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Access Journalism At Its Most Pernicious
Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix
New York Times editors changed a recent headline from “As Ukraine’s Fight Falters, It Gets Even Harder to Talk About Negotiations” to “As Ukraine’s Fight Grinds On, Talk of Negotiations Becomes Nearly Taboo”, apparently for no other reason than because “grinds on” advances the information interests of the US empire better than “falters”.
A lot of propaganda emphasis goes into crafting headlines, because the vast majority of people read only the headline of a news story and not the body of the text. If your interests are in propaganda and narrative control rather than news reporting, headlines are where your focus lies.
Modern western national security journalism is mostly just writing what a government official tells you to write and then calling it a “scoop” which you got from a nameless “source” in the government.
One of the many, many problems with this system of news reporting is that it gives the government a tremendous amount of leverage over mass media outlets, because if The New York Times or CNN don’t write what a government agency or official wants them to write, they can lose access to that “source” and all the “scoops” that come with it. If The New York Times started doing actual journalism and closely scrutinizing the US intelligence cartel for example, the CIA could just decide that NYT is now off limits and all the insider “scoops” go to different outlets instead. The New York Times would then immediately lose prominence while someone else gains it, and they’d lose all the clicks and subscriptions they were getting from being a consistent source of breaking news on that front.
Which is why that never happens. A symbiotic relationship has been created in which news outlets benefit from powerful sources and powerful sources benefit from uncritical news reporting. The news outlets report what they’re told to report in order to keep their steady supply of “scoops”, and in exchange they get all the money and prestige that goes with it. The government gets uncritical regurgitation of talking points which serve the information interests of the western empire in that moment.
This is access journalism at its most pernicious. Access journalism is destructive enough when it’s a prominent official refusing to give interviews to unsympathetic reporters, but once you’ve got entire government agencies driving the entire news media information sphere by determining who does and does not receive “scoops” on foreign conflicts and international affairs, you’ve got a system of straight up state propaganda.
What is the effective difference between this system and one in which the state owns the media and tells it what to report? In essence, there is no difference.
Instead of literally going to war with Mexican cartels, has anyone considered simply not having a shitbrained and completely unscientific drug policy that has been in a continuous state of failure since its inception?
It’s silly to let yourself be pulled from the left to the right. Mainstream liberals are pathetic and the authentic socialist left can be aggravating as fuck, but the values which drew you to the left in the first place are still grounded in deep truth and just as valid as ever.
Other people on the left and pseudo-left being obnoxious doesn’t magically invalidate the world’s need for peace, justice and equality. Your disagreements and grievances with a given political faction don’t magically cancel out the urgent need to end capitalism and imperialism. Don’t let the failings of other people and the general confused state of our species cause you to lose sight of your healthy vision for this world that got you interested in politics in the first place.
It’s probably worth noting that Ukraine was always just one of the multiple fronts on which the US empire was dangerously provoking and escalating against Russia as part of the new cold war. There was also Syria, the NATO military buildup in the Baltic region, shredded treaties, sanctions, and increasingly aggressive Nuclear Posture Reviews — much of this under the Trump administration, interestingly enough.
The late Stephen Cohen was urgently warning about these multi-front escalations years before the Ukraine war.
“We’re at maybe the most dangerous moment in US-Russian relations in my lifetime, and maybe ever,” Cohen told The Young Turks in 2017. “And the reason is that we’re in a new cold war, by whatever name. We have three cold war fronts that are fraught with the possibility of hot war, in the Baltic region where NATO is carrying out an unprecedented military buildup on Russia’s border, in Ukraine where there is a civil and proxy war between Russia and the west, and of course in Syria, where Russian aircraft and American warplanes are flying in the same territory. Anything could happen.”
We were headed toward some kind of horrific confrontation between Russia and the empire no matter what; Ukraine just happened to be the one that landed first. Moscow was always going to draw a line somewhere.
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