It's Now the Military-Industrial-Media-Complex

Arnie Alpert on January 17, 2015

The revolving door now goes from the Pentagon to the pro-war media, not just to K Street.  And the military contractors are funding media through advertising.  It's the military-industrial-media-complex.  What would Ike think?

Northrup-Grumman sponsors Politico's "Morning Defense" newsletter

President Eisenhower famously warned about the “acquisition of unwarranted influence … by the military-industrial complex.”  The bad news: it’s growing.     

It's not just government officials who are under the influence of corporate money.  Parts of the newsmedia are as well.  Call it the military-industrial-media complex.

Here’s an example:  Every day’s “Morning Defense” newsletter lands in my inbox “presented by Northrup Grumman.”

Northrup Grumann is the Pentagon’s fifth biggest weapons supplier, doing upwards of 19 billion dollars in military contracts in 2013.  According to Defense News, the Pentagon accounts for 79% of the company’s revenue.

“Morning Defense” is one of Politico’s special services, which provide in-depth coverage of issues including health, agriculture, education, trade, and defense.   

"POLITICO Pro has hired the best journalists in the business to blanket Washington and cover their beats without the limits of traditional policy reporting – and without the arbitrary publishing schedules that can turn breaking news into old news before readers ever see it - whether online, in print, or via a mobile device," according to their promotional materials.  Subscriptions to the full service cost thousands of dollars a year, too many zeroes for most of us.  

If "Morning Defense" is "presented by" the weapons industry, can we expect objective coverage?   

It’s not the only place where media coverage is tainted with the influence of companies that profit from war and militarism.  Writing in The Nation, Lee Fang asks, “Who’s Paying the Pro-War Pundits?” 

“If you read enough news and watch enough cable television about the threat of the Islamic State, the radical Sunni Muslim militia group better known simply as IS, you will inevitably encounter a parade of retired generals demanding an increased US military presence in the region,” Fang observed.

“But what you won’t learn from media coverage of ISIS,” he wrote, “is that many of these former Pentagon officials have skin in the game as paid directors and advisers to some of the largest military contractors in the world. Ramping up America’s military presence in Iraq and directly entering the war in Syria, along with greater military spending more broadly, is a debatable solution to a complex political and sectarian conflict. But those goals do unquestionably benefit one player in this saga: America’s defense industry.”

Fang’s top example is retired General Jack Keane, who has appeared on Fox News on multiple occasions advocating for airstrikes.  Unmentioned:  Keane is on the board at General Dynamics, the number six Pentagon contractor, and also has ties to other weapons-related firms. 

Today the Center for Public Integrity published a report showing that corporate trade associations spend more money on advertising than they do on actual lobbying—more than a billion dollars from 2008 to 2012.  Who benefits?  The media outlets that reap the ad revenue.  


Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert

Arnie Alpert is co-director of the American Friends Service Committee’s New Hampshire Program, which he has led since 1981.  In that time he has been involved in movements for economic justice and affordable housing, civil and worker rights, peace and disarmament, abolition of the death penalty, and an end to racism and homophobia.