Critics Call Radio Hosts’ Trip Propaganda Mission

The planned trip of some third tier conservative talk show hosts to Iraq is drawing fire from many on the Left.

Critics Call Radio Hosts’ Trip Propaganda Mission (Fox News)

A contingent of conservatives talk radio hosts is headed to Iraq this month on a mission to report “the truth” about the war: American troops are winning, despite headlines to the contrary. The “Truth Tour” has been pulled together by the conservative Web cast radio group Rightalk.com and Move America Forward, a non-profit conservative group backed by a Republican-linked public relations firm in California.

“The reason why we are doing it is we are sick and tired of seeing and hearing headlines by the mainstream media about our defeat in Iraq,” Melanie Morgan, a talk radio host for KSFO Radio in San Francisco and co-chair of Move America Forward, said. Morgan said the media is “imposing a Vietnam template on this war.” “This is not Vietnam,” she said. “War is war, and it’s dangerous, and the killing is taking place all of the time. At the same time, where there is danger, there is success and there is a mainstream media that is determined to shut out that success.” She said the group is going to Iraq to support American troops, who see a disconnection with what they experience and what’s being reported in the United States. She said the incongruence is leading to “morale problems.”

But critics, including independent journalists who have reported from Iraq, say the trip is a propaganda mission for the U.S. military and the Bush administration and cannot be considered “journalism” by any standards. “This is the most pathetic thing I’ve heard in a long time. They should be ashamed of themselves,” Peter Beinart, editor of left-leaning The New Republic magazine, said. “They have no idea what journalism is, and to pretend they are journalists is laughable,” Beinart said. “You do not achieve victory by not facing reality. I think these are the kinds of people that will lead us to lose there.”

The delegation, which Morgan said is being funded by individual radio stations and the hosts themselves, will be leaving on Friday for about a week. They will be broadcasting from U.S Central Command headquarters in Baghdad’s Green Zone and will be traveling with the troops daily.

The group will kick off the trip with a “Thank You BBQ” for the troops at Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Fla., before traveling to Kuwait to visit with soldiers. They will be flown from there to Iraq via military transport and will be sleeping in tents inside the secured Green Zone.

I’m not sure that this constitutes “propaganda” any more than a concert trip headlined by Ted Nugent and Toby Keith, which happened over a year ago. Presumably, these folks are going over as entertainers, not “journalists.” Indeed, with a handful of exceptions, I can’t imagine that many troops would line up to go see journalists.

Certainly, the bringing over of conservative talk hosts rather than liberals has a propagandistic element. But, since the purpose of these events is to entertain the troops and raise their morale, one wouldn’t expect the Pentagon to invite Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo over to tell them that they are criminals fighting an illegal, immoral war that is responsible for more Iraqi deaths than Saddam Hussein. They can get that from journalists, after all.

Correction (1149): A commenter notes below that Al Franken has in fact been to Iraq several times on USO tours, which I’ve verified. CNN’s Paula Zahn had an interesting interview with Franken on the subject in January 2004.

Franken: USO tour in Iraq ‘very moving’

Comedian Al Franken, known for his criticism of President Bush, recently wrapped up a tour of Iraq, where he entertained U.S. troops.

[…]

ZAHN: Let’s talk a little bit about the reaction of the troops to your visit and your reaction to them.

FRANKEN: Well, this is my fourth USO tour, and I love doing the tours. This is my first time in an active theater of battle. I was in Kosovo in ’99, but it was very different.

It was very moving, to see these guys who are — and women — who are in harm’s way. And also very moving to see — like on the first show we did in Kuwait, we sang “God Bless America” every night at the end of the show. And looking at the guys in the front row, I saw there was a black soldier with his arm linked with a white soldier, with a woman, and going back and — and swaying back and forth, and really, this was America to me. And thinking that, you know, the military can really teach a lot of college campuses a lot about affirmative action.

ZAHN: Can teach us all a lot of things.

FRANKEN: Yeah.

ZAHN: Let me ask you this: You’ve been highly critical of the president, as this march to war went on. What do you say to the folks who in spite of your history of doing these USO tours, found your appearance in Iraq disingenuous in some way?

FRANKEN: I don’t know anyone who has. I know that the USO invited me, and when they did, I said yes immediately. They don’t know me. I mean, I support our troops. I’m from the Vietnam generation. I didn’t serve. This is my way of serving. I tell a few jokes and leave very quickly. I was there eight days. These guys are there for nine months.

The soldiers themselves — and there are soldiers who came up to me and said, I don’t agree with anything you say politically, but I really appreciate your coming. And that, you know, then I say, well, it’s my honor. And they’d say, no, it’s my honor. And then I’d say, no, no, no, it’s my honor. And they’d say, no, it’s my honor. And it went on like that for hours, until I said, let’s stop it.

Not what I’d have expected, to be sure. My apologies to Franken.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bill says:

    Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo are well representative by the leftists-MSM. All reporting from Iraq has the flavor of propaganda, so why not get these conservative talkshow host’s perspective.

    It is not possible to separate the bias from the reporter, any attempt to do so, mainly by reporters not disclosing what stripe they are, is just nonsense.

    The more the merrier. Ted Nugent is just as good a source as AP.

  2. FredW says:

    Actually, Al Franken has been to Iraq multiple times — as part of a USO tour. Which has has done quite a lot of over the years.

    http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/01/05/cnna.franken/

  3. Lt bell says:

    Mr Joyner – you and the president both “live in a fantasy world of spin”. If I may quote mr Kerry.
    Sure we all know that these clowns are nothing but clowns – doing entertainment – but – quess what? The clowns do not know that ,or admit that,
    or behave as entertainers. They all like to think of themselves as unelected congressmen and senators doing Gods work for a better america.
    Pure bush propaganda at its worst, and young
    troops in the field are swayed by these liars.
    Get yourself to confession before it is too late

  4. Honoring Heroes on Indepedence Day

    Today is the day that we celebrate our independence. With all of its foibles and all its backbiting, caterwauling critics, there is no question but that the United States of America is the greatest force for good that the planet Earth has ever seen…..

  5. Stormy70 says:

    Sounds like the journalists resent anyone else reporting on Iraq. I think the journalists are feeling the heat, and reading the polls showing their declining credibility, and it is staring to sting. Are soldiers voices not legitimate during a War? Why is it only Iraqi stringers hanging around the Bahgdad Hotel are worth hearing from?

  6. Robert Redford urges journalists to investigate Bu

    Really? Now there is an idea that I’ll bet no one on the editorial staffs of The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Time, Newsweek,

  7. How Annoying.

    I was really enjoying my total dislike of Al Franken, but it appears that he’s one of several people in the country who claim to “support the troops, but not the war”—and mean it….

  8. Mr. G says:

    One can only hope that these “journalists” actually get to see the horrific death up close that war really is. Maybe then they can get out of this football mentality of us vs. them and realize that the cost of war is more than inflame rhetoric designed to protect an inept commander in chief who puts troops in harms way every day by not equipping them properly.

    One of my friends works at a high school and recently asked a military recruiter what his honest opinion of the Iraq war was. He responded that the general feeling from his perspective it was a business deal gone bad (oil) and now our soldiers are paying the ultimate price for a foreign policy that puts the profit of big business ahead of human life. Now that’s moral values. Let’s hear these right wing propagandists actually articulate a cogent response to that that doesn’t invoke the McCarthyism mantra of being unpatriotic or 9-11, 9-11, 9-11 and did I say 9-11?

  9. The Knucklehead of the Day Award

    I think Ms. Morgan’s work history matches or beats your own Mr. Beinart. Do I smell some journalistic envy or sour grapes?

    For not knowing a true journalist over a fake, I give Peter Beinart today’s knucklehead of the Day award.

  10. Masked Menace© says:

    But critics, including independent journalists who have reported from Iraq, say the trip is a propaganda mission for the U.S. military and the Bush administration and cannot be considered “journalism” by any standards.

    “They have no idea what journalism is, and to pretend they are journalists is laughable,” Beinart said.

    Yep, but when Sean Penn does it, it’s different.

  11. Bruce says:

    No, it’s not different when sean penn does it. Propoganda is propoganda whoever the messenger and whoever the message.

  12. Walter E. Wallis says:

    If propaganda is without value, why is the left so upset when their gatekeeper role to what America sees is challenged?
    I consider someone as unpatriotic when his or her words are echoed by our enemies, the people who are killing us.

  13. LJD says:

    Franken is a little weenie-boy. “His way” of serving would not have removed the Nazis from much of Europe or the Japanese from the Pacific.

    Ted Nugent, although a little off-the-wall, is a true American, heart and soul. If people could get past his eccentric persona, and listened more closely to his words, they would realize that he is FOR the troops, not a propagandist.

    Mr. G: Now the media is “protecting an inept President” LOL Ow, my side hurts.

  14. Bruce says:

    What you are hearing is opinion presented as fact. Fact would be something like: “4000 known menbers of the insurgency have been killed.”

    Opinion would read like: “That means we are really getting at them” or and we haven’t even made a dent in the number of attacks.”

    Since we have no reliable way to judge the scope of the insurgency, we have no way to judge our success other than by the number of insurgent attacks. That isn’t very reliable either because they will stop all at once if we beat them right?

    http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/about.aspx?id=15181
    I really enjoyed what Darryl Worley had to say about having to go on the USO tour with Franken:

    “…he turned out to be one of the best human beings that I’ve ever gotten to know. And he never pushed me. We talked; we got into some things. And he’s very sharp.

    Policinski: Yeah.

    Worley: Don’t get into a discussion with him about things unless you got your facts right, because he busted me on a couple things. But I think we both had moments when we had comments that made the other person think. And that’s what it’s all about to me. And I guess in that experience, I realized what America is really, really about and what this show’s about and what music’s about. And that is, we’re so blessed to be free. And freedom’s a huge word. It means so much more to me now after those experiences in the Middle East than it ever did before. Before, it was just a term, and I knew what it meant, and now, it’s something that’s inside me. And we are so blessed to have it. And we’re so blessed to be able to express our opinions. But we should honor and respect one another. He’s a really good American.”

  15. Masked Menace© says:

    Bruce, maybe you didn’t get the sarcasm. But I didn’t hear any cries of propaganda from the MSM during the reporting of Sean Penn’s “Fact Finding” trips to Iraq.

  16. Bruce says:

    It seems to me like sarcasm feeds the market for propoganda.
    Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo are well representative by the leftists-MSM. All reporting from Iraq has the flavor of propaganda, so why not get these conservative talkshow host’s perspective.

    It is not possible to separate the bias from the reporter, any attempt to do so, mainly by reporters not disclosing what stripe they are, is just nonsense.

    The more the merrier. Ted Nugent is just as good a source as AP.

    This does not make Franken, Nugent, Gerafelo, or Limbaugh worthwhile for getting news, just for teaching us how to be sarcastic.