NBC and MSNBC are not progressive media

In the Donald Trump era NBC and MSNBC have tried to position themselves as the alternative to Fox News and have taken to giving negative coverage on him like the way that Fox News provides positive coverage. That may be a good ratings strategy to attract all those viewers who intensely dislike Trump but that should not delude us into thinking that it is a progressive news outlet. Far from it. Glenn Greenwald publicizes an astonishingly frank email written to various news outlets by veteran military and national security reporter and analyst William Arkin as he quits NBC News and MSNBC in disgust at what he sees as having become slavish pro-war propaganda outlets.

As Arkin says:

To me there is also a larger problem: though they produce nothing that resembles actual safety and security, the national security leaders and generals we have are allowed to do their thing unmolested. Despite being at “war,” no great wartime leaders or visionaries are emerging. There is not a soul in Washington who can say that they have won or stopped any conflict. And though there might be the beloved perfumed princes in the form of the Petraeus’ and Wes Clarks’, or the so-called warrior monks like Mattis and McMaster, we’ve had more than a generation of national security leaders who sadly and fraudulently have done little of consequence. And yet we (and others) embrace them, even the highly partisan formers who masquerade as “analysts”. We do so ignoring the empirical truth of what they have wrought: There is not one county in the Middle East that is safer today than it was 18 years ago. Indeed the world becomes ever more polarized and dangerous. …

For me I realized how out of step I was when I looked at Trump’s various bumbling intuitions: his desire to improve relations with Russia, to denuclearize North Korea, to get out of the Middle East, to question why we are fighting in Africa, even in his attacks on the intelligence community and the FBI. Of course he is an ignorant and incompetent impostor. And yet I’m alarmed at how quick NBC is to mechanically argue the contrary, to be in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war. Really? We shouldn’t get out Syria? We shouldn’t go for the bold move of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula? Even on Russia, though we should be concerned about the brittleness of our democracy that it is so vulnerable to manipulation, do we really yearn for the Cold War? And don’t even get me started with the FBI: What? We now lionize this historically destructive institution?

Glenn Greenwald adds his own commentary to Arkin’s comments.

Its key passages are scathing and unflinching in their depiction of those networks as pro-war propaganda outlets that exist to do little more than amplify and serve the security state agencies most devoted to opposing Trump, including their mindless opposition to Trump’s attempts (with whatever motives) to roll back some of the excesses of imperialism, aggression, and U.S. involvement in endless war, as well as to sacrifice all journalistic standards and skepticism about generals and the U.S war machine if doing so advances their monomaniacal mission of denouncing Trump.

Some of the most beloved and frequently featured MSNBC commentators are the most bloodthirsty pro-war militarists from the war on terror: David Frum, Jennifer Rubin, Ralph Peters, and Bill Kristol (who was just giddily and affectionately celebrated with a playful nickname bestowed on him: “Lil Bill”). In early 2018, NBC hired former CIA chief John Brennan to serve as a “senior national security and intelligence analyst,” where the rendition and torture advocate joined — as Politico’s Jack Shafer noted — a long litany of former security state officials at the network, including “Chuck Rosenberg, former acting DEA administrator, chief of staff for FBI Director James B. Comey, and counselor to former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III; Frank Figliuzzi, former chief of FBI counterintelligence; Juan Zarate, deputy national security adviser under Bush.”

As Shafer noted, filling your news and analyst slots with former security state officials as MSNBC and NBC have done is tantamount to becoming state TV, since “their first loyalty — and this is no slam — is to the agency from which they hail.” As he put it: “Imagine a TV network covering the auto industry through the eyes of dozens of paid former auto executives and you begin to appreciate the current peculiarities.”

I find it mystifying that anyone who considers themselves liberal would be giving a pass to people like Frum, Kristol, Rubin, and other neoconservatives. Those people are the ones who have involved the US in unwinnable wars that have caused immense suffering and they have never, as far as I am aware, admitted that they were wrong and apologized. They are still pushing for war with Iran. Their dislike of Trump is likely rooted in the fact that he criticized their wars while he was running for president and even now makes noises about getting out of them, a major challenge to the bipartisan War Party agenda, as can be seen by the fury that was unleashed on Trump from all sides when he said that the was getting the US out of Syria.

All it seems to be necessary to be embraced by the liberals is to criticize Trump. Already we see them rejoicing over the tepid comments by new senator Mitt Romney about Trump. I fully expect Romney to play the role that was vacated by Republican senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, getting plenty of favorable coverage from the ‘liberal’ media by criticizing Trump and then voting with him on every extreme right wing policy.


  1. Mark Dowd says

    Taking issue with some of what Arkin is bringing up:

    We shouldn’t get out Syria?

    The problem with shortening that question to just a few words is that tons of nuance gets removed. I guarantee that whatever a liberal imagines “getting out of Syria” to look like will be vastly different than whatever Trump dumps on everybody, and I would bet strongly that however bad it is now, he will make it worse. He makes everything worse.

    We shouldn’t go for the bold move of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula?

    Of course we should, but Trump doesn’t care about that. He reneged on the Iran deal, then tried to hold up a mere declaration of intentions from NK as a great accomplishment. Trump isn’t going to try to denuclearize Korea, because he only cares about looking like he’s trying.

    Even on Russia, though we should be concerned about the brittleness of our democracy that it is so vulnerable to manipulation, do we really yearn for the Cold War?

    Is there any choice, when the President is possibly neck deep in decades of dirty Russian money because no one else would finance him after his lifetime of serial failures? For all his talk of being tough, Trump acts like a fucking groupie when he’s in the presence of people that are used to wielding real power, like Putin or Kim Jong Un. The fucker actually said that it was an honor to meet Kim Jong Un. I’m surprised he didn’t ask for an autograph. Maybe he got it in their private session.

    I don’t quite know where I’m going with this, because the core of his criticisms are sound. Both parties kneel at the alter of Big War and Wall Street, and that’s a huge problem that needs to be called out. I guess I’m just numb because we’ve gotten to the point where it’s a fucking miracle if a single day goes by without some story about OMFG THE STUPID SHITHEAD DID SOMETHING STUPID AGAIN and I can’t work up much feeling about anything else.

    And that’s extremely counterproductive. Step 1 of pulling the Overton Window away from Dumbfuckistan is to get more actual liberal voices heard. Unfortunately, the establishment Dems are probably just going to hitch their cart right onto this runaway train and keep diving right off the cliff with them. Because hey, those guys might be crazy, but we’re just slightly not as crazy! What a great marketing pitch! Our shit stinks 10% less than theirs, buy now!

    I have no idea what’s going to happen.

  2. file thirteen says

    For all Chump’s flaws, who else would dare take on the mighty US war machine? Not that he’s taking it on in any logical or sensible fashion, but maybe take what you can get.

  3. file thirteen says

    I’m predicting it’s that, more than anything, that will be the end of him btw.

  4. Mano Singham says

    file thirteen,

    I think Trump will cave to the War Machine because, at the end of the day, what he cares about is himself and he will not do anything that jeopardizes his tenure. He may be just now realizing how powerful that machine is and the harm they can do to him.

  5. naturalcynic says

    Drumpf is certainly not hurting the War Party, he is just redirecting it -- but for what purpose? He hasn’t tried to cancel any weapons systems [at least that I know of] or decreased the military budget. He is just redirecting it a little towards more blatant show [parade, anyone?] and bluster. Maybe his lack of subtlety is a good thing. He’s not clever enough to follow what’s going on in the CIA.

  6. file thirteen says


    I doubt Trump can realise anything sane anymore, even threats to his power. Now he is king, he believes all threats can be handled by lies and bluster. So far, it’s when everybody else has told him he’s wrong that he’s doubled down on his own grandiosity.

    In his other role as the business man to end all business men, he sees the war budget only as a drain on the economy (and he’s not wrong about this either. Credit where credit’s due?!). Even if (even) Trump dares not to decrease the military budget himself (which I wouldn’t put past him) pulling out troops will only infuriate the warmongers, who know that this is setting up a great opportunity for a cutback in military spending eventually, if not by Trump himself then by one of his successors.

    Trump himself does not bother to look that far ahead, let alone care about what happens when he is gone (I’m not sure he can even envision such a thing), except that if and when it happens you can be sure he’ll try to take the credit for it.

  7. A Lurker from Mexico says

    @Mark Dowd

    I have no idea what’s going to happen

    Either a hijacking or an insurrection, basically.

    At the moment, people like Bernie Sanders and AOC are trying to hijack the democratic party, steer it towards positions that people actually want. Should they succeed, their chances of taking power away from Trump are much higher than in any other situation. As was proven by Al Gore, and reinforced by Hillary Clinton, liberals need more than a mere majority of votes. They need a high turn-out, they need to address the issues that affect everyone regardless of their race or sexuality. They need to stop running like Republicans or Republican-Lite because the perception that the choice is meaningless depresses the vote and low turn-out (as has been proven before) is advantageous to republicans.

    Failing that, you might find a lot of social unrest in an even worse way than you’ve seen so far. Think of a scaled-up version of the yellow vest protests in Paris. Either by Trump gets his second term (no republican could possibly beat him) and decent people who’ve had enough rise against his bullshit, or a corporate democrat wins and normal people reach the conclusion that the political system will never turn out a result that doesn’t screw them over (this on top of the obvious nutjob riots by Trump’s worshippers).

    In Mexico, AMLO built a new party from the ground up in order to win and get some progressive ideas out. It worked for him in a massive way, he’s the first president in years to get a true majority of votes and his party won most elections in every branch and level of government. All of that by riding on the failures of previous neoliberal governments (both centrist and right-wing) and on proposals that people actually wanted.

    But in the US, the bipartisan game seems impossible to break. Most people don’t get to hear about third options by lack of media coverage, the ones who do are too jaded to give it a try, and should the Green Party or the Libertarians ever get too close to the imposed goals to get into the presidential debates (the one place where they could really appeal to the masses) Democrats and Republicans will reach across the aisle to move the goalposts back beyond their reach (as they’ve done before).

    So that leaves you with the other two options: Either the current Democratic leadership roll over and let someone who’s not a failure take over, or you get an uprising down the line.

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