To show examples of these pathetic anti-war lunatics, the PBS
program included short clips of actors Martin Sheen and Tim Robbins
while Perle did a voice-over that talked about them like a psychiatrist
who sadly saw no choice but to sign commitment papers.
implication of the PBS program was that there was only one reasonable
and moral conclusion, which was to support President Bush
wholeheartedly in his invasion of Iraq and his conduct of the â€œwar on
PBS officials also have declared that they see no
reason to give a similar length of time to opponents of the Iraq War.
Indeed, Jeff Bieber, an executive producer at PBSâ€™s Washington
affiliate WETA, endorsed the right-wing bias of â€œThe Case for Warâ€ as
an opportunity for PBS to â€œshowcase a conservative viewpoint.â€
the journalistic violation represented in such an acknowledged bias,
the history of the series reveals a willingness of PBS to transform
itself into a compliant propaganda organ for the Bush administration
and the congressional Republicans.
PBSâ€™s parent, the Corporation
for Public Broadcasting, commissioned the neoconservative series a
couple of years ago when the Republicans controlled all branches of the
U.S. government and the Bush administration dominated the information
reaching the American people, from Fox News to the New York Times.
instead of offering an outlet for the widely ignored Americans who
questioned Bushâ€™s Iraq invasion, PBS chose to go with the flow and join
with the powers-that-be in taking cheap shots at war critics.
at a Crossroadsâ€ was financed directly by CPB, a quasi-public
institution which used both tax dollars and contributions from â€œviewers
like youâ€ to pay for the avowedly pro-Bush series.
idea was to air â€œAmerica at a Crossroadsâ€ before Election 2006,
possibly around the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, all the
better to help ensure continued Republican one-party control of the
But production delays and internal PBS
disputes pushed the broadcast date back to April 2007. Now, the series
is helping energize Bushâ€™s supporters to fight Democratic proposals for
setting a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Decline of PBS
has been sinking into this pattern of corrupt behavior for years,
especially after the Right took aim at public broadcasting in the 1980s
and early 1990s. CPB was intended to insulate PBS from political
pressure, but the Reagan administration began a systematic process of
salting the board with partisan Republicans and neocon ideologues.
reshaping the CPB board, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
turned CPB from its original purpose as a shield to defend
professionalism at PBS into a weapon for breaking down the networkâ€™s
editorial independence. Simultaneously well-funded right-wing pressure
groups went after individual PBS journalists and programs.
I worked for the PBS documentary series â€œFrontlineâ€ in the early 1990s,
I saw this process first-hand, as CPB and PBS increasingly bent to
Republican pressure. At one PBS conference, Reagan speechwriter Peggy
Noonan gave a keynote speech trashing â€œFrontlineâ€ â€“ and few PBS
executives dared come to the programâ€™s defense.
Republicans gained control of Congress in 1994 and targeted PBS
funding, the network twisted itself more to the Right, hoping to
appease the angry Republicans by adding more and more conservative
content while taking for granted the bedrock support of the Democrats
This PBS dynamic had become second nature by the
second Bush administration â€“ and grew more entrenched after 2002 when
Republicans gained control of all branches of the federal government.
The few PBS holdouts, like Bill Moyers, were soon isolated and pushed
toward the door.
Even when the invasion of Iraq turned sour and
more prominent Americans began to speak up, CPB and PBS knew to rush to
Bushâ€™s defense. To correct for supposed â€œliberal bias,â€ CPB ordered up
and funded the â€œAmerica at a Crossroadsâ€ series.
In that sense,
â€œAmerica at a Crossroadsâ€ â€“ and especially Perleâ€™s â€œThe Case for War:
In Defense of Freedomâ€ segment â€“ has the look of Pravda during the
Soviet era when the Russian people could learn what dissidents had to
say mostly by reading between the lines of Pravda denouncing them.
Perle-narrated program â€“ and PBSâ€™s disdain for the idea of giving equal
time to the other side â€“ had that kind of feel to it.
of Martin Sheen and Tim Robbins were held up as enemies of the state,
either disloyal or crazy. However, Perle still managed to present
himself as the victim, noting that Robbins had written a play in which
a character modeled after Perle was the bad guy.
also offered an uncontested neocon narrative of recent American
history. In Perleâ€™s narrative, liberals and other weak-minded people
believed that the Soviet Union was invincible until Ronald Reagan told
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to â€œtear down that wallâ€ and the
Soviet empire collapsed.
After the program aired on April 17, I
got a call from a former CIA analyst who was stunned by both the
sophomoric quality of Perleâ€™s narrative and PBSâ€™s willingness to put
such nonsense on its network. The ex-analyst noted that Perle was one
of the hardliners who had opposed Reaganâ€™s arms-control talks with
Gorbachev near the end of Reaganâ€™s term.
Beyond that, a true
historical narrative would have shown that CIA analysts were aware of
the disintegrating Soviet empire by the early-to-mid-1970s, but they
were challenged and bureaucratically defeated by the neocons who argued
that the Soviet Union was on the rise both economically and militarily,
thus justifying bigger U.S. military budgets.
politicization of the CIA during the Reagan years resulted in the
purging of the CIAâ€™s top Soviet specialists and thus the silencing of
dissent against the neocon alarmist view of expanding Soviet power.
politicization caused the CIA to â€œmissâ€ the Soviet collapse in the late
1980s. Ironically, the neocons then ridiculed the CIAâ€™s analytical
division and claimed credit for the â€œunexpectedâ€ demise of the Soviet
Union. [For details, see Robert Parryâ€™s Secrecy & Privilege.]
But the question now is what to do about PBS.
should American liberals and the Democratic Party continue to support
an entity that has surrendered its journalistic principles and treats
as crazy the two-thirds of the public that now opposes Bushâ€™s Iraq War?
might have been an argument for supporting PBS news programs if they
could be protected from government financial pressure. But once the
Republicans learned that they could wrest journalistic concessions from
PBS by threatening its money, PBS changed unavoidably into a government
During the unified Republican control of the
federal government from 2003 to 2006, that PBS reality solidified, best
represented today by the â€œAmerica at a Crossroadsâ€ series. PBS is still
responding to its Republican masters even though they no longer control
Given the 3,300 dead American soldiers and the
widespread recognition that the Iraq War has been a disaster, what
should be said about a corrupt and propagandistic entity like PBS that
still is willing to carry water even if its timing is a little off?
What should be done with a news outlet that has demonstrated that it will sell its journalistic integrity for money?
possibility is for PBS contributors to express their disgust by either
cutting off donations or at least demanding back a percentage of what
theyâ€™ve already given. At least that might show CPB board members and
PBS executives that there is a price to pay for selling out