The USA on the road to censorship
In the wake of the Anti-Trump movement and the Russia-Gate “scandal”, a disturbing willingness is spreading to silence dissidents.
A stark difference between the Washington of today and the one I experienced as a young correspondent for the Associated Press in the late 1970s and early 1980s is that there were prominent mainstream journalists back then – although the Old Cold War became more heated at the time of Ronald Reagan’s election, who were sceptical about the excessive demonization of the Soviet Union and doubted the mistaken claims that Nicaragua and Grenada posed a terrible threat to US national security.
Perhaps the Vietnam War was still so present in people’s minds at the time that leading editors and domestic reporters recognized the dangers of brainless group thinking in official Washington, as well as the importance of healthy skepticism about official statements by U.S. intelligence services.
Today, however, I can’t think of a single important voice in the mainstream media news questioning any claim that defames Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country – no matter how unlikely or absurd. Russia is constantly being hit.
And behind this disturbing anti-Russian uniformity, attacks against independent and dissident journalists and news portals are increasingly taking place outside the mainstream. Not only are we entering a New Cold War and a New McCarthy era; on top of that, we are getting a high dose of old-school Orwellianism.
This can sometimes be seen in individual cases, such as when the Huffington Post took a well-researched story by journalist Joe Lauria from its online offering because he dared to point out that the Democrats were funding the two elements that triggered what is now known as Russia-Gate: the forensic investigation of computers in the Democratic National Committee (the Democratic National Committee’s highest party organ, A. d. Ü.) and the Trump investigation by the opposition conducted by former British spy Christopher Steele.
The Huffington Post did not contact Lauria either before or after the decision to withdraw the story, although he had asked to know the reasons for that decision. Huffington Post editors told a BuzzFeed journalist they had responded to reader complaints that the article was full of factual errors. But they were never exposed, so there is little doubt that Lauria’s actual mistake was the violation of the Russia Gate group thinking of the anti-Trump resistance movement.
Muzzle for Russia Today
In other cases, the rampant American censorship was led by US government authorities. For example, when the Department of Justice demanded that the Russian news portal Russia Today register under the restrictive Foreign Agent Registration Act. The law requires such immediate, frequent and detailed disclosure of alleged “propaganda” that Russia Today may no longer be able to work in the US.
This attack on Russia Today was rationally justified by the January 6 “Intelligence Rating”, which had been prepared by only a handful of “hand-picked” analysts from the CIA, FBI and NSA. Their report included a seven-page appendix dating from 2012 that accused Russia Today of spreading Russian propaganda. And apparently this January 6 report must now be recognized as the only valid truth, questions are not allowed.
However, if any real journalist had actually read the January 6 report, he or she would have discovered that Russia Todays sinister attack on American democracy included offences such as holding a discussion among candidates excluded from republican-democratic debates in 2012. Indeed, enabling libertarians and Greens to express their views is a serious threat to American democracy.
Another “propaganda” by Russia Today included coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests and the investigation of environmental dangers through fracking, topics widely covered in the domestic American media. As soon as Russia Today reports on a topic worth reporting – even if others have – it seems to be “propaganda” that must be suppressed in order to protect the American people from it.
If you take the trouble to read the annex to the January 6 report, you should be aware that it is a “propaganda”.
Those who take the trouble to look closely at the annex to the January 6 report will easily come to the conclusion that these “hand-picked” analysts are either completely crazy or insane enemies of Russia. And yet it is now forbidden to question this “intelligence assessment” unless you want to be called “Kremlin sidekick” or “Putin’s useful idiot”.
By the way, it was James Clapper, President Obama’s National Intelligence Director, who swore under oath that the analysts of the three intelligence agencies were “hand-picked. This means that it was analysts who were personally selected by Obama’s chief intelligence officers of three services – not “all 17”, as the American public was told time and again – and therefore not even representative of the analysts of these three secret services. And yet this subset of a subset is regularly described as “the US intelligence services”, even after major news portals finally had to take back their “all 17” ducks.
And so the myth of the unanimous opinion of the secret services lives on. In an upbeat Tuesday article about the US government forcing Russia Today to register as a foreign agent, the Washington Post reporters Devlin Barrett and David Filipov wrote: “US intelligence agencies have concluded that the station and the Internet site mercilessly spread anti-American propaganda on the instructions of the Russian government.
In earlier times, even during the Old Cold War and when President Reagan raved against “the Evil Empire,” some of us would have looked at the January 6 report and its charges against Russia Today and noticed how absurd these allegations about “merciless anti-American propaganda” are. Whether you want to hear the views of the Greens and libertarians or not – or whether you like fracking and hate Occupy Wall Street – the possibility of being informed about it is not “merciless anti-American propaganda”.
The real dispute between the US government and Russia Today seems to be that it is broadcasting some Americans on the mainstream media blacklist – including highly credible former intelligence analysts and well-informed American journalists – for questioning various official narratives.
In other words, Americans should not hear the other side of history when it comes to important international conflicts such as the proxy war in Syria or the civil war in Ukraine or Israel’s abuse of Palestinians. Only the Foreign Ministry’s representations of these events are allowed, even if these representations are propagandistic, if not simply wrong.
For example, you should learn nothing about the huge holes in the evidence about the Sarin operations in Syria, about the fact that Ukraine’s post-coup regime is arming neo-Nazis to kill Ukrainians of ethnic Russian origin, or about Israel’s development into an apartheid state. All reasonable Americans should be regularly served a diet that exclusively shows them how righteous the US government and its allies are. Everything else is “propaganda”.
Also taboo is any thoughtful criticism of this January 6 report – or apparently Clapper’s characterization of this report as a product of “hand-picked” analysts from only three services. They should not ask why other US secret services with a deep understanding of Russia were excluded and why even other analysts of the three secret services involved were not included.
No, you must always believe that the January 6 report is a “consistent” assessment of “all US intelligence”. And you have to accept this as a simple fact – just as the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and other mainstream news portals do. They shouldn’t even notice that the January 6 report itself doesn’t claim that Russian interference in the elections is a fact. The report states that “judgments should not imply that we have evidence that something is a fact.”
Even a quote from the January 6 report could turn an American journalist into a kind of treacherous “Russian mole” whose journalistic work needs to be cleaned up by “responsible” media and who should be forced to wear the journalistic counterpart to a yellow star.
The Anti-Trump and Russia Hysteria
Of course, much of this anti-Russian hysteria comes from anger over the shocking election of Donald Trump, which has lasted a year now. Even in the first moments of astonished disbelief at Hillary Clinton’s defeat, a narrative was set in motion to blame Trump’s victory not Clinton and her pathetic election campaign, but Russia. This was also seen as an opportunity to revise the outcome of the elections and remove Trump from office.
The big US news media openly took the lead in the resistance. The Washington Post adopted the melodramatic and hypocritical slogan “Democracy dies in the darkness,” with which it let its journalists off the leash to broadcast the narrative of disloyal Americans circulating Russian propaganda. Presumably, darkness provides the appropriate environment to dagger people who questioned the Russia-Gate narrative of the resistance movement.
On Thanksgiving Day last year, an early shot was fired in this campaign against information deviating from the official reading when the (Washington) Post brought a front page article quoting an anonymous group called PropOrNot. It denounced 200 Internet news sites for allegedly spreading Russian propaganda. The list included some of the most important sources of independent journalism, including Consortiumnews.com, apparently for the offence of questioning some of the Foreign Ministry’s narratives on international conflicts, notably Syria and Ukraine.
Thereafter, as the anti-Russian hysteria and censorship gathered momentum, Congress last December approved a sum of $160 million that went to think tanks and non-governmental organizations to combat Russian propaganda. And soon reports and studies found a huge sales volume behind every article, tweet and contribution that did not correspond to the Foreign Ministry’s line, discovering a Russian.
The New York Times and other leading news providers have welcomed plans by which Google, Facebook and other technology companies should use algorithms to track down, marginalize or eradicate information that the established media consider “fake” or “propaganda”. In a first draft, Google has already forged a coalition of mainstream media and Internet sites approved by the establishment to decide which information gets through and which does not.
Among these truth apostles are the factual verifiers PolitiFact, who considered the lie of “all 17 services” that allegedly approved the claim of Russian hacking to be “true”. And that where this claim was never true and is now clearly proven to be false. PolitiFact continues to insist that this lie is true. Obviously, this organization is filled with the hubris that comes with the power to determine what is true and what is false.
What particularly disturbs me about this development is the silence of many civil rights lawyers, liberal politicians and defenders of the freedom of the press, on whom one could perhaps previously still count in order to rebel against this censorship and this exclusion.
It seems as if the sacred purpose is to defeat Donald Trump and demonise Vladimir Putin, any means, regardless of the existential danger of a nuclear war with Russia or the threat to freedom of speech, press and thought, which is reminiscent of McCarthy times (or even Orwell’s).