U.S. Media’s Objectivity Questioned Abroad

Exclusive: The mainstream media’s nonstop Russiagate coverage and its embrace of #TheResistance has undermined its reputation for objectivity in Europe, reports Andrew Spannaus.

By Andrew Spannaus

Pick up a major newspaper or watch the television news in a European country, and it’s more likely than not you’ll quickly find a reference to the New York Times, the Washington Post, or CNN in reporting about the United States. In the era of Donald Trump, this mainstream media “Triad” continues to set the agenda for many foreign news organizations following events in the U.S., providing them with a viewpoint that is promptly transmitted to their readers and viewers as the authoritative interpretation of what’s going on in America.

A funny thing is starting to happen though: well-known public figures and journalists are beginning to point out the obvious, that these important news outlets no longer look objective. Rather, it seems they see themselves as part of the “resistance” against the President.

In just the past month, this writer has heard radio hosts, political analysts and even diplomatic personnel in Italy and Switzerland couch their public remarks about Trump with the observation that the U.S. mainstream media can no longer be considered objective. This is a notable shift, because even among those who are decidedly anti-Trump, the Triad is increasingly seen as representing the voice of a certain “establishment,” a grouping that does not speak for the majority of the American people.

Across Europe, many follow U.S. politics closely, due to a mix of cultural fascination and the fact that decisions in America continue to have a major impact around the world, of course. People look to the United States as an example and an indicator of economic and social trends, whether they approve of them or not. And in terms of news, they look in particular to the newspapers “of record”, long considered to provide quality and influential reporting and opinions on both domestic and foreign affairs.

Some news organizations take this veneration for the Triad to extreme lengths. In Italy, where I live, the references to the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN are constant, often presented as key interventions likely to shift the political situation in the U.S. A new revelation in one of those outlets regarding Russiagate, for example, might be considered a game changer, bringing us closer to impeachment.

The concentration on these publications has gotten to the point that it heavily limits the perception of what’s going on in the country. In the past, this distortion was harder to detect; getting direct news meant reading a few major newspapers – often delivered late in the day – without having many points of comparison. Yet now, in the era of the internet, an American abroad can follow whatever news and events he or she wants, without suffering from a limitation on direct sources or the filters of a foreign press organization.

This new situation led me to the following realization some years ago: many foreign news outlets get much of their news from the Triad, rather than from their own direct reporting. Often I could read the Washington Post and the New York Times online, and already know what would be reported to Italians on the major evening news programs.

For journalists it is course essential to be aware of how the news is reported in the country they are covering; but if one does only that, information becomes limited by what certain outlets report, and also by their editorial line. There appear to be two different kinds of foreign correspondents covering the United States: those who spend their time in New York or Washington and dedicate most of their attention to establishment sources and events, and those who attempt to get a fuller sense of what’s going on outside of those venues as well.

By way of example, consider the difference between a correspondent from the major television networks whose contacts are mostly other journalists and opinion leaders in the principal power centers, and a correspondent who periodically takes trips to other areas of the country.

I saw a positive example recently when a journalist from RSI (Swiss Italian Radio and Television) spent several days in the former steel town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; the opinions he gathered from residents of that area gave a different view than the more common interviews of Fifth Avenue shoppers or financial analysts in New York. Everyone’s opinion counts, of course, but if you never get out of the bubble, you tend to miss what’s going on in the rest of society.

This blindness was the dominating characteristic of the 2016 election campaign, when major media outlets around the world failed to recognize the deep currents that led to the strong support for Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and ultimately carried the former to the White House. The same inability to grasp the depth of the revolt of the voters against the political and financial elites expressed by pro-establishment media outlets was almost automatically transferred abroad, due to the slavish imitation of the Triad by foreign news outlets.

The 2016 presidential election was a jolt to the system. Suddenly everyone was forced to confront the fact that almost all of the respected media and commentators had gotten it wrong, clearly failing to understand how so many could vote for a candidate considered dangerously unprepared and offensive.

Outside of the United States, people were forced to reassess whose news and opinions they could trust, leading to a period of more serious discussion of the economic and social dynamics in the United States and beyond. If half of the voters – combining the support for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and others with that for Trump – were willing to give their vote to outsiders promising deep changes in the system, then clearly things must not be going as well as the media had been saying.

Never fear, the same media outlets and commentators quickly came up with a new narrative that papered over their previous mistakes: the Russians did it. Thus, in addition to the allegedly racist and ignorant voters outside of urban areas, the fault for Hillary Clinton’s embarrassing loss was pinned on Vladimir Putin. A convenient way to forget the reasons why so many Americans rejected the political establishment.

So rather than a discussion of decades of favoring finance over the real economy, and how “free trade” policies have caused a race to the bottom, the debate focuses on the perils of protectionism, and how important it is to defend globalization. And instead of stigmatizing the disastrous policies of continuous war, we are treated to a steady stream of neocon narratives, including from the numerous representatives of the interventionist camp who have found their way into the Trump administration.

The most recent example of this phenomenon is the sudden return to essentially the same economic narrative heard before the elections. In recent weeks media outlets and experts in Europe have begun to once again sing the praises of the U.S. economy. The stock market is doing great, and unemployment is low, so boom times must be back.

The coverage seems eerily familiar to that during the end of the Obama administration, which of course many people didn’t believe. It’s easy to imagine how Americans who rejected such talk before will react if they don’t see a tangible improvement in their lives in the coming months and years. A low official unemployment rate and modest wage growth is better than the alternative, but far from sufficient to deal with structural problems such as harsh inequality, unstable employment, the lack of social welfare protections and low purchasing power.

The White House is now complicit in this narrative, of course, as Trump wants to believe, and declare, that his policies are making things better. The mainstream media’s obfuscation of the truth should be a lesson to the President, lest he find himself on the wrong end of the revolt before long.

Andrew Spannaus is a journalist and strategic analyst based in Milan, Italy. He is the founder of Transatlantico.info, that provides news and analysis to Italian institutions and businesses. He has published the books “Perché vince Trump” (Why Trump is Winning – June 2016) and “La rivolta degli elettori” (The Revolt of the Voters – July 2017).

32 comments for “U.S. Media’s Objectivity Questioned Abroad

  1. Peter
    February 4, 2018 at 07:42

    This article makes many excellent points. While living and conducting field research overseas I came to recognize the limitations of the media in general–with a very few exceptions–and I learned to triangulate my sources of information, even for rather trivial topics,e.g. sports. The problem IMHO is that most humans,even most readers, do not wish to invest enough time to pursue the truth and are quite satisfied with superficial explanations. This leaves a rather large gap between a small group of scholars ?” elitists”? radicals? or whatever, and a large majority of uninformed,misinformed others. In a democracy this is dangerous.

    • Martin - Swedish citizen
      February 4, 2018 at 11:50

      Your HO is correct – it is human psychology. We can’t analyse everything by ourselves, have to use our experience and trusted sources.
      I think it follows very reasonably that media, authorities, governments, experts, carry an obligation to help out by being trustworthy, objective, constructive and helpful. Everyone needs his or her fellow man. The less of this, the more social misery. People don’t have endless capabilities to do the work these entities should do and fall out. This is the price we pay for allowing the mighty to pursue their games without consideration for society.

  2. Den Lille Abe
    February 3, 2018 at 15:12

    Now Mr. Spannaus can think what ever he wishes of course, as far as I know Italy has not yet implemented a thought police. But I would like to correct him on one point about Europeans and the US about media: We simply don*t care! There you have it, the US, media is as unreliable and filled with lies as the British media, funnily enough also owned by kleptocratic billionaires.
    From my smug position here in Sweden I don’t care much either anymore, I used to, but I realize the patient, the US, is fatally ill, Dead Man Walking, so why waste time on that. Let them , overthere, kille each other with guns, opioids or what ever is trendy right now. As log as we can get rid of them here in Europe I am happy. Whatever the morons do to themselves, is their choice.

    • Peter
      February 4, 2018 at 07:34

      Hiding is no solution. And it might not work,especially if the powerful nations wind up in WW III; because then your hideout will not protect you from the fallout,both figuratively and literally.

  3. Paolo
    February 3, 2018 at 06:08

    I am Italian, and when reading about media and Trump I often feel a deja-vu from the times Berlusconi was in power. Every one worth something hated him and most of the media, both national and international, kept trashing him day in day out.
    Time magazine one time had a big story – perhaps a cover story but I can’t remember for sure – under the title Berlusconistan. Unashamedly the writer started by declaring that he had an infallible way of understanding what was going on in Italy: he would pick up the phone and call can’t-remember-his-name, a famous newsman at Repubblica, the most vehemently anti Berlusconi italian newspaper. Exactly as if an italian newsman were to call a friend at WAPO to understand Trump. Which is what happens: newspaper foreign reportering is basically copying foreign newspapers

    Media outlets suck, and they have been doing so for a long time.

  4. D.H. Fabian
    February 3, 2018 at 00:33

    Much of the corporate media were for Hillary Clinton, the other right wing candidate. That said, US corporate media began losing its relevance outside of the US by the end of the Reagan administration. Reagan, you might recall, ushered in the era of mass media mergers/consolidation, rooting out those reporters considered “left-leaning.” The international community were paying attention all along.

  5. February 2, 2018 at 23:05

    I often wonder that the real ire the MSM holds for Trump is that (maybe entirely for self-serving) reasons Trump gets along with Russia’s oligarchy and the US/British/Zionist money masters wanted war and Hillary was going yo deliver them their war. She repeated if elected president she would enforce a no fly zone over Syria, which translates to shooting down a Russian jet.

    Trump is a bozo and will also give them their war, but he will have to do an end run through Korea or Iran.

    The bottom line is the so called global leaders are materialistic sociopaths.

  6. Catcher in the Wild
    February 2, 2018 at 17:22

    Andrew, I recently spent 5 weeks in Italy where I was reading the dominant Rome daily, La Repubblica, every day and was appalled to find that its chief correspondent/sometime columnist based in NYC, Frederico Rampini, was channeling nytimes Russophobic war propaganda which is pushing The West ever closer to nuclear confrontation with Russia. However, I also discovered the Dec. edition of “Limes”, the Italian geopolitical journal published at the same address in Rome as La Repubblica though I was not able to discern whether there is any connection between the two. But the exciting thing was to discover a powerful counter-narrative in articles by the Italian journalist, Dario Fabbri, “La fatale storicità (‘history’) of the Nuova (‘New’) Europa” p. 51 & “Il fronte europeo della guerra tra Trump e lo Stato profondo (‘the deep state’) p. 203 but even more important, the article by the Geneva-based Swiss journalist, Guy Mettan: “Mille (‘thousands’ of) anni (‘years’) di rusofobia e propaganda”p. 181 from his 2015 book, “Creating Russophobia: from the Great Religious Schism to Anti-Putin Hysteria”, English translation 2017 published by Clarity Press – Atlanta ISBN: 978-0-997896558 paperback $29.95, which I urge everyone to buy and read to discover how thoroughly we are being deluged by war propaganda by the so-called “liberal establishment media” & its masters who are so desperate to maintain their domination of the world that they are willing to risk nuclear war.
    Meanwhile, only yesterday, thanks to Russian scholar, Stephen F. Cohen (emeritus Princeton-NYU professor) & his latest article in The Nation (1/17/18), “The American Bipartisan Policy Establishment Declares Its ‘Second Cold War’ vs. Russia After Years of Denying It”, that our foreign policy establishment, the Council on Foreign Relations based in NYC, has published an even more poisonous piece of propaganda (if possible): its Jan. 2018 Special Report No. 80: “Containing Russia: How to Respond to Moscow’s Intervention in U.S. Democracy (never mind that this is only an allegation for which No Evidence has been produced after 1.5+ years) and Growing Geopolitical Challenge” by Robert D. Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon (the link to which is found in Cohen’s article). So I invite all of you to do more than sit here reading CN, & writing comments…Please do your homework by reading Mettan’s book, Cohen’s article & the CFR report then calling their “communications” tel: 212-434-9888 to protest against this hideous piece of propaganda. Also, call your Senators & Congress rep plus your local media if it, too, is channeling this poison: to protest against this Russophobic propaganda. And how hideous to learn in yesterday’ CN from the Australian journalist, Caitlin Johnstone, who’s been monitoring Bernie Sanders, that he, too, has been cranking out the Russophobic war propaganda…most recently in his response to Trump’s State of the Union speech.
    “Whom the gods would destroy, they first drive mad”…but as a clinical psychologist, I fear that these greedy, evil idiots in their delusional desperation to hang on to their wealth & power… will turn all of us to ashes.

    • Andrew Spannaus
      February 3, 2018 at 05:05

      Thanks for your comment. You underline the point well. Repubblica is one of the top papers in the country, and they tend to use the method I described. Then there are publications that are much more realistic; there are good, competent people who write for Limes and various other outlets. And there are also a few prominent people who tell the truth, but it’s a constant fight to break through the superficial propaganda. By the way, Limes is indeed owned by the same publishing group as Repubblica, although its editorial line is not controlled the way you might expect, as it was founded and is still run by the intelligent Lucio Caracciolo.

    • Diana
      February 5, 2018 at 01:45

      Thank you for these excellent references, Catcher. You made me curious enough to buy Mettan’s book. I’m just getting into it, but it has taken no time for me to be impressed by the author’s clarity of thinking and expression. His elucidation of the facts behind the last decade and a half of anti-Russian propaganda is enlightening, indeed! I’ve followed Cohen for years and will read “Containing Russia.”

  7. ,
    February 2, 2018 at 16:33

    Major US media are simply propaganda organs of the wealthy owners of America. If you keep that in mind, you can figure out why they are telling you the often untrue stuff they do, and not telling you of major important realities in your world. These media are like advertising , they are meant to persuade you to think and behave in certain ways valuable to those who fund these outlets.

    • ML
      February 2, 2018 at 19:08

      Nicely and concisely said “,”! :)

  8. robjira
    February 2, 2018 at 15:54

    “The corporate Demo-press case for a Trump-Putin axis looks more and more like a Potemkin construct — a daily assemblage of front page portals to nowhere, all façade with no back. One must eat and breathe manure to pull the likes of Donald Trump even deeper into the muck, from below – but that has been the mission the premiere corporate media have assigned themselves. Whatever aura of fairness and credibility that still clings to their filthy corporate carcasses, is irrevocably fading.”

  9. Joe Tedesky
    February 2, 2018 at 15:40

    We Americans are like trapped inside of a bubble, and there is no way out. All this because of a MSM super misinformation bureau who’s job it is, is to misdirect, and distract, the masses into a corporately preferred group think. Since the MSM feels threatened and helpless up against the internet’s alternative media, we Americans now are being told of how these websites, are nothing more than a bunch of conspiracy nuts rolled up into a Russian dough of interference which threatens our democracy’s long loved delicious flavor. Wow, come again. So, now we Americans are to shun the out stretched hand of the Russians….really? This is so sad when the Russians could have been our most natural allies. Meanwhile, all this outrage over nothing, but fabricated allegations, and a sore losers backlash against the very system they helped to create this awful mess we Americans are finding ourselves living in. Is there a doctor in the house, or a really good chef?

  10. February 2, 2018 at 14:31

    Propaganda from the MSM has been going on for a long time but Obama made it completely Legal when he signed his ” now legal to propagandize the American people” law. Another one signed at midnight I suspect. So, with this new law { 2012-2013} the Cia, Fbi,Nsa and any other propaganda needed agency could write hundreds of propaganda article, send then to the MSM for publication and never be liable to the public.Of course Europe’s newsies are no different than the Weaselton,Dc NWO newsies so the EU { another NWO agent} just passed the propaganda along. Even the Junta in Ukraine uses the same methods on their people – imagine that. Robert Parry was a national treasure for the honest people of the World – I hope some young journalists can shake the MSM plague and follow in his steps.

  11. February 2, 2018 at 14:05

    So mainstream European journalists are finally beginning to see that the US media (NYT, CNN, & the W-Post) are unreliable? Well good or them! But we who’ve been reading Consortium News knew that from day one.

    • Martin - Swedish citizen
      February 2, 2018 at 14:27

      It is a relief, but they should repent publicly, be sacked for being totally incompetent (what is the added value of relaying lies), and, if applicable, brought to justice.
      Many probably are just daft, but others must have realised and just been anxious about their careers. The MD and board of Swedish TV, as well as many of their journalists, should leave disgraced.

      • Martin - Swedish citizen
        February 3, 2018 at 17:27

        I will add that I find this article excellent. One can sense a slight, hardly noticeable, change in the media climate here as well, but will it hold?
        The idea that most journalists accept the NYT, WaPo as The Truth confirms the impression from contact with a few Swedish journalists regarding Russia and Ukraine.

  12. Drew Hunkins
    February 2, 2018 at 13:26

    * DOJ official Bruce Ohr met with Steele beginning in the summer of 2016 and relayed to DOJ information about Steele’s bias. Steele told Ohr that he, Steele, was desperate that Donald Trump not get elected president and was passionate about him not becoming president.
    The FBI and Justice Department mounted a monthslong effort to keep the information outlined in the memo out of the House Intelligence Committee’s hands. Only the threat of contempt charges and other forms of pressure forced the FBI and Justice to give up the material.

    • Curious
      February 2, 2018 at 23:17

      Drew, what also baffles me is why would the FBI or any legit intelligence organization quote a Yahoo article (apparently leaked to Yahoo by Steele himself as some have reported) to the FISA court? Not only does this show the court is a rubber stamp only without any critical thinking or placing the law as a first priority, but it seems rather lazy on the part of an ‘intelligence org’ as if they just couldn’t take the time to get away from their computer games. If this point in the memo proves to be true it makes the entire argument more of a farse. No wonder the FBI didn’t want it published.

      • michael
        February 3, 2018 at 08:01

        They needed another source besides the opposition research GPS Fusion dossier (as the Memo notes: “Furthermore, Deputy Director McCabe testified before the Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC without the Steele dossier information”) and Yahoo provided another platform for Steele (essentially a repeat of the unverified dossier claims). No foreigner has had so much influence in ‘resisting’ governance by an incoming President. No one likes Trump, but he won. Attacking him on his business deals is one thing, but neolibs/neocons pushing America to war with another nuclear power is quite another.

        • Curious
          February 4, 2018 at 02:06

          Thanks Michael, but it seems redundant since Steele provided the information to Yahoo, which would seem like it is really not another source, but a copy of a copy, so to speak. I somehow thought FISA would have a bit more critical analysis than a Yahoo article presented in a different form than the dossier. Obviously, the standards of the FISA court are not very high, in my opinion.
          Steele worked for GPS Fusion as well, hence the redundancy.

  13. Drew Hunkins
    February 2, 2018 at 13:21

    (Off topic)

    Memo just released.

    Steele was a huckster, a charlatan, a totally biased player. FBI and DOJ knew all along from the get go Steele was completely biased. Yet of course they went ahead anyway with their FISA abuses. The mainstream media have egg all over their faces in running with Steele’s claptrap.

    Everything CN readers, commenters and columnists have been saying for the last year and a half has been factual, truthful and spot-on. Time for us all to go out and have a drink.

    • Gregory Herr
      February 2, 2018 at 23:14

      Cheers brother!

  14. Ol' Hippy
    February 2, 2018 at 13:15

    The hysteria generated by the MSM and the Trump administration has turned the US into a laughing stock around the world. What’s not funny about these matters is the incredible power within the hands of maniacs and a tempestuous childlike leader. For the empire to function requires a certain amount of enemies. N Korea, Russia, Iran, China all seem to be on the radar to overthrow or go to war with. This is why I feel the current situation is as scary as parts of the cold war, if not worse, in which I lived well over half my life.(born,1954) With all the trumpeting from the media peanut gallery, I’m guessing a lot of Americans are on board with more war. Sanity seems to have been left in the last century, which was the most destructive, ever. Now with the pressures of an ever increasing population and resource depletion we are all on track for a truly devastating 21st century. May reason and sanity prevail.

    • Joe Tedesky
      February 2, 2018 at 16:31

      Ol’ Hippy, I’m with you on the fear, and disgust, of how our news is distributed in the U.S., but I also believe that more Americans would think like us, but because of the slanted bias in our news our fellow citizens just feel helpless to think otherwise. It is always said, that there is more good and than bad, and it is with this kind of odds, that the MSM most goes after to crush. If the Establishment can continue to keep us Americans divided over all the trivial crap they push through our new outlets, then their job has been made complete. Besides campaign finance reform, we need to tear down the huge corporate owned media, and replace it with small independently run news organizations. I would prefer a C-Span commercial free news system, but then there are a lot of things I would prefer that will never happen. So, let’s show me how wrong I can be over my wants and preferences disappointments, and introduce America to the truth in news reporting. God Bless Robert Parry. Joe

      • February 2, 2018 at 18:02

        Ol Hippy, Joe…i think the only consolation here is that our “intelligence” network has been unable to buy all the European journalists.

    • geeyp
      February 2, 2018 at 16:31

      To that, Ol’ Hippy, I will add “and justice” prevail.

      • geeyp
        February 2, 2018 at 17:06

        I just got done reading the memo. Jeff Sessions should get himself un-recused or get someone else to get in there and prosecute the ex-upper echelon of the Hoover Org., DNC, Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, John McCain, and the last President for treason. Much worse than Watergate; just take it in and you too will find yourself outraged. (McCain and Pelosi for their own separate collusion).

        • geeyp
          February 2, 2018 at 17:09

          Add HRC (kinda goes without saying).

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