Book Review: “The Pornography of Power”

Jeff Koopersmith on Robert Scheer's new book: "It is a wake-up call, but more important it is a record of American history that will not disappear even though no one in advertising-related businesses wants to talk about it."

Robert Scheer
The Pornography of Power:How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America
Twelve (A division of the Hachette Book Group), New York, June 2008

Reviewed by Jeff Koopersmith

“If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts.” — Lara Logan, Chief Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

July 1, 2008 – Geneva (apj.us) – We never see enough of Robert Scheer.

And, because of the collusion between the mainstream media and the big military contractors, you would have never heard about this most important book.  Bet on it.

I was raised and educated in Los Angeles and I would always checked the LA Times for Robert Scheer’s byline before moving on to lesser things.  Then the Times was purchased by bottom of the barrel regressives. Scheer left and now brings us a new gift – The Pornography of Power – a work that should have come the year before Bush and Cheney decided to declare war on Iraq.

Have you noticed that American television news networks no longer cover the Iraq war, nor do they pay much attention to the goings-on in Afghanistan?  I have.  So have others, such as Lara Logan.  In fact, coverage of Iraq is down 90% by the three major networks – a big rat in the room that hasn’t been discussed.

For these same reasons you won’t hear anything, let alone the truth about The Pornography of Power.  It would anger the corporate moguls who provide advertising revenue to those we count on for the truth.

I am fortunate because I live much of the time in Europe.  Here I  can watch all the cable news from America and the rest of the world, Al Jazeera,  the BBC and more.  Let me tell you a terrible truth: the rest of the world covers Iraq daily and in depth, and things there are not as they appear in the USA. Things are far worse.

I mention this at the opening this book review because it is just another symptom that not only is the military-industrial complex getting more powerful, it is so powerful that it can put the squeeze on the major networks and what they focus on in the news, and what they don’t.  You’ll hear a lot of screaming  and see a lot of hand-wringing at this statement – all of it from network executives and news producers – but I can tell you from experience, corporate America has put the Kibosh on “the news of war.”

Robert Scheer may not agree – but he makes the case nearly perfectly in The Pornography of Power.  In 241 pages Scheer reminds us that President Dwight Eisenhower’s parting remarks to the nation. He warned us, without mincing words, that America was following a dangerous path and that this path was being led by the men and women who run the weapons industry, the defense department, and the Congress  – not to mention presidents like George Bush Jr., who sees himself as some kind of latter-day flying cowboy mixed with the sheriff of Nottingham in a crotch-tight flight suit.  One expects Bush to star in a remake of “Sky King” next:  “Jenna, are you ready to take up the ‘Birdsong’ stealth bomber? We’re heading to Tehran!”

Scheer does not simply write opinion. Everything he writes in this book is fact-checked and publicly available.  It is a book that should be on the mandatory and tested reading list of every Political Science 101 course, and maybe every high school civics class in the western world.

Scheer’s facts are frightening.  He takes the reader step by step from the Second World War all the way to Afghanistan and Iraq and provides unimpeachable examples of how big business manipulates the Administration and the Congress, but also you and your family.

It is a horror story of truth.

The proof of its potential impact?  No one at any major news source that I know of has discussed The Pornography of Power, nor have they reviewed it, nor had Scheer been on television to discuss what he’s found.  Of course Amy Goodman of Democracy Now had him as a guest, and has had him on before.   I assume The Nation ran something but I could not find it.  But what about ABC, CBS, and NBC?  How about CNN?  Nothing. In fact, the three networks combined ran only nine stories on Iraq – most of them carried soft coverage of things like charity work in Baghdad or this winner: “GIs win hearts, minds by playing cards with locals, and losing” on ABC!  If you don’t believe me, check the Tyndall Report on the internet (http://tyndallreport.com/)

But wait! FOX "News" [sic] has covered Scheer – with six brutal and ignorant attacks on him by bullying bobblehead Bill O’Reilly, and another one by “thank God he’s gone” Brit Hume between 2005 and 2007.  Nothing on The Pornography of Power, though.  Hume made fun of Scheer after he was fired by the new, incompetent  management of the LA Times, which behaves as if it got its corporate training from Julius Streicher and Joe Goebbels. Hume should be ashamed: he has been given the ol' heave-ho himself, and ended up with his wife at FOX, the laughingstock of television journalism – and that takes a lot.

Where are these so-called news organizations when one of the most respected reporters and authors in America claims that the nation is not only being stolen blind by the likes of Boeing and Northrop-Grumman, but that these companies and the policy makers who advise and cajole them are actually driving us into wars that we might never consider otherwise – and that they are doing it with lies, the use of bribery, kickbacks, propaganda, and worse?

You ask how do they control the mainstream media? 

That’s a much different story, and I certainly do not have all the answers, but I suspect it is  like a Corrobillusion – a word I coined years ago writing a book of the same name about right wing propaganda artists.

There is no "plot" by right wing conspiracies – there is, however, an unspoken signal at least, a spoken signal at most.  Somewhere, sometime, the heads of radio, television, and print stars must have been told directly or indirectly by megacorporations that they have the power to drive network and print advertising into oblivion.

A number of things account for this. Advertisers are having a great deal of trouble deciding just where to put their billions in advertising budgets.  Should it be on network television programs, sports only, the Internet, mobile phone targeting, print, billboards , viral marketing – a mixture of all of these?  There is no clear answer today, and the best practice labs are straining to find it. 

Yet a “corrobillusion” speaks for itself.   It is sort of like pornography that might be disallowed under our Constitution – “I know it when I see it,” said Justice Potter Stewart about obscenity.

Thus at some point perhaps one network executive figured this out.  He might have thought, “The more we talk up military preparedness, homeland security, war and the like, the less risk we take with advertisers who today own companies that make everything from guided missiles to frankfurters.”

Yes – missiles, tanks, military aircraft, submarines and aircraft carriers have a whole lot greater profit margin than Oscar Mayer wieners.  This could have happened. This network chief might have been Roger Ailes of FOX Television.  And to be honest, even he could have simply stumbled upon this tack – as he really isn’t smart enough to come up with on his own.  When Boeing is ready to sell the U.S. Army flying tankers to refuel fighter planes mid-air, they might run a lot of what look like puff piece commercials on television programs that politicians and political staff watch without fail.

So all of a sudden Ailes, after supporting the war mongers,  finds a lot of giant corporations placing bragging ads on shows like FOX News Sunday, the FOX News [sic] Channel, and any show that FOX runs that is monitored by the House, Senate and the White House.

Or the story might like go like this:  Ailes is lurking about the FOX Television offices, or at cocktail party at Patsy’s  in Manhattan, and he runs into the CEO of Northrop Grumman.  Their conversation might go like this:

Ailes:  Hey, Joe – how are things at Grumman?
Joe:  Great, Rog! And thanks for running those ads exactly when we asked. It’s working. Congress can’t wait to appropriate another $50 billion for our “war” on terror! [Chortle]
Ailes:  I’m glad, Joe – take care.
Joe:  Me too Roger – and keep up the good work (wink wink) see ya later.

What just happened here?  Ailes is glad that Northrop is buying a lot of ad time on his political shows of which he seemingly has dozens.  Joe Grumman is happy because Congress, their staff and the White House are impressed with the fact that these skillfully  produced advertising Vignettes of War Machine Americana are being watched by millions of voters – many of whom work for the military industrial complex.

It’s a no-brainer.  One dirty hand washing the other.

Next? Well, it doesn’t take too long for CNN executives to realize that FOX is getting all the military ads.  They have a small meeting with editorial staff.  They bring up the fact that CNN is reputed to be the “Liberal’ cable news network.  “This has got to stop,” says the Advertising Vice President to the editors.  We can’t pan the war in Iraq when there’s a trillion dollars worth of jobs, equipment, and advertising at stake.”

Imagine this happening across the country. Boeing and Northrop, General Electric, Electric Boat, and all the rest of them buy print advertising as well.  All of sudden we find the New York Times cheerleading the Iraq ware before and after it begins, and after no WMD is found.

What’s going on here?

Well what’s going on is a Corrobillusion.  A kind of smoke signal leap frog game – where the players never meet nor speak – but they get the message(s) from each other.  There is no need for a conspiracy – the conspiracy creates and perpetuates  itself.

Robert Scheer approaches this issue, but never discusses it in detail.  But it’s there just the same, plain as day. Scheer makes you think. And instead of blowing his horn, he takes the reader by the hand and leads him by the numbers.

  •  9/11 and the new opening for the never-ending war on terror and thus the never ending purchase  of weaponry;
  •  A Secretary of Defense with very close ties to the defense industry;
  •  A Vice President whose colleagues will profit enormously from a war that threatens oil supplies;
  •   A group of “scholars” whose sole purpose in life is to convince the American people that they are  in danger and that nothing will save them but protection from the most massive military build-up  in history – A build up that has nothing to do with terrorist cells;
  •  A Congress – both Democrats and Republicans packed with men and women who do nothing but  run constant campaigns for re-election and load their districts with military pork (Pork worth the  most) to provide jobs for their hometowns;
  •  And of course, the criminals that work inside and outside of government or move through the  revolving door who are pleased to take bribes, high-paying jobs, and more from the very  companies I speak of.

If you distrust what I wrote here, or stand on the other side of the table, then all the more reason you should read Bob Scheer’s The Pornography of Power – twice.  It is more than a mere wake-up call; it is a record of American history that will not disappear even though no one in advertising-related businesses wants to talk about it – any more than they want to talk about this column.

Do you think I do not realize that the stage has already been set for you to ignore this warning?  Well I do realize it yet it would be irresponsible for me not to try.

So here it is.

If you cannot afford the book, or simply won’t give Scheer his small share of the price – then go to the library and read it in a few hours.  You owe it to your children, and children everywhere.

Again – as Dwight Eisenhower warned, we have become a country that relies on, feeds on, and does great damage by warring and the men and women that make it possible must be held accountable.  This includes Congress – and on both sides of the aisle, the White House, and the board members of companies so large that their budgets are the size of small countries.

We can’t allow this to continue.

Or can we?


Jeff Koopersmith is an internationally renowned political consultant, opinion research authority and policy analyst. He has lobbied for causes including the alternative fuel sector and women's health, and is an expert on the international real estate market. He lives in Philadelphia, Washington and Geneva.

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