By James F. Tracy
Editor’s Note: In August 2015 MHB published, “The CIA and the Media: 50 Historical Facts The World Needs to Know.” The following series seeks to augment this initial post with several dozen additional facts on the relationship between the US intelligence community, the mass media, and public opinion. One historical fact will be released each day over the next month and beyond.
Since the late 1940s the Central Intelligence Agency and its military intelligence counterparts have successfully manipulated American public opinion on an array of issues via its direct influence over corporate mass media. Understanding the historical facts substantiating this claim is particularly essential in an age of so-called “fake news”, alleged “Russian meddling” in US elections, and overt censorship of alternative voices by Google and YouTube proceed as a thinly-veiled psychological warfare operation against the domestic US population.
In theory the CIA and its military intelligence counterparts are restricted from carrying out maneuvers on US soil, including propaganda efforts. Yet the historical record is unambiguous: Psychological operations know no boundaries whether in terms of national borders or the fabled editorial firewall between the newsroom and objects of reportage. The intelligence community’s permeation of the film-making, book publishing, and social media industries only bolsters the influence it exerts over the institution that write the first drafts of history—the news media themselves.
Editor’s Note: Mass media and leading officials in government play central roles in presenting and interpreting complex events to the public. Substantial evidence from the historical record now reveals how during times of crisis the institution of American journalism cannot be trusted, for it collectively acts to further the often anti-democratic interests of powerful governing institutions.
Thought studiously avoided by most professionally-trained historians, the JFK assassination remains among the most studied events in US history. This is primarily due to non-academic researchers and authors who have vigorously sought to revisit what actually transpired on November 22, 1963. As a result of such efforts well over half of the American population has rejected the Warren Commission and corporate media’s untenable conspiracy theory that Lee Harvey Oswald was Kennedy’s sole assassin.
Still, the narratives of most complex events established by the nation’s storytellers are typically those that most powerfully (mis)inform the public mind. Note, for example, how in NBC News’ anchorman Frank McGee below insists as the report breaks, “The assassin is believed to have fired from a building overlooking the parade route.” Likewise in the immediate chaos of such events certain facts and observations contradicting official storylines, later suppressed or dispatched to the memory hole by academics and investigatory commissions alike, momentarily rise to inform the historical record and thereby alternative interpretations. Today’s internet technology has allowed for the collaboration and rapid dissemination of what once would have taken years to accomplish.-JFT
(Originally posted at MemoryHoleBlog on March 10, 2014)
By James F. Tracy and NBC News
On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was killed in a crossfire of bullets while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Over the course of the next 72 hours US government sources and major news media presented false and misleading information to cultivate in the public mind the notion that one Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole assassin.
Extensive research and documentation indicate that Oswald was only a “patsy” in the event, having been maneuvered, captured, and presented to the world as the lone culprit.
As New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison observes, the evidence available through the time of Oswald’s autopsy indicated that he “had killed no one, but it made no great difference. The world had been informed that he was the assassin, and that is, for governmental purposes, the same as being the assassin. In either case,” Garrision continues, “there is no difference in the funeral ceremony. Power structures have no compassion. Consequently, what a man has done or has not done is not of any great importance. It is what the government says he has done that is important.”
In 1966 the National Broadcasting Company published Seventy Hours and Thirty Minutes: A Minute-By-Minute Log from the Assassination of President Kennedy Through His Funeral. In this compilation of broadcast transcripts, excerpts of which are reproduced below, one may observe how the Oswald personage–alienated youth, drifter, defector, “Marxist”–took shape over the course of three days to become the enigmatic fixture in the popular historical memory that is unquestioningly maintained by corporate media and proper academics alike.
Oswald is one of many figures to be tried in the court of public opinion long before the facts of their respective cases were gathered and judiciously assessed. Not unlike more recent villains–Timothy McVeigh, Osama Bin Laden, James Holmes, and Adam Lanza–Oswald was methodically designed over the course of several years and subsequently exhibited to secure expedient narrative closure to one of the nation’s greatest tragedies.
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