Corporate media is both triggerman and pallbearer of democracy
For most it was exciting enough to watch videos of mobs of seething youth tear down statues of Confederate generals, American presidents like Abraham Lincoln, and even notable anti-slavery legends like Frederick Douglas, in town squares across the country in June and July. These had been steamy months, hot with rage as angry mouths raved behind surgical masks and lassoes wrapped tight around the necks of bronze effigies while baying hyenas circled the square. A rebellion against symbols of racism was barnstorming its way across the land. Add to that the frisson of contact with the plague as each day produced fresh pie charts and line graphs and the always titillating scatter graph of new caseloads. It seemed spikes were everywhere, from responsible Gotham that slowly unbolted its door to the world to drunken Florida where bikinied teens shotgunned PBRs and cavorted under cloudless summer skies. Positive tests skyrocketed even in defiant Texas, where flag-draped F-150s rolled past discarded Lancet reports lying like roadkill along the oil-funk interstates, and where Uzi-toting renegades in tactical gear marched toward the latest civic fracas, past the gaping mask-jaws of ordinary citizens. The nation had become a circus, a big top under which fumed a kaleidoscope of stupefying spectacle and uproar. Each day, aging bourgeoisie roused themselves to read the latest accounts, shaking their shaggy heads incredulously as they sipped their espressos and flicked through their iPad’s Apple News. That should have been enough to satisfy the bloodlust of American liberals. Surely this would be sufficient to conquer the Demented Narcissist come November. But alas, more was required. The president had not been sufficiently savaged by the righteous blade of liberal rectitude. Hence, the inevitable return of Russiagate.
A recent story headlined The New York Times stridently accusing the Russians of bribing Taliban soldiers to kill Americans in Afghanistan, a country we’d occupied for nearly two decades. The paper called it a “provocative escalation” by Russia. Sourced to anonymous intelligence officials, as always, the claim failed to meet even the most basic evidentiary standards. Some officials expressed confidence. Some theorized. None actually produced evidence. Yet since the story served the liberal bias of the corporate press, it ran unopposed. No satire, no sarcasm, no investigative curiosity. Just the transcribed information supplied by faceless deep throats in the military-intelligence swamp. The story is tied to the discredited Russian DNC hacking story, providing readers with a narrative thread by which to finger the Russian intelligence unit, the GRU, as the organ of intrigue wielded by master manipulator Vladimir Putin. Thus, months after the Russiagate scandal collapsed, one pillar of supposed certainty imploding in on itself like a casino demolition, the machinery of mainstream misinformation churns out yet more hate-fueled fictions designed to “sow discord” in the American public.
One of the inputs to the Propaganda Model developed by Edward Hermann and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent was “Sourcing.” If propaganda was being produced, the model predicted that sources would largely emerge from establishment corridors, often anonymous, with factual evidence often redacted for purposes of national security. Yet thanks to the imprimatur of the state, and its estimable institutions, the story would ‘play’. It would be repeated a million times by lesser outlets and believed by a million lessers.
Aaron Maté, the journalistic scourge of Russiagate, talked with Max Blumenthal, Editor of The GrayZone, about the story. The pair poured scorn on the narrative, noting its unverifiable claim, observing its convenient timing a few days ahead of a summit between the U.S. and Russia. The story, they concluded, bore all the hallmarks of a CIA plant. All that was missing were the smudged fingerprints of John Brennan and a hysterical tweet from the same denouncing the Narcissist for treason. Blumenthal provided a video clip of former CIA employee John Stockwell describing how the intelligence agency (actually the president’s paramilitary) planted stories with journalists, both those on the take and those who delusionally believed themselves above reproach. Much of the information was unearthed by the Church Committee in 1975, a Congressional fact-finding mission that appears to have zero bearing on the modern American mind as relates to media literacy. Prolific anti-imperialist Michael Parenti has also claimed that the CIA at one point owned some 200 media organizations. But such facts are swept aside as the rollicking herd barrels toward its November reckoning.
A couple days after GrayZone conversation, the Times itself did what it often does when the stories it hypes on behalf of the state turn out, quite predictably, not to merit the spotlight they were given, it buried the lede. In a clever Orwellian twist, the headline claimed the “New Administration Memo Seeks to Foster Doubts About Suspected Russian Bounties.” As you will soon discover, a story very likely planted by anti-Trump intelligence agents and dutifully hyped by state propagandists, is now said to have been politicized by the Trump administration. Yet Congress requested the administration issue a report on the subject of the supposed bounties, which it did. It found that the CIA (that deeply anti-Trump organization) and the National Counterterrorism Center assessed with “medium confidence” that the Russian GRU had offered bounties to Taliban soldiers. And yet--surprise--the NSA “did not have information to support the conclusion at the same level, expressing lower confidence in the conclusion.” At what point does confidence get so low it ceases to be confidence? Is there even such a threshold in the bowels of our illustrious intel agencies?
Then a former head of the National Intelligence Council was chased down to offer his troubling insight that the assessment could be “politicized” by the White House, as if the entire story and the reporting of it to which he was contributing was not itself an exercise in politicization. (One can always count on at least one former official, found hand-wringing in a church somewhere in Arlington, to supply a pious pullquote for a pro-war story.) The Council declared it knew the GRU met with a Taliban-linked criminal network and that money was sent from the GRU to the network. Foot soldiers of the network were said to have been captured and confided to interrogators (surely not under any duress--that’s not who we are) that the Ruskies were paying bounties. Imagine the wide-eyed alarm in the eyes of the U.S. interrogators as the world-historical news fell from the (bloodied?) lips of said soldiers. Remember, they weren’t even Taliban, but “Taliban-linked.” Perhaps they had crossed paths with the Taliban on some dusty plain and exchanged information on the location of the occupation army (that would be us).
Sounds great thus far. Nagging doubts will soon be buried under the avalanche of regurgitated bilge in the coming days, as you fastidiously flick through Twitter and scour the MSM for new developments. But you unwisely read on, finally reaching the 30th paragraph or so, where you learn that “officials” stressed that the government “lacks direct evidence” of what was said at the meeting or that the Russians actually offered bounties. Later we learn the NSA surveillance cannot even confirm what the captured “detainees told interrogators about bounties.” It has evidence of financial transfers between the two groups, though. But not what they were for. Nor did the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) have any knowledge that the unconfirmed bribes were connected in any way to the Kremlin. The CIA Director Gina Haspel hemmed and hawed her way to an inconclusive no-confidence verdict. Finally, the Secretary of Defense Mark Esper even conceded that there was “no corroborating evidence” to confirm Russia’s “malign activity.” Lord, help thou my unbelief.
Thus we can plausibly suggest this entire farce of a story seems to have been predicated on knowledge of a financial transfer between, one assumes, the GRU and a murky organization linked in some undefined fashion to the Taliban. Now, speaking speculatively, if one were, say, a rogue ideologue deep inside an intelligence agency (not that such persons exist), and were hellbent on destroying the presidency of that degenerate casino hustler, Donald Trump, ‘intelligence’ of this kind might be quite useful to you. Even more so if you were surrounded by equally deranged political jackals just like you. How easily this ‘intelligence’ could be spun into a story about the unspeakable: bounties for the heads of Mericans. As a U.S. official, all one would need to do was project what the U.S. had itself done in Afghanistan, providing cash and weapons to Mujahideen to kill Russians with. And if one were, in the interest of national dignity, obsessed with wrecking the president’s upcoming G7 summit and scuttling the villain’s likely attempt to reintroduce the wrongly ejected Russian Federation to the group, it would be fairly easy to launch such a sinister fiction just days before the summit! And voila! here we are. Embroiled by the fake scandal, Trump has now promptly delayed the summit until September. So much for another ‘peace’ initiative. May the endless war proceed as planned.
Consider how the story was first reported. ABC declared, “Russians offered Taliban bounties to kill U.S. troops: Military official.” How nicely put. Open with a declarative that suggests the story has been confirmed. Source it to a nameless official. Roll a reel of footage above the story that quickly features images of Vladimir Putin, which speak for themselves. Use the subhead to remind readers that 2300 Americans have died in the Afghanistan War. Offering a nearly identical headline in breaking the story, the Times used its subhead to suggest the Trump administration had been anxiously “deliberating” what to do about the “stunning” report. (Who but the most inert lump of human clay would find this report stunning?) And more to the point, why did it require three veteran reporters to transcribe what the anonymous official told them? Well, friend, propaganda doesn’t write itself. One can see the three amigos huddled in some dimly lit parking garage where the hideous concrete blocks all cell reception. A shadowy figure emerges from behind a concrete pillar. Clad in a London Fog trench coat, fedora tipped low, cigarette burning crisply between his lips. This is confidential information, fellas. Straight from the Joint Chiefs. But that’s off the record, get me?
Point being, the crafting of the headline to imply certainty, the use of subheads to deliver a secondary insinuation, and a video clip to add a third, the reader is submerged in cues to persuade him or her that the president is a traitor suborning the death of American soldiers on the sly as part of his contract with the Muscovite Mephistopheles. This vile imposture blurs any sight of the fact that Trump promised to end the war, remove troops, and negotiate a peace treaty with the Taliban. None of this is acceptable to the military-intelligence community or its Democratic supplicants. Thus the plan must be scuttled by any means necessary. More often than not, those means include outright lies, half-truths, crucial omissions, and prejudicial narrative construction. Downplay this. Dramatize that. Lead with supposition. Bury facts at the end.
Christopher Hitchens once argued that “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” One wishes this were a staple truth anchored in the American consciousness. Thus we could dispatch such stories just as hastily as they were foisted upon us. But that is asking too much by half. Credulity is both a boon and a curse, as politics proves daily. A Reuters poll found that 60 percent of Americans believed the story. More damningly but unsurprisingly, 81 percent see Putin as a threat to the United States, while 54 percent wanted to impose sanctions on Russia in response to the unproven assertions. Evidently belief itself is a sufficient criterion to justify unilateral economic attacks. As Noam Chomsky once said, most people don’t know what’s going on, and they don’t even know that they don’t know.
In some sense, the entirety of 2020 has been one extended retrospective on the dangers of ideology and the credulity it inspires. Yet the events of the times feel almost carnivalesque in their breathless sequences of absurdity and melodrama. The liberal agenda that convinces millions that things will be different under Creepy Joe Biden. The blind faith of millions more in the utter sanctity of the medical establishment and its army of acronyms led by the WHO, CDC, and NIH. And, last but not least, how with each passing week the fiasco of the Donald Trump resistance reveals its tawdry heart: a grisly compact between the military-intelligence community and the Democratic Party. Born to deceive, designed to disenfranchise, and ever ready to prey on the hearts and minds of a population it is sworn to serve. In Washington, the carnival of mendacities grows more outrageous by the day. The intelligence jugglers and media clowns perform their tawdry tricks, the Congressional calliope lends its whistling ditty, and the credulous throng gasps with delight, hearts aflutter, nerves on end, clamoring for more.
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ALL CAPTIONS AND PULL QUOTES BY THE EDITORS NOT THE AUTHORS