Brett Wilkins: The US arms industry, Ukraine and the mediaApr 18, 2022
“The people who have the most interest in influencing the direction of the media coverage of the Ukraine War are weapons-makers.”
Analyzing punditry across a range of outlets including CNN, MSNBC, and NBC News, Aditi Ramaswami and Andrew Perez at The Lever found that the networks failed to inform viewers that many of their expert guests who called for supplying Ukraine with more weapons to defend against Russia’s invasion were currently employed by the weapons industry or its advocates.
“I think it’s awesome you can be a consultant for a company that manufactures certain missiles and go on NBC or CNN and say how important it is that we get more of those missiles shipped out, with no one saying [by the way], this guy works for the missile company,” Perez sardonically quipped in a tweet promoting the report.
The revolving door between the national security, private, and media sectors has become a prominent feature of the military-industrial complex. Perez and Ramaswami note that the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) found that 20 of the 22 featured American guests appearing on corporate networks’ Sunday politics programs in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year had ties to the arms industry or its boosters.
Unsurprisingly, many of these experts argued against ending the longest war in U.S. history. Few, if any, disclosed their conflicts of interest.
“This type of revolving-door behavior should be prohibited for military officials to serve in a private capacity representing military contractors,” Craig Holman, the government affairs lobbyist at the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, told The Lever. “If not prohibited, it should be disclosed to everyone so when they’re going on television trying to affect [President Joe] Biden’s policy on whatever war they have in mind, they ought to be straightforward.”
However, as Perez and Ramaswami point out, “the Ukraine crisis and the potential for greater conflict have been a goldmine for defense contractors, sending stocks skyrocketing and prompting sharp increases in defense spending.”
FAIR editor Jim Naureckas told The Lever that “the people who have the most interest in influencing the direction of the coverage are weapons-makers. They have the most direct financial stake in the way we cover issues of war and peace. Unfortunately, they are interested in more war and less peace.”
Perez and Ramaswami write:
Since the start of the Ukraine crisis, U.S. defense stocks in leading companies like Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and Lockheed Martin have surged, and they are expected to continue rising in the coming months. And in the wake of Russia’s invasion, President Biden signed into law a spending package that directs a record-breaking $782 billion towards defense—almost $30 billion above his initial request.
The bill signed by the president authorizes $6.5 billion in military aid for Eastern European countries, including $3.5 billion in new weapons for Ukraine. This is in addition to the $1 billion already spent on arming Ukrainian forces with weaponry such as Javelin anti-tank missiles made by Raytheon and Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon’s Stinger surface-to-air missiles.