The fall of the House of Murdoch
By Jonathan Schell
During the four decades since the Watergate affair engulfed US President Richard Nixon, politicians have repeatedly ignored the scandal’s main lesson: the cover-up is worse than the crime. Like Nixon, they have paid a higher price for concealing their misdeeds than they would have for the misdeeds alone.
Now, for once, comes a scandal that breaks that rule: the United Kingdom’s phone-hacking affair, which has shaken British politics to its foundations. Over the past decade, the tabloid newspaper The News of the World, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, targeted 4,000 people’s voicemail. The list includes not only royalty, celebrities, and other VIPs, but also the families of servicemen killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, and those of victims of the July 2005 terrorist attack in London.
It all unraveled when The Guardian reported that the tabloid had hacked into the voicemail of missing 13-year-old Milly Dowler, apparently in the hope of obtaining some private expressions of family members’ grief or desperation that it could splash on its front page. When the girl’s murdered body was found six months later, the family and the police thought she might still be alive, because The News of the World’s operatives were deleting messages when her phone’s mailbox became full. (According to Scotland Yard, Murdoch hacks reportedly bribed mid-level police officers to supply information as well.)
In the extensive annals of eavesdropping, all of this is something new. Not even Stalin wiretapped the dead.
A cover-up ensued. James Murdoch, Rupert’s son and Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation’s European and Asian operations, authorized a secret payment of £1 million ($1.6 million) to buy the silence of hacking victims. Millions of in-house emails reportedly have been destroyed. Still, it seems safe to say that the peculiarly repellant inhumanity of the original deeds will remain more shocking than the details of this or any other cover-up.
Even so, the political consequences of the phone-hacking scandal will depend on far more than the outcome of the official investigations now underway in Britain. Above all, the scandal’s impact will depend on how governments and citizens assess what News Corporation really is.
The Murdochs call News Corporation a journalistic enterprise. In fact, it is, first, an entertainment company, with the bulk of its revenue coming from its film and television holdings. Second, and more importantly, it is a propaganda machine for right-wing causes and political figures.
This is News Corporation’s main face in the U.S., in the form of Fox News, whose hallmark has been relentless propagation of right-wing ideology. Whereas political propaganda had once been the domain of governments and political parties, Fox News is formally independent of both - though it overwhelmingly serves the interests of America’s Republican Party.
In Britain, News Corporation has been creating a sort of state unto itself by corrupting the police, assuming police powers of surveillance, and intimidating politicians into looking the other way. In the U.S., it has behaved similarly, using corporate media power to breathe life into a stand-alone political organization, the Tea Party.
All of this is far removed from what a journalistic organization is supposed to do. Journalism’s essential role in a democracy is to enable people to fulfill their roles as citizens by providing information about government, other powerful institutions, civil movements, international events, and so on. But News Corporation replaces such journalism with titillation and gossip, as it did when it took over the 168-year-old News of the World and turned it into a tabloid in 1984, and with partisan campaigns, as it did when it created Fox News in 1996.
Not surprisingly, at Fox News, as at many other News Corporation outlets, editorial independence is sacrificed to iron-fisted centralized control. News and commentary are mingled in an uninterrupted stream of political campaigning. Ideology trumps factuality. And major Republican figures, including possible contenders for the party’s presidential nomination, are hired as “commentators.” Indeed, its specific genius has been to turn propaganda into a popular and financial success.
Given The News of the World’s profitability, no one should be surprised if the Murdochs have been replicating their sunken British flagship’s reprehensible behavior elsewhere. But, whatever else is revealed, the UK phone-hacking scandal is of a piece with the Murdochs’ transformation of news into propaganda: both reflect an assault on democracy’s essential walls of separation between media, the state, and political parties. The Murdochs are fusing these entities into a single unaccountable power that, as we see in Britain today, lacks any restraint or scruple.
That effort should compel us to confront an uncomfortable reality underlying both the British phone-hacking scandal, with its penumbra of appalling cruelty and wanton corruption, and Fox News, America’s most popular news channel: too many people want what the News Corporation has been offering. And what too many people want can be dangerous to a civilized, law-based society.
To glimpse just how dangerous, consider Italy, where Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s MediaSet conglomerate has seduced broad swathes of the electorate since the 1980’s with a Murdoch-like combination of insipid variety shows and partisan political theater. When Italy’s postwar party system collapsed in the early 1990’s, Berlusconi was able to establish his own political party, win power, and, over the course of three governments, bend laws and government institutions to serve his business and personal interests.
The News Corporation seems determined to take Britain and the US down a similar path. But now, at least in Britain, the political class is in revolt. Prime Minister David Cameron – who previously cultivated close ties with News Corporation leaders, even employing as his press secretary The News of the World’s former editor, who was recently arrested for his role in the scandal – called the phone hacking “disgusting.” Meanwhile, Labour leaders, who had also sought the Murdochs’ favor, have vowed to block News Corporation’s bid for full ownership of Britain’s largest pay-television broadcaster. Whether the rebellion will jump across the Atlantic remains to be seen.
The ESF’s Wurlitzer (Propaganda Machine) Is losing CREDIBILITY
California Progress Report reports that UK Media Scandal Reveals Weakness Of US Media.
UK Media Scandal Reveals Weakness Of US Media
Posted on 13 July 2011
By Dave Johnson
I am in the UK this week. You can barely turn on the TV here without hearing about the “phone-hacking” scandal from outraged voices across the spectrum. It is a full-blown, 24/7 scandal. The thing that might be most astonishing to Americans, though, is that people are hearing about it at all. In fact, news shows here in the UK are featuring people questioning the power and influence of Murdoch’s news operations and its relationships with politicians, and authorities are investigating criminal activities by the media. CAN YOU IMAGINE ANY OF THAT HAPPENING HERE?
England is in the middle of a full-blown, nation-engrossing scandal over the criminal behavior of Rupert Murdoch's media companies. There is a full-on media frenzy. There are police investigations. The Parliament is looking into things. The Prime Minister is appointing an investigative commission. People will be arrested and will go to jail if found guilty. Things are different in the UK from how they are in the US.
Initially the phone-hacking scandal was a little 2007 story about a Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid, News Of The World, that was involved in hacking into the voicemail messages of members of the royal family. The scandal bubbled around but wasn’t getting much coverage at all until July 4, when The Guardian broke the story that Murdoch's News Of The World had people hacking into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old murder victim who had disappeared in 2002. THE VOICEMAIL HACKERS DELETED MESSAGES FROM THE FULL MAILBOX SO THEY COULD GET MORE MESSAGES LEFT BY THE GIRL'S DISTRAUGHT MOTHER, THEREBY MAKING POLICE THINK THE DISAPPEARED GIRL WAS ALIVE, impeding the investigation and giving her family false hope.
This revelation outraged the public and brought focus on previous revelations. It also triggered numerous new revelations of criminal activity that went beyond News Of The World, beyond just phone-hacking and into all kinds of things including bribing police and operating with impunity at several other Murdoch-owned media outlets in the UK. The revelations have brought to public attention the cozy relationship between conservative government officials and Murdoch's organization, with the Conservative Prime Minister even employing the paper's Sunday editor - who had to have known about the paper's criminal activities - as his spokesperson. And the revelations continue, with new criminal activities disclosed at more and more Murdoch-owned outlets every day.
Murdoch tried to contain the scandal by closing News Of The World, but this gave the appearance if not the reality of a cover-up. There was speculation that the paper was involved in many more criminal activities that would have come to light if the paper remained open, and the closure was an effort to keep police from being able to serve search warrants, leading to accusations of a Watergate-style shredding operation at the closed paper's facilities.
Meanwhile the people at the top of Murdoch's empire continue collecting paychecks, while the employees of News Of The World are the casualties of the conservatives at the top of the operation. The people who did the work, staffed the offices and phones, ground out the paper every day, etc., are now on the street, without jobs, thanks to the criminal shenanigans of those at the top. Does this sound familiar? (Hint: Lehman Brothers, Enron, the entire US economy...)
Murdoch In The US Is FOX, WSJ and the New York Post
FOX News is a well-known Murdoch-owned outlet in the US. The New York Post is another. The Wall Street Journal is one more. The Journal's publisher is Les Hinton, who has worked with Murdoch for 52 years and who oversaw News Of The World before coming to the Wall Street Journal. In 2007 Hinton reassured an investigative committee of the British Parliament that an internal investigation of Murdoch's media outlets in the UK showed them to be operating within the law after the initial phone-hacking was discovered.
As Media Matters put it, "That's right: HINTON, WHO RAN THE SHOW FOR MURDOCH AS PHONE HACKING BECAME STANDARD OPERATING PROCEDURE, IS NOW PUBLISHER OF THE ONE OF THE LARGEST NEWSPAPERS IN THE U.S."
The story is beginning to reveal much about the power and influence of Murdoch's conservative media operations. It is showing very cozy relationships between Murdoch and conservative politicians who enjoy favorable coverage from his outlets. Of course, the immediate closing of a profitable newspaper also revealed that THE MURDOCH OPERATION SAW THE PAPER AS A PROPAGANDA OPERATION, NOT A BUSINESS.
So in the UK this scandal is breaking wide open, and is forcing a look at Murdoch's empire, its influence, its relationship with politicians, and the extent to which it maintains a culture of operating outside or above the law.
Not Like The US
This scandal was broken and pursued by persistent investigative journalism, the kind that is rarely funded by American corporate media these days. It involves the willingness of media organizations to look into the practices of other outlets. It also involves the willingness of some media outlets to question the coziness of conservative leaders and conservative media.
Coverage of the scandal reveals differences between the British and US media. It is shocking to see actual discussions on every news show about whether the media has gotten too close to politicians, and is providing them cover. There are very loud demands for investigations into criminal activity that has been exposed, coming from a diverse array of voices. There are media organizations criticizing their competition and questioning their practices. Compare all of this to the way American news outlets work now.
In the US there are winks and nods all the way around. "Journalists" understand which side their bread is buttered on and where the best career paths are found. Just when was the last time you saw, heard or read a representative of a labor organization explaining to people the benefits of joining a union? All can see that few rise in their career by questioning the practices of big corporations or Wall Street. None rise by questioning America's militarism or stratospheric military budget. But careers are harmed by going after certain interests in our country, while certainly no careers are harmed by going after liberals, environmentalists, or those who wish to protect consumers or working people or labor organizations.
Maybe this Murdoch scandal will bow up to the point where the unimaginable happens here… [This scandal WILL damage the credibility of US media, and a propaganda network without credibility is next to useless.]
The scandal is not over by a long shot
The Guardian reports that News Corp faces storm clouds ahead.
News Corp faces storm clouds ahead
Rupert Murdoch's company is taking steps to manage the fallout from the phone-hacking affair, but could it be too late?
guardian.co.uk, Friday 15 July 2011 18.32 BST
The News Corp chairman, Rupert Murdoch, seems to have lost his legendary sure footing as he deals with the crisis engulfing his company. Photograph: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
For an organisation that prides itself on an omnipotent sense of its readers and viewers' hopes and fears, NEWS CORPORATION'S RESPONSE TO THE PHONE-HACKING CRISIS HAS BEEN REMARKABLE FOR BEING SO BEHIND THE TIDE. [The ESF is being overwhelmed by problems]
Rebekah Brooks's resignation should have been accepted when she first apparently offered it, a week ago, instead of making the theatrical and ultimately futile gesture of sacrificing the News of the World.
James and Rupert Murdoch should have accepted the invitation to appear before MPs of the culture, media and sport select committee when it was first issued, instead of waiting to be threatened with a spell in the Tower of London after a dressing down by Speaker John Bercow at the bar of the House of Commons (the torture!).
Even now, with Saturday's apologia in the UK press, it is focused on its problems in Britain when BIGGER STORM CLOUDS ARE GATHERING IN THE US.
Les Hinton, the chief executive of Murdoch-owned Dow Jones, which houses the Wall Street Journal, who was executive chairman of News International when the News of the World was hacking the phones of anyone who found themselves within sniffing distance of a minor news story, faces scrutiny. Hinton's role in the settlements handed out to civil litigants such as Gordon Taylor, the former Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, whose silence over the potential crimes perpetrated against him was secured with a cheque for £700,000, is now being questioned.
Even more seriously, IF HINTON IS SHOWN TO HAVE KNOWN ABOUT CORRUPT PAYMENTS TO LONDON POLICE OFFICERS, THAT WOULD BE A FELONY in the US under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Worst of all for News Corp, the FBI has launched an investigation into accusations that NoW journalists asked a former New York police officer for the phone records of relatives of 9/11 victims. If that toxic allegation is shown to have been true, one thing is certain: Fox News is finished. The emotional supercharge of 9/11 in the US is many times greater than Milly Dowler in the UK – and look what happened here. In the US, even Republicans would join the clamour for News Corp to be stripped of the 27 federal licences it holds under the banner of the Fox Broadcasting Company network.
News Corp's US interests are significantly more valuable than its British and Australian operations; if the US business started to crumble, that would surely lead to the break-up of the company. It seems the corporation has belatedly woken up to the seriousness of the situation it faces. It has appointed Edelman, a global communications company that specialises in crisis management, to manage the volcanic-sized fallout on both sides of the Atlantic.
BUT IS IT ALL TOO LATE? The credibility of so many senior executives in News Corp is shot. James Murdoch's bid to lead the company after his father is surely in ruins. Rupert Murdoch may reputedly regard Rebekah Brooks as the "daughter he never had", but one of the four daughters he does have, Elisabeth, the smart one who made a soaraway success of her production company Shine, reportedly said the former NI chief executive had "fucked the company" – a report she has since denied.
With UK parliamentary hearings due next week, the hawks circling in the US, and Rupert Murdoch appearing to have lost his legendary sure footing and looking the sum of his 80 years, THE PROSPECTS FOR NEWS CORP ARE LOOKING GRIM. It must now be a serious prospect that the Murdoch brand has become so toxic that the company will have to be cleansed of the name that made it. The appointment of Tom Mockridge to run NI is the start of that process: expect to hear soon that Chase Carey will step up to the top spot at the global corporation.
One thing is clear: THERE IS MUCH MORE TO COME. Commentators have compared the crisis to Watergate; Carl Bernstein, the former Washington Post reporter whose revelations helped depose a US president, says it is evident to him the events of the past week "are the beginning, not the end, of the seismic event".
Whistleblower in Hacking Scandal Found Dead
The Salon reports on yet more News Corp. scandal updates.
Monday, Jul 18, 2011 17:30 ET
Yet more News Corp. scandal updates
A death, a mystery bag, a coverup and a dinner party argument
By Alex Pareene
So here's what's new since I last wrote about News Corp., a couple of hours ago:
Police found a "mystery bag" containing a computer, paperwork and phone in a trash can near the home of former News International head Rebekah Brooks. Her husband insists the mystery objects belong to him and have nothing to do with the phone-hacking case. We ... shall see?
Former News of the World reporter and phone-hacking whistle-blower Sean Hoare turned up dead at his home. "The death is currently being treated as UNEXPLAINED but not thought to be suspicious." I am not about to be conspiratorial about this, because I'm not Christopher Ruddy, but you know. Hmm!
And the New York Times goes big on the details of the massive coverup and the many attempts to deflect blame to scapegoats, which looked to be successful until, oh, last week. Les Hinton, former chief executive of Dow Jones, seems to have ... "misled" Parliament, as almost anyone could have guessed. Rebekah Brooks wanted a former editor who'd been fired and arrested paid a monthly stipend, to keep him quiet. The company destroyed computers and deleted emails! …
The scandal is exposing just how corrupted US media has become
New York Times reports that The Journal Becomes Fox-ified.
July 15, 2011
The Journal Becomes Fox-ified
By JOE NOCERA
It’s official. The Wall Street Journal has been Fox-ified.
It took Rupert Murdoch only three and a half years to get there, starting with the moment he acquired the paper from the dysfunctional Bancroft family in December 2007, a purchase that was completed after he vowed to protect The Journal’s editorial integrity and agreed to a (toothless) board that was supposed to make sure he kept that promise.
Fat chance of that. Within five months, Murdoch had fired the editor and installed his close friend Robert Thomson, fresh from a stint Fox-ifying The Times of London. The new publisher was Leslie Hinton, former boss of the division that published Murdoch’s British newspapers, including The News of the World. (He resigned on Friday.) Soon came the changes, swift and sure: shorter articles, less depth, an increased emphasis on politics and, weirdly, sometimes surprisingly unsophisticated coverage of business.
Along with the transformation of a great paper into a mediocre one came a change that was both more subtle and more insidious. The political articles grew more and more slanted toward the Republican party line. The Journal sometimes took to using the word “Democrat” as an adjective instead of a noun, a usage favored by the right wing. In her book, “War at The Wall Street Journal,” Sarah Ellison recounts how editors inserted the phrase “assault on business” in an article about corporate taxes under President Obama. The Journal was turned into a propaganda vehicle for its owner’s conservative views. That’s half the definition of Fox-ification.
The other half is that Murdoch’s media outlets must shill for his business interests. With the News of the World scandal, The Journal has now shown itself willing to do that, too.
As a business story, the News of the World scandal isn’t just about phone hacking and police bribery. It is about Murdoch’s media empire, the News Corporation, being at risk — along with his family’s once unshakable hold on it. THE OLD WALL STREET JOURNAL WOULD HAVE BEEN LEADING THE PACK IN PURSUIT OF THAT STORY.
Now? At first, THE JOURNAL IGNORED THE SCANDAL, even though, as the Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff pointed out in Adweek, it was front-page news all across Britain. Then, when the scandal was no longer avoidable, The Journal did just enough to avoid being accused of looking the other way. Blogging for Columbia Journalism Review, Dean Starkman, the media critic, described The Journal’s coverage as “obviously hamstrung, and far, far below the paper’s true capacity.”
On Friday, however, the coverage went all the way to craven. The paper published an interview with Murdoch that might as well have been dictated by the News Corporation public relations department. He was going to testify before Parliament next week, he told the Journal reporter, because “it’s important to absolutely establish our integrity.” Some of the accusations made in Parliament were “total lies.” The News Corporation had handled the scandal “extremely well in every way possible.” So had his son James, a top company executive. “When I hear something going wrong, I insist on it being put right,” he said. He was “getting annoyed” by the scandal. And “tired.” And so on.
In the article containing the interview, there was no pushback against any of these statements, even though several of them bordered on the delusional. The two most obvious questions — When did Murdoch first learn of the phone hacking at The News of the World? And when did he learn that reporters were bribing police officers for information? — went unasked. The Journal reporter had either been told not to ask those questions, or instinctively knew that he shouldn’t. It is hard to know which is worse. The dwindling handful of great journalists who remain at the paper — Mark Maremont, Alan Murray and Alix Freedman among them — must be hanging their heads in shame.
To tell you the truth, I’m hanging my head in shame too. Four years ago, when Murdoch was battling recalcitrant members of the Bancroft family to gain control of The Journal, which he had long lusted after and which he viewed as the vehicle that would finally allow him to go head-to-head against The New York Times, I wrote several columns saying that he would be a better owner than the Bancrofts.
The Bancrofts’ history of mismanagement had made The Journal vulnerable in the first place. I thought that Murdoch’s resources would stop the financial bleeding, and that his desire for a decent legacy would keep him from destroying a great newspaper.
After the family agreed to sell to him, Elisabeth Goth, the brave Bancroft heir who had long tried to get her family to fix the company, told me, “He has a tremendous opportunity, and I don’t think he’s going to blow it.” In that same column, I wrote, “The chances of Mr. Murdoch wrecking The Journal are lower than you’d think.”
The Murdock scandal is NOT the Wurlitzer’s only challenge
Consortium News reports about The NYT's Favor and Fear
The NYT’s Favor and Fear
June 30, 2011
Exclusive: A federal court opinion has revealed that the New York Times’s 2004 spiking of the story about President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping of Americans didn’t stand alone. A year earlier, the Times bowed to another White House demand to kill a sensitive story, one about Iran’s nuclear program, Robert Parry reports.
By Robert Parry
June 30, 2011
The New York Times, like most U.S. newspapers, prides itself on its “objectivity.” The Times even boasts about printing news “without fear or favor.” BUT THE REALITY IS QUITE DIFFERENT, with the Times agreeing – especially last decade – to withhold newsworthy information that the Bush-43 administration considered too sensitive.
A new example of this pattern was buried in a Times article on Wednesday about a subpoena issued to Times reporter James Risen regarding his receipt of a leak about an apparently botched U.S. covert operation to sabotage Iran’s nuclear research, a disclosure that Risen published in his 2006 book, State of War.
In Wednesday’s article, the Times reported that its news executives agreed in 2003 to kill Risen’s article about the covert operation at the request of George W. Bush’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and CIA Director George Tenet.
And, it was not the only time in recent years when the Times bowed to White House pressure to conceal information in response to a claim of national security.
Before the presidential election in 2004, the Times editors had in their hands another Risen story, about Bush’s warrantless wiretaps of Americans, but THEY SPIKED IT AT BUSH'S BEHEST, AGAIN ON NATIONAL SECURITY GROUNDS. The Times only published the wiretap story in December 2005, more than a year later, when it learned that Risen was also including that information in State of War.
The Times executives concluded that it was better to risk the wrath of the White House by publishing the wiretap disclosure than to suffer the embarrassment of getting caught sitting on a very newsworthy story, one that later won the Pulitzer Prize.
But the journalistic point in both these cases is that THE TIMES WAS NOT ACTING "OBJECTIVELY," concerned only with the facts and the public’s right to know. It was showing, without doubt, “favor” and quite possibly “fear” as well.
THE SIMPLE TRUTH IS THAT MAJOR U.S. NEWS ORGANIZATIONS, including the Times, ROUTINELY TAKE SIDES IN FAVOR OF U.S. FOREIGN POLICY AND AGAINST IDENTIFIED U.S. ADVERSARIES. The goal to appear “patriotic” – or at least not “disloyal” – trumps journalistic principles.
‘Good for the Country’
In my three-decades-plus career as a Washington-based journalist, I HAVE SEEN THIS REALITY DEMONSTRATED REPEATEDLY AT MAINSTREAM NEWS ORGANIZATIONS WHERE I WORKED, including the Associated Press and Newsweek. Senior editors often fancied themselves as doing what’s “good for the country” in spinning a story in ways most favorable to the U.S. government, rather than simply writing what presented itself.
Double standards were common. For instance, it was an easy sell to get editors to approve a story accusing Nicaragua’s Sandinista government of drug trafficking (although the evidence was thin to non-existent) but it required a pitched battle (and plenty of solid evidence) to convince editors to go with a story about cocaine smuggling by President Ronald Reagan’s pet Nicaraguan Contra rebels.
The reason was obvious. Even if the allegations against the Sandinistas were completely bogus, there would be no meaningful repercussions for running the story. However, if there was even the slightest flaw in the Contra-cocaine evidence, the consequences would be severe. So, the smart career play was to go with the first accusation and avoid the second.
Other times, there are tough calls about whether to publish U.S. national security secrets – and these can be very difficult decisions. The government will always insist that lives are at stake and will threaten to point the finger of blame if you publish a story and someone gets hurt or killed. Frankly, it’s hard for a reporter to assess exactly what the risks are.
BUT OFTEN [ALWAYS?] THE GOVERNMENT EXAGGERATES THE DANGERS.
In 1985, I was the first reporter to publicly identify White House aide Oliver North as a key figure in arranging secret (and possibly illegal) support for the Nicaraguan Contras. However, when the Times did a follow-up on my AP story, THE NEWSPAPER ACQUIESCED TO WHITE HOUSE DEMANDS TO LEAVE OUT NORTH'S NAME FOR HIS SAFETY. The Times story only referred to an unnamed U.S. government official.
That decision to shield North’s identity was probably the safe political play for the Times, rather than join the AP in naming North. The Times editors and reporters surely earned some brownie points with Reagan’s White House and likely drew praise for their “patriotism.”
But the Times decision had consequences for the then-evolving Iran-Contra scandal in which North was a central figure. By excluding his name, the Times, in effect, protected his ability to continue operating outside the law and in the shadows, rather than put him on the spot for his dubious actions.
In the end, the United States and North’s boss, President Reagan, were probably ill served by the Times’s capitulation on naming North. The Iran-Contra scandal, which broke into the open in late 1986, represented the worst national security scandal of Reagan’s presidency and brought the country close to another impeachment battle.
The Lockerbie Bombing
Yet, to this day, the New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets continue to tilt their coverage of foreign policy and national security issues to fit within the general framework laid out by Official Washington. Rarely do mainstream journalists deviate too far.
It has been common, for instance, for the Times and other media outlets to state as flat fact that Libyan agents, presumably on orders from Col. Muammar Gaddafi, blew Pan Am 103 out of the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people.
However, anyone who has followed that case knows that the 2001 conviction of Libyan operative Ali al-Megrahi by a special Scottish court was highly dubious, more a political compromise than an act of justice. Another Libyan was found not guilty, and one of the Scottish judges told Dartmouth government professor Dirk Vandewalle about “enormous pressure put on the court to get a conviction.”
In 2007, after the testimony of a key witness against Megrahi was discredited, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission agreed to reconsider the conviction as a grave miscarriage of justice. However, that review was proceeding slowly in 2009 when Scottish authorities released Megrahi on humanitarian grounds, after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
Megrahi dropped his appeal in order to gain the early release, but that doesn’t mean he was guilty. He has continued to assert his innocence and AN OBJECTIVE PRESS CORPS WOULD REFLECT THE DOUBTS REGARDING HIS CURIOUS CONVICTION. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Three Deadly War Myths.”]
After all, the Lockerbie case is not simply a historical mystery. It is one of the central reasons why the United States and its NATO allies are insisting that Gaddafi must be removed from power prior to any negotiated settlement of Libya’s ongoing civil war.
In pressing this need to oust Gaddafi first, President Barack Obama made a reference to the Lockerbie bombing at his Wednesday news conference, a presumed “fact” that may have set the White House correspondents to nodding their heads but may well not be true.
Which brings us to a key problem regarding American journalists siding with U.S. officials in presenting information to the American people: Is it really “good for the country”?
By now, history should have taught us that it is often better for the American people to know what their government is doing than to be left in the dark where they can be led around by clever propagandists, aided and abetted by a complicit news media.
Indeed, WHEN THE TIMES AND OTHER U.S. NEWS OUTLETS ACT IN THAT WAY, THEY MAY BE CAUSING MORE HARM THAN THE PROPAGANDA ORGANS OF A REPRESSIVE REGIME WOULD, since the “news” from those government mouthpieces is discounted by those who read and see it.
Back in the 1980s, I had a phone interview with Gen. Edward Lansdale, the famed CIA propagandist and model for a key character in The Ugly American. Lansdale told me that THE REAL TRICK OF PROPAGANDA WAS NOT TO PLANT STORIES IN AN OUTLET THAT WAS KNOWN TO BE CONTROLLED (because then a person’s defenses were up), BUT TO GET THE FALSE INFORMATION INTO VENUES THAT THE PUBLIC THOUGHT TO BE INDEPENDENT.
THAT WAY, Lansdale said, THE PUBLIC'S DEFENSES WOULD BE DOWN AND THE PROPAGANDA WOULD BE MORE EFFECTIVE.
The Salon reports about how the US government uses its media servants to attack real journalism.
How the U.S. government uses its media servants to
attack real journalism
By Glenn Greenwald
"The US has stopped running its global network of secret prisons, CIA director Leon Panetta has announced. 'CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites,' Mr Panetta said in a letter to staff" - BBC, April 9, 2009
Earlier this week, the truly intrepid investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill published in The Nation ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT POLITICAL EXPOSÉS OF THE YEAR. Entitled "the CIA's Secret Sites in Somalia," the article documented that the CIA uses and effectively controls a secret prison in Mogadishu, where foreign nationals who are rendered off the streets of their countries (at the direction of the U.S.) are taken (along with Somali nationals) to be imprisoned with no due process and interrogated (by U.S. agents). Although Somali government agents technically operate the facility, that is an obvious ruse: "US intelligence personnel pay the salaries of intelligence agents and also directly interrogate prisoners" and are "there full-time," Scahill reported. On Democracy Now on Wednesday, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed it has no knowledge of this secret prison.
This arrangement, as Scahill told me yesterday, is consistent with standard Obama administration practice: " THEY CONTINUE EVEN THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL BUSH TERRORISM POLICIES BY HAVING SOME OTHER GOVERNMENT TECHNICALLY OPERATE IT SO THEY CAN KEEP THEIR FINGERPRINTS OFF IT." Indeed, the administration has even resorted to this playbook by using "torture by proxy" -- as we saw when the Kuwait government, with at least the complicity if not direction of the U.S., detained and beat American teenager Gulet Mohamed during interrogation sessions. Just yesterday, a federal judge "reacted skeptically" to the Obama DOJ's demands for dismissal of a lawsuit (on secrecy grounds) brought by an American citizen imprisoned for four months in Africa, where "U.S. OFFICIALS THREATENED HIM WITH TORTURE, FORCED DISAPPEARANCE AND OTHER SERIOUS HARM UNLESS HE CONFESSED TO TIES WITH AL-QAIDA IN SOMALIA."
RUSSIAN newspapers are RIGHTFULLY and OPENLY ridiculing US media
The Moscow Times (where my sister used to work) reports about U.S. Propaganda Disguised as Journalism.
U.S. Propaganda Disguised as Journalism
15 July 2011
By Alexei Pushkov
The Manhattan District Attorney Office’s criminal case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn has all but collapsed after the prosecution itself acknowledged that it did not trust the testimony of the 32-year-old woman who claimed Strauss-Khan sexually attacked her.
Since Strauss-Kahn’s arrest in mid-May, the alleged victim has undermined her own case by repeatedly lying to a grand jury and to prosecutors. But perhaps the worst blow to her case was the taped telephone conversation she had with an incarcerated man in which she discussed how they could benefit financially from accusing the wealthy Strauss-Kahn of raping her. What’s more, investigators have found no forensic evidence whatsoever that a nonconsensual sexual attack occurred.
Nonetheless, STRAUSS-KAHN'S REPUTATION HAS BEEN PERMANENTLY TARNISHED AND HIS CAREER RUINED, particularly after footage of him in handcuffs being escorted by police was shown all over the world. Americans like to explain the notorious tradition of “perp walks” in which television cameras show defendants being escorted — usually in handcuffs if the criminal accusation is for a violent crime — during their arraignment as part and parcel of their open, free democratic society. In the most democratic judicial system in the world, we are told, the people have a fundamental right to see on television who has been charged with a serious crime. After all, when the U.S. government brings a criminal case against a defendant, it is a crime against society.
This sounds wonderful IN THEORY, but in reality — as the Strauss-Kahn fiasco clearly showed — the perp walk de facto destroys the very presumption of innocence that serves as the foundation of the U.S. legal and criminal systems. He was publicly demeaned and humiliated — and considered guilty by millions of viewers all over the world.
Many Americans and U.S. institutions were disgraced by this case. This includes the judge, who, clearly acting on emotions and not evidence, ruled that Strauss-Kahn should be kept in pretrial detention alongside hardened criminals instead of being freed on bail. It also includes the investigators and Manhattan district attorney, who did not fairly weigh the evidence and were all too quick to arrest Strauss-Kahn in their hot pursuit of making headlines by catching a big fish. They once again sought to show the world how democratic the U.S. legal system is. After all, everyone is equal under the law, right?
THE U.S. MEDIA WERE ALSO DISGRACED. Although they love to proclaim themselves the most objective, independent and fairest in the world, THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF CASES BESIDES THE STRAUSS-KAHN INCIDENT THAT PROVE THE OPPOSITE. Remember, for example, how the U.S. media unanimously supported the NATO bombing of Belgrade in the late 1990s. Or how they so eagerly signed onto the U.S. government’s assertions that Saddam Hussein had nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Or how, as if by command from above, the U.S. media attack a newly designated enemy of the United States, such as Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein or Moammar Gadhafi.
Take The New York Times, which is rightfully considered the best newspaper in the United States. Columnist Maureen Dowd in her May 18 essay “Powerful and Primitive” attacked Strauss-Kahn as if he was Charles Manson. First, Dowd describes the “hard-working, God-fearing, young widow who breaks her back doing menial labor at a Times Square hotel to support her teenage daughter, justify her immigration status and take advantage of the opportunities in America.”
And this “God-fearing widow,” Dowd writes, “was attacked by a crazed, rutting, wrinkly old satyr charging naked out of a bathroom, lunging at her and dragging her around the room, caveman style.”
The dramatic story of “a modest, hard-working widow” and “an old wrinkled satyr” was replayed over and over in the U.S. mass media to the point of becoming an obsession[“DEATH BY MEDIA”]. It was even more dramatic when this hyped-up global sensation came to a halting crash as soon as it was discovered that THE WOMAN'S TESTIMONY WAS FALSE.
But this isn’t simply stupidity, hypocrisy and narrow-mindedness. Dowd’s column, like many others, is full of contempt for “lustful European politicians” who tried to defend Strauss-Kahn. Her column is also dripping with the sacred, ultra-patriotic belief in U.S. superiority over the rest of the world as she gloats over its so-called democracy and egalitarian legal system.
“This story,” writes Dowd, “serves as an inspiring example that in America even a maid can permit herself to have pride and the right to be heard — when she is condemned by one of the most powerful men in the world, that he is in fact a predator.”
In reality, this is a story about a banal, deplorable attempt to blackmail a wealthy man and deceive the public — an attempt that received enormous support from the media during the beginning of the scandal.
The biased coverage of the Strauss-Kahn case on The New York Times’ opinion page was not limited to Dowd. In his May 31 column, “DSK and Conspiracy Theories,” columnist Roger Cohen also expressed no doubt of Strauss-Kahn’s guilt. For Cohen, it was “a young African woman’s voice raised against violent abuse by the powerful.” But before she proudly raised her voice, the young African woman decided to ask her curator in jail how much money she could earn from Strauss-Kahn.
The Strauss-Kahn arrest corresponded in a curious way with the fierce political battle in France for the presidency and the future of the dollar as a reserve currency and the future of IMF policy. But FOR THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY OF U.S. NEWSPAPER COLUMNISTS AND TELEVISION COMMENTATORS, NONE OF THIS WAS IMPORTANT. It is much more important to sweep away all doubts and questions in this case for the sake of declaring — yet again — the unyielding righteousness of the United States and its superiority over the rest of the world. IS THIS JOURNALISM OR PROPAGANDA?
RUSSIAN JOURNALISM, despite what people say and write about it in the United States, IS MUCH MORE DISTRUSTFUL OF STATEMENTS MADE BY AUTHORITIES. Largely because of the Soviet legacy, Russians are more skeptical than Americans of the government’s version of events. On the whole, Russians better understand that there are two sides to every scandal. In this sense, Russian journalists seem to be more open-minded than U.S. journalists, who are all too eager to believe that a “God-fearing maid,” thanks to America’s democracy, stood up to one of the world’s most powerful men.
FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, RUSSIANS VIEWED THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST STRAUSS-KAHN WITH GREAT SUSPICION [As did I, Russia is great place to live]. Likewise, most Russians do not believe for one second that John F. Kennedy was killed by a lonely maniac. Or that the reason the United States invaded Iraq was because Saddam Hussein supposedly had weapons of mass destruction. It would seem that BOTH RUSSIAN MEDIA AND SOCIETY HAVE A BETTER ABILITY TO PUT TOGETHER FACTS AND COME UP WITH LOGICAL CONCLUSIONS FROM THE STORY THAT IS UNFOLDING. [It is sooooooooooo refreshing (I have spent a fair about of time in Russia)]
Similarly, Russians also do not believe that former President Boris Yeltsin was a “democrat” whose rule benefited the country, although this is the official version that is eagerly supported by the West [Yeltsin was a crook and one of the ESF’s economic hitmen]. It was telling that when President Dmitry Medvedev unveiled a statue in Yekaterinburg in February in honor of Yeltsin, only a handful of local citizens were present for the ceremony. The Russian media have a number of weaknesses, but political correctness is certainly not one of them.
My reaction: The ESF's Wurlitzer (Propaganda Machine) is slowly dying.
1) The actions of Murdoch’s gang were truly sick.
Murdoch's News Of The World had people hacking into the voicemail of Milly Dowler, a 13-year-old murder victim who had disappeared in 2002. The voicemail hackers deleted messages from the full mailbox so they could get more messages left by the girl's distraught mother, thereby making police think the disappeared girl was alive, impeding the investigation and giving her family false hope.
2) The scandal is exposing just how corrupted US media has become.
3) The scandal is not over by a long shot. There is much more to come.
4) Russian newspapers are rightfully and openly ridiculing US media.
Conclusion: But this scandal WILL damage the credibility of US media, and a propaganda network without credibility is next to useless.
Furthermore, the Murdoch scandal shows that conspiracies are real and doing horrendous thing. A central pillar of the whole current fraudulent system is keeping the public convinced that the idea of a vast criminal conspiracy is “crazy talk”. Murdoch’s vast criminal conspiracy badly damages this pillar.