All the Experts I Know

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Just finished reading Arianna Huffington’s new book, The Right Is Wrong. Review (good if slightly one-note) will be forthcoming, but I thought Swamplanders might be interested in some of what didn’t make the studio cut.

Huffington spends a fair amount of time laying out a brief not against the Right but against the media. Her criticism is not all that new; she argues that the MSM confuses presenting left/right/center views with being “balanced.” Alexander Cockburn — of all people — wrote a brilliant parody expressing that critique twenty years ago:

MACNEIL: Good evening. The Roman procurator in Jerusalem is trying to decide whether a man regarded by many as a saint should be put to death. Pontius Pilate is being urged by civil libertarians to intervene in what is seen here in Rome as being basically a local dispute. Tonight, the crucifixion debate. Jim?

JIM LEHRER: … In recent months, a carpenter’s son from the town of Nazareth has been attracting a large following with novel doctrines and faith healing. He recently entered Jerusalem amid popular acclaim, but influential Jewish leaders fear his power. Here in Alexandria the situation is seen as dangerous. Robin?

MACNEIL: Recently in Jerusalem on a fact-finding mission for the Emperor’s Emergency Task Force on Provincial Disorders was Quintilius Maximus. Mr. Maximus, how do you see the situation?

MAXIMUS: Robin, I had occasion to hear one of this preacher’s sermons a few months ago and talk with his aides. There is no doubt in my mind that he is a threat to peace and should be crucified.


LEHRER: Now for a view from Mr. Simon, otherwise known as Peter. He is a supporter of Christ and has been standing by in a Jerusalem studio. Robin?

MACNEIL: Mr. Simon Peter, why do you support Christ?

SIMON PETER: He is the Son of God and presages the Second Coming. If I may, I would like to read some relevant passages from the prophet Isaiah.

MACNEIL: Thank you, but I’m afraid we’ll have to break in there. We’ve run out of time. Goodnight, Jim.

Huffington bases her critique on some evidence of more recent vintage, including a CNN segment in which Michael Ware faced off with retired Gen. David Grange about a National Intelligence Estimate. Ware and terrorism analyst Peter Bergen base their analysis on something resembling a fact: Al Qaeda does not have a terribly large presence in Iraq, they both say, the American government is misleading the public when they say that the war in Iraq is against al Qaeda. Grange, on the other hand, sounds more like a movie producer discussing the plot of an action thriller than a military expert discussing policy: “I like the idea of [terrorists] assembl[ing] in Iraq, because there’s more of them there to take down, instead of hunting them around the world of global operations.” That way we can film the whole thing in Vancouver; what do you say to Costner as Petreaus?

Huffington was probably being snarky when she described Grange’s appearance as “reporting for duty as administration apologist.” But it’s funny – or, really, not funny — because it’s true. Earlier this month, as Karen pointed out at the time, the New York Times reported that Grange is one of the dozens of retired military officers who are now serving as both news “analysts” and defense industry entrepreneurs. Grange himself is the founder of the ViaGlobal Group, a military contractor specializing in, among other things, “information operations.” As its website boasts, “We can develop and implement discrete effective influence campaigns in support of your team. In close coordination with government agencies, we can implement a campaign and measure its success.”

I’m sure they’ve given themselves an “A+.”

UPDATE: Fixed the inconsistent spelling of Grange’s name…