Mark Twain once said, “If you don’t read a newspaper every day, you are uninformed. If you do, you are misinformed.”
Things haven’t changed today. Here are 7 reasons why:
1. Democrats outnumber Republicans by 4-to-1 among journalists, according to research by Indiana University journalism professors Lars Willnat and David Weaver. Washington, D.C. correspondents, the ones who dominate national political coverage, are even more Democrat partisan. According to Tim Groseclose, author of Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, over 90% of D.C. journalists vote Democratic, with an even higher number giving to Democrats or liberal-leaning political action committees. (Source)
2. Michael Deaver was White House deputy chief of staff in the Reagan Administration (1981-1985). Deaver worked primarily on media management forming how the public perceived Reagan, sometimes by engineering press events so that the White House set the TV networks’ agenda for covering the president. This was what Deaver said about the press:
“The media I’ve had a lot to do with is lazy. We fed them and they ate it every day.”
3. Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked as an analyst at the RAND Corp., at the Pentagon, and spent two years in Vietnam working for the State Department, leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 — documents that revealed three U.S. presidential administrations had lied to the public. In an interview in 1998, Ellsberg said: “The public is lied to every day by the president, by his spokespeople, by his officers.” Ellsberg once described what the New York Times was good for:
“… to see what the rubes and the yokels are thinking about and what they think is going on and what they think the policy is.”
4. William Colby, director of the CIA from 1973 to 1976, is quoted as saying on page 13 of David McGowan’s 2000 book, Derailing Democracy: The America the Media Don’t Want You to See, which was published four years after Colby’s death in 1996:
“The Central Intelligence Agency owns everyone of any significance in the major media.”
McGowan did not give a source for the quote, although 200 other quotes that are cited in Derailing Democracy have first source attribution. According to Metabunk.org, “the CIA did have extensive paid and contractual relationships with journalists. But that policy ended 35 years ago. Even if the quote is correct, it’s not referring to the current state of affairs . . . . It’s mostly likely a corruption of Colby’s remarks to the press in 1973.”
5. But we don’t really need the Colby quote. We have Operation Mockingbird, a secret campaign by the CIA to influence the media. Begun in the 1950s, it was initially organized by Cord Meyer and Allen W. Dulles, and was later led by Frank Wisner after Dulles became the head of the CIA. The organization recruited leading American journalists into a network to help present the CIA’s views; funded some student and cultural organizations and magazines as fronts; and worked to influence foreign media and political campaigns.
In 1975, the Senate Intelligence Committee (also called the Church Committee, after Sen. Frank Church) conducted an investigation of Operation Mockingbird, which culminated in the committee’s report in 1976. Here’s Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame’s description:
The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception . . . .
Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Tirne Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune.
By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.
The CIA’s use of the American news media has been much more extensive than Agency officials have acknowledged publicly or in closed sessions with members of Congress. […]
In the field, journalists were used to help recruit and handle foreigners as agents; to acquire and evaluate information, and to plant false information with officials of foreign governments. Many signed secrecy agreements, pledging never to divulge anything about their dealings with the Agency; some signed employment contracts., some were assigned case officers and treated with. unusual deference. Others had less structured relationships with the Agency, even though they performed similar tasks […]
DESPITE THE EVIDENCE OF WIDESPREAD CIA USE OF journalists, the Senate Intelligence [or Church] Committee and its staff decided against questioning any of the reporters, editors, publishers or broadcast executives whose relationships with the Agency are detailed in CIA files.
According to sources in the Senate and the Agency, the use of journalists was one of two areas of inquiry which the CIA went to extraordinary lengths to curtail. The other was the Agency’s continuing and extensive use of academics for recruitment and information gathering purposes.
In both instances, the sources said, former directors Colby and Bush and CIA special counsel Mitchell Rogovin were able to convince key members of the committee that full inquiry or even limited public disclosure of the dimensions of the activities would do irreparable damage to the nation’s intelligence‑gathering apparatus, as well as to the reputations of hundreds of individuals.
[… In the end, the Church Committee’s final] report noted blandly that [. . . there is] little evidence that the editorial content of American news reports had been affected by the CIA’s dealings with journalists. […] The role of cooperating news executives was given short shrift. The fact that the Agency had concentrated its relationships in the most prominent sectors of the press went unmentioned. That the CIA continued to regard the press as up for grabs was not even suggested.
6. German journalist Udo Ulfkotte, a former editor of Germany’s main daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, said in his 2014 book, Gekaufte Journalisten (Bought Journalists), that the CIA and other secret services pay money to journalists to report a particular story in a certain light. (See “German reporter says CIA and other intelligence agencies bribe journalists to write lies“)
7. It’s not illegal for the media to falsify news, i.e., to lie.
That’s the ruling of a Florida appeals court judge in 2003 in the case of former journalist Jane Akre v. WTVT, the FoxNews affiliate in Tampa, FL.
As recounted by Wikipedia, in 1997, Akre and her former husband Steve Wilson began work for WTVT on a four-part investigative report on the agricultural biotechnology company Monsanto and recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), a milk additive blamed for a number of health issues but was approved for use by the FDA. Monsanto wrote to Roger Ailes, president of Fox News Channel, in an attempt to have the report reviewed for bias, claiming that Akre’s report could result in “enormous damage”.
WTVT did not air Akre and Wilson’s report despite their rewriting the report over 80 times, then exercised “its option to terminate their employment contracts without cause.” Wilson and Akre claimed that WTVT’s actions constituted the news broadcast telling lies; WTVT countered that it was looking only for fairness and that the report was not “breakthrough journalism”. In 1998, WTVT ran a different report about Monsanto and rBGH which included defenses from Monsanto.
Following Wilson and Akre’s contract not being renewed, the two filed a lawsuit against WTVT under Florida’s whistleblower laws, claiming they were terminated in retaliation for “resisting WTVT’s attempts to distort or suppress the Monsanto recombinant bovine growth hormone story.”
The trial commenced in summer 2000 with a jury dismissing all of Wilson’s claims but agreeing with Akre’s complaint that she was a whistleblower because she believed WTVT had violated the Communications Act of 1934 and because she planned on reporting WTVT to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Akre was awarded $425,000.
An appeal was filed. In February 2003, the appeals court judge ruled in favor of WTVT, who successfully argued that the FCC policy against falsification was not a “law, rule, or regulation”, and so the whistle-blower law did not qualify.
In other words, it is not against the law for the media to lie.
No wonder a Gallup Poll in September 2015 found that only 4 in 10 Americans said they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust and confidence in the mass media (newspapers, TV and radio) to report the news fully, accurately and fairly. Prior to 2004, slight majorities of Americans had said they trusted the mass media.
Actually, I’m surprised as many as 40% of Americans still trust the media.