"We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."--Former New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg
Let's talk about fake news stories, shall we?
There's the garden variety fake news that is not really "news" so much as it is titillating, tabloid-worthy material peddled by anyone with a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an active imagination.
Anyone with an ounce of sense and access to the Internet should be able to ferret out the truth and lies in these stories with some basic research. That these stories flourish is largely owing to the general gullibility, laziness and media illiteracy of the general public, which through its learned compliance rarely questions, challenges or confronts.
Then there's the more devious kind of news stories circulated by one of the biggest propagators of fake news: the U.S. government.
In the midst of the media's sudden headline-blaring apoplexy over fake news, you won't hear much about the government's role in producing, planting and peddling propaganda-driven fake news--often with the help of the corporate news media--because that's not how the game works.
Because the powers-that-be don't want us skeptical of the government's message or its corporate accomplices in the mainstream media. They don't want us to be more discerning when it comes to what information we digest online. They just want us to be leery of independent or alternative news sources while trusting them--and their corporate colleagues--to vet the news for us.
Indeed, the New York Times has suggested that Facebook and Google appoint themselves the arbiters of truth on the internet in order to screen out what is blatantly false, spam or click-baity.
Not only would this establish a dangerous precedent for all-out censorship but it's also a slick sleight-of-hand maneuver that diverts attention from what we should really be talking about: the fact that the government has grown dangerously out-of-control, all the while the so-called mainstream news media, which is supposed to act as a bulwark against government propaganda, has instead become the mouthpiece of the world's largest corporation--the U.S. government.
Veteran journalist Carl Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward blew the lid off the Watergate scandal, exposed the media's collusion with the government in his expansive 1977 Rolling Stone piece, "The CIA and the Media."
As part of the CIA's Operation Mockingbird, which was started in the 1950s, intelligence reports were planted among reporters at more than 25 major newspapers and wire agencies, who would then regurgitate them for a public oblivious to the fact that they were being fed government propaganda.
In some instances, as Bernstein shows, members of the media also served as extensions of the surveillance state, with reporters actually carrying out assignments for the CIA. Executives with most of the major news outlets including CBS, the New York Times and Time magazine also worked closely with the CIA to vet the news.
For example, in August 1964, the nation's leading newspapers--including the Washington Post and New York Times--echoed Lyndon Johnson's claim that North Vietnam had launched a second round of attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. No such attacks had taken place, and yet the damage was done. As Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon report for Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, "By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War."
If such collusion happened in the past, you can bet it's still happening today, only it's been reclassified, renamed and hidden behind layers of government secrecy, obfuscation and spin.
Thus, whether you're talking about the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the government's invasion of Iraq based upon absolute fabrications, or the government's so-called war on terror, privacy and whistleblowers, you can bet it's being driven by propaganda churned out by one corporate machine (the corporate-controlled government) and fed to the American people by way of yet another corporate machine (the corporate-controlled media).