Wombaticus Rex » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:29 am wrote: most good reporting comes from motivated actors who are the polar opposite of objective. These are the people who are sufficiently incentivized to dig like that.
^^^^ This reminded to post this lecture. I wrote the second paragraph, below, before Wombat posted his remark above, but just now got around to obtaining the transcript PDF.
So—a few weeks ago I heard Abby Martin give a talk on the radio lecture/interview program, Alternative Radio, which may be the only place in 'NPR land' where one can hear Noam Chomsky, e.g., or Abby Martin (AR's not an NPR show but some affiliates carry it). I sprang for the $3 to get the PDF (I don't mind, AR needs money).
She talks about why advocacy journalism is the only kind that matters now. Maybe advocacy journalism is real objectivity. Complete objectivity is impossible but I think Abby Martin is at least honest.
I just read that her TelSur program, "The Empire Files" has been cancelled, apparently due to U.S. sanctions, will check on that later. Here's the text of her talk:
Corporate Media & U.S. Empire
San Luis Obispo, CA 7 April 2018
Abby Martin is an investigative television journalist, formerly with Russia Today. She now hosts The Empire Files for
I’m the host of Empire Files on TeleSUR English. It’s a documentary and interview series that’s weekly. Basically, it just talks about how every issue, international and domestic, needs to be seen within the lens of the U.S. empire. And not just that, but how the U.S. empire enforces its military might to basically secure U.S. capital all around the world.
On the domestic side, you really can’t analyze any issue without understanding the magnitude of military spending, whether it be Flint’s water in Michigan, whether it be the just ridiculous defunding of public education. This is all ridiculous. Because when you compare it to the vast amounts of military spending that we’re seeing around the world with the U.S., and when it comes to international issues, you cannot view any international issue without seeing it through the lens of the colonizers and colonized.
We are trying to reclaim the narrative set by history’s colonizers and imperialists. As we know, history has been written by the winners—until the advent of social media. And we’re changing that every day. So we’re finally showing the reality of Palestine, right? Israel is not able to control that narrative any longer. And so many more issues that I’m going to get into.
The U.S. is the largest, most destructive military machine the world has ever seen, the largest empire the world has ever seen. There are so many bases, top military commanders can’t even tell you how many the U.S. has around the world. The number sits at, I think, 900, but if you talk to military people, they will say that there are “lily pad” bases that spawn off of those bases that they don’t even know. You compare that to Russia or China, I think there are like two. Of course, we know the U.S. military might is larger than the next 10 countries’ combined. All day we hear fear mongering about Russia. Just keep that in mind, that our military really dwarfs not only Russia but the next nine countries after that.
We’ve intervened in countless countries. In Latin America alone the U.S. has intervened 56 times at least—that’s as far as we know—to usurp democratic processes, whether it be by assassinations, coup attempts, CIA covert regime-change operations on the ground, soft power, propaganda. The list goes on and on and on. And that’s just Latin America.
We’re talking about a military empire that consumes two-thirds of the world’s resources, energy. That’s insane. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is the world’s largest polluter. Not only the wars and military incursions, but war games, exercises in the oceans, on land.
Think about what that is doing to the environment. And, of course, the Pentagon and the U.S. Government don’t abide by international climate treaties.
Being the so-called beacon of democracy, it’s quite interesting that this government provides 70% of the world’s dictatorships with weapons and military training. So you guys can get into the School of Americas or just the fact of the Saudi Arabian weapon deals, where you have Trump lauding these cartoon sharks. Boasting about the amount of guns and military aid that we’re giving Saudi Arabia is just astounding, because we see the Parkland students and all these people getting behind their righteous plight, but at the same time we are selling. We are the world’s largest arms dealers. It’s just a little bit of hypocrisy there when I see leading Democrats out to get the NRA; meanwhile, they’re complacent when it comes to the empire selling weapons to all these dictatorships.
All of this is never permitted to be shown, right? The corporate media is structured not only to protect corporate interests. When you look at the way the empire functions, the corporate media is basically an extension of the empire. It’s to secure capital around the world. The empire does what it does with its brutal military might, but the corporate media acts as an extension of that state. It’s securing capital not just for national interests. We understand that global capitalism, with its oppressive economic brutal system that we’re living in, is a global system. So when I hear Trump and all of his minions talk about globalism, that is capitalism. Capitalism is globalism. These people who are CEOs of corporations that are in his administration, they are global capitalists.
Corporate media works as an extension of empire to not only protect corporate interests but also to protect imperialism, to spread the word of Western domination. Again, the parameters of debate are completely limited. You won’t hear even the word “empire” on mainstream media. People thought that I was talking about Star Wars in one talk when I said that word. It’s incredible to be living in a country where the entire world, when you take international polls, fear the U.S. more than anyone else.
That’s astounding. We’re living in a country that doesn’t even understand the way that the world perceives us. Because, again, we’re the best. We don’t need to know the truth or how our government affects the rest of the world, or has for the past century. We’re painted as the freest country with the freest media. Well, according to Reporters Without Borders, the U.S. is actually 43rd in press freedom. That’s not so hot.
I want to talk about really how we got here. Back in 1983 there used to be 50 companies that controlled most of the media networks. Like every industry under latestage capitalism, like we’re seeing, the gobbling up, monopolizing, really came to a head with the 1996 Telecommunications Act under President Bill Clinton, once again a Democrat, who was basically opening massive deregulation, this time with the media. It really opened the floodgates to media mergers.
Fast-forward to today. Six corporations control 90% of what we see here and read. Six: Viacom, News Corp, Comcast, CBS, Time Warner, and Disney. And that’s about to get smaller. ATT is trying to buy Time Warner, CBS is trying to buy Viacom. I think that people our age and older know that those networks and corporate media, especially that have TV affiliates, are lying to us. But some people trust NPR, PBS, not realizing that those are also corporate-controlled. NPR is funded by oil corporations, the Koch Brothers. PBS and its affiliate board members are 84% corporate, like literally on corporate boards, many of them with ties to Boeing, to banking establishments. PBS had to pull a documentary about David Koch because the Kochs give funds to them. The problem is that a lot of these boards of directors—it’s just a couple hundred that sit on these boards of corporate media entities—sit on interlocking boards with Boeing, with banks, with Monsanto. Of course they’re going to protect their interests, that supersede the interests of the media corporation. Again, it all comes down to profit and protecting that capital.
Then there is this revolving door with telecom lobbyists that go straight into government. We saw Tom Wheeler, head of the FCC under Obama. He was essentially just a lobbyist. And, of course, Ajit Pai is just the biggest lobbyist shill for telecom I’ve ever seen, who is now running it under Trump.
But to think of corporate media as beyond the CNNs, beyond MSNBC, beyond Fox. We all know that that’s a joke. There is an extension of corporate media well beyond these TV networks and that’s Vox, Daily Beast. All of this is corporate media with the same owners that’s kind of rebranded for the millennial generation. I know a lot of who are like, “I don’t watch CNN, that’s trash, but I will read this,” and not ever question the fact that it’s literally coming from the same people, just branded for a different audience. VICE I think is one of the worst offenders. VICE can cover a lot of issues. Unfortunately, all of their foreign policy coverage is garbage and really toes the line of U.S. imperialism. Whether it be Venezuela, where they’re out there pretending like there are badasses on the front lines but meanwhile just not even interviewing any of the protesters around them, or elsewhere. Why don’t you hear what these people have to say instead of speaking for them? It’s garbage. We’re talking about a station that had opened their doors to the Obama administration. You saw Shane Smith and people from VICE basically thinking that it was real cool and hip to have Joe Biden in the newsroom and Obama in there. That’s actually not cool, to have the government working hand in glove with media corporations and bringing them in your newsroom and treating them like best friends. I thought that was pretty disgusting.
With all of this, people have woken up to the fact that the corporate media is lying, they protect their corporate interests. That’s why alternative media is on the rise. That’s why people tune in to social media to get their news. It’s resulted in an all-time low trust of mainstream media. But people tend to trust local news still. When polled, 83% of Americans trust their local news.
If you guys saw that Sinclair video, all the anchors saying the same thing about fake news, just basically repeating Trump tropes. That’s not necessarily something new. This has been going on for a long time. A couple of my former colleagues from RT joined Sinclair. I remember them complaining to me, “This is kind of crazy. We’re given these packages that are aired at all these local affiliates, and we basically have to follow a script.” It’s super dangerous when that happens, because people think that these local news anchors are writing their own material covering local events. Unfortunately, they’re getting literally top-down propaganda handed to them by now Sinclair’s CEO, who is a Trump supporter. Their chief political analyst was literally on Trump’s campaign as an adviser.
A couple of years ago, I don’t know if you saw Conan O’Brien, who used to read the Sinclair packages when it used to be more about fluff, like, “The Easter bunny has an extra hop in its step this year,” and everyone on would say the same thing. But now it’s just getting a little bit scarier, because now it’s literally Trump talking points out there.
Media has not only failed us as the so-called watchdogs, the fourth estate, that’s supposed to be holding the power brokers accountable, it’s become less viable as a business. Over the last 30 years, 60% of U.S. journalism jobs have basically vanished. The industry has become whiter, older, and more male, basically embodying the very power structure it’s supposed to be challenging. Dissenting voices of women, people of color, labor activists, environmental activists, disabled people, LGBTQ people are completely underrepresented in the media that we have today.
I’ve talked a little about how corporate media is structured. Now I’m going to get into how the censorship works. I don’t know if you guys know anyone who has gone to journalism school or who is in journalism school now, but basically all opinion in the mainstream—and this is hammered into you from the start in journalism school—You need to be objective, you’ve got to be unbiased, you’ve got to tell both sides of the story. I’m sorry, but I think objectivity is bullshit and I think it’s dead. It just doesn’t exist, let’s be honest. No one can get up there and say they don’t have an opinion, no one is going to be able to write a story without their opinion somehow leaking out in the way that they’re presenting that story. I would much rather have an advocacy journalist, like a Glenn Greenwald, like a John Pilger, to really lay their opinions out there and lay out the facts as they see them, so I can know where they’re coming from, where their bias is, and not tiptoe around this like I see a lot of corporate news journalists do.
Again I’ll go to Israel. All my life all I’ve heard is pro-Israel talking points. I literally didn’t know what Palestine was until I was 18. So you tell me, why is it that we need to hear both sides of the story about why they’re massacring unarmed protesters in Gaza? Do I need to hear the IDF press releases about why they’re gunning down protesters? I don’t need to hear what the military says about why they did that, because it just justifies it. I just saw Chris Hayes. Everyone is all up-in-arms excited that Chris Hayes finally mentioned Gaza on MSNBC. Unfortunately, in the small tidbit that he did about it, half of the time was spent reading a press release from the IDF about Hamas, about Hamas terrorists staging protests.
These are the kind of things I’m talking about. I don’t need to hear what Monsanto is saying about why it poisoned an entire lake. I don’t need to hear about why Nestlé is stealing all the freshwater aquifers in the world. We don’t need to hear regurgitated government press releases or corporate press releases. I would much rather hear from the victims retelling these narratives, reclaiming these narratives. Because, again, it’s not that it’s not important, what they’re saying, it’s just that that’s literally all we’ve ever heard. For the first time we’re trying to tell the other side of the story. I guess it’s a good thing that I was never kind of regimented in that J school mentality. That’s why I’m an advocacy journalist.
Censorship comes in many forms. It’s not always the black hand of the State coming in and wiping out a story, although that does happen. We’ve seen it on Fox News with Jane Akre taking out the bovine-growth-hormone story because Monsanto is an advertiser and said “Kill this.” PBS killed a David Koch story, because it was bad, because they advertise. Most censorship is self-censorship. Like I’m saying, you join corporate media, you’re a careerist: you know the parameters of debate. You know the issues that are palatable, that are acceptable to protect your career. You want to advance on that ladder. You know exactly what you need to do. It’s very rare to see journalists like me getting into CNN thinking that they’re going to really change the system from the bottom up as lowly interns and work their way to the top. That’s just not the way it goes. So the Larry Kings and the Piers Morgans, the reason that they’re where they are is because they’ve played ball. They know where their place is in the system and they’re rewarded for that.
Two other forms of censorship that are very, very prominent are back-paging and framing. Again, framing the parameters of debate, what is acceptable to talk about. Don’t talk about the U.S. being an empire. Don’t talk about the military spending. Don’t talk about any of that. Just keep it within the framing that we allow. Also, the back-paging. This is a tactic that corporate media uses to basically say, Oh, no, we didn’t censor this story. It’s on page 56 in the tiny, tiny print. No, we didn’t censor that; we covered it.
For a quick example, during the Iraq War, which woke me up, man, I went back to how crazy the media was, because I remember just utter stenography. Everyone was just repeating ad nauseam the Bush administration’s lies. But I went back and actually followed a timeline, because now their narrative will be, Oh, no, everyone got it wrong. It wasn’t just us. It was everyone. No, that’s not true. There were record global protests of literally tens of millions of people all around the world. There was actually a record amount of phone calls to Congress, which I didn’t even know about, voicing dissent for the war. All of this has been erased from the national consciousness. Not only that, but you see the same Iraq War architects now being lauded on corporate media as Russia experts and resistance leaders. It’s very, very stunning to me.
This same system, this corporate media apparatus, does not uplift radical voices, obviously. They don’t uplift any voices that are on the margins because anyone who is radical and going to be challenging that reigning orthodoxy is a threat. It’s very obvious why they don’t allow these voices in the system. And when they do, they have to mock them, they have to marginalize them. Look no further than Dennis Kucinich. All they had to do was say that he saw an UFO and he was out. He was one of the most radical voices in Congress, and they pushed him out. I think even the Democrats themselves gerrymandered him out of there because he made them look bad, I guess. It’s incredible.
I recommend everyone to check out Project Censored, where I started my kind of media literacy. It catalogs the top 25 censored stories every year into a book. It’s a really, really phenomenal organization. If anyone is interested in getting into journalism, start there, because they’re just a really great group of people who can help you train, give you guidance, and you can really contribute research to their annual book that’s really great, really quickly.
Last year, one of their censored stories was about the fossil fuel industry, how it’s colonizing U.S. universities. And a quick side note to this. We were in Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Not only were there entire communities living in gutted out, moldy homes over two months after the hurricane that had not seen one media or government official—they were literally living in gutted out, moldy homes still, trying to help each other—but when we would go and talk to universities and try to talk to scientists there, it was very odd, because they were all kind of self-censoring about the biggest culprit, which is the oil industry, that controls the entire city. Houston is literally the biggest city in the country that does not have zoning, so you can have schools next to chemical plants. That’s the control that the oil industry has. It’s literally a top-down climate-change denier, legislators, from the ground up.
What we found out was that the self-censorship was coming from somewhere: It was coming from the fact that oil companies basically have subsidized the education system. They own literally wings of the university, they own wings of hospitals. That’s how insane it is. When we were there, all the advertising on TV was BP, Chevron, Shell. So obviously the media is going to be an extension of holding that power. And it kind of explains why it is the way it is. People cannot speak out. They’re all involved in the industry. That was one of the censored stories from last year.
Another one is a Seattle activist group has successfully defunded police on their campus. Another one, with all this bemoaning about free speech on campus and how we can’t allow conservatives to have free speech, well, behind the scenes Robert Mercer and other right-wing billionaires are actually passing legislation on campus to restrict actual free speech, actually expel students who protest. That’s incredible. That’s happening. Lead contamination around the country, there are certain cities that have lead contamination three times Flint’s at its highest. These are things that we should know. Of course, the big banger is that the Army has spent $6 trillion that it cannot account for of taxpayer money. Six trillion dollars. Wow, that could be spent for a lot of good here.
It’s not just this, though. It’s also algorithms. We look at net neutrality. This is a huge fight right now. Net neutrality has been semi-dead for a while because of these algorithms that have been instated across social media, across Google that have severely restricted your access and your democratic ability to research information and information gathering. So it’s pretty bad. And we cannot let these Silicon Valley giants off the hook either. YouTube, Google, Facebook, they have not only all backpaged state media like TeleSUR and RT to acquiesce to power and basically say, Oh, no, even if there’s not a law, we’re just going to preemptively do this for the government.
Already RT and TeleSUR are seeing view counts drop drastically. You can barely even find my videos on YouTube. You have to go through several pages, even if you type in the title. It’s just outrageous. And there are warning signs on YouTube now by state-funded broadcasters. But, oddly enough, not for corporately funded broadcasters. For NPR, BBC it doesn’t say “Funded by” Monsanto, Koch Brothers, or Chevron. It just says nothing. So it’s selective.
How does corporate media serve the empire? It might as well be state media. Here we are bemoaning RT, China’s state TV. Corporate media work on behalf of the state. They really are one and the same. It’s literally just a cover, an extension of the financial hegemony of Western capital. D.C. journalists are stenographers: they just serve to bolster narratives by power brokers.
There are obvious examples of the corporate media literally staging events to sell war. Two famous examples. One is the toppling of the Saddam statue in the Iraq invasion. That was all staged for the media pool. And also the Kuwaiti who ended up being the daughter of a Kuwaiti ambassador back in the Gulf War lead-up, who said that Saddam’s forces were throwing babies out of incubators in Congressional testimony. That ended up being completely fake, run by a PR group. How many other things are going on like this that we don’t know about?
Again, the Iraq War propaganda, The New York Times and The Washington Post were the worst offenders. It’s a shame that these papers are still considered the papers of record and set the tone and narrative for the entire country coming out of D.C. They post outright propaganda and lies, sourcing anonymous government officials all the time. Once you really know how to become media-literate and read through this propaganda, it’s always anonymous government officials. Because these people don’t want to lose their access. At the end of the day, all they want is a ticket to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. They’re not really there to challenge power; they’re there to work with power and sell their story. I’ve seen it time and again, being in D.C. It’s quite astounding.
Again, not just oil companies, but when you watch corporate media today, and also on all these affiliates—Fox, Daily Beast—you will see Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin advertisements. The networks are funded by defense contractors. That’s who’s advertising in them, that’s who’s giving them profits. So it’s not too surprising to see the parameters of debate limited, where you can’t really talk about how the U.S. is a destructive, crazy empire that the rest of the world lives in fear of, of what we’re going to do next and who we’re going to kill next, because they’re funded by defense contractors, literally.
It’s not just the advertising. It’s the cycle of guests and people who are quoted in these articles. It’s not just anonymous government officials. It’s literally general after general, defense contractor official after defense contractor official, and then just straight-up intelligence people.
In 2016, going back to the climate change thing, corporate media spent 96 minutes in the entire year covering climate change. This is a year when we’re in such a catastrophic phase of climate change that it’s irreversible. We’re beyond the point where we can actually turn things around. So it’s just amazing to ignore the most pressing issue facing humanity. And that’s exactly what they’re doing. But we know why. We know who their advertisers are.
When Bush left, the corporate media was working hand in glove with Bush to sell the war. His approval rating skyrocketed after 9/11. And the corporate media basically worked as lackeys to help him do whatever he wanted, from the PATRIOT Act, to the Iraq war, Afghanistan—still considered the smart war. I don’t know how. But during Obama it continued. The media liked Obama, for the most part. They never really talked about his drone warfare, they never talked about the fact that he targeted whistleblowers and hackers and the fact that he charged eight journalists under the Espionage Act to go to prison for doing God knows what, everything from leaking classified information to just talking to the wrong person in D.C. So eight people charged under Obama, Manning tortured for eight years in prison—let’s not forget that—Snowden living in exile, and Assange is still indefinitely detained in an embassy. This was all under Obama.
On top of all of this, there’s tens of millions of dollars being spent around the world under the guise of free media, like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, will all of these soft regime-change operations going on everywhere, from Cuba to Venezuela, Russia, everywhere. The U.S. has extensions of this media propaganda everywhere.
Really quickly about state media, it’s an interesting fit into the global hegemony of corporate media domination, because there are some outlets, of course, that don’t rely on corporate sponsorship, they rely on state funds—like Russia Today, like TeleSUR, like CCTV and Press TV coming out of the Iran. They fit outside of the periphery of Western news domination and that corporate domination, and they really allow spaces, good or bad, you could argue, for radical voices that are not allowed on mainstream platforms, that rebuke corporations and the war machine.
So I decided to join RT. What I quickly realized in D.C. is access is the game, baby, access is the game. A really quick story. Right when I got there, right out of the gates, I made a press pass for myself before I even got one from RT for Media Roots. I went to Congress and I was going to confront Senator Rand Paul about Mitt Romney. He had just endorsed Mitt Romney. I was going to go to a public event where people can go and ask him questions. I saw him walking toward me in the Congressional hall, and I was, like, “Oh, Rand, Rand, why did you support Mitt Romney?” He just kind of puts his head down and keeps walking. I was, like, that sucked. I thought that was the end of it. Little did I know that a week later the Capitol Police would be calling RT threatening to arrest me for stalking and harassment of a Representative. They threatened to not only revoke my press credentials but everyone at RT’s press credentials, because they said I wasn’t authorized to ask him a question in Congress without having an authorized meeting or something with him. I was just, like, “Send a film crew over here. Have them arrest me in front of RT for asking a senator a question. Film it. Why don’t you film it? This is great TV.”
But it turned out it was all bluster. The guy basically wanted to get me into Congress. It’s amazing. I really wish I filmed this, one of the things I regret. So I end up meeting with this guy from the Senate Media Relations Committee at the Capitol Building, who was like, Okay, you’re not going to get arrested. Just come here and come to this meeting. So I go into this room. It was basically like an interrogation room, a table with all the bureau chiefs of corporate media seated: the CNN bureau chief, the Fox News bureau chief, and it goes down the list. Here I am, like, What the hell is going on here?
These people sat me down and said, We’ve worked really hard to get where we are, we’ve worked really hard to get the access that we have, and we just can’t have people like you coming in and ruining it. Whatever you did, that’s unacceptable. You have to basically play ball to get where we are, which is a really great place. I was just, like, this is surreal. Basically, you’ve got to play the game. These people don’t do meetings. They were, like, Why didn’t you special a meeting with Rand? I said, “That’s not possible. These people don’t do meetings with RT journalists.” It just gave me a really astute insight on how D.C. operates. Access is the name of the game. Again, these people just want tickets to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. They just want to be friends with politicians. That’s with why there’s such a revolving door around them.
Back to RT, though. It’s amazing to have worked there and to see the Russophobia get worse and worse and worse. Look, the funding is in the name: Everyone knows that Russia funds Russia Today. You know the perspective that comes along with it. I personally think it’s an important perspective. Especially when the entire media apparatus and establishment is basically trying to get us on a war footing with Russia, I think it’s important to have the Russian perspective. Why not? We should know what Russia has to say about stuff. That’s good. It’s not a cartoonish depiction, like the media says, where you have a roundtable with Putin where we get our talking points every morning from our dear leader. I literally just did what I wanted. I was able to pave editorial freedom that people literally will never be able to do at corporate media networks.
For example, I put my job on the line several times working for RT. I disagreed with the coverage of the network several times. I told my boss that I would walk out the door if he didn’t let me just speak my mind on air.
And I did several times. I spoke out against the MH17 flight that was shot down, potentially by Russian insurgents. And Ukraine, I talked openly about that. I talked about the Crimean incursion, just about the coverage that I didn’t agree with. It reminded me a lot of the Iraq War coverage, where it showed soldiers getting greeted with cookies and flowers. And while that was happening, I felt like it was too one-sided from RT. The fact that I was able to do that and I told my boss, “If you don’t let me do this, I’m going to walk out,” showed me that everyone could do that. Literally, anyone working in media could do that. They could put their jobs on the line and say, “No, I’m not cover the missing Malaysian airliner, for like two months straight.” Unfortunately, they don’t.
So you have to ask yourself, Why is it that I, on a Putin-controlled propaganda network, was able to do that? It must not be that hard. And if it is, maybe you’re in the wrong industry or maybe you’re not doing your job correctly.
What was really amazing about this whole thing is what happened to me after I spoke out on RT. For one day I was deemed an anti-Russian hero recall around the world. The front page of the London Express, the Metro Times, everywhere. I was getting phone calls from Germany. Reporters all around the world were saying, Who is this anti-Russian hero that’s speaking out on RT? Of course, ignoring that for the past two years I was speaking out daily against U.S. imperialism, U.S. corporations. They ignored all of that and hyper-focused on this rant against RT. Of course they did, right?
Fast-forward to two years later after that, when the DNI report came out. This was the long-awaited report to prove Russian hacking. We were all waiting with bated breath. These 17 intelligence agencies were finally going to tell us what the evidence was. I was quite astonished to learn that half of the DNI report was actually about my show on RT. This was literally the intelligence agencies. Read it yourself. It talks about Breaking the Set as fomenting radical discontent. Because I was talking about Hillary Clinton basically paving the way for Trump, I guess. This is a show that ended two years before the election that they were saying was literally the example of why Russian propaganda cost us Hillary. Once I saw my show in the official intelligence report, I was just, like, this is utter madness. Literally half of the report is about RT.
It’s not like we’re on there praising Putin. You can even look at the report and see what is considered this dangerous propaganda that we were fomenting radical discontent about. Literally telling the truth about this country. Fracking, things that have huge social movements behind them are now just dismissed as Russian propaganda. This DNI report says my show, talking about Occupy Wall Street, talking about greed and inequality, in a country where half of the people are living in poverty, the literal reality of this country, is Russian propaganda. If you tell the truth about the fact that half the country doesn’t have more than $1,000 in their bank account, they’re living paycheck to paycheck, that’s considered Russian propaganda, that’s dangerous to democracy, according to our intelligence agencies. Just think about how tough that is.
I didn’t leave RT because it was a “propaganda” network. I left because I wanted to do more in-depth investigations in the field. TeleSUR is another kind of alternative, like I was saying, to this corporate media hegemony. It was created as a joint project by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez. It’s funded by multiple Latin American countries. I have complete and total editorial freedom, 100%. I don’t have a boss, I do the show, I sell it to them. I’ve never had anything vetted. I’ve interviewed President Correa. Can you imagine interviewing Trump and not having your questions vetted here? No one has ever looked over my shoulder. But, of course, you will hear that TeleSUR is just propaganda as well and you can’t take it seriously. You can’t win.
I’m going to go into Palestine quickly, because it’s really part and parcel of how the media operates here. The U.S. has its client states around the world that it uses as battering rams and garrisons. Israel is one of those client states of the U.S. empire. It works closely with our media to propagandize and manufacture consent about that situation. We’re told all of our lives that it’s the most complicated situation in the world: they’ve been fighting over there for hundreds of years. That’s not true at all. Again, it’s colonized and colonizers. Again, putting the world in that purview of understanding, how did we get here? It didn’t just happen in a vacuum. It’s a colonized state under occupation.
Every media story about this great March of Return, where I think the number is up to 30 Palestinians unarmed that were massacred, every single Western news outlet, including Al Jazeera, says “clashes.” There are “clashes” at the border that leaves X amount dead. “Clashes”? That’s what you call massacring unarmed protesters. That’s really interesting. That’s really crazy, you guys. We need to look at the language being used and break through that language.
Palestine, when I went there, was incredible. I was there for a month. I was recognized more there than I have been anywhere else, not to toot my own horn. It’s just because people do not give sympathy or understand the Palestinian plight on mainstream media ever. So when they saw an anchor on RT talking about Palestinians like they were not terrorists, that went viral in Palestine. And there are very few people who have put themselves out there to do so. The solidarity was very important and the visibility was very important for Palestinians.
This is such a third-rail issue. I’ve talked to so many journalists who say, “Yeah, I totally agree with you, but I can’t ever say anything because I’ll lose my job.” You just can’t touch it. I am so smeared with the Israel stuff. For example, because of the Israeli lobby, Al Jazeera just had to cancel a documentary that was basically exposing the multiple spy fronts of Israel operating within this country to smear its critics. So that’s going on. Who knows the extent of that operation?
A really quick story. When I was at RT, back during Operation Pillar of Cloud—of course, every couple years Israeli soldiers just massacre a bunch of Palestinians in Gaza. This was no different. This was Operation Pillar of Cloud. They have really bizarre names for their genocidal operations. But there is a tower in Gaza called the al-Shorouk journalists’ tower, and it housed RT, it housed France 24, and several other journalists’ entities. I was out there on RT talking every day about the war crimes that were going on in Gaza.
A couple days after that, they bombed the journalists’ tower, and a France 24 journalist got his leg blown off. We tried to reach the spokespeople, because, again, RT is an extension of Russia, so we were trying to get an answer by proxy of why that happened. Why did you target a journalists’ tower? That’s a war crime. They basically responded saying, Your network has taken a side in the coverage—basically meaning that I was out there talking about Israeli war crimes—therefore, your journalists are now a target to be executed. It’s unbelievable what happened. Avital Leibovich, the IDF spokesperson, said all journalists in Gaza are basically Hamas. You’re a Hamas target. So if you’re in Gaza and you’re a journalist, then they can justify executing you. They just killed another journalist today.
Coming back from Israel, I went on the Joe Rogan’s podcast and I talked about my experiences in Palestine. Of course, for anyone on a stage that has a lot of views, that’s not permitted, so you’re going to see the full force of the Israeli lobby come down on anyone who really talks about Palestinians in a humane way. That’s exactly what happened.
A couple weeks later there was a huge campaign, thousands of emails, phone calls to Joe Rogan saying, “Boycott her, never have her on again. You need to have on a pro-Israel person to counter her lies.” This organization called Stand With Us, that is literally directly funded by the Israeli government to “correct the record,” with war rooms, everything from Wikipedia to YouTube—I don’t really know what they do—produced videos trying to debunk what I said, totally mischaracterizing what I said. It was stunning to see how much money was spent just to smear me from this organization, how much time and energy was spent from this organization, which is, again, funded directly by the Israeli government, to smear me.
This is why you really don’t see journalists talking about this issue.
I wanted to get into Venezuela, because this is a perfect example of the lock-step media just picking an enemy. Pick a country and the media will tell you if it’s our friend or our foe. Iran, China, Russia, Korea, Cuba. All brutal dictatorships, right? We, miraculously, can provide regime change for them. It’s quite astounding. They’re all brutal regimes, they’re all dictatorships, they don’t have democracy, they don’t have elections. In terms of Venezuela, we’re talking about a progressive, independent change that broke the chains of colonialism. So, of course, the U.S. has always tried to do regime change, coup after coup, the funding of the opposition. With Hugo Chavez, love him or hate him, they did try to pave a different path for that country. They tried to use their resources to benefit the people, not corporations. That media uniformity of Venezuela is doing nothing else but to foment support for regime change. There’s no other purpose for it. This is aside from the CIA on the ground, like I said, doing soft regime-change operations in Venezuela.
So I went there to see with my own eyes. Until you go, it’s hard to know the truth, because the media is literally all saying one thing. TeleSUR is funded in part by Venezuela. And before I moved I had a meeting with the producer who buys the show, and I was, like. “Look, I’m going to tell exactly what I see. You know me. Just to let you know, I’m going down there with a completely open mind, and I’m going to report exactly what I see.” He said, “I wouldn’t expect you to do anything else.” That’s exactly what I did.
I was stunned to learn that it’s pretty much the opposite of what we hear. Yes, there are widespread issues. For example, the toilet paper thing. I’ll give you one example, going to supermarkets. You will see CNN is there, and they’re like, Oh, man, it’s so dangerous outside. We’re going to do hidden-camera footage and show you how there is no toilet paper and the supermarkets are just stripped. We had a hidden camera and went into plenty of our own supermarkets. What we found was a lot of them are fully stocked. What’s very strange to me is that a lot of them have paper products, napkins, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, but then they just won’t have toilet paper.
So then you have to ask yourself, Why is it that they can’t manufacture toilet paper but they can manufacture all these other paper products? Then you learn that there is kind of an economic warfare going on. Because Venezuela is, like a lot of the countries, not a socialist country, it’s kind of semi-socialist, you have a lot of economic warfare going on on behalf of the U.S. It’s not just that. I’m just saying, there’s a bigger story than what we hear in the media. It’s not just, “People are suffering because they don’t have toilet paper.” No, dude, there’s so much else going on.
We went to tens-of-thousands-strong protests in support of the governments. Again, love it or hate it, this is the reality: Chavistas and Maduro are hugely popular among the poor and people of color in Venezuela, among the masses who are not the more wealthy, more elite, and better-off people. That’s just the reality. To not hear that reality is extremely detrimental to us. That’s the truth. To go there and actually try to cover both sides—I was, like, I’m going to cover the side that’s not talked about. But I also covered the side that is talked about. I went into these guarimbas, I went to the protests. Unlike VICE, just running around with protest porn, I went and I was, like, “Who are you guys? I want to talk to you and find out why you’re protesting.” It was very strange. A lot of them didn’t know. One person said, “I can’t be an entrepreneur here.” I’m, like, That’s why you have a Molotov cocktail in your hand? Because you can’t own a business? What the hell is going on here? It was bonkers.
There were a lot of disaffected youth who actually didn’t really have a unified ideology. It was just insane. It was just insane to see everyone, from VICE to Al Jazeera, covering these protests as just total badass protesters who are basically staving off this totalitarian police force that’s gunning them down in the streets.
What I saw when I was there was quite different, especially coming from Occupy Wall Street, where I saw very brutal crackdowns from police on unarmed protesters. We’re on the freeways in Venezuela, and there are these guarimba protesters. And they call them guarimbas because of the fire barricades, they’re very dangerous. We were there and I was interviewing these people. They’re, like, “Don’t film us. Film what the government does to us.” I was, like, “Okay, okay.” Basically, you can die. They lynch journalists. They burn people alive. We’re talking about a fascist element there that is consistent largely with the protests that you see. This is not talked about on mainstream. media. There’s a fascist, very vibrant element that has lynched people, burned them alive, etc., who are Chavistas. So I was very scared and I was playing along. And I was, like, “I’m here to cover you. I’m Western media, I’m American media,” so they would not lynch me and kill me.
I followed them around and was interviewing them the whole time. I advise everyone to check it out. It’s stunning. On these freeways they would make huge fire barricades, where cars are careening off cliffs trying to get around these fires that they would start. They also commandeered several 18-wheel trucks on the freeway, pulled people out and would try to set them on fire or barricade them off. The night that we were watching this, there were no police officers at all; there was literally no police presence whatsoever. After that, I was, like, This is insane, the fact that protesters are doing this.
Long story short, you look at the targets. It’s food facilities, it’s production warehouses. They were burning down huge stockpiles of food. It’s, like, okay, if this is about starvation, why are you burning all the food? It’s really just to make the government look at bad as possible. I’m not saying the government is perfect. I’m just saying this is the way the media operates, because we want to foment regime change against Venezuela. That’s a fact. And Trump is all about it. No one goes and talks to these people.
I just thought, Okay, cool, wow, we got a different side of the story and we’re going to tell that side of the story, but we’re also going to give the protesters’ perspective. We’re basically just going to show the voices that we got and have them tell their own story. Unfortunately, we talked about how the protesters were actually responsible for the majority of deaths. There was this death toll that was being lobbed around in the media, like “Maduro responsible for 120 dead in Venezuela.” But when you look at the actual breakdown of the deaths, the vast majority were caused directly by the protesters, with either these flaming guarimbas, where people would careen and drive off cliffs, or actual just gunshots, executions at these protests, Molotov cocktails, lynchings. There were several lynchings and people who were burned alive. So I was just talking about that, literally just telling the facts. And I cross-referenced this with the funeral records and press releases of these people’s deaths. A lot of these people were politically targeted, too, like Chavistas or candidates who were going to be in the constituent assembly.
What happened? I got a lynch mob after me. We had to flee. I don’t even know if I can go back to the country because there was such a hysterical outcry from the opposition in Venezuela. I was just literally trying to do my job, tell both sides of the story. But, unfortunately, it wasn’t what they wanted. They wanted just that one-sided news coverage about what Maduro is doing and how he’s massacring everyone. Painting them in a semi-bad light and telling the truth about what they were doing basically got hundreds of death threats, lynch threats, especially lynch threats. It was stunning what happened. We were actually at the center of like a fake news campaign in Venezuela calling us spies, saying to execute us if you saw us on sight. After we left, our colleague at TeleSUR was actually shot in the back at one of these protests. Because of this happening, she was targeted by these people and almost killed.
Let’s talk about the Trump era and where we’re at now. He was given $5 billion and free advertising, and that’s why we are where we are. It’s not my show on RT, it’s not Russia. It’s that the media basically gave him $5 billion of free advertising. Every speech he gave. They even filmed empty podiums just waiting. Well, Trump is going to come out any second. We just have to wait and film the podium until he comes out.
Trump really represents this stage of late capitalism. We have a cabinet full of these billionaires, CEOs, the most generals since, I don’t know, World War II, reactionary right-wing religious fanatics. It’s stunning.
The fake news phenomenon is really interesting, because, let’s face it, he is right in a way. The corporate media is the largest purveyor of fake news. They really are, in terms of war selling and manufacturing consent with the empire when it comes to military and hegemony around the world. The reason that they hate Trump so much is because he removes the mask. They don’t like that. They want empire to be palatable. They want it to be professional and distinguished, like Obama and like Hillary. That’s why you saw so many media conglomerates completely invested in Hillary’s campaign. She got the most donations from those big corporate media donors.
They don’t care that Trump is xenophobic or racist or bigoted. Their policies are. What do you think war is? What do you think this global domination of our military is doing? Killing millions of people around the world. They don’t care about that. They just care that he makes them look bad.
So it’s a very surreal time. We’re in treacherous territory, where we have a lot of work to do. People are getting swept up into these mass hallucinations on basically both sides of the political aisle.
Again, the majority of the mainstream media pretends like there are these resistance leaders and Trump is terrible. But why? Not for the right reasons. They don’t care about him carpet-bombing and shooting up neighborhoods, civilian casualties. They don’t care that he’s increased drone strikes exponentially, over 400%, since Obama. When he bombed Syria and when he used that MOAB mini-nuke in Afghanistan, they cheered him on, they applauded him. They were saying, “You’re so presidential, for the first time. This is great.” We saw Don Lemon with a tear in his eye. I swear to God, the media loves that. They cheer him on. There’s uniform support and bipartisan praise for bombing people. When you see Chuck Schumer, who is a Democrat leader, he literally said that he wants Trump to be more aggressive on Russia and North Korea. That’s stunning. The so-called resistance wants him to be more aggressive militarily.
Then you look at the Democratic Party in general. That’s why we have Trump. Let’s face facts here. The Democrats have learned nothing. What are they doing? They’re actually just putting in former intelligence officials and military members. There’s a record number running for Democratic positions in the next primaries. Literally half of the seats, if the projections are correct, will be literally intelligence officials and military officials. Somehow the Democrats think that’s palatable.
From Clinton to Bush to Obama to Trump, the war machine grinds on. It’s not going to end. It doesn’t start know for sure, it’s that this machine will continue. Again, Trump makes it look bad. They want him out so they can continue the full-spectrum dominance of the U.S. empire. They know China and Russia are the ultimate goals, beyond Iran, beyond Syria.
We need journalists unafraid to call out that economic oppression, the brutal, violent oppression of our economic system. We need journalists to go after the jugular of the rotting and flailing empire. We have to hold power brokers accountable for their crimes, words, and deeds. We have to remind people of the true cost of war. Political education is the key. History is instructive. You can’t expect the work to be rewarded in the system, because it won’t be. Only history will reward you for standing on the right side. The present day will not.
You have to be an internationalist. We have to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters worldwide. As an American journalist, and as Americans in general, we have to focus on ending the U.S. empire, keep our eyes on the ball. This is the world source of suffering, this is the greatest threat to humankind. It’s our best hope to actually enrich millions of lives around the world and hope for a just and equitable future. Thank you, guys, so much.
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