In its attempt to redirect the public’s attention from its historic failure to deliver unbiased, objective, factual reporting in the context of the presidential election in which virtually every single mainstream media outlet was revealed (courtesy of the hacked Podesta emails) and acted as a Public Relations arm for the Clinton campaign, said media has opened a new can of worms by ushering in the topic of “fake news” – a purposefully vague, undefined term meant to deflect and scapegoat by “exposing” propaganda websites, which in the latest incarnation of the narrative, are now allegedly serving to further Russian propaganda in the US.
As we reported earlier, none other than the Washington Post – a company owned by Jeff Bezos, who for the past year has been involved in a famous media spat with president-elect Donald Trump – pounced on a list created by a website that was created (according to its whois profile) on August 21 using godaddy.com as registrar and had its first tweet on November 2, and which among others, lists Drudge Report and Zero Hedge as representatives of “Russian propaganda.” This is how the “scientists” at the Goebbels-esque “PropOrNot” describe their qualifications in determining and recommending which websites are fit to be burned (starting with a plea for investigations by the Obama administration) in a post “fake news” world:
PropOrNot is an independent team of computer scientists, statisticians, national security professionals, journalists, and political activists dedicated to identifying propaganda – particularly Russian propaganda targeting a US audience. We collect public-record information connecting propaganda outlets to each other and their coordinators abroad, analyze what we find, act as a central repository and point of reference for related information, and organize efforts to oppose it.
We work to shine a light on propaganda in order to prevent it from distorting political and policy discussions, to strengthen our cultural immune systems against hostile influence, and to improve public discourse generally.
Many of our contributors wish to stay anonymous, in light of possible Russian retaliation, as has happened in Finland and elsewhere.
In other words, while attacking the anonymity of so-called “Russian propaganda” websites (websites which chose to remain anonymous knowing this kind of retaliation was inevitable), the public servants and experts devoted to rooting out Russian propaganda in the US opt, themselves, to remain anonymous.
To be sure, we have no interest in uncovering who may be behind this particular organization (which conveniently stepped in after a similar list was floated last week by a discredited liberal professor, who likewise defined Zero Hedge as “fake news”). We do, want, however to warn readers about who the real source of documented fake news in the US traditionally has been. The US government itself, through its vast espionage and counterespionage apparatus.
But please don’t take our word for it.
Back in 1975, the United States Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities found in 1975 that the CIA submitted stories to the American press and that as part of the CIA’s playbook was the usage of disinformation tactics against America’s own population:
Question: “Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to a major circulation — American journal?”
Answer: “We do have people who submit pieces to American journals.”
Question: “Do you have any people paid by the CIA who are working for television networks?”
Answer: “This I think gets into the kind of uh, getting into the details Mr. Chairman that I’d like to get into in executive session.”
Question: “Do you have any people being paid by the CIA who are contributing to the national news services — AP and UPI?”
Answer: “Well again, I think we’re getting into the kind of detail Mr. Chairman that I’d prefer to handle at executive session.”
One can imagine what was said later during the “executive session.” Then-CBS President Sig Mickelson goes on to say that the relationships at CBS with the CIA were long established before he ever became president, and that “entirely in order for correspondents to make use of CIA station chiefs and other members of the executive staff of CIA as sources of information.”
“I thought that it was a matter of real concern that planted stories intended to serve a national purpose abroad came home and were circulated here and believed here because this would mean that the CIA could manipulate the news in the United States by channeling it through some foreign country,” Democratic Idaho Senator Frank Church said at a press conference surrounding the hearing. Church chaired the Church Committee, a precursor to the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was responsible for investigating illegal intelligence gathering by the NSA, CIA and FBI.
This exact tactic — planting disinformation in foreign media outlets so the disinfo would knowingly surface in the United States as a way of circumventing the rules on domestic operations — was specifically argued for as being legal simply because it did not originate on U.S. soil by none other than CIA Director William Casey in 1981.
Former President Harry S. Truman, who oversaw the creation of the CIA in 1947 when he signed the National Security Act, later wrote that he never intended the CIA for more than intelligence gathering. “I never had any thought that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak and dagger operations,” Truman penned in 1963 a year after the disastrous CIA Bay of Pigs operation.
Of course, there was also the whole “Operation Mockingbird” fiasco:
“After 1953, the network was overseen by Allen W. Dulles, director of the CIA. By this time, Operation Mockingbird had a major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. The usual methodology was placing reports developed from intelligence provided by the CIA to witting or unwitting reporters. Those reports would then be repeated or cited by the preceding reporters which in turn would then be cited throughout the media wire services. The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) was funded by siphoning off funds intended for the Marshall Plan [i.e. the rebuilding of Europe by the U.S. after WWII]. Some of this money was used to bribe journalists and publishers.”
As contributor “George Washington” adds, In 2008, the New York Times wrote:
During the early years of the cold war, [prominent writers and artists, from Arthur Schlesinger Jr. to Jackson Pollock] were supported, sometimes lavishly, always secretly, by the C.I.A. as part of its propaganda war against the Soviet Union. It was perhaps the most successful use of “soft power” in American history.
A CIA operative told then-Washington Post owner – yes, ironic – Philip Graham the following, in a conversation about the willingness of journalists to peddle CIA propaganda and cover stories:
You could get a journalist cheaper than a good call girl, for a couple hundred dollars a month.
Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein wrote in 1977:
More than 400 American journalists … in the past twenty?five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters.
In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were [the heads of CBS, Time, the New York Times, the Louisville Courier?Journal, and Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include [ABC, NBC, AP, UPI, Reuters], Hearst Newspapers, Scripps?Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald?Tribune.
In November 1973, after [the CIA claimed to have ended the program], Colby told reporters and editors from the New York Times and the Washington Star that the Agency had “some three dozen” American newsmen “on the CIA payroll,” including five who worked for “general?circulation news organizations.” Yet even while the Senate Intelligence Committee was holding its hearings in 1976, according to high?level CIA sources, the CIA continued to maintain ties with seventy?five to ninety journalists of every description—executives, reporters, stringers, photographers, columnists, bureau clerks and members of broadcast technical crews. More than half of these had been moved off CIA contracts and payrolls but they were still bound by other secret agreements with the Agency. According to an unpublished report by the House Select Committee on Intelligence, chaired by Representative Otis Pike, at least fifteen news organizations were still providing cover for CIA operatives as of 1976.
Those officials most knowledgeable about the subject say that a figure of 400 American journalists is on the low side …. “There were a lot of representations that if this stuff got out some of the biggest names in journalism would get smeared” ….
How ironic that in the end it was the Washington Post itself which would get smeared.
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An expert on propaganda testified under oath during trial that the CIA now employs THOUSANDS of reporters and OWNS its own media organizations. Whether or not his estimate is accurate, it is clear that many prominent reporters still report to the CIA.
A 4-part BBC documentary called the “Century of the Self” shows that an American – Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays – created the modern field of manipulation of public perceptions, and the U.S. government has extensively used his techniques.
Former Newsweek and Associated Press reporter Robert Parry notes that Ronald Reagan and the CIA unleashed a propaganda campaign in the 1980’s to sell the American public on supporting the Contra rebels, utilizing private players such as Rupert Murdoch to spread disinformation. Parry notes that many of the same people that led Reagan’s domestic propaganda effort in the 1980’s are in power today:
While the older generation that pioneered these domestic propaganda techniques has passed from the scene, many of their protégés are still around along with some of the same organizations. The National Endowment for Democracy, which was formed in 1983 at the urging of CIA Director Casey and under the supervision of Walter Raymond’s NSC operation, is still run by the same neocon, Carl Gershman, and has an even bigger budget, now exceeding $100 million a year.
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Perhaps the most damning evidence, as highlighted by @pierpont_morgan, can be found inside the Final report of the abovementioned Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, published in Aptil, 1976, in which several sections stand out.
One admits explicitly how the press had been extensively captured by the CIA and how dozens of American journalists collaborated with the CIA to fabricate, create and distribute fake news:
The Committee has also found a small number of past relationships that fit this category. In some cases the cover arrangement consisted of reimbursing the U.S. newspaper for any articles by the CIA agent which the paper used. In at least one case the journalistic functions assumed by a CIA staff officer for cover purposes grew to a point where the officer concluded that he could not satisfactorily serve the requirements of both his (unwitting) U.S. media employers and the CIA, and therefore resigned from the CIA. He maintained contact, however, with the CIA and continued, very occasionally, to report to the CIA from the countries in which he worked.
(2) Of the less than ten relationships with writers for small, or limited circulation, U.S. publications, such as trade journals or newsletters, most are for cover purposes.
(3) The third, and largest, category of CIA relationships with the U.S. media includes free-lance journalists; “stringers” for newspapers, news magazines and news services; itinerant authors; propaganda writers; and agents working under cover as employees of U.S. publishing houses abroad. With the exception of the last group, the majority of the individuals in this category are bona fide writers or journalists or photographers. Most are paid by the CIA, and virtually all are witting; few, however, of the news organizations to which they contribute are aware of their CIA relationships.
(4) The fourth category of covert relationships resembles the kind of contact that journalists have with any other department of the U.S. Government in the routine performance of their journalistic duties. No money changes hands. The relationships are usually limited to occasional lunches, interviews, or telephone conversations during which information would be exchanged or verified. The difference, of course, is that the relationships are covert. The journalist either volunteers or is requested by the CIA to provide some sort of information about people with whom he is in contact. In several cases, the relationship began when the journalist approached a U.S. embassy officer to report that he was approached by a foreign intelligence officer ; in others, the CIA initiated the relationship.
Another section of the report focuses on how the CIA co-opted academics, reporting that “the Central Intelligence Agency is now using several hundred American academics who in addition to providing leads and, on occasion, making introductions for intelligence purposes, occasionally write books and other material to be used for propaganda purposes abroad.Beyond these, an additional few score are used in an unwitting manner for minor activities.
These academics are located in over 100 American colleges, universities, and related institutes. At the majority of institutions, no one other than the individual concerned is aware of the CIA link. At the others, at least one university official is aware of the operational use made of academics on his campus. In addition, there are several American academics abroad who serve operational purposes, primarily the collection of intelligence.
There is also the admission that the CIA used books explicitly for propaganda purposes:
The Committee has found that the Central Intelligence Agency attaches a particular importance to book publishing activities as a form of covert propaganda. A former officer in the Clandestine Service stated that books are “the most important weapon of strategic (long-range) propaganda.” Prior to 1967, the Central Intelligence Agency sponsored, subsidized, or produced over 1,000 books; approximately 25 percent of them in English…. The Committee found that an important number of the books actually produced by the Central Intelligence Agency were reviewed and marketed in the United States.
Oh, the CIA particularly enjoyed using the NYT and Washington Post for “repeat propaganda” (from page 200 of the report):
CIA records for the September-October 1970 propaganda effort in Chile indicate that “replay” of propaganda in the U.S. was not unexpected. A cable summary for September 25, 1970 reports:
Sao Paulo, Tegucigalpa, Buenos Aires, Lima, Montevideo, Bogota, Mexico City report continued replay of Chile theme materials. Items also carried in New York Times, Washington Post. Propaganda activities continue to generate good coverage of Chile developments along our theme guidance. . .
And so on, and on, for over 670 pages of details how it was the CIA – not Russia, not Putin – that has been the primary creator and distributor of misleading, propaganda material in the US, also known as “fake news.”
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Of course, all of the above remains largely under the radar; it will never be branded “fake” news in a polite setting. Meanwhile, anyone who dares to challenges the status quo – as we have seen in recent days – is immediately labeled a purveyor of “fake news”, or worse – a servant of the Kremlin.
Contributor “George Washington” has some topical thoughts on this particular issue, noting that the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of the press from censorship by government. Indeed, the entire reason that it’s unlawful for the government to stop stories from being printed is because that would punish those who criticize those in power.
Why? Because the Founding Father knew that governments (like the British monarchy) will always crack down on those who point out that the emperor has no clothes.
But the freedom of the press is under massive attack in America today. For example, the powers-that-be argue that only highly-paid corporate media shills who will act as stenographers for the fatcats should have the constitutional protections guaranteeing freedom of the press.
A Harvard law school professor argues that the First Amendment is outdated and should be abandoned. When financially-savvy bloggers challenged the Federal Reserve’s policy, a Fed official called all bloggers stupid and unqualified to comment. And the government is treating the real investigative reporters like criminals … or even terrorists:
- The government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws (and here). For example, after Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing about bad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge
- In an effort to protect Bank of America from the threatened Wikileaks expose of the bank’s wrongdoing, the Department of Justice told Bank of America to a hire a specific hardball-playing law firm to assemble a team to take down WikiLeaks (and see this)
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With the (failing) mainstream media now desperate to focus the public’s attention to the fake “fake media” to divert attention from the real “fake media“, those Washington Posts and New York Times who have traditionally served as vessels for the government apparatus to brainwash the public, expect an even greater backlash as the American population realizes that none of this is actually new, and that it has always been the US government that was directly responsible for the blanket propaganda that has covered the US for decades: something which the government itself has confirmed on countless occasions in the past – one just needs to do the effort of stepping away from the information they are spoon-fed, and do their own research and analysis.
Which, incidentally, is what this latest round in the eternal war for information and influence, is all about.