On April 23, a New York Times article by Nicholas Casey quoted a businessman in the earthquake-ravaged city of Portoviejo complaining about temporary tax increases that Rafael Correa’s government announced to pay for reconstruction which is presently estimated to cost US$2 to US$3 billion. Casey didn’t tell his readers that the areas impacted by the earthquake would be exempt from the new taxes and also given tax cuts.
The article inaccurately reported there would be “a one-time garnishing of government wages for those earning more than US$1,000 a month.” The measure would apply to all wages outside the disaster areas, not just “government wages.” Casey neglected to mention that most Ecuadorians earn less than US$1,000 per month. The average monthly salary is US$574 per month, not exactly a fact that would be common knowledge to the vast majority of NYT readers.
The biggest howler in the article is the assertion that the IMF has been “long shunned” in Ecuador “for its demands to cut government spending”. That’s like saying people avoid dealing with the Mafia because “they‘ve been known to be unpleasant”: true but wildly misleading. By the beginning of the 21st century, the IMF lost a tremendous amount of influence in Latin America because from 1980 to 2000 it had bullied governments into adopting disastrous policies which are known as “neoliberalism.”
Ecuador’s real GDP per capita grew by a pitiful 5 percent from 1980 to 1998 compared to over 100 percent in the previous two decades. Then, in 1999, Ecuador’s banking sector collapsed under the weight of corruption and a neoliberal obsession with “central bank independence” and financial deregulation. By 2000, real GDP per capita fell below what it had been in 1980.
Casey quotes Jose Hidalgo, an economist who has praised Ecuadorian governments of the neoliberal era for having “saved” money. Those governments certainly “saved” for various huge bailouts of Ecuador’s super rich like the infamous “secretization” of 1983 and the bank bailouts in 1999. Those governments also “saved” in order to make interest payments to foreign investors for debt that had often been illegally contracted.
By the time Correa took office in 2007, decades of neoliberalism had left Ecuador’s roads, public hospitals, schools and other basic infrastructure in shambles. The World Economic Forum ranked Ecuador’s roads tenth among 18 countries in the region in 2006. By 2015 they were ranked as the best. The efficiency of Ecuador’s public services, as ranked by the Inter-American Development Bank, rose from next to last among the 16 countries it evaluated to sixth best in the region. Comparative studies by the U.N. found that the quality of Ecuador’s educational system is one of the most improved in the region since 2006.
Economists like Hidalgo don’t generally try to deny the vast improvements in Ecuador’s infrastructure under Correa’s government. Instead they vaguely decry “excessive public spending.” Presumably, Ecuador’s infrastructure and public services should have been left in a deplorable state. Imagine Ecuador’s government refusing to rebuild the damage from the recent earthquake and then bragging about how much money it “saved.”
That sums up the warped logic behind Hidalgo’s view, one that was tragically put into practice during the neoliberal era. Is a country better equipped to confront natural disasters when traveling through the country is badly hampered by dilapidated roads; when hospitals are in short supply and are under equipped and understaffed; when rescue workers and other public servants are poorly paid, inadequately trained and do not have proper equipment?
Casey wrote that oil prices “once fueled a government spending bonanza.” The “bonanza” actually had more to do with clamping down on tax avoidance by the rich and sensibly regulating its financial sector. Real per capita tax revenues doubled between 2006 (the year Correa was first elected) and 2012. At their highest point during Correa’s time in office, inflation-adjusted oil revenues per capita, accounting for costs of extraction, were lower than they were during much of the 1970s and 1980s.
Moreover, early on in Correa’s presidency, Ecuador’s economy suffered a massive external shock due to the global recession of 2009 which drove oil prices down. So even before oil prices collapsed in 2014, Correa’s government did not have exceptionally high oil revenues compared to previous governments.
Another blow from the 2009 global recession was a drop in remittances from Ecuadorians living abroad. One legacy of the neoliberal era is that remittances from Ecuadorians who fled their country during those years became very important to Ecuador’s economy. The fact that Ecuador has reduced poverty by about half during Correa’s time in office cannot be rationally attributed to luck.
Based on resilience to external shocks, there is also no credible argument for returning to economic policies endorsed by Casey’s article. In 2015, Ecuador avoided recession despite losing 7 percent of its GDP to the oil price collapse. In 1987, under the neoliberal government of Febres Cordero, Ecuador went into recession when export revenues dropped by only 1.84 percent of GDP.
Casey never seemed to consider that there were facts and counterarguments to the views expressed by his sources. In the United States, newspapers like the New York Times present Paul Ryan, who wants to eliminate the entire federal government (with the exception of the military) from the U.S. economy, as a serious policy expert. So it isn’t surprising that successful public investment in Ecuador is eagerly presented as wasteful. If you can’t identify extremists and charlatans at home, you probably won’t do so abroad either.
Isabel Kershner in The New York Times reports that Israelis are suffering from “a sense of vulnerability” after a bus bombing in Jerusalem this week. The event, she reports, sowed fear and anxiety in a population “already on edge” after a series of attacks over the past several months.
Although there were no reported deaths from the bombing, she writes that Israelis were reminded of the second Palestinian uprising “when suicide bombers blew up buses in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities, killing scores.”
Missing from her account is any mention of Palestinian fear or vulnerability in spite of data showing that Palestinian deaths outnumber Israeli fatalities by a factor of five or more, depending on the time frame. The second intifada, for instance, which Kershner takes as her reference point, left 5,904 Palestinians dead compared with 1,163 Israelis.
She notes that “about 30” Israelis have died in the past six months in contrast to “more than 200” Palestinians, a rate of more than six to one. But this fact has not inspired her to look into Palestinian anxieties. Instead she once again attempts to place the blame on Palestinians, writing that they reportedly died in “attacks or attempted attacks or in clashes with Israeli security forces.”
Nothing is said of the frequent charges that Israeli troops have carried out “street executions” of Palestinians who pose no threat to them or others. (See TimesWarp 3-25-16.) Likewise, nothing is said about the crippling effects of the brutal Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, the crucial background for this conflict.
Kershner entirely omits the context here while focusing on every possible source of Israeli angst: the bus bombing, the recent discovery of a tunnel leading from Gaza to Israel, a belligerent statement by Hamas and the lone-wolf knife and vehicular attacks by Palestinians.
Discerning readers may ask why Palestinians are using kitchen knives and automobiles as their weapons of choice, but the Times is not about to address the question. It would underscore the fact that Palestinians are the vulnerable party, an unarmed and virtually helpless population contending with one of the most sophisticated armies in the world.
In fact, Palestinians face daily threats from Israeli weapons, ranging from bulldozers to drones to live fire. Gaza farmers tending their fields near the border with Israel and fishermen at sea are frequently targeted by Israeli bullets and shells. West Bank communities confront the threat of land confiscation, settler attacks and demolitions that destroy homes and livelihoods.
And unarmed protesters in Gaza and the West Bank have been injured and killed during non-violent demonstrations. In fact, Israeli security forces injured a shocking number of Palestinians last year, a total of 14,925. As of April 11 this year, troops had already wounded 1,627.
According to United Nations data, Israeli forces have injured an average of 109 Palestinians each week in 2016. By comparison, Palestinians are wounding an average of four Israelis weekly. Yet it is Israeli “vulnerability” that takes center stage in the Times.
Kershner writes that “the threat of the tunnels continues to sow fear in Israeli communities along the border,” but she fails to say that not a single Israeli civilian has been harmed because of the tunnels. During the 2014 attacks on Gaza, they were used solely for targeting Israeli troops.
Palestinians, on the other hand, have reason to feel vulnerable, and they have reason to build tunnels as one of the few means of defense when they are under attack from Israeli weapons, but the Times has no interest in reporting this. It is only Israeli angst that matters here.
Israelis may have to deal with their fears, but Palestinians have to face much more: the loss of land, water, mobility, security and dignity. They have concrete and verifiable casualties, and they have to contend with their own defenselessness and fears, but in spite of all the evidence, the Times has turned its back on their narrative, joining Israel in blaming the victim.
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America resembles a banana republic. Its sham political process has no legitimacy, democracy in name only, voters with no say whatever.
Democrat party bosses intend nominating Clinton at their July convention – rigging primaries to assure it, perhaps the tainted NY one the latest example.
Republican counterparts want anyone but Trump, despite overwhelming GOP voter support he enjoys.
America’s political process is rigged, too debauched to fix, a vital issue media scoundrels ignore. Instead they pretend US elections show democracy works – for the privileged few alone, excluding most others.
A same day article asked if Clinton stole the NY primary, explaining it was rife with irregularities, including disenfranchising over 125,000 NYC voters and various other disturbing practices.
Media scoundrels airbrushed Tuesday electoral irregularities from their reports. The New York Times headlined “A Homecoming, and a Triumph, for Hillary Clinton in New York” – instead of explaining electoral irregularities too serious to ignore, tainting Democrat primary results, questioning their legitimacy.
The Times suppressed dirty politics, diverting attention from what’s most important, saying Clinton “danced the merengue in Washington Heights.”
“She slammed down a mean game of dominoes in East Harlem (and) d(ug) into an ice cream concoction named the Victory.”
The entire article was an unabashed Clinton commercial. Times editors endorsed her earlier, shill for her repeatedly, outrageously call her “the most broadly and deeply qualified (aspirant) in modern history.”
They ignore her pure evil, the greatest threat to world peace among all the deplorable candidates – none worthy of any public office, let alone the nation’s highest.
The neocon Washington Post was no better, highlighting Clinton saying “(t)here’s no place like home,” the Democrat party nomination “nearly within her grasp…”
WaPo quoted her hawkishness, risking possible global war if elected, saying “at a time when terrorists are plotting new attacks and countries like Russia, China and Iran are making aggressive moves, protecting America’s national security cannot be an afterthought.”
“Our next president has to be just as passionate about defending our country as she is about fixing our economy.”
No WaPo explanation about America facing no threats except ones it invents. Nothing about Clinton’s ties to Wall Street, war-profiteers and other corporate favorites.
Not a word about likely NY primary electoral rigging, voter rolls purged, other disturbing irregularities, or explaining America’s sham political process.
The Wall Street Journal highlighted Clinton, saying “(t)he race for the Democratic (sic) nomination is in the home stretch, and victory is in sight.”
The fix is in to hand it to her, the nation’s highest office likely following after November elections.
She represents monied interests, not popular ones, supports endless wars of aggression, not world peace and stability.
She’s the greatest threat to humanity’s survival, more than any other presidential aspirant in US history. If elected in November, WW III may follow.
Media scoundrels ignore what’s most vital to hammer home to readers and viewers without letup. Instead they support what demands condemnation.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
On Thursday, 7,000 polling stations in 13 of Syria’s 15 provinces opened at 7AM, ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra controlled Raqqa and Idlib excluded for obvious reasons.
Scheduled to remain open until 7PM, the deadline was extended to midnight to accommodate heavy turnout, results to follow when tabulations are completed.
US elections are farcical by comparison, meaningless money controlled exercises serving wealth, power and privilege exclusively.
Syrians have the real thing. Washington mocked their democratic process, saying it doesn’t reflect “the will of the people,” polar opposite reality.
Internally displaced Syrians and others in terrorist controlled areas could vote if able to get to polling stations anywhere in the country.
Washington and its rogue allies only recognize election results in countries under pro-Western regimes – including in ruthless ones like Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and elsewhere.
The democratic “will of the people” is called illegitimate in sovereign independent states like Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba and elsewhere.
Media scoundrels mocked Syria’s electoral process as expected, suppressing hard truths, featuring misinformation and Big Lies like always.
The New York Times mocked reality, calling Syria’s parliament “a largely powerless body… in a country where nearly every decision rests with President Bashar al-Assad.”
Thursday’s elections showed nationwide solidarity, genuine overwhelming support for Assad and his government. The Times turned truth on its head claiming they “highlight divisions and uncertainty.”
A litany of additional lies followed, including claiming low turnout in Damascus where huge crowds queued to vote, and suggesting some Assad supporters cast multiple ballot despite no evidence indicating voting irregularities.
The neocon Washington Post denounced what it called “a farce,” an utter perversion of truth. It claimed Thursday’s elections “snub(bed) Russia,” ignoring its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, calling them a “major factor of stabilization in the country.”
Final results may be known later today. A follow-up article will discuss them.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Since the end of World War Two the Central Intelligence Agency has been a major force in US and foreign news media, exerting considerable influence over what the public sees, hears and reads on a regular basis. CIA publicists and journalists alike will assert they have few, if any, relationships, yet the seldom acknowledged history of their intimate collaboration indicates a far different story–indeed, one that media historians are reluctant to examine.
When seriously practiced, the journalistic profession involves gathering information concerning individuals, locales, events, and issues. In theory such information informs people about their world, thereby strengthening “democracy.” This is exactly the reason why news organizations and individual journalists are tapped as assets by intelligence agencies and, as the experiences of German journalist Udo Ulfkotte (entry 47 below) suggest, this practice is at least as widespread today as it was at the height of the Cold War.
Consider the coverups of election fraud in 2000 and 2004, the events of September 11, 2001, the invasions Afghanistan and Iraq, the destabilization of Syria, and the creation of “ISIS.” These are among the most significant events in recent world history, and yet they are also those much of the American public is wholly ignorant of. In an era where information and communication technologies are ubiquitous, prompting many to harbor the illusion of being well-informed, one must ask why this condition persists.
Further, why do prominent US journalists routinely fail to question other deep events that shape America’s tragic history over the past half century, such as the political assassinations of the 1960s, or the central role played by the CIA in international drug trafficking?
Popular and academic commentators have suggested various reasons for the almost universal failure of mainstream journalism in these areas, including newsroom sociology, advertising pressure, monopoly ownership, news organizations’ heavy reliance on “official” sources, and journalists’ simple quest for career advancement. There is also, no doubt, the influence of professional public relations maneuvers. Yet such a broad conspiracy of silence suggests another province of deception examined far too infrequently—specifically the CIA and similar intelligence agencies’ continued involvement in the news media to mold thought and opinion in ways scarcely imagined by the lay public.
The following historical and contemporary facts–by no means exhaustive–provides a glimpse of the power such entities possess to influence, if not determine, popular memory and what respectable institutions deem to be the historical record.
- The CIA’s Operation MOCKINGBIRD is a long-recognised keystone among researchers pointing to the Agency’s clear interest in and relationship to major US news media. MOCKINGBIRD grew out of the CIA’s forerunner, the Office for Strategic Services (OSS, 1942-47), which during World War Two had established a network of journalists and psychological warfare experts operating primarily in the European theatre.
- Many of the relationships forged under OSS auspices were carried over into the postwar era through a State Department-run organization called the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) overseen by OSS staffer Frank Wisner.
- The OPC “became the fastest-growing unit within the nascent CIA,” historian Lisa Pease observes, “rising in personnel from 302 in 1949 to 2,812 in 1952, along with 3,142 overseas contract personnel. In the same period, the budget rose from $4.7 million to $82 million.” Lisa Pease, “The Media and the Assassination,” in James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease, The Assassinations: Probe Magazine on JFK, MLK, RFK and Malcolm X, Port Townsend, WA, 2003, 300.
- Like many career CIA officers, eventual CIA Director/Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Richard Helms was recruited out of the press corps by his own supervisor at the United Press International’s Berlin Bureau to join in the OSS’s fledgling “black propaganda” program. “‘[Y]ou’re a natural,” Helms’ boss remarked. Richard Helms, A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency, New York: Random House, 2003, 30-31.
- Wisner tapped Marshall Plan funds to pay for his division’s early exploits, money his branch referred to as “candy.” “We couldn’t spend it all,” CIA agent Gilbert Greenway recalls. “I remember once meeting with Wisner and the comptroller. My God, I said, how can we spend that? There were no limits, and nobody had to account for it. It was amazing.” Frances Stonor Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the World of Arts and Letters, New York: The New Press, 2000, 105.
- When the OPC was merged with the Office of Special Operations in 1948 to create the CIA, OPC’s media assets were likewise absorbed.
- Wisner maintained the top secret “Propaganda Assets Inventory,” better known as “Wisner’s Wurlitzer”—a virtual rolodex of over 800 news and information entities prepared to play whatever tune Wisner chose. “The network included journalists, columnists, book publishers, editors, entire organizations such as Radio Free Europe, and stringers across multiple news organizations.” Pease, “The Media and the Assassination,” 300.
- A few years after Wisner’s operation was up-and-running he “’owned’ respected members of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS, and other communication vehicles, plus stringers, four to six hundred in all, according to a CIA analyst. Each one was a separate ‘operation,’” investigative journalist Deborah Davis notes, “requiring a code name, a field supervisor, and a field office, at an annual cost of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars—there has never been an accurate accounting.” Deborah Davis, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post, Second Edition, Bethesda MD: National Press Inc, 1987, 139.
- Psychological operations in the form of journalism were perceived as necessary to influence and direct mass opinion, as well as elite perspectives. “[T]he President of the United States, the Secretary of State, Congressmen and even the Director of the CIA himself will read, believe, and be impressed by a report from Cy Sulzberger, Arnaud de Borchgrave, or Stewart Alsop when they don’t even bother to read a CIA report on the same subject,” noted CIA agent Miles Copeland. Cited in Pease, “The Media and the Assassination,” 301.
- By the mid-to-late 1950s, Darrell Garwood points out, the Agency sought to limit criticism directed against covert activity and bypass congressional oversight or potential judicial interference by “infiltrat[ing] the groves of academia, the missionary corps, the editorial boards of influential journal and book publishers, and any other quarters where public attitudes could be effectively influenced.” Darrell Garwood, Under Cover: Thirty-Five Years of CIA Deception, New York: Grove Press, 1985, 250.
- The CIA frequently intercedes in editorial decision-making. For example, when the Agency proceeded to wage an overthrow of the Arbenz regime in Guatemala in 1954, Allen and John Foster Dulles, President Eisenhower’s CIA Director and Secretary of State respectively, called upon New York Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger to reassign reporter Sydney Gruson from Guatemala to Mexico City. Sulzberger thus placed Gruson in Mexico City with the rationale that some repercussions from the revolution might be felt in Mexico. Pease, “The Media and the Assassination,” 302.
- Since the early 1950s the CIA “has secretly bankrolled numerous foreign press services, periodicals and newspapers—both English and foreign language—which provided excellent cover for CIA operatives,” Carl Bernstein reported in 1977. “One such publication was the Rome Daily American, forty percent of which was owned by the CIA until the 1970s.” Carl Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media,” Rolling Stone, October 20, 1977.
- The CIA exercised informal liaisons with news media executives, in contrast to its relationships with salaried reporters and stringers, “who were much more subject to direction from the Agency” according to Bernstein. “A few executives—Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times among them—signed secrecy agreements. But such formal understandings were rare: relationships between Agency officials and media executives were usually social—’The P and Q Street axis in Georgetown,’ said one source. ‘You don’t tell William Paley to sign a piece of paper saying he won’t fink.’” Director of CBS William Paley’s personal “friendship with CIA Director Dulles is now known to have been one of the most influential and significant in the communications industry,” author Debora Davis explains. “He provided cover for CIA agents, supplied out-takes of news film, permitted the debriefing of reporters, and in many ways set the standard for the cooperation between the CIA and major broadcast companies which lasted until the mid-1970s.” Deborah Davis, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post, Second Edition, Bethesda MD: National Press Inc, 1987, 175.
- “The Agency’s relationship with the Times was by far its most valuable among newspapers, according to CIA officials,” Bernstein points out in his key 1977 article. “From 1950 to 1966, about ten CIA employees were provided Times cover under arrangements approved by the newspaper’s late publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. The cover arrangements were part of a general Times policy—set by Sulzberger—to provide assistance to the CIA whenever possible.” In addition, Sulzberger was a close friend of CIA Director Allen Dulles. “’At that level of contact it was the mighty talking to the mighty,’ said a high‑level CIA official who was present at some of the discussions. ‘There was an agreement in principle that, yes indeed, we would help each other. The question of cover came up on several occasions. It was agreed that the actual arrangements would be handled by subordinates…. The mighty didn’t want to know the specifics; they wanted plausible deniability.’” Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media.”
- CBS’s Paley worked reciprocally with the CIA, allowing the Agency to utilize network resources and personnel. “It was a form of assistance that a number of wealthy persons are now generally known to have rendered the CIA through their private interests,” veteran broadcast journalist Daniel Schorr wrote in 1977. “It suggested to me, however, that a relationship of confidence and trust had existed between him and the agency.” Schorr points to “clues indicating that CBS had been infiltrated.” For example, “A news editor remembered the CIA officer who used to come to the radio control room in New York in the early morning, and, with the permission of persons unknown, listened to CBS correspondents around the world recording their ‘spots’ for the ‘World News Roundup’ and discussing events with the editor on duty. Sam Jaffe claimed that when he applied in 1955 for a job with CBS, a CIA officer told him that he would be hired–which he subsequently was. He was told that he would be sent to Moscow–which he subsequently was; he was assigned in 1960 to cover the trial of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers. [Richard] Salant told me,” Schorr continues, “that when he first became president of CBS News in 1961, a CIA case officer called saying he wanted to continue the ‘long standing relationship known to Paley and [CBS president Frank] Stanton, but Salant was told by Stanton there was no obligation that he knew of” (276). Schorr, Daniel. Clearing the Air, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977, 277, 276.
- National Enquirer publisher Gene Pope Jr. worked briefly on the CIA’s Italy desk in the early 1950s and maintained close ties with the Agency thereafter. Pope refrained from publishing dozens of stories with “details of CIA kidnappings and murders, enough stuff for a year’s worth of headlines” in order to “collect chits, IOUs,” Pope’s son writes. “He figured he’d never know when he might need them, and those IOUs would come in handy when he got to 20 million circulation. When that happened, he’d have the voice to be almost his own branch of government and would need the cover.” Paul David Pope, The Deeds of My Fathers: How My Grandfather and Father Built New York and Created the Tabloid World of Today, New York: Phillip Turner/Rowman & Littlefield, 2010, 309, 310.
- One explosive story Pope’s National Enquirer‘s refrained from publishing in the late 1970s centered on excerpts from a long-sought after diary of President Kennedy’s lover, Mary Pinchot Meyer, who was murdered on October 12, 1964. “The reporters who wrote the story were even able to place James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s head of counterintelligence operations, at the scene.” Another potential story drew on “documents proving that [Howard] Hughes and the CIA had been connected for years and that the CIA was giving Hughes money to secretly fund, with campaign donations, twenty-seven congressmen and senators who sat on sub-committees critical to the agency. There are also fifty-three international companies named and sourced as CIA fronts .. and even a list of reporters for mainstream media organizations who were playing ball with the agency.” Pope, The Deeds of My Fathers, 309.
- Angleton, who oversaw the Agency counterintelligence branch for 25 years, “ran a completely independent group entirely separate cadre of journalist‑operatives who performed sensitive and frequently dangerous assignments; little is known about this group for the simple reason that Angleton deliberately kept only the vaguest of files.” Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media.”
- The CIA conducted a “formal training program” during the 1950s for the sole purpose of instructing its agents to function as newsmen. “Intelligence officers were ‘taught to make noises like reporters,’ explained a high CIA official, and were then placed in major news organizations with help from management. These were the guys who went through the ranks and were told ‘You’re going to he a journalist,’” the CIA official said.” The Agency’s preference, however, was to engage journalists who were already established in the industry. Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media.”
- Newspaper columnists and broadcast journalists with household names have been known to maintain close ties with the Agency. “There are perhaps a dozen well known columnists and broadcast commentators whose relationships with the CIA go far beyond those normally maintained between reporters and their sources,” Bernstein maintains. “They are referred to at the Agency as ‘known assets’ and can be counted on to perform a variety of undercover tasks; they are considered receptive to the Agency’s point of view on various subjects.” Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media.”
- Frank Wisner, Allen Dulles, and Washington Post publisher Phillip Graham were close associates, and the Post developed into one of the most influential news organs in the United States due to its ties with the CIA. The Post managers’ “individual relations with intelligence had in fact been the reason the Post Company had grown as fast as it did after the war,” Davis observes. “[T]heir secrets were its corporate secrets, beginning with MOCKINGBIRD. Phillip Graham’s commitment to intelligence had given his friends Frank Wisner an interest in helping to make the Washington Post the dominant news vehicle in Washington, which they had done by assisting with its two most crucial acquisitions, the Times-Herald and WTOP radio and television stations.” Davis, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and the Washington Post, 172.
- In the wake of World War One the Woodrow Wilson administration placed journalist and author Walter Lippmann in charge of recruiting agents for the Inquiry, a first-of-its-kind ultra-secret civilian intelligence organization whose role involved ascertaining information to prepare Wilson for the peace negotiations, as well as identify foreign natural resources for Wall Street speculators and oil companies. The activities of this organization served as a prototype for the function eventually performed by the CIA, namely “planning, collecting, digesting, and editing the raw data,” notes historian Servando Gonzalez. “This roughly corresponds to the CIA’s intelligence cycle: planning and direction, collection, processing, production and analysis, and dissemination.” Most Inquiry members would later become members of the Council on Foreign Relations. Lippmann would go on to become the Washington Post’s best known columnists. Servando Gonzalez, Psychological Warfare and the New World Order: The Secret War Against the American People, Oakland, CA: Spooks Books, 2010, 50.
- The two most prominent US newsweeklies, Time and Newsweek, kept close ties with the CIA. “Agency files contain written agreements with former foreign correspondents and stringers for both the weekly newsmagazines,” according to Carl Bernstein. “Allen Dulles often interceded with his good friend, the late Henry Luce, founder of Time and Life magazines, who readily allowed certain members of his staff to work for the Agency and agreed to provide jobs and credentials for other CIA operatives who lacked journalistic experience.” Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media.”
- In his autobiography former CIA officer E. Howard Hunt quotes Bernstein’s “The CIA and the Media” article at length. “I know nothing to contradict this report,” Hunt declares, suggesting the investigative journalist of Watergate fame didn’t go far enough. “Bernstein further identified some of the country’s top media executives as being valuable assets to the agency … But the list of organizations that cooperated with the agency was a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of the media industry, including ABC, NBC, the Associated Press, UPI, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, and others.” E. Howard Hunt, American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate, and Beyond, Hoboken NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007, 150.
- When the first major exposé of the CIA emerged in 1964 with the publication of The Invisible Government by journalists David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, the CIA considered purchasing the entire printing to keep the book from the public, yet in the end judged against it. “To an extent that is only beginning to be perceived, this shadow government is shaping the lives of 190,000,000 Americans” authors Wise and Ross write in the book’s preamble. “Major decisions involving peace and war are taking place out of public view. An informed citizen might come to suspect that the foreign policy of the United States often works publicly in one direction and secretly through the Invisible Government in just the opposite direction.”Lisa Pease, “When the CIA’s Empire Struck Back,” Consortiumnews.com, February 6, 2014.
- Agency infiltration of the news media shaped public perception of deep events and undergirded the official explanations of such events. For example, the Warren Commission’s report on President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was met with almost unanimous approval by US media outlets. “I have never seen an official report greeted with such universal praise as that accorded the Warren Commission’s findings when they were made public on September 24, 1964,” recalls investigative reporter Fred Cook. “All the major television networks devoted special programs and analyses to the report; the next day the newspapers ran long columns detailing its findings, accompanied by special news analyses and editorials. The verdict was unanimous. The report answered all questions, left no room for doubt. Lee Harvey Oswald, alone and unaided, had assassinated the president of the United States.” Fred J. Cook, Maverick: Fifty Years of Investigative Reporting, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1984, 276.
- In late 1966 the New York Times began an inquiry on the numerous questions surrounding President Kennedy’s assassination that were not satisfactorily dealt with by the Warren Commission. “It was never completed,” author Jerry Policoff observes, “nor would the New York Times ever again question the findings of the Warren Commission.” When the story was being developed the lead reporter at the Times‘ Houston bureau “said that he and others came up with ‘a lot of unanswered questions’ that the Times didn’t bother to pursue. ‘I’d be off on a good lead and then somebody’d call me off and send me out to California on another story or something. We never really detached anyone for this. We weren’t really serious.’” Jerry Policoff, “The Media and the Murder of John Kennedy,” in Peter Dale Scott, Paul L. Hoch and Russell Stetler, eds., The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond, New York: Vintage, 1976, 265.
- When New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison embarked on an investigation of the JFK assassination in 1966 centering on Lee Harvey Oswald’s presence in New Orleans in the months leading up to November, 22, 1963, “he was cross-whipped with two hurricane blasts, one from Washington and one from New York,” historian James DiEugenio explains. The first, of course, was from the government, specifically the Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI, and to a lesser extent, the White House. The blast from New York was from the major mainstream media e.g. Time-Life and NBC. Those two communication giants were instrumental in making Garrison into a lightening rod for ridicule and criticism. This orchestrated campaign … was successful in diverting attention from what Garrison was uncovering by creating controversy about the DA himself.” DiEugenio, Preface, in William Davy, Let Justice Be Done: New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation, Reston VA: Jordan Publishing, 1999.
- The CIA and other US intelligence agencies used the news media to sabotage Garrison’s 1966-69 independent investigation of the Kennedy assassination. Garrison presided over the only law enforcement agency with subpoena power to seriously delve into the intricate details surrounding JFK’s murder. One of Garrison’s key witnesses, Gordon Novel, fled New Orleans to avoid testifying before the Grand Jury assembled by Garrison. According to DiEugenio, CIA Director Allen “Dulles and the Agency would begin to connect the fugitive from New Orleans with over a dozen CIA friendly journalists who—in a blatant attempt to destroy Garrison’s reputation—would proceed to write up the most outrageous stories imaginable about the DA.” James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and The Garrison Case, Second Edition, New York: SkyHorse Publishing, 2012, 235.
- CIA officer Victor Marchetti recounted to author William Davy that in 1967 while attending staff meetings as an assistant to then-CIA Director Richard Helms, “Helms expressed great concerns over [former OSS officer, CIA operative and primary suspect in Jim Garrison’s investigation Clay] Shaw’s predicament, asking his staff, ‘Are we giving them all the help we can down there?’” William Davy, Let Justice Be Done: New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation, Reston VA: Jordan Publishing, 1999.
- The pejorative dimensions of the term “conspiracy theory” were introduced into the Western lexicon by CIA “media assets,” as evidenced in the design laid out by Document 1035-960 Concerning Criticism of the Warren Report, an Agency communiqué issued in early 1967 to Agency bureaus throughout the world at a time when attorney Mark Lane’s Rush to Judgment was atop bestseller lists and New Orleans DA Garrison’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination began to gain traction.
- Time had close relations with the CIA stemming from the friendship of the magazine’s publisher Henry Luce and Eisenhower CIA chief Allen Dulles. When former newsman Richard Helms was appointed DCI in 1966 he “began to cultivate the press,” prompting journalists toward conclusions that placed the Agency in a positive light. As Time Washington correspondent Hugh Sidney recollects, “‘[w]ith [John] McCone and [Richard] Helms, we had a set-up when the magazine was doing something on the CIA, we went to them and put it before them … We were never misled.’ Similarly, when Newsweek decided in the fall of 1971 to do a cover story on Richard Helms and ‘The New Espionage,’ the magazine, according to a Newsweek staffer, went directly to the agency for much of the information. And the article … generally reflected the line that Helms was trying so hard to sell: that since the latter 1960s … the focus of attention and prestige within CIA’ had switched from the Clandestine Services to the analysis of intelligence, and that ‘the vast majority of recruits are bound for’ the Intelligence Directorate.” Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1974, 362-363.
- In 1970 Jim Garrison wrote and published the semi-autobiographical A Heritage of Stone, a work that examines how the New Orleans DA “discovered that the CIA operated within the borders of the United States, and how it took the CIA six months to reply to the Warren Commission’s question of whether Oswald and [Jack] Ruby had been with the Agency,” Garrison biographer and Temple University humanities professor Joan Mellen observes. “In response to A Heritage of Stone, the CIA rounded up its media assets” and the book was panned by reviewers writing for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Sun Times, and Life magazine. “John Leonard’s New York Times review went through a metamorphosis,” Mellen explains. “The original last paragraph challenged the Warren Report: ‘Something stinks about this whole affair,’ Leonard wrote. ‘Why were Kennedy’s neck organs not examined at Bethesda for evidence of a frontal shot? Why was his body whisked away to Washington before the legally required Texas inquest? Why?’ This paragraph evaporated in later editions of the Times. A third of a column gone, the review then ended: ‘Frankly I prefer to believe that the Warren Commission did a poor job, rather than a dishonest one. I like to think that Garrison invents monsters to explain incompetence.’” Joan Mellen, A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History, Washington DC: Potomac Books, 2005, 323, 324.
- CIA Deputy Director for Plans Cord Meyer Jr. appealed to Harper & Row president emeritus Cass Canfield Sr. over the book publisher’s pending release of Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, based on the author’s fieldwork and Yale PhD dissertation wherein he examined the CIA’s explicit role in the opium trade. “Claiming my book was a threat to national security,” McCoy recalls, “the CIA official had asked Harper & Row to suppress it. To his credit, Mr. Canfield had refused. But he had agreed to review the manuscript prior to publication.” Alfred W. McCoy, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, Chicago Review Press, 2003, xx.
- Publication of The Secret Team, a book by US Air Force Colonel and Pentagon-CIA liaison L. Fletcher Prouty recounting the author’s firsthand knowledge of CIA black operations and espionage, was met with a wide scale censorship campaign in 1972. “The campaign to kill the book was nationwide and world-wide,” Prouty notes. “It was removed from the Library of Congress and from college libraries as letters I received attested all too frequently … I was a writer whose book had been cancelled by a major publisher [Prentice Hall] and a major paperback publisher [Ballantine Books] under the persuasive hand of the CIA.” L. Fletcher Prouty, The Secret Team: The CIA and Its Allies in Control of the United States and the World, New York: SkyHorse Publishing, 2008, xii, xv.
- During the Pike Committee hearings in 1975 Congressman Otis Pike asked DCI William Colby, “Do you have any people paid by the CIA who are working for television networks?” Colby responded, “This, I think, gets into the kind of details, Mr. Chairman, that I’d like to get into in executive session.” Once the chamber was cleared Colby admitted that in 1975 specifically “the CIA was using ‘media cover’ for eleven agents, many fewer than in the heyday of the cloak-and-pencil operations, but no amount of questioning would persuade him to talk about the publishers and network chieftains who had cooperated at the top.” Schorr, Clearing the Air, 275.
- “There is quite an incredible spread of relationships,” former CIA intelligence officer William Bader informed a US Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the CIA’s infiltration of the nation’s journalistic outlets. “You don’t need to manipulate Time magazine, for example, because there are Agency people at the management level.” Bernstein, “The CIA and the Media.”
- In 1985 film historian and professor Joseph McBride came across a November 29, 1963 memorandum from J. Edgar Hoover, titled, “Assassination of President John F. Kennedy,” wherein the FBI director stated that his agency provided two individuals with briefings, one of whom was “Mr. George Bush of the Central Intelligence Agency.” ” When McBride queried the CIA with the memo a “PR man was tersely formal and opaque: ‘I can neither confirm nor deny.’ It was the standard response the agency gave when it dealt with its sources and methods,” journalist Russ Baker notes. When McBride published a story in The Nation, “The Man Who Wasn’t There, ‘George Bush,’ C.I.A. Operative,” the CIA came forward with a statement that the George Bush referenced in the FBI record “apparently” referenced a George William Bush, who filled a perfunctory night shift position at CIA headquarters that “would have been the appropriate place to receive such a report.” McBride tracked down George William Bush to confirm he was only employed briefly as a “probationary civil servant” who had “never received interagency briefings.” Shortly thereafter The Nation ran a second story by McBride wherein “the author provided evidence that the Central Intelligence Agency had foisted a lie on the American people … As with McBride’s previous story, this disclosure was greeted with the equivalent of a collective media yawn.” Since the episode researchers have found documents linking George H. W. Bush to the CIA as early as 1953. Russ Baker, Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years, New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2009, 7-12.
- Operation Gladio, the well-documented collaboration between Western spy agencies, including the CIA, and NATO involving coordinated terrorist shootings and bombings of civilian targets throughout Europe from the late 1960s through the 1980s, has been effectively expunged from major mainstream news outlets. A LexisNexis Academic search conducted in 2012 for “Operation Gladio” retrieved 31 articles in English language news media—most appearing in British newspapers. Only four articles discussing Gladio ever appeared in US publications—three in the New York Times and one brief mention in the Tampa Bay Times. With the exception of a 2009 BBC documentary, no network or cable news broadcast has ever referenced the state-sponsored terror operation. Almost all of the articles referencing Gladio appeared in 1990 when Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti publicly admitted Italy’s participation in the process. The New York Times downplayed any US involvement, misleadingly designating Gladio “an Italian creation” in a story buried on page A16. In reality, former CIA director William Colby revealed in his memoirs that covert paramilitaries were a significant agency undertaking set up after World War II, including “the smallest possible coterie of the most reliable people, in Washington [and] NATO.” James F. Tracy, “False Flag Terror and Conspiracies of Silence,” Global Research, August 10, 2012.
- Days before the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City DCI William Colby confided to his friend, Nebraska State Senator John DeCamp his personal concerns over the Militia and Patriot movement within the United States, then surging in popularity due to the use of the alternative media of that era–books, periodicals, cassette tapes, and radio broadcasts. “I watched as the Anti-War movement rendered it impossible for this country to conduct or win the Vietnam War,” Colby remarked. “I tell you, dear friend, that the Militia and Patriot movement in which, as an attorney, you have become one of the centerpieces, is far more significant and far more dangerous for American than the Anti-War movement ever was, if it is not intelligently dealt with. And I really mean this.” David Hoffman, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, Venice CA: Feral House, 1998, 367.
- Shortly after the appearance of journalist Gary Webb’s “Dark Alliance” series in the San Jose Mercury News chronicling the Agency’s involvement in drug trafficking, the CIA’s public affairs division embarked on a campaign to counter what it termed “a genuine public relations crisis for the Agency.” Webb was merely reporting to a large audience what had already been well documented by scholars such as Alfred McCoy and Peter Dale Scott, and the 1989 Kerry Committee Report on Iran-Contra—that the CIA had long been involved in the illegal transnational drug trade. Such findings were upheld in 1999 in a study by the CIA inspector general. Nevertheless, beginning shortly after Webb’s series ran, “CIA media spokesmen would remind reporters seeking comment that this series represented no real news,” a CIA internal organ noted, “in that similar charges were made in the 1980s and were investigated by the Congress and were found to be without substance. Reporters were encouraged to read the “Dark Alliance’ series closely and with a critical eye to what allegations could actually be backed with evidence.” http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/DOC_0001372115.pdf
- On December 10, 2004 investigative journalist Gary Webb died of two .38 caliber gunshot wounds to the head. The coroner ruled the death a suicide. “Gary Webb was MURDERED,” concluded FBI senior special agent Ted Gunderson in 2005. “He (Webb) resisted the first shot [to the head that exited via jaw] so he was shot again with the second shot going into the head [brain].” Gunderson regards the theory that Webb could have managed to shoot himself twice as “impossible!” Charlene Fassa, “Gary Webb: More Pieces in the Suicided Puzzle,” Rense.com, December 11, 2005.
- The most revered journalists who receive “exclusive” information and access to the corridors of power are typically the most subservient to officialdom and often have intelligence ties. Those granted such access understand that they must likewise uphold government-sanctioned narratives. For example, the New York Times’ Tom Wicker reported on November 22, 1963 that President John F. Kennedy “was hit by a bullet in the throat, just below the Adam’s apple.” Yet his account went to press before the official story of a single assassin shooting from the rear became established. Wicker was chastised through “lost access, complaints to editors and publishers, social penalties, leaks to competitors, a variety of responses no one wants.” Barrie Zwicker, Towers of Deception: The Media Coverup of 9/11, Gabrioloa Island, BC: New Society Publishers, 2006, 169-170.
- The CIA actively promotes a desirable public image of its history and function by advising the production of Hollywood vehicles, such as Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. The Agency retains “entertainment industry liaison officers” on its staff that “plant positive images about itself (in other words, propaganda) through our most popular forms of entertainment,” Tom Hayden explains in the LA Review of Books. “So natural has the CIA–entertainment connection become that few question its legal or moral ramifications. This is a government agency like no other; the truth of its operations is not subject to public examination. When the CIA’s hidden persuaders influence a Hollywood movie, it is using a popular medium to spin as favorable an image of itself as possible, or at least, prevent an unfavorable one from taking hold.” Tom Hayden, “Review of The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television by Tricia Jenkins,” LA Review of Books, February 24, 2013,
- Former CIA case officer Robert David Steele states that CIA manipulation of news media is “worse” in the 2010s than in the late 1970s when Bernstein wrote “The CIA and the Media.” “The sad thing is that the CIA is very able to manipulate [the media] and it has financial arrangements with media, with Congress, with all others. But the other half of that coin is that the media is lazy.” James Tracy interview with Robert David Steele, August 2, 2014,
- A well-known fact is that broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper interned for the CIA while attending Yale as an undergraduate in the late 1980s. According to Wikipedia Cooper’s great uncle, William Henry Vanderbilt III, was an Executive Officer of the Special Operations Branch of the OSS under the spy organization’s founder William “Wild Bill” Donovan. While Wikipedia is an often dubious source, Vanderbilt’s OSS involvement would be in keeping with the OSS/CIA reputation of taking on highly affluent personnel for overseas derring-do. William Henry Vanderbilt III, Wikipedia.
- Veteran German journalist Udo Ulfkotte, author of the 2014 book Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists) revealed how under the threat of job termination he was routinely compelled to publish articles written by intelligence agents using his byline. “I ended up publishing articles under my own name written by agents of the CIA and other intelligence services, especially the German secret service,” Ulfkotte explained in a recent interview with Russia Today. “German Journo: European Media Writing Pro-US Stories Under CIA Pressure,” RT, October 18, 2014.
- In 1999 the CIA established In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm seeking to “identify and invest in companies developing cutting-edge information technologies that serve United States national security interests.” The firm has exercised financial relationships with internet platforms Americans use on a routine basis, including Google and Facebook. “If you want to keep up with Silicon Valley, you need to become part of Silicon Valley,” says Jim Rickards, an adviser to the U.S. intelligence community familiar with In-Q-Tel’s activities. “The best way to do that is have a budget because when you have a checkbook, everyone comes to you.” At one point IQT “catered largely to the needs of the CIA.” Today, however, “the firm supports many of the 17 agencies within the U.S. intelligence community, including the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.” Matt Egan, “In-Q-Tel: A Glimpse Inside the CIA’s Venture Capital Arm,” FoxBusiness.com, June 14, 2013.
- At a 2012 conference held by In-Q-Tel CIA Director David Patraeus declared that the rapidly-developing “internet of things” and “smart home” will provide the CIA with the ability to spy on any US citizen should they become a “person of interest’ to the spy community,” Wired magazine reports. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,’ Patraeus enthused, ‘particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft’ … ‘Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Patraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.” Spencer Ackerman, “CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher,” Wired, March 15, 2012.
- In the summer of 2014 a $600 million computing cloud developed by Amazon Web Services for the CIA began servicing all 17 federal agencies comprising the intelligence community. “If the technology plays out as officials envision,” The Atlantic reports, “it will usher in a new era of cooperation and coordination, allowing agencies to share information and services much more easily and avoid the kind of intelligence gaps that preceded the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.” “The Details About the CIA’s Deal With Amazon,” The Atlantic, July 17, 2014.
Sadly, some important duties of journalism, such as applying evenhanded standards on human rights abuses and financial corruption, have been so corrupted by the demands of government propaganda – and the careerism of too many writers – that I now become suspicious whenever the mainstream media trumpets some sensational story aimed at some “designated villain.”
Far too often, this sort of “journalism” is just a forerunner to the next “regime change” scheme, dirtying up or delegitimizing a foreign leader before the inevitable advent of a “color revolution” organized by “democracy-promoting” NGOs often with money from the U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy or some neoliberal financier like George Soros.
We are now seeing what looks like a new preparatory phase for the next round of “regime changes” with corruption allegations aimed at former Brazilian President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The new anti-Putin allegations – ballyhooed by the UK Guardian and other outlets – are particularly noteworthy because the so-called “Panama Papers” that supposedly implicate him in offshore financial dealings never mention his name.
Or as the Guardian writes: “Though the president’s name does not appear in any of the records, the data reveals a pattern – his friends have earned millions from deals that seemingly could not have been secured without his patronage. The documents suggest Putin’s family has benefited from this money – his friends’ fortunes appear his to spend.”
Note, if you will, the lack of specificity and the reliance on speculation: “a pattern”; “seemingly”; “suggest”; “appear.” Indeed, if Putin were not already a demonized figure in the Western media, such phrasing would never pass an editor’s computer screen. Indeed, the only point made in declarative phrasing is that “the president’s name does not appear in any of the records.”
A British media-watch publication, the Off-Guardian, which criticizes much of the work done at The Guardian, headlined its article on the Putin piece as “the Panama Papers cause Guardian to collapse into self-parody.”
But whatever the truth about Putin’s “corruption” or Lula’s, the journalistic point is that the notion of objectivity has long since been cast aside in favor of what’s useful as propaganda for Western interests.
Some of those Western interests now are worried about the growth of the BRICS economic system – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – as a competitor to the West’s G-7 and the International Monetary Fund. After all, control of the global financial system has been central to American power in the post-World War II world – and rivals to the West’s monopoly are not welcome.
What the built-in bias against these and other “unfriendly” governments means, in practical terms, is that one standard applies to a Russia or a Brazil, while a more forgiving measure is applied to the corruption of a U.S. or European leader.
Take, for instance, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s millions of dollars in payments in speaking fees from wealthy special interests that knew she was a good bet to become the next U.S. president. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Clinton Stalls on Goldman-Sachs Speeches.”]
Or, similarly, the millions upon millions of dollars invested in super-PACS for Clinton, Sen. Ted Cruz and other presidential hopefuls. That might look like corruption from an objective standard but is treated as just a distasteful aspect of the U.S. political process.
But imagine for a minute if Putin had been paid millions of dollars for brief speeches before powerful corporations, banks and interest groups doing business with the Kremlin. That would be held up as de facto proof of his illicit greed and corruption.
Also, when it’s a demonized foreign leader, any “corruption” will do, however minor. For example, in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan’s denounced Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega for his choice of eyewear: “The dictator in designer glasses,” declared Reagan, even as Nancy Reagan was accepting free designer gowns and free renovations of the White House funded by oil and gas interests.
Or, the “corruption” for a demonized leader can be a modest luxury, such as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s “sauna” in his personal residence, a topic that got front-page treatment in The New York Times and other Western publications seeking to justify the violent coup that drove Yanukovych from office in February 2014.
Incidentally, both Ortega and Yanukovych had been popularly elected but were still targeted by the U.S. government and its operatives with violent destabilization campaigns. In the 1980s, the CIA-organized Nicaraguan Contra war killed some 30,000 people, while the U.S.-orchestrated “regime change” in Ukraine sparked a civil war that has left some 10,000 people dead. Of course, in both cases, Official Washington blamed Moscow for all the trouble.
In both cases, too, the politicians and operatives who gained power as a result of the conflicts were arguably more corrupt than the Nicaraguan Sandinistas or Yanukovych’s government. The Nicaraguan Contras, whose violence helped pave the way for the 1990 election of U.S.-backed candidate Violeta Chamorro, were deeply implicated in cocaine trafficking. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Sordid Contra-Cocaine Saga.”]
Today, the U.S.-supported Ukrainian government is wallowing in corruption so deep that it has provoked a new political crisis. [See Consortiumnews’com’s “Reality Peeks Through in Ukraine.”]
Ironically, one of the politicians actually named in the Panama Papers for having established a shadowy offshore account is the U.S.-backed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, although he got decidedly second-billing to the unnamed Putin. (Poroshenko denied there was anything improper in his offshore financial arrangements.)
Mainstream Western journalism no longer even tries to apply common standards to questions about corruption. If you’re a favored government, there might be lamentations about the need for more “reform” – which often means slashing pensions for the elderly and cutting social programs for the poor – but if you’re a demonized leader, then the only permissible answer is criminal indictment and/or “regime change.”
One stark example of these double standards is the see-no-evil attitude toward the corruption of Ukraine’s Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, who is touted endlessly in the Western media as the paragon of Ukrainian good governance and reform. The documented reality, however, is that Jaresko enriched herself through her control of a U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund that was supposed to help the people of Ukraine build their economy.
According to the terms of the $150 million investment fund created by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Jaresko’s compensation was supposed to be capped at $150,000 a year, a pay package that many Americans would envy. But it was not enough for Jaresko, who first simply exceeded the limit by hundreds of thousands of dollars and then moved her compensation off-books as she amassed total annual pay of $2 million or more.
The documentation of this scheming is clear. I have published multiple stories citing the evidence of both her excessive compensation and her legal strategies for covering up evidence of alleged wrongdoing. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “How Ukraine’s Finance Minister Got Rich” and “Carpetbagging Crony Capitalism in Ukraine.”]
Despite the evidence, not a single mainstream Western news outlet has followed up on this information even as Jaresko is touted as a “reform” candidate for Ukrainian prime minister.
This disinterest is similar to the blinders that The New York Times and other major Western newspapers put on when they were assessing whether Ukrainian President Yanukovych was ousted in a coup in February 2014 or just wandered off and forgot to return.
In a major “investigative” piece, the Times concluded there was no coup in Ukraine while ignoring the evidence of a coup, such as the intercepted phone call between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt discussing who they would put into power. “Yats is the guy,” said Nuland – and surprise, surprise, Arseniy Yatsenyuk ended up as prime minister.
The Times also ignored the observation of George Friedman, president of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, who noted that the Ukraine coup was “the most blatant coup in history.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Still Pretends No Coup in Ukraine.”]
The Propaganda Weapon
The other advantage of “corruption” as a propaganda weapon to discredit certain leaders is that we all assume that there is plenty of corruption in governments as well as in the private sector all around the world. Alleging corruption is like shooting large fish crowded into a small barrel. Granted, some barrels might be more crowded than others but the real decision is whose barrel you choose.
That’s part of the reason why the U.S. government has spread around hundreds of millions of dollars to finance “journalism” organizations, train political activists and support “non-governmental organizations” that promote U.S. policy goals inside targeted countries. For instance, before the Feb. 22, 2014 coup in Ukraine, there were scores of such operations in the country financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), whose budget from Congress exceeds $100 million a year.
But NED, which has been run by neocon Carl Gershman since its founding in 1983, is only part of the picture. You have other propaganda fronts operating under the umbrella of the State Department and USAID. Last year, USAID issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the globe, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”
USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the coup, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” which sounds a bit like an operation to thwart the local government’s intelligence gathering, an ironic position for the U.S. with its surveillance obsession, including prosecuting whistleblowers based on evidence that they talked to journalists.
USAID, working with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society, also funds the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.
Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what looked to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014.
Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Though most genuinely independent bloggers are ignored by the mainstream media, Higgins has found his work touted by both The New York Times and The Washington Post.
In other words, the U.S. government has a robust strategy for deploying direct and indirect agents of influence. Indeed, during the first Cold War, the CIA and the old U.S. Information Agency refined the art of “information warfare,” including pioneering some of its current features like having ostensibly “independent” entities and cut-outs present U.S. propaganda to a cynical public that would reject much of what it hears from government but may trust “citizen journalists” and “bloggers.”
But the larger danger from this perversion of journalism is that it sets the stage for “regime changes” that destabilize whole countries, thwart real democracy (i.e., the will of the people), and engender civil warfare. Today’s neoconservative dream of mounting a “regime change” in Moscow is particularly dangerous to the future of both Russia and the world.
Regardless of what you think about President Putin, he is a rational political leader whose legendary sangfroid makes him someone who is not prone to emotional decisions. His leadership style also appeals to the Russian people who overwhelmingly favor him, according to public opinion polls.
While the American neocons may fantasize that they can generate enough economic pain and political dissension inside Russia to achieve Putin’s removal, their expectation that he will be followed by a pliable leader like the late President Boris Yeltsin, who will let U.S. operatives back in to resume plundering Russia’s riches, is almost certainly a fantasy.
The far more likely possibility is that – if a “regime change” could somehow be arranged – Putin would be replaced by a hard-line nationalist who might think seriously about unleashing Russia’s nuclear arsenal if the West again tries to defile Mother Russia. For me, it’s not Putin who’s the worry; it’s the guy after Putin.
So, while legitimate questions about Putin’s “corruption” – or that of any other political leader – should be pursued, the standards of evidence should not be lowered just because he or anyone else is a demonized figure in the West. There should be single not double standards.
Western media outrage about “corruption” should be expressed as loudly against political and business leaders in the U.S. or other G-7 countries as it is toward those in the BRICS.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Now, at last, The New York Times has turned its sights on Gaza fishermen, a much beleaguered group, which has persevered under constant harassment and crippling restrictions. It has long been well under the radar as far as the newspaper’s reporting is concerned.
This week, however, we have an above-the-fold story on page 5 accompanied by a color photo of two fishermen with their nets. What has prompted this long overdue attention? It is the opportunity to present Israel as the benevolent caretaker of the besieged Gaza Strip.
Thus we find a headline announcing the following: “Israel Expands Palestinians’ Fishing Zone Off Gaza.” The story below reports the decision to increase the allowed zone from 6 to 9 nautical miles and the relief and excitement of Gaza fishermen and officials.
The article ends with a quote from Israeli officials, saying that the expansion was part of an effort to “improve the economy and foster stability” in the West Bank and Gaza, and so the story is framed around Israeli efforts to help struggling fishermen and Palestinians in general.
Thanks no doubt to the efforts of Times stringer Majd Al Waheidi of Gaza, readers find hints of the grim reality that fishermen there have actually faced over several years. We learn that Israeli gunboats have been firing on fishermen as they go to sea, and we hear the story of Ismail al-Shrafi, 62, who lost his boat five months ago when Israeli sailors confiscated it, injuring his son with live fire in the process.
The story, however, provides no data to place the case of al-Shrafi in context. Readers do not learn that during 2015, the Israeli navy fired on Gaza fishermen at least 139 times, wounding 24 fishermen and damaging 16 boats. Another 22 boats were confiscated, and 71 fishermen were detained.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, all these incidents took place within the legal 6-mile zone, but the Times notes that an army spokesperson denied that the navy had fired on boats within the permitted area.
The article, by Al Waheidi and Isabel Kershner, also states that over the weekend the navy “sank a suspected smuggling boat,” but it fails to inform readers that witnesses have contradicted this account. According to Palestinian news sources, the navy fired on several boats near Rafah, setting fire to one fishing vessel and causing it to sink.
The Times is denying readers the complete story here, but its most egregious paragraph is the final one in which officials claim that the expansion of the fishing zone was “part of a policy of loosening restrictions” to help the Palestinian economy.
In fact, Israeli policy appears to be aimed at impeding, rather than bolstering, economic progress in Gaza and the West Bank. Here are just a few examples of how Israeli actions and regulations impact the Palestinian economy:
- The same day the fishing zone was expanded from 6 to 9 miles, four Israeli military bulldozers entered the Gaza strip to destroy farmland planted with wheat.
- According to the PCHR, 35 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land “can only be accessed under high personal risk” because Israeli troops frequently fire on laborers in the fields.
- Israeli policies have caused the Palestinian telecommunications sector to lose $1 billion over the past three years, according to a World Bank report.
- Through a regime of permits, licenses and visas, Israel has cut into the Palestinian tourism industry, deflecting jobs and income to Israel.
- Israel confiscates some 80 percent of the water in the West Bank for its own use and charges Palestinian residents for the water it sells back to them.
- A United Nations report stated that in spite of the occasional loosening of restrictions, Gaza’s economy will continue to deteriorate as long as Israel maintains its blockade of the territory.
Times readers, however, are told that Israel is trying to help, loosening restrictions to “improve the economy.” Thus we find the headline this week announcing a generous move to allow fishermen more access to their own Gaza Sea.
It seems that the newspaper’s editors are credulous consumers of Israeli spin, readily quoting the self-serving claims of officials and making no attempt to verify the facts. Readers—as well as the courageous fishermen of Gaza—deserve better.
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A military scandal has rocked Israel, and The New York Times has been on hand to report developments: A soldier was arrested for killing a wounded and helpless Palestinian; the soldier was under investigation for murder, and some Israelis have protested, insisting that he is a hero.
These were the stories that made headlines in the Times after the murder was caught on video and spread through the Internet, provoking outrage worldwide. The newspaper, it seems, has been on this from the start.
But readers may not suspect that there is much more that the newspaper is withholding. After the early headlines, the Times has gone silent and has failed to report a number of developments connected with the story:
- The United Nations special rapporteur on summary executions said the video carried “all the signs of a clear case of an extrajudicial execution.”
- In spite of this assessment and the initial cries of outrage from the Israeli government and military, the charges against the soldier were reduced from murder to manslaughter.
- The accused man, Cpl. Elor Azarya, has been released from prison and allowed to move freely on base.
- Settlers have harassed and threatened to kill the Palestinian who videographed the killing.
- An Israeli rights organization has requested protection for the videographer.
- A survey of Israeli public opinion revealed that 57 percent opposed the arrest of the soldier and 68 percent thought the prime minister, defense minister and army chief of staff were wrong to condemn the killing.
- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, after first denouncing the murder, spoke with the soldier’s father and reassured him of army support.
- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and 10 other members of Congress have written to the state department, requesting an investigation into extrajudicial killings of Palestinians carried out by Israeli police and military.
All of these items appeared in media outlets, some of them disseminated widely, such as the downgrade from murder to manslaughter, which made headlines in Israel, the West and the Arab world. In the Times, however, this news became nothing but a whispered conjecture buried in an article last Thursday. Far into her piece, author Isabel Kershner briefly mentioned that prosecutors were “appearing to have backed off from the idea of a murder charge.”
Since then, the Times has had nothing more to say about the scandal, leaving readers with the impression that Israeli officials were swift and firm in their effort to bring justice to bear. As authorities backed off from the murder charge and let the soldier go free, the Times fell silent.
It seems that the newspaper has endeavored to whitewash Israeli actions—spotlighting the first cries of outrage when the video emerged, the arrest of the soldier and the talk of a murder investigation and ignoring news that might expose the reality: nearly unlimited impunity for crimes against Palestinians.
The paper had nothing to say, for instance, about Netanyahu’s change of tone. When the video first emerged, the prime minister said the killing “does not represent the values of the IDF.” Later he spoke to the accused man’s father, assuring him that he personally understood the man’s distress and saying that the family should trust the army to be “professional and fair in its investigation.”
This was reported extensively in Israel, as was the Leahy letter asking Secretary of State John Kerry to investigate a “disturbing number of reports of gross violations of human rights by security forces” in Israel and Egypt. The letter mentions several specific cases of alleged extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces.
Senator Leahy’s signature is of particular importance because his name is on a law that prohibits the United States from providing military aid to security forces that violate human rights with impunity.
Nevertheless, the Times has ignored the appeal by Leahy and 10 other members of Congress, even though the event is eminently newsworthy and the letter led to a sharp exchange between Netanyahu and Leahy.
The newspaper has also overlooked the effect of the incident on Palestinians: the threats against the videographer, the harassment of his family and initial refusals to allow Palestinian participation in conducting the autopsy.
It seems that much of the news touching on this latest Israeli scandal is unfit to print in the Times. Readers are not to see evidence that the first official reaction to the disturbing video was little more than damage control, an attempt to show the world that Israel does not condone such crimes. The Times, as usual, has fallen into line, a willing partner in the official effort to exonerate Israel of its crimes.
What would happen if the media lifted the curtain on Clinton’s healthcare platform and introduced any level of scrutiny to her proposed improvements on the Affordable Care Act?
In an extraordinary magic trick, performed on a national scale, Hillary Clinton’s healthcare platform has been disappeared. While policy analysts, news anchors, and columnists have been engaged in an intense debate over Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare for All” proposal, Clinton’s incremental alternative has escaped almost all scrutiny – even among those who say they prefer it.
Combining the election-season writings of our most prolific, liberal-leaning columnists at the New York Times, Huffington Post, Vox, Mother Jones, Politico, The American Prospect, etc. you’ll find dozens of articles critiquing Sanders’s single-payer plan. None have mentioned a single Clinton healthcare proposal as a point of comparison – merely that she supports a philosphy of incremental reform.
Take Paul Krugman, a high-profile advocate of Clinton’s approach to healthcare reform. Krugman has published two op-eds in the New York Times and five additional blog posts arguing that “[progressives] should seek incremental change on health care… and focus their main efforts on other issues – that is… Bernie Sanders is wrong about this and Hillary Clinton is right.” In all seven pieces, Krugman focuses exclusively on Sanders’s single-payer proposal and fails to mention even a single Clinton policy.
The disappearance of the Clinton healthcare platform has even been carried out by pollsters. The Kaiser Health Tracking Survey included a bizarre question in its February 2016 poll, which was widely cited in the press. Respondents were asked to pick one of four possible directions for the future of U.S. healthcare. Among the choices were “The U.S. should establish guaranteed universal coverage through a single government plan” and “Lawmakers should build on the existing health care law to improve affordability and access to care.” Thirty-three percent of Democrats chose the single-payer option, while fifty-four percent chose the incremental option. The questions were clearly intended as stand-ins for the Sanders and Clinton healthcare proposals, but note that the single-payer option is a policy, whereas the incremental option mentions no actual policies, but asks respondents whether they support the (universally desirable) outcomes of improving affordability and access.
What would happen if the media lifted the curtain on Clinton’s healthcare platform and introduced any level of scrutiny to her proposed improvements on the Affordable Care Act? They would find two categories of Clinton proposals: some that are so vague they’re difficult to evaluate, and other more concrete plans that follow in the footsteps of one of Congress’s most practiced healthcare incrementalists: Senator Bernie Sanders.
For example, one of Clinton’s clearest incremental proposals is to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s poorly named “cadillac tax” on health plans with high premiums. She announced this proposal on September 29, drawing the ire of White House spokespeople. The move, however, followed in the footsteps of a Senate bill to repeal the Cadillac tax introduced by Bernie Sanders and seven Democratic Senators just a few days previously on September 24. Clinton’s position was correctly seen by reporters as necessary if she didn’t want to lose labor union support to Sanders.
“Because Clinton’s healthcare platform has received zero public scrutiny, she has had the luxury of floating other policy ideas in broad outlines, too vague to evaluate.”Many of Clinton’s well-defined healthcare proposals are rolled into a package of prescription drug reforms, which she released on September 22, 2015. They bear a striking resemblance to the Sanders prescription drug plan announced on September 1, filed as legislation on September 10. Both would legalize importation of prescription drugs from Canada, where costs for identical drugs are much lower due to Canada’s single-payer healthcare system. Sanders was a pioneer of importation, and in 1999 started driving busloads of American patients who couldn’t afford breast cancer drugs across the Canadian border. Both candidates call for empowering Medicare to negotiate drug prices – even Donald Trump jumped on board in January. Both would ban “pay-for-delay” deals between brand-name and generic drug makers, and increase prescription drug rebates for Medicaid and/or Medicare.
Because Clinton’s healthcare platform has received zero public scrutiny, she has had the luxury of floating other policy ideas in broad outlines, too vague to evaluate. Take the proposal to expand the use of Accountable Care Organizations. How? According to Clinton’s December policy brief: “In the coming months, [Clinton] will provide full detail on her plans for delivery system reforms that drive down costs.” With the primaries drawing to a close, no such details have been released. The same could be said of another proposal to “create a fallback process” to review insurance premium rate hikes in states that don’t already review rates. There has been no explanation of how such a plan would work, or whether it would require new legislation.
This is the double standard at work in almost all national coverage of Clinton and Sanders on healthcare reform: Clinton has been taken at her word that her incremental plans will be politically feasible, succeed in improving affordability and access to care, and are not shared by her opponent. Sanders on the other hand received intense public pressure to release details of his single-payer healthcare proposal, and when he did the proposal was subject to an avalanche of public analysis and scrutiny.
This double standard is all the more remarkable because single-payer healthcare is an established policy, practiced in one form or another in almost every developed nation in the world. Incremental reforms that work within the market-based healthcare system of the U.S. are far more uncertain, and deserve greater scrutiny. They are easier to enact but dramatically more likely to fall short of their goals. This is because incremental reforms in the United States usually focus on expanding access to care, without significant cost controls, in order to avoid opposition from the healthcare industry. The resulting policies are often unsustainable; make little headway against national trends of rising costs and eroding access; or simply move costs around (e.g. from premiums to deductibles and co-payments, or vice versa).
Previous national trends in incremental healthcare reform – from managed care through pharmacy benefit management, chronic disease management, narrow networks, and beyond – have often created lucrative new industries, but had dubious impacts on underlying healthcare costs or access to care. Most of Clinton’s healthcare platform falls exactly into these danger zones, and should be received with a critical eye.
The national discussion of single-payer healthcare reform is long overdue. However, when the full range of national media outlets force one candidate to run on real policies, while allowing another to run on values and aspirations, we aren’t having a real discussion of systemic vs. incremental reform, we are merely aiding the corrosion of informed democracy.
Benjamin Day is the Executive Director of Healthcare-NOW.
He’s a serious presidential contender with unorthodox views on some issues – making him appear anti-establishment, worrying duopoly power brokers and media scoundrels supporting them.
Wide-ranging interviews with NYT and Washington Post editors, as well as opinions expressed separately, showed his foreign policy views differ considerably from other candidates.
“I want to get along with Russia,” he said, calling good relations “very good… I’d get along very well with Vladimir Putin.”
“I want to get along with all countries, and we will,” he said, calling his approach to world affairs “unabashedly noninterventionist.”
He opposes expensive worldwide nation-building projects while America’s infrastructure deteriorates.
He’s against massive US military buildups in Europe and East Asia. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore. NATO is costing us a fortune…”
“Why are we (risking) potentially (a) third world war with Russia?” He questions involvement in protecting allies like Japan and South Korea, wanting them to do more on their own.
US intervention abroad caused more problems than solutions, notably in the Middle East, he said.
“Every bad decision that you could make in the Middle East was made.” If Obama and Bush “just (went) to the beach and enjoyed the ocean and the sun, we would’ve been much better off… than all of this tremendous death, destruction, and… monetary loss. It’s just incredible,” he stressed.
He called NATO obsolete, preferring an alternative organization focusing on counterterrorism. He questioned the benefit of America’s global empire of bases.
He called nuclear weapons “the biggest problem the world has,” saying he’d use them only as “an absolute last step,” instead of renouncing them altogether.
The New York Times is America’s leading establishment media organization – supporting policies favoring wealth and power interests exclusively.
It editors called Trump’s foreign policy views “dangerous babble,” uneasy about an administration under his stewardship curbing its warmaking appetite – hyping nonexistent “Russia(n) aggressive movements in Ukraine and threats to the Baltics…”
Saying “this is no time (for) Washington” to restrain its global militarism. Trump’s views “are contradictory and shockingly ignorant.”
Times editors support US military involvement worldwide, its wars of aggression in multiple theaters.
They call today’s world “dangerous,” failing to explain Washington allied with Israel and other rogue states bear full responsibility for its deplorable state.
Trump if elected president will differ from traditional candidates largely in style. At the same time, if he favors more cooperation and less confrontation with other nations, “that’s a good thing” as he puts it in his own words.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
An Israeli soldier is caught on video murdering a helpless, wounded Palestinian as he lies on the street; the graphic scene makes headlines in Europe, the United States and beyond—with a notable exception: The New York Times.
In the newspaper of record we find a different focus. The video and its contents are not the news here; it is the reaction from the Israeli ‘Defense’ Forces that takes precedence over all.
In other words, the Times has chosen to emphasize Israeli spin over events on the ground, and so we have this headline above today’s story by Isabel Kershner: “Israeli Soldier Detained in Shooting of Palestinian.” It is all to convince us that this incident is a terrible aberration from accepted norms and will call forth a swift response.
Her article opens with reference to the IDF announcement that it had arrested the soldier accused of shooting the Palestinian, and it quickly adds that a military spokesman condemned the act as a “grave breach” of the corps’ values.
Kershner goes on to quote and paraphrase the IDF or Israeli officials no less than nine times in the course of a 900-word story. We have comments by the Israeli defense minister, a brigadier general, a lieutenant general, the lawyer representing the detained soldier and the army’s flak, Lt. Col. Peter Lerner.
She expends seven paragraphs on the IDF claims before allowing the other side to speak, and then she quotes from two representatives of human rights groups before returning the microphone to official apologists once again.
Take a look at the headlines and stories in, for instance, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. Both these newspapers took the video itself as the news, with headlines, such as this from the Post: “Watch: Israeli soldier caught on video fatally shooting wounded Palestinian attacker.”
Both papers also include a disturbing quote caught on the video, a voice saying, “This terrorist is still alive, this dog.” The statement was made moments before the wounded man was shot, but Kershner omits it entirely from her story.
She also buys into the army claim that it had started its investigation before the video emerged and then “rocketed around the Internet.” This, however, does not jibe with her statement that the army’s original announcement of the incident was “routine,” a brief report that two assailants had been shot.
The army’s claims of outrage ring hollow in the face of the video evidence, which places the soldiers’ indifference at the killing of the wounded man on full display. They appear cheerful and callously unconcerned and allow local settlers to approach and take pictures of the body.
Kershner, however, characterizes this atmosphere as “a calm, secure scene.”
Readers can find a very different perspective in a brief blog post by Israeli-based journalist Jonathan Cook. In a piece titled, “Another routine execution by Israeli troops,” he writes that “two Israeli officers standing close by don’t bat an eyelid as the Palestinian man is murdered next to them. The soldier who executes the Palestinian even confers with another officer seconds before the deed, apparently getting permission.”
He concludes, “All of them seem to view this as standard operating procedure. And it is: in Israeli military parlance, it is called ‘confirming the kill.’”
Cook’s claim that the incident is far from an aberration has support from many rights groups, international monitoring organizations and even Israeli journalist Gideon Levy (see TimesWarp 1-20-16), and although Kershner mentions these briefly, she gives the weight of her story to the Israeli response.
The Times has almost totally ignored these accusations, and now it strives to convince us that the assassination was anything but routine even as the visual evidence shows otherwise. Readers who care to discover the actual story here can simply watch the scene unfold, a brief and chilling view of the Israeli army carrying out a normal day’s work.
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Once again, The New York Times has provided us with a Palestinian “slice of life,” a look at that society from within, and once again the portrait is unflattering. In recent articles the newspaper has shown us Palestinian sexism, patriarchy, prudery, violence and general backwardness. Now we get a close look at the “dysfunction of Palestinian politics.”
The latest piece by Diaa Hadid is titled “A Legislature Where Palestinian Lawmakers Go to Hide,” and it introduces us to Najat Abu Baker, a member of the defunct Palestinian parliament, who took refuge in an “all-but-abandoned legislative building” in Ramallah. She was avoiding prosecutors who had summoned her to answer charges of insulting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
The building is considered a “protected space” where security forces do not enter, but it serves for little else. A few guards patrol the site, and some 120 employees show up in order to collect their paychecks, although they have little real work to do.
No doubt the system is dysfunctional, but in all her 1,200 words about the subject, Hadid never once mentions the Israeli occupation as a factor in the breakdown of Palestinian governance. Israel has arrested and currently imprisons elected members of parliament, for instance, but in her telling it is all a Palestinian problem, fed by rivalries between the Fatah and Hamas factions and nothing else.
Hadid fails to mention the occupation in other stories that depict a “slice of life” in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel proper, and these articles also present Palestinian society in a censorious light. Since the beginning of the year, she has published the following in the Times:
- An article about nightlife in Haifa, shown as a “liberal” refuge from the backward and conservative Palestinian community. (1-3-16)
- A story about Gaza women who ride bicycles in defiance of the sexist norms of local society. (2-23-16)
- A piece about the killing of a Hamas fighter, allegedly for homosexual acts and theft. (3-2-16)
- An article about a Gaza woman who was allowed to sing in public under the watchful eyes of prudish Hamas officials. (3-14-16)
The Haifa piece was the subject of comments by Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, who noted that the story lacked context. “While it’s impossible (and a bad idea) to summarize the history of Israel and Palestine in every piece of news coverage or every feature article, this article needed more political and historical information to put it in perspective,” she wrote.
But neither Hadid nor her editors took this advice to heart. In each of the following feature stories context is almost totally missing. The three Gaza articles fail to mention the eight-year blockade of the strip—a stunning omission.
The best Hadid can manage is this vague reference in the article about the Gaza singer: “In recent months, Hamas officials have been quietly loosening the reins as Gaza residents chafe under years of restrictions on their movement by neighboring Israel and Egypt. They have endured three wars in a decade, and poverty and unemployment are rampant.”
Readers are left with no real sense of Israel’s role in these successive disasters. Once again, the focus is on Palestinian shortcomings.
If they were so inclined, Times reporters could choose to write any number of positive stories underscoring Palestinian resilience, perseverance and achievements. Here are just a few:
- Only last week Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian elementary school teacher in the occupied West Bank, won the $1 million Global Teacher Award for 2016, beating out other talented educators throughout the world with her inspired teaching of nonviolent conflict resolution.
- Gaza fishermen have been braving the constant harassment of Israeli gunboats, the threat of arrest and live fire each time they go to sea in search of their daily catch. They continue to work even as Israeli sailors damage and confiscate their boats and equipment.
- Herding communities in the Jordan Valley and the South Hebron Hills cling to their land in spite of repeated demolitions and encroaching settlements. Some of them take refuge in caves after bulldozers destroy their tents and houses.
- Authorities have demolished the Israeli Bedouin community of Al Araqib at least 95 times, but the residents keep returning to rebuild in an incredible show of determination.
- The Nassar family has held off Israeli confiscation of their ancestral land in the West Bank for decades, drawing on international support for their community, the Tent of Nations, where they operate under the slogan, “We Refuse to Be Enemies.”
The Times has shown no interest in highlighting any of these topics, although they provide first-rate material for profiles and “slice of life” feature stories. It appears that such articles would also carry the risk of challenging the accepted narrative by exposing Israeli brutality as well as Palestinian efforts at peace-building.
Times editors and reporters can claim that they have provided sketches of Palestinian life from inside the occupied territories and in Israel proper, but they show little interest in moving beyond facile stereotypes. Robbed of context and viewed through a prejudicial lens, Palestinian society takes a beating in the Times.
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