Buying the War – Bill Moyers

Buying the War - Bill Moyers

Today I could not get my schedule right. I went to two meetings that did not exist. Apparently my sense of the week is shot… but as a result I got to watch an illuminating PBS show with Bill Moyers on media complicity in the Iraq War.

You can get the entire transcript from

Buying the War

But if you’re short on time, I’ll highlight a few parts that caught my attention:

CNN Reporter
In an interview with a CNN reporter: everybody on staff knew not to do anything too critical of the administration. When the media focused on civilian deaths, there was pressure from corporations, white house officials, and hundreds of threatening emails stating that they were being anti-american.

CYH: The usage of patriotic fervor was a powerful way to silent any dissent. Who would want to be part of the outgroup? Bio-social drivers get activated easily.

How did the administration beat the drums of war?
* Putting up an Iraqi dissenter (Chaliby??) to criticize about Sadaam even though Chaliby was a con man who is part of a group that wants a regime change. He was also paid hundreds of thousands for his cause.
* Defectors were interviewed many of whom were Kurds
* The number of articles written by William Safir, Perle repeated the same facts WMDs, link to terrorism
* Cheney used the information revealed in the story on the talk show. Classic case of government planting story and then confirming it on TV.
* Invoking powerful movies: “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud”
* Make sure that voices of the conservatives were much louder… example from Donohue about guidelines for bringing guests on:

PHIL DONOHUE: You didn’t have him alone. He had to be there with someone else who supported the war. In other words, you couldn’t have Scott Ritter alone. You could have Richard Perle alone. You could have the supporters of the President alone. And they would say why this war is important. You couldn’t have a dissenter alone. Our producers were instructed to feature two conservatives for every liberal.

CYH: Connects well with what Lakoff has to say. Conservatives are just better at strategically getting their message out!

Knight Ridder

Red flags that they noticed:
1) Kurd (enemy of Saddam) had been allowed into Top Secret facility? How could his testimony be considered accurate?
2) Why would Sadaam put chemical facility under residence?
3) The same people who told these stories would retell more fantastically
4) Different stories had different points of information… all information provided by defectors were proved false a year later after invasion.

Journalists from Knight Ridder were outside of the bubble and they did a much better job at finding the truth. In fact, they proved that the truth could be found. Problem was that media got all their information from the top-level officials.

CYH: Why was the UN inspector reports totally dismissed in mainstream media? There were many eyes (spy satellites, inspections, etc.) on Iraq and none indicated that there were nuclear weapons being developed.

CYH: By the way, Knight Ridder was bought out by the McClatchy Company (

Journalism on the Cheap

DAN RATHER: This is journalism on the cheap if it’s journalism at all. Just pick up the phone, call an expert, bring an expert into the studio. Easy. Not time consuming. Doesn’t take resources. And– if you– if you’re lucky and good with your list of people, you get an articulate person who will kind of spark up the broadcast.

WALTER ISAACSON: One of the great pressures we’re facing in journalism now is it’s a lot cheaper to hire thumb suckers and pundits and have talk shows on the air than actually have bureaus and reporters. And in the age of the internet when everybody’s a pundit, we’re still gonna need somebody there to go talk to the colonels, to be on the ground in Baghdad and stuff and that’s very expensive.

CYH: It’s easier to not think. It’s also cheaper.

What does this mean to us?
CYH: Well this definitely convinces me that the conservatives were really smart at how they sold the war. Actually it seems that the administration learned from all the previous administration in how to sell the war. I remember reading an article in UTNE at reading the signs when a country is gearing up for war (Elizabeth suggested this article: Do we have the ability to read the signs and stop and think before going past the point of no return?