The media caters to a particular demographic, telling that demographic what it already believes — even when it is unverified or false. This pandering defines the coverage of the Trump-Russia saga.
We have met the enemy and he is us. Patrick Lawrence has a piece over on CN where he relates the experiences of a couple of Russian bureaucrats that were given a tour of the US by the State Department. At the end, the DoS minders asked the Russians what they thought. They said that back home, the Russian government makes sure that all the news was the same. Remarkably here in the US, it made no difference what city we were in, the news was all the same.
What kills me about the Trump/Russia fiasco is that it was so unnecessary. Donald J. Trump is just a New York City grifter. His leadership skills and executive skills are non-existent. His management skills were chaotic at best. There's a reason why he went bankrupt three times. One didn't need to make shit up to criticize Trump. The fact that his critics felt a need to do so tells you more about his critics than they've told you about him.
I cancelled my subscription to The NY Times almost 3 years ago after getting sick and tired of watching them interdigitate facts and editorial. The notion that alternative viewpoints need to be presented and alternative understandings of the facts was no longer seen. I had seen this trend developing well before the pandemic. Although I am no fan of Trump, the vicious and gratuitous libel with which Trump was publicly tarred and feathered made an impression on me, of long-standing progressive orientation, that journalism had lost its footing and was becoming a weaponized political tool. My uncle, the late David Laventhol, one of the great newspaper editors of our time, and who died several years ago would have wept to see the state of immoralism that has overtaken journalism, and our country in general. Shocking as the breaches of ethics and sound principles in governing not only journalism, but politics, medicine, education, and business, what is even more shocking is to see how many are willing to sell their souls for the sake of a buck or to curry favor with the rich and powerful. And then, just as horrifying, are those who are willing to look the other way and somehow claim that they are not morally responsible since they didn't commit the crime themselves, even while being aware of it being committed . We live in immoral times where the syphilitic powers of nature have been unleashed upon the world and we must hold onto our morals with all our might as they all that keep us from being sucked into the abyss of evil.
Thank you Chris for another excellent article on the current state of journalism in the US. I never voted for Trump but the hatred and derangement syndrome persists years after he has left office. I never understood this. My son is a journalism major and I told him he has a rough road ahead of him.
"The silence by news organizations that for years perpetuated this fraud is ominous. It cements into place a new media model, one without credibility or accountability. The handful of reporters who have responded to Gerth’s investigative piece, such as David Corn at Mother Jones, have doubled down on the old lies, as if the mountain of evidence discrediting their reporting, most of it coming from the FBI and the Mueller Report, does not exist.
Once fact becomes interchangeable with opinion, once truth is irrelevant, once people are told only what they wish to hear, journalism ceases to be journalism and becomes propaganda."
Ye when the same lying cabal of presstitutes sang from the Fauci-Pfizer hymnal smearing Great Barrington Declaration & calling the most published medical doctors in their fields "fringe".. pimping fluid shield exam masks to stop virus so small it needs a biosafety lab to handle etc even the NYT skeptics swallowed the BS, helped call for mandates and long lists of policies never successful except for implementing regimes that turn liberty into privileges given in exchange for compliance.
I would be embarrassed today to have to admit that my job is journalism. It was a career choice that used to have some luster. But today, it is at the level of shyster or someone without a modicum of integrity.
I think ONE of the sources of the problem is that our education system has been taken over by radical activists and their early focus was to indoctrinate students into a specific ideology... and focused on the humanities disciplines that trains most journalists. It seems that this was by design.
Obviously cable news and then the Internet has caused a race-to-the-bottom for media-news organization desperation to capture and hold paying customers... but as Substack.com proves there has always been a market for open, varied and objective content that people will pay for.
No, the Trump-Russia lies that dominated the entire mainstream media and was promulgated by the actual government favoring Democrats... that was NOT just explained by news organizations wanting to capture customers. It is evidence that the we have a blob of power that is backed by a specific radical ideological viewpoint and most of the discipline of journalism has been indoctrinated in that radical ideological viewpoint as true believers. And as true believers the desired end can be made to justify almost any means.
The corruption of the media that has been made apparent by the lies of Trump-Russia collusion and the avoidance of reporting on the Hunter laptop and now the Twitter Files... and the ongoing denial by journalists that none of these things warrant much attention... well to just chalk that up to news organizations wanting to keep their base of customers happy... that does not sufficiently explain what is going on.
I wish that in this piece, Chris had mentioned the system-wide blackout of Seymour Hersh's Feb. 8 report on the Nord Stream pipeline sabotage. Chris has probably commented on the MSM smothering of the Hersh report elsewhere (and I simply haven't seen it yet), but this blackout certainly seems to qualify as a prime example of the "Death Spiral of American Journalism."
In summary -- US is and has been for decades -- a fascist country
The truth was never the point. Nobody serious believed seriously in Russiagate
The point was to hamstring any moves by Trump to take a less confrontational stance vis-a-vis Russia.
I am thankful for Substack, because this is the only place you see criticism of the MSM by professional journalists. NY Times has become the political equivalent of the National Enquirer.
I have to say , I am somewhat surprised by your choice of networks and people that you feel , if I’m reading this correctly, have driven Media focus in a negative direction .
My understanding is that most Media is now owned by those people who tended to buy into Right aligned news bias .
While i think there is political ‘bend’ on both the ‘right’ and the ‘left’.
I believe I’ve seen a strained attempt to believe and present news as equally truthful or not . But an effort to pretend Democracy is not being threatened by Trump and his followers.
It seems a little off to hold up these examples of CNN, MSNBC, as being antagonistic to Trump , because” they hated him”.
Perhaps they did hate him. Does that change that the man did seem to have a fondness for Dictators and Authoritarian leaders and their policies?
That he was a man with a major fondness of lies as opposed to truth telling.
I look at whats gone on with his blatant lying and that of his Fox News network .
This was contrived lying at its finest ( or worst).
Im sorry, I understand the truth in journalism is the point, but iI do not believe their was no collusion on the part of Trump and Putins Russia.
We heard him tell Russia to look for Hillary’s missing emails.
So perhaps he had some responsibility for this widespread belief that he had a major part in these
Impressions .Sorry , but the man attempted to overthrow the legitimacy of an election, because he didn’t win.
That was something i watched w my own eyes . When we speak of Rachel Maddow as a traitor to accurate journalism and no mention of Tucker Carlson .
It doesn’t make me believe this was a contrived effort to besmirch Trumps name .
But, perhaps revelation of what he presented himself as .
I care far more about media lies to prop up US empire and ignore corporate power and wealth inequality and ignore/downplay the climate crisis and the plight of working class Americans.
This attack on media for Russia-gate is getting old by now.
Frankly, a lot of it is feeding exactly the fascist cultural tendencies Hedges writes so eloquently about.
And there is little linkage to how and why Democrats (DNC and Clinton campaign) manufactured this lie and how it is now being used to support a New Cold War.
So where does the truth lay? I am just an armchair observer and admittedly ready to believe the worst about trump. That said, I'd like to know what those who have the fullest picture of his entanglements with Russia believe. It is hard for me to accept there is a neutral or arms length relationship there. The weight of circumstantial evidence is impressive, and I just can't wave away the smoke without thinking something is alight. His financial misfeasance leading to dependence on Russian money. His obsequiousness towards Putin, who does not seem like the type to ignore any possible forms of leverage over an opponent. Paul Manafort. St. Petersburg troll farms. DNC hacks. Internet influence operations and timely releases of information to help trump and hurt Hillary in 2016.
Is all of this nothing? There didn't need to be secret phone calls or encrypted communication between trump's campaign and Kremlin agents. They were working toward the same goal, and had enough tangential contact to know that, or so it seems to me.
Perhaps the mainstream media were too eager to see what their readers wanted to believe. But I don't think the sin of reportorial overreach should negate the possibility that something untoward took place. Which, surprise, surprise, greatly inflamed existing divisions within this country and led to the weakening of our overseas alliances. Who benefits more than Vladimir Putin from that state of affairs?
As I said up top, I'm interested in the truth. But I can't ignore the web of connections between trump and Russia because the NY Times may have been catering to fickle subscribers.
The investigation produced 37 indictments; seven guilty pleas or convictions; and compelling evidence that the president obstructed justice on multiple occasions. Mueller also uncovered and referred 14 criminal matters to other components of the Department of Justice.
Trump associates repeatedly lied to investigators about their contacts with Russians, and President Trump refused to answer questions about his efforts to impede federal proceedings and influence the testimony of witnesses.
A statement signed by over 1,000 former federal prosecutors concluded that if any other American engaged in the same efforts to impede federal proceedings the way Trump did, they would likely be indicted for multiple charges of obstruction of justice.
With just this information alone, I don’t understand how anyone can believe that he’s an innocent man that was a victim of a political witch hunt.
While I have to say that I was always suspicious of the claims that Trump was a Russian asset - some of the continuous river of attack against him - fuelled as much by his crassness as possible believability of mainstream US press - of course filled the cracks of any of my doubts. Gersh totally swept away any lingering doubts about the deceit of the media and "official" un-named sources. Just to-day I have read a mainstream news story on Syria which begins with a headline about President Assad's wife and Louboutin heels. Then a statement about the thousands of barrel bombs Assad dropped on quarters of his capital city - when it is known that they were dropped by the US-supported rebels and their so-called "white-helmet" agents - propaganda stories. And further on in the story of negatives - "claims a CIA agent who knows Assad" - no further context or attribution. The two named journalists (how embarrassing for their future careers - or not) for the story must have received the press release direct from the CIA or from the CIA's general dissemination point. Some years back Australia had a Foreign Minister called Julie Bishop. A lightweight "personality" who would do early morning jogs around important foreign capitals - somehow always being filmed by compliant press pausing during those jogging sessions outside famous brand-name shoe stores. All positive and glamour - our foreign minister with an eye for fashion. The same kind of "courtesy" but with a side-eye negativity - afforded President Assad's wife. I wonder what Joe Biden's wife is wearing - Nancy Pelosi, anyone? What of the US VP?
Chris you and Matt Taibbi often make a kind of "make journalism great again" argument, but I think it misses the point that the purpose of large news organizations was always to serve up propaganda that serves the interests of the most powerful factions in society. The particular model has changed over time, but in general, fundamentally, it was always about framing dominant public narratives. What you guys are concerned with is simply furniture rearrangement in the same room, same house. And truth was always disregarded/ignored when it contradicted the desired narrative of the publisher.
Americans used to know this, but forgot about it and are only now re-discovering it. In the early 19th century, dominant political factions overtly pushed their own newspapers, and the nature of these operations was largely understood by the public to represent only the views of those particular factions...readers sought them out in order to get the latest dish on what the powerful factions were thinking. The Gilded Age brought about the rise of oligarch-controlled news organizations, and they dramatically expanded the model of serving up (sometimes fabricating) hot-selling stories and competing for control of the largest audiences. The advent of WW1 brought about a huge increase (but not the beginning) in the use of mass media for peddling government propaganda and building support for war. Goebbels spoke admiringly of these very efforts as the inspiration for his Nazi propaganda machine. By WW2 the mass media was thoroughly under the thumb of the US government, who then became consolidated under the influence of a few broadcast TV networks and played the public like a fiddle...seeking large audiences was an artifact of strict control over (and limited number of) broadcast TV networks. The rise of TV also threatened newspapers, and they went through an early round of consolidation. This highly evolved propaganda machine, what you term the "old media," split up to serve more focused partisan audiences in the "new media" period (especially with the rise of cable TV), and the internet only put booster rockets on this evolution.
Today, the split of mass media into more focused partisan audiences is a return to the way things used to be, and has helped to reveal the fundamental nature of the propaganda machine. The public, cultivated to be brainwashed and embracing an intellectually infantile faith in "trusted sources," has been released naked into the wilderness, and they are struggling. Most are still trying to hold onto to something "trusted," following the split in dominant narratives. All we can do is hope that they will learn to be skeptical of everything, abandon the ridiculous notion of "trusted sources," and graduate from being babies on an information battlefield to more enlightened consumers and analysts of any and all "news." Helping them achieve information maturity is now our primary task...we should take up this cause in earnest.
Like the Nobel Peace Prize, do Pulitzers even mean anything anymore?