Category "Deconstructing The Media"

America - Suffering a Pandemic of Misinformation

February 9th, 2014 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Patrick Smith takes to task yet another volley of misleading half-truths from The New York Times, a paper too cowed by power and myth to tell the truth about U.S. foreign policy

Never before have I written a column concerning nothing more than a pair of quotation marks. Then again, never until now have I seen the power of punctuation so perniciously deployed.

It is not a new trick. Very popular in hackdom during the Cold War decades. Enclose something in quotation marks and all between them is instantly de-legitimized; no argument or explanation need be made. Here, try it:

“… the Cuban ‘doctors’ sent to Angola…”
Or: “… Soviet-made ‘farm equipment’ in Portugal since its 1974 revolution…”

Well, they were doctors and it was farm equipment. In the latter category I sat in a Soviet tractor out in the Portuguese vineyards, and damn it if the camponês did not find it useful.

In the end, this kind of thing is simply passive aggression, my least favorite neurosis. No one actively lies such that one can confront and reveal. It is lying by misleading and by implication, so sending us off full of groundless conviction and prejudice.

This is pretty much how it works. This typifies why we so desperately need more civic-minded media education in our schools. Programs which teach media literacy and critical thinking skills, in order to manage the bombardment of imagery and information we are increasingly deluged with in the digital world.

He nails a point here we’ve been focusing on for years at USTV Media

In my view, we are amid a pandemic of misinformation as to our global behavior. The dishonesty with which we are given the world, an essentially fantastic version of it, is becoming abject to the point of danger. And it is frighteningly willful. Here is the paradox: We cannot bear to see things as they are because things as they are constitute a refutation of our dearest mythologies, but we must see things as they are if we are to make sense of ourselves in the 21st century.

As the famous quote from James Madison once explained - or perhaps warned;

A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.

That is one shark we collectively as a nation seemed to have jumped some time ago. The costs of this are going to continue to rise, until they reach catastrophic proportions, like history always teaches us they do, when the large masses of people fall into a servitude of ignorance to their ruling classes.

The adage among properly cynical diplomats used to be that they were sent abroad to lie for their country. During the Cold War, as Washington’s sponsored atrocities grew evident, the thought took a turn: Diplomats were sent abroad to lie to their country.

Consider it a template and apply it to our press folk.

Correspondents used to be sent abroad to keep the country informed (in theory, at least). Now correspondents go forth to send home a simulacrum of truth, a semblance, while keeping their country misinformed.

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Media Consolidation? No, There’s No Media Consolidation. Why Would You Think That?

February 1st, 2014 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

If a consolidated media system can deliver these kinds of results in reference to holiday gift giving, can you imagine what a concerted effort to sell specific talking points for an agenda regarding, say, the existence of weapons of mass destruction, or the supposed imminent threat that a select Middle Eastern nation would be?

UPDATE: A friend and colleague made some good points in reference to this video compilation, and its relevance to the ongoing issue of media consolidation. They are definitely worth sharing, as the bring more focus upon the depth and nuances of the problems inherent in our media system today…

Not sure media consolidation is exactly the problem here. These stations rely on wire services for “video of national or international stories”… Matthew Weesner, the news director at KHGI in Kearney, Neb., one of the stations O’Brien included in the self gifting montage [said] “We’re doing six and a half hours of live programming a day, and we’ve got a lot of space to fill with a pretty small newsroom.”

I’m not condoning the practice but instead of worrying about consolidation we should look at alternative ownership models. It’s not as if the public interest was much better served when the number of private media owners was significantly higher than it is today.

An article posted on Poynter shed further light on this… Conan’s Comedy Bit Hints at Serious Issues for Local TV News

The points he raises, and the article on Conan’s montage, are both good, and I wholeheartedly agree with the need for new ownership models. It is true that the media consolidation thing is not the exact problem here. However, I do think it has had an effect. With ever-increasing consolidation, resulting in the merging of fewer and fewer resources, including more staffing reductions for less overhead and increased profit, the incentive to get “lazy” about resorting to more “rip and read” among news personnel has increased. It is no longer a matter of stations simply looking to wire services and such to find ideas for content, which they have always done. Today, they simply take fully formed pre-packaged product, including VNR’s (video news releases), and just run them straight off the production line.

As for the point about the number of private owners before, and whether that actually meant better quality coverage, my colleague makes a valid point. But then again, the media terrain was also different then, too. Now with less one-to-many models of media production and distribution, and with more many-to-many, that kind of bottleneck through ownership has the potential to change for the positive. But if this kind of consolidation process continues in regards to not just the sources of production (individual stations, etc…), but now subsumes whole networks (i.e. the internet itself, thanks to all those issues we know well enough these days, especially with net neutrality, SOPA, etc…), then things could really get bad, and quickly. So yes, ownership models are a major key here.

His response to these points was even more lucid and insightful…

Yes I think that’s all true. I just think media consolidation is the logical outcome of a profit-driven news structure. The whole “media consolidation” complaint also seems emotionally wedded to “big = bad” which I think is silly (not that you’re drawing that connection). For instance, my local newspaper, which is financially independent and locally owned, is a bastion of right wing ideologues, and hosts way too much frivolous reporting. And the media consolidation critique can treat media consumers as if we’re all passive vessels who play no role in what we choose to read or watch. I don’t agree with that.

I’m with him on this important point, in that “big = bad” is a correlation that isn’t a causation per se. Big is bad when “big = small,” as in small numbers of people deciding and controlling the content over large swaths of distribution. Again, the issue keeps coming back to ownership.

Scripting The News

March 21st, 2013 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

So, do you think the news you hear might be pre-scripted from some kind of centralized source? We have spent a fair amount of our time at USTV Media focusing on issues surrounding the media, the control of it, the processes and effects of propaganda, etc… With things like This, can you wonder why? If you can script this kind of conformity on gas, you can do it on much more substantive topics like war, Wall Street criminality, torture, the nature of Occupy Wall Street, and on and on… This kind of coordinating a nation-wide effort for keeping the news “on message” is the main focus of my writing about The Pentagon Military Analysts Program.

LIBOR Blackout: Major Networks are Ignoring the Greatest Bank Scandal In History

September 12th, 2012 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Theresa Riley at Bill Moyers Journal reports on what’s not being reported…

You’ve probably heard about the ongoing investigation of global banks and the manipulation of Libor, the critical interest rate that banks use as a benchmark to borrow money from each other and to set rates on virtually all commercial loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc. Maybe you heard about it from The New York Times or Bloomberg News, or even here at

Two places we’re sure you didn’t hear about it are ABC’s World News and NBC’s Nightly News, because they haven’t covered it — at all. According to Media Matters for America, the two networks ignored the scandal that The Financial Times‘s Chris Giles writes has “the power to make the heads of commercial banks quake in their boots.”

Read her complete report Here

I don’t know what’s worse. The rampant criminality at play in our global financial system, or the rampant crony complicity of our so-called “journalists” and “news reporters” in our corporate and compliant media system.

And Ben Dimiero and Rob Savillo chart the amount of LIBOR coverage amongst mainstream media in this report

American television news outlets continue to devote sparse time to one of largest banking scandals in history. The controversy over whether major banks have been manipulating the LIBOR, a crucial interest rate that banks use to borrow money from one another, has been gathering steam for more than a month since U.S. and U.K. regulators fined British bank Barclays $450 million for its role in trying to rig the rate.

CNN’s Erin Burnett has explained that LIBOR is “an interest rate at the core of our entire economy,” adding, “It’s really not wrong to say that if you can’t trust LIBOR, you can’t trust anything in banking.” According to The Economist, the LIBOR is used “as a benchmark to set payments on about $800 trillion worth of financial instruments.” Baltimore City filed a lawsuit against major banks in the first of what may be a wave of such actions, alleging that the LIBOR manipulation potentially cost it millions of dollars in investment returns.

Despite the enormous implications of the scandal, ABC’s World News and NBC’s Nightly News both ignored the story in the 16 days after news of the Barclays fine broke, as we documented earlier this month. In the 16 days following the period of our original study, the LIBOR blackout has continued on ABC and NBC’s flagship evening news programs. Those programs have gone more than a month without mentioning the controversy.

Read The Full Report

Moral Responsibility and the Barbara Walters Interview

December 19th, 2011 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

I’m not sure who the actual author of this blog posting is, but they nail the whole issue of our modern day so-called journalists abject subservience to power. Journalism and the Fourth Estate used to be about challenging power, not serving it. And the extent to which our modern media has totally compromised itself to not actually challenging forthright the issues of the day is laid out in this comparative study of how one of America’s media elites treats the head of state of a foreign nation in comparison to how they would a representative of our own government, and why that is.

It is impossible to imagine the type of grilling that Barbara Walters gave Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in this intense, aggressive interview broadcast today, being directed at any American policymaker. We see this type of interview from time to time on the cable news networks. I wrote recently about Anderson Cooper’s tough exchange with the Syrian ambassador to the UN, for instance. These type of interviews make some predictable headlines around the internet, and they serve the simple purpose of promoting an image of these networks as “serious” and “legitimate” outlets of journalism. This perception quickly fades amongst most viewers, I think, but it still serves a useful (if passing) function.

Of course, it is quite easy to condemn the actions of other nations. And it is not particularly courageous to do a tough, no-bullshit interview with one of the most isolated and hated leaders in the world. Surely our foremost responsibility is towards the actions of our own government, not someone else’s. And this is where our media, and our media personalities like Walters, repeatedly fail us. It is a basic moral point: that we are primarily responsible for the consequences of our own actions, not for the actions of others. In turn, our efforts - as journalists, democratic citizens, etc. - should be focused primarily on critiquing our own government’s policies in the world. Yet in the news media this type of logic has been flipped on its head. What we see is very limited (and often non-existent) scrutiny of American crimes; the assassination of American citizens, the launch of illegal wars, the deaths of whole families from US drone attacks, the establishment of extraordinary rendition programs and indefinite detention facilities like Guantanamo, etc., and heavy criticism of the brutality of other regimes.

Go to the original post Here.

Palm Trees In Madison? Fox Inventing News

March 14th, 2011 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

How Soviet of them. There is biasing information in reporting, and then there is simply fabricating information entirely. This videoThis video of a Fox News report (just one of an ongoing litany of examples too numerous to detail here) is evidence of why what Fox does (and is) should disqualify it from consideration as a legitimate participant in a society that aspires to operating upon democratic principles.

Nothing can inherently be ‘objective’ and ‘neutral,’ since all information is relayed through what is an innately limited and relational perspective. But it can be fair, and it can be intellectually honest. This by any definition of those concepts does not qualify as either.

Having a difference of opinion over what events mean is one thing. Inventing events in order to influence that opinion is of a different order entirely. Under no reasonable definition can this be considered a legitimate “news” report. This is straightforward propaganda, from every definition of the concept.

And yes, biasing the presentation of information in order to promote a specific perspective or an ideological agenda is something to be aware of, and concerned about as well. But duplicitously crafting or creating that information out of whole cloth? Inexcusable, for which there is no reasonably ethical or moral defense for.

Journalists Angry About Journalists Practicing Journalism

February 16th, 2011 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Glenn Greenwald provides this insightful deconstruction of the edifice of hypocrisy upon which sits much of what passes for journalism in the major corporate media today.

Rainey, Kurtz and Dickey all have this exactly backwards. Identifying lies told by powerful political leaders — and describing them as such — is what good journalists do, by definition. It’s the crux of adversarial journalism, of a “watchdog” press. “Objectivity” does not require refraining from pointing out the falsity of government claims. The opposite is true; objectivity requires that a journalist do exactly that: treat factually false statements as false. “Objectivity” is breached not when a journalist calls a lie a “lie,” but when they refuse to do so, when they treat lies told by powerful political officials as though they’re viable, reasonable interpretations of subjective questions. The very idea that a journalist is engaged in “opinion-making” or is “taking sides” by calling a lie a “lie” is ludicrous; the only “side” such a journalist is taking is with facts, with the truth. It’s when a journalist fails to identify a false statement as such that they are “taking sides” — they’re siding with those in power by deceitfully depicting their demonstrably false statements as something other than lies.

This warped reasoning is one of the prime diseases plaguing establishment political journalism in the U.S. Most establishment journalists are perfectly willing to use the word “lie” for powerless, demonized or marginalized people, but they genuinely believe that it is an improper breach of journalistic objectivity to point out when powerful political officials are lying. They adamantly believe that such an activity — which is a core purpose of political journalism — is outside the purview of their function.


That these establishment journalists believe that pointing out the lies of powerful political leaders is “not their role” — indeed, is a violation of the rules that govern what they do — explains a large part of the failings of both America’s media class and its political class. Ironically, David Gregory is ultimately right that doing this is “not his role”; he’s not paid by NBC News and its owners to alert the American citizenry to lies told by the U.S. Government (i.e., he’s not paid to be an adversarial journalist). He’s there to do the opposite: to vest those lies with respect and depict them as reasonable statements to be subjectively considered along with the truth. But it’s in these moments when they are so candid about what their actual role is — or when they attack people like Cooper for the rare commission of actual journalism — that they are at their most (unintentionally) informative.


Had Anderson Cooper used such harsh language to describe the statements of someone universally despised in American mainstream political circles (an American Enemy — such as, say, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Hugo Chavez), it would likely have gone unnoticed. But here, Cooper used such language to condemn one of America’s closest and most cherished allies, and it was thus gently deemed a departure from journalistic propriety. But had Cooper said such things about a leading American political official, then a true journalistic scandal would have erupted. Declaring the statements of an American political leader to be a lie is one of the most rigidly enforced taboos in American journalism. That this hallmark of real journalism is strictly prohibited — “It’s not our role,” explained the Meet the Press host — tells one all there is to know about the function which most establishment journalists fulfill.

Read the complete post Here

For a related story, I recommend this excellent piece from Dan Hind on what is going wrong with English (and global corporate) media, and what we need to do to help fix it.

If we believe that the media’s fundamental purpose is to keep citizens acquainted with the broad outlines of reality, then the case for reform becomes overwhelming. No one who thinks about it for a moment can believe that the media are performing this role. In matters of peace and war and economic management - the core concerns of a responsible citizenry – journalists and editors have failed. And the fact that they have largely ignored or misrepresented their failures is testament to the power of media institutions to control debate - not their fitness to do so.


Given the constitutional significance of the media - the fact that democracy itself depends on adequate information – we need nothing short of a constitutional change in the way we gather and disseminate that information. At present, the owners and managers of media companies make decisions about what is investigated - and about how much prominence the results of investigation are given. This close control of journalistic curiosity – the ability of a relative handful of individuals to fund some inquiries and to discourage others – shapes the store of information upon which we all draw when we try to piece together an understanding of the world.

The fact that their decisions are rarely discussed in public means that we who depend on them only dimly appreciate the extent of our dependence. This is not a criticism of individuals or a call on them to try harder. The matrix of incentives in which they operate all but ensures that journalists and editors cannot, at present, tell the truth - when doing so threatens powerful interests.

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War, Truth, and News

January 12th, 2011 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

Journalist John Pilger provides this report on the role of media control in maintaining war policies, and the landmark role of WikiLeaks in creating a new form of challenge to that control.

“If people really knew the truth, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.” - David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister during the First World War, in private conversation with C.P. Scott, the editor of The Guardian newspaper.

The Merger of Journalists and Government Officials

January 10th, 2011 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Glenn Greenwald provides this cuttingly lucid take on the full scope of the complicity of thought and agenda between the so-called journalists of major media and government officials today. You know, it used to be that journalism was looked at as the ‘Fourth Estate,’ an institutional branch of civic influence meant to challenge power, not to serve it. But alas, we are reaping the effects of what has effectively become a ‘Fourth Estate sale,’ where facts and information are what you sponsor them to be.

Over the last month, I’ve done many television and radio segments about WikiLeaks and what always strikes me is how indistinguishable — identical — are the political figures and the journalists. There’s just no difference in how they think, what their values and priorities are, how completely they’ve ingested and how eagerly they recite the same anti-WikiLeaks, “Assange = Saddam” script. So absolute is the WikiLeaks-is-Evil bipartisan orthodoxy among the Beltway political and media class (forever cemented by the joint Biden/McConnell decree that Assange is a “high-tech Terrorist,”) that you’re viewed as being from another planet if you don’t spout it. It’s the equivalent of questioning Saddam’s WMD stockpile in early 2003.


From the start of the WikiLeaks controversy, the most striking aspect for me has been that the ones who are leading the crusade against the transparency brought about by WikiLeaks — the ones most enraged about the leaks and the subversion of government secrecy — have been . . . America’s intrepid Watchdog journalists. What illustrates how warped our political and media culture is as potently as that? It just never seems to dawn on them — even when you explain it — that the transparency and undermining of the secrecy regime against which they are angrily railing is supposed to be . . . what they do.

What an astounding feat to train a nation’s journalist class to despise above all else those who shine a light on what the most powerful factions do in the dark and who expose their corruption and deceit, and to have journalists — of all people — lead the way in calling for the head of anyone who exposes the secrets of the powerful.


There will always be a soft spot in my heart for Jessica Yellin because of that time when she unwittingly (though still bravely) admitted on air that — when she worked at MSNBC — NBC’s corporate executives constantly pressured the network’s journalists to make their reporting favorable to George Bush and the Iraq War (I say “unwittingly” because she quickly walked back that confession after I and others wrote about it and a controversy ensued). But, as Yellin herself revealed in that moment of rare TV self-exposure, that’s the government-subservient corporate culture in which these journalists are trained and molded.


If one thinks about it, there’s something quite surreal about sitting there listening to a CNN anchor and her fellow CNN employee angrily proclaim that Julian Assange is a “terrorist” and a “criminal” when the CNN employee doing that is . . . . George W. Bush’s Homeland Security and Terrorism adviser. Fran Townsend was a high-level national security official for a President who destroyed another nation with an illegal, lie-fueled military attack that killed well over 100,000 innocent people, created a worldwide torture regime, illegally spied on his own citizens without warrants, disappeared people to CIA “black sites,” and erected a due-process-free gulag where scores of knowingly innocent people were put in cages for years. Julian Assange never did any of those things, or anything like them. But it’s Assange who is the “terrorist” and the “criminal.”

Do you think Jessica Yellin would ever dare speak as scornfully and derisively about George Bush or his top officials as she does about Assange? Of course not. Instead, CNN quickly hires Bush’s Homeland Security Adviser who then becomes Yellin’s colleague and partner in demonizing Assange as a “terrorist.” Or consider the theme that framed last night’s segment: Assange is profiting off classified information by writing a book! Beyond the examples I gave, Bob Woodward has become a very rich man by writing book after book filled with classified information about America’s wars which his sources were not authorized to give him. Would Yellin ever in a million years dare lash out at Bob Woodward the way she did Assange? To ask the question is to answer it (see here as CNN’s legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin is completely befuddled in the middle of his anti-WikiLeaks rant when asked by a guest, Clay Shirky, to differentiate what Woodward continuously does from what Assange is doing).

They’re all petrified to speak ill of Bob Woodward because he’s a revered spokesman of the royal court to which they devote their full loyalty. Julian Assange, by contrast, is an actual adversary — not a pretend one — of that royal court. And that — and only that — is what is driving virtually this entire discourse.

Read the full text of Greenwald’s analysis on

The Rise of WikiLeaks and Its Role In Modern News Media

December 30th, 2010 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

An informative documentary piece on the history of Julian Assange and his organizational creation WikiLeaks. Produced during the summer of 2010 as an episode of Foreign Correspondent by ABC; the Australian Broadcasting Company (unfortunately, it is quite difficult to envision the American ABC from venturing such a production). It highlights WikiLeak’s burgeoning role within the global news and information system. It also features interviews with famed American whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame, and highlights its role in the creation of the groundbreaking legislation of IMMI, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative.

Watch Part 2 and Part 3

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