The Existential Question of Whom to Trust

With the fallout from the White House Correspondent’s dinner still swirling, and as we continue to celebrate Bob Parry’s life, we republish an extraordinary piece he wrote about last year’s dinner and the careerism undermining American professional life.

By Robert Parry

The looming threat of World War III, a potential extermination event for the human species, is made more likely because the world’s public can’t count on supposedly objective experts to ascertain and evaluate facts. Instead, careerism is the order of the day among journalists, intelligence analysts and international monitors – meaning that almost no one who might normally be relied on to tell the truth can be trusted.

The dangerous reality is that this careerism, which often is expressed by a smug certainty about whatever the prevailing groupthink is, pervades not just the political world, where lies seem to be the common currency, but also the worlds of journalism, intelligence and international oversight, including United Nations agencies that are often granted greater credibility because they are perceived as less beholden to specific governments but in reality have become deeply corrupted, too.

In other words, many professionals who are counted on for digging out the facts and speaking truth to power have sold themselves to those same powerful interests in order to keep high-paying jobs and to not get tossed out onto the street. Many of these self-aggrandizing professionals – caught up in the many accouterments of success – don’t even seem to recognize how far they’ve drifted from principled professionalism.

Comedian Stephen Colbert at the 2006 dinner giving it to self-important, careerist journalists (and to Bush too.) (Getty free image.)

A good example was Saturday night’s spectacle of national journalists preening in their tuxedos and gowns at the White House Correspondents Dinner, sporting First Amendment pins as if they were some brave victims of persecution. They seemed oblivious to how removed they are from Middle America and how unlikely any of them would risk their careers by challenging one of the Establishment’s favored groupthinks. Instead, these national journalists take easy shots at President Trump’s buffoonish behavior and his serial falsehoods — and count themselves as endangered heroes for the effort.

Foils for Trump

Ironically, though, these pompous journalists gave Trump what was arguably his best moment in his first 100 days by serving as foils for the President as he traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on Saturday and basked in the adulation of blue-collar Americans who view the mainstream media as just one more appendage of a corrupt ruling elite.

Breaking with tradition by snubbing the annual press gala, Trump delighted the Harrisburg crowd by saying: “A large group of Hollywood celebrities and Washington media are consoling each other in a hotel ballroom” and adding: “I could not possibly be more thrilled than to be more than 100 miles away from [the] Washington swamp … with much, much better people.” The crowd booed references to the elites and cheered Trump’s choice to be with the common folk.

Trump’s rejection of the dinner and his frequent criticism of the mainstream media brought a defensive response from Jeff Mason, president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, who complained: “We are not fake news. We are not failing news organizations. And we are not the enemy of the American people.” That brought the black-tie-and-gown gathering to its feet in a standing ovation.

Perhaps the assembled media elite had forgotten that it was the mainstream U.S. media – particularly The Washington Post and The New York Times – that popularized the phrase “fake news” and directed it blunderbuss-style not only at the few Web sites that intentionally invent stories to increase their clicks but at independent-minded journalism outlets that have dared question the elite’s groupthinks on issues of war, peace and globalization.

The Black List

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

Professional journalistic skepticism toward official claims by the U.S. government — what you should expect from reporters — became conflated with “fake news.” The Post even gave front-page attention to an anonymous group called PropOrNot that published a black list of 200 Internet sites, including Consortiumnews.com and other independent-minded journalism sites, to be shunned.

But the mainstream media stars didn’t like it when Trump began throwing the “fake news” slur back at them. Thus, the First Amendment lapel pins and the standing ovation for Jeff Mason’s repudiation of the “fake news” label.

Yet, as the glitzy White House Correspondents Dinner demonstrated, mainstream journalists get the goodies of prestige and money while the real truth-tellers are almost always outspent, outgunned and cast out of the mainstream. Indeed, this dwindling band of honest people who are both knowledgeable and in position to expose unpleasant truths is often under mainstream attack, sometimes for unrelated personal failings and other times just for rubbing the powers-that-be the wrong way.

Perhaps, the clearest case study of this up-is-down rewards-and-punishments reality was the Iraq War’s WMD rationale. Nearly across the board, the American political/media system – from U.S. intelligence analysts to the deliberative body of the U.S. Senate to the major U.S. news organizations – failed to ascertain the truth and indeed actively helped disseminate the falsehoods about Iraq hiding WMDs and even suggested nuclear weapons development. (Arguably, the “most trusted” U.S. government official at the time, Secretary of State Colin Powell, played a key role in selling the false allegations as “truth.”)

Not only did the supposed American “gold standard” for assessing information – the U.S. political, media and intelligence structure – fail miserably in the face of fraudulent claims often from self-interested Iraqi opposition figures and their neoconservative American backers, but there was minimal accountability afterwards for the “professionals” who failed to protect the public from lies and deceptions.

Profiting from Failure

Powell’s vial display.

Indeed, many of the main culprits remain “respected” members of the journalistic establishment. For instance, The New York Times’ Pentagon correspondent Michael R. Gordon, who was the lead writer on the infamous “aluminum tubes for nuclear centrifuges” story which got the ball rolling for the Bush administration’s rollout of its invade-Iraq advertising campaign in September 2002, still covers national security for the Times – and still serves as a conveyor belt for U.S. government propaganda.

The Washington Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt, who repeatedly informed the Post’s readers that Iraq’s secret possession of WMD was a “flat-fact,” is still the Post’s editorial page editor, one of the most influential positions in American journalism.

Hiatt’s editorial page led a years-long assault on the character of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson for the offense of debunking one of President George W. Bush’s claims about Iraq seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger. Wilson had alerted the CIA to the bogus claim before the invasion of Iraq and went public with the news afterwards, but the Post treated Wilson as the real culprit, dismissing him as “a blowhard” and trivializing the Bush administration’s destruction of his wife’s CIA career by outing her (Valerie Plame) in order to discredit Wilson’s Niger investigation.

At the end of the Post’s savaging of Wilson’s reputation and in the wake of the newspaper’s accessory role in destroying Plame’s career, Wilson and Plame decamped from Washington to New Mexico. Meanwhile, Hiatt never suffered a whit – and remains a “respected” Washington media figure to this day.

Careerist Lesson

The lesson that any careerist would draw from the Iraq case is that there is almost no downside risk in running with the pack on a national security issue. Even if you’re horrifically wrong — even if you contribute to the deaths of some 4,500 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis — your paycheck is almost surely safe.

The same holds true if you work for an international agency that is responsible for monitoring issues like chemical weapons. Again, the Iraq example offers a good case study. In April 2002, as President Bush was clearing away the few obstacles to his Iraq invasion plans, Jose Mauricio Bustani, the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons [OPCW], sought to persuade Iraq to join the Chemical Weapons Convention so inspectors could verify Iraq’s claims that it had destroyed its stockpiles.

Bolton: Stopped Iraq chemical inspection. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

The Bush administration called that idea an “ill-considered initiative” – after

all, it could have stripped away the preferred propaganda rationale for the invasion if the OPCW verified that Iraq had destroyed its chemical weapons. So, Bush’s Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton, a neocon advocate for the invasion of Iraq, pushed to have Bustani deposed. The Bush administration threatened to withhold dues to the OPCW if Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, remained.

It now appears obvious that Bush and Bolton viewed Bustani’s real offense as interfering with their invasion scheme, but Bustani was ultimately taken down over accusations of mismanagement, although he was only a year into a new five-year term after having been reelected unanimously. The OPCW member states chose to sacrifice Bustani to save the organization from the loss of U.S. funds, but – in so doing – they compromised its integrity, making it just another agency that would bend to big-power pressure.

By dismissing me,” Bustani said, “an international precedent will have been established whereby any duly elected head of any international organization would at any point during his or her tenure remain vulnerable to the whims of one or a few major contributors.” He added that if the United States succeeded in removing him, “genuine multilateralism” would succumb to “unilateralism in a multilateral disguise.”

The Iran Nuclear Scam

Something similar happened regarding the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2009 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the neocons were lusting for another confrontation with Iran over its alleged plans to build a nuclear bomb.

According to U.S. embassy cables from Vienna, Austria, the site of IAEA’s headquarters, American diplomats in 2009 were cheering the prospect that Japanese diplomat Yukiya Amano would advance U.S. interests in ways that outgoing IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei wouldn’t; Amano credited his election to U.S. government support; Amano signaled he would side with the United States in its confrontation with Iran; and he stuck out his hand for more U.S. money.

In a July 9, 2009, cable, American chargé Geoffrey Pyatt said Amano was thankful for U.S. support of his election. “Amano attributed his election to support from the U.S., Australia and France, and cited U.S. intervention with Argentina as particularly decisive,” the cable said.

The appreciative Amano informed Pyatt that as IAEA director-general, he would take a different “approach on Iran from that of ElBaradei” and he “saw his primary role as implementing safeguards and UNSC [United Nations Security Council] Board resolutions,” i.e. U.S.-driven sanctions and demands against Iran.

Amano also discussed how to restructure the senior ranks of the IAEA, including elimination of one top official and the retention of another. “We wholly agree with Amano’s assessment of these two advisors and see these decisions as positive first signs,” Pyatt commented.

El Baradei: Stood in the Americans’ way.

In return, Pyatt made clear that Amano could expect strong U.S. financial assistance, stating that “the United States would do everything possible to support his successful tenure as Director General and, to that end, anticipated that continued U.S. voluntary contributions to the IAEA would be forthcoming. Amano offered that a ‘reasonable increase’ in the regular budget would be helpful.”

What Pyatt made clear in his cable was that one IAEA official who was not onboard with U.S. demands had been fired while another who was onboard kept his job.

Pandering to Israel

Pyatt learned, too, that Amano had consulted with Israeli Ambassador Israel Michaeli “immediately after his appointment” and that Michaeli “was fully confident of the priority Amano accords verification issues.” Michaeli added that he discounted some of Amano’s public remarks about there being “no evidence of Iran pursuing a nuclear weapons capability” as just words that Amano felt he had to say “to persuade those who did not support him about his ‘impartiality.’”

In private, Amano agreed to “consultations” with the head of the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, Pyatt reported. (It is ironic indeed that Amano would have secret contacts with Israeli officials about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, which never yielded a single bomb, when Israel possesses a large and undeclared nuclear arsenal.)

In a subsequent cable dated Oct. 16, 2009, the U.S. mission in Vienna said Amano “took pains to emphasize his support for U.S. strategic objectives for the Agency. Amano reminded ambassador [Glyn Davies] on several occasions that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

More candidly, Amano noted the importance of maintaining a certain ‘constructive ambiguity’ about his plans, at least until he took over for DG ElBaradei in December” 2009.

In other words, Amano was a bureaucrat eager to bend in directions favored by the United States and Israel regarding Iran’s nuclear program. Amano’s behavior surely contrasted with how the more independent-minded ElBaradei resisted some of Bush’s key claims about Iraq’s supposed nuclear weapons program, correctly denouncing some documents as forgeries.

Amano: The Americans got their guy. (IAEA Photo)

The world’s public got its insight into the Amano scam only because the U.S. embassy cables were among those given to WikiLeaks by Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, for which Manning received a 35-year prison sentence (which was finally commuted by President Obama before leaving office, with Manning now scheduled to be released in May – having served nearly seven years in prison).

It also is significant that Geoffrey Pyatt was rewarded for his work lining up the IAEA behind the anti-Iranian propaganda campaign by being made U.S. ambassador to Ukraine where he helped engineer the Feb. 22, 2014 coup that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych. Pyatt was on the infamous “fuck the E.U.” call with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland weeks before the coup as Nuland handpicked Ukraine’s new leaders and Pyatt pondered how “to midwife this thing.”

Rewards and Punishments

The existing rewards-and-punishments system, which punishes truth-tellers and rewards those who deceive the public, has left behind a thoroughly corrupted information structure in the United States and in the West, in general.

Across the mainstream of politics and media, there are no longer the checks and balances that have protected democracy for generations. Those safeguards have been washed away by the flood of careerism.

The situation is made even more dangerous because there also exists a rapidly expanding cadre of skilled propagandists and psychological operations practitioners, sometimes operating under the umbrella of “strategic communications.” Under trendy theories of “smart power,” information has become simply another weapon in the geopolitical arsenal, with “strategic communications” sometimes praised as the preferable option to “hard power,” i.e. military force.

The thinking goes that if the United States can overthrow a troublesome government by exploiting media/propaganda assets, deploying trained activists and spreading selective stories about “corruption” or other misconduct, isn’t that better than sending in the Marines?

While that argument has the superficial appeal of humanitarianism – i.e., the avoidance of armed conflict – it ignores the corrosiveness of lies and smears, hollowing out the foundations of democracy, a structure that rests ultimately on an informed electorate. Plus, the clever use of propaganda to oust disfavored governments often leads to violence and war, as we have seen in targeted countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.

Wider War

Regional conflicts also carry the risk of wider war, a danger compounded by the fact that the American public is fed a steady diet of dubious narratives designed to rile up the population and to give politicians an incentive to “do something.” Since these American narratives often deviate far from a reality that is well known to the people in the targeted countries, the contrasting storylines make the finding of common ground almost impossible.

If, for instance, you buy into the Western narrative that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gleefully gases “beautiful babies,” you would tend to support the “regime change” plans of the neoconservatives and liberal interventionists. If, however, you reject that mainstream narrative – and believe that Al Qaeda and its friendly regional powers may be staging chemical attacks to bring the U.S. military in on their “regime change” project – you might favor a political settlement that leaves Assad’s fate to the later judgment of the Syrian people.

Similarly, if you accept the West’s storyline about Russia invading Ukraine and subjugating the people of Crimea by force – while also shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 for no particular reason – you might support aggressive countermoves against “Russian aggression,” even if that means risking nuclear war.

Nuland and Pyatt: Encouraging rebellion in Maidan  Nezalezhnosti

If, on the other hand, you know about the Nuland-Pyatt scheme for ousting Ukraine’s elected president in 2014 and realize that much of the other anti-Russian narrative is propaganda or disinformation – and that MH-17 might well have been shot down by some element of Ukrainian government forces and then blamed on the Russians [see here and here] – you might look for ways to avoid a new and dangerous Cold War.

Who to Trust?

But the question is: whom to trust? And this is no longer some rhetorical or philosophical point about whether one can ever know the complete truth. It is now a very practical question of life or death, not just for us as individuals but as a species and as a planet.

The existential issue before us is whether – blinded by propaganda and disinformation – we will stumble into a nuclear conflict between superpowers that could exterminate all life on earth or perhaps leave behind a radiated hulk of a planet suitable only for cockroaches and other hardy life forms.

You might think that with the stakes so high, the people in positions to head off such a catastrophe would behave more responsibly and professionally. But then there are events like Saturday night’s White House Correspondents Dinner with self-important media stars puffing about with their First Amendment pins. And there’s President Trump’s realization that by launching missiles and talking tough he can buy himself some political space from the Establishment (even as he sells out average Americans and kills some innocent foreigners). Those realities show that seriousness is the farthest thing from the minds of Washington’s insiders.

It’s just too much fun – and too profitable in the short-term – to keep playing the game and hauling in the goodies. If and when the mushroom clouds appear, these careerists can turn to the cameras and blame someone else.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his last book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

 

 

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39 comments for “The Existential Question of Whom to Trust

  1. Jerome Stern
    May 5, 2018 at 11:33 am

    I am an opponent of both Hillary Clinton and Trump. I think she got what she deserved but at a price the American people will have to pay. I am also opposed to the electoral college system, which is fundamentally anti-democratic. “Whatever else Vladimar Putin told them to run.”??!!! That is so ridiculous. Whether or not Clinton’s violation of protocol would qualify as a prosecutable offense seems to me irrelevant. Officials have done worse and only had their knuckles wrapped: e.g. Petraes revealing state secrets to his girlfriend. I very much doubt Comey’s comments changed the course of the election. Nor do I think the revelations of the DNC leaks did. Why? Because the revelations of the contents of her speeches to Wall Street insiders and DNC machinations against Saunders only confirmed the expectations of those, like me, who were already opposed to her. She actually won the popular vote but lost officially in crucial states because she refused to address the economic concerns of working class people in rust-belt states. I say officially, as their is exit poll evidence that the results were rigged by electronic hacking (internally, not by Russia). The exit polls suggest the votes were close but that she narrowly won in those states. (BTW, exit polls also suggest several Democratic primaries were rigged.) Academic computer scientists have been warning of the dangers of electronic voting and counting for years. It is easier to electronically rig results for close elections as fewer votes have to be changed and the outcome looks less suspicious. But I would argue the results would not have been so close if Clinton had addressed the economic concerns of working class Americans, as indeed Bill Clinton advised her to do. Instead, Trump did so. I don’t believe Trump will do anything to substantially help those people, but in that situation at least claiming you will scores points against a candidate who won’t even mention such matters. Frankly, I wouldn’t vote for either. I don’t buy into the “lesser evil” argument. The only hope of stopping evil is refuse to support evil at all. “Lesser evilism” has only strengthened evil in both major parties.

  2. May 4, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    Thank you. Robert Parry was one of the best.
    I am dropping a check in the mail.
    Keep Scribbling.

  3. Rod
    May 4, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    Don Quixote comes to mind as I read this article. I’ve always enjoyed Roberts work.I truly do miss his voice in the conversation.

    • May 4, 2018 at 3:58 pm

      I like to tell the story of what happened to the Washington Post’s editorial writer named Michael Kelly in 2003. Kelly, a formed editor of the Atlantic, was one of the most aggressive voices in DC for the invasion of Iraq. He was so gung-ho that he went to Iraq himself and, got into a military humvee that subsequently overturned and fell into a water-filled canal. Kelly and his military driver both drowned. While it’s not civilized to celebrate someone else’ death, I thought it one of those rare examples of poetic justice.

  4. Emmanuel
    May 4, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    As a now Free-Lance investigative Journalist … after seing and hearing all the Lies, PROPAGANDAS, Corruption……WHO TO REALLY TRUST ? has become my 25 years old answerless QUESTION…
    And the older I get,the more difficult it seems to find ONE Which Could be trusted…
    The sad thing is you hear some ADULTS with Great NAmes and DEGREES and STUDIES…
    But no DIGNITY, no BACK BONES instead ,they all SOUND Like BUNCHES of RETARDED SHEEPS PERFORMING OBEDIENTLY, SOFTLY ,DOCILELY in order to Feel up their STOMACH…
    If The mainstream media is considered as Great realisation Done by ManKind…
    I am then on the verge of trying to QUITE being A HUMAN…Cauz
    To me MAINSTREAM -MEDIA is just A DISGRACE….

  5. Marko
    May 3, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    “By dismissing me,” ( OPCW head ) Bustani said, “an international precedent will have been established whereby any duly elected head of any international organization would at any point during his or her tenure remain vulnerable to the whims of one or a few major contributors.” He added that if the United States succeeded in removing him, “genuine multilateralism” would succumb to “unilateralism in a multilateral disguise.”

    Boy , Bustani really nailed that prediction. I wonder what he likes in the stock market right now.

    • rosemerry
      May 4, 2018 at 2:54 pm

      It is especially interesting now with the acceptance by so many in the West of the evidence-free claims of Theresa May about the novichok saga and the differing opinions of the members of the OPCW about its effects (a story now banished, like the Skripals, from the media). Also the “CW attack” in Douma which Syrians, Russians and all witnesses denied had even happened, was not only pushed as fact by media, but at the OPCW meeting in the Hague, NATO members refused even to see and hear the witnesses brought to tell the truth about the alleged attack. I had wondered about the OPCW and had read about Bustani in William Blum’s book “Rogue State” , though he had not mentioned Bolton’s name, which adds weight to the worries.

  6. Marie
    May 3, 2018 at 6:32 pm

    Brilliant!

  7. ranney
    May 3, 2018 at 5:57 pm

    Oh, well said, Robert! And how we miss you!!! I am once again reminded that almost no one writes with the crystal clairity that you do. I especially think the last third of the article needs to be widely emphasized in other CN articles. ” Who to believe?,” indeed. We need to try even harder to get the word out that the MSM is a highly dubious and untrustworthy entity. Anything they say needs to be backed up with solid evidence which is rarely forthcoming.

    • rosemerry
      May 4, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      We know that the eternal enemy, Russia, is never to be even listened to, let alone believed. Thinking now of the Skripal farce, now replaced by cyber-attacks and attempts to ruin the UK election by the wily Russians, then the recent admission by WADA that the Rodchenkov revelations in the McLaren Report of Russians cheating madly for years and years to win Olympic medals were actually based on NO evidence and should not be believed. This comes from RT, of course-I doubt it is widely published in the Western press, and anyway is too late for the athletes.

      European “culture” used to be considered based on rationality and reason, which now seem to have gone missing. No facts needed.

      • May 4, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        RT in English is an instructive website that many readers of CN may find useful.

  8. Mild -ly- Facetious
    May 3, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    The Existential Question of Whom to Trust

    May 2, 2018

    The dangerous reality is that this careerism, which often is expressed by a smug certainty about whatever the prevailing groupthink is, pervades not just the political world, where lies seem to be the common currency, but also the worlds of journalism, intelligence and international oversight, including United Nations agencies that are often granted greater credibility because they are perceived as less beholden to specific governments but in reality have become deeply corrupted, too.

    A good example was Saturday night’s spectacle of national journalists preening in their tuxedos and gowns at the White House Correspondents Dinner, sporting First Amendment pins as if they were some brave victims of persecution. They seemed oblivious to how removed they are from Middle America and how unlikely any of them would risk their careers by challenging one of the Establishment’s favored groupthinks. Instead, these national journalists take easy shots at President Trump’s buffoonish behavior and his serial falsehoods — and count themselves as endangered heroes for the effort.

    Is not Mr. Trump’s Vanity and Neurotic Egotism
    the Very Essential Problem affecting
    The Nation and The World today???
    (“all is vanity and vexation of Ego”)

    To Wit: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-rothkopf-trump-vanity-20180503-story.htm

    World leaders have figured it out: You can play America by playing Trump’s ego

    By DAVID ROTHKOPF
    MAY 03, 2018

    excerpt

    World leaders have figured it out: You can play America by playing Trump’s ego
    President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron hold hands during a State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on April 24. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

    Never mind nuclear fears about North Korea and Iran. Set aside concerns about Russian cyberattacks. World leaders today are racing to harness a different source of power to tip the geopolitical balance in their favor.
    From Moscow to Pyongyang, from Paris to Jerusalem, presidents, prime ministers and dictators-for-life are seeking to weaponize Donald Trump’s vanity.

    Different leaders are using different approaches. South Korean President Moon Jae-in gave President Trump credit for a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea, to ensure Trump saw peace as a potential legacy issue. French President Emmanuel Macron literally and figuratively stroked Trump, with the goal of getting him to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put on an internationally televised show just for Trump, tailored to make Trump feel that his long-expressed hostility to Iran was justified. China’s leader, Xi Jingping, and the Saudi king both rolled out the red carpet for Trump in ways they did not for President Obama, ensuring that Trump felt special.
    Some leaders have played on Trump’s fear of humiliation. The prosecutor general of Ukraine has stopped supporting the Mueller investigation in order to curry favor with Trump and to ensure that certain arms deals would move forward, according to the New York Times.
    Russian President Vladimir Putin has proved a virtuoso at playing Trump’s fragile ego, sometimes propping him up with glowing reports from Russian propaganda outlets, other times firing warning shots.
    There is nothing new, of course, about leaders flattering one another. Indeed, we have institutionalized flattery in international relations with the pomp and circumstance of official welcomes, 21-gun salutes and state dinners.
    French President Emmanuel Macron literally and figuratively stroked Trump, with the goal of getting him to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.

    Share quote & link

    But with those ceremonies, we are paying deference to entire nations, not necessarily to the individuals who happen to represent them. With Trump, we have entered new territory.
    In his short time in office, Trump has revealed himself to be unlike his predecessors in several important ways. Although all presidents have egos, Trump has spent his career promoting his own personal brand, inscribing his name in big gold letters wherever he could. He has shown himself to be extraordinarily self-absorbed, providing a constant stream of self-congratulatory remarks.
    He has claimed credit for economic recoveries that started years before he assumed office, for launching the career of Lady Gaga and for business deals he had nothing to do with — not to mention the supposedly record-breaking inauguration crowd that wasn’t.

    All of this sends a message to other world leaders. As one former U.S. Cabinet official who deals regularly with foreign leaders put it to me: “They know he can be played.” Or, as a prominent business leader said during a trip to China in April: “He is so vain. He’s like a child — easy to manage if you know what he wants.”
    It’s not just Trump’s sensitivity and insatiable hunger for the spotlight that make him easy pickings. He has institutionalized his egotism in a way no previous American president did.
    Trump has demoted and devalued entire departments and processes that once distributed power through the government. He has concentrated power in the Oval Office and made it clear that he will not tolerate being upstaged by his Cabinet. His administration’s cringe-worthy fawning over him shows that the members understand their public service is all about serving one man.
    The institutions of our government are supposed to depersonalize the process of governing, to offset the power and interests of individuals. As Trump undercuts these institutions, putting himself and his feelings at the center of everything, he has made global affairs revolve around his own vanity and foibles.

    This is dangerous in the best of times. It is especially dangerous when the leader in question is under siege, ill-informed and impulsive — and when those who seek to influence him know it.
    As these circumstances worsen, and as more power is concentrated in one self-absorbed man, it is increasingly likely that the challenges of our time will be resolved not according to their merits, but by how Trump feels they make him look when he looks in the mirror.

    David Rothkopf is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, host of the “Deep State Radio” podcast and an author of many books on international affairs.

    • Charles Fletcher
      May 4, 2018 at 4:15 am

      A very narrow viewpoint. There were no problems before trump’s ego? Just humble public service from dubya and Obama?

      • Mild -ly- Facetious
        May 4, 2018 at 12:10 pm

        Come on, Mr Fletcher, Trump is his own worst enemy.
        His own self-interest puts him in a class of crass self
        adulation / adoration and narcissistic self-absortion,
        wherein he is a threat to US “foundational principles.”

        [from my posted article] — “In his short time in office, Trump has revealed himself to be unlike his predecessors in several important ways. Although all presidents have egos, Trump has spent his career promoting his own personal brand, inscribing his name in big gold letters wherever he could. He has shown himself to be extraordinarily self-absorbed, providing a constant stream of self-congratulatory remarks.

        He has claimed credit for economic recoveries that started years before he assumed office, for launching the career of Lady Gaga and for business deals he had nothing to do with — not to mention the supposedly record-breaking inauguration crowd that wasn’t.

        All of this sends a message to other world leaders. As one former U.S. Cabinet official who deals regularly with foreign leaders put it to me: “They know he can be played.” Or, as a prominent business leader said during a trip to China in April: “He is so vain. He’s like a child — easy to manage if you know what he wants.”
        It’s not just Trump’s sensitivity and insatiable hunger for the spotlight that make him easy pickings.
        He has institutionalized his egotism in a way no previous American president did.”
        ()

        You wrote, Mr Fletcher: “Just humble public service from dubya and Obama?”

        I quote Mr Rothkopf — “Trump has demoted and devalued entire departments and processes that once distributed power through the government. He has concentrated power in the Oval Office and made it clear that he will not tolerate being upstaged by his Cabinet. His administration’s cringe-worthy fawning over him shows that the members understand their public service is all about serving one man.
        “The institutions of our government are supposed to depersonalize the process of governing, to offset the power and interests of individuals. As Trump undercuts these institutions, putting himself and his feelings at the center of everything, he has made global affairs revolve around his own vanity and foibles.

        “This is dangerous in the best of times. It is especially dangerous when the leader in question is under siege, ill-informed and impulsive — and when those who seek to influence him know it.”
        As these circumstances worsen, and as more power is concentrated in one self-absorbed man, it is increasingly likely that the challenges of our time will be resolved not according to their merits, but by how Trump feels they make him look when he looks in the mirror.”
        ()

        Don’t be deceived, Mr Fletcher, Trump’s personal characteristics and traits do not lie.
        Overlooking or excusing them does not bode well for We, the American People. …

      • May 4, 2018 at 4:05 pm

        The corruption of American journalism goes all the way back to the NYT holding off reporting the Kennedy Administration effort to overturn Castro at the Bay of Pigs before it took place..

    • rosemerry
      May 4, 2018 at 3:04 pm

      Very frightening. We often hear that the POTUS is not really powerful, but far too much time and effort are given to the person of Donald J Trump.

  9. irina
    May 3, 2018 at 2:51 pm

    It’s not just media, but also (too), academia. I just finished a class in Russian Geography
    taught by an engaging and knowledgeable guy in his mid-thirties. (He has a lot to learn
    about focus and ‘sorting for relevance’ and such, but that seems to come with the territory
    with that generation of teachers, who grew up in the first wave of the information tsunami.)

    One day, he presented the ‘facts’ about the ‘Russian invasion of the Crimean Peninsula’.
    I was shocked at how one-sided his storyline was (he is in his mind a ‘progressive’ liberal).
    There was no attempt made to provide adequate historical background or to discuss the
    role played by Victoria Nuland et al, or the legitimate Russian concerns about both Crimea
    and the rise of the far-right paramilitaries such as the Azov Battalion and Pravy Sektor in Kiev.

    Most of the students were young enough to already not have a good recollection of those events
    just four years ago, if they were even paying attention at the time, and really, why should they be?

    His bald statement of the ‘facts’ really disturbed me, and I did ask some rather pointed questions.
    But most of the students were fine with his lecture, they are definitely not an inquisitive generation.

  10. Sam F
    May 3, 2018 at 8:37 am

    This is a fine article by Robert Parry, summarizing the corruption of the mass media of our dictatorship of the rich.
    We cannot trust institutions proven to lie and steal run by people whose principles are selfishness and malice.
    The problem is control of mass media and elections by money, and we cannot reform: those are the tools of reform.
    The “groupthink” of professionals is mostly group theft motivated by greed and fear, pure gangsterism.
    The US even buys OPCW heads to get “investigation” results needed for wars for Israel on borrowed money.

    • Mild -ly- Facetious
      May 3, 2018 at 3:18 pm

      Is not Mr. Trump’s Vanity and Neurotic Egotism
      the Very Essential Problem affecting
      The Nation and The World today???
      (“all is vanity and vexation of Ego”)

      • Sam F
        May 3, 2018 at 10:00 pm

        Obviously not.

  11. JWalters
    May 3, 2018 at 3:06 am

    “vulnerable to the whims of one or a few major contributors”

    That describes how the war profiteering banksters control the press and the Senate. As Senator Dick Durbin said, “The banks own this place”.

    Their control of the press is extremely important for their biggest successes, as detailed at
    http://warprofiteerstory.blogspot.com

  12. rick sterling
    May 3, 2018 at 12:22 am

    Brilliant and still extremely relevant …. OPCW corruption, the return of John Bolton etc..

    • JWalters
      May 3, 2018 at 3:07 am

      Agree 100%. An actual hero.

      • rosemerry
        May 4, 2018 at 3:06 pm

        me too!!!Robert really is missed.

  13. Silly Me
    May 2, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Trust your own judgment. Answers to the following questions do not lie.

    1. Who benefits?
    2. Follow the money.

    The problem is that even questions that imply false assumtions “lie.” You need sufficient reliable data to make assumptions and need to clarify your objective in order to preclude teleological short circuits of arguments.

    As you will never have clearly sufficient information for answering even a single question in an open system, while you can think only in closed systems about the open ones surrounding you in multiple, dynamically changing multidimensional, hierarchical, ever-changing compartments, use several parallel planes for problem-solving. Everything converges eventually.

  14. Strngr - Tgthr
    May 2, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    Trust, there is a big one: Hillary trusted the Media and the Media let her down.
    So much for the campaign slogan: “Stronger Together”, did they even read it or understood
    what it meant

    You all can read about what trust buys you here:

    CHASING HILLARY
    Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling
    By Amy Chozick

    All the time by focusing on non-stories like the email server and what ever
    else Vladimir Putin told them to run.

    Then on election day, she trusted again when they all said she had a 97% chance
    of being President of the United States.

    We relied on reporters to voluntarily do the right thing and print the right stories, but
    as this does not seem to work, so much sterner measures will be on the way from Google,
    Facebook & Twitter in 2018 & 2020. Wait and see!

    • b.grand
      May 3, 2018 at 12:11 am

      The Media let Hillary down ?!? Did you even read the article? It wasn’t an endorsement of the Pussy Hat Brigade, i.e. sore losers who blame Putin-Nazis – https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/18/a-de-putin-nazification-of-america-update/

      Her stupid email bungle was the least of it. Nobody forced the Queen of Chaos to cheat Bernie out of the nomination; to cheat the Haitians out of [$ bilions?] the Clinton Foundation skimmed from earthquake contributions; to push for R2P war on Libya that destroyed that country; to cackle over the brutal murder of Libya’s president; to abandon her Ambassador (coordinator of arms shipments from Libya to jihadis attacking Syria; to send her minions to facilitate the coup in Ukraine; to be a Wall Street tool and not have any real liberal/progressive platform until Bernie forced her a little, etc. etc.

      2018…?….2020 ? If there’s a way to blow it, the neoliberal corporate Democrats will find it.

    • Skip Scott
      May 3, 2018 at 7:47 am

      The e-mail server was a non story? Have another slug of the Kool-aid. If the MSM had done their job, she would have been prosecuted for “gross negligence” for mishandling classified information, and also prosecuted for using her SoS position as a “pay to play” scheme for the Clinton Foundation. I agree that “we relied on reporters to voluntarily do the right thing and print the right stories”, but I have a completely different list of “right stories” than you do.

      • Mild -ly- Facetious
        May 3, 2018 at 3:46 pm

        Hillary Clinton would probably be president if FBI Director James Comey had not sent a letter to Congress on Oct. 28.
        The letter, which said the FBI had “learned of the existence of emails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation” into the private email server that Clinton used as secretary of state, upended the news cycle and soon halved Clinton’s lead in the polls, imperiling her position in the Electoral College.

        (subsequent email server investigations proved her innocent of any wrong doing…)

        http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-comey-letter-probably-cost-clinton-the-election/

        • Jeff
          May 3, 2018 at 5:11 pm

          You (and Nate Silver) are delusional. You probably think that if the US hadn’t been so easy on Vietnam that we would have won the war. The electoral college count was 304 to 227. That is not the result of a 2-3% (which is what cut in half means in real numbers) point drop in the polls after Comey’s letter. You’ll need to face it some day. Three Names lost thanks to her own ineptitude and the vagaries of the US constitution.

        • irina
          May 3, 2018 at 6:35 pm

          Except that Andrew McCabe had been sitting on the information for at least a month, already.

          It’s sort of fun to watch Comey squirm during his interminable ‘book tour’ interviews when
          his hosts bring that up — even Judy Woodruff mentioned it, which sort of astonished me.
          Either Comey knew also (too), which is likely, or he was not really in charge of his department
          and not privy to information which he should have had immediate access to. Take your pick.

        • willow
          May 3, 2018 at 9:51 pm

          The NYPD seized Weiner’s laptop as part of Weiner’s pedophilia investigation. NYPD stumbled on Huma Aberdin’s cache of Hillary’s (missing -bleach-bit) State Department e-mails on Weiner’s computer.
          NYPD threatened to release the contents/go public with their revelations and expose the e-mail cover up. The FBI has closed the case, so the FBI no longer had jurisdiction. The NYPD had jurisdiction. So Comey reopened the investigation, seized the laptop and closed the investigation. Mission accomplished.

          • Skip Scott
            May 5, 2018 at 6:16 am

            Thank you willow. That was a piece of the puzzle I didn’t have.

        • Skip Scott
          May 4, 2018 at 7:29 am

          “(subsequent email server investigations proved her innocent of any wrong doing…)”

          You have got to be kidding! You are either willfully blind because of your hatred for Trump, or you are severely intellectually impaired. The investigation was a whitewash. She was keeping classified information on her own personal server, which is a textbook example of “gross negligence”, and is prosecutable per the statute. The other reason she chose to use her personal server was to avoid future FOI requests that would have shown the “pay to play” scheme she had running during her time as SoS. And James Comey had no authority to state that Clinton would not be prosecuted. It was not his decision to make. And then she obfuscated the inquiry pretending not to know what it meant to wipe a hard drive.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Rha6Wamfp0

          It is amazing to me that you can come to this site and read the excellent articles found here (if in fact you read them), and then spout the same MSM propaganda this site does such an excellent job of debunking.

          • Mild -ly- Facetious
            May 6, 2018 at 3:02 pm

            Skip Scott — “It is amazing to me that you can come to this site and read the excellent articles found here (if in fact you read them), and then spout the same MSM propaganda this site does such an excellent job of debunking.”

            ????????????

            Hillary Clinton email probe – what was it about?
            10 May 2017

            The investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email arrangements is once again in the spotlight. So what was it all about?
            FBI boss James Comey has been fired because he mishandled the Clinton investigation, says the White House.
            It’s a saga that has dogged the former secretary of state and one which many of her supporters say was responsible for her election defeat.

            This is what we know about it. — What was the initial scandal about?

            Before becoming secretary of state in 2009, Mrs Clinton set up an email server at her home in Chappaqua, New York, that she used for all work and personal emails during her four years in office.
            She did not use, or even activate, a state.gov email account, which would have been hosted on servers owned and managed by the US government.

            She said it was for convenience. “I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way,” she said. But critics said it gave her control over what information entered the public domain.
            What is the email scandal all about?

            Was it against the law?

            Probably not. Mrs Clinton’s email system existed in a grey area of the law – and one that has been changed several times since she left office.

            When she became secretary of state, the controlling interpretation of the 1950 Federal Records Act was that officials using personal email accounts must ensure that official correspondence is turned over to the government. Ten months after she took office, a new regulation allowed the use of private emails only if federal records were “preserved in the appropriate agency recordkeeping system”.

            Mrs Clinton maintains that this requirement was satisfied because most of her emails from her personal account went to, or were forwarded to, people with government accounts, so they were automatically archived. Any other emails were turned over to State Department officials when they issued a request to her – and several of her predecessors – in October 2014.

            A State Department investigation said her arrangement violated government policy, and FBI boss James Comey said in July 2016 that it was careless but not criminal.

            So why wasn’t that the end of it?

            In a bombshell announcement on 28 October, the FBI said it had found new emails that “appeared to be pertinent” to its investigation. The emails, including some from top Clinton aide Huma Abedin, were found on a laptop belonging to her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner.

            The revelation angered the Clinton campaign, and Mr Comey came under fire from some Democrats for allegedly interfering in the election.

            Donald Trump, meanwhile, seized on the news to accuse Mrs Clinton of grand corruption.
            And he praised Mr Comey, saying it “took guts” for him to make the intervention.
            But in the final days of a heated election campaign, Mr Comey said that after reviewing the newly discovered emails, the FBI had not changed its position that Mrs Clinton should not face criminal charges.
            Mr Trump changed his tune, saying Mrs Clinton was “being protected by a rigged system”.

            Did Comey’s late intervention swing the election?

            Mrs Clinton thinks so, citing it as a major factor in her surprise defeat. Political analyst Nate Silver agrees, saying it “probably” cost the former first lady a return to the White House as president.

            This is what BBC North America reporter Anthony Zurcher said at the time:

            The divide between the two candidates is simply too great to allow much ticket-switching at this point.

            What the story did do was knock Mr Trump out of the headlines for over a week, giving him space to bring disaffected Republicans back into the fold. It also prevented Mrs Clinton from ending the campaign on a positive message and increased negative perceptions of her, which will make it harder for her to govern if she is elected.
            Once this election is in the rear-view mirror, there will have to be a lot of soul-searching within the FBI and the media about how this story has played out and been covered. Following Mr Comey’s original letter, the nation’s top law-enforcement became a constant source of leaks, as internal factions and disputes spilled into public view.

            http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37811529

          • Skip Scott
            May 7, 2018 at 7:19 am

            Mildly-

            “She said it was for convenience. “I thought using one device would be simpler, and obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way,” she said. But critics said it gave her control over what information entered the public domain.”

            This is the entire crux of the matter. It is ILLEGAL to put classified information on an unsecured server. I am a retired Radio Operator who only had “Secret” clearance, and I can tell you I’d be in jail if I did what Hillary did.

            As for her critics saying it gave her control over what information entered the public domain, the critics are absolutely correct. She was insulating herself from FOIA requests that would have shown the “pay to play” scheme she had running for the Clinton Foundation while SoS.

            These facts are FACTS. Your hatred for Trump has made you willfully blind to Hillary’s misdeeds. The whole “probably not” against the law BS is just that- BS. Read the law for yourself. Comey does not get to re-write the law, and his lackey Strzok was the one who changed “gross negligence” to “extreme carelessness” in the report, because the law uses the wording “gross negligence” as the threshold for prosecution.

    • Mild -ly- Facetious
      May 3, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      Strngr – Tgthr “Trust, there is a big one: Hillary trusted the Media and the Media let her down.”

      (What Comey did on 10-28-16)

    • Lois Gagnon
      May 4, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      The media did exactly what Clinton wanted which was to promote Trump and blackout Bernie. She and her cohorts thought they had the fix all figured out. Except they underestimated the disgust the American people had for the status quo that has plunged them into servitude to the corporate state. The rest as they say is history.

  15. WC
    May 2, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    Ouch!! Got to like Parry when he got a full head of steam up. A genuine class act the likes of which we have far too few of.

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