David Barstow has a long investigative piece profiling Barry McCaffrey in yesterday's NY Times: "One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex."
The piece is in some ways so distressing that after I read it yesterday morning, I couldn't think of anything to say after copying and pasting the URL. I still don't have much to offer beyond thinking that it's required reading for anyone who wants a glimpse at how things too often work when it comes to "informing the public."
Barstow's piece recalls another one of his that I noted back in April, which looked at the problem of retired generals on TV and their undisclosed conflicts of interest as a widespread phenomenon. This new one concentrates on the guy who I guess could be called the epitome since I don't think many people would be happy if I just called him the biggest scumbag of them all.
The problem is, it appears that McCaffery (and the other retired generals) don't seem to have broken any laws. I suppose one could argue that they were accomplices in conducting psywar or at least propagandizing their own fellow citizens. McCaffrey would like to claim he was a critic, not a cheerleader, and I'll grant that he was less consistently onerous in this regard than some of the others -- he seems to have been more motivated by making money than in snowing the public about how swimmingly things were going in Iraq.
The media outlets who have these guys on are also due a lot of chastising. I found Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, to be just as distasteful as McCaffrey in his refusal to acknowledge how wrong it is for his organization not to have found out or disclosed the conflicts of interests.
Barstow's article brought to mind so many other things that depress me about my country -- how bloated the defense budget is, how well-greased the revolving door between government service and the private sector is, how naively reverent we are of those in uniform, how profit-driven and ethics-free the TV news biz has become now that they're just subsidiaries of giant corporate conglomerates … ahhh, this isn't doing much to encourage you to read the article, is it?
Shoutout to Barstow for the work he put in and the details he dug up. Long live real newspapers and real reporters.
Ryan Tate at Gawker notes the piece, too. He makes a point that occurred to me, too: just as with the April article, there's the feeling that Barstow's efforts will likely be for naught. Not enough people will feel the same amount of outrage as we do, and in any case, how are we poor slobs going to effect change on this whole rotten system?