August 24, 2017
The well-known story of All the President’s Men written by Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward chronicled the exploits of these two reporters during the early 1970s Watergate scandal. The book was a classic David and Goliath tale of the bulldog reporters using inside information, in this case from a mysterious source called ‘Deep Throat,’ to investigate and break the big story which would ultimately take down President Richard Nixon.
Let’s fast forward from 1972: Nixon was re-elected President of the United States; Vice-President Agnew resigned (1973); Gerald Ford became Vice-President (1973); Nixon resigned as President after the Watergate scandal (1974); Ford became President (1974); Nelson Rockefeller became Vice-President (1974). History books covering this era must be action-packed, exciting reads.
Then in 1975-76, the Church Committee investigated United States intelligence activities, and Operation Mockingbird was exposed. Begun in 1953, Mockingbird was a CIA program which used legitimate news sources to influence domestic public opinion. Brand-name reporters working for the New York Herald Tribune, Newsweek, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others were allegedly subject to control by their CIA Mockingbird masters. Other reporters, not working within the propaganda system, were wire-tapped to determine content. Basically, it was a continuing propaganda campaign running within, and capable of manipulating, the revered ‘Fourth Estate,’ the news media.
More recently we have the story of the leader of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, buying The Washington Post newspaper in 2013 for $250 million. Earlier in the same year, Bezos’ company Amazon received a $600 million contract to provide cloud services to the CIA. The Washington Post has been a constant source of negative information about President Trump, much of which has been obtained from anonymous sources.
Logically, one might assume that the truth once exposed would negate any propaganda efforts by the CIA or anyone else. Of course, Edward Bernays, the father of modern-day public relations or propaganda, said in his 1927 report entitled The Minority Rules that “the most effective propaganda, indeed, is that which enlarges and presents the truth so that an indifferent public will understand it and accept it.” Later in the same article, he says that if propaganda “strays into untruth, the course of events will show it up, and its power will end.”
But, what is the truth?
Some definitions state that a verified fact conforming to reality, and not false (untrue) is the truth.
And what is a lie?
A lie is an idea or statement that is untrue but which is presented as if it was true.
It could be said that all reported news may or may not be true depending on verification of the facts and the honesty of the reporter. Like the quantum physics question: is it a particle or a wave?, determining whether it is the truth or a lie depends on your filter and interpretation.
Hitler had a method of establishing the truth. The Nazi propaganda leaders said that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, it will become the truth. This is the problem with public relations and propaganda. It is a process which establishes the truth and then sells it to the public. In effect, it is ‘fake news.’ Because news reporting is not only a fact reporting machine, it is a fact filter or lens. It diminishes or magnifies any event according to the bias of the source. Or in some cases, news is totally or partially fabricated.
Is the CIA still in the business of manipulating domestic and foreign public opinion? Are the Russians involved in manipulating domestic and foreign public opinion? Is President Trump doing the same? Are the Democrats and Republicans doing the same? The easy answer is, yes. Is all the news presented on television, and in newspapers, magazines, movies, podcasts, videos, websites and word-of-mouth the truth? Or is it some form of propaganda? The answer is that it is all propaganda. From instantaneous electronic reporting to time-delayed historical reporting, it is all the same. Let the reader beware.
In the very near future, it will be reported that the Russians co-opted Facebook, Google and other sites that offered advertisements along with their information and news. Most likely their intent was to disrupt the elections. Maybe they were just testing the concept to determine the best way to influence our elections. The Russians will be exposed for buying ads which promoted specific candidates and issues in the 2016 Presidential Election. Possibly Donald Trump was one of those promoted. If so, does that mean he colluded with the Russians? Or does it reflect on the transmitter of the news, Facebook or Google? Are they in some capitalistic, business-like way colluding with the Russians? Or is this all about free-speech for everyone including foreign intelligence operations?
Mockingbird news survives. It will never be killed by the truth because the truth is an imaginary bullet.
(image by Charlesjsharp wikicommons)