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Juan Cole, in his 27 December 2007 column, noted that the banner under all CNN stories on Iraq from the previous day in the US was "Progress in Iraq 2008," with the 'reduction in violence' the subtext. He goes on to write "This is not news, it is propaganda" and proceeds to provide undeniable evidence to back up his statement.

This diary is not intended to single out CNN nor is it intended to finger anyone in particular as being responsible for an obvious lack of forthcoming information provided to the American public by the establishment media. I hope to provide some facts and examples which might serve to promote further discussion on this topic.

We're all aware of important stories relegated to the back pages of the NY Times and the Washington Post, Judith Miller of the Times hyping the non-existent WMDs in Iraq, "Fair and Balanced" Fox News and fake reporter Jeff Gannon. There are endless other examples we see every day.

Where did it all begin, how did we arrive at where we are today and why don't we get the truth?

The following three blockquotes are taken from an article written in 1997 with the title Journalism And The CIA: The Mighty Wurlitzer.

The Office of Strategic Services, the CIA's predecessor, had jurisdiction over wartime covert operations and propaganda in the fight against fascism. OSS chief William Donovan recruited heavily among social and academic elites. When the CIA was launched in 1947 at the beginning of the Cold War, these pioneers felt that they had both the right and the duty to secretly manipulate the masses for the greater good.

Back in the early days the term used to describe the systematic, covert manipulation of the media by U.S. intelligence agencies was The Mighty Wurlitzer. Mighty Wurlitzer seemed to do well enough until the Vietnam War era when the first challenges began to appear.

Thus the crack in the culture that eventually encouraged American media to take a look at themselves. With rare exceptions, it was the alternative press that began to question racism, police brutality, Vietnam, the defense establishment, and the JFK assassination. In 1967 Ramparts magazine exposed a portion of the CIA's covert funding network, whereupon the New York Times and Washington Post began naming more names. By then the Wurlitzer would never sound the same, particularly after the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy invited further suspicions.

For the period of the next 10 years the Wurlitzer was quiet and the American people learned something of their secret past. During this time CIA Director William Colby would reveal that the CIA had some three dozen journalists on its payroll and Seymour Hersh would confirm that the CIA was guilty of illegal spying on the antiwar movement.

Bush 41 replaced Colby in January, 1976.

... and eventually agreed to a one-paragraph summary of each file of a CIA journalist, with names deleted. When the CIA said it was finished, the Church committee had over 400 summaries.

The (Senate Investigative under Sen.Frank Church) committee staff was shocked at the extent of the CIA's activity in this area, and felt that they still didn't have the story. ...The Church committee's final report contained only a handful of vague and misleading pages on the CIA and the media. "It hardly reflects what was found," stated Senator Gary Hart.

Pepe Escobar Back to the present era.

The photo at left (from Google images) is of Pepe Escobar. He is a journalist and writer. He is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving Into Liquid War, and  Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge.

As an independent, unembedded journalist he has reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia, the US and China. Escobar also writes for Asia Times Online and is featured by The Real News Network.

There is a two-part interview with Pepe Escobar on MediaBite. Part I is here, followed by Part II here. The entire interview is too long for a diary but here are a few of the highlights.

Ownership – Corporations, as we all know, rule most of the world's media. Investigative journalism is the antithesis of shady mega-profits or corridors of power mega-deals...

Ideology – This is essentially tied up with corporate pressure. Corporate ideology, except in very few cases, has nothing to do with social justice – as any reader of the US mainstream press will attest. Time Warner or News Corporation will never sacrifice their privileged ties with branches of the US government to break a major story. The best example is the blitzkrieg before the war on Iraq; some writers and editors knew the Bush administration was lying all along, but the New York Times, for instance, preferred to print crap provided by Ahmad Chalabi to Judith Miller on the front page virtually every day.

Balance and impartiality – Take a simple test: the Western coverage of the Iran - US nuclear row. Take virtually any copy by Associated Press or Reuters – translated and printed verbatim by all the major papers in the world. The premise is always that Iran is lying and the U.S. is just trying to get to the "truth". Whatever is dished out by the White House, State Dept. or Pentagon is treated with reverence. Whatever comes from Iran is a "threat" – not to mention a lunatic raving. There's virtually no balance and impartiality whenever corporate Western media treats contentious issues regarding the developing world. It's an "us and them" mentality – not to mention a superiority complex - inbuilt in the copy itself, if not by the reporter certainly by his/her editor.

In Part I Escobar talks about Chavez being the perfect bogeyman for Western elites and for their comprador classes in the developing world. He brings up the fact that there were "no less than 69 proposals at the recent referendum, but the right and the extreme right, in Venezuela and in the West, zeroed in on him taking power for eternity".

In Part II he sums up "Balance" like this:

"Balance" has long disappeared from mainstream/corporate media. Everything and everyone that goes against the hegemonic system – from Hamas, Hezbollah, the Sadrists or the Islamic Republic of Iran to Chavez, Morales or Putin – has to be demonized. But "our" dictators" are exempt – from Mubarak to little King Abdullah in Jordan, from the House of Saud to the Persian Gulf monarchies. Even the ghastly Burmese dictatorship got away with their recent bloody repression campaign: Western "pressure" was pathetic. As far as most of the developing world is concerned – especially in terms of plundering of national resources – this is how it works: it if profits Western elites, it is allowed. If it embodies nationalist aspirations somewhere, it's a "destabilizing factor".

The coverage of Iran is a prime example. If anyone had bothered to read the IAEA reports on Iran's "nuclear program" they would have known months before the revealing NIE report that Iran was not working on a bomb.

This all reflects a major theme: U.S. – and Western - elites are simply terrified that a brand new multi-polar order is emerging. China is an unstoppable juggernaut. South America has ditched the IMF and the World Bank with the Bank of the South – and the next move towards integration will be, in the next few years, a common currency, just like the Euro.

Russia reasserted itself as the Gazprom nation. Iran is inescapably the key regional power in the Middle East. I have heard from a few investment bankers what their wet dream is all about – it's the Bush administration's dream, for that matter: the world as a Green Zone guarded by Blackwater types, everything privatized, provided Halliburton-style, and "out there" a Mad Max Red Zone. In this sense Baghdad is a living metaphor of the future. That's what the Bush administration accomplished. So in this sense they are "winning" the war on Iraq. They get a key node in the worldwide empire of military bases, thus fulfilling "national security interests". The invasion, occupation and fake "reconstruction" was a huge privatized bash – bound to be replicated further – and created with public funds, Mafia racket-style...

And why is this, we might wonder. Is the establishment media complicit, is the CIA still involved? Pepe Escobar puts it like this:

Mainstream/corporate media cannot tell it like it really is because they would instantly lose privileged access to The White House, the Pentagon, the State Dept., etc.. Furthermore, the US government – and none more than the Bush administration - acts to defend the interests of major corporations, including the ones who own mainstream media. Fox News, for instance, is no more than the media arm of the Republican Party. The only thing that matters to Rupert Murdoch is to solidify his empire – so he needs to keep his government connections intact.

Escobar suggests that readers forget about reading serious news from the establishment media other than for the sports and entertainment pages. As for CNN he calls it "a joke - a tsunami of press releases from the State Department and the Pentagon read by bubbleheads." And, as we all know - "For politics and economics, the real info is on the net."

Corporate media also loves wars. The 1991 Gulf War made CNN. The Bush administration still has enough time to wreak havoc – and provoke a new war... that's what they do best... and they won't stop trying. As for the mainstream/corporate media, forget it. It simply cannot speak truth to power because it's embedded with power.

And the Mighty Wurlizter today, are there still hundreds of journalists on the CIA payroll? Does it even matter? The establishment media seems to do propaganda well enough on their own.

Originally posted to truong son traveler on Fri Dec 28, 2007 at 12:53 AM PST.

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