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Our American Pravda

In mid-March, the Wall Street Journal carried a long discussion of the origins of the Bretton Woods system [1], the international financial framework that governed the Western world for decades after World War II. A photo showed the two individuals who negotiated that agreement. Britain was represented by John Maynard Keynes, a towering economic figure of that era. America’s representative was Harry Dexter White, assistant secretary of the Treasury and long a central architect of American economic policy, given that his nominal superior, Secretary Henry Morgenthau Jr., was a gentleman farmer with no background in finance. White was also a Communist agent.

Such a situation was hardly unique in American government during the 1930s and 1940s. For example, when a dying Franklin Roosevelt negotiated the outlines of postwar Europe with Joseph Stalin at the 1945 Yalta summit, one of his important advisors was Alger Hiss, a State Department official whose primary loyalty was to the Soviet side. Over the last 20 years, John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and other scholars have conclusively established that many dozens or even hundreds of Soviet agents once honeycombed the key policy staffs and nuclear research facilities of our federal government, constituting a total presence perhaps approaching the scale suggested by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose often unsubstantiated charges tended to damage the credibility of his position.

The Cold War ended over two decades ago and Communism has been relegated to merely an unpleasant chapter in the history books, so today these facts are hardly much disputed. For example, liberal Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein matter-of-factly referred to White as a “Soviet spy” in the title of his column on our postwar financial system. But during the actual period when America’s government was heavily influenced by Communist agents, such accusations were widely denounced as “Red-baiting” or ridiculed as right-wing conspiracy paranoia by many of our most influential journalists and publications. In 1982 liberal icon Susan Sontag ruefully acknowledged that for decades the subscribers to the lowbrow Readers Digest had received a more realistic view of the world than those who drew their knowledge from the elite liberal publications favored by her fellow intellectuals. I myself came of age near the end of the Cold War and always vaguely assumed that such lurid tales of espionage were wildly exaggerated. I was wrong.

The notion of the American government being infiltrated and substantially controlled by agents of a foreign power has been the stuff of endless Hollywood movies and television shows, but for various reasons such popular channels have never been employed to bring the true-life historical example to wide attention. I doubt if even one American in a hundred today is familiar with the name “Harry Dexter White” or dozens of similar agents.

The realization that the world is often quite different from what is presented in our leading newspapers and magazines is not an easy conclusion for most educated Americans to accept, or at least that was true in my own case. For decades, I have closely read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and one or two other major newspapers every morning, supplemented by a wide variety of weekly or monthly opinion magazines. Their biases in certain areas had always been apparent to me. But I felt confident that by comparing and contrasting the claims of these different publications and applying some common sense, I could obtain a reasonably accurate version of reality. I was mistaken.

Aside from the evidence of our own senses, almost everything we know about the past or the news of today comes from bits of ink on paper or colored pixels on a screen, and fortunately over the last decade or two the growth of the Internet has vastly widened the range of information available to us in that latter category. Even if the overwhelming majority of the unorthodox claims provided by such non-traditional web-based sources is incorrect, at least there now exists the possibility of extracting vital nuggets of truth from vast mountains of falsehood. Certainly the events of the past dozen years have forced me to completely recalibrate my own reality-detection apparatus.

Thoughtful individuals of all backgrounds have undergone a similar crisis of confidence during this same period. Just a few months after 9/11 New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argued that the sudden financial collapse of the Enron Corporation represented a greater shock to the American system than the terrorist attacks themselves, and although he was widely denounced for making such an “unpatriotic” claim, I believe his case was strong. Although the name “Enron” has largely vanished from our memory, for years it had ranked as one of America’s most successful and admired companies, glowingly profiled on the covers of our leading business magazines, and drawing luminaries such as Krugman himself to its advisory board; Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay had been a top contender for Treasury secretary in President George W. Bush’s administration. Then in the blink of an eye, the entire company was revealed to be an accounting fraud from top to bottom, collapsing into a $63 billion bankruptcy, the largest in American history. Other companies of comparable or even greater size such as WorldCom, Tyco, Adelphia, and Global Crossing soon vanished for similar reasons.

Part of Krugman’s argument was that while the terrorist attacks had been of an entirely unprecedented nature and scale, our entire system of financial regulation, accounting, and business journalism was designed to prevent exactly the sort of frauds that brought down those huge companies. When a system fails so dramatically at its core mission, we must wonder which of our other assumptions are incorrect.

Just a few years later, we saw an even more sweeping near-collapse of our entire financial system, with giant institutions such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Wachovia, and AIG falling into bankruptcy, and all our remaining major banks surviving only due to the trillions of dollars in government bailouts and loan guarantees they received. Once again, all our media and regulatory organs had failed to anticipate this disaster.

Or take the remarkable case of Bernie Madoff. His colossal investment swindle had been growing unchecked for over three decades under the very noses of our leading financial journalists and regulators in New York City, ultimately reaching the sum of $65 billion in mostly fictional assets. His claimed returns had been implausibly steady and consistent year after year, market crashes or not. None of his supposed trading actually occurred. His only auditing was by a tiny storefront firm. Angry competitors had spent years warning the SEC and journalists that his alleged investment strategy was mathematically impossible and that he was obviously running a Ponzi scheme. Yet despite all these indicators, officials did nothing and refused to close down such a transparent swindle, while the media almost entirely failed to report these suspicions.

In many respects, the non-detection of these business frauds is far more alarming than failure to uncover governmental malfeasance. Politics is a partisan team sport, and it is easy to imagine Democrats or Republicans closing ranks and protecting their own, despite damage to society. Furthermore, success or failure in public policies is often ambiguous and subject to propagandistic spin. But investors in a fraudulent company lose their money and therefore have an enormous incentive to detect those risks, with the same being true for business journalists. If the media cannot be trusted to catch and report simple financial misconduct, its reliability on more politically charged matters will surely be lower.

The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the “yellowcake” documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

True facts were easily available to anyone paying attention in the years after 2001, but most Americans do not bother and simply draw their understanding of the world from what they are told by the major media, which overwhelmingly—almost uniformly—backed the case for war with Iraq; the talking heads on TV created our reality. Prominent journalists across the liberal and conservative spectrum eagerly published the most ridiculous lies and distortions passed on to them by anonymous sources, and stampeded Congress down the path to war.

The result was what my late friend Lt. Gen. Bill Odom [2] rightly called the “greatest strategic disaster in United States history.” American forces suffered tens of thousands of needless deaths and injuries, while our country took a huge step toward national bankruptcy. Economics Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and others have estimated that with interest the total long-term cost of our two recent wars may reach as high as $5 or $6 trillion, or as much as $50,000 per American household, mostly still unpaid. Meanwhile, economist Edward Wolff has calculated that the Great Recession and its aftermath cut the personal net worth of the median American household to $57,000 in 2010 from a figure nearly twice as high three years earlier. Comparing these assets and liabilities, we see that the American middle class now hovers on the brink of insolvency, with the cost of our foreign wars being a leading cause.

But no one involved in the debacle ultimately suffered any serious consequences, and most of the same prominent politicians and highly paid media figures who were responsible remain just as prominent and highly paid today. For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.

Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.

Consider the story of Vioxx, a highly lucrative anti-pain medication marketed by Merck to the elderly as a substitute for simple aspirin. After years of very profitable Vioxx sales, an FDA researcher published a study demonstrating that the drug greatly increased the risk of fatal strokes and heart attacks and had probably already caused tens of thousands of premature American deaths. Vioxx was immediately pulled from the market, but Merck eventually settled the resulting lawsuits for relatively small penalties, despite direct evidence the company had long been aware of the drug’s deadly nature. Our national media, which had earned hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue from Vioxx marketing, provided no sustained coverage and the scandal was soon forgotten. Furthermore, the press never investigated the dramatic upward and downward shifts in the mortality rates of elderly Americans that so closely tracked the introduction and recall of Vioxx; as I pointed out in a 2012 article [3], these indicated that the likely death toll had actually been several times greater than the FDA estimate. Vast numbers Americans died, no one was punished, and almost everyone has now forgotten.

Or take the strange case of Bernard Kerik, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s police commissioner during 9/11, later nominated by President Bush to be America’s first director of national intelligence, a newly established position intended to oversee all of our various national-security and intelligence agencies. His appointment seemed likely to sail through the Republican-controlled Senate until derailed by accusations he had employed an undocumented nanny. With his political rise having been blocked, the national media suddenly revealed his long history of association with organized-crime figures, an indictment quickly followed, and he is currently still serving his federal prison sentence for conspiracy and fraud. So America came within a hairbreadth of placing its entire national-security apparatus under the authority of a high-school dropout connected with organized crime, and today almost no Americans seem aware of that fact.

Through most of the 20th century, America led something of a charmed life, at least when compared with the disasters endured by almost every other major country. We became the richest and most powerful nation on earth, partly due to our own achievements and partly due to the mistakes of others. The public interpreted these decades of American power and prosperity as validation of our system of government and national leadership, and the technological effectiveness of our domestic propaganda machinery—our own American Pravda—has heightened this effect. Furthermore, most ordinary Americans are reasonably honest and law-abiding and project that same behavior onto others, including our media and political elites. This differs from the total cynicism found in most other countries around the world.

 

Credibility is a capital asset, which may take years to accumulate but can be squandered in an instant; and the events of the last dozen years should have bankrupted any faith we have in our government or media. Once we acknowledge this, we should begin to accept the possible reality of important, well-documented events even if they are not announced on the front pages of our major newspapers. When several huge scandals have erupted into the headlines after years or decades of total media silence, we must wonder what other massive stories may currently be ignored by our media elites. I think I can provide a few possibilities.

Consider the almost forgotten anthrax mailing attacks in the weeks after 9/11, which terrified our dominant East Coast elites and spurred passage of the unprecedented Patriot Act, thereby eliminating many traditional civil-libertarian protections. Every morning during that period the New York Times and other leading newspapers carried articles describing the mysterious nature of the deadly attacks and the complete bafflement of the FBI investigators. But evenings on the Internet I would read stories by perfectly respectable journalists such as Salon’s Laura Rozen [4] or the staff of the Hartford Courant [5] providing a wealth of additional detail and pointing to a likely suspect and motive.

Although the letters carrying the anthrax were purportedly written by an Arab terrorist, the FBI quickly determined that the language and style indicated a non-Arab author, while tests pointed to the bioweapons research facility at Ft. Detrick, Md., as the probable source of the material. But just prior to the arrival of those deadly mailings, military police at Quantico, Va., had also received an anonymous letter warning that a former Ft. Detrick employee, Egyptian-born Dr. Ayaad Assaad, might be planning to launch a national campaign of bioterrorism. Investigators quickly cleared Dr. Assaad, but the very detailed nature of the accusations revealed inside knowledge of his employment history and the Ft. Detrick facilities. Given the near-simultaneous posting of anthrax envelopes and false bioterrorism accusations, the mailings almost certainly came from the same source, and solving the latter case would be the easiest means of catching the anthrax killer.

Who would have attempted to frame Dr. Assaad for bioterrorism? A few years earlier he had been involved in a bitter personal feud with a couple of his Ft. Detrick coworkers, including charges of racism, official reprimands, and angry recriminations all around. When an FBI official shared a copy of the accusatory letter with a noted language-forensics expert and allowed him to compare the text with the writings of 40 biowarfare lab employees, he found a perfect match with one of those individuals. For years I told my friends that anyone who spent 30 minutes with Google could probably determine the name and motive of the likely anthrax killer, and most of them successfully met my challenge.

This powerful evidence received almost no attention in the major national media, nor is there any indication that the FBI ever followed up on any of these clues or interrogated the named suspects. Instead, investigators attempted to pin the attacks on a Dr. Steven Hatfill based on negligible evidence, after which he was completely exonerated and won a $5.6 million settlement from the government for its years of severe harassment. Later, similar hounding of researcher Bruce Ivins and his family led to his suicide, after which the FBI declared the case closed, even though former colleagues of Dr. Ivins demonstrated that he had had no motive, means, or opportunity. In 2008, I commissioned a major 3,000-word cover story in my magazine [6] summarizing all of this crucial evidence, and once again almost no one in the mainstream media paid the slightest attention.

An even more egregious case followed a couple of years later, with regard to the stunning revelations of Pulitzer Prize winner Sydney Schanberg, one of America’s foremost Vietnam War reporters and a former top editor at the New York Times. After years of research, Schanberg published massive evidence demonstrating that the endlessly ridiculed claims of America’s Vietnam MIA movement of the 1970s and 1980s were correct: the Nixon administration had indeed deliberately abandoned many hundreds of American POWs in Vietnam at the close of the war, and our government afterward spent decades covering up this shameful crime. Schanberg’s charges were publicly confirmed by two former Republican House members, one of whom had independently co-authored a 500 page book on the subject [7], exhaustively documenting the POW evidence.

Although a major focus of Schanberg’s account was the central role that Sen. John McCain had played in leading the later cover-up, the national media ignored these detailed charges during McCain’s bitter 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama. One of America’s most distinguished living journalists published what was surely “the story of the century” and none of America’s newspapers took notice [8].

In 2010 Schanberg republished this material in a collection of his other writings, and his work received glowing praise from Joseph Galloway, one of America’s top military correspondents, as well as other leading journalists; his charges are now backed by the weight of four New York Times Pulitzer Prizes. Around that same time, I produced a 15,000-word cover-symposium [9] on the scandal, organized around Schanberg’s path-breaking findings [10] and including contributions from other prominent writers. All of this appeared in the middle of Senator McCain’s difficult reelection campaign in Arizona, and once again the material was totally ignored by the state and national media.

An argument might be made that little harm has been done to the national interest by the media’s continued silence in the two examples described above. The anthrax killings have largely been forgotten and the evidence suggests that the motive was probably one of personal revenge. All the government officials involved in the abandonment of the Vietnam POWs are either dead or quite elderly, and even those involved in the later cover-up, such as John McCain, are in the twilight of their political careers. But an additional example remains completely relevant today, and some of the guilty parties hold high office.

During the mid-2000s I began noticing references on one or two small websites to a woman claiming to be a former FBI employee who was making the most outlandish and ridiculous charges, accusing high government officials of selling our nuclear-weapons secrets to foreign spies. I paid no attention to such unlikely claims and never bothered reading any of the articles.

A couple of years went by, and various website references to that same woman—Sibel Edmonds—kept appearing, although I continued to ignore them, secure that the silence of all my newspapers proved her to be delusional. Then in early 2008, the London Sunday Times, one of the world’s leading newspapers, ran a long, three-part [11] front-page series [12] presenting her charges [13], which were soon republished in numerous other countries. Daniel Ellsberg described Edmonds’s revelations [14] as “far more explosive than the Pentagon Papers” and castigated the American media for completely ignoring a story [15] that had reached the front pages of newspapers throughout the rest of the world. Such silence struck me as rather odd.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA official who regularly writes for this magazine, suggested he investigate her charges. He found her highly credible, and his 3,000-word article in TAC presented some astonishing but very detailed claims [16].

 

Edmonds had been hired by the FBI to translate wiretapped conversations of a suspected foreign spy ring under surveillance, and she had been disturbed to discover that many of these hundreds of phone calls explicitly discussed the sale of nuclear-weapons secrets to foreign intelligence organizations, including those linked to international terrorism, as well as the placement of agents at key American military research facilities. Most remarkably, some of the individuals involved in these operations were high-ranking government officials; the staffs of several influential members of Congress were also implicated. On one occasion, a senior State Department figure was reportedly recorded making arrangements to pick up a bag containing a large cash bribe from one of his contacts. Very specific details of names, dates, dollar amounts, purchasers, and military secrets were provided.

The investigation had been going on for years with no apparent action, and Edmonds was alarmed to discover that a fellow translator quietly maintained a close relationship with one of the key FBI targets. When she raised these issues, she was personally threatened, and after appealing to her supervisors, eventually fired.

Since that time, she has passed a polygraph test on her claims, testified under oath in a libel lawsuit, expanded her detailed charges in a 2009 TAC cover story [17] also by Giraldi, and most recently published a book [18] recounting her case. Judiciary Committee Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy have publicly backed some of her charges, a Department of Justice inspector general’s report has found her allegations “credible” and “serious,” while various FBI officials have vouched for her reliability and privately confirmed many of her claims. But none of her detailed charges has ever appeared in any of America’s newspapers. According to Edmonds, one of the conspirators routinely made payments to various members of the media, and bragged to his fellow plotters that “We just fax to our people at the New York Times. They print it under their names.”

At times, Congressional Democratic staff members became interested in the scandal, and promised an investigation. But once they learned that senior members of their own party were also implicated, their interest faded.

These three stories—the anthrax evidence, the McCain/POW revelations, and the Sibel Edmonds charges—are the sort of major exposés that would surely be dominating the headlines of any country with a properly-functioning media. But almost no American has ever heard of them. Before the Internet broke the chokehold of our centralized flow of information, I would have remained just as ignorant myself, despite all the major newspapers and magazines I regularly read.

Am I absolutely sure that any or all of these stories are true? Certainly not, though I think they probably are, given their overwhelming weight of supporting evidence. But absent any willingness of our government or major media to properly investigate them, I cannot say more.

However, this material does conclusively establish something else, which has even greater significance. These dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media, rather than widely publicized. Whether this silence has been deliberate or is merely due to incompetence remains unclear, but the silence itself is proven fact.

A likely reason for this wall of uninterest on so many important issues is that the disasters involved are often bipartisan in nature, with both Democrats and Republicans being culpable and therefore equally eager to hide their mistakes. Perhaps in the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, they realize that they must all hang together or they will surely all hang separately.

We always ridicule the 98 percent voter support that dictatorships frequently achieve in their elections and plebiscites, yet perhaps those secret-ballot results may sometimes be approximately correct, produced by the sort of overwhelming media control that leads voters to assume there is no possible alternative to the existing regime. Is such an undemocratic situation really so different from that found in our own country, in which our two major parties agree on such a broad range of controversial issues and, being backed by total media dominance, routinely split 98 percent of the vote? A democracy may provide voters with a choice, but that choice is largely determined by the information citizens receive from their media.

Most of the Americans who elected Barack Obama in 2008 intended their vote as a total repudiation of the policies and personnel of the preceding George W. Bush administration. Yet once in office, Obama’s crucial selections—Robert Gates at Defense, Timothy Geither at Treasury, and Ben Bernake at the Federal Reserve—were all top Bush officials, and they seamlessly continued the unpopular financial bailouts and foreign wars begun by his predecessor, producing what amounted to a third Bush term.

Consider the fascinating perspective of the recently deceased Boris Berezovsky, once the most powerful of the Russian oligarchs and the puppet master behind President Boris Yeltsin during the late 1990s. After looting billions in national wealth and elevating Vladimir Putin to the presidency, he overreached himself and eventually went into exile. According to the New York Times, he had planned to transform Russia into a fake two-party state—one social-democratic and one neoconservative—in which heated public battles would be fought on divisive, symbolic issues, while behind the scenes both parties would actually be controlled by the same ruling elites. With the citizenry thus permanently divided and popular dissatisfaction safely channeled into meaningless dead-ends, Russia’s rulers could maintain unlimited wealth and power for themselves, with little threat to their reign. Given America’s history over the last couple of decades, perhaps we can guess where Berezovsky got his idea for such a clever political scheme.

 

Major References in The American Conservative:

[Erratum: In my text I mentioned that Bernard Kerik, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s New York City police chief during the 9/11 attacks, was a high school dropout with ties to organized crime, who is currently still serving his federal prison sentence on related charges. This was correct. However, President George W. Bush had nominated him to run America’s Department of Homeland Security rather than to be America’s Director of National Intelligence.]

 

83 Comments (Open | Close)

83 Comments To "Our American Pravda"

#1 Comment By Art Vandalay On May 12, 2013 @ 11:22 pm

I find the reference to Krugman’s credibility disturbing since his Marxist rallying leans toward complete government control. Not to justify war, but the article leans heavy on past experiences not including chemical warfare used by Husein, unless the buried shells of those weapons was also a media hoax. Now in turn Syria has released these weapons. I expect this article to be updated when the Benghazi cover up is revealed to the public. To me this article seemed a media attempt to discredit one side of politics by resurrecting facts of the past that apply mainly to one political side of the isle. Written in April 2013 this article leaves out everything regarding the current administrations attempts to sway public opinion so I can only see this as a media attempt to distract the viewer from current affairs by addressing the tactic of media forming public opinion then using the tactic against the viewer of this article. This in itself is a form of communist propaganda.

#2 Comment By averagejoe On May 13, 2013 @ 10:43 am

Good article. I think it layed out a pattern of incompetence by our media over the past few decades. I’m not sure how collaborative our political machine is with the media, I think our media is a product of our society and as we are an ADD society, our media has evolved in a manner to accomdate us. In fact, I believe the US media is so completely incompetent today, that it doesn’t require anyone to cohort with them, you can simply rely on how easy it is to manipulate the machine or simply distract them with some other crisis that will drive their ratings higher. Indeed, in a free market economy, our media machine has proven to be nothing more than a corporate profit monger and serve no altruistic calling to reveal the truth to our society unless the truth furthers their bottom lines.

I do hope more independant journalism channels, offering rebuttals and oversight to the mainstream media, are allowed to grow in our country. With the continued growth of the internet, I feel this is the only way to watchdog the mainstream media and articles such as this are part of that. I’m just an average joe, but this was good read I must say.

#3 Comment By Brian B On May 13, 2013 @ 11:58 am

“I find the reference to Krugman’s credibility disturbing since his Marxist rallying leans toward complete government control. Not to justify war, but the article leans heavy on past experiences not including chemical warfare used by Husein, unless the buried shells of those weapons was also a media hoax. Now in turn Syria has released these weapons. I expect this article to be updated when the Benghazi cover up is revealed to the public. To me this article seemed a media attempt to discredit one side of politics by resurrecting facts of the past that apply mainly to one political side of the isle. Written in April 2013 this article leaves out everything regarding the current administrations attempts to sway public opinion so I can only see this as a media attempt to distract the viewer from current affairs by addressing the tactic of media forming public opinion then using the tactic against the viewer of this article. This in itself is a form of communist propaganda.”

Hilarious!

#4 Comment By Oscarphone On May 13, 2013 @ 3:53 pm

“Just a few years later, we saw an even more sweeping near-collapse of our entire financial system, with giant institutions such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, . . . . Once again, all our media and regulatory organs had failed to anticipate this disaster.”

This is not the case. I remember specifically Bush making two (maybe three but I remember two) speeches directly warning of the problems surrounding Fannie and Freddie. He said that their collapse wouldn’t be pretty and it would be big. He also called for a full accounting of what they were up to and their eventual dissolution.

He was laughed at by Barney Frank, Schumer and the mainstream media. Frank and Schumer both assured everybody that F&F, whcih they were overseeing was in fine shape. Nothing wrong here, move along.

The rest is history.

I also have problems with the authors WMD recollections, but that’s for another day.

#5 Comment By Dena On May 13, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

I notice how convienient that all references and examples were of conservative perceived mistakes. I guess the current administration with IRS thugs, secretly printing money, Benghazi cover-ups and the like don’t quite qualify for this particular piece. Disgusting.

#6 Comment By Gabriel On May 14, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

Great article. You mention the difficulty many people will have with realizing their trusted sources of news have been lying to them. Many of the readers’ comments demonstrate the truth to that idea!

Of course, it is extraordinarily disconcerting to question the media, especially if you ever got around to trusting it in the first place. You made a comparison of the information we get from our own senses with news we get from the media. Excellent comparison — and it works both ways: not being able to trust the media is just as bewildering as not being able to trust your own nervous system! You’re being hit over the head but you can’t tell! Every time you question the source of that trail of blood behind you everyone laughs at you! Not only do media lies disturb your own vision, but the mainstream media, through various means, controls the “group mind” as well. Fall out of touch with that, and you can lose friends, influence, investors, your job… whatsoever.

Some readers do/did get it though. This comment made me laugh:

“Fox News or NPR. The former, despite desperate tries to be taken serious has a serious dose of involuntary humor; the latter is far more dangerous; by design it targets the intellectual class and appears to be more credible. I have to admit that they have a unique talent to ask questions in such way to point the finger where the root of the problem is not to be found.”

Fox does have that problem. And the media’s meat and potatoes: endless bantering about stupid diversions while avoiding issues of consequence is one of the things that turned me away from the mainstream press even as a child.

Many readers point to things left out of this article, often with an accusatory tone. Look, people: this article punches a hole in the wall of illusion the mainstream press has built around each of us. The author proceeds to point in various specific directions. To those disturbed that x, y, and z weren’t covered I would say: there is an entire world on the other side of that wall. An entire universe. It’s called the truth, and there’s a whole lot of it.

I’ve personally come to regard every single thing I hear in the mainstream press as suspect. If it’s not an outright lie it’s a distraction, and if it’s neither — as one East German reader pointed out — it’s the sports scores or the weather forecast.

#7 Comment By WorkingClass On May 17, 2013 @ 11:59 pm

Thanks for this very important piece. The bleating of the red sheep here in the cheap seats makes your point. I have been kicked off of several political blogs, red and blue, because I insist that no new combination of D’s and R’s in Washington will change anything. Please keep up the good work.

#8 Comment By Robert Bruce On May 18, 2013 @ 4:14 pm

What is wrong with the author using examples from Bush’s time in the WH? For anyone at this point in time to even assume there is a rat’s ass of difference between the two major political parties is rather disturbing. Both parties are slaves to the military industrial complex and its expanded corporate reach. Since the author is a conservative, it made sense to go over media chicanery during a conservative presidency as to not look like a political attack job. Great article Mr. Unz!!!!!!!

#9 Comment By Robert On May 20, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

For the comments about trading nuclear secrets where covert behavior is, chiefly, in vogue, there is the missing facts about the impossible fact of 12/26/04, not a tsunami, but a nuclear detonation that must be touted as a strike-dip earthquake. Since the strike-slip variety does not lift water, nor would a strike-dip tectonic shift create a round wave, one that is concentric, the tsunami story is, in ALL probability, false. Indication is what matters in science. The late Joe Vialls recorded this one factually, and was then poisoned for having the scoop ‘on time.’

#10 Comment By Robert On May 20, 2013 @ 9:02 pm

Sibel Edmonds’ connection to Indira Singh leads to the fact that Indira Singh is, now, missing. Having stated to Richard Andrew Grove that she was missing some items on her computer at the inception of their contacting eachother, that seems to have been her last communication. I hope she did not end up like Pierre Paulo Pasolini, tortuously murdered, from fear for the sake of fear, thus power exalted even more in this moment by the extinction seeming imminent, very possibly a bifurcation, or a cusp in time.

That brings up Randell L. Mills work, particularly how the discussion about a middle energy spectrum contrasts with the work of James Lovelock and his analysis of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. A pollution free energy source, if not handled intelligently, could catapult the double-cocked (warmed by CO2, cooled by atmospheric pollution resulting in albedo effect) planet into a transient state where 80% of agriculture disappears overnight. If only learning mattered.

Just, who was Gregory Bateson, or for that matter, Francisco J. Varela? Lynn Margulis?

#11 Comment By Robert On May 20, 2013 @ 9:34 pm

Hurricane Erin on 9/11 is another ‘chink’ worth noting for the timing of all this, plus it indicates more about contemporary advances in earth science we need to put in perspective. Alex Jones did an excellent piece on this one.

Of course, there is the video on AIDS called “The Emperor’s New Virus?” Just understanding Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos about viruses maturing to the reproductive state, or being isolated as supernatant material is enough to crack open this nut. More than this video exists, like the much earlier, “Deconstructing the Myth of AIDS” and “House of Numbers.”

A Theft by Deception from Larkin Rose is important, also, for measuring the timeline involved in the path to the dissolution of the nation-state as regulations supersede statutory law, or just explaining how liability has become pure usury when the statutes don’t say there IS any.

What you do is more focused for this moment, however, having to do with treasuries bringing all nation-states down, albeit, ultimately, for the gold, while ignoring ecologic mentalities for the greatest good.

#12 Comment By R Stack On May 21, 2013 @ 4:43 am

Excellent article. Americans, for too long, have been far too trusting of the main stream media. There are two points I would like to make:

There is no way we can understand today’s MSM without the realization that 95% is owned and controlled by six mega corporations. This enormous concentration of power and control is one of the fatal flaws of the system.

The second point is a bit touchy for some people. But the MSM’s total refusal to deal with the power and politics of Israel and the Zionist lobby in the U.S. is really the elephant in the room that is totally ignored. The third rail in the media is any criticism of Israel government policies. This has to change.

#13 Comment By O Povark-Smak-Axl On May 22, 2013 @ 2:46 am

Dear Working Class: Red Sheep? I didn’t know people were still openly identifying themselves as Communists here in the USA. I guess Gus Hall won after all…that whole Venona Transcripts thing might as well never have happened.

#14 Comment By Leon Kautsky On May 22, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

First, an insignificant typo:

Typo alert:

“Vast numbers Americans died, no one was punished, and almost everyone has now forgotten.”

should be

“Vast numbers *of* Americans died, no one was punished, and almost everyone has no forgotten.”

Second, @Art:

“I find the reference to Krugman’s credibility disturbing since his Marxist rallying leans toward complete government control.”

Uh…no.

“Not to justify war, but the article leans heavy on past experiences not including chemical warfare used by Husein, unless the buried shells of those weapons was also a media hoax. Now in turn Syria has released these weapons. I expect this article to be updated when the Benghazi cover up is revealed to the public. To me this article seemed a media attempt to discredit one side of politics by resurrecting facts of the past that apply mainly to one political side of the isle. Written in April 2013 this article leaves out everything regarding the current administrations attempts to sway public opinion so I can only see this as a media attempt to distract the viewer from current affairs by addressing the tactic of media forming public opinion then using the tactic against the viewer of this article. This in itself is a form of communist propaganda.”

I think you’re more a WorldNetDaily type than an Am Con type.

#15 Comment By gwern On May 22, 2013 @ 4:56 pm

> as I pointed out in a 2012 article, these indicated that the likely death toll had actually been several times greater than the FDA estimate. Vast numbers Americans died, no one was punished, and almost everyone has now forgotten.

Unz, do you ever plan to respond to Schaeffer’s comments observing that the mortality rates show the opposite of your claims?

If you don’t, then you may have inadvertently answered your own question about why no one picks up your stories.

#16 Comment By Airien On May 22, 2013 @ 5:02 pm

Looks like you’re on the path to [19].

Just what was that eggshell?

#17 Comment By 7×7 On May 22, 2013 @ 5:04 pm

Ron,

Read Chomsky’s [20] and [21]. The ultra-left has been on to this type of media criticism for decades. Your contribution is a welcome update.

#18 Comment By Squarely Rooted On May 22, 2013 @ 10:04 pm

Kerik was nominated to be the second Secretary of DHS, not the first DNI.

#19 Comment By Bruce Stram On May 23, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

Fascinating article.

I’d quibble about Enron, Ron takes the common media line here an incorrectly so, but in a sense that’s his point.

FWIW, Enron collapsed not because it was a fraud, it made tons of money. Rather it was not properly capitalized for the primary business it was in, and when it ran into some serious headwinds because of minor (financially) mischief and significant malfeasance, a run on the bank crushed it.

#20 Comment By DaveO On May 25, 2013 @ 11:41 pm

I see this piece has made its way to the ZeroHedge front page!

#21 Comment By bjm On May 28, 2013 @ 7:09 am

Tyco did not disappear, and was nothing like Enron or the others.

#22 Comment By stephen On May 30, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

The Uniparty. A convenient name for the Dems and Reps.

#23 Comment By Jon On June 3, 2013 @ 2:04 pm

A quality piece without the histrionics. I’ve been dissatisfied with the media for years and this article simply reinforces what I’ve suspected all along. I feel that the media have become lemmings, reporting (or ignoring) the same stories without much difference between them. It certainly is not helpful that the only profitable news outlets are on cable TV. With the exception of the BBC and Al Jazeera (yes, Al Jazeera!), most of it is 24/7 hype masquerading as news.

#24 Comment By Doug On June 4, 2013 @ 3:54 am

Although I agree with the general theme, this piece could have used a (better?) fact-checker, or having ideology trump facts in Conservatives continuing embrace of McCarthyism.

For example, the characterization of Alger Hiss is wrong. Although he is now widely believed to have been a Soviet agent, much of that assessment is ambiguous as the the extent (Are the inconsistencies the expected mistakes in data or are they errors in the analysis such as conflating different people). However, what seems not to have changed in the general assessment that Hiss was not an “important advisor” to Roosevelt and that he did not play an important role in the decisions about the post-war world. His focus was on creating the UN, and there his most important contribution was arguing _against_ more power for the Soviets (who wanted a vote for each Republic). That assessment was part of the McCarthyite need to create boogeymen, and the press’ credulous adoption of such.

On the other hand, I am encouraged by the critique of Conservatives knee-jerk reaction about the war in Iraq.

#25 Comment By julimac On June 4, 2013 @ 10:34 pm

Thank you for this. In retirement, I’m an internet addict with politics my primary motivation, yet still had not heard of the Vietnam MIA stuff, although the Edmonds story is familiar. If I were to adopt a motto, it would be: Nothing is as it seems.

#26 Comment By steve On June 5, 2013 @ 3:11 pm

To equate Enron, Adelphia, Worldcom and Tyco is wrong. There was nothing wrong with Tyco’s balance sheet, the ‘fraud’ was that of its CEO in padding his pay (and to an extent that didn’t affect the health of the company). Somewhat the same with Adelphia.

#27 Comment By megapotamus On June 5, 2013 @ 3:38 pm

Non-existent WMDs? That is a lie. No point reading further or really even to that point. The rest is a series of truisms long known to people who concern themselves with public affairs. Clearly that does not include Mr Unz but welcome, if late, to the party.

#28 Comment By Viking On June 6, 2013 @ 12:53 am

O Povark-Smak-Axl (I’d be interested in what that means!), Working Class never answered you, but I believe his “red sheep” remark refers to Republican true believers, not Communists. That is, states that go with the Rs are “red”, while those which vote the Ds in are “blue”. Have to admit tho, that fooled me for a minute too.

Viking

#29 Comment By JWJ On June 6, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

As others have noted, Tyco was not at all the same type of situation as Enron, WorldCom, & Global Crossing.

For Mr. Unz to get such a basic fact, that is incredibly easy to check, so dramatically WRONG, really calls into question his entire article.

Also, Saddam Hussein used toxic gas that killed people, especially during the Iran/Iraq war. Whether he used the gas against the Kurds or not specifically is debatable, but Saddam certainly used the toxic gas during the war.

So a question, is toxic gas that can kill considered to be a weapon of mass destruction? If yes, then Saddam had WMD.

#30 Comment By Bobo Sarduci On June 7, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

“For decades, I have closely read the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and one or two other major newspapers every morning, supplemented by a wide variety of weekly or monthly opinion magazines. Their biases in certain areas had always been apparent to me. But I felt confident that by comparing and contrasting the claims of these different publications and applying some common sense, I could obtain a reasonably accurate version of reality. I was mistaken.”

Did you also believe that Coke and Pepsi represented sharply contrasting beverages? Ditto Democrats and Republicans, McDonalds and Burger King…

I mean, what WERE you smoking, Ron?

#31 Comment By hammersmith On June 8, 2013 @ 1:27 am

in the 40’s & 50’s it was communists. today it is zioninst. both allegations equally true and met with the same reaction in their time.

#32 Comment By New Yorker On June 19, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

The Vioxx description is wildly off the mark. The FDA epidemiological study your refer to was inferior to what already was in the literature, and it was not that study (which showed an increase CV risk only for high dose Vioxx, which represented about 17 percent of prescriptions) but an actual clinical study that led to Merck pulling the drug. And there was no delay between the results of that clinical trial and the withdrawal of the drug, so it is a very poor example to use.

It is too bad the media reports often prove incorrect — but unfortunately your column contributes to the errors.

#33 Comment By Weldon Greely On September 29, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

all of this eloquent verbiage about coverups and smoke n mirrors and nobody mentioned HAARP