The debate of whether or not America should militarily intervene in Syria was widely covered by major American news outlets for several weeks in August and September 2013. This public discourse took place in major news outlets including CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, Bloomberg, and the Washington Post. However, as a report by the Public Accountability Initiative documents, individuals who perhaps should not have been speaking on these delicate issues dominated the corporate media’s coverage of the debate.
The interviewed guests on news broadcasts and authors of newspaper articles regarding military intervention in Syria were presented to the American public as diplomats, generals, and experts with unbiased credibility on the issue. However, the majority of these sources were connected to contracting, investment or consulting firms with a primary focus on defense and intelligence. These ties were left out of the reporting, despite being clear conflicts of interest due to the personal benefits these sources might derive from US military intervention.
The report makes a few key points. It identifies 22 commentators who spoke on military intervention in Syria, all of whom were linked to defense and intelligence contractors, or investment firms. These 22 contractors made a total of 111 appearances in newspapers and broadcasts, though only 13 reports disclosed these links. Some of these “experts” would receive direct financial gain from military intervention, while others had clients who would benefit financially from intervention. Not surprisingly, the majority of the commentators overwhelming supported military action in Syria and identified it as an issue of US national security.
By filling the dialogue with individuals holding personal and financial interests in military intervention in Syria, corporate news outlets corrupted public debate over military intervention in the Syria conflict. The corporate media’s failure to disclose such vital information to the American people calls into question its duties. The press has an obligation to truthfully inform the public. They ought to be held accountable for giving individuals with such sizable conflicts of interest the platform to speak on such fragile issues, for news media have a large impact on American society.
Gin Armstrong, Whitney Yax, and Kevin Connor, “Conflicts of Interest in the Syria Debate”, Public Accountability, October 11, 2013, http://public-accountability.org/2013/10/conflicts-of-interest-in-the-syria-debate/.
“The Military Industrial Pundits”, Democracy Now!, October 18, 2013, http://www.democracynow.org/2013/10/18/the_military_industrial_pundits_conflicts_of.
Student Researchers: Grace Quinn and Anne Connelly (DePauw University)
Faculty Evaluators: Kevin Howley and Jeff McCall (DePauw University)