US Needs Separation of State and Media

It’s a safe bet the U.S. would be a completely different country if separation of media and state and separation of corporation and state were enshrined like the separation of church and state is, writes Caitlin Johnstone.

Press Secretary Jen Psaki (White House/ Erin Scott)

By Caitlin Johnstone

Listen to a reading of this article by Tim Foley.

The U.S. State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price is being replaced by a man named Matthew Miller.

Like Price, Miller has had extensive prior involvement in both the U.S. government and the mass media; Price is a former C.I.A. officer and Obama administration National Security Council staffer who for years worked as an NBC News analyst, while Miller has previously had roles in both the Obama and Biden administrations and spent years as an analyst for MSNBC.

Like every high-level government spokesperson, Miller’s job will be to spin the nefarious things the U.S. empire does in a positive light and deflect inconvenient questions with weasel-worded non-answers. Which also happens to be essentially the same job as the propagandists in the mainstream media.

In journalism school you are taught that there’s supposed to be a sharp line between government and the press; journalists are meant to hold the government to account, and there’s an obvious conflict of interest there if they’re also friends with government officials or are looking to the government as a potential future employer.

But at the highest levels of the world’s most powerful government and the world’s most influential media platforms the line between media and state is effectively nonexistent; people flow seamlessly between roles in the media and roles in the government depending on who’s in office.

We see this indistinctness between government and media with White House press secretaries even more clearly. The current press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is a former analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and the last press secretary Jen Psaki now has her own show on MSNBC. Prior to her stint as White House press secretary Psaki worked as a CNN analyst, and before that she was a spokesperson for the State Department like Price and Miller.

At a recent event for the news startup Semafor, Psaki was asked if she considers herself a journalist and she said she does, adding that “to me, journalism is providing information to the public, helping make things clearer, explaining things.”

Which is a bit funny considering that Psaki’s political faction has spent the last seven years furiously insisting that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is not a journalist. In liberal brainworms land the world’s greatest journalist is not a journalist at all, but Joe Biden’s spin doctor is because she’s got a knack for “explaining things”.

Lest you get the mistaken impression that this phenomenon is unique to Democrats and their aligned media outlets, it should here be noted that Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders got a job as a Fox News contributor immediately after resigning from that position, and now she’s the governor of Arkansas.

Another Trump administration press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, is now an on-air contributor to Fox News, and previously worked for CNN. Trump’s first press secretary Sean Spicer reportedly tried to get jobs with CBS News, CNN, Fox News, ABC News and NBC News after his stint in the White House, but was turned down by all of them because nobody likes him.

Without any clear lines between the media and the state, U.S. media are not meaningfully different from the state media the west spends so much energy decrying in “tyrannical regimes” like Russia and China. The only difference is that in Tyrannical Regimes the government controls the media, while in Free Democracies the government is the media. 

On a related note, journalist Michael Tracey just observed on Twitter that all questions asked during the Pentagon press briefing on Thursday about the documents leaked online from the Department of Defense all pertained not to the information contained in those documents, but to the Pentagon’s failure to keep them from leaking to the public.

Rather than trying to obtain more information and transparency from their governments as journalists should, they’re actually badgering their government to do more to prevent important information from getting into the hands of journalists.

So I suppose that’s another difference between Totalitarian Regimes and Free Democracies: in Totalitarian Regimes the government instructs the media to suppress inconvenient facts, while in Free Democracies the media instruct the government to suppress inconvenient facts.

As it happens the man who allegedly leaked the Pentagon documents, a 21 year-old National Guardsman named Jack Teixeira, was tracked down and named by The New York Times even before his arrest by the F.B.I.

The New York Times assembled a crew of a dozen reporters to hunt down the leaker, even using contributing reporting from the empire-funded propaganda firm Bellingcat. This job typically undertaken solely by federal agents was undertaken first by reporters from the mainstream press; we’re just a click or two away from New York Times reporters kicking down the doors of people who leak classified information and shooting their dogs like proper feds.

All this while state propaganda outlet NPR continues its ongoing tantrum about Twitter accurately labeling its account “Government Funded,” an upgrade from its also-accurate previous designation as “U.S. state-affiliated media.”

NPR has now officially rage-quit Twitter in objection to the label on the basis that “the platform is taking actions that undermine our credibility by falsely implying that we are not editorially independent,” which is hilarious because NPR has no credibility to undermine.

As we discussed recently, NPR receives funding from the U.S. government, consistently promotes the information interests of the U.S. government, and is run by the former CEO of the U.S. government’s foreign propaganda network U.S. Agency for Global Media.

It doesn’t even deserve the label “Government Funded;” it should have the exact same labels as Russian and Chinese state media, because it is not meaningfully different from them.

This was made even funnier by the fact that America’s literally state-owned media outlet Voice of America is now standing in very unhelpful solidarity with NPR by also objecting to the “Government Funded” label that has been placed on its own account.

Voice of America writes the following in its own “news” reporting on NPR’s plight:

“VOA’s public relations department on Monday also pushed back against Twitter’s decision, saying the label gives the impression that VOA is not an independent outlet.

Twitter did not respond to VOA’s request for comment.

VOA is funded by the U.S. government through the U.S. Agency for Global Media, but its editorial independence is protected by regulations and a firewall.

Bridget Serchak, VOA’s director of public relations, said that ‘the label ‘government funded’ is potentially misleading and could be construed as also ‘government-controlled’ — which VOA is most certainly not.’

‘Our editorial firewall, enshrined in the law, prohibits any interference from government officials at any level in its news coverage and editorial decision-making process,’ Serchak said in an email. ‘VOA will continue to emphasize this distinction in our discussions with Twitter, as this new label on our network causes unwarranted and unjustified concern about the accuracy and objectivity of our news coverage.’”

As journalist Branko Marcetic pointed out on Twitter, these claims about VOA’s “editorial independence” have been squarely refuted by someone who worked there for 35 years. In a 2017 article with Columbia Journalism Review titled “Spare the indignation: Voice of America has never been independent,” VOA veteran Dan Robinson says such outlets are entirely different from normal news companies and are expected to facilitate U.S. information interests to receive government funding:

“I spent about 35 years with Voice of America, serving in positions ranging from chief White House correspondent to overseas bureau chief and head of a key language division, and I can tell you that for a long time, two things have been true. First, U.S. government-funded media have been seriously mismanaged, a reality that made them ripe for bipartisan reform efforts in Congress, climaxing late in 2016 when President Obama signed the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Second, there is widespread agreement in Congress and elsewhere that, in exchange for continued funding, these government broadcasters must do more, as part of the national security apparatus, to assist efforts to combat Russian, ISIS, and al-Qaeda disinformation.”

Everywhere you look you can find extensive entanglements between the U.S. government and the news media outlets that westerners look to for information about the world, and that’s before you even get into the way the plutocratic class which owns and influences the U.S. media is also not meaningfully separate from the U.S. government.

When corporations are part of the government, corporate media is state media.

It seems a safe bet that the U.S. would be a completely different country if separation of media and state and separation of corporation and state were enshrined like the separation of church and state is.

The only reason Americans consent to the freakish status quo of their government which impoverishes and oppresses people at home while bombing and starving people abroad is because their consent has been manufactured by a media class that is not meaningfully separate from the government.

Place the press in their proper place as oppositional scrutinizers of government behavior, and the dynamics underlying the nation’s problems would no longer be hidden from the public.

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.

27 comments for “US Needs Separation of State and Media

  1. HelenB
    April 15, 2023 at 13:05

    Voice of America has always been Voice of the United States Government.

  2. Steve
    April 15, 2023 at 07:42

    The USA isn’t a democracy.

    Never has been.

    It’s a representative republic. It’s 50 states that have agreed to function as a single unit on a federal level while retaining their autonomy within their own boundaries. That’s why the Senate exists. To protect the interests of each state, regardless of it’s population. It’s also why the Electoral College exists, and why national vote tallies are meaningless.

  3. michael888
    April 15, 2023 at 06:21

    “Without any clear lines between the media and the state, U.S. media are not meaningfully different from the state media the west spends so much energy decrying in “tyrannical regimes” like Russia and China. The only difference is that in Tyrannical Regimes the government controls the media, while in Free Democracies the government is the media. ”
    This has been the case since the abolition (‘modernization”) of Smith Mundt, the US “antiquated” law against domestic propaganda. The State Department (read CIA) was put in charge of Official Narrative Control; (Deep) State Media has been the result. The “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act” was passed a few years later. “Supporters of the resolution inside the Defense Department have publicly expressed their desire to weaken the interpretation of domestic propaganda protections, laws which prevent the United States Department of State from gathering information necessary to develop targeted propaganda messaging and prevent them from explicitly attempting to influence opinions.” (from wikipedia)

    While I admire Caitlin Johnstone, there is no free media beyond the small alt sites in the US (or West). The battle for a free press was lost a decade ago. Our Intelligence Agencies are in the process of stomping out those dissenting voices, censoring (mostly) political opponents, and soon we will have no news worthy to print (or otherwise disseminate).

  4. Clever Dog
    April 15, 2023 at 04:53

    Caitlin’s analysis is totally on-target. And, to me, is further confirmation that the US federal government has fully become a union between corporate interests and state interests. The would-be free press are asking for more handcuffs and the general public seems happy to go along. Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are viewed by the majority of Americans as dangerous to public security. Proponents of free speech are denounced by false-left progressivists as ‘free-speech absolutists’, and the right wing never liked free speech in the first place. The manufacture of consent now seems to be complete, or at the final stages of polishing and inspection.

  5. LeoSun
    April 15, 2023 at 01:55

    “Welcome to “The Malarky Factory.” Serving it Up! “The corporate media sugar-coats, whitewashes, ignores every Biden-Harris disaster—-leaving Afghanistan, the Southern border, Covid-19 “lives” NOT eradicated, high fuel, food, housing prices, a malfunctioning supply chain, a toxic railroad system, PEOPLE neglected during man-made & natural disasters, POTUS’ maga-mega level of incompetence in public speaking; and, POTUS’ resolve to blame their failures on DJTrump, et al.

    The Oldigarchy is “so far detached from the public from which it extracts its wealth that it can act entirely independent of it,” i.e., Father & Son “GOT” an Irish Ancestry Tour that trumps all crises in The Divided $tates of Corporate America.

    “Never Say Die.” The WH is NOT on Auto-Pilot. Au contraire, The WH is shakin’, rattled, unmasked. W/o a doubt, every day provides new confirmation “DISCORD“ lives “LARGE:” Largest insurrection, “occupation,” ever, on The Hill. Largest ground war, U$/NATO v. Russia in Ukraine, since WW2. Largest Intel dump, ever. Largest “Censorship Industrial Complex,” a right arm of The Global Engagement Center (GEC). The GEC is the genius of the Commander-N-$peech, BHOhbama, #44. Who gifted the GEC to #45 gifted to #46 will gift to #47, etc. Largest Board of Executioners “aiming to punish, like a bat outta Intel Hell, ANY journalist, publisher or whistleblower revealing its inner machinations.” (Pepe Escobar)

    “Do the MATH (Make America Think Harder),” the $ummary, i.e., imo, 1) January 6 2021, a failed coup d’état, 2) Democrats BIG Lie, “that 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 Donald Trump “really” won the 2020 election. That the election was farcical I’ll readily grant; they all are.” (Gary Leupp); 3) Explosions, under sea water pipeline & man-made chemicals; 4) the young “Influencer,” contracted by the USG, serving up, for MONTHS, “classified docs” redacted nothing; 5) “Be-Bop” awh “LULA,” is on the West’s $h*t List for promoting Brazil’s interests, “Trade w/China,” “Keeping Good Relations w/Russia,” BRICS & Handshakes. 6) Statesmanship & Diplomacy. Xi Jinping brokered PEACE. 7) “Gone Viral,” China + Saudi Arabia + Iran + Russia = A Diplomatic Revolution; AND, Everybody, knows, Empire, M.I.A., by design, f/despises Revolutions. 8) There IS the background to the present CRISES, which arises out of the 2014 regime change operation!!!

    “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” (James Bovard)

    However, IMO, the Soup du Jour: “Corporate” coup d’état: IMO, in effect w/o martial law. It’s controlled violence , “The Kraken,” in 3-D, Deception. Destruction. Death: 1) Control over Science and Technology, 2) Control over Financial Systems, 3) Control over Access to Resources, 4) Control over Weapons, 5) Control over Communications.

    Awh, the wolf speculates “there will be blood in the streets.” The fox knows, he’s got “blood on his hands.”

  6. Sorbonne
    April 14, 2023 at 14:56

    Caitlin says that in “tyrannical regimes” like Russia and China the government controls the media. Not all of it. If you can understand the Russian language there are plenty of media options available which function 100% outside of government control. A few examples: “Populiarnaya Politika”, “Dozd”, “I-Stories”, the YouTube shows of Varlamov, Yuri Shvets, etc.

  7. Sylvia Smith
    April 14, 2023 at 14:10

    More importantly, the US Senate needs to be abolished as it was designed by the Founding Fathers to undermine the will of the people. Until that happens, the US cannot honestly call itself a democracy.

  8. Charles C.
    April 14, 2023 at 13:55

    Yes sir Bob!

  9. lester
    April 14, 2023 at 13:50

    If our anti-monopoly laws were enforced and our 6 media megacorporations were broken up into 60 or 360, it might help. Break up Walmart, Starbucks, etc., All our giant satanic corporations. I have no faith in Marxism but maybe some form of small business anarchism? But what do I know?

  10. lester
    April 14, 2023 at 13:44

    An excellent article, Ms. Johnstone, even better than your excellent average. Even an old Cynic like me was enlightened!

    Tell me, someone, were NPR or VOA onboard with the Russiagate nonsense? Did either ever point that Russiagate was as phony as the Obama birth certificate nonsense? I was overseas in those days and getting my news from BBC and Consortium News.

  11. HelenB
    April 14, 2023 at 11:51

    You are wonderful.
    We are so lucky to have you!

  12. JonnyJames
    April 14, 2023 at 11:48

    Another angle: since the US is an oligarchy with “regulatory capture” and institutionalized corruption running rampant, the line between “public” and “private” interests has been blurred or even erased.

    Who “owns” the media? Look at the Big Mass Media Cartel corps stockholders: it’s a “cross-sectoral” incestuous relationship. BigPharma, BigOil, BigFinance (Blackrock et al.), the Military, Surveillance, Weapons Complex, etc. and then we have the CIA with stakes in the Bezos/CIA WaPo. and so on.

    One could argue that the media reflects the interests of their owners, bondholders and stockholders. Public policy, foreign policy included, reflects the interests of the oligarchy, not the US public. That’s why there is little or no difference in the content of NPR/PBS “news” and corporate media. It has all become a “public/private merger of the Ministry of Truth in many ways.

  13. Simius Cognitius
    April 14, 2023 at 11:41

    Many thanks to Ms. Johnstone for arguing so capably that if we did not have the problem we do, we would not have the problem we do.

    When are people, even our most cogent and capable writers and commentators like the inestimable Ms. Johnstone, going to finally draw the very conclusions toward which all their own advocacy leads us. When are people like Ms. Johnstone going to realize and accept that our Mass Media, both in the US and in her native Australia, are NOT free-standing social or political institutions that are choosing to support our Enemy, (our Enemy being the Ruling Elites who have captured our nations, both America and Australia, under their tyrannical power)?

    The Mass Media ARE the Enemy.

    Sure, if the Mass Media were NOT the Enemy then they wouldn’t BE the Enemy. Thanks for elucidating us, Ms. Johnstone.

    In the US, it was the Telecommunications Act of 1996, signed by Slick Willie Clinton, together with several major amendments to that Law since, all of which have allowed for the ever greater concentration of Mass Media ownership into ever fewer hands, that allowed the Mass Media to come under the total (as in totalitarian) control of the same Ruling Elite forces that have used their total control of Mass Media to gain total control of our entire political process.

    Indeed… If we did not have total control of Mass Media in the hands of the SAME forces that have total control of our government, we would not have the problem of total control of both in the hands of the same totalitarian forces.

    Perhaps Ms. Johnstone, such a truly brilliant writer and commentator, might try to develop the self-awareness to realize that her thesis here, which she argues so well, is rather a “no shite Sherlock” proclamation.

    Thanks for proving that the ‘sky is blue’, Ms. Johnstone. You definitely have what an old dear friend of mine liked to call “a keen perception of the obvious”.

  14. Mile
    April 14, 2023 at 10:41

    Separation of State and Media?

    What you would like to see (and all normal Americans) can and will never happen.

    The state (and certain wealthy “interest groups” from the background, together) have gone to the greatest lengths and spent a lot of money to make the media spread their propaganda.

    No one will ever be able to separate it.

    But this is not as tragic as many people might think, because this Ukraine war will expand, everyone will be drawn into it – and after that, among other things, there will be no more of the media nor media-seekers.

    Whether you can believe it today or not (the vast majority cannot) – this is how it will be.

    The hour of the decisive battle is struck.
    There can be no turning back.

  15. Packard
    April 14, 2023 at 10:12

    I believe in the existence of an incestuous relationship between the American MSM and the Federal Government of The United States.

    One need only review the current headlines found in today’s NYTs or Washington Post to confirm this suspicion. You quickly discover a common theme promoted by the US State Department, the Pentagon, DHS, DOJ, FBI, or CIA. Media and government agencies appear to all think alike.

    Consider the parallels of this shared group think on such diverse topics as Ukraine, Putin, Xi, China, illegal immigration, crime, drug overdose deaths, Donald J. Trump, BLM/Antifa, transgenderism, and the economy. Their consensus seems more than just a coincidence.

    On the other hand, a cursory review of who these power players are in their respective agencies or workplaces, who they are married to, where they went to school, and what professional organizations they belong to, reveals a pattern. It is ideologically insulated, to be sure, but it is a pattern nonetheless. In other words, whether they work for the government of the MSM, they are each inextricably intertwined organs to the same complex system.

    Cliff’s Notes version: When it comes to reliably news reporting in America these days, Caveat emptor…I suppose. Otherwise, good luck.

  16. Ken Carrier
    April 14, 2023 at 10:11

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
    It says congress. I don’t see separation of church and state in there. In 1787 9 of the 13 states had a state church. How did we get to the states cannot even have state religious affilations? But I agree the media, corporations, and the federal government should be separate.

  17. April 14, 2023 at 10:02

    The de facto fusion of media and state makes the press much worse than irrelevant; it becomes the principal tool for the attainment of tyranny. And it’s the judiciary’s fault as most major decisions on “freedom of the press” from the Zenger trial prior to the founding of the United States through New York Times Co. v. Sullivan deal with the right to distort and calumny, the right to be wrong.

  18. Susan Leslie
    April 14, 2023 at 09:57

    First you will have to separate man from his lust for money over everything else – then we might have a chance…

    • Valerie
      April 15, 2023 at 13:04

      Well said Susan. The crux of the matter.

  19. Tony
    April 14, 2023 at 09:02

    In the UK, a BBC journalist recently asked Zelensky at a press conference, for a hug!
    That just goes to show the level of scrutiny that we see in this country.

    • Valerie
      April 15, 2023 at 13:11

      Well Tony, what else would you expect from the “government contolled british bullshit corporation”?
      They wouldn’t know scrutiny if it hit them in the face. LOL

  20. Cynic
    April 14, 2023 at 08:56

    While separating the media from the government will definitely work, how will the billionaire elites get to make trillions then without all these manufactured consent for war? They will starve within a year! Awww… poor things..

  21. Bob Woody
    April 14, 2023 at 03:21

    I’d hope that they could do a better job separating ‘state’ and ‘media’ than they did separating ‘state’ and ‘religion’ which are joined at the hip in America.

    Of course, the Founding Fathers actually did leave their descendants an America where the State and Media were separate. This lasted for at least 170 or so years. It’s not their fault that the generations that followed managed to screw it up with greed.

    America was a completely different country back before Reagan-Bush-Clinton created the mass corporate media that dominates all that you see and acts as a ‘partner’ with the government. If you compare say 1970’s America with today, you see a very different picture with a very different media.

    For example, try watching one after the other — a 1970’s Presidential Press Conference versus a now incredibly rare Biden Press Conference. A hint is that the President did not come out to the mic with the answers already written on a piece of paper.

    • Frank Lambert
      April 14, 2023 at 11:11

      It was different before the Reagan-Bush-Clinton culprits created the mas corporate media which dominates mainstream media.
      But it goes back even longer. Great reporters like H.L. Mencken and George Seldes, to name a few, saw the corruption between the media outlets, Big Business, and dishonest politicians on both sides of the isle. Or the Hearst newspaper chain demonizing Germans as monsters in fomenting the anger of the American people so Woodrow Wilson, at the behest of the New York Bankers, got us involved in the First World War.

      When John Hopkins University reported that excessive cigarette smoking can cause long cancer, in 1939, the Big Tobacco companies told the newspapers they’d pull their advertising if they printed the report. Not wanting to lose advertising revenue, they kept it out of the headlines instead of being ethical and alerting the American people. George Seldes DID publish it, I believe in 1940, in his publication, ‘In Fact’ and if I remember correctly, in his book, “Never Tire of Protesting” published in 1968

      The Imperial Empire is in decline and everyone in my age group which I have talked to over the years all agree that this isn’t the same country we grew up in. Very sad!

      Another home run for Caitlin!

      Now, the Nightly News

    • L. C. Ng
      April 14, 2023 at 13:22

      “America was a completely different country back before Reagan-Bush-Clinton ….”

      The difference was only a matter of degree: the role of the mass media in deciding who rules, what policies to follow, etc. hasn’t changed much since Woodrow Wilson’s conversion campaign for entry into WW1. It was unlikely that Nixon was forced to resign because of Watergate; more credible reasons include his SALT treaties with the Soviet Union, withdrawal from the Vietnam War, etc. Equally naive to think that Carter lost his re-election because of the word “malaise.” Better reasons for his downfall include his proposal to withdraw American troops from South Korea and refusal to invade Iran for the hostage crisis.

      I also remember how Dukakis’ whirlwind tour during the presidential campaign was described as “scurrying”(like rats?) while Bush’s unimpressive behavior was touted as being “presidential.”

      The idea that Bush’s Willie Horton ad got him the white votes was an insult to white people generally: Bush was elected simply because that was the Deep State’s decision and the mass media merely followed orders.

      Then there was Mondale who lost his presidential bid despite his attention on real problems facing the nation. The press, however, preferred to focus on his unprovable sin of being “wimpy,”whatever that meant. Perhaps he shouldn’t have shaven himself clean and grown a beard instead?

      I can go on endlessly with the mass media’s shenanigans but that ain’t going to bring back the past. At any rate, what happened with the press then was nothing compared with today’s shameless lies and outright falsehood.

  22. Dr. Hujjathullah M.H.B. Sahib
    April 14, 2023 at 01:46

    The second last paragraph is a gem it drives at the heart of the issue. But I beg to differ on the next : the PRESS corps must always be there to press home the government’s case as per their official PRESS releases; it ought to be the job of the totally independent and blooming alternative STRESS arrays that give the government of the day all the stress it bargains for by scrutinizing the government’s every move on behalf of a dynamic democratic soceity and true national interests in any OPEN and FREE country. Corporate and state media simply don’t fit the bill !

  23. Anon
    April 14, 2023 at 00:44

    Speaking of which… Article appeared in certain NYC based pub… been years now… documenting virtual takeover some NE US NPR by an oil magnate…
    & BTW… Tnx Frequent contributer Caitlin… & CN 4 continuing 2 run her stuff!

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