Official Washington’s ‘Info-Wars’

Organs of Official Washington, such as the State Department and The Washington Post, are becoming unhinged over their weakening grip on the narratives that the people are supposed to believe, as William Blum explains.

By William Blum

On November 16, at a State Department press briefing, department spokesperson John Kirby was having one of his frequent adversarial dialogues with Gayane Chichakyan, a reporter for RT (Russia Today); this time concerning U.S. charges of Russia bombing hospitals in Syria and blocking the U.N. from delivering aid to the trapped population.

When Chichakyan asked for some detail about these charges, Kirby replied: “Why don’t you ask your defense ministry?”

GC: Do you – can you give any specific information on when Russia or the Syrian Government blocked the UN from delivering aid? Just any specific information.

Secretary of State John Kerry denounces Russia's RT network as a "propaganda bullhorn" during remarks on April 24, 2014.

Secretary of State John Kerry denounces Russia’s RT network as a “propaganda bullhorn” during remarks on April 24, 2014.

KIRBY: There hasn’t been any aid delivered in the last month.

GC: And you believe it was blocked exclusively by Russia and the Syrian Government?

KIRBY: There’s no question in our mind that the obstruction is coming from the regime and from Russia. No question at all.

MATTHEW LEE (Associated Press): Let me –- hold on, just let me say: Please be careful about saying “your defense minister” and things like that. I mean, she’s a journalist just like the rest of us are, so it’s -– she’s asking pointed questions, but they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned -– from a state-owned –

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet, Matt.

LEE: But they’re not –

KIRBY: From a state-owned outlet that’s not independent.

LEE: The questions that she’s asking are not out of line.

KIRBY: I didn’t say the questions were out of line.

……

KIRBY: I’m sorry, but I’m not going to put Russia Today on the same level with the rest of you who are representing independent media outlets.

One has to wonder if State Department spokesperson Kirby knows that in 2011 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking about RT, declared: “The Russians have opened an English-language network. I’ve seen it in a few countries, and it is quite instructive.”

I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the U.K., broadcasting in the U.S. and all around the world.

Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

There’s also Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia, Radio Liberty (Central/Eastern Europe), and Radio Marti (Cuba); all (U.S.) state-owned, none “independent”, but all deemed worthy enough by the United States to feed to the world.

And let’s not forget what Americans have at home: PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) and NPR (National Public Radio), which would have a near-impossible time surviving without large federal government grants. How independent does this leave them? Has either broadcaster ever unequivocally opposed a modern American war? There’s good reason NPR has long been known as National Pentagon Radio. But it’s part of American media’s ideology to pretend that it doesn’t have any ideology.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

President George W. Bush announcing the start of his invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

As to the non-state American media … There are about 1,400 daily newspapers in the United States. Can you name a single paper, or a single TV network, that was unequivocally opposed to the American wars carried out against Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, Panama, Grenada, and Vietnam while they were happening, or shortly thereafter? Or even opposed to any two of these seven wars? How about one?

In 1968, six years into the Vietnam War, the Boston Globe (Feb. 18, 1968) surveyed the editorial positions of 39 leading U.S. papers concerning the war and found that “none advocated a pull-out.” Has the phrase “invasion of Vietnam” ever appeared in the U.S. mainstream media?

In 2003, leading cable station MSNBC took the much-admired Phil Donahue off the air because of his opposition to the calls for war in Iraq. Mr. Kirby would undoubtedly call MSNBC “independent.”

If the American mainstream media were officially state-controlled, would they look or sound significantly different when it comes to U.S. foreign policy?

New Cold War Propaganda

On Nov. 25, the Washington Post ran an article entitled: “Research ties ‘fake news’ to Russia.” It’s all about how sources in Russia are flooding American media and the Internet with phony stories designed as “part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders.”

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

“The sophistication of the Russian tactics,” the article says, “may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on ‘fake news’.”

The Post states that the Russian tactics included “penetrating the computers of election officials in several states and releasing troves of hacked emails that embarrassed Clinton in the final months of her campaign.” (Heretofore this had been credited to Wikileaks.)

The story is simply bursting with anti-Russian references:

  • –An online magazine header – “Trolling for Trump: How Russia Is Trying to Destroy Our Democracy.”
  • –“the startling reach and effectiveness of Russian propaganda campaigns.”
  • –“more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda during the election season.”
  • –“stories planted or promoted by the disinformation campaign were viewed more than 213 million times.”
  • –“The Russian campaign during this election season … worked by harnessing the online world’s fascination with ‘buzzy’ content that is surprising and emotionally potent, and tracks with popular conspiracy theories about how secret forces dictate world events.”
  • –“Russian-backed phony news to outcompete traditional news organizations for audience”
  • –“They use our technologies and values against us to sow doubt. It’s starting to undermine our democratic system.”
  • –“Russian propaganda operations also worked to promote the ‘Brexit’ departure of Britain from the European Union.”
  • –“Some of these stories originated with RT and Sputnik, state-funded Russian information services that mimic the style and tone of independent news organizations yet sometimes include false and misleading stories in their reports.”
  • –“a variety of other false stories — fake reports of a coup launched at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and stories about how the United States was going to conduct a military attack and blame it on Russia”

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul, is quoted saying he was “struck by the overt support that Sputnik expressed for Trump during the campaign, even using the #CrookedHillary hashtag pushed by the candidate.” McFaul said Russian propaganda typically is aimed at weakening opponents and critics.

“They don’t try to win the argument. It’s to make everything seem relative. It’s kind of an appeal to cynicism.” [Cynicism? Heavens! What will those Moscow fascists/communists think of next?]

The Post did, however, include the following: “RT disputed the findings of the researchers in an e-mail on Friday, saying it played no role in producing or amplifying any fake news stories related to the U.S. election.” RT was quoted: “It is the height of irony that an article about ‘fake news’ is built on false, unsubstantiated claims. RT adamantly rejects any and all claims and insinuations that the network has originated even a single ‘fake story’ related to the US election.”

It must be noted that the Washington Post article fails to provide a single example showing how the actual facts of a specific news event were rewritten or distorted by a Russian agency to produce a news event with a contrary political message.

What then lies behind such blatant anti-Russian propaganda? In the new Cold War such a question requires no answer. The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. In the new Cold War, the political spectrum in the mainstream media runs the gamut from A to B.

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/ .]

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15 comments for “Official Washington’s ‘Info-Wars’

  1. Zachary Smith
    December 1, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    At the Emptywheel site in an interesting piece about what a fair review of the Washington Post would reveal.

    According to PropOrNot’s Conspiratorial Criteria, WaPo Is a US Intelligence Outlet

    • Maria S calef
      December 4, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      The mainstream media follows the script from the official ruling class’s narrative, and their hysteric tyrade to garnish public approval to their foreing policy.

  2. Sally Snyder
    December 1, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Here is an article that looks at some of Hillary Clinton’s more interesting comments about Russia and Vladimir Putin from her speeches:

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2016/11/hillary-clintons-anti-russia-rhetoric.html

    Apparently, Ms. Clinton’s viewpoint on Russia and Vladimir seemed to be dependent on her audience and how close she was (in her mind) to occupying the Oval Office.

  3. ranney moss
    December 1, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    sally and Zachary, I read both your links and found them interesting. Thanks for posting them.
    BTW, I read RT on line almost every day. I find this site interesting and informative. Also they have news of the world that cannot be found in US mainstream media. And of course our government with the help of our media has been lying to us about foreign policy for decades.

    • Zachary Smith
      December 1, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      Then you might like to take a look at another WP bashing at the Zero Hedge site.

      Fake News: Newsweek Admits They Didn’t Write Or Even Read “Madam President” Issue

      So, as Zero Hedge and others come under attack from the mainstream media for reporting “fake news”, we now have a concrete example of an establishment “news” source admitting that it printed and distributed fake news under it’s corporate brand that it neither wrote nor even bothered to read, yet no one, other than Fox News, says a word?

      The Washington Post deserves every bit of bashing it gets.

  4. Rob Roy
    December 1, 2016 at 8:10 pm

    Well done, Mr. Blum. Thank you.

  5. Taras77
    December 1, 2016 at 9:21 pm

    Thank you Mr Blum.

    It is indeed chilling that the so called main stream media do not report the news accurately, thus requiring readers to go to the alt news sites. I read WaPo for entertainment mainly, attempting to decipher what the latest narrative is “out there.” What absolutely amazes me is Marty Baron, I believe to be exec editor for WaPo, is behind the publishing the article with the some 200 offending alt news sites. He received praise while at the Boston Globe for taking on the Catholic Church in a sex abuse scandal and cover up. Of course, he is part of the Bezos regime now but he clearly has sold his soul in this situation.

    I read zero hedge, RT, Sputnik for news and commentary.

  6. Susan
    December 2, 2016 at 7:01 am

    The good news is that I found this article while glancing the Google headlines this morning. This is the first time I’ve seen Consortium News referenced there, although I’m not suggesting that it hasn’t been – but it’s about time!! My only hope is that it picks up a lot of new viewers.

  7. December 2, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Excellent reporting-all of your reporters are the personification of true investigative reporting and your articles are breath of fresh and clean air. Many thanks!

  8. ahah
    December 2, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    ” The new Cold War by definition exists to discredit Russia simply because it stands in the way of American world domination. ” Are you kidding? You’re literally an anti-American for being so close minded as to think that there’s no possible reason to fight against an unethical “superpower”. Putin is clearly a dangerous, anti-human autocrat that needs to be removed from power.

    • RD
      December 6, 2016 at 1:47 am

      It is up to the Russians to decide that.
      It’s really funny yanks have an ingrained desire to change any government not submissive to US government and accusing Russia of interfering with the presidential election.

  9. GM
    December 3, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I have long been of the opinion that the US is quite possibly the most propagandized nation on earth and it’s not a recent development but harks back to the dawn of the television and motion picture age and very much extends beyond just news reporting to include the spectrum of popular entertainment and education.
    The Russians, on the other hand, were acutely aware during the Cold War of their government’s propaganda efforts as any more elderly Russian will attest.

  10. Royce Herndon
    December 4, 2016 at 2:04 am

    As always, Mr. Blum, timely and valuable information and insight. Hope you’re feeling well.

  11. suzuya hiroshi
    December 8, 2016 at 10:34 pm

    >I also wonder how Mr. Kirby deals with reporters from the BBC, a STATE-OWNED television and radio entity in the U.K., broadcasting in the U.S. and all around the world.

    >Or the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described by Wikipedia as follows: “The corporation provides television, radio, online and mobile services throughout metropolitan and regional Australia, as well as overseas … and is well regarded for quality and reliability as well as for offering educational and cultural programming that the commercial sector would be unlikely to supply on its own.”

    Don’t forget NHK, in Japan.

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