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The Corporate Media’s Assault on Free Speech
An Interview with Jeffrey St. Clair
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“One might well ask which foreign government had a larger roll in assisting Trump’s victory over Clinton and more to gain: Russia or Israel. Sheldon Adelson spent a reported \$25 million in support of Trump and Netanyahu was publicly campaigning for Trump from Tel Aviv.”
— Jeffrey St. Clair, CounterPunch Editor

Mike Whitney: CounterPunch was listed as one of the 200 websites that, according to the Washington Post, “wittingly or unwittingly published or echoed Russian propaganda”. The shadowy organization that leveled these claims is called PropOrNot, a group of researchers has made every effort to remain anonymous. Rather than wasting our time asking whether or not you are Russian agent (which is too ridiculous to consider) what do you think is driving this group to label and attack the websites on its list?

Jeffrey St. Clair: One can only speculate, since we don’t at this point know who they are and no one would know of their existence at all had it not been for the Washington Post. Even to call them “researchers” may be to inflate their resumés. Mark Ames has tracked down some tweets associated with the PropOrNot accounts that suggest ties to Ukrainian nationalists. But again that’s just speculation until they emerge from the shadows and reveal their identities, a prospect that I don’t think is forthcoming any time soon. In fact, we may need to sue them to finally answer these questions.

Mike Whitney: How does Russia factor into all of this? Is Washington creating a pretext for an escalation in Syria or Ukraine?

Jeffrey St. Clair: Which Washington? Washington seems divided. Trump’s election has caused a lot of internal divisions within the establishment to erupt to the surface. Rarely do these kinds of clashes from within what some call the Deep State get fought in public. Of course, there are many bi-partisan reasons to inflate the Russian threat that have nothing much to do with Syria or Ukraine, such as defending big defense contracts, for useless weaponry such as the F-35 and a new generation of nuclear weapons.

Mike Whitney: The Washington Post appears to be incensed by the idea that US elections may have been “hacked” by a foreign government. Do you remember any time in the last 30 or 40 years when the Post was as upset about Washington’s regime change operations which involved the violent toppling of 40 or 50 sovereign governments or the disruptive color-coded revolutions funded by US NGO’s? How would you explain the Post’s selective indignation?

Jeffrey St. Clair: Of course not. The Post and the NYT have supported through their own special brand of propaganda many of those interventions and cover operations. And I don’t think the Post has ever showed the slightest inclination to pursue investigations of instances where countries other than Russia have attempted to sway elections in the US, such as the Saudis and the Israelis. One might well ask which foreign government had a larger roll in assisting Trump’s victory over Clinton and more to gain: Russia or Israel. Sheldon Adelson spent a reported \$25 million in support of Trump and Netanyahu was publicly campaigning for Trump from Tel Aviv. The Israeli’s have proven track record of swaying US elections. Go ask Cynthia McKinney. The Russians don’t. Not yet, anyway.

Mike Whitney: After months of closely following the Trump campaign in the lead up to the election, I noticed something quite extraordinary, that is, the MSM had lost its power to influence public attitudes. This was particularly noticeable when the numerous sex allegations were leveled at Trump, but his base of support hardly budged. This suggests to me that the MSM is rapidly losing its ability to control the masses by shaping public perceptions. Do you think PropOrNot could be an attempt by “interested groups” (USG?) to reestablish its monopoly on information by attacking the websites and alternate sources of news that pose the greatest threat to its continued control?

Jeffrey St. Clair: Trump didn’t just touch, he frontally embraced almost every third rail in American politics and not only survived but thrived on it, like some super-villain in a Dark Horse comic. It’s quite remarkable really. The MSM media has been dying for years and Trump’s campaign emphasized just how feeble and politically impotent the Times and the Post, as well as the network and cable news outlets have become, at least for an outlier candidate like Trump. By the way, Bernie Sanders also built his campaign in the face of first media indifference and then hostility. But Bernie wasn’t felled by the media, but through the anti-Democratic structure of the Democratic Primaries and the internal sabotage of the DNC. (See my book Bernie and the Sandernistas for more.) The GOP primary system, by contrast, proved much more open and democratic than the Democrats’s rigged system.

I don’t know enough about PropOrNot to speculate about the site’s origins. It seems pretty amateurish to me. But the government has had a role in setting similar “perception management” operations in the past. Recall the Lincoln Group’s contract with the Bush administration to write and pay for propaganda stories during the Iraq war? One wonders whether something similar might be at work here. There’s a history, as they say. But we don’t know enough yet. The real mystery is why the Washington Post ran with such a flimsy, unsourced story in the first place. How much contact did the Post have with actual individuals at PropOrNot and was there coordination between the Post, PropOrNot and members of congress looking to set up a new HUAC-like inquisition on the alleged Russian peril.

Mike Whitney: Is the First Amendment in danger?

Jeffrey St. Clair: The first Amendment is always under attack. What’s new now is that it is being assaulted by the mainstream media.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at [email protected].

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media, Fake News 
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  1. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    “Adelson spent a reported \$25 million in support of Trump”

    Peanuts when he spent \$100 million on Romney.

    Adelson didn’t like Trump and was hedging his bets.

    Netanyahu wanted Hillary more. Had she won, he’d be cozying up to her.

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
  2. @Anon

    Señor Netanyahu has been a close personal friend of the Trump Family since he served at the UN.

    • Replies: @Anon
  3. Anon • Disclaimer says:
    @E. A. Costa

    Trump has been ‘friends’ with everyone who is something. He was also good friends with the Clintons.

    The fact is Hillary was an even bigger shill for the Jewish Lobby.

    Netanyahu would have been just as happy with Hillary, even more so.

    • Replies: @E. A. Costa
  4. @Anon

    “Trump may be partial to luxury hotels, while Bibi prefers settlement-chic construction, but they are both passionate about expanding their real estate empires. In one of his funnier video commercials (and that’s saying a lot, because have you seen ads for Trump steaks?), The Donald actually endorses Netanyahu, saying, “Vote for Benjamin, terrific guy, terrific leader, great for Israel.” When Hugh Hewitt asked Trump if he would “unequivocally stand by the action of the Netanyahu government” if it acted “unilaterally against Iran because they view this deal as so bad” the mogul responded, “Of course, I will. In fact, he’s a friend of mine. I did commercials for his reelection. And according to what he said, I’m the only celebrity, he’s used the word celebrity, this was a while ago, that did commercials, that he asked to do commercials. But he’s a good man, and I would absolutely stand with him.”

  5. Oh, and here is Señor Trump on his close friend Angus:

  6. Anon • Disclaimer says:

    Schneiderman always cracks me up. I appreciate his war on PC and thought-control in college campuses, but he supports the same kind of purge against anti-Zionist voices.

    It’s just another version of ‘free speech for me, not for thee’.

    I support his opposition to the PC ‘left’, but there isn’t a pro-Zionist purging of dissident voices he doesn’t like.

    Too much of college culture is anti-Zionist PC voices vs pro-Zionist PC voices. Both side invoke ‘free speech’ but seek to shut down what they define as ‘hate speech’. It’s like Alan Dershowitz — a man who made his reputation as champion of total free speech — pulling strings to derail Norman Finkelstein from Depaul.

  7. TheJester says:

    To corporate America (which now owns the MSM), “news” is just another form of perception or context management to promote their economic interests. Examples: Carlos Slim acting as an “angel” investor to financially save the New York Times to promote his Mexican business interests … and Jeff Bezos’ acquiring the Washington Post to protect his monopolistic business practices.

    In short, “news” is an abstract form of product advertising. The corporations solicit responses from people to support the world order in general and events in particular that optimize and protect their ability to sell product and maximize profits.

    “Real news” (as opposed to “fake news” and “flake news”) started a quiet death in 1985 when the FCC abolished guidelines for non-entertainment programming and in 1987 when it eliminated the Fairness Doctrine. “News” was no longer a public service; it was a business product. This allowed non-news corporations to scoop up the broadcast media and fold it into their product portfolios. This was also the onset of sexy, blond-haired broads with plunging necklines reading the “news” from teleprompters and pretending to be journalists. Megyn Kelly at Fox News is the archetype for this line of products.

  8. Boris N says:

    Mark Ames has tracked down some tweets associated with the PropOrNot accounts that suggest ties to Ukrainian nationalists.

    Well, when I first saw that site and their list (and it was a couple of weeks before the WP’s publication and I did not even imagine that that ridiculous site would go so far) my first feeling was the site had had something to do with Ukrainians. Probably, I know them too well to recognize their ways. Glad to know my intuition was correct.

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