I am trying to break things up into slightly smaller chunks, and so this is a continuation of the previous note. If you have not read that, you might want to backtrack and then return.
I saw a video made by Jordan Peele that was very interesting. If you are unfamiliar with actor, writer, and director Peele, he was the Peele in Key & Peele, a great, now defunct, sketch comedy TV series, where, among other things, they did a recurring sketch where Peele did a very good Obama impersonation. The premise was to have Obama speak to the audience while, standing next to him, his words would be interpreted by a character, played by Key, named Luther, Obama’s “anger translator”. It was a riot.
Anyway, Peele hauled out his Obama voice to put together this video, that was both impressive and very disturbing, and had some humor, but made a deeply serious point about the potential for gross deception and manipulation that is possible now. Watch it.
Back? Good. Now, what Peele said at the end was good, but one key primary item brought me to a halt. It is no small issue. That was Peele making a statement about guarding against “fake news” deceptions by relying on “trusted news sources”. The large question left hanging in the air is what, exactly, qualifies as a trusted news source, then?
That is where we get into all kinds of serious problems. It is not easy and simple. The idea seems simple enough, find a genuinely good news source you can trust. Unfortunately, the reality of this idea of relying on trusted news sources effectively means “find a source of news that I will then believe without questions and scrutiny about anything they tell me being the truth, accurate, and complete”.
One factor, painfully obvious by now is how the pervasive bipolar political disorder upends things for so many people. You know the stuff.
Suggest that there is vast room for improvement in the news shows from NPR, for example, and you can completely predict the chattering about NPR, and PBS, from people having all their “thoughts” about the subject programmed into them by endless saturation doses of watching Fox News Channel, a TV news network designed from the very start as a propaganda network. That operation is almost comical, although the humor is very dark, including their spectacularly ridiculous “Fair and Balanced” marketing slogan. I have paid little attention to them or CNN for a long time, other than to check occasionally to see how bad they are now, so I am not sure if FNC and CNN still have their little game of each claiming to be “most trusted”.
CNN is a pathetic joke, and has been for a very long time. They don’t seem to place any value in the idea of allocating budget to the practice of journalism, although they do seem to place very high importance on spectacular TV studio sets and whatever latest digital video production magic they can find to show their “innovation”. For many years, CNN has been a ridiculous conduit of some form of light entertainment just mostly pumping out useless noise. At the moment, the only reason I see to ever watch CNN is Anthony Bourdain’s series, which, ironically, is possibly one of the best things in the history of American television, essentially a continuation of his former series on the Travel Channel, but not news. Extra irony is found in the thought that Bourdain’s show might provide more genuine insight and perspective about human life than any of the supposed “news” on his current home TV network.
Trying to address any of this, even if you limit the scope to the subject of television news only, gets complicated. A large part of this, no surprise, stems from the epidemic of bipolar political disorder, as people squawk simplistically about news from/for or against what they view as their side or the other side. Making this much worse, and part of why I keep hammering on the topic, is that so many people seem, at a glance, to have some awareness of this phenomenon, and yet, are then sucked right into it themselves. It is inevitable and certain that down the road, in the future historians and younger people, and people in general, will look back upon this period and basically think “what the hell was wrong with those people?”.
The tragic irony is that part of the lessons of history is that there are periods in history where seemingly whole societies (although it never really is everybody in the society) just go completely batshit crazy, that seems so plainly and horribly obvious in historical retrospect, while in the time and place involved, people are so lost in some fog that they just don’t see it. How it can happen is a whole subject of its own, another lesson that has already been covered by people in the past, left ignored over and over. I have not mentioned it in a while, but this is even put in a form for children to easily understand in the old story of The Emperor’s New Clothes; people follow some obvious madness because of some herd instinct of it being easier to just play along. (The extra twist being that once something breaks the spell of mob madness, everybody involved then falls all over themselves to claim “oh, I knew it all along, I was never part of that!”.)
I might get back to this, but let’s press on and get back to our present news landscape.
I am very sure that anyone reading this knows, to whatever extent, the noise about news and views of credibility dependent on the fixations of bipolar political disorder. There is the captive audience of Fox News, a silly subject that is obvious to many people, as they hold an audience sucked into the Fox ploys about being “Fair and Balanced”, an antidote to that “liberal media bias”.
Much more subtle and insidious is the problem of people thinking that as long as they avoid the obvious propaganda medium nature of Fox News, and stick with “the legit media”, everything is fine, with the problems coming in what they regard as the “trusted sources”, the legit Real News.
Ask around, and it might be pretty predictable about what many people would consider the “legit news”. Generally, that would probably be the three old TV broadcast networks that have had their evening newscasts for decades, PBS and NPR, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times and Washington Post in newspapers, and “in depth” newsmagazines, mainly Time and Newsweek.
Somebody could, and maybe should (and for all I know, maybe I’m unaware that people already have) do a book about the ownership and direction of all these “legit media”. For all the proud righteousness about how here in the United States we have our “Free Press”, there are some serious issues and questions about how “free” it is.
I sit here now grumbling to myself about not being able to remember who said it, for attribution, but I remember a saying going something like “there are no people more enslaved than people who falsely believe they are free”. We could alter that slightly to a variation, to say that there are possibly no people more misinformed and uninformed than people who falsely believe they are well informed.
Of course, then, raising any of this will likely just trigger all kinds of squabbling about “legit news” versus “Fake News” among a lot of people who might not really be examining anything very closely. Talking about this, you can count on having more than a little bipolar political disorder showing itself, along with some amount of “oh, so you think you’re so smart, you condescending arrogant bastard!”.
Plus, as with many things now regarding any sort of public events, situations, and information, somebody, at some point, guaranteed, will haul out the phrase “conspiracy theory!”.
In a previous note I raised the question about the NPR news shows and what they cover, what they do not cover, and what you get when they do, in theory, make a little show of coverage. That is the big question for anything in the realm of news media. There is a lot missing, in all of the examples named as “legit” and “real” news, “trusted news sources”. That should be regarded as stating the obvious to anyone who reads here, as there are usually loads of links to missing news, or corrected news.
There is nothing particularly subtle or hidden in the way that what are generally regarded as the “legit” news sources broadly fit a description of “corporate news media”, or “establishment news media”. Again, cue reflex retorts of “conspiracy theory!”. There is a load of irony in that kind of thing, all by itself, as people adopt usage of that phrase as a broad pejorative, while never stepping back and wondering how they have been programmed to think and use that term.
To focus in on them for a second; many people tend to think of NPR and the PBS televised news as a better example of American news, by virtue of being non-commercial, thinking of them as less flash and more substance, serious news for thinking people, independent and objective. Have you listened to the NPR news? Do you hear the commercials? The problem is that people seem to not notice the commercial advertising, right in front of them. The advertising is described as being from “underwriters” and “supporters”, and people, amazingly, seem to think there is no advertising, simply because the ad spots are scripts read by the network’s own announcers, rather than being some ad spots produced by some advertising agency and played back during the show.
To be clear, I think it is fair to regard NPR and PBS as arguably the best in the broadcast news realm, but they are still seriously, deeply, flawed.
In all that collective group I listed, it is apparent, if you step back and look, that broadly speaking, we have the same batch of stories and narratives, focusing public attention on what somebody wants to be focused upon, leaving out what somebody does not want to get attention, and telling people what somebody wants people to think. Examine how much of what we get for news consists of simply rolling out a series of statements from various parties; government official spokesmen, various talking head spokespeople from assorted entities, somebody says this, somebody says that, and that’s the “news report”. One dilemma that forms a kind of hidden in plain sight problem is that to know what information you are not getting, you have to know some hint of it, at least, a classic “you don’t know what you don’t know” problem.
That is not an insurmountable problem. We do have real journalists doing the job. You must look around to find them. People might complain that this gets them into “fake news”, even while failing to realize that so much of what they take in as “news” is essentially mass doses of propaganda.
You may ask, how do you determine what is “trusted” news? Actually, one warning sign might be somebody feeding you slogans about they, supposedly, are “most trusted”. You have to look. You need to pay attention. Things need examination; do they have the resonance of truth, or an aroma of bullshit? How do reports compare between sources? Are you actually getting substantial information, or some endless variations of “somebody says”? Does it even make sense? How does it relate to the idea contained in the Latin phrase “cui bono?”, “who benefits?”.
I will not waste a lot of time talking about Fox News. That should be obvious as being a full on propaganda operation. Even then, you have the occasional episode of somebody actually telling the truth, like the recent bit from Fox talking head Tucker Carlson.
Meanwhile, MSNBC has its own seemingly captive audience, with the irony that they seem to have a devoted audience of people thinking of themselves as “Liberal” and “Left”, watching a network actually dominated by corporate warmongers. Years ago, Phil Donahue went off-script, and he was fired. Dylan Rattigan went off-script, he was fired. Ed Schultz went off-script, he was fired.
There was an article on the web about a recent interview with Ed Schultz about being pushed out at MSNBC, which included this text referring to Schultz and his current position on the RT network-
Schultz, despite previously ripping Vladimir Putin for his “nasty” human rights record, joined the Kremlin propaganda network in January of 2016.
That was immediately followed by the very next sentence-
He told Weinstein his anchoring gig at RT was the best job and “the most freedom I’ve ever had.”
[My emphasis in bold text.]
Hang on, RT is Putin’s personal propaganda network, right? Don’t we “know” this? How do we “know” this? Well, we hear and read this every day, literally, every day, from the “trusted legit news media” here in the United States! Compare the comment from Ed Schultz about working at RT with his experience working on MSNBC.
Go and watch, while we are at this, an installment of the Jimmy Dore Show, on YouTube, with a decent length interview with another American working for RT, to put things in a little better perspective.
That takes us to another item about The Jimmy Dore Show. That, a show on YouTube, done by Jimmy Dore, whose actual main profession is as a standup comedian, was started up as side occupation as a result of what seems to be sheer disgust about the state of the “trusted news sources” we’re looking at. An episode of that, not long ago, featured a story that came from the character named James O’Keefe, a name you might recognize from a few years ago as not being the most above board and honest character. In this case, he actually came up with something valid, it appears, showing somebody reported to be working for CNN. This gist of it being that the ongoing frenzy about Russia, in all its manifestations, is, in his words, mostly bullshit. This has been obvious to many of us for a long time, but, on it goes.
Forward a bit, and suddenly, on the CNN website, there is an article that includes, at the end, this text:
If the channels are monetized — which InfoWars has previously claimed they are — the major newspapers could have unknowingly supported disinformation and conspiracy.
Ads also appeared on The Jimmy Dore Show channel, a far-left YouTube channel that peddles conspiracy theories, such as the idea that Syrian chemical weapons attacks are hoaxes.
Oh, so it’s “far-left” ?
What that even means is a topic of its own. One thing to notice is how often we get somebody labeled as “far left” or “far right” or any of the variants in phrasing. Even as the bipolar political disorder bangs around the American public psyche, there is something in plain sight that is ignored by some. Notice how we get what might often get descriptions in the news of being “bipartisan” (with the implication that this is always wonderful), where you get agreement and alliance between people like, say, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, while we get other people in agreement like, for examples, Ron Paul, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, including people who get labeled as either “far left” or “far right” (and variations), with insinuations or outright declarations from some quarters a being radical lunatic fringe eccentric oddballs. There is a sort of situation of “political division” there, but having nothing to do with the usual Left/Right, Conservative/Liberal, Democratic party/Republican party noise we have hammering people over the head constantly.
Oh, so it “peddles conspiracy theories“? I have watched a batch of the Jimmy Dore Show, and, in actual fact, while some people might find the general style and format of the show (which is, basically, not tightly formatted) not to their taste of what news ought to be, the program is an oddity in comparison to most American news now, in that it does its best to deal honestly with the truth.
Part of that is what is ridiculously obvious to many people, that the repeated narratives about “Assad attacks the Syrian people with chemical weapons!” is a gigantic mountain of bullshit, completely contrived to whip up public support for attacking another country and overthrowing its government (again!), and a child could see the obvious problems with the whole thing as it’s presented in most “news”. Oh, no, says “trusted” CNN, that’s a silly “conspiracy theory”!
Additional: I had already written the preceding portion and saw that there was a new installment of The Jimmy Dore Show addressing this nonsense. Take the time to watch that, if you can.
Speaking of the “Assad attacks his people with chemical weapons” nonsense, I saw a pointer to a Reuters article from five years ago announcing that the UN had testimony about “Syrian rebels” using chemical weapons, which is not exactly a new story, but lost and swept aside in what many people accept as “trusted news”. No surprise there, as this kind of thing creates difficulty for the campaign to get people to buy into the narratives of Assad the monster, Assad must go because he’s an evil monster brutal dictator. Then, we might have a little too much attention on the story more based in reality, of Assad must go because he won’t follow orders and do what we want!
There was an article written by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. about the essence of the conflict between at least a segment of the US government (a dominant one, totally reinforced by their allies in the US news media) and Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad. I will point that out again, another repeat. As far as I know, that has been completely ignored in the “mainstream media” (a term I had not used so far here, by the way). Why? This is not a hard question. Kennedy’s article does not only describe a bit of history of US “foreign policy” in the middle east of meddling, to use a mild word. It focuses on the conflict on hand here in its actual true essence, it’s about a natural gas pipeline. All the noise about “brutal dictator Assad” is a complete smokescreen of propaganda to get people behind yet another episode of “regime change” malevolent megalomania.
I am still wondering when some news/propaganda operation will come out labeling Kennedy as some “far-left radical”. I can only speculate, but I suspect that this idea has been squelched as a no-go, for a couple of reasons. One, that labeling one of the Kennedy family, the son and namesake of a well respected former senator and presidential candidate, as some whackjob “radical” might not go well, along with another element; that it would attract attention to what he said about the Syrian situation, and break the public spell.
In another area of the neocon “regime change everywhere” madness, there is the Ukraine story, which I have been over exhaustively. The “news” narratives remain the same, although that dialed down a long time ago, having successfully done a propaganda campaign about that, the reality warp telling people that brave Ukraine rose up for freedom and democracy, and has been fighting a war with big bad Russia ever since fighting off Russian invasion and aggression. The actual story is buried, of an elected president not playing along with the Washington neocons, being overthrown in a blatant coup supported by Washington neocons, openly, and all the repercussions of that.
I have written and re-written summaries of the Ukraine saga so many times now mainly because it is not only such a gross demonstration of the neocon lunacy, but also such a spectacular failure of the usual news media here in the US, or great success, in the view of some parties.
I was asked once by someone, why the interest in Ukraine? Are there a bunch of Ukrainians where I live, or something? I have never really had any interest in Ukraine. I don’t really care about the place, at all, beyond the broad fact that human beings live there who ought to be able to have a decent life. What got my attention was this.
There was news about trouble and some sort of “uprising” in Kiev. Suddenly, what got my attention was the story that was all over the news briefly, about Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland (the head US diplomat regarding that part of the world) making a comment in a recorded telephone chat saying “fuck the EU!”.
This was reported as a big scandal, that such a high ranking US government official would make such a rude statement. How unseemly! That was the big story.
What was completely ignored and swept aside was the fact that the context of this terrible faux pas of bad manners was a conversation between Nuland, in her position, and the US ambassador to Ukraine, discussing who their choice should be as the new leadership of the Ukrainian government, following the overthrow of the elected President in a coup d’etat, that had not yet happened.
[Another reminder here, that Victoria Nuland was not only in that job, and the wife of neocon and cofounder of Project for the New American Century Robert Kagan, but appointed to her job there by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had left that position by the time the Ukraine farce broke loose. There is a good example of what I was just saying about “political divides” not quite matching what we’re so often told.]
I have a hard time trying to wrap this up. The stuff just keeps coming, piling in.
Things continue to get more crazy with news that the Democratic party, or, to be exact, the Democratic National Committee, intends to sue Wikileaks. Why? Well, that cracks open a whole can of worms, although, I guess, it really isn’t right to say that, as this has been an ongoing narrative of absurdity. This is not opening anything new.
Again, you know the stuff. This has been playing out for a long time now. The basic narrative goes something like: Oh that terrible Wikileaks! They revealed all sorts of truth about the reality of Hillary Clinton, what she actually does, what she’s all about, the people associated with her and what they do and what they’re all about! That influenced the election! That’s why we have Trump! Wikileaks is a Russian spy agency! Julian Assange of Wikileaks is a Russian spy and a traitor to America, aiding the evil Putin to install Russian agent and puppet Donald Trump and destroy America!
The information released by Wikileaks revealed what Hillary Clinton and associates actually do! How dare they!
This is actually the kind of thing that you would expect, and we need, to have a properly functioning democratic free society, from, you know, investigative journalism as part of a functioning free press.
the problematic links department: