One of the weirdest things about the post-Iraq invasion world is how the mass media has actually gotten less accountable instead of more accountable for its reporting since that time.
Right now in the UK there’s an amazingly viral smear campaign against Jeremy Corbyn running across all mainstream outlets, which, from what I can tell, consists entirely of narrative spin and no actual evidence. The powerful elites who control British mass media have an obvious vested interest in keeping the UK government from moving to the left, so they advance the absolutely insane narrative that Corbyn is a secret Nazi. They just keep saying it and saying it like it’s true until people start believing it without feeling any pressure at all to substantiate their narrative with facts. It’s been jaw-dropping to watch.
More and more we are seeing narratives about cyber-threats being used to advance reports of “attacks” and “acts of war” being perpetrated which, as far as the public is concerned, consist of nothing other than the authoritative assertions of confident-sounding media pundits. There was a recent NBC exclusive which was co-authored by Ken Dilanian, who is an actual, literal CIA asset, about the threat of hackers working for the Iranian government. The alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US elections is now routinely compared to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, despite no hard, verifiable evidence that that interference even took place ever being presented to the public.
This UK campaign to smear Corbyn as anti-Semitic follows old playbook vs those who defend Palestinian rights, amplified by neo-liberals who also hate JC’s progressive agenda. Sorry to pull this card, but as a Jew & descendant of Holocaust victims it’s embarrassing & disgraceful: https://t.co/YkNjdgmsV6
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) August 10, 2018
After the mass media’s complicity in selling the Iraq invasion to the western world, we should have seen scores of people fired and changes put in place to prevent such unforgivable complicity from ever occurring again. Instead, no changes whatsoever were made to ensure that news media outlets never facilitate another disaster at the hands of secretive government agencies, and now these same outlets are allowed to promote world-shaping narratives on no evidentiary basis beyond “It’s true because we said so.”
There’s a consensus, agreed-upon narrative about what’s going on in the world that is advanced by all mass media outlets regardless of what political sector those outlets market themselves to. Exactly what should be done about individual events and situations might vary a bit from pundit to pundit and outlet to outlet, but the overall “how it is” narrative about what’s happening is the same across the board. This is the official narrative, and the plutocrat-owned media/political class has full control over it.
We all know the official narratives, right? The US and its allies are good, the latest Official Bad Guy is bad. You live in a democracy where your vote counts and your government is accountable to you and your countrymen, just like they taught you in school. The two political parties are totally different and their opposition is totally real. The news man on TV never reports any falsehoods because if he did he’d lose his job, which means that the Russian hacking thing, the Syria thing, the 9/11 thing, all happened exactly as the government told us they happened. Iraq was maybe kinda sorta a mistake, but nothing like that could ever happen again because mumble mumble cough hey look what Kanye West is doing.
"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."
"What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence."
"We have to believe that Russia is attacking our democracy because the TV and the CIA told us to."
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) July 22, 2018
Let’s consider a hypothetical scenario, though. Let’s imagine a world where there were no official narratives. About anything. At all.
What if there was no dominating elite class telling the public how they were meant to interpret events and situations? What if there was only the raw, publicly available information about what’s going on in the world, and people individually interpreted that information for themselves? And what if they came to differing conclusions, and that was allowed to be okay? What if there was no elite class telling everyone that whoever doesn’t believe X, Y and Z is a paranoid conspiracy theorist, a raving lunatic, and/or a Kremlin propagandist who needs to be shunned and silenced? What if all that were solely determined by the collective, without the control or oversight of any powerful, dominating class?
What would that be like?
You may find that your results in this thought experiment depend largely on where you place your trust. If you trust the dominating class more than you trust people as a collective, you probably find this idea terrifying. What if everyone starts thinking wrong thoughts and believing wrong beliefs? What if everyone decides that humans can fly when they leap from rooftops and running with scissors is safe? What if everyone decides the Holocaust never happened and says “Hell, that means we get a freebie! Let’s get our Final Solution on y’all! Yeehaw!”
If, however, you trust humanity as a collective more than you trust a small group of sociopathic, omnicidal, ecocidal oligarchs who killed a million people in Iraq, you might suspect that whatever happened would surely be better than what happens in the current paradigm.
Without an elite class manipulating the way people think and vote into alignment with plutocratic interests, people would still be able to take actions in response to their best guess about what’s going on in the world. The narrative of anthropogenic climate change for example would in my opinion have a much better fighting chance of winning out in the marketplace of ideas if it were permitted to stand on the merit of the raw supporting data, rather than the manipulations of big oil on one hand and an elite faux liberal class convincing everyone that climate chaos can be averted by banning straws and buying a Prius on the other, and the collective would be able to democratically mobilize to avert catastrophe far more effectively than it can now.
All the suspicious behaviors of the mass media can be understood by considering the fact that mass media outlets are controlled by a few powerful elites who are acutely aware that they are vastly, dangerously outnumbered by the general population they exploit every day.
— Caitlin Johnstone (@caitoz) August 11, 2018
Now let’s consider another hypothetical scenario: what if one day, everyone gets tired of official narratives? What if something happens and everyone gets fed up with being told how they have to think about the world by a thoroughly discredited media and political class? What if, to borrow from a popular Marxist meme, the public decides to seize the means of narrative production?
This might look like the increasingly distrusted propaganda machine of a failing empire pushing an increasingly oppressed populace too far and too hard at some point, maybe in the direction of war, mass censorship or austerity, and losing control of the narrative in a nonviolent populist information rebellion. Instead of the elites being lined up for guillotines, the mass media outlets and talking heads on TV are simply seen for the discredited voices that they are, and people begin creating their own narratives about situations and events. The most popular narratives rise to the top and determine the direction that society takes itself, rather than the narratives forcefully promulgated by media-owning plutocrats. This would be made far easier without the imperialist divide-and-conquer tactics of the establishment manipulators who keep us all pitted against each other in insulated political factions.
Whoever controls the narrative controls the world. The world is better off being controlled by the collective will of the people rather than the will of a few sociopathic oligarchs, and we absolutely have the ability to take that control by force whenever we want to. All we have to do is shift value and credibility from plutocrat-generated narratives to popular collective narratives, and cultivate an aggressive disgust for all attempts by the powerful to manipulate the public dialogue.
Once the way people think, act and vote is no longer manipulated by an elite class which does not represent the interests of humanity, our species will have a fighting chance at moving society out of its patterns of exploitation, war and ecocide and into a direction of health, harmony and thriving. I’m just going to keep pointing out that this is always an option, hoping for a spark to catch someday.
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flashlight joe / August 16, 2018
From where I a sitting, there are 3 major narratives which control the western world:
1) Don’t believe in the Jewish Holocaust myth and you are a jew-hating Nazi;
2) Don’t believe in the war over slavery myth and you are a racist defending slavery;
3) Don’t believe in the Jesus myth and you are going to Hell.
I think we need some better myths to lead us into the future.
Lee Georgeson / August 16, 2018
Great work as usual Caitlin, but despite being a Cynic, I think its telling that so few ordinary people actually believe the official narratives anymore. There are some koolaid drinkers and there always will be, but in this day and age trust in the establishment is at unprecedented lows.
We are winning even if its an uphill battle.
Arby / August 15, 2018
“One of the weirdest things about the post-Iraq invasion world is how the mass media has actually gotten less accountable instead of more accountable for its reporting since that time.”
Yes and no. Corporate-owned media is never going to be on the people’s side.
EdMo / August 13, 2018
As a lifetime Leftist who believed in anthropogeniclly induced climate change for over a decade, I am slightly embarrassed that it took me so long to really look into it. After about a year and a half of listening to climate scientists debate the issue, it is at least absolutely clear that there is not a 97% consensus and that that figure was arrived at based on fraudulent claims made by the IPCC. Add to that the Climategate conspiracy and claims by thousands of climate scientists the world over that we just do not know enough about cloud formation and other such complex feedback loops to accurately predict climate sensitivity to CO2, and the dominant media narrative begins to fall apart pretty fast as you realize this is a far more controversial subject than is being presented to us via the MSM.
So, as thoughtful and insightful as you are on so many important issues around creating narratives to control the population, I would exhort you to look into this particular narrative further and report back to your readers on what you find. I will be very anxious to hear your take on this once you have done a more thorough investigation.
Love What You Do And Keep Up The Awesome Work- EdMo
Ava / August 15, 2018
Well said. The point of challenging your own biases is literally to investigate everything you think is true.
Ken / August 13, 2018
Unfortunately the general public are so absorbed in their petty concerns they have no energy for critical thinking and are discouraged at every turn from ever doing so .
How convenient then to have everything pre-digested for them on the 9 o’clock news, the little darlings don’t have to think at all . Baaaaa
How i wish it was otherwise, as you propose Caitlin, but the masses are there to be fooled as they have been all down through History and I am a keen historian. I suppose the human race is doing the best it can but hell’s bells that’s only an explanation it’s not an excuse
Am subscribed – think your wonderful journalist, all power to you
Eve Human / August 13, 2018
You’re absolutely right:
“The world is better off being controlled by the collective will of the people rather than the will of a few sociopathic oligarchs”
There should not be an official narrative everyone is mandated to believe in, even when this narrative contradicts all normal logic and factual evidence, for instance, the fundamental laws of physics and gravity.
But my guess would be that the anthropogenic-climate-change-narrative you mentioned would not win out.
This one is just the official European narrative and, contrarily to what most people in the world believe, this narrative did not start with green or left activism but with the ultra-reactionary Margaret Thatcher throwing money at the Royal Society of Science after hearing the theories of some Swedish meteorologist demanding of the Society to find (or create) evidence to support his views. Thatcher didn’t like British energy being dependent on striking coal miners or Arab countries but wanted to promote nuclear power instead.
My guess is, that since the up-coming ‘climate catastrophe’ is considered to be a left-wing progressive issue you like many other good people did never even bother to check out the other side of the argument, for you consider the other side to be exclusively the evil oil corporations.
I consider myself very much left-wing as well since I’m against the rich getting richer and more powerful, I’m against mega-corporations and I’m for a more just distribution of wealth and most of all I’m for a decentralization of power.
I also believe that alternative energy production by solar- or wind-power and using methane gas made from animal or human waste is a very good thing (not burning food as fuel and starving more people). The increased use of alternative energy resources locally would contribute to that very decentralization of power I would love to see in the future.
On the other hand, I believe that everything the IPCC is doing will bring even more power to the big-banking corporations and to their oligarchic main-shareholders who b.t.w. are also the major shareholders of big oil corporations and to centralized political power structures.
Forcing developing countries to sell their chances for a development away in form of carbon credits (and only a tiny corrupt elite there would profit from those sales) and at the same time allowing Goldman-Sachs and Deutsche Bank to literally speculate in and profiting from hot-air -(permissions) while giving a new boost to the otherwise failing western financial markets is not my vision of progress.
Yes, we might indeed be committing ecocide, but that might have much more to do with Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) nefarious actions than with the benign trace-gas CO2, a gas that’s absolutely necessary for plant survival.
Fact is that CO2 levels have been several times higher during the age of the dinosaurs, and still, earth did not turn into Venus.
Fact is that according to ice-core measurements warming in the past was followed by rising levels of CO2 and not the other way around.
Fact is that the IPCC hockey stick has been seriously discredited, tree rings do not accurately measure temperature. And there is a lot of evidence that there was indeed a rather warmer time-period around 1000 A.D. followed by colder periods, called little ice-age, and 8000 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene, our current interglacial age, global average temperatures were quite a bit higher than they are today.
Fact is that this inaccuracy of the hockey stick is actually being admitted even by the IPCC, while the new substitute basis for the computer models predicting future warming is a kind of black box (in other words it’s a secret not being revealed to the public, and can therefore not be challenged by other scientists and researchers.)
Fact is that even many of the scientists who have worked for the IPCC complain that their actual scientific reports were totally corrupted by the IPCC bureaucrats who wrote the introduction to the IPCC reports, that had nothing to do with the scientists actual findings, however, these introductions were the only parts reported on by the main-stream media.
Fact is that some of the founders of the IPCC were fanatic sectarians and misanthropes connected to Club of Rome who considered- in a Neo-Malthusian and racial supremacist fashion- all human beings per se -but particularly poor human beings of color- as the root of all evils in the world and in need of being reduced.
Yes I know, that you and most left-wing people steadfastly believe that all scientists who doubt the human-caused global warming narrative are nothing else but stooges for big oil and paid by them.
But my belief is that all those scientists who support the global warming narrative are nothing else but stooges for the big banks and for speculators and psychopathic war-mongers like George Soros who is a main supporter of Friends of Earth (in Germany it’s called B.U.N.D.)
And I even can understand why it is nearly impossible for you to actually consider the other side of the issue. You like so many others cling to this global-warming faith in the very same way as I cling to my Catholic faith. When anybody maligns the Church I normally stop reading and do no longer consider his or her argument. And even though I do know that church officials have done quite a lot of wrong in the past, I still give the Church always the benefit of the doubt believing that the bad apples are nothing else but infiltrators deliberately doing harm to the Church.
After I lost all trust and faith in mainstream media and politics it is my religion I still cling to. As a non-religious person maybe you do need some other belief-system you trust in unconditionally.
Karna / August 13, 2018
If you’re wondering how this works in the UK, as illustrated by the Brexit campaign, try this long but excellent (and engagingly well written, like Ms. Johnstone’s stuff)
Rachel / August 13, 2018
Great article again Caitlin, however I think the choice of climate change as an example is not the right one. If you look at the raw data without media spin, it is quite obvious that climate change is not happening and many independent news outlets are reporting on this. As much as I hate oil companies, there is a bigger agenda here and it would be great for you to investigate this yourself. Everything needs to be critically examined in this present today, including ‘accepted truths’.
InfoRebel / August 13, 2018
Agreed. I do not know how anyone cannot see that “Climate Change” is simply a power grab by the very same elites CJ correctly condemns.
An Illiterate / August 12, 2018
I enjoy having a few concrete examples to mull over and look into on this so-called ‘complicity of the press,’ and interested in having a look at profiling the roles of specific news organizations, but would also enjoy having some other notion of how to get informed: To challenge your characterization of the game being played, part of the reason we are led to trust the newsman is the unavoidable truth of the matter in that they have the cameras and they have the crews. The only conceivable way to attain the same quality of coverage without any centralization would be relying on crowdsourced footage from arbitrary numbers of smartphones, which don’t always bear witness, and the fact of the matter is that no one else is equipped or authorized to document certain areas of contention, e.g. warzones and dangerously-autocratic nations (think Russia, maybe? Not quite the DPRK but still). So, what’s your answer to a consumer looking around at everything, and puzzled at how people keep forgetting historical debacles that happened before they could vote and before they were watching the news, but also before they could come to grips with what constitutes news at all? I would love to live in a world where the general populace isn’t spoonfed info by anyone, but economies of scale make it far easier for a monolithic proprietorship like CNN to construct anything worth engaging with, a complete and thorough account of ‘what goes on,’ than they do for an independent individual such as you. I concede that this might be a simple consequence of artificial convolution, conjuring the jobs that staff their studios out of thin air, but it’s also why they produce on the order of 24hrs of nonstop video content a day, and for all the vibrance of your illustrations in prose, you can offer none. Suppose I want to know about current events, but when I enter a query into a popular search engine, nothing but what you posit is essentially state media comes up. What can I actually do?
John / August 12, 2018
An Illiterate; I have a completely opposite perspective on the common narratives employed by the Western MSM/governments. I will readily believe ANYTHING coming out of the enemies of the US/Israel/GB/Saudi Arabia axis of evil before I will believe ANYTHING purported by these warmongering, international murdering, war criminal nations!
Your statement, “we are led to trust the newsman is the unavoidable truth of the matter in that they have the cameras and they have the crews.”, has some merit, albeit slight. Exactly why are you led to trust the newsman, especially after the well-documented plethora of lies by these same parrots of the government? It’s the common narrative, even absent visual proof, that drives the beliefs of the masses. It’s called a news “program”, for a very good reason, i.e., you are being programmed to buy into the BULLSHIT! As an example, and with respect to your comment, “…no one else is equipped or authorized to document certain areas of contention, e.g. warzones and dangerously-autocratic nations (think Russia, maybe?”, I’m very curious why you appear to vilify Russia when NO EVIDENCE, WHATSOEVER HAS BEEN PRODUCED BY THE WESTERN MSM AND WHEN RUSSIA HAS VEHEMENTLY DENIED ALL ACCUSATIONS? Doesn’t your intuition/critical thinking tell you that IF GB truly believed Russia to be behind the novichok nerve agent poisonings, GB would have quickly provided a sample to Russia for testing, as Russia requested? Why, if the evidence is incontrovertible, did GB refuse Russia’s request? This is why; Russia is merely the De Facto, “boogeyman”, required to justify the outrageous budget for the US military/industrial/surveillance community…PERIOD! Without NATO there will be billions upon billions of :dollars in profits, up in smoke! Before Russia, it was Syria, before Syria, it was Libya, before that it was Iraq and before that Afghanistan and all those nations were illegally attacked, invaded, occupied and suffered the loss of millions of lives of innocent civilians and we all KNOW these war crimes were based on LIES, LIES, and more LIES, with the complicit help of the US controlled MSM! Yet, you still choose to believe them absent evidence? WHY IN GOD’S NAME?
I can attest to the FACT that nearly 100% of the fear mongering told us by the US government/MSM regarding Russia is false, especially as it relates to Ukraine and Crimea! I lived there off and on for several years and the US was behind the illegal overthrow of the democratically elected Yanukovych administration and yet, Russia is guilty? Russia has ZERO troops in Ukraine, however, it did have 20-25,000 troops in Sevastopol, where the Russian Black Sea fleet is docked, by virtue of a 40, or so, year leased with Ukraine and this lease also provided for various types of ancillary military vehicles, etc. yet, we are told Russia invaded Ukraine? How? By land, by air, by sea? Where’s the evidence? Plus, at the time, Crimea had ZERO land mass in common with Russia. Russia illegally annexed Crimea? Really? According to? Crimea was an autonomous republic and after the illegal coup in Kiev and the installation of a Jewish led regime by the US, the ethnic Russians and Tatars in Crimea feared for their lives. Did you know that this Nazi-supported Kiev regime threatened to NUKE the ethnic Russians in the eastern and southern oblasts? Are you aware that the Kiev regime used the “Hooligans” from Kharkov to slaughter more than 200 peaceful, protesters in Odessa in May 2014? They were forced into the “Trade Unions Building” locked in and burned to death and those who tried escaping were shot to death. The MSM provided some coverage but, stated: “only 40-50” people were killed and that these people were part of the so-called “terrorists” who were resisting the illegal Kiev government! I LIVE THERE AND IT’S COMPLETE BULLSHIT! The same with DPR and LPR, the people in these eastern oblasts only wanted to exercise, “self-determination”, you know, like the US advocates when they seek regime change! Yulia Tymoshenko, a Ukrainian, billionaire, oligarch, threated to NUKE them all because of their Russian ethnicity!
If you truly desire a far better balanced and trustworthy source, I think this site is a good one plus, Paul Craig Roberts, “Russian Insider”, the Saker’s “Vineyard” blog, and Dimitry Orlove’s blog, among others. Americans need much, much more diversity in the news they choose to read, as well as the desire to do their own research and fact checking, rather than choose only those sources that jibe with their “need beliefs” and/or, than worrying about who will win, “Dancing with the Stars”!
Katherine Schock / August 12, 2018
Excellent analysis and commentary once again! Each time I hear some pundit say that they need to reestablish trust in media, I almost choke, because how do you reestablish something that was NEVER warranted in the first place! People who learned early in life to trust only what they can establish as factual are way ahead of the games the corporate owned media try to play on the citizenry! You, dear Caitlin, are a jewel in the crown of truth and are much appreciated by those of us who value what you do! Cheers!
bill wesley / August 12, 2018
There is a problem with what you are saying and the problem is you leave your reader with nothing to correct or add, its all strait up reasoning that makes sense, where is the crazy? We have a right to smirking superiority and you are denying us that right.
Susan Mercurio / August 12, 2018
What I saw of the Labour Party Supporting Israel is that they are using flawed logic: “anti-Semitism exists in the world, therefore that proves that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic.”
And the converse “If you deny that Jeremy Corbyn is anti-Semitic, you are denying the existence of anti-Semitism.”
Mike McPherson / August 12, 2018
Your honesty and truthfulness shines through in everything you write Caitlin, but your expectation of any meaningful changes to bring about a more egalitarian society are based on wishful thinking. I fear the dark forces will not be expelled anytime soon. But your enthusiasm is inspiring. Thank you.
JRGJRG / August 12, 2018
This is like watching the mainstream media here excusing why Alex Jones should be not barred, since “he’s done some despicable things, like talk about 911 Truth,” a “government ‘conspiracy’ to blow up the World Trade Center with other bombs supposedly going off…” (woo!).
Oh, hold on! That did happen!
By saying it over and over as if we all know that’s obviously false, without anyone investigating it officially, they are ignoring the overwhelming evidence that 911Truth is true, but nobody really believes that, do they? and so look what happens to people that think outside that particular box. The mainstream corporate press is openly, blatantly defining the acceptable limits of debate even though almost everyone knows it’s true from hundreds of other even better sources besides Jones.