US media aids government propaganda

In the case of Ray Davis, the acting head of the CIA in Pakistan now in jail for gunning down two men in a busy street in Lahore, the US government claims that he has diplomatic immunity and thus should not have to face prosecution. There is some controversy over whether the diplomatic status was conferred on Davis only after the killings, which would make it dubious.

A former CIA agent who worked in Laos during the Vietnam war says that the use of diplomatic immunity for spies is quite routine and reveals how this works:

In the Vietnam War the country of Laos held a geo-strategic position, as does Pakistan does to Afghanistan today. As in Pakistan, in Laos our country conducted covert military operations against a sovereign people, using the CIA.

I was a demolitions technician with the Air Force who was reassigned to work with the CIA’s Air America operation in Laos. We turned in our military IDs cards and uniforms and were issued a State Department ID card and dressed in blue jeans. We were told if captured we were to ask for diplomatic immunity, if alive. We carried out military missions on a daily basis all across the countries of Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Davis is in a bad situation now because most of the people of the world, as we see across the Middle East, are now aware of the lies and not going to turn their head anymore.

I say “most” everyone knows, because our own public, the ones suppose to be in control of the military and CIA, is constantly lied to. It is so sad to see President Obama repeating the big lie.

But it is not just the government that is lying to the US public. It turns out that US media outlets like the New York Times and MSNBC both knew that Davis was working for the CIA, as did the Washington Post and the Associated Press but did not reveal this information to their readers at the request of the government. As a result, they deliberately passed on the government’s false information, thus adding support to the view that they are becoming an increasingly obvious propaganda arm of the government.

It was only after the British press revealed the CIA connection that the US media followed suit. The New York Times and its ombudsman tried to justify their lying by saying that the government persuaded them that telling the truth about the CIA connection might have put Davis’s life at risk. This does not make much sense. Davis is in custody in Pakistan where the media has been reporting the CIA connection widely from the beginning. How could it make matters worse if Americans knew what Pakistanis already knew?

The NYT’s excuses were ripped to shreds by Glenn Greenwald:

It’s one thing for a newspaper to withhold information because they believe its disclosure would endanger lives. But here, the U.S. Government has spent weeks making public statements that were misleading in the extreme — Obama’s calling Davis “our diplomat in Pakistan” — while the NYT deliberately concealed facts undermining those government claims because government officials told them to do so. That’s called being an active enabler of government propaganda.

Allowing the U.S. Government to run around affirmatively depicting Davis as some sort of Holbrooke-like “diplomat” — all while the paper uncritically prints those claims and yet conceals highly relevant information about Davis because the Obama administration told it to — would be humiliating for any outlet devoted to adversarial journalism to have to admit. But it will have no such effect on The New York Times. With some noble exceptions, loyally serving government dictates is, like so many American establishment media outlets, what they do; it’s their function: hence the name “establishment media.”

It’s one thing for a newspaper to withhold information because it genuinely believes its publication will endanger lives (and I’d love to hear the explanation about why this would). But this situation goes far beyond that. The NYT was regularly printing government claims like the one above (“our diplomat in Pakistan”) which were at best misleading and likely false, and also including their own misleading claims in these stories (“the mystery about what Mr. Davis was doing with this inventory of gadgets”). But they had information in their possession — and concealed it — which undermined (if not entirely negated) the truth of these statements.

There’s a big difference between simply withholding information to protect lives and actively enabling and publishing misleading propaganda. More to the point, there is simply no justification — none — for a newspaper to allow government officials to run around misleading the public, and to print those misleading statements, all while concealing information (at the Government’s request) which reveal those claims to be factually dubious. (My italics)

Amy Davidson of the New Yorker made a point-by-point critique of the excuses made by the government and the US media for misleading the American public.

This latest revelation should come as no surprise, given the willingness of the major US media to carry water for the US government. We have seen them attack even fellow US journalists who are not sufficiently subservient to the government.

David Lindorff, a member of an independent journalist collective, has also been all over the Ray Davis story, monitoring the press in India and Pakistan to come up with new information about the US embassy’s failed retroactive effort to get diplomatic status for him and why he might have been in communication with terrorist groups.

Once again, this illustrates why we need alternative media sources like Lindorff’s and WikiLeaks.


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