Caitlin Johnstone: What MSM Can No Longer Say

Dissident commentary about Ukraine that was still published in major Western news media in 2014 is entirely gone now because these publications have transformed themselves into outlets for ironclad war propaganda. 

Suits of armour. (Thomas Quine, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article.

The other day I stumbled across a 2014 opinion piece in The Guardian, It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war,” by Seumas Milne, who the following year would go on to become the Labour Party’s executive director of strategy and communications under Jeremy Corbyn.

I bring this up because the perspectives you’ll find in that article are jarring in how severely they deviate from anything you’ll see published in the mainstream press about Ukraine in 2023.

It places the brunt of the blame for the violence and tensions in that nation at that time squarely at Washington’s feet, opening with a warning that the “threat of war in Ukraine is growing” and saying there’s an “unelected government in Kiev,” and it only gets naughtier from there.

I strongly recommend reading the article in full if you want some perspective on just how dramatically the mass media has clamped down on dissenting ideas about Ukraine and Russia, beginning with the frenzied stoking of Russia hysteria in 2016 and exploding exponentially with the Russian invasion last year.

I doubt there’s a single paragraph which could get published in any mainstream outlet in the media environment of today.

Milne writes about how “the Ukrainian president was replaced by a U.S.-selected administration, in an entirely unconstitutional takeover,” and about “the role of the fascistic right on the streets and in the new Ukrainian regime.”

He says that “Crimeans voted overwhelmingly to join Russia,” and that “you don’t hear much about the Ukrainian government’s veneration of wartime Nazi collaborators and pogromists, or the arson attacks on the homes and offices of elected communist leaders, or the integration of the extreme Right Sector into the national guard, while the anti-semitism and white supremacism of the government’s ultra-nationalists is assiduously played down.”

He says that “after two decades of eastward Nato expansion, this crisis was triggered by the west’s attempt to pull Ukraine decisively into its orbit and defence structure.”

Milne says “Putin’s absorption of Crimea and support for the rebellion in eastern Ukraine is clearly defensive,” and says the U.S. and its allies have been “encouraging the military crackdown on protesters after visits from Joe Biden and the C.I.A. director, John Brennan.”

He correctly predicts that “one outcome of the crisis is likely to be a closer alliance between China and Russia, as the U.S. continues its anti-Chinese ‘pivot’ to Asia,” and presciently warns of “the threat of a return of big-power conflict” as Ukraine moves toward war.

To be clear, Milne was not some fringe voice who happened to get picked up for one Guardian op-ed by a strange editorial fluke; he published hundreds of articles with The Guardian over the course of many years, and kept on publishing for a year and a half after this Ukraine piece came out, right up until he went to work for Corbyn. He was on the left end of the mainstream media, but he was very much part of the mainstream media.

This article would of course have drawn controversy and criticism at the time; there were many people who were on the opposite side of the debate in 2014, though they would’ve had a fraction of the numbers of the shrieking conformity enforcers we see on all matters related to Ukraine today.

Milne himself says that “the bulk of the western media abandoned any hint of even-handed coverage” after the Crimea annexation, so his article would have been an outlier to be sure. But the fact remains that it was published in The Guardian, and that it would never be published there today.

Seriously, try to imagine an article like that about what happened in Ukraine in 2014 appearing in a mainstream publication like The Guardian in 2023. Can you imagine the hysterics? The histrionic garment-rending from the establishment narrative managers? The social media swarming of Zelenskyite trolls?

This is after all the same media environment that pressured CBS to retract its story about arms shipments to Ukraine not getting where they were supposed to, and pressured Amnesty International to apologize for saying anything about Ukrainian war crimes.

Or how about this Guardian article by John Pilger titled “In Ukraine, the U.S. is dragging us towards war with Russia,” subtitled “Washington’s role in Ukraine, and its backing for the regime’s neo-Nazis, has huge implications for the rest of the world,” published two weeks after Milne’s?

Pilger’s article is somehow even more heretical than Milne’s, saying Washington “masterminded the coup in February against the democratically elected government in Kiev” and that “Ukraine has been turned into a C.I.A. theme park – run personally by C.I.A. director John Brennan in Kiev, with dozens of ‘special units’ from the C.I.A. and F.B.I. setting up a ‘security structure’ that oversees savage attacks on those who opposed the February coup.”

As with Milne, Pilger criticizes the media environment at the time, saying “propaganda” about Ukraine is happening in an “Orwellian style.” But again, he was writing in The Guardian, whereas today it never would be.

Pilger has actually provided some background for this shift in mass media reporting, saying that there was a “purge” of dissident voices from The Guardian’s ranks around 2014-2015.

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“My written journalism is no longer welcome in The Guardian which, three years ago, got rid of people like me in pretty much a purge of those who really were saying what The Guardian no longer says any more,” Pilger said in a January 2018 radio interview.

Interestingly, a 2019 Declassified UK report found that British intelligence services began aggressively targeting The Guardian after its 2013 publication of the Edward Snowden documents and the outlet’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, was replaced by Katharine Viner in March 2015.

After that point The Guardian began moving away from critical investigative reporting and began publishing softball “interviews” with chiefs of the MI5 and MI6 — the U.K.’s domestic and foreign intelligence services — willingly participating in the West’s information war against Russia.

Once the Western world plunged in unison into blinkered Russia hysteria after Hillary Clinton lost the U.S. presidential election in 2016, we began seeing things like that time a BBC reporter admonished a guest for voicing unauthorized opinions about Syria because “we’re in an information war with Russia.”

Whether or not you agree with the perspectives authored by Milne and Pilger is irrelevant to the very important fact that they could say things in the mainstream media in 2014 that they could never say in the mainstream media in 2023.

The dramatic shift from a media environment where criticism of establishment narratives on Russia is permitted to one where it is not permitted is worth noting, because it means there was a conscious shift toward converting the mass media into full-fledged cold war propaganda outlets.

A lot of things have happened since 2014, but nothing about what happened in 2014 has changed since 2014. It’s still the same year it always was, because that’s how time works; nothing has changed about 2014 other than the thoughts you’re permitted to voice about it in mainstream outlets like The Guardian.

This bizarre historical revisionism has been occurring not just in The Guardian but throughout the mainstream media.

Last year Moon of Alabama published “Media Are Now Whitewashing Nazis They Had Previously Condemned,” a piece that compiles numerous instances in which the mass media have reported on Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem over the years, and contrasts this with the way the mass media now whitewashes those paramilitaries and pretends they’re just fine upstanding patriots.

In the years prior to the Russian invasion there were neo-Nazis in Ukraine; now there are no neo-Nazis in Ukraine and there never have been and you’re a treasonous puppet of Russian President Vladimir Putin if you say otherwise. Nothing actually changed about Ukraine’s neo-Nazi problem; all that changed is the narrative.

Everyone should be aware that the mass media have drastically changed the perspectives they’re willing to publish on Ukraine, because these outlets are not working to help create a well-informed populace and facilitate important conversations, but are in fact knowingly operating as war propaganda firms.

They’re not trying to inform people about what’s going on in the world, they’re trying to manipulate the way people think about the world. These two goals could not possibly be more different.

Power is controlling what happens; true power is controlling what people think about what happens. They’re re-writing history to influence control over what people think about the present. As George Orwell put it, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Caitlin Johnstone’s work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following her on FacebookTwitterSoundcloudYouTube, or throwing some money into her tip jar on Ko-fiPatreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy her books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff she publishes is to subscribe to the mailing list at her website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything she publishes.  For more info on who she is, where she stands and what she’s trying to do with her platform, click here. All works are co-authored with her American husband Tim Foley.

This article is from and re-published with permission.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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25 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: What MSM Can No Longer Say

  1. George Philby
    January 31, 2023 at 20:54

    The psyop began in 2016.
    It’s Clinton’s revenge on Putin.
    She’s already avenged herself (illegally) on Assange and Trump–with the connivance of the CIA, the UK, corrupt Dems, the so-called “media,” Silicon Valley, and so-called “election officials.”
    How sad that America sinks so low as to lean on its lackeys to ignore their people (and the world) to satisfy the whim of a vengeful war criminal and failed, abysmally inept presidential candidate.

  2. LeoSun
    January 31, 2023 at 12:31

    Imo, “What MSM Can No Longer Say,” that they are a Free Press!!!

    In the same vein, that Sam Bankman-Fried’s “FTX created a worthless token out of thin air and used it to make its balance sheet appear more robust than it really was;” OhBama & The DNC “Fired-Up” the same math, POTUS-V.P. + MSMedia = A Coup D’État.

    “To put on the garment of legitimacy is the first aim of every coup,” Control over science and technology. Control over financial systems. Control over access to resources. Control over weaponry. Control over communications, i.e., Roll ‘Em, The Center of Democrat Control (CDC) & BIDEN-HARRIS, posing as POTUS masquerading as human, two totally irresponsible, incompetent public speakers, shuffled from crisis to crisis, has been a disastrous debacle deliberately delinquent on deliverables.

    “Wall Street at least got what it wanted: BIDEN-HARRIS and a period of relative predictability—under a man who’d told them specifically that “nothing will change” during his administration.” The EXCEPTION, The Oval Office.

    The WH’s Handlers tapped into the science of the fakery & the phuckery, i.e., POTUS’ Hollywood Set! Complete w/fake windows, WH images, POTUS’ play school desk & POTUS’ JUMBO-TRON Teleprompter so POTUS can SEE & READ his Script. BUT, it didn’t help w/his HEARING……

    “AND, (again) Russia has said, from 2008, incorporation of NATO into that alliance is a red line. HOW MANY TIMES, Vladimir Putin asks, DO WE NEED TO REPEAT ourselves?!?”

    W/o a doubt, Caitlin Johnstone f/nails it!!!

    Likewise, hitting all the nails, right on the head, NAT PARRY’S, “Remembering Dad, imo, an intensely emotional & an outstanding Tribute to Robert Parry, the great investigative reporter who founded this website in 1995,” unpacks the nitty-gritty ‘strides’ of the muckity-mucks stirring it up; and, WHY independent, investigative journalists’ journalism is so f/crucial to our wading through the muck. “It goes on and on and on until you cannot eat enough to vomit.” I digress….

    — “Many times, I had regretted accepting Frontline’s assignment in 1990. I faulted myself for risking my future in mainstream journalism. After all, that is where the decent-paying jobs are. I had jeopardized my ability to support my four children out of an old-fashioned sense of duty, a regard for an unwritten code that expects reporters to take almost any assignment.” (ROBERT PARRY)

    “Nevertheless, Bob continued his efforts to” TELL The FULL STORY “tell the full story behind both the Iran-Contra scandal and the origins of the Reagan-Bush era, ultimately leading to two things: him being pushed out of the mainstream media, and the launching of Consortium News.” (NAT PARRY)

    ….“Make a circle in the sand. Make a halo w/your hand. I’ll make a place for you to land.”… by Robert “Bob” Parry.

    Concluding, “accomplishment of purpose is better than making a profit.”

    Onward & Upwards. Everybody, knows, “The Big Lie about Russia (or China) posing a threat, either to the U.S. itself or to its allies, and the use of that lie (or a whole package of lies) to push for war, is far more dangerous than the lie that DJTRUMP “really” won the 2020 election.” The drill is: POTUS does the YAPPIN’, “GO GET HIM!” CONGRESS does the CLAPPIN’……Protest & Survive!!!

  3. Tony
    January 31, 2023 at 10:00

    Similarly, in 2006 the Guardian ran a story which is still available online:

    “Did the CIA kill Bobby Kennedy?”

    It demolishes the official narrative that Sirhan Sirhan is the assassin.

    In recent years, however, Sirhan has been in the news and the Guardian’s reporting has changed dramatically.

    2019: “Sirhan Sirhan, the man who shot Robert Kennedy, stable after prison stabbing.”

    “75-year-old killer hospitalised after being wounded in jail in San Diego, government source confirms.”

    Sirhan’s highly unusual claim not to remember the shooting is reported but the possibility that this could be due to hypnosis is not considered at all.

    2021/2: “Sirhan Sirhan, man who assassinated Robert Kennedy, asks judge to free him”

    “Sirhan Sirhan: Robert Kennedy’s oldest son condemns killer’s possible parole”

    “Sirhan Sirhan, man who assassinated Robert F Kennedy, granted parole”

    Even the possibility that Sirhan may be innocent is barely mentioned. It is as if the 2006 article never existed.

    The answer to the 0riginal question is ‘yes’. The CIA-linked LAPD worked very effectively both to intimidate witnesses that contradicted the official narrative and to destroy evidence.

  4. IJ Scambling
    January 30, 2023 at 18:38

    CNN in precipitous audience ratings fall:


  5. HelenB
    January 30, 2023 at 17:11

    ” ‘security structure’ that oversees savage attacks on those who opposed the February coup.”
    This theme park was set up decades ago. There are words that you cannot post on any site now. I have read that it is a cumulative point system.

  6. Susan Siens
    January 30, 2023 at 16:25

    And what’s amazing is how people who reject one instance of the Guardian’s or BBC’s or PBS’s propaganda will willingly swallow another instance. It seems very difficult for people to be uniformly skeptical, and so many people seem to need someone to hate.

  7. shmutzoid
    January 30, 2023 at 16:19

    Terrific piece here by C.J. ……. the extent to which corporate media tropes have penetrated Western consciousness is frightening. Intelligent/rational discourse is impossible with those who ‘consume’ only MSM. ……….. The grip on the flow of info is ever tightening. Whistleblowers are traitors. The attack on independent journalism is unrelenting. —–> Project Veritas— Newsguard……..Hamilton 68. ….. just a few examples of concerted efforts to marginalize voices that go against the approved narratives.

    This Ukraine affair is the most propagandized ever!. it rivals that in the run up to the illegal Iraq war. I don’t see much hope for things to turn around in the media realm.

  8. January 30, 2023 at 16:09

    MSM has shifted from news to entertainment because the risk is low and the money is high. Why risk government wrath when you can earn big bucks serving bullshit?

    • HelenB
      January 30, 2023 at 17:13

      WR, entertainment. good point.

  9. Stephen Morrell
    January 30, 2023 at 15:12

    The progression in the bourgeoisie’s propaganda mill has been from ‘stenography’ to ‘narrative management’ to ‘narrative control’ to ‘narrative enforcement’.

    The latter term was not coined by a soft ‘left’ or ‘liberal’ outlet, but by Rebel News when they cornered Pfizer’s tsar Bourla in Davos.

  10. Rudy Haugeneder
    January 30, 2023 at 14:35

    Yup. Period.

  11. evelync
    January 30, 2023 at 13:28

    Excellent article Caitlin Johnstone!!!

    The “leadership” in the Colonial, White Supremacist, Sinophobic, Russophobic, Hegemonic, For Profit Warmongering establishment have absolutely no respect whatsoever for their own 100’s of millions of struggling (thanks to the elite globalist policy choices) constituents, not to mention their lack of respect for the people in countries targeted for couping.

    They’re incompetent, selfish, shortsighted paranoid insular fools who default to terrorizing the truth tellers. Even the obedient Senator Schumer let slip that they can get you “six ways from Sunday” if you cross them.

    The world may not live to see it as they try to drag us towards the edge of the cliff – Robert Frost’s poem “FIRE AND ICE” comes to mind – but the recent blossoming of an anti-hegemonic, multi global world whose aspirations are co-existence, respect for others’ sovereignty, cooperation and win/win/win policies rather than the hegemonic winner take all mind set, have grown weary of the threats, the bullying, the sanctions, the disrespect and now have the institutions, the support of their people, the know how and the commitment (if we can we manage to avoid a nuclear holocaust) to develop alliances with alternatives to the PETRO$ – e.g. BRICS; bilateral trade in non PETRO$’s which will advance the move to a sane multipolar world.

    Our $31 Trillion debt with no end in sight will become extremely difficult to manage as a result of our folly.

    Thanks to all the whistleblowers and honest, uncompromised writers, like yourself, who have the fortitude, clear mind and dedication to the truth to write columns like this one!

  12. Michael Leslie Falk
    January 30, 2023 at 12:35

    Pandering to capitalists advertisers who fund their operation and the government’s strong-arm propaganda machine, MSM is nothing more than a shameless water-boy carrier who willfully misleads the public into blindly accepting the peril of their own demise. It’s truly a sad state of affairs that just seems to keep plunging head long into a deteriorating society. But that doesn’t matter so long as MIC and their enablers continue to reap the rewards of forever wealth, that’s tragically linked to forever wars!

  13. Gene Storm
    January 30, 2023 at 11:48

    Once again, Caitlin clearly illustrates the illusions that the mass media have created regarding Ukraine. Seeking out facts and telling the truth, no matter where that may lead, should be foundational in the practice of journalism for a free press. Not only on this issue, but in many others, the media is infected by the same mass psychosis that drives the collective leadership across much of the world. When populations can no longer discern what is real and are lulled into a state of induced ignorance, the illusion of democracy and freedom is revealed for what it is, a lie.

  14. January 30, 2023 at 11:46

    Context, for whatever it’s worth long after the Rubicon has been trashed.

  15. Jeff Harrison
    January 30, 2023 at 11:22

    Excellent observation and excellent proving of Orwell.

  16. Jean
    January 30, 2023 at 11:16

    Thank you Caitlin. Very important and enlightening article.

  17. Robert Sinuhe
    January 30, 2023 at 11:10

    Well said, Caitlin. I find this situation not only wrong but dangerous. I’m awaiting the effects of the MSM when the Russians win this war. I’ve given up on sane heads in the government but what will an insane government do?

  18. Lois Gagnon
    January 30, 2023 at 10:55

    We are indeed living Orwell’s dystopia, but you’re a Russian bot if you say so. Television is featured prominently in “1984.” This living nightmare couldn’t have become reality without it.

  19. Guy St Hilaire
    January 30, 2023 at 10:51

    So very true Caitlin .Been watching this in slow motion but always conscious of the facts the PTB has been massaging / directing the narrative.I am utterly surprised that so many choose to follow just because their favorite MSM boombox says it is so .
    Keep telling it as it is and true to the founder of CN Robert Parry .

  20. nikolas
    January 30, 2023 at 10:26

    This is an article of historical importance and fully in the spirit of Assange’s famous thought:
    “If wars can be started by lies, peace can be started by truth!”

    Thank you for trying and trying, Ms Johnstone!

    There should be loud protest in front of every single MSM HQ in every single team blue member country on every single day!

  21. michael888
    January 30, 2023 at 10:18

    There are no more true mainstream media in the West.

    In the US, since the abolition (“modernization”) of anti-domestic propaganda law (Smith Mundt), we have State Media, officially, legally run by the State Department (read CIA), and Official Narratives that cannot be questioned much less criticized.

    State Media “journalism” is a lucrative career path, as is Official Establishment “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Official stenographers and torturers do quite well by suspending their decency and morality in favor of complying with demands of Empire.

  22. peter mcloughlin
    January 30, 2023 at 06:30

    Propaganda always precedes war. It is largely illusion, as is power – the reason for war.

    A free ebook: The Pattern Of History and Fate of Humanity

  23. James White
    January 30, 2023 at 04:06

    “Power is controlling what happens; true power is controlling what people think about what happens.” That is the crux of it. The most hideous feature of the information age we live in, is that media companies have discovered that they can control the minds and opinions of 50% of the population or more. That is enough to win elections. And that is precisely the point in countries not already run by a dictator.
    All thoughts and discussions have become polarized. Independent thinkers such as the author of this article are now excluded from any debate. The nightly France 24 Debate used to form a panel of speakers with differing views on relevant topics in the news. Watch it now when Ukraine is the topic and you will see only a uniform collection of propagandists. A nightly Russia hate fest. The same disease has spread to Deutsche Welle, the BBC and any other TV news program in Europe. Once talented journalists have pathetically morphed into spin Doctors. Not a one will speak a discouraging word about any prospect for peace in Ukraine. They all use the same words to describe the daily message. Sending 100 or so tanks from the E.U. to Ukraine is a ‘game changer.’ Ignoring the fact that Russia has already destroyed over 300 Ukrainian tanks. The next 100 will make all the difference. Zelensky’s objective has been the same since the first day of the war. To drag any NATO country he can find into the conflict in hopes of igniting WW3. Poland and the Baltics, each with their age old axe to grind with Russia are easily swayed. The young lady PM of Finland Sanna Marin casually offered recently that the E.U. must be prepared for another 15 years of war with Russia. Party on Sanna. Olaf Sholz tries to fend off the dogs of war nipping at his heels, while his own Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock announces that Germany and NATO are already at war with Russia. We have tried to integrate women into leadership roles in the West for the past several years. Women like Ursula Von der Leyen, formerly the disaster known as German Defense Minister. Having failed upwards, she is now leading the E.U. and NATO into nuclear Armageddon. Were we not sold the idea that having women in leadership would make the world a safer place? Then there is the mess that Angela Merkel left for Sholz by making and leaving Germany dependent on Russia for fuel. She might have coordinated those plans with Victoria Nuland. Nuland’s ‘bleep the EU’ attitude is all over U.S. policy in Ukraine from way back in the Obama years. Back when Joe Biden’s son was raking in dough from the puppets in the Ukraine government and Biden himself as VP was the de-facto viceroy of Ukraine. Go back and watch Joe Biden brag in public about how he blocked a $Billion from Ukraine until they fired the prosecutor who got too close to exposing his son Hunter’s no-show job in Ukraine at upwards of $80K monthly. Not only are the media guilty of mind control, they are doing so on behalf of one of the most corrupt career Washington politicians, ever. Propping up a Regime in Washington that is as inept as it is guilty of profiting from the misery of the dead souls of Ukraine. Zelensky is Biden’s mini-me.

  24. Valerie
    January 30, 2023 at 02:51

    Well Ms. Johnstone, here is another Guardian article I stumbled on a few months ago. Whereas this one is pertaining to the corruption in the health service, I doubt they would have such a headline as this today:

    “Welcome to Ukraine, the most corrupt nation in Europe”

    “While the conflict with Russia heats up in the east, life for most Ukrainians is marred by corruption so endemic that even hospitals appear to be infected. Can anyone clean the country up?”

    Oliver Bullough


    Fri 6 Feb 2015 08.43 GMT

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