By Elizabeth Hanson M. Ed.
January 15, 2017
The American people are being driven like sheep to the slaughter by a flood of false anti-Russia stories now in the main stream media. In this article, we will look at how war hysteria and warnings about “fake news” are being used as cover for new laws that attack our First Amendment right of free speech.
“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”
― Pat Miller, Author
The Rise in the Public's Fear of Fake News
In October 2016 there was a sudden dramatic rise in people's interest in the topic of “Fake News”. According to Zerohedge, “… the Washington Post was instrumental in planting the phrase "Fake News" - along with Buzzfeed, factcheck.org, and The Guardian.”
This chart shows the google searches for “fake news”:
The Rise in Suspicion of Independent Media
Fake news has been around since the dawn of human history. (Remember the Gulf of Tonkin Fake News that led to the Vietnam War and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Fake News that led to the Iraq War?). Yet the past few months has seen a dramatic and perhaps even planned rise in stories about fake news. A month after flooding the population with stories claiming “fake news” was rampant, on November 24th the Washington Post published a list of 200 “fake news” websites ranging from right to left on the political spectrum – From Drudge and Brietbart on one side to Consortium News and Truthdig on the other. What do these diverse websites have in common? The Washington Post's “prop or not” team claimed that all of them were purveyors of Russian propaganda, puppets of Putin and too danger for Americans to even read. Note the scary image which appears on the Prop or Not page:
It was only after some of these slandered Independent News websites threatened to sue the Washington Post that WaPo posted a retraction saying in part:
“Editor’s Note: The Washington Post on Nov. 24 published a story on the work of four sets of researchers who have examined what they say are Russian propaganda efforts to undermine American democracy and interests. … A number of those sites have objected to being included on PropOrNot’s list, and some of the sites, as well as others not on the list, have publicly challenged the group’s methodology and conclusions. The Post... does not itself vouch for the validity of PropOrNot’s findings regarding any individual media outlet.”
Despite the push to get Americans to distrust independent media, via chicken little “the sky is falling” antics and listing websites as supposed Russian sympathizers, a recent Gallup survey shows that the number of Americans who trust mass media has been decreasing. Notice the decrease in trust Americans have in mass media by party:
Why the decrease? Today, thanks to the internet, anyone can do their own independent research and start their own independent news website, and they have. Independent news websites have given the American people an alternative to the spin and distortions of the main stream media. There is a huge difference between how main stream media and independent media report on and frame the news. Take the reporting of Russia hacking U.S. elections. Here are two two headlines. One from main stream news and the other from independent news.
Wall Street Journal (December 29, 2016) - “U.S Punishes Russia over Election Hacking with Sanctions” http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-punishes-russia-over-election-hacking-with-sanctions-1483039178
Washingtonsblog (December 30, 2016) - "Creator of NSA’s Global Surveillance System Calls B.S. On Russian Hacking Report”
So depending on where you get your news from, you will hear a completely different version of events. While the Wall Street Journal insists on spinning Russian Hacking as a fact sent down from Heaven, Washington’s blog readers learn several important reasons why the Russian hacking story might be utterly false. Thus, the purpose of the new “fake news” laws is not to protect the American people from fake news, it is to prevent them from learning the truth.
Russia and its Threat
Let's turn now to Russia and the increase in the anti-Russia news we are reading. Incidentally, Russia has less than half of the population of the U.S. and spends a tiny fraction of what we do on military / national security. Click here to start researching the military and economic differences between the U.S. and Russia. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Russia/United-States/Military Also, notice the location of Ukraine (left side, UKR).
Russia Hacking our Elections to Change Vote Tallies? No.
Thanks to the main stream media's anti-Russian news echo-chamber, (yet questioned by most readers of independent news), many Americans believe that Russia hacked our elections, including our vote tallies, preventing Hillary Clinton from becoming president. See December Yougov poll results here, which compared Clinton voters and Trump voters and their perceptions:
Note that half of all Democrats fell for this fake claim. However, responding to the question of whether or not Russia had indeed hacked our vote tallies, on Jan. 5th at an Armed Services Senate hearing, James Clapper, the head of all U.S. intelligence, told Congress that Russia did not change any vote tallies.
But instead of reporting the truth, that Russia did not alter even a single vote, the main stream media has continued to publish headline after headline that “Russia hacked the 2016 Presidential Election.”
Did Russia Hack the Vermont Electric Grid?
On December 30th the same Washington Post that brought us Prop or Not, published headlines telling us that Russia was threatening the electrical grid in Vermont. And it's the middle of winter and super cold. The headlines really scared Americans as we imagined the poor people in Vermont freezing to death! This news of this “new Russian hack” spread like wildfire.
The Washington Post, December 30, 2016:
New York Times, December 30, 2016:
Reuters News, December 31, 2016:
The mainstream media was in a frenzy sharing this story. Millions of people read the news. It was tweeted and facebooked and shared widely. The story was on the TV nonstop. Maybe you talked about it with your friends. It was only after the manager of the Vermont Power Grid published a statement insisting that they were not hacked in any way and that there was no danger of folks freezing, that the Washington Post wrote a small retraction at the end of the article which read: “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.”
It turned out that the malware on the laptop was not even related to Russia but WaPo could only admit that the Russians had not attacked Vermont “so far.” In response to the fake story of Russia hacking the Vermont Utility company, Glenn Greenwald, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist at the Intercept, wrote:
“After spreading the falsehoods far and wide, raising fear levels and manipulating U.S. political discourse in the process (both Russia stories were widely hyped on cable news), journalists who spread the false claims subsequently note the retraction or corrections only in the most muted way possible, and often not at all. As a result, only a tiny fraction of people who were exposed to the original false story end up learning of the retractions”:
It therefore appears that the real purpose of the Washington Post is not to inform people but to spread as much fear as possible.
Is Russia Attacking the U.S? – The Shut down of C-Span
And now we have yet another supposed Russian attack. On January 12, this was a headline at Yahoo News-
“Watch Kremlin-Backed Russia Today Take Over C-SPAN’s Feed (Video)”
If you read just the headlines, it's pretty scary – Russia took over a US TV station! However, if you read the actual article you would read the manager of C-SPAN clarifying: “We do not believe we were hacked… Instead, our initial investigation suggests that this was caused by an internal routing error. We take our network security very seriously and will continue with a deeper investigation.”
Very sadly, American readers just read the headline, decided it was true and didn't bother to read the actual article. Then they posted 1,000's of comments like this:
Read the article and its comments here:
Today many Americans, like nancy g hate Trump and sadly, many Americans believe we need to go to war against Russia, that Russia is our enemy, thanks to misleading and disgraceful headlines like these. There is no real evidence that Russia hacked the DNC or Vermont or C-Span, but we are told to believe the CIA and the NSA the government and the media.
Here are two reports by computer security experts who don't believe the Russians are behind Hillary Clinton's presidential loss or are out to destroy the U.S. They tell you about Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear, the names that Cloud Strike gave to the DNC hackers. Interestingly, the DNC hired a private security firm to investigate the hackers and refused help from the FBI.
We are certainly in a dangerous political situation in our country and we are, in my opinion, being herded to accept a war against Russia and a crack down on our freedom of speech.
Why Demonize Russia? Ukraine
The U.S. and Russia have been on oppostite sides of two major conflicts: both in Ukraine and in Syria. Essentially, they have been fighting proxy wars already. In 2014 the U.S. gave 5 billion tax payer dollars to fund anti – government forces in Ukraine to support their efforts in overthrowing their Democratically elected government. Yet most Americans would have trouble locating either Syria or Ukraine on a map!
RT News explained this funding:
“Such funding is a well-known tool of the American government. Washington describes it as promoting a positive change and denies accusations that it gives money to get leverage to pursue its own goals in targeted countries… Some like film director Oliver Stone even call it a US-staged coup, while former US Congressman Ron Paul called for the US to stop meddling in Ukraine.” https://www.rt.com/news/233439-us-meddling-ukraine-crisis/
But did we hear about our tax dollars going to overthrow a Democratically elected leader in Ukraine and some of this $5 billion going to Nazi sympathizers in the mainstream news? When you read independent news, you are more likely to get important information like this:
“Washington has chosen to spearhead Neo-Nazis into positions of authority. Under a “regime of indirect rule”, however, they take their orders on crucial military and foreign policy issues –including the deployment of troops directed against the Russian federation– from the the US State Department, the Pentagon and NATO.” http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-u-s-has-installed-a-neo-nazi-government-in-ukraine/5371554
Here is a picture of John McCain shaking hands with Svoboda neo-Nazi party leaders.http://www.globalresearch.ca/there-are-no-neo-nazis-in-the-ukraine-and-the-obama-administration-does-not-support-fascists/5370269
Glenn Greewald also wrote about how the U.S. was funding Nazi sympathizers in Ukraine: “Just as the U.S. spent years funding and arming the precise extremist elements it claims it wants to combat – in Libya, in Syria, and long before that in Afghanistan – arming Ukrainian forces would empower a monstrous crew of fascists and outright Nazi sympathizers. The coup itself, which the U.S. government supported, almost certainly did exactly that.”
Which was really overthrown... Crimea or Ukraine?
Let's turn to another part of the U.S. and Russian conflict in Ukraine: Crimea. Crimea had been part of Russia from 1792 to 1954 and the vast majority of people identify more with Russia than Ukraine. https://www.quora.com/Do-they-speak-Russian-or-Ukrainian-in-Crimea
In 2014 with the overthrow of the Ukranian government, Crimeans wanted to return back to Russia. According to the BBC, “Some 95.5% of voters in Crimea have supported joining Russia… Russia's Vladimir Putin has said he will respect the Crimean people's wishes.” Clearly, the Crimean people could not happily accept the new government in Ukraine. They are now part of Russia.
So while the U.S. media told us that Russia was invading Crimea and had to be stopped, it seems like the majority of Crimeans are now happy to be again part of Russia. Here's a 2015 report on Forbes with the headline - “One Year After Russia Annexed Crimea, Locals Prefer Moscow To Kiev”.
How Russia Fear Mongering is used to Crack Down on Free Speech in the US
Here's Seattle author Mike Whitney whose articles appear on Counterpunch, tying together the crack down on free speech in the U.S with the U.S. main stream media's anti-Russia hysteria and hysteria against Donald Trump. In short, he is saying and I agree that all of this hoopla is about getting President elect Trump on board to go to war.
“Their (The mainstream media's) job is to prepare the American people for an escalation of hostilities between the two nuclear-armed superpowers…. Washington wants to reassert its exceptional role as the uncontested steward of global security and the lone ‘unipolar’ world power. That’s what this whole “hacking” fiasco is about. The big shots who run the country are trying to strong-arm ‘the Donald’ into carrying their water so the depredations can continue and Central Asia can be transformed into a gigantic Washington-dominated corporate free trade zone where the Big Money calls the shots and Capital reigns supreme.”
The Crackdown on Free Speech
The rise in anti- Russian propaganda and the creation of “Do Not Read” lists seem to be part of the latest push to narrow our right to free speech to protest against U.S. imperialism. There is a piece of legislation, which proves my point, that was signed into law just before Christmas. This legislation, which was introduced in the House in May 2016, (many months before the election) was entitled “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016.” The purpose of this law is:
“… Identifying current and emerging trends in foreign propaganda and disinformation… to expose and refute foreign misinformation and disinformation and proactively promote fact-based narratives and policies to audiences outside the United States.”
You can read the text of the bill here.
This bill passed the House and the Senate by huge margins and, just before Christmas, it was part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama signed. Now we have a law that allows the government to attack ideas that it doesn't like both at home and abroad – Do you think it is a coincidence that we have lists of “do not read” websites now? Read more about that law here.
Interestingly, this legislation and its intended purpose is very similar to what President Obama's friend and 2008 Head of Information and Regulatory affairs, Harvard Professor Cass Sunstein had proposed in a 2008 essay he wrote when he gave suggestions about what the U.S. government should do about conspiracy theories:
“What can government do about conspiracy theories? … (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories. (3) Government might itself engage in counterspeech, marshaling arguments to discredit conspiracy theories. (4) Government might formally hire credible private parties to engage in counterspeech. (5) Government might engage in informal communication with such parties, encouraging them to help.”
Download and read Sunstein's prescient essay here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers2.cfm?abstract_id=1084585
Glenn Greenwald's responded to Sunstein's essay by saying: “...the government-controlled messaging that Sunstein desires has been a prominent feature of U.S. Government actions over the last decade, including in some recently revealed practices of the current administration, and the mindset in which it is grounded explains a great deal about our political class.”
Control of the Media = Control Of the Future
The “powers that be” would like to control free speech. It is much easier to control a population and prevent them from revolting if you limit what they read, hear and are allowed to say.
“I know the secret of making the average American believe anything I want him to. Just let me control television…. You put something on the television and it becomes reality. If the world outside the TV set contradicts the images, people start trying to change the world to make it like the TV set images….’’
-Hal Becker, media “expert’’ and management consultant, the Futures Group, in an interview in 1981
Clearly, our intelligence agencies, mega-corporations and government have an interest in controlling the news we rely on for information. One glaring example of media colluding with corporate / government players is, as you may know, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos buying The Washington Post in October 2013 for $250 million and that same year the CIA signed a $600 million deal with Amazon to use their cloud services. This relationship between the CIA and the Washington Post probably impacts what the Washington Post writes and how stories are framed.
Former CIA agent Ray McGovern describes the CIA – Bezos relationship as:
““… compelling proof that the Fourth Estate (the press) is moribund, and that defenders of the independence and integrity of the Web must thwart attempts by bozos at CIA and Bezos at the once-independent Washington Post from leaving still more stain on journalism.”
Think back to “Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq”. (There were no weapons of mass destruction.) It was The Washington Post, that Jeff Bezos now owns, that led the way to push for the invasion against Iraq, which resulted in millions of lives destroyed, with an incredible 140 front page stories, and 27 editorials. Here is a 2014 headline in The Nation reminding us of the Washington Post's push for war:
While independent news outlets decried the upcoming Iraq war, The Washington Post gave it a thumbs up. There are more examples of stark differences in mainstream and independent media views on issues: Look at the TPP trade deal, Obamacare, Common Core, Wall Street bailouts, Ukraine, Syria, any issue.
This is why the U.S. founders wrote the first amendment, so we could get ideas out in the open and speak about them out in the open, and talk to each other, and make decisions out in the open. This is why we have elections. If we don't protect free speech and the free exchange of ideas, we are on a slippery slope to rule by an oligarchy. If you see how money in politics hurts us, think about how money in media hurts us. If you look at independent media you know they are often asking for money. They aren't owned by the rich. Here is more about the power of the mainstream press - http://www.newprogs.org/the_powerless_press
The simple fact and danger today is that today 90% of all of our media is owned by 6 corporations, up from 50 companies in 1983. And the people who own the media are rich, super rich. Here you can meet the 15 billionaires who own the media.
This simple Venn Diagram from 2010 showed us the relationship between media and government.
It can be found here on the blog of a high school Economics teacher - http://haywardeconblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/blog-post.html
The teacher is a regular person, like me. I'm a teacher too. Like you and most everyone else in our country he wants freedom and fairness. Finally, note this mega-merger in the works between AT+T and Time Warner. Headline from CNN - “The top executives at both AT&T and Time Warner appear hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump and his administration will not stand in the way of their companies' $85.4-billion merger.”
$85.4 billion. WOW. It's a very small group of elite people, who want to determine what it is that the rest of us read. I don't feel comfortable with that. That's why I read widely. The mainstream media doesn't always lie, but it has lied many times in the past and it will continue to mislead us in the future – especially if we do not have Independent News sources to keep the main stream media in check.
In Closing… It is up to all of us to protect and promote independent news
We should denounce the “prop or not” black lists and the legislation enacted to shut down our First Amendment Rights. We need to think for ourselves and not just go along to get along. And what about the media we disagree with? What about people writing really vile things? We need to speak out more and not be afraid to challenge ideas. For example, I am very opposed to the demonization of Muslims in the U.S., which some independent media on the right promotes. But I'm also prepared to talk about it and march about it and write about it and meet with people who hold these views and help elect people who share my views by respecting the rights of all religons. But I'm not going to say that those Americans can't have those views because if I do that, pretty soon, someone could get into power to shut down my views. We are meant to be participants in a Democracy and not just sit on the sidelines.
Our nature as Americans is to be free. People from around the world come to the U.S. to be free. I love the U.S. and I don't want to lose my freedom. What we need to do is to become more of an informed and active populace, now more than ever.
The government is now trying to silence, not only its overseas enemies, but all of us who speak the truth as we see it. For example, if we question Russia's interference in our elections or President elect Trump's relationship with Putin, we could be labeled "Russian agents” or “Russian sympathizers”. Maybe the powers-that-be hope that their demonization of Russia has so scared our fellow Americans that they will turn their backs on our voice and demonize us. Well, I hope I can count on you not to. If we all stick together, we can protect the right of free speech for everyong. If you would like to learn more about independent news and how it is different from the main stream media, here is a list of independent news sites I read nearly every day. https://turningpointnews.org/our-favorite-independent-media-sources
If you agree that we need to stop the attack on our first amendment right of free speech, please share this article on social media.
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