A case history of recent crimes by America’s mainstream media
Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter James Risen has written an insider’s account of the ugly side of the paper’s skewed editorial policy. It makes unpleasant reading for all those who are infatuated with the belief that the venerable NYT, aka the “grey ghost”, is a beacon of truth, accuracy and objectivity in an otherwise disreputable media landscape.
In the 1990s Risen started to specialise in covering the dodgy world of American national security agencies. After 9/11 when his editors were thirsting for coverage of the Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington, Risen began to hear reports from serious-minded professionals that President George W Bush and his Republican cronies, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donny Rumsfeld, were manufacturing evidence to invade Iraq.
Risen wrote: “After weeks of reporting in late 2002 and early 2003, I was able to get enough material to start writing stories that revealed that intelligence analysts were sceptical of the Bush administration’s evidence for going to war, particularly the administration’s assertion that there were links between Saddam Hussein’s regime and Al Qaeda.
“But after I filed the story, it sat in the Times computer system for days, then weeks, untouched by editors. I asked several editors about the story’s status, but no one knew. Finally, the story ran but it was badly cut and buried deep inside the paper. I wrote another one and the same thing happened. I tried to write more, but I started to get the message. It seemed to me that the Times didn’t want these stories.
“What angered me most was that while they were burying my sceptical stories, the editors were not only giving banner headlines to stories asserting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, they were also demanding that I help match stories from other publications about Iraq’s purported WMD programme.
“I grew so sick of this that when the Washington Post reported that Iraq had turned over nerve gas to terrorists, I refused to try to match the story. One mid-level editor in the Washington bureau yelled at me for my refusal. He came to desk carrying a gold club while berating me after I told him the story was bullshit and I wasn’t going to make any calls on it.” (“My Life as a New York Times reporter in the Shadow of the War on Terror” by James Risen. The Intercept, 3 January 2018)
A news room star is born
While Risen was having his stories suppressed and delayed, another NYT reporter in the paper’s Washington bureau, Judith Miller, was enjoying stellar success.
Ms Miller was capturing the front page with scoop after scoop and her “exclusive” reports were quoted by the media around the world and by Bush administration officials such as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State, General Colin Powell.
Her eye-catching reports included:
- The imminent closure of an Islamic charity, the Holy Land Foundation, on trumped-up links to terrorism.
- Successive stories on Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). All were untrue and provided by “an anonymous source”, the utterly discredited Iraqi businessman and fantasist, Ahmed Chalabi.
- Her December 2001 story, “An Iraqi Defector Tells of Work on at Least 20 Hidden Weapons Sites”. All bullshit.
- The reported interception of “metal tubes” bound for Iraq allegedly to enrich nuclear material for Iraq’s atomic bomb programme. In a summary of Bush’s march to war, The New York Review of Books said that “the tubes would become a key prop in the administration’s case for war, and the Times played a critical role in legitimising it”.
- Another piece headlined, “US says Hussein Intensifies Quest for A-Bomb Parts”, fraudulently claimed that “Iraq has stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and has embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb”. Miller has since justified the story saying: “I was okay with it. The story contained numerous caveats.”
- In April 2003, when Bush’s pre-war propaganda was starting to fall apart, Ms Miller reported that Iraq had kept biological and chemical weapons until “right before the invasion”. She went on Jim Lehrer’s News Hour to claim: “Well, I think they have found something more than a smoking gun. What they’ve found is a silver bullet in the form of a person, an Iraqi individual, a scientist, as we’ve called him, who really worked on the programmes, who know them first hand, and has led MET Alpha* people to some startling conclusions.” (*Mobile Exploration Team Alpha, a US Army team formed to uncover Iraq’s secret atomic and chemical weapons. It found nothing).
- Ms Miller identified the undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame which led to a Grand Jury investigation. Miller was subsequently jailed but released after 85 days following White House intervention. She received prison visits from supporters including Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, NBC news host Tom Brokaw, and right-wing US Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton. She later told a Grand Jury her source for the Plame expose was arch-reactionary “Scooter” Libby, VP Cheney’s chief of staff. A 2010 movie, Fair Game, starring Australian actor Naomi Watts as Plame and Sean Penn as her husband, ambassador Joseph W Wilson, won worldwide acclaim.
Perfect home at Fox News
Edward Said, the Palestinian academic and writer, had been a vocal critic of Ms Miller’s anti-Islamic views long before she became an infamous war propagandist. “Nearly every time she tries to impress us with her ability to say a phrase or two in Arabic she unerringly gets it wrong. They are crude mistakes committed by a foreigner who neither has care nor respect for her subject.”
He concluded: “She fears and dislikes Lebanon, hates Syria, laughs at Libya, dismisses Sudan, feels sorry for and a little alarmed by Egypt and is repulsed by Saudi Arabia”. Miller asserted that in the wake of the September 11 attacks the militant Islamism of the type represented by Al Qaeda had peaked and was falling into insignificance.
It is surprising how closely her reporting follows the propaganda that emanated from Israel before, during and after the US-led “shock and awe” invasion of 2013.
Ms Miller’s father was Russian Jew, Bill Miller, who owned nightclubs in Mob-controlled New Jersey and Las Vegas.
Forced to leave the NYT for her reporting scandals, Ms Miller was hired by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News as a commentator and also wrote occasional pieces for his Wall Street Journal. She is a fellow of the neo-con think tank, the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, and has joined the pro-Israel US Council on Foreign Relations.
She subsequently claimed she was innocent of the charge that she helped the Bush administration’s war policy arguing that UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix bears some responsibility for the war – another blame-shifting lie devised by Tel Aviv.
Her book, The Story: A Reporter’s Journey, published in 2015, is a laughable self-pitying apologia. Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi described it as a tale of “dog after scheming dog eating Miller’s homework. It’s a sweeping, epic non-apology. Every bad thing Miller has ever been accused of turns out to be wrong or taken out of context, according to her.”
An estimated 5,000 US service men and women have been killed in Iraq during the long-running occupation; an estimated 200,000 Iraqis, mainly civilians have been killed, and a further two million have fled their homeland and become refugees.
Before reaching a golden handshake settlement, the NYT published an open statement saying that Ms Miller’s reporting “frequently did not meet published Times standards”. Go tell that to the survivors of “Shock and Awe”.
Another media scandal
American journalist Robert Parry broke stories about how the US government secretly financed its wars in central America during the 1980s by two illegal means: 1) using funds from the sale of arms to Iran (Irangate) and 2) facilitating the illegal drugs trade (Contragate).
At the time he was working for the American news agency, Associated Press.
When the mainstream media blocked his stories and started to openly attack him and his work, Parry left mainstream journalism and opened his own media project, The Consortium, later to become Consortium News.
For most of the time his only staff were his two sons, Sam and Nat, but from 2014 Chelsea Gilmour become office researcher, fact-checker and chief-sub.
His enterprise received wider notice in 1996 with the re-publication of Dark Alliance, a series of articles by journalist Gary Webb for the San Jose Mercury-News.
Webb’s reports stirred the mainstream media into action … against Webb himself. The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times all launched blistering counter-attacks on Webb on behalf of President Ronald Reagan’s and George Bush Snr’s administration which had launched a cynical “war on drugs”.
“The onslaught of hostile reporting from the big papers failed to address the basic premises of Webb’s series and did not debunk the underlying allegations of contra-cocaine smuggling or the fact that much of this cocaine ended up on American streets in the form of crack,” wrote Nat Parry.
Webb’s heroic struggle to expose the Reagan-Bush administrations ended in tragedy. “With his professional and personal life in tatters because of his courageous reporting on the contra-cocaine story, he committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 49,” wrote Nat Parry. “Speaking about his suicide Bob Parry noted how painful it is to be ridiculed and unfairly criticised by colleagues as his friend had experienced.”
Gary Webb was awarded posthumously the Freedom of the Press Award by the Washington-based International Consortium for Independent Journalism in 2015.
At the 75th Golden Globe Awards in January this year, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association made a $1 million donation to the ICIJ.
Parry’s final stand
Last week Robert Parry died at 68 after a short illness. In his very final essays Parry answered those in Hollywood’s Democratic Party hierarchy who were leading the campaign for “Resistance” against Donald Trump.
“On a personal note,” he wrote, “I face harsh criticism even from friends of many years for refusing to enlist in the anti-Trump Resistance. The argument was that Trump was such a unique threat to America and the world that I should join in finding any justification for his ouster. Some people saw my insistence on the same journalistic standards that I had always employed somehow a betrayal.”
To be perfectly clear, Parry never supported Trump in any way. In fact, he was a bitter opponent of Trump and his cronies and wrote about their larceny and barbaric views on many occasions. He insisted, however, in the rule of law which guaranteed a person’s innocence until proved guilty.
As his son Nat Parry wrote: “He marvelled that even senior editors in the mainstream media treated the unproven Russiagate allegations as flat fact. Anti-Trump ‘progressives’ were posturing as the true patriots because of their now unquestioned acceptance of the evidence-free proclamations of the US intelligence and enforcement agencies.”
When, how and why did journalists start believing the self-serving propaganda issued by the CIA or the FBI? And ASIO or the AFP, for that matter? When I was involved in fulltime journalism, all these “official sources” were regarded as a joke and a serious threat to civil and political liberties. Apparently, the CIA, FBI and ASIO are now the “good guys”. If you don’t mind, I’ll take a rain check on that highly dubious proposition … I can’t get the thought out of my mind of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg going to the electric chair in 1953 killed by the FBI.
Murdoch strikes again
When newspapers across America were giving a wide berth to Michael Wolff’s trashy book on President Donald Trump, Fire and Fury, Rupert Murdoch’s London Times paid six figures for “exclusive rights”. This allowed other Murdoch satellites around the world to pillage stories based on Wolff’s script.
One excerpt, however, failed to find its way into print in any paper from Murdoch’s Evil Empire. That would be the one in which he refers to the US President as “a fucking idiot”.
Murdoch is 86. His fourth wife is former model Jerry Hall, 61. Who’s the bigger idiot – Wolff, Trump or Murdoch – or people who believe anything they say?
Book of the Week
New York literary “celebrity” Sarah Knight has delivered her third book to a ravenous audience. The first was titled The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck, the second was Get Your Sh*t Together and now she has published the most meaningful of all, You Do You with the sub-title, “how to be who you are and use what you’ve got to get what you want” (all in lower case).
The new book’s publicity blurb described it as “more straight talk about how to stand up for who you are and what you really want and deserve … showing that it’s okay to be selfish, why it’s pointless to be perfect, and how to be ‘difficult’.”
Brooklyn-born Knight, who started her literary career in the New York publishing industry, now lives in the Dominican Republic, “in pursuit of more sunshine, less stress and a daily abundance of pina colada”. Probably less tax too.