This is a must read piece by Glenn Greenwald on the heavily hyped MSNBC coverage of the Iraq withdrawal last week. Every MSNBC personality treated the fabled withdrawal as a monumentous event, on par with the invasion itself, and a giant reporting bonanza ensued. Everyone from Brian Williams to Keith Olbermann jumped on board spending hours going over the history of the war, the ‘amazing’ reporting done by the network and the President’s commitment to end the operation when he got in power. They glossed over the fact that the withdrawal left 50,000 combat active troops in Iraq – an inconvenient truth that betrayed a more cynical explanation as to why the network was so excitable. Why did the network embarass itself over the issue? Greenwald explains:
It’s not difficult to understand why NBC and MSNBChyped the event the way they did. The reason they had what Olbermann touted asa “worldwide exclusive”is because — in response to NBCembed requests — thePentagon contacted them and offered exclusivity, knowing that the arrangement would incentivize NBCto treat the event as something of monumental historic importance. By selecting NBC as the only broadcast network to be told in advance, swearing them to secrecy, but arranging for them to cover it exclusively with video, it became their story, and they thus, predictably, were eager to tout its importance. That’s the natural inclination when someone is given exclusive access by the Government.
The government has long understood how to manipulate the public through the corporate media. It is one of the ways it is able to manufacture consent when doing things it believes the public would not approve of (see Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky’s excellent work on the subject). Writes Greenwald:
By offering it exclusively to both NBC and MSNBC, the Pentagon ensured that this narrative would be given the Seriousness imprimatur from NBC, and would produce base-pleasing, Obama-favorable praise from MSNBCpersonalities.Having Engel embedded in a Stryker vehicles as it “rolled out”of Iraq, and Maddow stationed in the Green Zone, added to the historic tone of the evening. As The New York Times‘ Brian Stelter reported:”David Verdi, an NBC News vice president, added, ‘The military had said, ‘You are the ones who are going to broadcast it first’.”
MSNBC failed miserably in its duty to serve the public interest in the build up to the war in Iraq, stepping into line behind the Bush Administration and cheerleading the invasion like a giant sporting event. In the aftermath, the network clearly saw it was losing its base of liberal viewers as the rationale for going to war evaporated. So it hired more left wing commentators to disguise its previous acquiescence to power and portray itself up as the bastion of progressive political coverage. Ultimately though, MSNBC is after one thing: Ratings. And just like the invasion, they’ll step into line if the incentives are big enough. The government knew that and cynically exploited their greed to trick the public into believing the Iraqi withdrawal was real.
It wasn’t, and MSNBC should be ashamed of itself.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.