Saturday 8th of August 2020

the ritual of news: slants, opinions, lies, 10,000 “false or misleading claims”, fake seaweed, facts, alternative facts...


The Trump era has forced the mainstream media to rethink its approach to covering the White House, given Trump’s willingness to lie so flagrantly.

Just recently, Trump utterly fabricated Chinese trade talks, and his aides later admitted that not only had he done so, but he had also made it up in order to juice the stock market.


In other circumstances, this would be considered criminal behavior. In the case of the president, such statements put reporters in a sticky position, as repeating them in print likely amplifies falsehoods. But he’s still the president, and what he says is newsworthy. So what to do?

The mainstream media has been proud of their ability to break with tradition and begin to occasionally use the word “lie” or “racist” to describe lies or racism, and in many cases, reporters and editors have taken a genuinely adversarial approach to this White House. Kessler’s team has doggedly tracked Trump’s infidelity to the truth, tallying more than 10,000 “false or misleading claims” by now.

But breaking with tradition is uncomfortable, and it’s nice to have a cushion of “both sides” in the face of potential accusations of liberal bias. The anger pouring forth, particularly from Sen. Bernie Sanders and his backers, serves that purpose nicely.

Earlier this summer, Sanders suggested that his lousy coverage at the Post might have something to do with his criticism of and legislative efforts targeting Amazon. In 2018, he introduced the Stop BEZOS Act, to shame the company’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, for the low wages he pays workers, contractors, and subcontractors. Bezos responded by announcing a wage hike.

Baron responded to Sanders’s general charge and went straight to the refuge most favored by journalists in response to criticism — noting that other people, of other political persuasions, have also complained.

“Senator Sanders is a member of a large club of politicians — of every ideology — who complain about their coverage,” Baron said. “Contrary to the conspiracy theory the senator seems to favor, Jeff Bezos allows our newsroom to operate with full independence, as our reporters and editors can attest.”

I asked Baron specifically about the beef between Kessler and Sanders, and he said he was standing behind his “Fact Checker” again noting that people on all sides have problems with his work.

I am extremely proud of the Fact Checker team, which has been widely recognized for its very difficult, rigorous and impartial work over many years. Inevitably, they catch fire from individuals across the political spectrum. That comes with the territory. I was on vacation, but I promised the campaign a response from the newsroom. I was among the editors who reviewed and approved the response to the Sanders campaign. I believe it forthrightly explained the Fact Checker’s reasoning. I know first-hand that they go about their work honestly and honorably and without any ideological agenda, and they have performed a real service.

Sanders later backtracked the specific charge that Bezos himself* is responsible for his negative coverage, and for good reason: It suggests that Bezos, specifically, is the problem, rather than the structural pressures that push the corporate media in a direction hostile to the left. No progressive would seriously suggest that the Post was somehow sympathetic to the left before Bezos bought the paper in 2013. “Manufacturing Consent,” after all, was published 25 years earlier.

But something has changed in that time. While it’s true that Kessler’s “Fact Checker” checks the facts of both the right and the left, it is not true that “both sides” complain equally. The Trump White House has long since stopped concerning itself with fact-checkers. (In this, Trump is actually walking on ground trod in 2012 by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers,” Neil Newhouse, a Romney pollster, declared.)

In fact, Trump has capitalized on casting the media as an unpopular and untrustworthy institution. For Trump, public battles between the media and the White House are advantageous; being on the opposite side of whatever Chuck Todd or Chris Cuomo think is presumed solid political ground.

That dynamic creates an asymmetry: Trump loves to be on the business end of media criticism, while the media is uncomfortable leveling it, worried about charges of bias and imbalance. Trump, rewarded for his lies by the coverage he craves, ramps them up higher, which makes the media hit that much harder. Now, to balance things out, they need to hit somebody else.

Trying to balance the scales between Trump’s lies and his opponents on the other side is of course a fool’s errand.



... he [Trump] also appears to have taken a Sharpie to a meteorological map of Hurricane Dorian and altered it to fit something else he made up. Guess which lie took up a week of cable news time?

Read more:



the key to efficient propaganda...


Back in the 1960s, the CIA official Cord Meyer said the agency needed to “court the compatible left.” He knew that drawing liberals and leftists into the CIA’s orbit was the key to efficient propaganda.

Right-wing and left-wing collaborators were needed to create a powerful propaganda apparatus that would be capable of hypnotizing audiences into believing the myth of American exceptionalism and its divine right to rule the world.

The CIA therefore secretly worked to influence American and world opinion through the literary and intellectual elites.

Frances Stonor Saunders comprehensively covers this in her 1999 book, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA And The World Of Arts And Letters, and Joel Whitney followed this up in 2016 with Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers, with particular emphasis on the complicity between the CIA and the famous literary journal, The Paris Review.

By the mid-1970s, as a result of the Church Committee hearings, it seemed as if the CIA, NSA, FBI, etc. had been caught in flagrante delicto and disgraced, confessed their sins, and resolved to go and sin no more.

Then in 1977, Carl Bernstein wrote a long piece for Esquire – “The CIA and the Media” – naming names of journalists and media (The New York Times, CBS, etc.) that worked hand-in-glove with the CIA, propagandizing the American people and the rest of the world.

It seemed as if all would be hunky-dory now with the bad boys purged from the American “free” press. Seemed to the most naïve, that is, by which I mean the vast numbers of people who wanted to re-stick their heads in the sand and believe, as Ronald Reagan’s team of truthtellers would announce, that it was “Morning in America” again with the free press reigning and the neo-conservatives, many of whom had been “converted” from their leftist views, running things in Washington.

So again it is morning in America this September 6, 2019, and the headline from National Public Radio announces the glad tidings that NPR has named a new CEO. His name is John Lansing, and the headline says he is a “veteran media executive.” We are meant to be reassured.

It goes on to say that Mr. Lansing, 62, is currently the chief executive of the government agency, The USn Agency for Global Media, that oversees Voice of America, Radio and Television Marti, and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, among others.

We are furthermore reassured by NPR that Lansing made his mark in his current job with stirring defenses of journalism, free from government interference.” 

The announcement goes on to say:

Lansing has earned an advanced degree in political agility. At the U.S. Agency for Global Media, Lansing championed a free press even as leaders of many nations move against it.

‘Governments around the world are increasingly cracking down on the free flow of information; silencing dialogue and dissent; and distorting reality,’Lansing said in a speech he delivered in May to the Media for Democracy Forum. ‘The result, I believe, is a war on truth.’

He continued: ‘Citizens in countries from Russia to China, from Iran to North Korea, have been victimized for decades. But now we’re seeing authoritarian regimes expanding around the globe, with media repression in places like Turkey and Venezuela, Cambodia and Vietnam.’

So we are reassured that the new head of NPR, the chief of all U.S. propaganda, is a champion of a free press. Perhaps NPR will soon enlighten the American public by interviewing its new head honcho and asking him if he thinks Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, by exposing America’s war crimes, and Edward Snowden, by exposing the U.S. government’s vast electronic surveillance programs of its own citizens, deserve to be jailed and exiled for doing the job the American mainstream “free press” failed to do. What NPR failed to do.

Perhaps they will ask him if he objects to the way his own government “interfered” in the lives of these three courageous people who revealed truths that every citizen of a free country is entitled to. Perhaps they will ask him if the U.S. government’s persecution of these truthtellers is what he means by there being “a war on truth.”

Perhaps they will ask him if he thinks the Obama and Trump administrations have been “distorting reality” and waging a war on truth.

Perhaps not. Of course not.

Don’t laugh, for the joke will be on you if you listen to NPR and its sly appeal to “liberal” sensibilities. If you are wondering why we have had the Russia-gate hoax and who was responsible (see/hear Russia expert Prof. Stephen Cohen here) and are now involved in a new Cold War and a highly dangerous nuclear confrontation with Russia, read Lansing’s July 10, 2019 testimony before the House Appropriations Sub-Committee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs: United States Efforts to Counter Russian Disinformation and Malign Influence.”

Here is an excerpt:

USAGM provides consistently accurate and compelling journalism that reflects the values of our society: freedom, openness, democracy, and hope. Our guiding principles—enshrined in law—are to provide a reliable, authoritative, and independent source of news that adheres to the strictest standards of journalism…

Russian Disinformation. And make no mistake, we are living through a global explosion of disinformation, state propaganda, and lies generated by multiple authoritarian regimes around the world. The weaponization of information we are seeing today is real. The Russian government and other authoritarian regimes engage in far-reaching malign influence campaigns across national boundaries and language barriers.

The Kremlin’s propaganda and disinformation machine is being unleashed via new platforms and continues to grow in Russia and internationally. Russia seeks to destroy the very idea of an objective, verifiable set of facts as it attempts to influence opinions about the United States and its allies. It is not an understatement to say that this new form of combat on the information battlefield may be the fight of the 21st century.

Then research the history of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Voice of America, Radio and Television Marti, etc. You will be reassured that Lansing’s July testimony was his job interview to head National Propaganda Radio.

Then sit back, relax, and tune into NPR’s Morning Edition. It will be comforting to know that it is “Morning in America” once again.

Read more:


Welcome to your fishbowl — cleaned up on regular intervals.