A US Media Lost in Propaganda

There was once a time perhaps just a brief moment in time when American journalists were cynical and responsible enough to resist being jerked around by U.S. government propaganda, but that time has long since passed if it ever existed, a reality that William Blum describes.

By William Blum

Vulgar, crude, racist and ultra-sexist though he is, Donald Trump can still see how awful the American mainstream media is.

I think one of the main reasons for Donald Trump’s popularity is that he says what’s on his mind and he means what he says, something rather rare amongst American politicians, or politicians perhaps anywhere in the world. The American public is sick and tired of the phony, hypocritical answers given by office-holders of all kinds.

ABC-TV anchor George Stephanopoulos.

ABC-TV anchor George Stephanopoulos.

When I read that Trump had said that Sen. John McCain was not a hero because McCain had been captured in Vietnam, I had to pause for reflection. Wow! Next the man will be saying that not every American soldier who was in the military in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq was a shining hero worthy of constant media honor and adulation.

When Trump was interviewed by ABC-TV host George Stephanopoulos, former aide to President Bill Clinton, he was asked: “When you were pressed about [Russian president Vladimir Putin’s] killing of journalists, you said, ‘I think our country does plenty of killing too.’ What were you thinking about there? What killing sanctioned by the U.S. government is like killing journalists?”

Trump responded: “In all fairness to Putin, you’re saying he killed people. I haven’t seen that. I don’t know that he has. Have you been able to prove that? Do you know the names of the reporters that he’s killed? Because I’ve been you know, you’ve been hearing this, but I haven’t seen the name. Now, I think it would be despicable if that took place, but I haven’t seen any evidence that he killed anybody in terms of reporters.”

Or Trump could have given Stephanopoulos a veritable heart attack by declaring that the American military, in the course of its wars in recent decades, has been responsible for the deliberate deaths of many journalists. In Iraq, for example, there’s the Wikileaks 2007 video, exposed by Chelsea Manning, of the cold-blooded murder of two Reuters journalists; the 2003 U.S. air-to-surface missile attack on the offices of Al Jazeera in Baghdad that left three journalists dead and four wounded; and the American firing on Baghdad’s Hotel Palestine the same year that killed two foreign news cameramen.

It was during this exchange that Stephanopoulos allowed the following to pass his lips: “But what killing has the United States government done?”

Do the American TV networks not give any kind of intellectual test to their newscasters? Something at a fourth-grade level might improve matters.

Prominent MSNBC newscaster Joe Scarborough, interviewing Trump, was also baffled by Trump’s embrace of Putin, who had praised Trump as being “bright and talented.”. Putin, said Scarborough, was “also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

Putin “invades countries” Well, now there even I would have been at a loss as to how to respond. Try as I might I don’t think I could have thought of any countries the United States has ever invaded. [Editor’s Note: Sarcasm aside, Blum has compiled comprehensive lists of U.S. invasions and interventions in his books, including Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.]

To his credit, Trump responded: “I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.”

As to Putin killing political opponents, this too would normally go unchallenged in the American mainstream media. But earlier this year, I listed seven highly questionable deaths of opponents of the Ukraine government, a regime put in power by the United States, which is used as a club against Putin.  This of course was non-news in the American media.

So that’s what happens when the know-nothing American media meets up with a know-just-a-bit-more presidential candidate. Ain’t democracy wonderful?

Trump has also been criticized for saying that immediately after the 9/11 attacks, thousands of Middle Easterners were seen celebrating outdoors in New Jersey in sight of the attack location. An absurd remark, for which Trump has been rightfully vilified; but not as absurd as the U.S. mainstream media pretending that it had no idea what Trump could possibly be referring to in his mixed-up manner.

For there were in fact people seen in New Jersey apparently celebrating the planes crashing into the World Trade Center towers. But they were Israelis, which would explain all one needs to know about why the story wasn’t in the headlines and has since been “forgotten” or misremembered.

On the day of the 9/11 attacks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked what the attacks would mean for U.S.-Israeli relations. His quick reply was: “It’s very good. Well, it’s not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy (for Israel).” There’s a lot on the Internet about these Israelis in New Jersey, who were held in police custody for months before being released. So here too mainstream newspersons do not know enough to enlighten their audience.

Russian Propaganda?

There is a Russian website [inosmi = foreign mass media] that translates propagandistic russophobic articles from the Western media into Russian and publishes them so that Russians can see with their own eyes how the Western media lies about them day after day.

There have been several articles lately based on polls that show that anti-Western sentiments are increasing in Russia, and blaming it on “Putin’s propaganda.” This is rather odd because who needs propaganda when the Russians can read the Western media themselves and see firsthand all the lies it puts forth about them and the demonizing of Putin.

There are several political-debate shows on Russian television where they invite Western journalists or politicians; on one there frequently is a really funny American journalist, Michael Bohm, who keeps regurgitating all the Western propaganda, arguing with his Russian counterparts.

It’s pretty surreal to watch him display the worst political stereotypes of Americans: arrogant, gullible, and ignorant. He stands there and lectures high-ranking Russian politicians, “explaining” to them the “real” Russian foreign policy, and the “real” intentions behind their actions, as opposed to anything they say. The man is shockingly irony-impaired. It is as funny to watch as it is sad and scary.

The above was written with the help of a woman who was raised in the Soviet Union and now lives in Washington. She and I have discussed U.S. foreign policy on many occasions. We are in very close agreement as to its destructiveness and absurdity.

Just as in the first Cold War, one of the basic problems is that Exceptional Americans have great difficulty in believing that Russians mean well. Apropos this, I’d like to recall the following written about the late George Kennan:

“Crossing Poland with the first US diplomatic mission to the Soviet Union in the winter of 1933, a young American diplomat named George Kennan was somewhat astonished to hear the Soviet escort, Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village nearby, about the books he had read and his dreams as a small boy of being a librarian.

“We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves,” Kennan wrote, “that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.”

It hasn’t happened yet.

Kennan’s sudden realization brings George Orwell to mind: “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

 William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others. [This article originally appeared at the Anti-Empire Report,  http://williamblum.org/ .]

32 comments for “A US Media Lost in Propaganda

  1. Evangelista
    January 11, 2016 at 22:47

    “Vulgar, crude, racist and ultra-sexist” , also, direct, outspoken and belligerant, and reflecting out-loud attitudes, opinions and prejudices commonly held by Americans. These, in my opinion, are significant Trump long suites and are admirable, and make Trump the best selection for election to significant public office in the United States. The reason is, the United States used to be a ‘melting-pot’, where cultures met and mixed, the meeting and mixing being through out-loud and direct exchanges of opinions and prejudices, in which participants could inject and interject and argue their opinions and prejudices, reviewing those and placing them in public for review and discussion. In the courrses of the ragings and ravings the people raging and raving became acquainted and developed tolerances and relationships and, by such stirring together, mixed, melded and melted in the pot. The trick was, as the trick always is, to keep expressions verbal, to allow violence where it could disturb the peace, but not damage the arguing disturbers, or others around.

    The legalistically-impaired United States, where laws against expression impair ventings of opinions and prejudices, and so illegally legally coerce bottlings in of emotional eruptions, prevents exchanges and increases rages to outrages and then explosively violent eruptings, for the built up pressures imposed by repressions tending toward physical.

    Trump strikes me as a breath of fresh air in the political landscape for showing a return from the constricting restricting of ‘politically correctness’ to old-fashioned free-expression and all the sides being equally able to speak their minds and, with all opinions out in the open, argue to a stand-still, finding, usually, some kind of comon ground (even if sometimes uneven, slippery, rocky, or soft and swampy). There is nothing like saying something stupid out loud in argument for bringing the stupid part of it into the open for recognition. Banishing a religion is an example: Why? Why not? Why is it improper? Why is it impossible? If those ones, why not these? If these for what others did, is that proper? If it is OK for them, is it OK for others, too, including me and you?

    Of course, none of this is reason for electing Trump United States President for the coming years. The reason for doing that is that he is the only candidate in the field with bankruptcy experience. For the next United States President that is going to be imperative…

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 12, 2016 at 02:07

      If Trump wins it will be due to the American News Media’s vote against Hillary.

    • Joe Tedesky
      January 12, 2016 at 02:28

      A Trump candidacy could be telling. If the Donald were to enter the White House and get none of his campaign comments implemented it would be the canary in coal mine we need to confirm how there is a shadow government running the show.

      Hillary will never win representing herself as the First Lady President of the United States. What could win her the Oval Office is if she were to run as the First Divorced Grandma U.S. President. After the right wing spin machine gets through with reporting all the dirt about Hillary’s husband Americans will be afraid to allow Slick Willy to roam the halls of the White House once again. Bill Clinton will need to team up with Bill Cosby and search out speaking engagements and do a twofer at half the price as the 2 Dirty Old Bills. Wow, it’s 2016!

  2. January 11, 2016 at 16:52

    It’s easy pickings pointing out the dumb, fascistic propaganda on the right. Jon Stewart made a career of it for over a decade.

    More difficult is to attack the left wing accommodation with empire. The foundation-funded gatekeeper media are perhaps just as dangerous and intractable. I see you created your own website, to avoid them?

    A low-point example is my current feud with legendary darling who can do no wrong: Professor Noam Chomsky:


    One cannot call Chomsky to account for his claims in half of the media out there, perhaps more. Since what I’m disputing is censored by the other half as well, the charge against Chomsky goes unpublishable. Despite being factual and glaringly obvious. Thus, the media environment is censored to the point of irrationality: rational arguments are not permitted.

    My follow-up to that Chomsky challenge is written and being ignored by several outlets so far. I will not stop publishing until he is pressured into responding to his ridiculous, misleading claims. Noam Chomsky is a cornerstone figure, the Godfather of the “progressive” left. He has manipulated editors and publishers since the September 11th attacks, and he is thus as dangerous as any Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, or PNAC hack.

    If you’re not interested in the actual truth, you are no ally of mine. I don’t care what you’ve said or done previously. Reputation does not trump the facts.

  3. J'hon Doe II
    January 11, 2016 at 15:40

    Fake Images of Crisis in Syria’s Madaya Making the Rounds
    ‘New’ Image of Starving Child From Last Year, Different City
    by Jason Ditz,
    January 10, 2016

    A flurry of new stories surrounding mass starvation in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, once a popular resort destination, have included some shocking images of starving children, and reports of people surviving on grass and tree leaves.

    Even the editors here at Antiwar.com were briefly taken in, posting a story from the normally dependable al-Jazeera which used photographic “evidence” which turned out to be recycled photos from previous incidents.

    Al-Jazeera’s top image of a starving child in that story, for instance, is the same child from a YouTube video in Derna, Syria, way back in May, months before the Madaya siege even began.

    His isn’t the only image falsely attributed to the current crisis, with el-Akhbar identifying many of the other most high-profile pictures as having previous origins, one as far back as a 2009 picture of a refugee arriving in Europe, and a photo of a starving infant “in Madaya” dating from early 2014, and the infant shown is trapped in the ISIS-occupied Palestinian refugee camp or Yarmouk.

    The shocking nature of the images makes for great press, and many are trying to parlay that into a chance to condemn the Syrian government, their Russian allies, and Hezbollah. While there are crises all over Syria and well-documented suffering that has produced millions of refugees, one would think there would not be a need to manufacture phony stories surrounding recycled pictures. For those looking to hype the crisis-du-jour, however, it seems that asking for real photos of the real situation is just too inconvenient, and it’s easier to just re-brand the first starving child you see.


  4. J'hon Doe II
    January 11, 2016 at 14:59

    Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.
    Allen Ginsberg

    The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.
    Malcom X

  5. January 11, 2016 at 11:13

    Give credit were credit is due. Trump is a down to earth leader,knows how to get results. speaks off the cuff, says what’s wrong and gives a capsule summary how he would fix the issue. Sound like we have chance to have incarnation of Teddy Roosevelt as President. Yeah let’s see a incompetent lier who gets people killed and break national laws wants to
    disarm the country and open the borders to people that hate our way of life. Or there are the the same GOPes who promise the world and once in turn thier backs on the people who elected them. Or there Bennie a throwback to 1950 communist socialism. I think I will go with The Donald who actually run something and knows how to make a profit.

    • January 11, 2016 at 20:32

      I think the qualities you admire in Donald, such as knowing how to make a profit, would enable him to be a leader of a fascist (i.e. corporate) state, i.e. much like Mussolini, but certainly NOT the kind of leader needed for a democratic society.

      Corporations are certainly not known for embracing democratic values.

  6. Aaron Bell
    January 11, 2016 at 01:01

    Absolutely correct CJ. There has been no rule of law in the USA or IsIsrael since the murder of JFK, RFK and MLK,Jr. None! Yes, there are other countries that fit the bill but, these are the 2 skunks in the perfume factory called foreign policy.

  7. Alex T
    January 10, 2016 at 21:09

    Michael Hastings

  8. Jay
    January 10, 2016 at 17:15

    I don’t particularly care for Trump, although I am thankful he has run Bush into the ground.

    But the larger issue I see is that Trump occasionally says something about foreign policy that is spot on and liberals react violently to it, which only shows that liberals, democrats and leftists deep down support the war agenda that they pretended to be outraged about when Bush as president.
    Trump is right that most of the leaders the US vilifies are not that bad and could be good trading partners if we would approach them more intelligently. Of course we would need to stick up for our own national interests more in order to give up the global war agenda.

  9. Antiwar7
    January 10, 2016 at 12:48

    Re attacks on journalists:

    Please don’t forget the US/Nato intentional bombing of the Radio Television Serbia building in 1999, which killed 16 and injured 16 people, journalists and staff.

    As blatant a war crime as any. Stephanopoulos would no doubt justify it, and by his justification (an attack on enemy “propganda”), it would be justified to kill him.

    • Will Toffan
      January 10, 2016 at 13:38

      Excellent example of western targeted killing of journalists. Donald Trump needs
      an organization or entourage well versed in political history to advise and educate him on facts which support his, usually correct, arguments.

      • Antiwar7
        January 10, 2016 at 15:19

        Thanks, Will.

        Trump probably knows more than he let’s on. He probably adopts a dumbed down persona to have broader appeal.

        Let’s hope he’s well-motivated. Obama certainly knows the score between Palestinians and the Israeli government, or the true nature of the Syrian opposition, or who really shot down that airliner over Ukraine. Fat lot of good that does.

  10. January 9, 2016 at 20:08


    • Jeff Davis
      January 12, 2016 at 15:51

      You may be right, but I’m not so sure. Intellect-wise trump is brilliant, but his intelligence is not about dry and scholarly ivory tower tedium. Trump’s intelligence is all about effectiveness, confidence, and decisive action. He has a very quick mind, an instinctive grasp of the public psyche, and he is a master of deal-making, which is to say, connecting with- and persuading others to join him in ***cooperative action***.

      There are four steps to a successful Trump presidency. (Three actually,but step one is in two parts). Step one: winning the presidential campaign. This is divided into the two steps: first, 1a, winning the Republican primary race, and then 1b, winning the general election.

      Campaigning is an exercise in mouth-flapping showmanship aimed at winning the electoral popularity contest. Trump at the primary level has been masterful. He has applied a seemingly obvious approach: if the Republican base likes red meat, give it to them in over-the-top abundance.

      Trump has taken the anti-Washington, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim themes so popular with the GOP base, and cranked it up to the max. The other Republican supplicants have been more “moderate”, which is to say “calibrated”, predictable, weak, and most of all, boring. Trump on the other hand is the quintessence of success, the guy the Republican-trailer-trash-dreaming-of-being-rich want to party with. In Trump’s art of campaigning we are fêted to a magnificent demonstration of instinctive political genius.

      So Trump, against all “convention wisdom”, ie establishment hoodwinkery, is heading up a political insurgency that has the establishment in an unprecedented sphincter-tightening tizzy.

      If we then posit a Trump primary victory, the next question would be: Can Trump recalibrate his “tone” and content to defeat Hillary? At the moment, we can only guess, but if his political skill is inherent and his rhetoric instinctive, if he hears his audience and responds with a deal-maker’s savvy, then he will throw open the treasure chest of Clintonian skeletons and tear Hillary a new one.

      I can’t wait.

      That covers step one in two parts: step 1a, the primary election; step 1b, the general election. Steps 2 and 3 are Governance and Vision, respectively. I look forward to Trump “pwning” the Congress; won’t that be sweet? And re Vision, … well Trump was once a New York Democrat, so who knows?

      “The country,…” you say. “What about the good of the country?”

      To which I reply, “The American experiment is finished. We’re over the cliff and on the way down, waiting only for the final crash and burn. Saving the US from that is too much to ask even of Trump. But the choice is between hag-of-war Hillary and the clown show of Zionist-owned Republican war mongers,… or Trump. National destruction from imperial arrogance and self-absorption, or ??????? with Trump.

      The most exciting electoral spectacle ever.

      • Peter Loeb
        January 13, 2016 at 07:39


        I am appalled at many of the statements and much of the fear-
        mongering of D. Trump. Perhaps my own personal frazzled
        roots in the “liberalism” of the 1940’s and 50’s is still mysteriously
        alive somewhere in my deeper recesses.

        From my perspective, H. Clinton was be a disaster as President
        (see today’s article by Robert Parry).She is more a warhawk
        than most of the right-wing Republicans Democrats love to hate.

        Almost more frightening for “yellow dog” [always loyal, no matter
        what] Democrats are the responses of Trump as reported by
        William Blum in “A US Media Lost in Propaganda”.How would the
        right-wing conservatives in Congress respond? They would have lost
        their monster Democrat to be against.

        What pleasure it is to have Donald Trump as an enemy to all
        the “good old folks” of the always altruistic Democratic Party.
        Perhaps re-naming it “The Grand Old Democratic Party” would
        be an idea…

        There is nothing but a fabricated “joy” in liberals and progressives
        creating their demon. Not every Democratic icon who was ever
        elected President was a glory. FDR was for balancing the
        budget. His New Deal basically failed until WWII (See Gabriel
        Harry Truman with his administration became the greatest
        “anti-commie” President of all. And so forth.

        I could never vote for Trump but it was indeed refreshing to read his
        honest and quite presidential remarks.

        —-Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

  11. Cassandra Jones
    January 9, 2016 at 19:48

    Blum misses the most important assassination plot in the United States against a democratically-elected world leader: that of JFK in 1963 by leaders of the CIA and the military. The press still lies about it today, proving that the powers that perpetrated the crime are still in charge of our government and of the press.

    • Aaron Bell
      January 11, 2016 at 00:56

      Absolute truth CJ. There has been no rule of law in the USA or Israel since the killing of JFK, RFK, and MLK, Jr. None! The list of lawless countries since then is much bigger but, these are the 2 major skunks in the perfume factory called journalism.

    • Aaron Bell
      January 11, 2016 at 01:01

      Absolutely correct CJ. There has been no rule of law in the USA or IsIsrael since the murder of JFK, RFK and MLK,Jr. None! Yes, there are other countries that fit the bill but, these are the 2 skunks in the perfume factory called foreign policy.

  12. Drew Hunkins
    January 9, 2016 at 16:58

    Trump has many obvious faults, no doubt. But credit should be given where credit is due: Trump generally does not demonize Putin. Trump has not fallen for all the vilification baloney heaped Putin’s way by the Western corporate-Zio media.

    Despite all of Trump’s drawbacks, and there are myriad drawbacks of course, Trump should be mildly applauded for bringing a bit of sanity to the rhetoric coming out of the establishment press as it relates to Russia and Putin.

  13. Tom Welsh
    January 9, 2016 at 13:14

    It is curious how, in different times and places, systematic propaganda is more or less successful. To start with, of course, it requires the will to deceive on an industrial scale, which in turns depends on a psychopathic level of dishonesty and cynicism. Next comes the technical requirement: the methods of mass disinformation were deeply investigated (and, to be fair, published) by American professionals led by Edward Bernays as long ago as WW1. The third essential, I believe, is an audience that – at some level – is content to be deceived. (Just as a hypnotic subject consents, at some level, to be hypnotized).

    In the 1930s and early 1940s the German people were notoriously misled by their leaders. Goebbels became a byword for propaganda, although partly through ineptness and lack of subtlety. An American visitor to Berlin later told Bernays that Goebbels had all of his books, and spoke of his work in glowing terms. (As far as I know, history does not record how Bernays took this). It is widely believed that the German people must have been fairly happy to be informed that they were the Master Race, better than everyone else, and therefore uniquely suited to rule the world. There have been literally dozens of “master races” (in their own eyes), from the ancient Egyptians, Assyrians, Jews, Greeks, Romans and others through the Chinese, Japanese, Incas and Aztecs, French, Turks, British and Spanish to the Americans and even the Ukrainians. Indeed, it is an interesting and highly instructive pastime to look for nations that have never imagined themselves to be master races. I suggest the Russians and the Portuguese for a start. And there must be lots of inoffensive peoples in Africa and South America.

    When I consider the millions of dead brought about directly by unprovoked American wars of aggression, I cannot believe that the American people as a whole condemn or even dislike those crimes. Like the Greeks, Romans, and others, they imagine themselves to be better than foreigners and hence destined to rule and loot them. They argue that it’s their government that commits the crimes, not the people themselves. But then what’s all this nonsense about “democracy”? The Germans most emphatically did NOT have democracy under the Nazis, yet our pundits are happy to blame them for failing to overthrow Hitler’s regime. So why don’t Americans take back their government, accept responsibility for its appalling crimes, make their peace with the world, and try to make some kind of restitution?

    Because they don’t want to.

    • January 9, 2016 at 23:38

      Tom Welsh
      Great comment!

    • Bob Van Noy
      January 10, 2016 at 10:24

      I’ve been reading about the various iterations of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation organization and find it very interesting. Some think that these “deep” investigations into government corruption should include criminal prosecution, others not. I have some mixed feelings, but it seems that this type of public disclosure is now the only way out of the apparent failure of politics as practiced today.

    • Will Toffan
      January 10, 2016 at 13:32

      A concise and well thought out argument. Congrats!

    • Aaron Bell
      January 11, 2016 at 00:51

      Tom, that’s hitting a dart with the bull’s-eye. Excellent shot mate!

    • Nick Koblov
      January 12, 2016 at 11:24

      There is no “great plan” about western or mainstream propaganda. The problem is thats everyone who writed these articles really believes in what they write. The Problem is in education. Our education system degradets to the beginning of 20th century and it is continuing falling. We have all these gadgets, internet, online translators but our childs cant even calculate 64×64 in their minds. We became tolerance to idiots. We need to laught at them, force to education them instead we smiling, giving hugs and say “Everything will be OK”.

  14. dahoit
    January 9, 2016 at 13:08

    Yes,some of Trumps rhetoric is dumb,but he’s uttered more statements of the obvious than every other candidate.

  15. charles goldberg
    January 9, 2016 at 13:00

    in regards to the mainstream media ishall paraphrase paul simon:
    when ithink back of all the crap i learned on americas newscasts
    its a wonder i can think at all
    thank god for the internet.!!!

    • J'hon Doe II
      January 11, 2016 at 12:01

      The Century of the Self is a 2002 British television documentary series by filmmaker Adam Curtis. It focuses on the work of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud and Anna Freud, and PR consultant Edward Bernays.
      In episode one, Curtis says, “This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy.”

      (Behavioral Science)

  16. Joe Tedesky
    January 9, 2016 at 11:54

    People are people all over the world. Our U.S. Media has entertained the American public into division. We need leaders who will rally us around the goal of making this earth of ours a better place to live for all of humanity.

Comments are closed.