Robert Greenwald and Reporter Michael Hastings Take on the Wild and Terrifying Inside Story of America's War Machine
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RG: And when you said the people of Washington ... so you are talking about the decision-makers who get impacted by this, right?
MH: Yeah. I think there's a lot of really good reporting that's come out on the ground while you're over there. But you look at the reporting that comes out of Washington on some of this stuff and it's bonkers, it's just so far off base.
I haven't ever really looked at the numbers, but you count up the budget of every major news organization in Afghanistan, and I would guess American news organizations spend maybe 10 million a year, maybe 20 million to cover Afghanistan. The Pentagon itself is spending 5 million just to have one information operations unit there, and they have hundreds of them. So the actual military in Afghanistan is putting hundreds of millions of dollars of resources into manipulating the media. And the media is spending $10 -20million to try to find, in theory, the truth. So it's this huge power imbalance that you're always fighting against.
And God forbid you step outside the packet, as some journalists have done, and point this out. Yeah, we all know they're lying but you're not supposed to say it, you know? We know we're getting bullshit every day, but come on, man, don't point it out -- that's not classy.
RG: Right. So I know that it's systemic, but are there individual reporters whom you want to call out publicly for their sort of following the Pentagon line and not doing their job?
MH: Yeah. I saw a pretty egregious example with the New York Times Pentagon correspondent who literally just published the Pentagon spokesperson's anonymous quotes when he was reporting on my stories. And he didn't bother to call Rolling Stone for a comment, of course, because, well, he's got the official line from the Pentagon.
But I would also call out a group of very influential national security reporters who work at most of the major media outlets. And if you look closely at their resumes, they all belong or have been paid by, or have worked for very influential think tanks. Now again, what's the big deal? These think tanks -- Center for New American Security is sort of the most egregious example -- are funded by defense contractors. These think-tanks also employ a lot of retired generals. And,, more importantly, they are promoting very specific pro-war policies.
And so they put the guys on their payroll whose job it is to cover the policies they're promoting. And you go through the list, all of them – the New York Times, the Washington Post -- have had their guys on the payroll of these major influential think attention, again, funded by defense contractors, and then we expect them to cover their friends and colleagues very critically? They haven't.
One guy said to me, “I don't think that just the fact that they had a job or had a stipend or had an office space at these places impacts their coverage.” I said, “I don't know about that. They're all on the same team, you know, in this atmosphere.” And CNAS, amazingly enough, brags about the influence it peddles. They brag about all the big time journalists they have on their payroll and the influence that that brings.
And you can call it soft influence peddling, but I think it's more than that. Look, if you're a police reporter but you're working for a police officer association's policy network which is funded by the police groups, you would be called out for it. If you were a golf reporter and you're being paid by the PGA but writing for a national publication, you would be called out for it.