Propaganda Keeps on Killing
The “fake news” hysteria has become the cover for the
U.S. government and mainstream media to crack down on
fact-based journalism that challenges Official
Washington’s “Group Thinks.”
By Robert Parry
December 07, 2016 "Information
key reason why American foreign debacles have been
particularly destructive mostly to the countries
attacked but also to the United States is that these
interventions are always accompanied by major U.S.
government investments in propaganda. So, even when
officials recognize a misjudgment has been made, the
propaganda machinery continues to grind on to prevent a
In effect, Official Washington gets trapped by its own
propaganda, which restricts the government’s ability to
change direction even when the need for a shift becomes
After all, once a foreign leader is demonized, it’s hard
for a U.S. official to explain that the leader may not
be all that bad or is at least better than the likely
alternative. So, it’s not just that officials start
believing their own propaganda, it’s that the propaganda
takes on a life of its own and keeps the failed policy
It’s a bit like
the old story of the chicken that continues to run
around with its head cut off. In the case of the U.S.
government, the pro-war or pro-intervention “group
think” continues to run amok even after wiser
policymakers recognize the imperative to change course.
The reason for
that dilemma is that so much money gets spread around to
pay for the propaganda and so many careers are tethered
to the storyline that it’s easier to let thousands of
U.S. soldiers and foreign citizens die than to admit
that the policy was built on distortions, propaganda and
lies. That would be bad for one’s career.
And, because of
the lag time required for contracts to be issued and the
money to flow into the propaganda shops, the public case
for the policy can outlive the belief that the policy
Ideally, in a
healthy democracy, skeptics both within the government
and in the news media would play a key role in pointing
out the flaws and weaknesses in the rationale for a
conflict and would be rewarded for helping the leaders
veer away from disaster. However, in the current U.S.
establishment, such self-corrections don’t occur.
President Vladimir Putin after the military parade
on Red Square, May 9, 2016 Moscow. (Photo from:
example of this phenomenon is the promotion of the New
Cold War with Russia with almost no thoughtful debate
about the reasons for this growing hostility or its
possible results, which include potential thermonuclear
war that could end life on the planet.
engaging in a thorough discussion, the U.S. government
and mainstream media have simply flooded the
policymaking process with propaganda, some of it so
crude that it would have embarrassed Joe McCarthy and
the Old Cold Warriors.
Russia does is put in the most negative light with no
space allowed for a rational examination of facts and
motivations – except at a few independent-minded
Yet, as part of
the effort to marginalize dissent about the New Cold
War, the U.S. government, some of its related
“non-governmental organizations” and large technology
companies are now
pushing a censorship project designed to silence the
few Internet sites that have refused to march in
I suppose that
if one considers the trillions of dollars in tax dollars
that the Military Industrial Complex stands to get from
the New Cold War, the propaganda investment in shutting
up a few critics is well worth it.
extraordinary censorship operation is being carried out
under the banner of fighting “fake news.” But many of
the targeted Web sites, including Consortiumnews.com,
have represented some of the most responsible journalism
on the Internet.
Consortiumnews, our stories are consistently
well-reported and well-documented, but we do show
skepticism toward propaganda from the U.S. government or
Consortiumnews not only challenged President George W.
Bush’s WMD claims regarding Iraq in 2002-2003 but we
have reported on the dispute within the U.S.
intelligence community about claims made by President
Barack Obama and his senior aides regarding the 2013
sarin gas attack in Syria and the 2014 shoot-down of
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine.
In those two
latter cases, Official Washington exploited the
incidents as propaganda weapons to justify an escalation
of tensions against the Syrian and Russian governments,
much as the earlier Iraqi WMD claims were used to rally
the American people to invade Iraq.
However, if you
question the Official Story about who was responsible
for the sarin gas attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21,
2013, after President Obama, Secretary of State John
Kerry and the mainstream media pronounced the Syrian
government guilty, you are guilty of “fake news.”
It doesn’t seem
to matter that it’s been confirmed in
a mainstream report by The Atlantic that Director of
National Intelligence James Clapper advised President
Obama that there was no “slam-dunk” evidence proving
that the Syrian government was responsible. Nor does it
matter that legendary investigative journalist Seymour
reported that his intelligence sources say the more
likely culprit was Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front with help from
reporter Seymour Hersh
from the mainstream “group think” that accuses Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad of crossing Obama’s “red line”
on chemical weapons, you are opening yourself to
retaliation as a “fake news” site.
you point out that the MH-17 investigation was put under
the control of Ukraine’s unsavory SBU intelligence
service, which not only has been accused by United
Nations investigators of concealing torture but also has
a mandate to protect Ukrainian government secrets, you
also stand accused of disseminating “fake news.”
of the factors that got Consortiumnews included on a new
“black list” of some 200 Web sites was that I
skeptically analyzed a report by the Joint Investigation
Team (JIT) that while supposedly “Dutch-led” was really
run by the SBU. I also noted that the JIT’s conclusion
was marred by a selective reading of the SBU-supplied
evidence and by
an illogical narrative. But the mainstream U.S.
media uncritically hailed the JIT report, so to point
out its glaring flaws made us guilty of committing “fake
news” or disseminating “Russian propaganda.”
the hysteria about “fake news” had been raging in
2002-2003, then those of us who expressed skepticism
about Iraq hiding WMD would have been forced to carry a
special marking declaring us to be “Saddam apologists.”
Post’s editorial page editor Fred Hiatt.
everyone who was “important” in Washington had no doubt
about Iraq’s WMD. Washington Post editorial page editor
Fred Hiatt repeatedly stated the “fact” of Iraq’s hidden
WMD as flat fact and mocked anyone who doubted the
Yet, even after
the U.S. government acknowledged that the WMD
allegations were a myth – a classic and bloody case of
“fake news” – almost no one who had pushed the
fabrication was punished.
So, the “fake
news” stigma didn’t apply to Hiatt and other mainstream
journalists who actually did produce “fake news,” even
though it led to the deaths of 4,500 U.S. soldiers and
hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. To this day, Hiatt
remains the Post’s editorial-page editor continuing to
enforce “conventional wisdoms” and to disparage those
example of letting propaganda – rather than facts and
reason – guide U.S. foreign policy was the Vietnam War,
which claimed the lives of some 58,000 U.S. soldiers and
millions of Vietnamese.
The Vietnam War
raged on for years after Defense Secretary Robert
McNamara and even President Lyndon Johnson recognized
the need to end it. Part of that was Richard Nixon’s
treachery in going behind Johnson’s back to sabotage
peace talks in 1968, but the smearing of anti-war
dissidents as pro-communist traitors locked many
officials into support for the war well after its
futility became obvious. The propaganda developed its
own momentum that resulted in many unnecessary deaths.
In the Internet
era, there will now be new-age forms of censorship. Your
Web site will be excluded from major search engines or
electronically stamped with a warning about your
Your guilt will
be judged by
a panel of mainstream media outlets, including some
partially funded by the U.S. government, or maybe by
anonymous group of alleged experts.
With the tens
of millions of dollars now sloshing around Official
Washington to pay for propaganda, lots of entrepreneurs
will be lining up at the trough to do their part.
Congress just approved another $160 million to combat
“Russian propaganda,” which will apparently include U.S.
news sites that question the case for the New Cold War.
Even if a
President Trump decides that these tensions with Russia
are absurd and that the two countries can work together
in the fight against terrorism and other international
concerns, the financing of the New Cold War propaganda
drumbeat of anti-Russian propaganda will seek to limit
Trump’s decision-making. After all, this latest New Cold
War cash cow can be milked for years to come and nothing
– not even the survival of the human species – is more
important than that.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the
Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and
Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book,
Narrative, either in print
here or as an e-book (from
expressed in this article are the author's own and do
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