People of the Lie
Journalism dies in the darkness of collusion.
Many Americans know about the New York Post's exclusive reporting on Hunter Biden's questionable foreign business deals that implicated his father: Joe Biden, the ostensible President-elect. Many Americans know Hunter Biden's laptop provided the information. But most Americans have no idea what else that laptop contained:
-- Joe Biden's private e-mails and cellphone numbers.
-- The names and contact information for the former vice president's Secret Service agents.
-- Cellphone numbers for such figures as Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Mitch McConnell, members of President Barack Obama's Cabinet, and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
-- Information identifying Hunter Biden's passport, driver's license, Social Security card, credit cards and bank statements.
-- Bills for thousands of dollars Hunter Biden spent on pornography and escorts.
No American outlet reported those facts. They came from Britain's Daily Mail, in another exclusive published Oct. 30, two weeks after the Post's articles.
"Strangely, the story got little traction in the US media," the Mail's Caroline Graham and Ian Gallagher wrote. "Stranger still, Twitter blocked the New York Post's account while Facebook and Google censored any mention of the article. Under pressure, they relented."
Stifling that news provides the most dramatic evidence of this disturbing fact: media corporations collude with foreign governments, federal agencies, big business and private foundations to mold public opinion and hide embarrassing facts, often to protect financial interests.
"We are in a scary place right now in the United States," said Amber Lyon, who won two Emmy Awards for investigative journalism with CNN. "The American public -- the poor, trusting American public -- are being lied to."
Lyon saw that collusion at CNN. In March 2011, she covered Bahrain’s brutal response to protesters demanding greater freedom as part of the Arab Spring. Lyon said she was "violently detained" by security.
Meanwhile, CNN received pressure from both Bahrain's government and American PR firms representing the kingdom. CNN responded by placing disclaimers on Lyon's reporting "which were essentially propaganda statements that I knew were false," she said.
That June, CNN showed a documentary based on her reporting in Bahrain. But the documentary appeared just once in the United States and never on CNN International, where it would have made a greater impact.
Lyon discovered that while she was reporting from Bahrain, CNN received money from the government to produce sponsored content showing the kingdom in a positive light as a modernizing force.
"I felt defrauded as a journalist," Lyon said. "As an employee of CNN, I was never told that this was going on. Viewers are not being told."
CNN's relationship with Bahrain began before the Arab Spring. In 2008, the Bahrain Economic Development Board sponsored CNN International's coverage of that year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"On a journalistic level, this is horrific," Lyon said. "It's not just Bahrain. It's Georgia, Kazakhstan and other regimes. They take money from these regimes in exchange for sponsored content. But if you take a look at this content, it's very rosy."
Not surprisingly, China holds a more pervasive, more dangerous influence, said Helen Raleigh, a certified financial advisor who emigrated from China.
"You often see representatives from American companies with financial ties to China naturally become defenders of the CCP’s policies and spreading the CCP’s propaganda,” Raleigh said in reference to the Chinese Communist Party.
Not coincidentally, CNN's owner, WarnerMedia, invested $50 million in China Media Capital, which the government and party monitor. Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, also works with Turner Sports in producing and marketing programming. Turner Sports' biggest client is the NBA, which earns about $500 million per year from marketing to China.
ESPN's relationship with the NBA dictated the network's coverage of a controversy involving Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets' general manager. In October 2019, Morey tweeted support for protesters in Hong Kong demanding freedom.
ESPN's senior news director, Chuck Salituro, responded by ordering commentators to focus exclusively on the incident's ramifications for basketball, Deadspin reported. Stephen A. Smith, one of ESPN's most controversial personalities, took that mandate to new depths on his radio program:
"Daryl Morey … what were you thinking speaking up on this issue? You don’t just think about yourself before you act. That’s what boys and girls do. That’s what children do.
"Daryl Morey had an obligation to think about the Houston Rockets organization and about the National Basketball Association before himself. You have an obligation to adopt and embrace the interest of those you collect a paycheck from.”
Other outlets embrace that attitude. Subscribers to the Washington Post receive a weekly advertising supplement, China Watch, which the CCP publishes. The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times also include the supplement.
The Post's publisher, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, wants to expand his online retail business into China. Chinese workers already produce two of Amazon's devices, Echo and Kindle, for meager wages with little safety training.
NBCUniversal, which owns NBC and MSNBC, signed a contract with China's state news agency, Xinhua, to produce international broadcast news in 2010. During the pandemic's early stages, NBC praised China's ability to export ventilators and masks.
But Bloomberg represents perhaps the biggest conflict of interest.
Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and Democratic Presidential candidate, views China as pivotal to his power. Not only did he lobby against Trump's trade policy toward China. Bloomberg seeks to use his annual economic conference in Beijing to surpass the World Economic Forum's influence.
Bloomberg LP finances Chinese companies through one of its bond funds. In November 2019, that fund began sending $150 billion to 364 firms -- including 159 controlled directly by the government or the CCP.
Bloomberg LP so values its relationship with China that in 2013, it killed a story from Bloomberg News investigating corruption involving Chinese President Xi Jinping, his family and Wang Jianlin, who made billions in real estate and was China's wealthiest man at the time.
In a conference call that National Public Radio obtained, Matthew Winkler, Bloomberg News' editor-in-chief, told his staff that the piece would "wipe out everything we've tried to build there" and motivate the CCP to "completely shut us down and kick us out of the country," he said.
Not to be outdone, Washington has its own ways of influencing coverage. In 2000, the Dutch newspaper Trouw reported that members of the Army worked as CNN interns while the United States was aiding Kosovo's fight for independence, which led to civil war in Serbia.
“Psy-ops personnel, soldiers and officers, have been working in CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta through our program, ‘Training with Industry,' " Major Thomas Collins from the U.S. Army Information Service said. “American psy-ops troops try with a variety of techniques to influence media and public opinion in armed conflicts in which American state interests are said to be at stake. The propaganda group was involved in the Gulf war, the Bosnian war and the crisis in Kosovo.”
Trouw's story followed an article in the French newsletter Intelligence Online describing an American military symposium and quotes Col. Christopher St. John, commander of the Army's Fourth Psyops Group. St. John “called for greater cooperation between the armed forces and media giants," the article stated. “He pointed out that some army psyops personnel had worked for CNN for several weeks and helped in the production of some news stories for the network.”
CNN's relationship with the military raises questions about anchorman Anderson Cooper's possible relationship with the CIA, since Cooper worked there as a college intern for two summers. While no hard evidence exists showing Cooper as a current CIA operative, could the CIA exploit its previous ties with him?
CNN uses as analysts John Brennan, Obama's CIA director, and James Clapper, Obama's director of national intelligence. Like CNN, both aggressively criticize Trump.
More importantly, Brennan and Clapper have been implicated in spying on Trump's first Presidential campaign and on his activities as President-elect.
The CIA has used journalists since the 1950s for various purposes. In 1977, Carl Bernstein wrote a piece for Rolling Stone detailing this relationship.
"Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries," Bernstein wrote. "Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work.
"In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations."
Those organizations included ABC, CBS, NBC, Associated Press, Newsweek magazine and the New York Times.
Given the mutual antipathy between the CIA and Trump, the CIA could use its media allies to plant stories, muddle facts or engage in other mischief.
Not only governments try to manipulate news. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's influence ranges from providing grants to training reporters to producing content through third parties.
As a result, "the foundation is most often the subject of soft profiles and glowing editorials describing its good works," wrote the Columbia Journalism Review's Tim Schwab.
As of June, the foundation provided more than $250 million in grants to such outlets as NBC, BBC, Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Financial Times, The Atlantic and Gannett. Such grants become pivotal for both donor and recipient in the midst of journalism's continuing financial collapse.
"I think (journalists) would be kidding themselves to suggest that those donations to their organizations have no impact on editorial decisions. It's just the way of the world,” said the Los Angeles Times' Charles Killer, who investigated the foundation's corporate relationships.
Many of these same outlets promote Gates as an expert on Covid-19 -- despite his lack of medical or epidemiological training -- and protect him from scrutiny, as Schwab wrote:
"PolitiFact and USA Today (run by the Poynter Institute and Gannett, respectively -- both of which have received funds from the Gates Foundation) have even used their fact-checking platforms to defend Gates from 'false conspiracy theories' and 'misinformation,' like the idea that the foundation has financial investments in companies developing Covid vaccines and therapies." (Parentheses in original)
But Gates' own tax records reveal just such investments, such as in Gilead.
In 2011, the Seattle Times investigated the other ways the foundation uses its resources.
"To garner attention for the issues it cares about, the foundation has invested millions in training programs for journalists," wrote the Times' Sandi Doughton and Kristi Hein. "It funds research on the most effective ways to craft media messages.
"Gates-backed think tanks turn out media fact sheets and newspaper opinion pieces. Magazines and scientific journals get Gates money to publish research and articles. Experts coached in Gates-funded programs write columns that appear in media outlets from The New York Times to The Huffington Post, while digital portals blur the line between journalism and spin."
Sharyl Attkisson, who worked for CBS News and won five Emmy Awards, described that process as astroturf. Political and corporate interests manipulate Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, blogs, letters to the editor and online comments to create the appearance of a grassroots campaign.
"Surreptitious astroturf methods are now more important to these interests than traditional lobbying of Congress,” Attkisson said. "There's an entire industry built around it in Washington."
Astroturf practitioners, Attkisson said, use such terms as "nutty," "paranoid," "lies," "crank," "quack" and "conspiracy" to intimidate and silence anyone questioning their narrative. PolitiFact and USA Today used that technique in defending Gates.
Lyon views the situation as urgent.
"We can't allow the government to choose our enemies," she said. "We need the truth to choose our enemies."
Nor, Lyon could have added, anybody else.