Smear Merchants and Bias in News Reporting: Regarding Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, Race, Right-Wing Blogs, and the Mainstream Media

Michael Brown

Michael Brown


Bias in the Mainstream News Media?

On August 14th—five days after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri—Nick Wing published an article on Huffington Post titled When The Media Treats White Suspects And Killers Better Than Black Victims. Wing said that after news of the unarmed teenager’s death broke, “media-watchers carefully followed the narratives that news outlets began crafting about the teenager and the incident that claimed his life.”


Wary of the controversy surrounding the media’s depiction of Trayvon Martin…people on Twitter wondered, “If they gunned me down, which picture would they use?” Using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, users posted side-by-side photos, demonstrating the power that news outlets wield in portraying victims based on images they select.

Wing said that on the previous Monday “Twitter user LordSWVP tweeted out a photo driving home another point: Media treatment of black victims is often harsher than it is of whites suspected of crimes, including murder.”

Here is one of the examples that Wing provided:

Headline of story about a white crime suspect: Theater Shooting Suspect Was Brilliant Student

Headline of story about Michael Brown: Police: Michael Brown Struggled with Officer before Shooting

Wing noted that such treatment of black crime victims and white crime suspects may not be “standard media protocol”—but added that it “happens frequently, deliberately or not.” He said that media news reports “often headline claims from police or other officials that appear unsympathetic or dismissive of black victims.” He added that sometimes news headlines even appear to imply that black victims “are to blame for their own deaths, engaging in what critics sometimes allege is a form of character assassination.”


When contrasted with media portrayal of white suspects and accused murderers, the differences are more striking. News outlets often choose to run headlines that exhibit an air of disbelief at an alleged white killer’s supposed actions. Sometimes, they appear to go out of their way to boost the suspect’s character, carrying quotes from relatives or acquaintances that often paint even alleged murderers in a positive light.

Wing provided additional examples:


Ala. suspect brilliant, but social misfit

That’s how the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal chose to present the story of Amy Bishop, a former college professor who eventually pleaded guilty to killing three colleagues and wounding three others at a faculty meeting in 2010.


Montgomery’s latest homicide victim had history of narcotics abuse, tangles with the law

And that’s the headline ran about the shooting death of a 25-year-old black man in Alabama earlier this year.


Son in Staten Island murders was brilliant, athletic–but his demons were the death of his parents

This is how the Staten Island Advance covered the case of Eric Bellucci, a mentally ill New York man who allegedly killed his parents.


Trayvon martin was suspended three times from school

Meanwhile, NBC News ran this headline during ongoing coverage of the Trayvon Martin killing.

(Click here to read more examples of how the media often treats white crime suspects differently from black crime victims.)


Martin Bashir Compares the Media’s Portrayal of Trayvon Martin to a Well Known American


Anatomy of a Fox News Smear

Although Wing didn’t accuse the news media of having a “standard protocol” for deliberately depicting white crime suspects in a better light than black crime victims, there are some members of the media who appear to intentionally call into question the character of black crime victims or who attempt to portray them as being responsible for their own deaths.

On August 26th, John Avignone posted an article at Salon titled Anatomy of a Fox News smear: Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge and the “dumbest person on the Internet.” In his article, Avignone explained how Fox News ran with a “totally bogus” story about what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, on the day that police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown. Avignone said six days after the shooting, Thomas Jackson, the police chief of Ferguson, “bowed to pressure from the community and media and identified Wilson as the cop who shot Brown.” He noted, too, that Jackson also released two other bits of information at the same time. The police chief informed the public that officer Wilson “had been taken to a hospital after the shooting with swelling to his face.” He also released a surveillance video from a store that purportedly “showed Brown reaching over a counter and grabbing a handful of cigars, then pushing a store clerk on his way out.”

Avignone said that this release of information by police “was a turning point in the story…” He said that “Ferguson police seemingly wanted to transform Michael Brown from an innocent victim to a criminal.” He added that it was not long “before Fox News was pushing a new narrative: Michael Brown wasn’t just the latest in a depressingly long line of unarmed young black men to be gunned down by a white cop. He was a thug, they suggested, a criminal who deserved what he got, because he posed a deadly threat to Officer Wilson.”


This was proven, Fox News reported with an unnamed source, because “the officer had sustained a fractured eye socket in the incident.” Ann Coulter even suggested, incorrectly, that we’d seen X-rays of the fracture. Fox went on to claim “solid proof” of a battle between Wilson and Brown for the officer’s handgun.

So…where did the story about Darren Wilson having sustained an orbital eye fracture come from?

Avignone explained how it happened:

Perhaps the first shot in the right-wing news campaign to smear Michael Brown came in the form of a call to a conservative talk radio host Dana Loesch on Aug. 15. A caller who claimed to be a friend of Wilson’s — who would only identify herself as Josie — told Loesch that Brown had “bum rushed” officer Wilson, punched him in the face and tried to go for Wilson’s gun. Brown and his friend then walked away. Wilson pulled his gun and ordered Brown to stop. Brown turned around, taunted Wilson, then again “bum rushed” him. Wilson fired six shots, the last shot to Brown’s forehead. “Josie” claimed that she had gotten this information from a Facebook discussion. She did not claim that Wilson had been seriously injured in the encounter.

Avignone said that after a call was made to Loesch a lot of “discussion and rampant speculation followed in the right-wing blogosphere, even though the only source was an anonymous caller to a radio show and a supposed Facebook discussion.” Then, Jim Hoft announced on his site Gateway Pundit on August 19th that Darren Wilson had suffered a severe eye injury in his post titled BREAKING REPORT: Officer Darren Wilson Suffered “Orbital Blowout Fracture to Eye Socket” During Mike Brown Attack.

Charles Johnson (little green footballs) said Hoft claimed that he got the story about the orbital eye fracture from anonymous sources.


It’s possible that someone did leak this information to Hoft, but I’ll remind my readers that Jim Hoft is probably the single most dishonest right wing blogger on the Internet as well as the dumbest, with a very long history of distorting facts and completely making stuff up to push his far right, often overtly racist agenda.

Johnson reported that “no ambulance was called for Wilson, and no first aid was administered by other officers…” He said that seemed odd if Wilson “had indeed suffered this type of serious injury — or any injury at all.” Johnson continued to provide evidence that Hoft may have been attempting “to pull a fast one…” Johnson said that Hoft had posted a CT scan of a blowout fracture. Johnson compared to it to an image of a scan that had been “posted at the AAPOS site, showing a CT scan of a blowout fracture…” He noticed that in the version that Jim Hoft posted on the Internet the text at bottom right reading “UNIV OF IOWA” had been “crudely erased.”

Click here to view the CT scans.


Was Hoft trying to mislead his readers into thinking this was the actual X-ray (or CT scan) of Darren Wilson? His text does not make it clear it wasn’t Wilson’s CT scan — and the words “UNIV OF IOWA” have been blacked out, quite deliberately.

If Hoft’s intent was to mislead, it worked. All over Twitter and right wing blogs, the wingnuts are raving about “Darren Wilson’s X-ray” that shows a fractured eye socket — but this is just a generic example image of an unknown person’s CT scan.

In addition, Avignone said that Hoft had cited “a tweet from Christine Byers, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Byers wrote: “Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop’s version of events in shooting.” The Post-Dispatch, however, “published a story making clear that they never published Byers’ information, that she was not working on this story, and that she had been on leave since March. Following that Post-Dispatch story, Byers tweeted the following: “On FMLA from paper. Earlier tweets did not meet standards for publication.”

Avignone said that despite the “problems” with Hoft’s story about Wilson’s major injury, it seemed to be “too juicy for the right-wing blogosphere to ignore.” He said that the right-wing blogosphere “finally” had a narrative that portrayed Michael Brown “as a violent thug and Wilson as a man who was badly beaten and justified in fearing for his life.” Hoft’s story spread like a virulent disease. It was quickly picked up and spread at Mark Dice’s Before It’s News, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller. Avignone said that Hoft’s story was soon “picked up by pretty much all of the right-wing noise machine, including Matt Drudge, Breitbart, Right Wing News, the Washington Times and the New York Post.”

Once Hoft’s story “had broken into the wild and had been reported by numerous sources,” Avignone said that “Fox News decided it had enough cover to report” on the “bogus story.” He said that Fox ran “the story every half-hour with a flashing ‘ALERT ALERT’ image at the bottom of the screen and cited , yep, Jim Hoft’s report.” He added that Fox eventually found and cited its own “anonymous’ and “well-placed” source that was supposedly “close to the [Ferguson police] department’s top brass” who claimed that there was “solid proof” that “He [Wilson] was beaten very severely.”

Soon after the claim was made that Wilson had suffered an orbital eye fracture, Don Lemon of CNN News refuted the Fox News story. Lemon reported that Wilson “was treated at the hospital for swelling around his face and eyes.”

According to The Christian Post, CNN producer Julian Cummings took to Twitter on August 21st to say that “a report claiming Wilson’s eye socket was broken during his confrontation with Brown was false.”

Cummings wrote, “Reports that Ofc Darren Wilson had a bruised or fractured eye socket are false. #ferguson A source close to the investigation tells CNN.” Cummings also wrote, “Wilson was taken to the hospital after the shooting. He had xrays which came back negative. He was treated for a swollen face. #ferguson.”


What had started out as a sketchy story on a sketchy blog that was full of glaring holes had now become rock-solid news reported by the leader of the right-wing news machine. Never mind that Fox was also citing an anonymous source; the story was true because they said it was true. Soon the story moved from right-wing outlets to respectable mainstream news sources.  The Washington Post also found an anonymous source and reported:

“The officer who fatally shot an unarmed Ferguson youth suffered a fracture to his eye bone in a scuffle with Michael Brown, according to a family friend.

The hospital X-rays of the injury have been submitted to the St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, and will be shared with a grand jury now weighing evidence to determine if Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the shooting.”

After publishing that story, Avignone said that the Washington Post “walked it back and contradicted its own story.” He noted the the Post did so “without retracting or updating the original report.”

Later, after CNN’s Don Lemon “unequivocally” debunked Hoft’s story, Avignone said that “the anonymous reports began to unravel…” When it was evident that the reports about Wilson’s having sustained an orbital eye fracture were proved to be inaccurate, Avignone said that the “Washington Post threw up its hands and published a “here’s what everybody says, you sort it out” article that cast even more doubt on its earlier reporting…”

And so it goes. That’s how we get some of our important news stories these days. Ain’t it great?


When The Media Treats White Suspects And Killers Better Than Black Victims (Huffington Post)

Anatomy of a Fox News smear: Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge and the “dumbest person on the Internet” (Salon)

Ferguson’s booming white grievance industry: Fox News, Darren Wilson and friends
CNN refutes bogus Fox News claim: Darren Wilson didn’t have a fractured eye socket (Salon)

Jim Hoft’s Unsourced Claim That Officer Darren Wilson Had an “Orbital Blowout Fracture of the Eye Socket”: A few problems in the dumbest man on the Internet’s narrative (little green footballs)

White defenders of officer Darren Wilson are raising money by slandering Mike Brown, with some help from Fox News (Salon)

Bill O’Reilly’s Ferguson disgrace: Host spews sick lecture to Michael Brown’s family
The Fox host argued the unarmed teenager’s supporters should trust the authorities. Then Ben Carson went off script (Salon)

Mike Brown Is Only The Latest Black Victim To Be Smeared For Smoking Pot (ThinkProgress)

Ferguson Officer Did Not Suffer Broken Eye Socket, Reports Claim as Darren Wilson Support Fund Exceeds $200k (Christian Post)

Viral Right-Wing Smear Of Michael Brown Debunked (ThinkProgress)

Bogus Photo Does Not Show Ferguson Cop Darren Wilson’s Injuries; It’s Not Even Him (Huffington Post)

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40 Responses to Smear Merchants and Bias in News Reporting: Regarding Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, Race, Right-Wing Blogs, and the Mainstream Media

  1. randyjet says:

    This kind of reporting is not confined to news bias on victims who are killed by cops. It goes on with international reporting supporting the US government claims. The latest outrage is the continuing story about the Ukraine. I have had to go to the alternate on line blogs which report things that are censored by news room editors and use the BBC for better reporting of facts. I saw one article which pointed out how the US media is more heavily censored than the Soviet Union was in its day. This also extends to places which should know better such as Prof Turley and his blog which parroted the same crap as put forward by the White House.

    This is a combination of a number of factors which I think account for this. One the news media in the US are dependent on advertisers for their operations. Anything that rocks the boat, will be squelched at the very beginning at the editors desk. Two, reporters are inherently lazy and ignorant and it is easier to go with the flow than to know the subject and ask probing questions. I had one instance with a local reporter who went to Kosovo when that was a hot story. He made a report which I thought was rather biased and uninformed and we had a long chat by phone. It turns out he had no idea of the history of Kosovo, Yugoslavia, WWII, the people he interviewed, and a total lack of curiosity of things going on around him. I asked him how long it took to get there and what books he had read on the way. Turns out it took quite awhile, and he read virtually nothing at all about the place. During the interview he broadcast about Kosovo, the lights had gone out, and I asked him where the electric power was coming from. He had NO idea, nor did he have the slightest interest in knowing. I thought this was rather poor for a reporter to have so little interest in such items. My take was that he was just there to do a propaganda story, so he did not have to know or think much about his facts. All he had to do was produce the story his editors wanted, and leave the “facts” to them.

  2. Mike Spindell says:

    The news media is corporate and their interests are more in making money rather than accurate reporting. Then again I think that there are still a large proportion of racists in this country and in the media.

  3. Bob Kauten says:

    C’mon, Elaine,
    Give the media a break.
    The cop already killed Michael Brown.
    There’s nothing left to assassinate but his character.

  4. blouise says:

    For me the tipoff was the use of the word, thug, to describe Brown. The implications within semantics matter. In urban context it is often combined with street, as in street thugs, i.e. gangs. A thug is defined as a cruel or vicious ruffian, robber, or murderer.

    Now what in the world is a police officer to do when confronted by a vicious ruffian?

    Once Brown is branded a thug, Wilson becomes a hero. And anyone who sympathisers with Brown becomes a foolish supporter of thuggery.

    A problem arises if Brown has no history of thuggery … the eye socket injury proves thuggery. But by then the tape showing Wilson walking back and forth by the body, standing full front talking to another cop is released and …. no eye socket injury is evident. Oh oh, now what?

    Well, now we must all wait for the law to determine whether Wilson is a hero for killing a thug.

    Like I said … thug was the tipoff.

  5. Randy,
    Wow, I have heard that story before. I have seen it first hand. My older daughter’s former boyfriend has a Master’s in journalism and is a real reporter. He ended up sports editor for a newspaper out west. He told me they nearly worked him to death. Gave him more stories to cover than he could possibly research. On top of that, he was their best photographer, so he had to drop whatever he was doing and cover breaking stories. As editor, he had to proof everyone else’s writing. Told me at times he was convinced that English was not some of the staff’s native language. He quit before he had a nervous collapse.

    He went to work for NASCAR, where almost everyone in management has a journalism degree. Ever wonder why NASCAR activities are so well done and well produced? Which seems to result in them making billions of dollars? Inquiring minds want to know.

    In contrast, Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson, MS Clarion-Ledger is a treasured friend I have known for about twenty-five years. His wife was one of my daughter’s elementary school teachers. Too bad there aren’t more like Jerry. Come to think of it, I don’t know of another reporter who has been awarded a John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant

    • randyjet says:

      OS,Once again I am in your debt since I did not know the story of Jerry Mitchell. I of course followed the case of the three civil rights workers who were murdered, but I missed Mitchell’s part in the convictions, and that of Evers murder. You are right that he is great and a real reporter. It is too bad that there is not more competition for him since we really need it. I have read much of William Shirer’s work and have a lot of admiration for him and his work. To me he is the epitome of what a real reporter does. As a foreign correspondent he spoke three languages, and knew the politicians and history of Europe. Murrow violated his orders from his bosses in NYC at CBS and hired real reporters instead of those who had good radio voices. We got some of the best reporters out of his decision. It also shows that the management push for good sounding or looking reporters did not start with the advent of TV and that good people with principles could push back and do the right thing.

      Slarti, I quite agree that there are no censors, but the corporate culture mandates that the media follow the party line. I too am rather dismayed by Prof Turley, but he does follow the lead on foreign affairs even though he overreacts to Obama’s miscues and failures.

      • Slartibartfast says:

        RandyJet said: “Slarti, I quite agree that there are no censors, but the corporate culture mandates that the media follow the party line.

        Which might, in fact, be more insidious.

        I too am rather dismayed by Prof Turley, but he does follow the lead on foreign affairs even though he overreacts to Obama’s miscues and failures.

        Petty (and often hypocritical and/or fallacious) criticism of President Obama is the main distraction technique used by much of the right wing of the main stream media. As opposed to the center/left wing of the main stream media who occasionally manage to make distracting criticism of President Obama that is neither petty, hypocritical nor fallacious.

        Or both sides just pander to their base to sell ads.

  6. OK, since we are all friends here, and all of us (with a couple of exceptions) are high level critical thinkers. Be careful. As Elmer Fudd said, “Be vewwy vewwy careful.”

    I daresay I have looked at more autopsy results, have attended more autopsies, and have seen more dead bodies than all this group combined, with plenty to spare. Know how old I was the first time I went in the morgue and saw the body of a man who met a truly violent end? Five. I was fascinated, it was quite an anatomy lesson, and I was hooked. I have seen more wrongful convictions than anyone here, as well as having seen crimes go unpunished because convictions would be “inconvenient.”

    What you see in those autopsy drawings, may not be what you are seeing. If that doesn’t make sense, it will eventually.

    Here is a fact, in case anyone has missed it. We know virtually nothing of the autopsies, since the only autopsy result we have seen is Dr. Baden’s drawing, representing the wounds. He drew that on a standard pathologist’s ‘one size fits all’ form. Not photographs, but drawings. I have enormous respect for Dr. Baden, and know his skill. However, we also know there were two additional autopsies, but nothing has been made public from those. I have tried Google, DuckDuckGo, Dogpile, Bing and other search engines, but very little actual admissible evidence is to be found. We don’t even know what we don’t know.

    • James Knauer says:

      “We don’t even know what we don’t know.” — Ach, the worst, which appears to be most of the multiverse. The silence itself sends the message that the information is likely to be damaging to someone. Elaine and Mike’s rapid fire debunking of nonsense leaves no egg on the face of the citizens of Ferguson, nor the behavior of Michael Brown. I felt the drawing was rather an insult to intelligence, a basic failing of the smell test. The odor instead has turned to brutal CYA.

      Chuck, I confess being a regular viewer when I lived in L.A. of whatever life sciences channel it was that played back actual surgeries, from simple repairs to extensive operations. There was even a complete gender reassignment. The network engineer in me needed to see it, evidently. It was at once fascinating and demystifying, a deeper howdya-do with reality, sights that would otherwise go unseen. And we just cannot have that!

  7. Elaine M. says:

    Workers who were witnesses provide new perspective on Michael Brown shooting

    The worker, who has not previously spoken with reporters, said he did not see what happened at the officer’s car — where Wilson and Brown engaged in an initial struggle and a shot was fired from Wilson’s gun.

    His account largely matches those who reported that Wilson chased Brown on foot away from the car after the initial gunshot and fired at least one more shot in the direction of Brown as he was fleeing; that Brown stopped, turned around and put his hands up; and that the officer killed Brown in a barrage of gunfire.

  8. buckaroo says:

    What happen to innocent till proven guilty ?
    Isn’t that called justice for those living in the United States ?
    Or is this a special situation ?-

  9. Elaine M. says:

    Randyjet et al,

    Here’s an article that you might find interesting. I slapped myself upside the head when I read it yesterday:

    Stop promoting idiot pundits: NBC revamps “Meet the Press” with always-wrong Joe Scarborough and Luke “Meritocracy” Russert
    Everything about the new “Meet the Press” points to an even more disgusting celebration of D.C. insider culture

  10. Elaine M. says:

    Michael Brown Never Faced Serious Felony Charge, St. Louis Official’s Lawyer Says

    FERGUSON, Mo. — Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by a white police officer here last month, had no serious felony cases filed against him as a juvenile, a lawyer for a St. Louis County official said Wednesday.

  11. blouise says:

    From Elaine’s linked NYTimes article above:

    “Mr. Brown had no juvenile cases involving serious felony charges or convictions, including murder, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Those felony records would not be required to be confidential and would have been released, but none exist for Mr. Brown, Ms. Harcourt said.”

    But (sputter, mutter, harumph), but, but … how can that be?? He was a thug!!

  12. James,
    I have spent quite a lot of time today analyzing that single image created by Dr. Baden. I have a physics as well as anatomy background, and know more than the average bear about ballistics. There is far more to that image than first meets the eye. I am seeing a lot of confirmation bias interpretations in play by people who don’t really know how to read a wound diagram from an autopsy report. Keep in mind the autopsy report itself may run anywhere to three pages to twenty-five or more. We now have one single diagram, by one of three forensic pathologists who examined the body. We have no x-rays to show where any bullets lodged. You can bet your bippy there are x-rays, and possibly even CT and/or MRI images, given the high profile nature of this case. One diagram, but keep in mind that sometimes cases hinge on a microscopic piece of evidence. To me, the most telling piece of evidence shown by that sole image is what it doesn’t show.

    Since I know there will eventually be a story about it, I am not going to give away the ending. Consider that a teaser. Stay tuned. Here is a totally irrelevant song.

  13. Slartibartfast says:


    Professor Turley isn’t parroting the White House, he’s gone to a full-on FOX spin on the White House: ““Change You Can Count On” But Can’t Vote On? Obama To Delay Action On Immigration Until After The Elections

    I don’t think that it is accurate to say that the US news media is being censored, as this implies that an outside agency is preventing them from doing the stories they want (or changing them) rather than the media focusing on the content which reflects the biases of their corporate parents.

  14. Randy, et al,
    It was Jerry Mitchell who cranked up the pressure to get the Hinds County, MS District Attorney’s office to reopen the cold case of the assassination of Medgar Evers. Byron de la Beckwith had been tried for the murder, but had hung juries. Of course, that was back in the 1960s.

    Jerry’s work convinced a brilliant and scholarly Assistant DA named Bobby DeLaughter to reopen the case. Coincidentally, Bobby had been an attorney with a local law firm with Tom Royals and Jack Brantley. They represented me on handling several routine matters. Jack Brantley told me that Bobby was more comfortable in the law library doing research than he was dealing with clients, although he was a heck of a litigator in the courtroom. In fact, Bobby was so good that Ed Peters, the District Attorney, hired Bobby away from his private practice job.

    Anyway, Jerry’s research and published articles in the Clarion-Ledger motivated Bobby to once again go after Beckwith. Jerry spent a lot of time out at my office banging around ideas, sometimes as much as three or four days a week. He picked my brain on Beckwith’s psychological profile and how he got to be the person he was. Many of the ideas and theories from those brainstorming sessions ended up in his articles.

    Beckwith had retired and moved to Signal Mountain, Tennessee. After a grand jury once again indicted Beckwith, Bobby had Tennessee authorities arrest him, and he was extradited back to Mississippi. There is no statute of limitations on murder.

    Long story short, Bobby got a conviction for murder despite the best efforts of the Klan and white power groups to get a jury nullification. I found flyers in my driveway several times just before the trial. Rolled up paper with a rubber band around it, explaining in great detail how jury nullification worked, and how just one holdout juror could lock up a jury. IIRC, I gave Jerry one or two of them, but practically everyone in the mostly white sections of Jackson and surrounding suburbs had gotten at least one. He wrote about this blatant effort to poison the jury pool, but Bobby said he was confident he could overcome that nonsense.

    Byron de la Beckwith was convicted and sentenced to life in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. Jerry Mitchell and I both got a lot of satisfaction from that.

    Later, when Hollywood producers were casting Ghosts of Mississippi, I joked with Jerry that if they put me in the movie, I wanted to be played by Wilford Brimley.

    In the movie, Bobby was played by Alex Baldwin, and District Attorney Ed Peters was played by Craig T. Nelson. Beckwith was portrayed by James Woods. Jerry Mitchell’s role was by an actor previously unknown to me, Jerry Levine.

    I wish Jerry Mitchell had at least a temporary gig with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch right about now.

  15. Elaine M. says:

    Randyjet and Slartibartfast,

    I do think there are/have been times when the news media have censored themselves…or have allowed themselves to be manipulated by elements in the government.


    Lessons in a Surveillance Drama Redux

    IT was almost eight years ago that The Times published a blockbuster story by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau about a secret Bush administration program to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. But for many Times readers, it still resonates deeply.

    The 13-month delay in publishing the article, a period that spanned a presidential election, continues to bother these readers. Why did The Times, at the urgent request of the administration, wait so long? What does that say about the relationship between the government and the press? Would the same thing happen today? I hear about it often in email and online comments. It crops up in newspaper columns, on Twitter, in journalism reviews.

    Now, in light of the huge leak of classified information on government surveillance from Edward J. Snowden, the former contractor for the National Security Agency, the episode has a renewed currency.

    Mr. Snowden has said that, because of this very episode, he chose to take his trove elsewhere (largely to Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian, to the video journalist Laura Poitras and to Barton Gellman at The Washington Post). Mr. Snowden recently told the journalist Natasha Vargas-Cooper that those who put themselves in danger to leak information “must have absolute confidence that the journalists they go to will report on that information rather than bury it.”

    • randyjet says:

      Elaine, Having denounced government and corporate censorship, I have to remark that there ARE some things that are not fit to print. The ones that come to mind involve the GOP treason just before WWII and during it when the McCormick Chicago Tribune I believe published the US War Plans that were arrived at with Churchill at the Acadia meeting off Canada. They had been “leaked” by ardent GOP isolationists in the Pentagon to ramp up public pressure against FDR. The leak was not punished nor was the paper since it was printed on Dec. 6, 1941 and there were a lot more pressing concerns. Then the same paper committed treason by publishing in one of their stories from their correspondent who figured out that the US had broken many if not most of the Japanese codes. FDR decided not to prosecute because it would draw attention to the article and was hoping the Japanese did not read the paper. As it turned out, the news story never made it to Japan.
      The more famous one that should have been published was JFKs killing the story on the Bay of Pigs invasion by the NYTimes. He later regretted that he did that since he felt publishing would have given him pause about authorizing it. For all the folks who decry Obama’s use of military action, they have amnesia about that very overt ACT OF WAR with NO input from Congress.

      Another non-governmental killing of a story involved a friend of my mother who was involved in a custody dispute with her Catholic ex who filed suit in court to enforce the pledge she had signed prior to her marriage agreeing to raise all the kids as Catholic. She refused to do so after the divorce because she was not Catholic and she felt the church bore a good deal of responsibility for the divorce. The court reporters of the two papers in Hartford. CT had their stories about the case killed by the Catholic Church which told the papers NOT to publicize the finding that the document did not override her rights as sole custodian of her kids. That one was back in the late 50s.

      As for the resolution allowing the use of US troops in Kuwait, I too was in support of that even though I knew at the time that the nuclear threat was bogus. The fact is that the reason I supported it was that some means had to be used to force Hussein to live up to the agreements he had signed. The resolution did NOT mandate an invasion of Iraq if he complied with letting inspectors back in with no restrictions, which he DID. Bush went far beyond what the resolution stated. Kerry stated the reason he voted for the resolution was that he had been assured by Bush that it did not mean war if he had complied with the order to allow inspections. Bush of course lied, and kept moving the goal posts. The media did report some of the facts and the Senators did have access to some of the intel about WMDs which was rather thin. The NY Times of course, played a big role in supporting the Bush lies as did much of the media. But this is nothing new at all as we can see with a number of other instances even today with the Malaysian airline shoot down. The only decent reporting that is available to English speaking folks is the English press, the BBC and the Guardian. Thank to the internet we can get some good reporting if we only look for it.

  16. Elaine M. says:

    Buying the War

    Four years ago on May 1, President Bush landed on the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln wearing a flight suit and delivered a speech in front of a giant “Mission Accomplished” banner. He was hailed by media stars as a “breathtaking” example of presidential leadership in toppling Saddam Hussein. Despite profound questions over the failure to locate weapons of mass destruction and the increasing violence in Baghdad, many in the press confirmed the White House’s claim that the war was won. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews declared, “We’re all neo-cons now;” NPR’s Bob Edwards said, “The war in Iraq is essentially over;” and Fortune magazine’s Jeff Birnbaum said, “It is amazing how thorough the victory in Iraq really was in the broadest context.”

    How did the mainstream press get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein to 9-11 continue to go largely unreported? “What the conservative media did was easy to fathom; they had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked. How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored,” says Moyers. “How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?”

  17. If you don’t think the government is manipulating the media, you have forgotten about the Smith-Mundt Act. A common misconception is that the NDAA of 2013 (section 1078 (a)) allows for direct propagandizing of the American people when in fact it allows dissemination domestically of materials prepared for foreign use in what is so euphemistically called “public diplomacy”. Direct funding, indirect funding, propaganda is propaganda.

    Remember that misdirection and euphemistic language are key tools in the propagandists toolbox.

    Remember too that corporations – as creatures of the state – can be leveraged in subtle ways to gain compliance with governmental plans. Except when it comes to making them pay their taxes or obey relevant laws designed to protect the public (but cost corporations money), of course. That would screw up that gigantic pork dinner being served on the Potomac.

  18. Elaine M. says:


    Remember this story?

    Misinformation campaign targets USA TODAY reporter, editor
    By Gregory Korte, USA TODAY

    WASHINGTON – A USA TODAY reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites.

    Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts have been created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments. Websites were registered in their names.

    The timeline of the activity tracks USA TODAY’s reporting on the military’s “information operations” program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan — campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon as ineffective and poorly monitored.

  19. Mike Spindell says:

    Many aspects of this phenomena of how the corporate media serves a function as propagandists in the US, have been discussed above and all of the points are well taken. There is an overall bottom line to this complex discussion and that is that those prominent in the media are affected by what has for years been called “The Beltway Mentality”. As the coming stars of the media are accepted into the inner circle of “respected” commentators, they all begin to follow the same basic line of following the status quo in America. This is true whether it comes to race, or foreign policy. Life is easy when you’re inside “the beltway”. You have money, entree into the “best” places, celebrity and “inside” information that is actually disinformation. The reporter has become a member of what they see as the “inner circle” and the pressure to maintain that status is to follow the “party line” of the beltway. Though they imagine that there are divisions between Democrat or Republican, conservative of liberal, the whole procedure is really a rigid script being followed that ignores the reality of the present.

  20. Elaine M. says:


    It’s akin to the “one percenters” reporting on the “one percenters.” Too many members of the MSM are wealthy and connected to government officials. They hobnob with each other. A fine example of this is the White House Correspondents dinner where the likes of Karl Rove and David Gregory dance with each other.

    • randyjet says:

      Another funny instance is during the Bush/Kerry debate when Charlie Gibson opined that Kerry’s plan to increase income taxes on those who earn above $250,000/yr would hit teachers too. The audience got a great laugh out of that one. Those kinds of reporters are nothing but part of the problem.

  21. Elaine M. says:


    Those kinds of reporters are clueless. They have no idea how so many of the “common folk” live from paycheck to paycheck or have to struggle to survive.

  22. Oky1 says:

    Old media is dying & new media is growing.

    Zerohedge follows the issue a bit & they had a report up the other day CNBC ratings at record lows.

    We’ll know things are about to improve when outfits like CNBC are turned into sports channel.

    I the mean time theres no reason we can’t let new media give us a good laugh. 🙂

  23. Elaine M. says:


    A prominent national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times routinely submitted drafts and detailed summaries of his stories to CIA press handlers prior to publication, according to documents obtained by The Intercept.

    Email exchanges between CIA public affairs officers and Ken Dilanian, now an Associated Press intelligence reporter who previously covered the CIA for the Times, show that Dilanian enjoyed a closely collaborative relationship with the agency, explicitly promising positive news coverage and sometimes sending the press office entire story drafts for review prior to publication. In at least one instance, the CIA’s reaction appears to have led to significant changes in the story that was eventually published in the Times.

  24. The reporting and validity of news is a scary issue all by itself. But that is an issue that can be trained and educated around as all the comments here demonstrate. I try to reinforce checking the validity of and reliability of information period to students.

    I apologize if I seem to beating the teacher drum a bit, but I am deep into the research currently and coursework as well. And this discussion led me immediately to an issue that I think coincides with good news reporting.

    I was a nerd as kid, I read all the time, played Dungeons and Dragons and pretend fantasy games with the boys and read comic books. This lead me to constantly try to find out little factoids and piecs of information, tables and monster lists, special fantasy drawings and articles on amazing things. Whenever i was lucky enough to be able to actually locate a piece of information I would copy down bits of writing and scores or gods forbid if I could photocopy something. I ended up with countless folders and boxes of magazines and sheets of doodled loose leaf chaos.

    The point is that it was hard to find information, easy to verify it and you often kept a copy or notes if you liked it or thought you might need it (especially if you were a beezuz like me).

    Now it is quite the opposite though and has been for some time. The term “the Information Age” is not insignificant. Information now is so readily available that it is both wondrous, literally mind-numbing at times if your not watchful, and possibly dangerous in the ignorant mind ( the Post’s point emphasized this). It is possible to be literally spoonfed dis-information, incorrect or just incomplete or misguided information with almost no initiative on your part.

    The good thing is that while this is happening these same people are also getting exposed to some of the truth at the same time.

    I don’t believe in stepping back and technology is pretty much impossible to ignore once discovered. So it must be a priority to not only try to establish quality process in reporting. But also to always encourage questioning of what is said, if nothing else against a sense of common reason and discourse.

  25. Mike Spindell says:

    “But also to always encourage questioning of what is said, if nothing else against a sense of common reason and discourse.”


    Therein lies the rub so to speak. There are many societal forces that encourage our youth not to think for themselves but to accept the common wisdom. There are also everyday pressures on people that make finding things out for themselves difficult. Finally, there is the subliminal message that one cannot change the world. Most humans are not stupid, but hae been inculcated to face their lives and the world as if asleep.

  26. Tony C. says:

    Caitlyn (and Mike): Encouraging is fine, but I am increasingly of the opinion that the problem is solving itself in a generational sense. What I see is that children that grew up with the Internet (and I see college kids, mostly, not grade school or high school except in my own extended family) are both highly informed and highly cynical of anything on the Internet. They are pretty good at finding objectively accurate answers on the Internet.

    Humans are good at this sort of stuff; figuring out how to use tools effectively. On the Internet, this means learning to separate the truth from the garbage, quickly. Like language, IMO there is something about growing up with it and using it that gives a natural expertise that cannot be explained to those of us for whom the Internet is equivalent to a second language.

    Future generations, I think, will become far more secular as a result of having far more sources of information. I think much of the conspiracy theory, religious nut-jobbery, and acceptance of political lies is due to some people being raised in isolation and exposed to a singular point of view or philosophy; like Republicanism or Libertarianism or Socialism. People raised on the Internet (with the freedom to surf where they will) are far more likely to be exposed to myriad points of view and arguments, and that results in uncertainty and people deciding for themselves what they believe, instead of relying on what “everybody says.” On the Internet, there is seldom a super-majority agreement on anything.

  27. Mike Spindell says:


    From your mouth to Random Chances Ear! 🙂

  28. Slartibartfast says:


    I would point out that the internet has been a boon for conspiracy theorists, allowing them to find others with similar beliefs and build their own echo chambers. Maybe they are primarily older people who weren’t raised on the Internet, but, at the very least, I don’t think there is any evidence that the number of nutters in the tubes is decreasing.

  29. I have not seen any data on whether the numbers are increasing or decreasing. However, I am not sure that age has much to do with proneness to be infected with CT. I know that an anecdote is not data; however, I have a real world incident that illustrates the point.

    A few days ago, I went to pay the cell phone bill. The Celtic Lassie went with me. She needed something tweaked on that portable computer, camera, phonograph, and police scanner she calls a telephone. The young man who waited on us was very pleasant and businesslike. I paid the phone bill and the two young people discussed her phone while both of them poked things on it. The conversation cannot be quoted exactly here, because they seemed to be speaking in a foreign language that sounded like a conversation between Data and Mr. Spock.

    The store was empty with no waiting customers, so the twenty-something clerk was in a chatty mood. After he finished the tweaks on the phone, he began to explain to me that the CIA and NSA have a program which will implant secret microchips in everyone. He said that people will have no ability to opt out of having the chips implanted inside their bodies. These microchips that are going to be implanted in every person have GPS so they can track everyone. He knew this to be a fact beyond any doubt. He was quite earnest.

    The Lassie and I looked at each other and left.

  30. Elaine M. says:


    “I would point out that the internet has been a boon for conspiracy theorists, allowing them to find others with similar beliefs and build their own echo chambers.”

    Add to that the bogus stories that start in some right-wing blogs and talk radio programs that spread like wildfire…and even get reported by the MSM. I explained the anatomy of a Fox News smear in this post that I wrote for FFS:

    Smear Merchants and Bias in News Reporting: Regarding Michael Brown, Darren Wilson, Race, Right-Wing Blogs, and the Mainstream Media

    That post also included a link to this story:

    Bogus Photo Does Not Show Ferguson Cop Darren Wilson’s Injuries; It’s Not Even Him

  31. The irony of an open information sharing structure is that openness comes with costs and one of those costs is easier dissemination of false information. Although, in a way, the larger community works as a sort of antibody against false information; memes aren’t compared to viruses for no good reason. Sometimes a bad idea can overwhelm the web’s “immune system”.

    This mode of looking at the problem is rooted though in the world of net neutrality.

    When that’s gone?

    The web will be as useful as cable television, which is to say minimally at best. But you can have all the advertisements and corporate spin you (don’t) want. Just look at what corporate intervention hath wrought at “that other blog”. It might as well have “Paid for by News Corp.” on the masthead. Or to quote comedian Will Ferrell, “I’ve accepted every email solicitation I’ve ever received. My penis is now 235 feet long.” I’m not sure exactly how that applies here, there may be a distinction between “having” and “being” in play, but just so . . . there it is.

  32. Tony C. says:

    I suppose there will always be echo chambers for ‘small’ belief systems. But I also note that within first-world, info-heavy societies, the fastest growing religious category is “no religion.” Not what is called “committed atheism”, but apathy about religion, and the fastest growing demographic for that is the adults under 30. I think that disbelief in established dogmatic religion is a result of early exposure to many conflicting religions, as opposed to being raised in a small town somewhere with one dominant religion, where other religions are considered by the majority to be weird or deviant. So people follow the crowd around them, but when their “crowd” is expanded by the Internet into something that has no consensus direction, they must make their own choices.

    Most will undoubtedly crave belonging anyway, and join an echo chamber, or they crave authority and subordinate themselves to some perceived “authority” on the Internet. But I also think those echo chambers will tend toward the more harmless erroneous beliefs. Thinking somebody has a plan to implant everybody with microchips is silly but pretty harmless, since even if one believes that they aren’t going to try to do anything about it until something concrete happens to them.

    It is pretty funny that guy works at a phone store; the NSA doesn’t have to implant any chips. We are perfectly happy to carry them around with us, in the form of phones!

  33. pete says:

    what! those pills really work?

  34. Slartibartfast says:


    You’re right, they also provide fertile soil for lies to fester and grow.


    Groupspeak double plus good solution. Zero information content = zero lies.

  35. Mike Spindell says:

    I think it all is really about the availability of information. The disinterested among us and the authoritarians will always remain in a bubble of intellectual laziness, accepting that which comes to them easiest. For the rest of us, who are in the habit of examining our lives and our environment critically, we need all sorts of information sources to be able to be able to make suppositions and formulate life strategies.

    As Tony hits upon, Organized Religion is soothing to those who want to be fed comforting answers about our lives, to stave off the normal fears all we humans have.

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