“The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information.”
— Henry Wallace (1888–1965), V.P. under F.D.R. 1941–45, founder Progressive Party
During my decade toiling as a corporate pawn in television, radio and print newsrooms, editorial control was a constant battle. Trained wild-eyed for an industry entrusted with shedding light, I was slowly broken under the constant shade cast by umbrellas of corporate control. It’s been nearly 20 years since I left the lie, cheat and steal news business, disillusioned and dispirited.
Now that I’m freshly back in the game as a part-time player wearing a Ghion Journal jersey, team captain Teodrose Fikre gives me a forum to freely express myself without fear of offending advertisers or owners. To his credit, Teodrose does not rewrite my articles to pigeon-hole them into an established perspective, which is common in corporate news.
Teodrose does add a headline, photo, and often a wrap and hashtag to package my story submissions. So I can’t take credit for the “strawman Trump” kicker closing my last Ghion Journal article about the Deep State. #StrawPOTUS was a deft editor’s touch, and inspired me to elaborate on the concept.
Trump’s battle with the media is the strawman distraction that currently overshadows a multiple-front assault on our personal freedoms. While the President screams “fake news” and the media mumble back “Hitler” under their collective breath, McCarthyism 2.0 censorship surges behind the scenes.
In the end, the public pissing match between the president and the press benefits both political parties and generates record ratings for the media, while threatening to effectively silence America’s dissenting voices at the very moment they’re needed most.
According to an Index on Censorship special report, “It’s Not Just Trump: U.S. Media Fraying at the Edges”, threatening actions against media members increased during the Obama years. In addition to accounts of censorship, surveyed journalists detailed detainments, arrests, and physical violence, both at protests and at the U.S. border.
“Attention in the media has focused on the very public spat between Donald Trump and major news outlets,” said Melody Patry, head of advocacy at the Index on Censorship. “But this survey shows threats to media freedom are far more deep-rooted and affect local journalists, bloggers, and investigative reporters across the country. This is a serious cause for concern in a country that prides itself on the First Amendment principles protecting a free press.”
One of the major reasons to fear Trump, the television talking heads tell us, is censorship. Yet the First Amendment freedoms of the major media appear secure. Nobody is taking away MSNBC’s right to cover the news it considers crucial, like criticizing the president’s weight, or breaking down his diet-cola consumption. Nobody has stopped the New York Times from publishing its need-to-know bombshells including, “The President and the Porn Star”. Nobody has made it illegal for Newsweek and others to pathetically plummet to the depths of Godwin’s Law and compare Trump to Hitler.
What’s not currently safe from censorship? For starters, non-sanctioned reporting about the basic operations of our government. Wikileaks has opened our eyes to mass surveillance, the workings of the war machine, and political party corruption, so the CIA has declared the internet watchdog a “hostile intelligence service”. Is there an outcry from our corporate media over this attack on press freedom? To the contrary, Wikileaks is gleefully smeared with Russian innuendo at every turn.
RT also reports on topics the U.S. government would prefer our people remain in the dark about, and now they’re forced to register as foreign agents. Interestingly, unlike the miserable recent records of most major U.S. media outlets, neither RT nor Wikileaks stands accused of spreading specific lies, only information that is “anti-American” — in other words, telling uncomfortable truths.
What else is not currently safe from censorship? Facebook and Twitter, both of which have been investigating users suspected of spreading “Russian propaganda”. Twitter recently issued cryptic warnings to 677,775 users, advising them of contact with propaganda accounts. The notice never mentions how many suspect accounts were discovered, only “a number” of them, and since “all” of the “potentially” suspect accounts have already been deleted, the relevant information is “no longer publicly available”. This next-to-zero transparency policy conveniently allows Twitter to close the book on the case without proving anything to anybody.
Facebook has plans to let users red-flag information and be their own arbiters of censorship. This ‘news’ model runs diametrically opposed to the still-respected “Journalist’s Creed” created more than 100 years ago by Walter Williams, the first dean of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, my alma mater. A key component of the creed states journalism should never be swayed by the “clamor of the mob”. Facebook now appears willing to cater to mob rule of the news.
Wall Street journalist Charles Ortel reminds us the mission of our social media giants is not news, it’s business. “Facebook should be seen for what it clearly is,” Ortel told RT. “A profit-seeking vehicle that derives outsized financial returns monetizing private user information for which it pays little.”
Independent thinkers are also not currently safe from censorship. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept recently told New York Magazine that in the minds of many Democrats, anyone who disputes the Russia narrative “becomes a blasphemer. Becomes a heretic. I think that’s what they see me as.” Greenwald says he is no longer invited on MSNBC, where he used to appear often. Of course, this is still the same MSNBC that fired Phil Donahue for speaking out against the Iraq War.
In our current bizarro world, you can find neocons such as Bill Kristol on MSNBC, but to see Greenwald you’d have to turn to FOX, which is also the only station you might catch Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz defending Trump against the Mueller Investigation. Dershowitz says he doesn’t often get invited to dinner in D.C. these days. Even his family shuns him. He still insists any obstruction of justice charges brought against the sitting president would send the country into a constitutional crisis. “My really, really close friends say, ‘You’re 100 percent right in your analysis, but can’t you just shut the fuck up and not talk at all? This is a time for selective silence,’” Dershowitz told the Washington Times.
And don’t forget Google, because your search engine is certainly not safe from censorship. The redeveloped algorithms make it even more unlikely your searches will access anything other than establishment-sanctioned news sources. Are corporate media masters howling about Google censoring our right to a truly open internet? Of course not. If anything, they’re cheering the ‘good guys’ they insist are protecting us from fake news, while smearing the alternative sources whose work falls into the cyber abyss.
While all this censorship dirty work lurks mainly behind the scenes, and often at the behest of Democrats beating the drums of anti-Russia hysteria, Trump continues to absorb the bulk of the public body blows from the press. Numerous headlines have raised variations of the “Is Trump Hitler?” question in bold text, only to disregard the idea’s validity in the finer print that follows. The head of the Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, calls the Trump-Hitler comparisons offensive and facile. Still, a few critics including Newsweek, the Baltimore Sun, and somewhat ironically Louis CK, embarrassed themselves and went there anyway.
Trump is many things, and most of them are repugnant. If nothing else, however, Trump’s policies have been remarkably consistent when it comes to being both pro-Israel and anti-Russia. According to a Jerusalem Post poll from December, 76% of Israelis view Trump as favorable to their cause, compared to just 4% for Obama. In regard to Russia, a new round of Trump-issued economic sanctions begins Jan. 29, and we’re sending arms to the Ukraine. Doesn’t this all fly directly in the face of the hysteria that screams Trump is the new Hitler, or somehow a puppet of Putin?
The most amazing part of the establishment’s distraction and disinformation game is that it keeps working. No matter how many times the American public gets suckered by false narratives leading us down a path of death and destruction, we keep lining up like cattle at the trough to feed on more media lies. Eventually, years later, or decades later, sometimes even generations later, we are finally embarrassed by our country’s actions — yet somehow, by then, we’re primed for the next war.
We can forgive the folks in 1898 who were escorted into the Spanish-American War with their hands held by media magnate William Randolph Hearst. At the time, our citizens would have had little reason to believe the press would, without evidence, blame the Spaniards for the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in a blatant attempt to rally support for war. Americans can’t claim the same naïveté now, though, given the benefit of generations of experience getting played as a populace.
During World War II, the media demonized the Japanese with racist imagery. We responded by putting our own citizens in prison camps. During the Cold War, the television endlessly warned us of the Godless, evil Russians. We responded with blind patriotism, tirelessly funneling our money into the military while fighting a 40-year phantom war. During the run-up to the Iraq War, we were massively misled about 9/11, lied to about alleged weapons of mass destruction, and brainwashed into believing we should suspect even our Muslim neighbors. We are still responding.
Now, after decades laying dormant, the Russia propaganda war is back. While I initially wanted to dismiss it as a ridiculous partisan concoction with no chance of catching on, the narrative is gripping the nation with increasing force. Nobody can pretend to know where this war of words will take us, but the initial returns aren’t pretty on the freedom of expression front. And clearly, the potential big-picture implications include the unspeakable.
Contrary to popular opinion, the sprint towards American fascism is not contained to one party or to one ideology. I noted that Trump was a strawman in my last article for a reason, he is the perfect foil who prevents us from seeing the wider picture. People are drawn to him because he is a perfect catnip, as evidenced by the picture chosen for this article. But behind the image and behind the manufactured outrage is a festering fascism that has become a menacing threat to our nation. Perhaps this time around we can overcome our tradition and history, and avoid the consequences of mob rule doing the bidding of elite power players. #AmericanFascism
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