The Corporate Media’s Assault on Free Speech
An Interview with Jeffrey St Clair
by Mike Whitney
CounterPunch (December 13 2016)
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 resumes. 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.
As for the Post‘s story itself, it was fake news story about fake news, citing fake allegations by fake sources. Hence it will probably win the Pulitzer Prize.
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. FBI versus CIA. And the Director of National Intelligence versus both. 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 thirty or forty years when the Post was as upset about Washington’s regime change operations which involved the violent toppling of forty or fifty 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 New York Times 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 mainstream media 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 mainstream media is rapidly losing its ability to control the masses by shaping public perceptions. Do you think PropOrNot could be an attempt by “interested groups” (US Government?) 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 mainstream 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 Democratic National Committee. (See my 2016 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.