Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Is the U.S. Media a Mouthpiece for the State? Stephen Kinzer Argues "Yes"

Those of us who grew up during the Cold War were constantly reminded that Pravda, the state news vehicle of the Soviet Union. The Russian word itself means Truth. We were regularly reminded that it was the primary channel for Soviet propaganda, to spread the Party's message to the rest of the world.

The unspoken message here was that our media was the voice of the good guys and that it was not propaganda. It was a free press reporting real news as it happens.

A couple nights ago I was listening to an interview with Stephen Kinzer on National Public Radio. Kinzer is a journalist and author who was formerly with the New York Times. On NPR Kinzer stated that he and the Times parted ways over the issue of journalistic integrity, especially with regard to being a channel for the U.S. propaganda. (This was how interpreted what he said on the air.)

As one who has written about this topic on numerous occasions (eg. He Who Controls the Narrative Controls the People, and The Purpose of Propaganda: Social Engineering) it made me interested in learning more about Stephen Kinzer, his ideas and experiences, so I asked Google Bard for a summary of Mr. Kinzer's views on the U.S. media as a mouthpiece for our government and the Pentagon.*

Bard Replied:

Stephen Kinzer is a journalist and author who has written extensively about the role of the U.S. media in foreign policy. He argues that the U.S. media has a long history of serving as a mouthpiece for the government and the Pentagon.

Kinzer points to several examples of this, including:

  • The media's uncritical reporting of the lead-up to the Iraq War, which was based on false claims about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.
  • The media's failure to challenge the Bush administration's justification for the war in Afghanistan, which was based on the claim that the Taliban was harboring al-Qaeda.
  • The media's reluctance to report on the human cost of U.S. wars, such as the war in Iraq, which has killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

Kinzer argues that the U.S. media is not simply passive in its role as a mouthpiece for the government. He believes that the media is actively complicit in promoting U.S. foreign policy interests. (EdNote: emphasis mine) He cites the example of the media's coverage of the Arab Spring, which he argues was largely supportive of U.S. intervention in the region.

Kinzer's views on the U.S. media have been controversial. Some critics have accused him of being too critical of the media, while others have said that he is right to point out the media's biases.

* * *

This is exactly what Seymour Hersh was shocked to find when he came to D.C. to be part of the Washington Press Corp. DC journalists enjoyed hobnobbing with the government elite. As a result they became bedfellows and were reluctant to be real reporters.

Hersh began ruffling the status quo with stories like his unearthing the My Lai massacre and by tracking down Lt. Calley, the Viet Nam War atrocity scapegoat. (Recommended: Reporter by Seymour Hersh is a Must Read for All Young Journalists)

Regardless of one's views on Kinzer's specific arguments, there is no doubt that the U.S. media plays a significant role in shaping public opinion about foreign policy. Many believe Kinzer's work has helped to raise awareness of the ways in which the media can be used to promote government interests. 

* It should be noted that AI systems are sometimes unreliable. This seemed like a fair description to me.

1 comment:

LEWagner said...

My litmus test for real journalism has been 9/11 truth.
Anyone who in 22 years still hasn't questioned the reality of hollow aluminum airplanes flying right inside of steel and concrete buildings without even slowing down is no real journalist, in my opinion.

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