Friday, June 06, 2008

Jon Stewart skewers a neo-con with the tip of their propaganda-iceberg

Here's yet another amazing, must-see interview from the Daily Show's Jon Stewart

Part 1
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Douglas Feith Uncut Pt. 1
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Part 2
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Douglas Feith Uncut Pt. 2
Daily Show
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Political HumorHealthcare Protests

The above is Stewart interviewing Douglas Feith (Former Bush Administration Under Secretary of Defense). What's supposed to be a 10 minute interview about Feith's new book turns into an 18 minute rhetorical beat-down that leaves Feith stuttering. The point of contention: whether or not the Bush administration intentionally deceived the public into supporting the war.

What amazes me about Stewart's interviews isn't the content so much as how he delivers it. It's a testament to his comedic-genius that he can maintain a sense of levity amidst a serious discussion involving the A.Q. Khan network, Syrian Nuclear Facilities, Cheney's 1994 argument against invading Iraq, etc.

This was a great exchange:

Douglas Feith: "there was a moment when the President wanted to focus on diplomacy..."

Jon Stewart: *laughter* "I remember that moment!"

I remember that moment too.

Stewart corners Feith simply by arguing that the act of withholding information from the public was deceptive, in and of itself. It's worth mentioning that this is a gross understatement of the lengths to which the Bush administration went to dupe the public into supporting the war.

For starters, the organization within the Pentagon that Feith managed, The Office of Special Affairs, was criticized by the Pentagon's Inspector General for promoting suspect & outright false intelligence regarding Iraq. Feith calls it an honest mistake, but whistle-blowers such as Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski offer offer a wildly different interpretation of events. Describing the Office Of Special Plans (OSP), Kwiatkowski writes, "Instead of developing defense policy alternatives and advice, OSP was used to manufacture propaganda for internal and external use, and pseudo war planning."

One could easily question the validity of any personal account; you never know what motives may lie behind accusations such as these. But in light of the bombshell the New York Times published this past April, we have every reason to believe Kwiatkowski's story. Said article, Behind TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand, is the result of 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records which the New York Times successfully sued the Defense Department for. It describes an unmistakably Orwellian program designed to control the public's perception of the war. Specifically, the Pentagon recruited military "analysts" to disseminate pre-approved, pro-war talking points to the the news outlets they frequented. From the article:

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions...”

...In the fall and winter leading up to the invasion, the Pentagon armed its analysts with talking points portraying Iraq as an urgent threat. The basic case became a familiar mantra: Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons, was developing nuclear weapons, and might one day slip some to Al Qaeda; an invasion would be a relatively quick and inexpensive “war of liberation.”

This propaganda campaign was, in fact, so ridiculously successful that the Bush administration felt emboldened to use similar tactics (fake news reports & bribing columnists) to promote its domestic policies.

You wonder at the gross incompetence demonstrated by these news organizations. How could a company of journalists be manipulated so? Recent admissions by well known correspondents such as Katie Couric offer some insight. It appears that it wasn't incompetence, it was cooperation...

I'm guessing Stewart didn't mention much of this because it was too much to cover in such a short interview. That and he probably and wanted nail Feith with an argument that he couldn't equivocate his way around. In any case, Stewart once again proves himself to be a more capable and honest (and entertaining!) interviewer than anyone in the MSM.

I <3 the Daily Show :)

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