym for a soldier currently serving in Baghdad.” “Thomas” is the author of two previous dispatches from Iraq for the New Republic, both of which recount deeply disturbing anecdotes (in one, an Iraqi boy who calls himself James Bond has his tongue cut out for talking to Americans; in the other, dogs feast on a corpse in the street). His latest piece is even more disturbing. It recounts several instances of gross misconduct by the men in his unit, some of which are, to echo the title of his piece, deeply shocking–If they are true–a big if, according to several people with experience in Iraq. One described it to me as sounding like a “pastiche of the ‘This is no bullshit . . . stories soldiers like to tell.” … [MORE]
iv. The Gettin’ of Even
I’ve covered the whole brouhaha at length (see HERE), but recently, the New York Review of Magazines (published by Columbia University’s Journalism Department) published an “insider’s” look at what took place inside The Weekly Standard:
The day last summer when The Weekly Standard decided to wage war against The New Republic I remember by the taste of glue. I was at the interns’ cubicle just down the hall from William Kristol’s office, licking my way through a pile of envelopes, when the tall and jovial Michael Goldfarb walked past me and knocked on the door of the managing editor’s office. Goldfarb ran The Weekly Standard blog from Boston, but he had traveled here today with a copy of The New Republic, which was turned—as many copies of that magazine were in July 2007—to the article “Shock Troops” that ran on the very last page. It had been submitted from Iraq by an active-duty soldier who wrote under the pseudonym Scott Thomas. [...]
Richard Starr, the second in command at The Weekly Standard, was. Short, bespectacled, with curly hair, Starr ran the show at the magazine, even if he didn’t host it. He did much of the talking at the weekly editorial-board meetings and conjured up the juiciest headlines. He was also delightfully sociable—he invited me once to his office and read me a Philip Larkin poem—and so it was natural that Goldfarb should seek him out to discuss the Scott Thomas piece. In light of the history of The Weekly Standard and The New Republic, the matter would have to be handled delicately.
To begin with, the magazines occupied opposite corners of the political opinion-making market. The Weekly Standard was a magazine owned by Rupert Murdoch, and it was established in 1995 as a fresh conservative voice. The New Republic, by contrast, was one of the nation’s oldest liberal magazines. And though it had veered of late toward the center, it remained decisively on the neoliberal part of the political spectrum. What had further frozen their relations was that The New Republic, which had initially supported the United States’ invasion of Iraq, had since rethought its position, and its relatively new editor, the precocious Franklin Foer, had been chasing the waves of public sentiment back to a definitively anti-war stance. The Weekly Standard, under the command of the hawkish Bill Kristol, had swum against the waves. [...]
Michael Goldfarb wrote and senior editors approved a piece titled “Fact or Fiction?” which was posted on July 18 on The Weekly Standard blog.
For the time being, Goldfarb didn’t accuse; he merely questioned. Thomas had claimed to have humiliated an injured woman, but why, lacking knowledge of the woman’s post or seniority, would he take such a risk? Thomas had claimed that a child’s skull had been a “perfect fit” on the head of a fellow soldier, but “would a child’s skull fit on the head of a full-grown man?” Thomas had observed a soldier as he drove a Bradley Fighting Vehicle erratically through Iraqi streets, but why would that soldier have risked running into roadside bombs, which were widely scattered about the city?
At the end of the post, Goldfarb called on the “milblogging community to do some digging of their own, and individual soldiers and veterans to come forward with relevant information—either about the specific events or their plausibility in general.”
In the meantime, Bill Kristol issued his opinions through a printed magazine editorial that asked far fewer questions and attempted to give many more answers. “But what is revealing about this mistake [of publishing Thomas] is that the editors must have wanted to suspend their disbelief in tales of gross misconduct by American troops. How else could they have published such a farrago of dubious tales?” he wrote. “Having turned against a war that some of them supported, the left is now turning against the troops they claim still to support.”
And then (remembering that this was a wide-eyed intern at the Weekly Standard and is, seemingly, a true believer) the entire piece is worth reading, horrifically slanted though it is.
The MAJOR objection to the piece by the righties and the milbloggers seemed to be that our soldiers had behaved in much the same manner as you’re seeing on the HBO miniseries Generation Kill.
But, you see, THAT information hadn’t gotten out yet.
And note this at the end of the NYRM article:
On August 2, 2007, the editors of The New Republic disclosed what they had learned in their July 26 chat with Beauchamp … And they publicized the fact that “late last week, the Army began its own investigation, short-circuiting our efforts. Beauchamp had his cell phone and computer taken away and is currently unable to speak to even his family. His fellow soldiers no longer feel comfortable communicating with reporters.”
The Army now refused The New Republic’s requests to speak with Beauchamp; it preferred to deal with its de facto ally, The Weekly Standard. The following week, Michael Goldfarb claimed, on the magazine blog, that Scott Thomas Beauchamp had signed a sworn statement “admitting that all three articles he published in The New Republic were exaggerations and falsehoods.” He ridiculed what he charged was the magazine’s motive in publishing the Beauchamp piece: to illustrate the “morally and emotionally distorting effects of war.”
The article concludes with this:
Today Beauchamp is largely forgotten, both by the public and the editors who brought him into the spotlight of American contempt, and left him there. “I’ve pretty much exhausted myself on the topic,” Frank Foer wrote, in response to my interview request. “Thanks for the offer.” Michael Goldfarb was exhausted, too. And that is why, perhaps, if you were walking by The Weekly Standard’s offices on the day Foer issued his retraction, you would hear neither the uncorking of champagne nor the ring of a victory bell. “We beat the hell out of them for most of the summer,” Goldfarb explained. “They got so raked over the coals anyway.”
And who was served? Certainly the incident cast a chilling effect over what soldiers blogged or wrote about the war. Worse, as I’ll tell you tomorrow, simply taking a photograph of a dead soldier will get a journalist kicked out of Iraq “within ten minutes” — as one photographer reported today on NPR’s “Talk Of The Nation.”
But more importantly, and what I’ll leave you with is this: Michael Goldfarb was a regular participant in the Pentagon’s “Bloggers’ Roundtable.” Sourcewatch:
By February 20, 2007, when then White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was telling a National Press Club roundtable “You’ve got this wonderful, imaginative hateful stuff that comes flying out. I think one of the most important takeaways is — it’s the classical line — not only should you not believe your own press, you probably shouldn’t believe your opposition blogs either,” the NMO’s Public Affairs office had already “hosted” three weekly Bloggers’ Roundtables—”conference calls for bloggers writing on Defense Department issues.”
In April 2007, Roxie Merritt, Director of New Media Operations at OSD for Public Affairs, told Robert Bluey of the conservative Townhall.com [created by the Heritage Foundation] that the “military’s embrace of bloggers extends far beyond putting them on the ground in Iraq.” Merritt told Bluey “she was able to convince top brass at the Pentagon to reach out to bloggers after bloggers broke stories ignored by the mainstream media, such as Iran‘s meddling in Iraq and the infamous doctored Reuters photo in Lebanon.”
In May 2007, Merritt told Nikki Schwab of the Washington Post that “while bloggers aren’t being credentialed like media, the military is taking more time to communicate with bloggers to ensure that they post accurate information. She said the U.S. Central Command was the first command unit to reach out to bloggers. A command team was created to refer bloggers to information generally already available on one of the military’s Web sites,” Schwab wrote.
The coup de grâce, also from Sourcewatch:
Michael Goldfarb is a writer with the neoconservative The Weekly Standard owned by Rupert Murdoch and edited by William Kristol. Goldfarb “also works as a research associate” at the Project for the New American Century, where Kristol is Chairman.
And, here is a transcript and a link to the July 11 roundtable teleconference, with one Michael Goldfarb in attendance, six days before he unleashed his attack on The New Republic. Several of the milbloggers present were also involved in the “Beauchamp Affair.” You will find Goldfarb’s leading question at 16:30 on the MP3 recording of the 7-11-07 roundtable:
Odd, isn’t it, that the Weekly Standard‘s agenda and the Pentagon’s psy-ops agenda concided here?
Well, not so strange at all.
Tomorrow, we’ll follow the twisting trail and connect up ALL the dots — ESPECIALLY about The New York Times. Oh my.
But in the meantime, ask yourself this: Surely John McCain KNEW about Mr. Goldfarb’s great blogospheric coup of last year prior to hiring him to handle HIS blogosmear™ campaign. There is no question about it — after all, it happened almost exactly one year ago. Now: why do you suppose that McCain specifically picked Goldfarb?
And what do you think that might say about Pentagon psyops involvement in this campaign?
And we leave the court of Public Opinion with this bit of hearsay evidence, from Matt Yglesias’ blog at The Atlantic, a comment:
somewhat o/t. Reposted comment from last week…
As someone who knew Mike Goldfarb in college very well, it pains me to see that he’s turned into such a vile person. At Princeton he was always a gentleman, was a great boyfriend to Hilary (who’s now his wife), was intellectual, was into the rave scene (and *all* that entails), was friends with all sorts of people (gays, liberals, Canadians). His jump off the deep end is truly bizarre. I think he’s someone for whom 9/11 (and a paycheck from certain right wing publications) truly change everything. Something snapped in his head, such that intellectual honesty and gentleman’s honor could be sacrificed “to save America from certain doom.”
I actually figured out only two weeks ago that the “Michael Goldfarb” guy that I kept hearing about online was the same guy I knew in college. My group of friends has been abuzz ever since. How could this be the same guy? What happened? How does one go from a gentleman to a hired character assassin? It shakes your faith in humanity, let me tell you.
Posted by wfg | June 11, 2008 2:56 PM
Part 2, the conclusion: The Old Man and the Sleaze