Content warning, canceling, de-platforming, denying access: The fate of Sy Hersh’s Democracy Now! interview on YouTube is the latest indication of how much rougher press suppression is in this new media era.
By Patrick Lawrence
Special to Consortium News
When I awoke Sunday morning to the news that YouTube had censored a long interview Seymour Hersh did with Democracy Now! on the grounds that it did not meet the Google subsidiary’s “community standards” and was, moreover, “offensive,” my mind went in many directions.
I thought of the New York Post case in October 2020, three weeks before the presidential election, when Twitter, Facebook and the other big social media platforms blocked America’s oldest daily after it reported the damning, politically damaging contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop computer.
I thought of what we now call “the disinformation industry” and all these diabolic organizations — PropOrNot, NewsGuard, Hamilton 68, et al. — that, stocked with spooks serving in staff positions and as advisers, dedicate themselves to discrediting dissenting writers and independent publications as conveyers of Russian propaganda.
And then I thought of a story a Russian acquaintance told me one afternoon over drinks when I was in Moscow some years back. Leonid was a professor of sociology at Moscow State University and had served the Central Committee and the Politburo in various advisory capacities during the Soviet era. Leonid knew how to ride the waves, let’s say, and he knew whereof he spoke. He also had a wonderful sense of humor and a highly developed appreciation for life’s infinite ironies.
Let me pass on his tale and then make the connection with Hersh’s exposé of the Biden regime’s Nord Stream op and the other cases I have mentioned.
We had been talking about the press, in Russia, in America, in Asia, and elsewhere, trading observations and comparing notes. It was then, in the bar at the old Metropole Hotel, that Leonid related a story he thought I would find useful or amusing or both.
Recollection at the Metropole
During one of the periods of Soviet–American détente in the 1970s, the State Department offered to take two Foreign Ministry bureaucrats on a tour of the United States. They visited five cities — New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — with the minders from State taking care to show their guests the sort of things minders from State would want Soviet visitors to see. A certain camaraderie developed. It is nice to think about the scene, impossible as such occasions have become.
When they reached San Francisco and it was time to say farewell, the State Department’s shepherds asked the two Soviets what aspects of American life they found most remarkable. The Sovs seem not to have hesitated before replying.
In the Soviet Union, they said, all the newspapers across 11 time zones say the same thing every day because they are carefully censored. They are told routinely what to say and what to leave out. Here in America the press is free. We have seen no sign of censorship in all the cities you have shown us. And yet wherever we are, when we pick up a newspaper they, too, say the same thing. From New York to California, nothing we have read is ever any different.
There is externally imposed censorship and there is internally imposed censorship, to state the obvious, and the two Soviet bureaucrats were fascinated to see, firsthand and for the first time, the latter at work. Brute censorship is nothing pretty to look at, Leonid, my Russian acquaintance, meant to say. But the invisible kind is just as effective.
Everyone in mainstream journalism knows where the fence posts are, as I like to put it, and if you spend too much time beyond them you won’t work in mainstream journalism very long. I wonder if Seymour Hersh, certainly proven to rank among the great journalists of our time, may have a thought about this.
This question of internalized censorship, commonly known as self-censorship, has long fascinated me. I have watched many times as journalists, surrendering themselves for the sake of their professional careers, train themselves to hear the silent language that tells them what to say and what to leave unsaid. And then, over time, you find them giving vigorous voice to thoughts and beliefs imposed upon them, absolutely convinced these are their own thoughts and beliefs and they have come by them independently.
The modern mind’s eager desire to conform while we remain certain of our originality and individuality: Philip Slater touched on this in his too-soon-forgotten The Pursuit of Loneliness, published in 1970. So did Erich Fromm in Escape from Freedom, which appeared in 1941 and could hardly be more pertinent to our time:
“We are proud that in his conduct of life man has become free from external authorities, which tell him what to do and what not to do. We neglect the role of anonymous authorities like public opinion and ‘common sense,’ which are so powerful because of our profound readiness to conform to the expectations everybody has about ourselves and our equally profound fear of being different.”
I have had overbearing editors I greatly wished were more anonymous than they were, but let us set this minor point aside. Fromm and Slater are concerned with the collective psychology from which self-censorship draws for its extraordinary effectiveness. “Compulsive conformity,” Fromm calls it.
We can go back as far as Alexis de Tocqueville to gain a sense of how deeply rooted this conformity is among Americans. When we do, we cannot be surprised or mystified to note what the Soviet visitors noted 50–odd years ago and what we fail to see even as it is before us in plain sight: American media are as rigorously controlled via the mechanisms of internalized censorship as any newspaper in any of the “authoritarian” societies we profess to detest for their lack of freedom.
But what happened to Sy Hersh’s Democracy Now! interview last weekend, to the New York Post in the final weeks of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, and to a lot of independent journalists at the hands of the disinformation industry since this took shape a half-dozen years ago requires us to think anew.
It is commonly said that the emergence of digital media since the mid–1990s, when the first such publications appeared (and when Bob Parry started publishing Consortium News), has brought us into a new era. And we can mean many things by this. Let us not now miss: For all the good these new media have done and for all the doors they promise to open, this new era is to be one of coercive, externally imposed censorship as heavy-handed as anything those visiting Sovs had lived with all those years back.
With the decline of our legacy media into craven subservience to power to an extent no one could have dreamed of a couple of decades’ back, independent media such as Consortium News are where the future of the Great Craft lies, a point I have made severally in this space. But it seems to me the digital platforms on which these media depend have been liabilities as well as assets from the first.
Technologies are not value-neutral. Jacques Ellul, the Christian anarchist and many-sided intellect, made this case in The Technological Society, which came out in English in 1964. To put his thesis too simply, technologies are not empty of content other than what is put into them. Implicit in any technology is an affirmation of the political economy and material circumstances that produced it.
In other words, the technologies available to independent journalists are corporate products. They are vital to independent practitioners as means of delivery, but, as we learn by the day now, access to them can be withdrawn at any time. Many of us seem to have missed this contradiction. Now we are pressed to recognize it.
As we do, we are led to ask whether the promise of independent journalism can be extinguished by way of a totalized system of censorship. Do you think this phrase too strong? Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape, the web services company, and an influential figure in Silicon Valley, doesn’t. In the spring of 2022 Andreessen sent out this note via Twitter:
“I predict essentially identical censorship/deplatforming policies across all layers of the internet stack. Client-side & server-side ISPs, cloud platforms, CDNs, payment networks, client OSs, browsers, email clients. With only rare exceptions. The pressure is intense.”
I do not know how far we are from the world Andreesson warns us of. But is there an argument that we are headed in the direction he forecasts?
I do not wish to diminish the importance of independent media, a point I hope is by now clear, but to turn these thoughts another way, it is one thing to bully, cancel and otherwise suppress emergent publications and greatly another to censor a legacy newspaper such as the New York Post and a journalist of Seymour Hersh’s stature. My conclusion: The game is getting rough and is likely to get a lot rougher.
There is one other factor forcing the pace of America’s censorship regime that bears mentioning. This concerns the larger context. By the time digital media began to find their place in public discourse, the events of 2001 had forced the American imperium onto its back foot, and it has ever since assumed the hostile crouch of the wounded. As history teaches us, it is at this point that declining nations require the loyalty of all economic, political, industrial, and cultural institutions. Accordingly, the line between the national security state and corporate media has not been merely blurred in the post–2001 era: It is now more or less eliminated, as documents such as the Twitter Files make clear.
Are we surprised? We ought not be. Next question: What are we to do as an era of totalized censorship appears to be upon us? Subscribing to the independent publication of your choice would be a conscientious start.
Portions of this column are extracted from the author’s book, Journalists and Their Shadows, forthcoming from Clarity Press.
Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century. His Twitter account, @thefloutist, has been permanently censored. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site. His web site is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site.
The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.
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No, what YouTube did wasn’t censorship. They issued a content warning because of graphic images of dead and naked My Lai victims. Blurring those images had no effect on the reporting about the Nord Stream attacks.
I haven’t read this yet. But I take censored to mean that it is not available. I just looked and it is on You Tube now.
But is the entire interview there? Censorship takes many forms.
To reinforce the endless propaganda the UK public is being subjected to, all UK Civil Service departments will be observing a minutes silence for the ‘Russian invasion of Ukraine’, aka the US led proxy war for regime change at 11am Friday.
You couldn’t make this shit up
“it is at this point that declining nations require the loyalty of all economic, political, industrial, and cultural institutions”
I recall in his illuminating book “Propaganda” Ellul did say that propaganda is not propaganda unless it’s total propaganda.
Ellul also said, I think, that the educated are most susceptible to propaganda because they tend to assume that they’re immune to it. Perhaps here we have to consider what is meant by being “educated.”
As usual, thanks much to Patrick and CN for another great article.
Perhaps a belief in their immunity to propaganda is held by many “educated” people is a result of the phenomenon commonly known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect. According to the Dunning-Kruger hypothesis, “people with low ability, expertise, or experience regarding a certain type of task or area of knowledge tend to overestimate their ability or knowledge.” (Wikipedia) At any rate, the old saying, “A little bit of knowledge can be dangerous,” seems in many cases to be quite accurate.
Most of the journalists I have known over the decades I spent off-and-on in the business, are not actually journalists but largely unthinking people with byline egos who, after retiring, are quickly forgotten even by those they may have accidentally offended. As for the truth, it rarely exists in the journalism world. I knew that from experience months before I joined their ranks because I was to lazy to do something better, and now largely regret having, like them, wasted so much time being, for the most part, just like them: a faker.
I hope I didn’t niss the entire point of Patrick lawerence’s article because of my age related mental detereation, or for any other reason for that matter. But didn’t George Orwell in his novel 1984 make essentially the same points about how manipulation of language, words and narrative can be used to influence large segments of the population to believe and act in just about any way immanageable? If I remember correctly, I believe S IHayakawa’s 1949 book on general semantics, “Language in Thought and Action” also covers much of the same subject.
The one example of how the deliberate misuse of language and the public trustcan be usedto mislead the people that is still crystal clear in my otherwise faltring memory, is whenColin Powell delivered his infamous weapons of mass destruction speech before the UN in the run up to the Iraq war. The first clue to the fact that what he was about to say was going to be something less than the truth was when he protested too much by insisting that he wasn’t going to just present a series of allegations, but “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence”. Then he proceeded to go onon and on, making one allegation after another without providing anything even remotely similar to sustantiating evidence.
The really interesting part of this example is how his speech was received by those who heard or read it, as it was well covered in the main stream media. Much to my surprise, not a single delgate in attendance at the UN that day said a dissenting word in reply to what they had just heard. Many doubting Thomases, including thouands of them in the prevent the war movement, knew it was BS, but none of them worked for the NY Times, and so the Secretary of State got away with it and George W Bush had a clear path to initiate his unprovoked, and rules based illegal Iraq war.
In today’s weird, verity-free world, nothing could more strongly indicate that information is accurate than what the censors at You Tube and its ilk have done with Seymor Hersh’s interview. Unfortunately, that is no longer exceptional but as the article posits, all too quickly become the norm. And technology, again as the article posits, is a double-edged blade without a handle. Actually, easier to censor than it is useful to get the truth out. Now, what to do about it? Next elections are a long way off and our memories are becoming more and more deficient. By then, there may no longer be a human race.
It strikes me that today’s popular belief is that virtually anybody and anything can do whatever they like as long as a law hasn’t been passed to outlaw it. There is very little thought given to the traditional role of government – the creation of the level playing field. The creation and enforcement of rules that create a fair and open society. At the dawn of the media age one entity could own no more than (I think) 6 media outlets. Quaint, nist? We also had the fairness rule whose purpose I’ve always thought was to ensure some level of intellectual honesty in the news media. That didn’t survive a dedicated Republican onslaught. Beyond the creation of rules for the fair and open society, there’s the enforcement of said rules. We have plenty of rules about monopolies that are routinely ignored by the wealthy and well connected. The Glass Steagall act, for example, before Slick Willie saw it’s legal demise, Citi had been violating the law for 6 months to a year. You’ll never guess who Citi was lobbying back in 1999. The list of people and companies and other organizations that have violated, bent, or had laws rewritten is nauseatingly long. A fair definition of a rogue nation. Ben Franklin is said to have said, Yes, madam you have your republic. If you can keep it. Clearly, in my view, we have failed. To steal from Walt Kelly yet in counterpoint to Oliver Hazard Perry, We have met the enemy and he is us.
I regularly use reports by the mainstream media to find out what is going on. I have no reporters anywhere
else in the world. HOWEVER…I censor them in return. Either a report can be “corrected” by me with a note or a
comment or I do not share it period. A typical example is a report in the Washington Post on Putin’s recent speech.
This report is so slanted and filled with patent untruths that it is beyond any “help” by me. It is nothing but
US propaganda filled with slurs and false statements. The Post should be embarrassed but I doubt they are.
Incidentally, Seymour Hersh’s article on the American sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines was shared
in full by me days ago.
I believe that we must all realize that this will inevitably be our duty in using any mainstream “information”.
In fact, this has been so for decades.As a child I was taught by my political Dad to notice where articles appeared in
a paper and judge what was said (or “placed”) and what was not said.
I realized before and during Gulf War II that the media was pure propaganda 24/7 and if I wanted to see a contrarian opinion expressed in my local newspaper then I’d have to write it myself. And so I did; that paper allowed 500 words (quite generous) and would print a letter from the same person no more than once a month – and I kept to that schedule strictly. No-one around this area was saying or would say the things I said in those letters, and I heard through the local grapevine that those letters were being discussed in some very interesting places – some friendly, some not.
The local and regional atmosphere has become more militantly charged, in keeping with the national tone, and I now wonder that if I wrote similar to what I had then if bricks would be thrown through my windows or maybe even firebombs. This past several days someone (authorities have determined) is setting fires in the woods and brush in this area (less than a mile from my home.) No reason for it; but in a society that has basically driven itself to the point of hysterical insanity, there need not be a rational reason why. Perhaps because this place is less than an hour from East Palestine, Ohio and wild speculation is more the norm than the exception?
I will have to re-read some of the comments before I might say that I understand them. Patrick’s piece brought to mind many revelations and ‘aha’ moments I’ve had over the decades, but I’d like to use my comment to remark on something that I see as obvious but…
Biden turns up in Kiev unannounced as Sy Hersh’s piece is getting some attention. I do not believe this is coincidence, and therefor see it as validation of Hersh and a gauge of how worried the current US administration is about both the situation (on the ‘battlefield’) and the possible slippage of the perception management – aka “the narrative.”
The power already brought to bear (against Hersh) was meant to be stifling, but in the current atmosphere of partisan rancor, even something explosive enough to detonate the ammo dumps of both halves of the duopoly is not out-of-bounds for the sufficiently aroused. Nobody is following the script anymore! Like the amateur actor (that he surely is) Lyndsy Graham flubbed his cue and is already calling for the US to send fighter jets to Ukraine. Aawwe Lyndsy, you were supposed to wait on that! What a putz, so eager to please, and such a simple mind.
East Palestine accident is a good parable of what is at stake. Definitely, lamentable, but how many billions would need to be removed from railroad profits to avoid it?
From what I could collect and understand, the reason was in bearings of an axle, one of nearly 600 on the long train. Friction in a faulty bearing creates “hot box”, and gradually the temperature rises so high that metal gets too soft to bear weight leading to a crash (it is also so hot that it can ignite cargo). One evidence was a video taken 20 miles west of the accident site, i.e. 30-50 minutes at the speed of freight train.
The video showed cars passing in murk, one-two of them seeming in flames — perhaps it was just hot metal. If the train crew knew what witnesses recorded, it could gently stop the train, and the hot box would cool down, and if one-two wagons were in flames, the fire could be extinguish before spreading. In short, while cost cutting of railroads are excessive, the fix would be in assuring fault detection and information flow to people who can stop a crisis before a catastrophe. Even a phone hotline manned by lowly paid people in South Asia, could suffice, although one would prefer a more robust solution.
From this point of view, our state is like a train that is too long for the people in charge to see it all. If something goes wrong, almost invariably there are witnesses. By throwing whistleblowers to solitary confinement, increasing censorship etc., there are hardly any ways to convey information about “hot boxes”.
One aspect of censorship is that people in power decide what THEY do not want to acknowledge, if such information reaches them, they view it as a noise from trouble makers.
Sometimes, in news media, it can be difficult to figure out who is being truthful and who is lying. The thing that helps me is to watch the news piece, and then watch it a second time with the sound turned off. Very often, with the sound turned off, the face without sound can tell a very different story.
Kudos to you, CaseyG, I’ve done this same thing.
Journalism is becoming less a profession, outside of propaganda, and more a revolutionary act. Could not the US govt block access to Consortium News entirely, if you were threat enough: shutting off your access to the internet or blocking your bank accounts? Journalists deserve a good life, hearth and home, but as an earlier commenter KEV stated, the state will punish you with poverty, or like Assange, with prison and character assassination, especially as it grows more desperate. I cannot ask you to be a revolutionary and sacrifice hearth and home to tell truth to power: where we draw a moral line when it comes to our ideals and facing arrest or poverty, we each must answer.
The West is declining as a power, and with it the capacity to provide a good life for the average citizen, as indicated by the lowering life expectancy in the US. The state’s ability, like that of the old Soviet Union, to control it’s citizens -and- deal with competing nations will be stretched beyond limit, and part of the reason for the state’s desperation.
i just commented the other day how “self-censorship in US corporate media rivals that of any authoritarian regime in the world”. I’m glad to read Lawrence write so astutely on this theme.
Indeed, the US is an empire in collapse. The increased militarism and war mongering compensates for diminishing economic and diplomatic influence in the world. This can only be accompanied by an increase of methods of social control domestically.
——— As time goes on more and more people will see that this is a US/NATO war against Russia, with the fiction of this being Ukraine’s fight for “freedom and democracy” promoted 24/7. It’s only through intense propaganda and psy-ops that the public can be herded into ‘staying the course and staying on message’ regarding Ukraine.
YouTube’s censorship of Seymour Hersh’s is remarkable for its audacity – Hersh has been a respected investigative journalist for decades. The persecution of Julian Assange was/is an inflection point in social/info control. ‘Cancelling’ Hersh is another.
I fully expect things to devolve further. DeSantis shows us what’s in store for us. (He’s now pushing for a law to shield him from criticism by journalists, claiming it’s defamation). ………..As the empire sinks further, the means of social/info control will expand. It is an immutable equation. ——–
Massacre of the Dreamers
“In individuals, insanity is rare;
but in groups, parties, nations
and epochs, it is the rule.”
“…forgetting that we are all
in the ghetto, that the ghetto is
walled in, that outside the ghetto
reign the lords of death, and that
close by the train is waiting.”
& howl erupt from rank
crypts of deep state goons
in the machine, trolls, flaggots
& factcheckers who mock
with pitch & insult stinko
with panic porn, pro forma accusations
& token phantasmagoria sure to
set agog cybernaut junkies,
dimwits & future catechumens
primed to take refuge
in nonsensical ad hominem,
to repose in mass-formation
psychosis, to wither when fingered
for failure to comply by phantom
kapos of 5G digital gulags, who
check on em’& double check
as accountability fades within
redeye google protocols
& faceless facebook
therein, in bouts
with fractious passions
stress spills over in free fantasia
of animus & vitriol. And
virulence blights intriguers’ jaded
body politic with calor, rubor,
dolor & tumor, as incurable seers
of the Great Reset, “therapeutic” fascism,
& AI rulable utopias breed outa’
control, goose-stepping across
world stages clustered round by
stoked proles outfitted with pitchforks
& AK 47 assault rifles, prowling
amongst gaslit multitudes…
Meanwhile in Montana,
thruout Massachusetts, in Idaho,
in Ohio, fer crissake!
fellow late day wannabe saints
& end-timers, otherwordly brethren
bred on Biblical apocrypha mindfly
under man-gods’ heavenly vapours
seeded with deceits & debasements.
And even—god willing—any
should be intervened—YEA,
even once & for all opt out!
—they’ll still fall prey
to ultimate predators: fiasco
jack-offs, blowback profiteers
& shock & awe autocrats…Still
fall prey to black budget racketeers
selling them on how & when
to slowly die to self-
Get a job, Dork!
To top off corpo-techno
CLOCK DA FUCK IN!
And as NYSE
futures push past last
restraints of “free” market
supplies & demands, death-eaters
surface to nourish themselves
without end, feasting on youth
bred to obesity on banal evils,
cowed by political correctness
in coca cola schools endorsed
& policed by parental snowflakes
blown away by so prodigal
O Hail! Hail Hearty
Corrupting Winds! howling
Through media conglomerates,
WEF & big pharma hallways,
Stripmalls & supreme court
FEED THE BEAST!
FEED THE BEAST!
so finally breached, flood gates
swing wider open still & sick-slick
scholars, craven apologists
& payrolled polltakers run amuck
with consensus glut & studies
concocted by corporate thinktankers.
And when so speciously un-refutable
a SAY SO sez so&so&so…
realpolitik fallout flares across
bio-regions gone dark. And NO ONE
can go on doubling down on
climate denial free of lethal toxins
& vulturine perfidy; NO ONE
can go on unpolluted in ashrams,
secluded in gated communities;
nor hunkered down in Homeland
Security bunkers no matter
how assuredly secured.
No! only outcries
of rescue will escape onto
deaf ears of brutes,
gaolers & powerbrokers who
rule Wal-Mart’d ghettos
with icy contempt for inmates
long satisfied with victimage comforts;
defrauded inmates condemned
in absentia to Exxon debtor
prisons patrolled by lurid habeas
corpses tolling death knells
to quicken ecocide & kick-start
the Massacre Of The
& heroic, consolatory myths
no longer hold sway, some biden
fluffer neocons or “last emperor”
trumpster dumpster divers—plugged
with electroplated gold amulets
of le culte maga up da ass—
will kneel in extreme unction on
desolate cul-de-sacs & be
reborn into a manic evangelism
of gangster priests robed in kevlar
& nazi regalia, extolling virtues
of mutual suicide pacts tapped out
on split skulls with shinbones
of martyrs to the “cause”…
And some will GO
hoping for asylum somewhere,
anywhere else…Oh, but some
will COME hoping & hoping,
fresh blood smeared on
prayerful hands, pressing
close for doled out
Some will not…Phew!
to trust in this realtime
sordid debacle. Act out! Militate
in a furor of “Great Refusal”
to hasten collapse of a defunct epoch.
Be nomadic. Explore beyond
where photons go—curved toward
black holes. And finagle to manifest
light with a flicker of intent
on event horizon, so to illumine
nascent worlds into
DREAMERS, flying by the seat
of his/her pants, windborne in eternal
NOW with both eyes wide open
are most apt to escape future
turbulence & survive to seed
trusting in what yearns
in all of us.
2. Poet’s Modus Operandi
“ Remember the cruelties!”
severest critic, I strive
to employ an open contempt
so potent to justify my
revolt against cruelest normalities.
And so with sigil, shibboleth,
trope (that human born, that lyrical
kosmic whispering) & discrete metre,
I mean to stave off the tyranny
of bullet-proof, slam dunk truth
before paralysis overtakes in
contagion of pedestrian intrigues,
suddenesses & incoherence.
Then to proclaim
with much fanfare & horns
Sanctuary! from the Massacre
of the Dreamers!
And, oh yeah! Poetry
to be the only absolutely
Thank you for a wonderful essay. It brought to mind a book that I just read in the last couple of years that I had never before heard about- The Brass Check, by Upton Sinclair. It was a thorough examination of the journalism industry as it existed in the immediate aftermath of World War I. The picture he painted, which entirely consisted of newspapers and a few magazines at that time, was every bit as damning as Patrick’s article outlines. It worked differently. The Associated Press completely dominated the dissemination of national news, and it was dominated by the economic interests of its owners, which were the largest news publishing businesses of the era, and whose such interests overlapped to a great extent and which included, of course, advertising revenue. He concentrated on the area about which he concentrated his own reporting, which was the struggle of labor in the face of violence directed at it and its leadership. The book is a litany of false reports, partial reports that detail only one side’s objectionable conduct- that of labor, of course, and the simple non-reporting of major newsworthy incidents that would have made owners look bad, if they couldn’t be spun by the first two methods. Eerily familiar, no? And all newspapers reported exactly the same things, because all of them used AP for any non-local reportage. So, it wasn’t just self-censorship-it was institutionalized sole-sourcing by the most powerful market players. Sinclair also went into depth regarding the constant propaganda directed at him personally, to which he contrasted the reality of his own activities. It is very important to realize that he was only able to write the book because of the personal knowledge he had of being on site at all of these events, and being able to compare his own observations, which he wrote in hopes of having them published by the alternative media of the day, to what he read in the AP-fed mainstream press of his time. He also writes of his own support for US entry into WW I, contrasting it with the opposition of Debs and others, while opposing their repression and jailing pursuant to the then-new Espionage Acts. Tellingly, he recounts his own support of entry into the war without any hint of doubts about the correctness of that position, and that his knowledge of the background of that conflict was formed, apparently without his obviously considerable self-knowledge, by the same economic interests that so distorted the reporting on labor struggles at home. International conflict was not his bailiwick. It is a fascinating book, and I strongly recommend it to everybody. Chris Hedges is right that the small window in the mainstream that allowed for his reporting in The NY Times has closed. That small window existed for Sinclair as well. However, despite the massive number of daily papers that existed 100 years ago, there has never been a Golden Age. That is a tiny comfort, given the grim reality painted in Patrick’s essay, but it’s better than nothing, I guess.
For an excellent documentary on the subject of commercial “news media” that flagrantly disseminate lies and corporatist propaganda, have a look at “El diario de Agustín” (in English, “Agustín’s Newspaper.”) This documentary, which came out about 20 years ago, examines the practices of the daily Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio,” owned for the past 160 years by the oligarchical Edwards family. In “Agustín’s Newspaper,” a class of young journalism students digs deeply into the lies disseminated on the pages of El Mercurio during the military dictatorship (1973-1990). These lies included the fabrication of stories about fratricidal violence among left-wing groups (which the paper claimed to have occurred in Argentina) to exculpate the dictatorship and help to cover up the kidnappings, murders and disappearances of 119 Chilean citizens. El Mercurio also published a series of sensational articles about the murder of Marta Ugarte. Marta was kidnapped by agents of the dictatorship, tortured, murdered, and then thrown from a helicopter into the ocean. By happenstance, her mutilated body washed up on a beach a few days later. Her body was the first public evidence of what the dictatorship had been doing to dissidents. To try and cover up what government agents had done to amarga, El Mercurio ran a series of sensational stories on its front pages, speculating that her murder was the act of a serial killer.
El Mercurio’s fake news stories about the 119 disappeared Chilean dissidents were part of a propaganda campaign directed from the offices of DINA, the dictatorship’s directorate of national intelligence (basically, a sadistic, bloodthirsty Chilean version of the CIA on steroids). This propaganda campaign was code-named “Operación Colombo.” There is a brief account of it on the English language Wikipedia page. For those who read Spanish, the Spanish language Wikipedia page about Operación Colombo is a lot more informative.
In “Agustín’s Newspaper,” the journalism students conduct interviews with Agustín Edwards himself, and also with the man who served as managing editor during the dictatorship period. The interviews exposed both of them as cheap, unprincipled liars. Those young journalism students made them embarrass themselves in front of the camera.
This documentary should be required viewing for all consumers of commercial “news media,” in every nation on Earth. Chile has long been a laboratory for improving and perfecting methods of full-spectrum corporate control over a society, including corporate monopolization of government, banking, health care, education, retirement pensions, “news” and entertainment, and myriad other facets of everyday life. Seeing how they (the corporate elites) carry out their plan with respect to commercial “news media,” at a ground level, in minute detail, is really eye-opening.
Incredibly, El Mercurio and its affiliated television programs are still among the most widely read/viewed “news media” outlets in Chile. They still hold the average, uncritical, miseducated Chilean mind in the iron grip of their propaganda.
Wow (to use perhaps the only word still widely acceptable from the dangerous sixties), what a timely read.
In his long interview on CN, Seymour Hersh claimed that there are still good & worthy reporters in the legacy media, or maybe he just meant the NYT. The implication seems to be that through them the truth will out sooner or later, regardless of restrictions. After all, he did it. But I can’t recall Hersh even mentioning the intensifying conflagration of propaganda currently raging.
As Patrick L. so convincingly points out, it’s already much later than we think. So if there are any good & faithful reporters waiting to make their mark, then they’d better get a move on. This I think is where Julian Assange’s treatment plays its part as woeful reminder for those even tempted to stray beyond the boundaries.
This article has in some ways both distilled & relieved my uncertainties about what to make exactly of the current situation. What’s the next move is indeed staring us right in the face. I for one am getting sick & tired of rehashing the same old complaints.
Thanks for this article.
Stop The War
Threaten to regulate guns and all hell breaks loose since more Americans seem to cherish the Second Amendment.
Eliminate the First Amendment: freedom of speech, freedom of the press, religion, and assembly; what do we do? Silence.
Amen, C. Parker. You nailed it!
Isn’t it amazing how shallow and weak most people’s support for free speech and liberty was all along, as is being exposed now? So many nodded sagely and agreeably as they “fought” the good fight in the sixties and seventies, when all “right-minded” people thought the same things … but of course, defense of free speech that agrees with me and most is no defense at all. You show your real respect for civil liberties when said liberties are minority opinions and work against what you want to see happen.
The events of the great recession of 08/09 and the Trump election I think were epochal: the powers that be and the 10% technocracy that supports them were exposed to the great majority. They cannot have that. The system is in self-preservation mode … it may get very bad for a few years until the system implodes under its own inconsistencies.
Caliman, they are the willful ignorant, who have the herd instinct of conformity to those in power and prefer not to “rock the boat” and seem out of the ordinary, or the CIA created term, “conspiracy theorist” in discrediting those who question and investigate the “official narrative” and “statements” made by the power-brokers.
To me, this article by Patrick is a follow-up to his poignant article last week on Subjectivity and Objectivity, but this is the creme de’ la creme’ as our own elected and selected politicians are okay with censorship and give the Medial Moguls carte blanche in determining what can be printed, aired, in direct violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution as C. Parker stated.
Thank You Mr. P. Lawrence, and Consortium News for posting it!
Great article and comments.
50 plus years ago, the US had a more sophisticated approach to misinformation and manipulating public opinion. There was also censorship in the past, but arguably not a s blatant or overt as now. I recall reading Manufacturing Consent (Herman, Chomsky) years ago and much of this is not new.
However: It seems the oligarchy are getting more desperate and have to resort to more heavy-handed methods, removing videos from well-known and reputable outlets, shadow banning, delisting, results rigging, and other techno-totalitarian trickery.
In addition to outright censorship, we have a lot of misinformation and “news” stories that are sometimes based on complete falsehoods. The Big Lies just need to be repeated often enough, across platforms to be believed by a critical mass of people. Political discourse is manipulated and staged more than ever it seems. The Mass Media Cartel tell people what to talk/think about, and how to think about it.
The only comforting thing about all this is that history shows that misinformation and lies only work for so long. The desperation of the oligarchy in persecuting folks like Julian Assange so openly, blatant censorship etc. may indicate the final stages of the US empire.
The question is not what to do about censorship? It’s what to do about fascism?
Thank you as always. Like watching a catastrophe in slow motion. And this is the world’s leading democracy, upholder of human rights and the rules based order, that is expected to lead the world to a glorious future… Right. The US no longer qualifies as even the “lesser of two evils.”
Well, the fact that we are discussing all this in an open forum can be used to argue that the Western system is not censored. And that’s the clever part of the information system: to allow dissenting voices a public outlet while quashing dissent more broadly in the ways that Mr. Lawrence describes. I believe Noam Chomsky wrote about some of this in “Manufacturing Consent”. Will the internet become censored in a totalitarian way? Perhaps, but perhaps not; perhaps small gaps and spaces will be allowed, as long as they do not grow powerful enough to threaten the main view. Clamp down too hard, and you feed your opposition. Allow some openings, and you let off the steam.
We do seem headed toward an authoritarian/totalitarian social system. I believe Hannah Arendt wrote something to the effect that a totalitarian system doesn’t really care about controlling the news, but more about encouraging the attitude that all of the news is untrustworthy, that it’s all crap and you shouldn’t believe any of it. That attitude produces the highest level of ignorance and makes the population more easily controlled. If that’s true, our present mainstream news media are doing a great job of it.
thank you for the reference to Hannah Arendt, which gives me the step i needed to link the censorship with the ‘vulgar postmodernism’ where ‘there is no truth’.
Re the Soviet journalists: my father, a Mathematician from Germany came to the US in 1969. He´d been let to believe that the US is the place of freedom and especially freedom of the press. How astonished was he that the newspapers were all printing the same stuff. He told me this story much, much later when I was a journalist by profession myself. He thought that it must be that there is central guidance in the US. No, I replied there is no such thing. It works completely differently. And that is the difference to Russia. In Russia (where I worked as a journalist) you need external pressure for people to conform. Not in the US and by now not in my home country Germany either.
Is there hope? There is. The “common people” those without a position to lose and without a stake in the system tend to see through official propaganda. Usually they just ignore it but they get antsy, when you trespass on their daily lifes. First they managed that by using a trusted instiution – medicine – to cajole them. Now no more trust in the medical establishment. That is a stunt they pulled once and no more. Now it is the war that supposedly must be fought and which Ukraine is allegedly winning. This will last a while longer but there will be a point where people will have enough as well. The doubts are getting greater and greater and maybe one or two more years and even the professional class will start to disbelief and the whole edifice will start to crumble.
Unfortunately I think State Media is totally under control of the federal government (essentially legally since “modernization” of Smith Mundt.) Although the US claims we are not at war, censorship is quasi-justified in war, and is even more effective when applied subtly. But additionally the banging on the war drums is increasing.
As an example (I don’t endorse): unherd.com/2023/02/the-ukraine-war-is-not-complicated/?tl_inbound=1&tl_groups=18743&tl_period_type=3&mc_cid=43c8607e2b&mc_eid=e87ec45b37
What surprised me was not the “unprovoked” Russian invasion, and the good vs evil scenario, but the vitriolic acceptance of the commenters. To them there is no history behind the war, just unprovoked Russian invasion in February 2022.
An awareness and curiosity of the history behind events is necessary for critical thinking, which no longer seems allowed.
If you begin all American news analysis with the presumption that the NYTs & Washington Post are both ad hoc propaganda platforms for the U.S. State Department, CIA, DOJ, FBI, & Pentagon, then all else makes perfect sense with what occurs hours later with the rest of the MSM and Silicon Valley (i.e. Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, YouTube, Facebook/Meta, etc.).
Let’s remember that these are the very same people who make their living selling the sizzle, but not necessarily not the steak that we Americans consume each day. Forewarned is forearmed, I suppose.
Learn to remain skeptical of so called MSM experts, exemplars, and professionals who are willing to sell their own reputations for their personal material gain. Distrust the reliability and validity of their polls meant to sway popular opinion. Take a college level course in logic, and then take another one in statistics. Finally, when in doubt, always insist on multiple, independent sources to confirm whatever it is you are being told by those in power (e.g. Government sponsored Ukrainian proxy wars, Covid vaccine mandates, ESG/Diversity, Inclusion, Equality policies, southern border security, mostly peaceful crime, etc.). Good luck to all!
I really think it’s about time that independent media organizations think about getting together and hosting a PeerTube instance for their mutual benefit on anything that requires video hosting. PeerTube is a federated system that can resist censorship in ways that Youtube can’t by presenting the option to users of moving to another instance without losing their connections whenever it seems the moderation on a particular instance has gotten out of control. It also has a special feature to compete against Youtube’s monopolistic bandwidth-hosting-cost advantage: a peer-to-peer system is used to alleviate server load when popular videos are viewed by multiple people at the same time.
The problem with the subscription based system is that de-platforming remains an ever-present threat based on the whims and tastes of the controlling company or group; even seemingly “progressive” and “leftist” sites can be given to arbitrary limitations and sudden changes of policy–think Truth Dig. Point of transaction restrictions are a growing concern, as well, since many financial players are being brought into fold as fronts against “misinformation,” so the future viability of even this model is in potential doubt. In addition, to be quite frank, many people simply don’t have the disposable income to spread across potential dozens of sites and/or across many dozens of writers, journalists, and commentators.
The reference to Ellul is very appropriate, though, perhaps, not entirely explored to the appropriate degree in relation to the subject presented here; the problem lies in the contradiction of between Ellul’s analysis and the authors proscription. You can’t fight the balkanization, marginalization, and obfuscation of the Truth using the internet: their baked into the very essence of the medium. The internet promises decentralized communications, yet increasing demands technological intensive infrastructure that can only be facilitated by companies possessing expertise and technicians practicing specialized knowledge, i.e., demands centralized control at structural nodes and coordination. By accepting the internet as the mechanism of communication, you accept the underlying political economy of that gives rise to the internet–decentralized totalitarianism, a system in which there is no center only controlled points of power.
Unfortunately, I get the sense from many journalist that they are unable to recognize the twilight of an age of material wealth to which they have become accustomed, displaying a unwillingness to contemplate that the future of Truth may in fact demand doggedness in the face of obscurity and poverty. Real journalism will not be middle-class. Only the ancient Cynics will survive. Relegating truthful discussion to digital cantons accessible to those who have enough money to attend will not spread truth, the opposite in fact; it will bury it.
Your last paragraph is important. Real truth CANNOT be middle class.
Kev: Good points. I talk to as many people I know or meet about the present state of affairs which Patrick and many other journalists and Truth-Tellers write and speak about. Maybe 25% are willing to listen and begin to see what’s going on behind the scenes and a small percentage show a semblance of curiosity, but over 50-60% believe what they hear on big corporate TV and radio outlets and think I’m a conspiracy theorist or …I’ll leave it at that.
Many years ago in the early days of my higher-ed-IT life, the state of Texas sponsored an information security conference for state agencies. Presenters/speakers included executives from the “telcos” (Southwestern Bell, ATT & GTE), the FBI, Cisco and others. The telcos made the firm (and to me compelling) case that the networks they operated were and should remain pipes and nothing more. That for them to get involved with monitoring what passes through those pipes was a slippery slope to censorship and illegal monitoring by the government. Snowden taught us well enough that what they cautioned against soon enough came to pass. It seems only a matter of time until the morning I awaken to CN being blocked from the web. I shall hope such does not come to pass, but it is certainly not beyond possibilities.
Thank you Patrick, an excellent discussion of our plight. It will be interesting to see how it works out for the corporate media as more and more people turn away from them and their revenues and audiences continue to decline. They are supposed to be profit-driven corporations, so there must be some internal tension between gaining audience and serving propaganda that drives people away. Glad I am not in that retched industry, which must feel quite suffocating right about now.
The brute fact is that we, as a species, seem self-subordinated to impulses which we patently cannot control and which are leading to our total annihilation. This has been known for some time. Consider the following.
”Analysis of the human aspect of freedom and of authoritarian forces us to consider a general problem: namely that of the role which psychological factors play as active forces in the social process; and this eventually leads to the problem of interaction of psychological, economic and ideological factors in the social process. Any attempt to understand which fascism exercises upon great nations compels us to realise the role of psychological factors. For what we are dealing with here with a political system which essentially does not appeal to rational sources of self-interest but which arouses and mobilizes DIABOLICAL FORCES in man which we had believed to be non-existent or at least to have died out long ago.
Eric Fromm – The Fear of Freedom 1942.
Yep, these diabolical forces seem to be on the rampage. They have been known about for some time but the lust for power will not be denied. This critical sadistic craving for power has been a feature of our own times. The political classes in particular are vulnerable to such destructive impulses. As a certain political leader was well aware of this.
”Like a woman … who will submit to the strong man rather than dominate the weakling, thus the masses love the ruler rather than the suppliant, and inwardly they are far more satisfied by a doctrine which tolerates no rival than by a grant of liberal freedom …” Adolf Hitler – Mein Kampf.
”Quoted in Eric Fromm.” The Fear of Freedom. Ibid.
I think the question boils down to how can the essential structure of the Democracy (if that concept is still to some extent operative) be reaffirmed, emphasizing the right to freedom of speech, including clearly defining what that allows. and fully laying out how censorship is currently operating.
Dissenting views to leadership programs MUST be strongly valued and implemented so as to challenge special interest censorship. The problem lies in getting a legislature sufficiently able to buck those special interests to enable recognition of, and restoration of, First Amendment Rights.
And for that problem there is a deeper problem. Reading Patrick’s essay and Francis’ comment, I was reminded of a comment by Ron Rosenbaum, introducing William Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (2011 edition):
“Hitler, like Circe, transformed men into swine, only these went willingly. In The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Shirer searches for a deeper ‘why.’ Was it a unique one-time phenomenon, or do humans possess some ever-present receptivity to the appeal of primal herd-like hatred?”
The answer seems to be the latter. Aldous Huxley called the problem “herd-poisoning.” Most recently, this term has become “mass formation psychosis.” We have also explored “perception management.”
We are seeing all too obviously the workings of this psychological phenomenon in American culture in the crucial period focused on in the article. Today, as an example, US public support of the war in Ukraine is “softening” to 48%. That’s an astounding portion of the population still in support of the war, yet “softening” from a more enthusiastic attitude previously. And this support despite strong opposition, well-explained, as to who and what is causing the conflict. Nevertheless, the Official Narrative prevails.
Sy Hersh’s expose of who blew the pipeline is powerful because it threatens to disturb the “consensus” that propaganda or mind-poisoning has accomplished. That consensus could diminish (as with “softening” and as it did with The Vietnam War) and the current war program threatened. The equivalent of a shrieking Hitler enthralling the masses is needed, and so Biden runs off to Ukraine to throw his arms around Zelensky.
Working against consensus poisoning is a hazardous business versus The American Comfort and Perception Management Program. But at least there’s a lot of dissent going on, and we can hope it will continue to grow.
Interesting set of quotations. Something to ponder.
Thanks this comment, and thanks to all others taking the time to write. Their remarks are especially astute this week.
A very minor point of confusion.
Fromm, a native German speaker, published Escape from Freedom in New York (Rinehart) in 1941. My copy is the 15th printing of the 1st edition. A German–speaking Swiss friend wrote to tell me she had a hell of a time finding the book after I made reference to it in an earlier commentary. All she could find was a book called Fear of Freedom. It turns out, and for reasons I cannot fathom, as the book must’ve been selling well to make a 15th printing, Rinehart changed the title. Your note suggests the publisher did this within a year of the original publication.
Anyway, we reference the same book. I immediately recognized the passage you quote.
I might add that it is by way of the urging of CN’s literate editor that I read the Fromm book and, as he thought I would, find so much of pertinence in it.
i don’t think that that submission or domination are genetic, though. i think they’re taught somewhere in our education or culture.
As a lawyer for almost 60 years I am amazed what has happened to our country. Not so amazed by YouTube, Facebook etc. but by the almost complete acceptance of the censorship by my good liberal friends. I can not believe that these good liberals can be so easily influenced. I now understand how Hitler and the Nazis influenced a wise socially liberal country.
I share your concern. People I know who should, after a long life of dissent, know better are swallowing large helpings of bollocks these days.
You I sadly agree with you, Richard. It reminds of the book, “They Thought They Were Free”, The Germans, 1933-45, by Milton Mayer.
If I have it right, click on this excerpt which is important. Years ago, Thom Hartmann would write about this passage or read it on his radio program. If the link doesn’t work, you’ll find it on the web.
Oh come on Patrick Lawrence! It can’t happen here! But if it happens all at once at the same time, it doesn’t really happen – it doesn’t really count as an actual occurrence. Best not to question the smoke you see in the mirror.