As I’ve often said, the lack of media freedom in the U.S. is voluntary.
I’m not sure how this came to my attention only last year, but in 2012 a book by former NY Times foreign correspondent Daniel Simpson came out, called A Rough Guide to the Dark Side. Below is a transcript of Simpson’s portion in a very interesting interview with RT, which explains, or confirms, a couple things.
First, it confirms the ability of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people to all keep a secret — without directly working in concert or the rules being laid out explicitly. So, more suppression than secrecy. Yet my detractors havescoffed at the possibility of such a phenomenon having been at work in Kosovo.
Second, the interview accounts for the long familiar phenomenon of the Balkans subject generally being a yawn to news and opinion editors, even if (sometimes especially if) written from a different perspective with bombshell revelations. But not a big enough yawn to keep them from dusting off the subject for another round of the same old, same old.
…I thought I was going to be holding people in power to account, and it turned out instead that when I joined in 2002, New York Times was very much engaged in doing exactly what those in power wanted them to do and printing fake intelligence information to start the war in Iraq.
I was in a part of the world, the Balkans, Former Yugoslavia, where there was no longer much interest in hearing about what was happening on the ground. Except once in a while I was supposed to write stories about how Serbs had been responsible for breaking up Yugoslavia by supporting wars of aggression that didn’t need to happen, based on fake intelligence and manufactured enemies. So I was watching what I was supposed to say about something that happened 10 years ago, being repeated by the United States Government in the pages of my newspaper, which was denying me any space to write about what I saw happening on the ground or what I thought about American foreign policy. So it seemed pretty glaringly obvious to me that the news fit to print was pretty much the news that’s fit to serve the powerful.
With regard to Serbia …they had a very fixed view of the situation based on what had happened in the 1990s, when there had been some really gruesome wars taking place on European soil, and they had come to some pretty fixed ideas about who was responsible for those wars, and they were not interested in analyzing the effects that subsequently Western involvement had had on those conflicts. [See the desperate, lobotomized cognitive-dissonance-avoiding ploys that journalists use in reporting on Bosnian and Albanian ISIS recruits, which they just can’t seem to square with the 1990s “understanding” of the Balkans.]
And at the time I got there in 2002, this is all ancient history to them. So they have their fixed narrative line, which basically establishes the U.S. as the good guys who had gone in to fix the problem. And absolutely no interest of course in looking at how not only has the problem not been fixed, but new problems have been caused by this intervention, whether it be bombing Serbia in 1999 over Kosovo, or even the way in which the intervention in Bosnia took place that basically divided the country and meant the war at some point could yet restart, because nothing has really been resolved.
And I tried to write about these things in the tentative, nuanced way that you’re allowed to when you’re critiquing American policy in the paper, and even that was tough to get past editors. And yet at the same time there were all these extraordinarily credulous lines that were being peddled about, the supposed weapons of mass destruction program in Iraq, and I was actually asked at one point to invent one myself from the Balkans, initially by the American embassy in Belgrade, but also backed up by a reporter at the time, Judith Miller, who wanted me to say that that Serbs were selling Saddam Hussein weapons of mass destruction delivery systems.
Now, it turned out that what they were actually selling were spare parts for planes. And that the only real plausible explanation for what these might be used for would be to put those aging planes back in the sky, where they’d been banned from being for the past 12 years while the U.S. went about bombing Iraq on a fairly regular basis, to ensure there was no such thing as an Iraqi defense when it came to the time that the U.S. would next pick up that war that it left off in the early 1990s. So basically, the Americans could have made a case to say that yes, Serbs are helping Iraq get its air force airborne. But instead they were looking for every possible way of getting this mass destruction story into the news media, and The Washington Post very keenly jumped on that line. And so I came under enormous pressure from my bosses to start looking at it the same way, and I couldn’t see any evidence for doing that, so I tried to say, “Well I see it this way…”
…In a way I was just so disgusted by this situation that I didn’t want to play the game anymore. I’d been very keen to play the game in my career up to that point. And I think most journalists are painfully aware of how many people are breathing down their necks and so you learn, you internalize these little phrases that you apply to other countries, like Serbia is nationalist or engaged in extremist policies. But the United States is never doing these things, of course, and you wouldn’t put them in a story. You’d never frame a story that the United States has started a war of aggression. Instead, it’s engaged in a foreign policy project.
…The way the papers’ senior staff think is exactly like those in power. In fact, its their job to become their friends. And Howell Raines, the editor when I was there, he wrote a long article after he lost his job in 2004, where he said at great length: I think basically The New York Times is the indispensable newsletter of the United States political, governmental, academic and professional communities. So basically he sees his newspaper as being this propaganda megaphone for those that run the world.
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