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As feds and Facebook join forces to rein in ‘fake news’ who will fact check the ‘fact-checkers’?
Facebook is the world’s most powerful social media platform, deemed by one observer as “the biggest nation in the world” with no semblance of democracy. The mass medium’s size and breadth is often obscured by its capacity to interlink 1.8 billion users with their friends and loved ones in the broader context of everyday life. Situated at this primary intersection of human relations one cannot overemphasize the significance of the outlet’s self-appointment as chaperon of public discourse.
By its own admission Facebook is no longer merely a for-profit corporation seeking to inject advertising and commerce into the abundant social interaction it oversees. The entity’s new censorial ventures, loosely masquerading as promotion of “good journalism” and “information you can trust,” strongly suggest combined government and corporate efforts to suppress citizen-generated “alternative” news and analysis.
In the United States alone close to half of the population (44% 2016 Pew Research) receive “at least some of their news” from the social media behemoth, putting Facebook among the nation’s most influential distributors of news. This makes the entity’s actual transition from neutral observer to forthright interventionist aided by often unprincipled, even amateurish news media, a momentous and worrisome political event.
Facebook’s recently-announced “news literacy” and “fact checking” initiatives must be recognized as coming in the wake of two other especially significant and likely uncoincidental developments: 1) corporate media’s recent propaganda campaign highlighting so-called “fake news” and alleged Russian-inspired media seeking to “undermine faith in American democracy,” and 2) US lawmakers’ December 8 passage of the “Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act” within the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act
Liberalism itself is a synthetic creation of the power structure, a humanitarian facade behind which the dirty work of policing the world can go on uninterrupted by idealistic spasms in the body politic.
Journalist Eric Norden’s perceptive critique, “The Tender Tyranny of American Liberals,” appeared in the early years of the Vietnam era, accurately identifying how a predominantly liberal worldview projected by the ruling technocracy and its intellectual adherents acted to subordinate genuinely Left-progressive ideas and social movements at home while ensuring the furtherance of US imperial designs abroad. Today Norden’s insights are worthy of reconsideration in light of how the Left remains largely devoid of its own voice or vision and more than ever liberalism provides ideological cover for aggressive Anglo-American militarism, the prerogatives of transnational corporations, and an ever-expanding police state.
This essay originally appeared on September 21, 2001 as an installment of my biweekly Daily Iowan column, “Firing Line.” The piece uses George Orwell’s 1984 as a basis to suggest how from the very beginning the corporate media played a central role in setting the stage for the prevalent Osama bin Laden-Al Qaeda myth, the related “blowback” thesis vigorously embraced by the progressive-left community, and the assemblage of rearguard actions defending such perspectives and reflexively labeling all accounts conflicting with government pronouncements as “conspiracy theories.”
An expertly orchestrated barrage of 9/11 propaganda in the weeks and months following the attacks had a devastatingly traumatic effect on a majority of the US population while simultaneously rendering many of the most legitimate and important questions to the sidelines. Together these discursive elements have helped to create an environment where, as Orwell envisaged, essential civil liberties have been forsaken and perpetual war has become the norm. -JT
In a recent article the influential Council on Foreign Relations declares Americans are “appalled by the depredations of the [Bashar al-]Assad regime and seek its removal from power.” Short of committing troops, the US “[p]ublic wants tough action … including the imposition of tougher sanctions, and the creation of safe havens to protect civilians,” the CFR’s Stewart M. Patrick writes.
There are two underlying problems with this claim. First, the CFR is furtively exerting its own policy objectives by pointing to opinion polls the body has had a direct hand in creating. Second, the CFR is gauging the sentiment of a vastly disinformed public on a Syrian destabilization policy the organization vigorously advocates.
If anyone needs additional proof of the tremendous censorial control wielded over corporate and alleged “independent” media regarding Western powers’ imperialist projects they need look no further than the thorough news blackout of the August 9 Tehran Consultative Conference on Syria. As this censorship ensued, “progressive” news outlets continued their barrage of dubious and misleading information on the continuing turmoil within Syrian.
Progressive-Left media persist in acting as propaganda outlets for the US-NATO destabilization of Syria, thus placating a politically conscious audience that might otherwise be mobilized against acts of imperialism and violence. The historical record suggests how this is not the first time “Progressive publicists” were used to sell a war.