Caitlin Johnstone: 15 Reasons Why Media Don’t Do Journalism

There is a much less centralized network of factors which tips the scales of media coverage to the advantage of the U.S. empire and the forces which benefit from it.

Inside the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia, 2010. (Matthew Paulson, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Caitlin Johnstone

If you watch western news media with a critical eye you eventually notice how their reporting consistently aligns with the interests of the U.S.-centralized empire, in almost the same way you’d expect them to if they were government-run propaganda outlets.

The New York Times has reliably supported every war the U.S. has waged. Western mass media focus overwhelmingly on foreign protests against governments the United States dislikes while paying far less attention to widespread protests against U.S.-aligned governments. The only time Trump was universally showered with praise by the mass media was when he bombed Syria, while the only time Biden has been universally slammed by the mass media was when he withdrew from Afghanistan.

U.S. media did such a good job deceitfully marrying Saddam Hussein to the September 11 attacks in the minds of the public in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq that seven in ten Americans still believed he was connected to 9/11 months after the war began. 

That this extreme bias occurs is self-evident and indisputable to anyone who pays attention, but why and how it happens is harder to see. The uniformity is so complete and so consistent that when people first begin noticing these patterns it’s common for them to assume the media must be controlled by a small, centralized authority much like the state media of more openly authoritarian governments. But if you actually dig into the reasons why the media act the way they act, that isn’t really what you find.

Instead, what you find is a much larger, much less centralized network of factors which tips the scales of media coverage to the advantage of the U.S. empire and the forces which benefit from it. Some of it is indeed conspiratorial in nature and happens in secret, but most of it is essentially out in the open.

Here are 15 of those factors.

1. Media ownership.

The most obvious point of influence in the mass media is the fact that such outlets tend to be owned and controlled by plutocrats whose wealth and power are built upon the status quo they benefit from.

Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post, which he bought in 2013 from the also-immensely-wealthy Graham family. The New York Times has been run by the same family for over a century. Rupert Murdoch owns a vast international media empire whose success is largely owed to the U.S. government agencies with whom he is closely intertwined.

Owning media has in and of itself historically been an investment that can generate immense wealth — “like having a license to print your own money” as Canadian television magnate Roy Thomson once put it.

Does this mean that wealthy media owners are standing over their employees and telling them what to report from day to day? No. But it does mean they control who will run their outlet, which means they control who will be doing the hiring of its executives and editors, who control the hiring of everyone else at the outlet.

Rupert Murdoch probably never stood in the newsroom announcing the talking points and war propaganda for the day, but you’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of securing a job with the Murdoch press if you’re known as a flag-burning anti-imperialist.

Which takes us to another related point:

2. ‘If you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.’

In a contentious 1996 discussion between Noam Chomsky and British journalist Andrew Marr, Chomsky derided the false image that mainstream journalists have of themselves as “a crusading profession” who are “adversarial” and “stand up against power,” saying it’s almost impossible for a good journalist to do so in any meaningful way in the mass media of the western world.

“How can you know that I’m self-censoring?” Marr objected. “How can you know that journalists are-”

“I’m not saying you’re self-censoring,” Chomsky replied. “I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”

In a 1997 essay, Chomsky added that “the point is that they wouldn’t be there unless they had already demonstrated that nobody has to tell them what to write because they are going to say the right thing anyway.”

3. Journalists learn pro-establishment groupthink without being told.

This “you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting” effect isn’t just some personal working theory of Chomsky’s; journalists who’ve spent time in the mass media have publicly acknowledged that this is the case in recent years, saying that they learned very quickly what kinds of output will help and hinder their movement up the career ladder without needing to be explicitly told.

During his second presidential primary run in 2019, Senator Bernie Sanders enraged the mass media with some comments he made accusing the Washington Post of biased reporting against him.

Sanders’ claim was entirely correct; during the hottest and most tightly contested point in the 2016 presidential primary, Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting noted that WaPo had published no fewer than sixteen smear pieces about Sanders in the span of sixteen hours. Sanders pointing out this blatantly obvious fact sparked an emotional controversy about bias in the media which yielded a few quality testimonials from people in the know.

Among these were former MSNBC reporter Krystal Ball and former Daily Caller White House correspondent Saagar Enjeti, who explained the subtle pressures to adhere to a groupthink orthodoxy that they’d experienced in a segment with The Hill’s online show Rising

“There are certain pressures to stay in good with the establishment to maintain the access that is the life blood of political journalism,” Ball said in the segment.

“So what do I mean? Let me give an example from my own career since everything I’m saying here really frankly applies to me too. Back in early 2015 at MSNBC I did a monologue that some of you may have seen pretty much begging Hillary Clinton not to run. I said her elite ties were out of step with the party and the country, that if she ran she would likely be the nominee and would then go on to lose.

No one censored me, I was allowed to say it, but afterwards the Clinton people called and complained to the MSNBC top brass and threatened not to provide any access during the upcoming campaign. I was told that I could still say what I wanted, but I would have to get any Clinton-related commentary cleared with the president of the network. Now being a human interested in maintaining my job, I’m certain I did less critical Clinton commentary after that than I maybe otherwise would have.”

“This is something that a lot of people don’t understand,” said Enjeti.

“It’s not necessarily that somebody tells you how to do your coverage, it’s that if you were to do your coverage that way, you would not be hired at that institution. So it’s like if you do not already fit within this framework, then the system is designed to not give you a voice. And if you necessarily did do that, all of the incentive structures around your pay, around your promotion, around your colleagues that are slapping you on the back, that would all disappear. So it’s a system of reinforcement, which makes it so that you wouldn’t go down that path in the first place.”

“Right, and again, it’s not necessarily intentional,” Ball added. “It’s that those are the people that you’re surrounded with, so there becomes a groupthink. And look, you are aware of what you’re going to be rewarded for and what you’re going to be punished for, or not rewarded for, like that definitely plays in the mind, whether you want it to or not, that’s a reality.”

During the same controversy, former MSNBC producer Jeff Cohen published an article in Salon titled “Memo to mainstream journalists: Can the phony outrage; Bernie is right about bias” in which he described the same “groupthink” experience:

“It happens because of groupthink. It happens because top editors and producers know — without being told — which issues and sources are off limits. No orders need be given, for example, for rank-and-file journalists to understand that the business of the corporate boss or top advertisers is off-limits, short of criminal indictments.

No memo is needed to achieve the narrowness of perspective — selecting all the usual experts from all the usual think tanks to say all the usual things. Think Tom Friedman. Or Barry McCaffrey. Or Neera Tanden. Or any of the elite club members who’ve been proven to be absurdly wrong time and again about national or global affairs.”

Matt Taibbi also jumped into the controversy to highlight the media groupthink effect, publishing an article with Rolling Stone about the way journalists come to understand what will and will not elevate their mass media careers:

“Reporters watch as good investigative journalism about serious structural problems dies on the vine, while mountains of column space are devoted to trivialities like Trump tweets and/or simplistic partisan storylines. Nobody needs to pressure anyone. We all know what takes will and will not earn attaboys in newsrooms.”And it is probably worth noting here that Taibbi is no longer with Rolling Stone.”

4. Mass media employees who don’t comply with the groupthink get worn down and pressured out.

Journalists either learn how to do the kind of reporting that will advance their careers in the mass media, or they don’t learn and they either remain marginalized and unheard of or they get worn down and quit.

NBC reporter William Arkin resigned from the network in 2019, criticizing NBC in an open letter for being consistently “in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war,” and complaining that the network had begun “emulating the national security state itself.”

Arkin said he often found himself a “lone voice” in scrutinizing various aspects of the U.S. war machine, saying he “argued endlessly with MSNBC about all things national security for years.”

“We have contributed to turning the world national security into this sort of political story,” Arkin wrote. “I find it disheartening that we do not report the failures of the generals and national security leaders. I find it shocking that we essentially condone continued American bumbling in the Middle East and now Africa through our ho-hum reporting.”

Sometimes the pressure is much less subtle. Pulitzer-winning journalist Chris Hedges left The New York Timesafter being issued a formal written reprimand by the paper for criticizing the Iraq invasion in a speech at Rockford College, realizing that he would either have to stop speaking publicly about what he believed or he’d be fired.

“Either I muzzled myself to pay fealty to my career… or I spoke out and realized that my relationship with my employer was terminal,” Hedges said in 2013. “And so at that point I left before they got rid of me. But I knew that, you know, I wasn’t going to be able to stay.”

5. Mass media employees who step too far out of line get fired.

This measure doesn’t need to be applied often but happens enough for people with careers in media to get the message, like when Phil Donahue was fired from MSNBC for his opposition to the Bush administration’s warmongering in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion despite having the best ratings of any show on the network, or in 2018 when Temple University professor Marc Lamont Hill was fired from CNN for supporting freedom for Palestinians during a speech at the United Nations.  

[RELATED: How CN’s editor was fired from mainstream outlet for Iraq coverage: IRAQ 20 YEARS: Joe Lauria — Covering the ‘Vial Display’]

6. Mass media employees who toe the imperial line see their careers advance.

In his 2008 book War Journal: My Five Years in Iraq, NBC’s Richard Engel wrote that he did everything he could to get into Iraq because he knew it would provide a massive boost to his career, calling his presence there during the war his “big break”.

“In the run-up to the war, it was clear that Iraq was a land where careers were going to be made,” Engels wrote. “I sneaked into Iraq before the war because I thought the conflict would be the turning point in the Middle East, where I had already been living for seven years. As a young freelancer, I believed some reporters would die covering the Iraq war, and that others would make a name for themselves.”

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This gives a lot of insight into the way ambitious journalists think about climbing the career ladder in their field, and also into one reason why those types are so gung-ho about war all the time. If you know a war can advance your career, you’re going to hope it happens and do everything you can to facilitate it. The whole system is set up to elevate the absolute worst sort of people.

Engels is now NBC’s chief foreign correspondent, by the way.

7. With public and state-funded media, the influence is more overt.

So we’ve been talking about the pressures that are brought to bear on mass media employees in the plutocrat-run media, but what about mass media that aren’t owned by plutocrats, like NPR and the BBC?

Well, propaganda thrives in those institutions for more obvious reasons: their proximity to government powers. Right up into the 1990s the BBC was just letting MI5 outright vet its employees for “subversive” political activity, and only officially changed that policy when they got caught. 

NPR’s CEO John Lansing came directly out of the U.S. government’s official propaganda services, having previously served as the CEO of the U.S. Agency for Global Media — and he was not the first NPR executive with an extensive background in the U.S. state propaganda apparatus.

With U.S. government-owned outlets like Voice of America the control is even more overt than that. 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.”

8. Access journalism.

Krystal Ball touched on this one in her anecdote about MSNBC’s influential call from the Clinton camp above. Access journalism refers to the way media outlets and reporters can lose access to politicians, government officials and other powerful figures if those figures don’t perceive them as sufficiently sympathetic.

If someone in power decides they don’t like a given reporter they can simply decide to give their interviews to someone else who’s sufficiently sycophantic, or call on someone else at the press conference, or have conversations on and off the record with someone who kisses up to them a bit more. 

Depriving challenging interlocutors of access funnels all the prized news media material to the most obsequious brown-nosers in the press, because if you’ve got too much dignity to pitch softball questions and not follow up on ridiculous politician-speak word salad non-answers there’s always someone else who will.

This creates a dynamic where power-serving bootlickers are elevated to the top of the mainstream media, while actual journalists who try to hold power to account go unrewarded.

9. Getting fed “scoops” by government agencies looking to advance their information interests.

In Totalitarian Dictatorships, the government spy agency tells the news media what stories to run, and the news media unquestioningly publish it. In Free Democracies, the government spy agency says “Hoo buddy, have I got a scoop for you!” and the news media unquestioningly publish it.

One of the easiest ways to break a major story on national security or foreign policy these days is to get entrusted with a “scoop” by one or more government officials — on condition of anonymity of course — which just so happens to make the government look good and/or make its enemies look bad and/or manufacture consent for this or that agenda.

This of course amounts to simply publishing press releases for the White House, the Pentagon or the U.S. intelligence cartel, since you’re just uncritically repeating some unverified thing that an official handed you and disguising it as news reporting. But it’s a practice that’s becoming more and more common in western “journalism” as the need to distribute propaganda about Washington’s cold war enemies in Moscow and Beijing increases.

Some notorious recent examples of this are The New York Times‘ completely discredited report that Russia was paying Taliban-linked fighters to kill U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan, and The Guardian‘s completely discredited report that Paul Manafort paid visits to Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy.

Both were simply falsehoods that the mass media were fed by intelligence operatives who were trying to seed a narrative in the public consciousness, which they then repeated as fact without ever disclosing the names of those who fed them the false story. Another related example is U.S. officials admitting to NBC last year — again under cover of anonymity — that the Biden administration had simply been feeding lies about Russia to the media in order to win an “information war” against Putin.

This dynamic is similar to the one in access journalism in that outlets and reporters who’ve proven themselves sympathetic and uncritical parrots of the government narratives they are fed are the ones most likely to be fed them, and therefore the ones to get the “scoop”.

We caught a whiff of what this looks like from the inside when acting C.I.A. director under the Obama administration Mike Morell testified that he and his intelligence cartel cohorts had initially planned to seed their disinfo op about the Hunter Biden laptop to a particular unnamed reporter at The Washington Post, whom they presumably had a good working relationship with.

Another twist on the intelligence cartel “scoop” dynamic is the way government officials will feed information to a reporter from one outlet, and then reporters from another outlet will contact those very same officials and ask them if the information is true, and then all outlets involved will have a public parade on Twitter proclaiming that the report has been “confirmed”. Nothing about the story was verified as true in any way; it was just the same story being told by the same source to different people.

10. Class interests.

The more a mass media employee goes along with the imperial groupthink, follows the unwritten rules and remains unthreatening to the powerful, the higher up the media career ladder they will climb. The higher up the career ladder they climb, the more money they will often find themselves making. Once they find themselves in a position to influence a very large number of people, they are a part of a wealthy class which has a vested interest in maintaining the political status quo which lets them keep their fortune.

This can take the form of opposing anything resembling socialism or political movements that might make the rich pay more taxes, as we saw in the virulent smear campaigns against progressive figures like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn.

It can also take the form of encouraging the public to fight a culture war so that they won’t start fighting a class war. It can also take the form of making one more supportive of the empire more generally, because that’s the status quo your fortune is built on.

It can also take the form of making one more sympathetic to politicians, government officials, plutocrats and celebrities as a whole, because that class is who your friends are now; that’s who you’re hanging out with, going to the parties and the weddings of, drinking with, laughing with, schmoozing with.

Class interests dance with the behavior of journalists in multiple ways because, as both Glenn Greenwald and Matt Taibbi have noted, journalists in the mass media are increasingly coming not from working-class backgrounds but from wealthy families, and have degrees from expensive elite universities.

The number of journalists with college degrees skyrocketed from 58 percent in 1971 to 92 percent in 2013. If your wealthy parents aren’t paying that off for you then you’ve got crushing student debt that you need to pay off yourself, which you can only do in the field you studied in by making a decent amount of money, which you can only do by acting as a propagandist for the imperial establishment in the ways we’ve been discussing.

Universities themselves tend to play a status quo-serving, conformity-manufacturing role when churning out journalists, as wealth won’t flow into an academic environment that is offensive to the wealthy. Moneyed interests are unlikely to make large donations to universities which teach their students that moneyed interests are a plague upon the nation, and they are certainly not going to send their kids there.

11. Think tanks.

The Quincy Institute has a new study out which found that a staggering 85 percent of the think tanks cited by the news media in their reporting on U.S. military support for Ukraine have been paid by literal Pentagon contractors.

“Think tanks in the United States are a go–to resource for media outlets seeking expert opinions on pressing public policy issues,” writes Quincy Institute’s Ben Freeman.

“But think tanks often have entrenched stances; a growing body of research has shown that their funders can influence their analysis and commentary. This influence can include censorship — both self-censorship and more direct censoring of work unfavorable to a funder — and outright pay–for–research agreements with funders. The result is an environment where the interests of the most generous funders can dominate think tank policy debates.”

This is journalistic malpractice. It is never, ever in accord with journalistic ethics to cite war profiteer-funded think tanks on matters of war, militarism or foreign relations, but the western press do it constantly, without even disclosing this immense conflict of interest to their audience.

Western journalists cite empire-funded think tanks because they generally align with the empire-approved lines that a mass media stenographer knows they can advance their career by pushing, and they do it because doing so gives them an official-looking “expert” “source” to cite while proclaiming more expensive war machinery needs to be sent to this or that part of the world or what have you.

But in reality there’s only one story to be found in such citations: “War Industry Supports More War.”

The fact that war profiteers are allowed to actively influence media, politics and government bodies through think tanks, advertising and corporate lobbying is one of the most insane things happening in our society today. And not only is it allowed, it’s seldom even questioned.

12. The Council on Foreign Relations.

It should probably also be noted here that the Council on Foreign Relations is a profoundly influential think tank which counts a jarring number of media executives and influential journalists among its membership, a dynamic which gives think tanks another layer of influence in the media.

In 1993 former Washington Post senior editor and ombudsman Richard Harwood approvingly described CFR as “the nearest thing we have to a ruling establishment in the United States.”

Harwood writes:

“The membership of these journalists in the council, however they may think of themselves, is an acknowledgment of their active and important role in public affairs and of their ascension into the American ruling class. They do not merely analyze and interpret foreign policy for the United States; they help make it. Their influence, Jon Vanden Heuvel speculates in an article in the Media Studies Journal, is likely to increase now that the Cold War has ended: ‘By focusing on particular crises around the world {the media are in a better position} to pressure government to act.'”

13. Advertising.

In 2021 Politico was caught publishing fawning apologia for top weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin at the same time Lockheed was sponsoring a Politico newsletter on foreign policy. Responsible Statecraft’s Eli Clifton wrote at the time:

“There’s a very blurry line between Politico’s financial relationship with the largest weapons firm in the United States, Lockheed Martin, and its editorial output. And that line may have just become even more opaque.

Last week, Responsible Statecraft’s Ethan Paul reported that Politico was scrubbing its archives of any reference to Lockheed Martin’s longtime sponsorship of the publication’s popular newsletter, Morning Defense. While evidence of Lockheed’s financial relationship with Politico was erased, the popular beltway outlet just published a remarkable puff piece about the company, with no acknowledgement of the longstanding financial relationship with Politico.

Politico didn’t respond to questions about whether Lockheed was an ongoing sponsor of the publication after last month when it scrubbed the defense giant’s ads or whether the weapons firm paid for what read largely-like an advertorial.

Politico’s Lee Hudson visited Lockheed’s highly secure, and mostly classified, Skunk Works research and development facility north of Los Angeles and glowingly wrote, “For defense tech journalists and aviation nerds, this is the equivalent of a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory, but think supersonic drones instead of Everlasting Gobstoppers.”

Ever wondered why you’ll see things like ads for Northrop Grumman during the Superbowl? Do you think anyone’s watching that ad saying “You know what? I’m gonna buy myself a stealth bomber”? Of course not.

The defense industry advertises in media all the time, and while it might not always get caught red-handed in blatant manipulation of news publications like Lockheed did with Politico, it’s hard to imagine that their money wouldn’t have a chilling effect on foreign policy reporting, and perhaps even give them some pull on editorial matters.

Like Jeff Cohen said above: the top advertisers are off limits.

14. Covert infiltration.

Just because a lot of the mass media’s propagandistic behavior can be explained without secret conspiracies doesn’t mean secret conspiracies aren’t happening. In 1977 Carl Bernstein published an article titled “The C.I.A. and the Media” reporting that the C.I.A. had covertly infiltrated America’s most influential news outlets and had over 400 reporters who it considered assets in a program known as Operation Mockingbird

We are told that this sort of covert infiltration doesn’t happen anymore today, but that’s absurd. Of course it does. People believe the C.I.A. no longer engages in nefarious behavior because they find it comfortable to believe that, not because there is any evidentiary basis for that belief.

There were no conditions which gave rise to Operation Mockingbird in the 1970s which aren’t also with us today. Cold war? That’s happening today. Hot war? That’s happening today. Dissident groups? Happening today. A mad scramble to secure U.S. domination and capital on the world stage? Happening today.

The C.I.A. wasn’t dismantled and nobody went to prison. All that’s changed is that news media now have more things for government operatives to toy with, like online media and social media. 

And indeed we have seen evidence that it happens today. Back in 2014 Ken Dilanian, now a prominent reporter for NBC, was caught intimately collaborating with the C.I.A. in his reporting and sending them articles for approval and changes before publication. In his emails with C.I.A. press handlers Dilanian is seen acting like a propagandist for the agency, talking about how he intended an article about C.I.A. drone strikes to be “reassuring to the public” and editing his reporting in accordance with their wishes.

Other potential C.I.A. assets include CNN’s Anderson Cooper, who interned with the agency, and Tucker Carlson, whose past features a highly suspicious amount of overlap with the C.I.A..

15. Overt infiltration.

Lastly, sometimes the mass media act like state propagandists because they are actual state propagandists. Back in Carl Bernstein’s day the C.I.A. had to secretly infiltrate the mass media; nowadays the mass media openly hire intelligence insiders to work among their ranks. 

Mass media outlets now openly employ intelligence agency veterans like John Brennan, James Clapper, Chuck Rosenberg, Michael Hayden, Frank Figliuzzi, Fran Townsend, Stephen Hall, Samantha Vinograd, Andrew McCabe, Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, Phil Mudd, James Gagliano, Jeremy Bash, Susan Hennessey, Ned Price and Rick Francona.

The mass media also commonly bring in “experts” to provide opinions on war and weapons who are direct employees of the military-industrial complex, without ever explaining that massive conflict of interest to their audience.

Last year Lever News published a report on the way the media had been bringing on U.S. empire managers who are currently working for war profiteer companies as part of their life in the DC swamp’s revolving door between the public and private sector and presenting them as impartial pundits on the war in Ukraine. 

So as you can see, the news media are subject to pressures from every conceivable angle on every relevant level which push them toward functioning not as reporters, but as propagandists. This is why the employees of the western mass media act like PR agents for the western empire and its component parts: because that’s exactly what they are.

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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24 comments for “Caitlin Johnstone: 15 Reasons Why Media Don’t Do Journalism

  1. Anon
    June 7, 2023 at 09:24

    Tnx all… important!
    Ironic our access point 4 unfortunately rare counter reporting (in part at least) founded by US military, the very govt branch overpaying cited contractors for mostly expendable war ware.
    Ultimate bill covered by US taxpayers.
    The info is out there… enlightened cits just hafta slog thru mass BS [or tune to This Channel] to find it!

  2. Tony
    June 7, 2023 at 08:25

    Very good article.

    But let us also consider books.
    They can cost a lot of money to research and the authors rarely tell us who funds them.

    Once an author has written a book, it may well be reviewed in newspapers. The author may well be considered an authority on the subject covered in the book and will appear in discussions on news shows or in documentaries.

    And so, books are very important too in helping to shape public opinion.

  3. Carl Zaisser
    June 7, 2023 at 05:16

    Caitlin’s last two pieces on media which appeared in Consortium, as well as her other excellent progressive articles exposing Washington’s agenda, qualify her for candidacy in the non-existent ‘Progressive Journalism Hall of Fame’, along with Assange, Chomsky, Upton Sinclair…and the many others we know and read. I’m going to send her some money. Thank you, Caitlin.

  4. CaseyG
    June 6, 2023 at 21:14

    Sometimes it’s so hard to believe anything. Yes, something is truly wrong with what America has become.
    I do take solace in that poem though:

    “Do not go gentle into that good night, rage— rage—- against the dying of the light.”

  5. Charles A. Clarkson
    June 6, 2023 at 14:59

    Wonderful and insightful piece!

  6. Rudy Haugeneder
    June 6, 2023 at 14:49

    Totally and absolutely TRUE, not only at the national and international level, but locally as well since most so-called reporters refuse to challenge developers and businesses that knowingly cheat but who can pull their advertising dollars in an instant, meaning the media company’s profits take a hit and that’s something media owners won’t stand for, not for a second. For example, Victoria, BC, Canada, media is a classic example and continues to be. Journalism is, to use a commonly used word, “fake”. I know, I am a retired so-called journalist who watched this for decades in Canada and elsewhere. And it is, as Caitlin says, getting worse and worse. But what the heck, most people outside the tiny minority who read this stuff, really don’t remotely care and are unlikely to care.

  7. vinnieoh
    June 6, 2023 at 11:35

    Of course Caitlin, all true, and I’m glad to see your encompassing look at it. The Media are the fully owned subsidiary of – everything else.

    “…Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day…”

    My oldest son wanted to go into broadcasting (sports) when he was in HS. I vigorously discouraged that because I believe that No. 3 from above is now almost too pervasive to resist. And then there’s No.s 4, 5, and 6. Didn’t want to turn on the TV and someday see my son bald-face lying in public.

    Those same social/employment factors operate outside of media also. I was virtually bounced out of my job because I was “not ideologically on-board.” I remember trying to talk to fellow employees about “things” outside the scope of “allowed” discussion and how panicked some of them looked, worrying that someone else might witness them allowing heresy to be spoken in their presence.

    Wadda they call it? – Inverted totalitarianism?

  8. Francis Lee
    June 6, 2023 at 08:15

    ”Groupthink, as initially suggested by, William Whyte, author of the ‘Organization Man’ and further developed by the psychologist Irving Janis, describes a process where a group with similar backgrounds and largely insulated from outside operations without critically testing, analysing and evaluating their ideas. It involves collective rationalisations, conviction about the inherent morality of their respect outlooks, and the illusions and unanimity and vulnerability. The group holds stereotypical views of outsiders and brooks no toleration of dissent.” Satyajit Das – Extreme Money”. first published in 2011.

    Moreover, what has become normal practice in the media/state sector (see above) is if anything even more pronounced in the financial sector. Thus, finance involves a gravitational shift inside capitalism towards the needs of the finance sector, which has steadily grown in size and power. A growing global ‘Wall of Money” is constantly seeking and finding new ways to borrow into many nooks and crannies of our economies and our political systems injecting debt and into corporate and housing markets. This global transformation is being accompanied by its ideological cousin, neoliberalism, which has encouraged governments to wrench large parts from what had been regarded as the public sector from government control and feed them to increasingly financialised private sector.

  9. June 5, 2023 at 22:08

    Excellent and incredibly accurate discussion of the newsroom dynamics.

    Missing, however, are several major players that can be said to influence the establishment narrative: the three largest index funds — BlackRock, StateStreet, and Vanguard. They are among the top four financial institutions that control the voting shares of most of the media corporations that own the majority of newspapers, magazines, book publishers, motion-picture studios and television stations.

    The voting shares they control include Disney, which owns ABC; Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS), parent of CBS and book publisher Simon & Schuster; Comcast Corp., owner of NBC Universal, CNBC, MSNBC, and Telemundo; and Warner Bros. Discovery, owner of CNN.

    Vanguard and BlackRock represent the largest institutional share ownership of The New York Times and Gannett, publisher of more than 100 daily U.S. newspapers, including USA Today, and nearly 1,000 weeklies.

    BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street and a Fidelity-related company are among the top five institutional shareholders of Google (Alphabet) and Facebook (Meta Platforms), which together account for more than 70% of users directed to the websites of major news organizations, essentially controlling what is read, viewed and heard.

    And Vanguard, BlackRock and State Street are among the top four shareholders in media companies such as Facebook, Alphabet’s YouTube, and Twitter.

  10. RWilson
    June 5, 2023 at 21:38

    Caitlin explains well how reporters and editors in the corporate media are coerced into a “group think”. They are all cowardly con artists obeying their bosses.

    But why are their lies identical across all the MSM outlets? If they were independent liars driven by a variety of factors, there would be a noticeable variety in their lies. Instead there is an unbroken sameness. This implies a highly coordinated lying operation. Which implies a central. coordinating entity.

    Further, this highly coordinated media lying has been tightly coordinated with a spectrum of criminal activities. This implies that the coordinating entity behind the MSM is also behind these various criminal activities.

    For example, the MSM has consistently covered up the apartheid, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, mass murders, and land thefts of Israel for decades. This suggests a tight coordination between the people behind the MSM and those behind Israel’s crimes.

    Similarly, MSM lies were tightly coordinated with the “official” lies tricking Americans into the war in Iraq. And the war in Afghanistan. And now they are tightly coordinated with the many “official” lies about the “American” attack on Russia.

    Emerging evidence is pointing to similar coordinated lying about the recent pandemic and the 2008 Great Recession.

    Overall, this pattern of evidence strongly implies a coordinating entity that does not have Americans’ best interests at heart. In fact, it suggests an entity that is an enemy of the American people. It suggests an enemy that has stealthily infiltrated the Establishment, and taken over key levers of control

    Now we are in an insane, escalating war with Russia, and the main reason given is “Russia’s unprovoked aggression”. This is a lie so blatant that any modestly aware person should be ashamed to parrot it.

  11. June 5, 2023 at 18:06

    Interesting and valid points, which, not surprisingly, coincide with the corporate media’s relationship with the Democratic Party, which can do no wrong, versus the GOP, which can do nothing right unless its critical of Donald Trump, but most important of all, with how it murders independent and third-party political movements through a combination of distortion, calumny, outright lies and whenever possible murder by silence. Something else to consider.

  12. bardamu
    June 5, 2023 at 17:39

    I turned the stations off. I started leaving the NYT at the news stand in 2003. That felt pretty good for a start, though for a while I had to circle back and catch Tucker Carlsen on the Net because he interviewed valuable people. As stage 2, I stopped buying advertised products–not as a boycott or a strike, exactly, but permanently.

    People who work in long supply chains get driven by economic pressures to do all sorts of things that end-of-the-line retail consumers have almost no way of checking. I try to not support them. If you don’t like people poisoning farm workers or your food, it helps to have chickens out back and squash and beans in the garden, under nut and fruit trees.

    I work online now for US dollars to pay taxes, for amenities, for some variety: I don’t mean to make a religious doctrine of any of this. But I doubt I go back; things get easier and more pleasant all the time. In a few years, I might be able to park the car permanently and quit worrying about breaking my neck in a collision or killing some kid at a crosswalk or jumping out from between parked cars.

    The better changes happen one by one and a little bit at a time, but one tends to facilitate the next. I cannot readily jump off grid at once, so all of these measures are fraught with compromise, and by now most of you have compromises tougher than my own.

    All the ills of society require participation–if not yours, someone’s. The dollar you spend circles around just outside your judgement, mostly looking for the cheapest bribe: people are more or less acting nicely when they are not paid to act otherwise.

    If you spend with someone nice, your money benefits you twice. Nothing of yours belongs to Caesar. You need not covet his, but it’s high time we did not render him anything else. Push media is dying: let it.

  13. Robert Emmett
    June 5, 2023 at 16:56

    These are all good reasons (as far as I could read, couldn’t stomach all 15 at once). So, will someone please ‘splain it to me like I’m a 12 year old why, along with purportedly more widespread disenchantment, let’s say (to practice kindness) with corporate mass media there also isn’t more widespread un-use (for lack of a better word) of them, their products & those of their major sponsors?

    How hard can it be for mass disengagement from WaPo, NYT, CNN, MSNBC, WSJ, etc. etc. etc. to occur? Yes, leave it to “actual journalists who try to hold power to account” to track what the major media are saying as a matter of actual news or not-news reporting. But why exactly (like I’m a 12 year old remember) can’t a mass public simply turn our back to mass media (you know, the one that’s part & parcel within the MICIMATT) while, to whatever extent we can manage, we also aim to turn off their corporate revenue stream?

    You don’t think they pay attention to money? We know they don’t pay attention to us. So, why don’t free thinking people, in return, just not pay them any attention anymore? Or buy anything from them?

    It’s not as if an entire mostly modern, bourgeois, highly mobile, high tech, highly informed (sorry, begins to sound like the start of a half-assed, stuttering nazi salute, high high high … your hiney!); so it’s not as if such a high falutin’ society turns out to be mostly a bunch of brainwashed newszombies, is it?

    Turn it off. Shut it down.

    • Valerie
      June 6, 2023 at 03:35

      “Kill your TV”

  14. Susan Siens
    June 5, 2023 at 16:24

    And then there’s STUPID and VENAL. Most of the people I see spouting nonsense on TV are very young and make it obvious they learned no history, no politics, nothing about the past or the society they live in. They’re so stupid they cannot pronounce common words correctly or use proper grammar. But they get to be on TV, making sure their hair and makeup are perfect (and, yes, most of them are young women).

    • RWilson
      June 5, 2023 at 21:49

      Well put. I’ve also noticed that trend.

      I once met a young woman whose ambition was to be a news reader on TV. She specifically did not want to be a reporter, but a news reader!

      “You will know nothing and be happy.”

  15. John Barth jr.
    June 5, 2023 at 16:17

    Excellent observations, Caitlin, much of it also applicable to the tribalist groupthink within the military, MIC, political parties, government branches and agencies, professions, nations, ethnicities, religions, and villages.

  16. Bob Newly
    June 5, 2023 at 15:49

    Great article, thank you.

    I’m not one to look back with rose colored glass, but I don’t recall the Western media ever being in such rigid lock-step as now, especially relative to the Ukraine War. Even the US invasion of Iraq had prominent media dissidents such as the LA Times, and certainly major European news outlets.

    Case in point; the battle of Bakmut was news fodder for months, nearly all articles parroting Kiev’s assertions that they were winning big. But when Russia took the city, silence, nothing, zip. Then, a week later, stories surfaced among the usual suspects with titles like; Russia can’t hold the city, it was a blood bath (for the Russians of course) and plenty of articles pointing everywhere and anywhere but Bakhut.

    The propaganda is raw, babies-on-bayonet stuff. Sadly, it works.

  17. Christian Chuba
    June 5, 2023 at 15:20

    #15 is especially galling because the full time hosts brag about their ex-CIA / State Dept guys as they introduce the next segment. ‘And now we have former [CIA chief, State Dept Spokesman] to talk about [some country they attacked for years while in govt].’

  18. Larry McGovern
    June 5, 2023 at 14:03

    Thank you, Caitlin Johnstone, for this brilliant article. It does a wonderful job of putting a lot of “meat on the bones” of what my brother, former CIA analyst, Ray McGovern, explains as the “expansion” of Eisenhower’s Military Industrial Complex into the MICIMATT, the Military Industrial Congressional MEDIA Academia Think Tank Complex. MEDIA is in all-caps, since it is the lynchpin, as this article makes clear.

    Not sure which one of the “15 Reasons” this fits into, but certainly related is how James Risen, then with The NY Times in 2004, before the presidential election, had discovered the NSA and telephone companies’ illegal surveillance of communications. The Times editors went to the Bush White House before publishing and agreed to deep six the story, thereby depriving the electorate of important information before the election. And it was only a year later, when Risen informed his bosses that a book he wrote on the subject was about to be published, that the Times finally ran the story, rather than be embarrassed. Imagine if the Times had gone to the Nixon White House for permission to publish The Pentagon Papers!

  19. Valerie
    June 5, 2023 at 12:07

    No. 10 Rachel Maddow – $2.5 million per month. Is that a misprint?

  20. June 5, 2023 at 10:30

    MONEY! Real reporting costs money and there’s a lot more money to be had feeding people what they want to hear.

  21. Boss Hogg
    June 5, 2023 at 10:23

    Sadly, only one reason is needed … and it is spelled BOSS.

    A small handful of corporations control what you see, read and hear. It used to be numbered at 6, but that’s an old number, so today I just say ‘small handful’.

    Anyone who has served time in the corporate world knows there is one rule. Do what the BOSS says. If you don’t, you certainly will not advance with promotions up the corporate elevator. If you don’t do what the BOSS says, you probably won’t even last long and the BOSS will find someone else who is less trouble than you. In fact, in the feudal corporate hierarchy, an employee has to also worry about what the BOSS’s BOSS thinks, as being spotted as a ‘potential troublemaker’ at that level can also be a career-killer in the corporate world. The Fed is crashing the economy just to make sure there are lots of desperate people ready to replace you.

    The corporations are out for themselves. The BOSS’ BOSS’ BOSS will make sure your BOSS gets the message. And the employee’s BOSS will enforce this if they want to have any further corporate career and advancement. Nobody in that corporate hierarchy sees any value in doing ‘journalism’. Journalism is not good for the bottom line, and the bottom line and pleasing the BOSS are what corporate wage-slavery are all about.

    Back before Hollywood got completely under corporate control, they warned of this with a good, award-winning movie called ‘Network’ released in 1976. That’s how long the corporate BOSS (played with memorable excellence by Ned Beatty in the flick) have been attacking journalism in the search for Profit and Power.

    If you don’t like the result, then open your window and yell “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” But, since ‘journalism’ has been dead in the corporate owned media going back to Reagan, please stop writing about how corporations don’t do journalism like this is some kind of newsflash.

    • RWilson
      June 5, 2023 at 21:53

      A key point. That’s the mechanism by which control flows from the Godfather to the soldiers.

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