More on New York Times Investigative Piece on Military Analysts

Sometimes I think that the word “liar” is the linguistic third rail of American politics. Even in the dirtiest political campaigns, adversaries are often reluctant to call each other liars, as if avoiding that word means they have held the line and remained civil.

Thanks goodness I’m not running for office. I can say “lie” or “liar” when I want.

But – truth be told — I rarely do so. And when I do, I do it carefully. Because lying, at least as I have always understood it, is not simply making a mistake: It is intentionally telling someone something that you know not to be true. It is using a position of superior power and influence to say something untrue to hurt or deceive another person.

And, in the worst case, it is intentional deception that makes it more likely that another human being might be hurt, injured, or killed.

That is why I really have no problem saying that David Barstow’s remarkable piece in today’s New York Times, telling the story of how the Pentagon groomed some of the military analysts who have appeared on television to offer opinions about the war in Iraq, is a story about liars.

After reading Barstow’s piece, I feel on absolutely solid ground using the word. This is the story of a small group of senior military officers who, knowing one truth about the disastrous progress on the ground of the war in Iraq, intentionally went before mass audiences and – under the direction of the Pentagon — made contradictory and untrue statements, statements that they hoped would have the effect of marginalizing and silencing opponents of the war.

Even worse, these were lies that several now admit were made to protect ongoing profitable relationships with the Pentagon and defense contractors.

Angry disagreement about foreign policy is one thing.

But this was lying. And it was lying that cost lives. It is despicable.

Read it and see if you agree.


“I Felt We’d Been Hosed:” When Pentagon Propagandists Lie to Their Own Supporters

I hate the term “must read.” Who decides what the “musts” are? And whose interests are served when something must be read?

Forget all that. This is a must read.

Today’s New York Times strips away the veneer of phony objectivity of the military analysts who appear on network television.  David Barstow’s riveting story “Hidden Hand of Pentagon Helps Steer Military Analysts”   (registration required)  details the Bush Administration’s effort to curry favor with a group of network television  military analysts and keep them supplied with self-serving talking points.

And yet this isn’t the most stunning part of the story.

Administrations have always fought to have the media well supplied with a selective version of facts that are often at odds with what soldiers are seeing on the ground. Spinning and hosing is an old story.

The real stunner, and I’ll let you read it and decide, is the story’s evidence that — by not even telling the truth to the analysts ostensibly sympathetic to the administration — the adminstration left a slew of their allies feeling burned and lied to or what one senior officer called “hosed.”

It’s one thing to create propaganda that you dish up to your adversaries. This is the story of how the Pentagon tried, often unsuccessfully, to spin their own supporters in the military who served as media analysts. 

And how one ended up saying “I felt like we’d been hosed.”

A must read.  Superb reporting by David Barstow.

What Microsoft Execs Were Secretly Saying About Vista

Get a load of this.

I am a PC guy working in a MAC-heavy environment. I love PCs. But these MAC users are people skilled in digital media and new technologies who use it for a whole host of impeccably argued reasons. I mean, I work with people who actually futz with the inside and outside of their machine and write code.

Cool code-writers!

These are also people who know why — in exquisite detail — they don’t use a PC running on Windows.

I immediately thought of them today when I read Randall Stross’s amazing Digital Domain column in the New York Times. (Registration required) It turns out that Microsoft execs not only knew know that VISTA was a lemon, but that they were exchanging brutally frank emails about its mind-boggling lemonishness.

When you have studied and taught about rumor and urban  legend, you know that the miasma that is culture and the marketplace often has some pretty weird and ludicrous stuff circulating about various brands and products.

But the noise about a VISTA disaster wasn’t legend, wasn’t rumor.  And we know this now precisely because the very stratosphere of the Windows development and sales team was saying it.