Introduction: Ben Swann is a young, independent journalist in the US whose reporting has received over 10 million video views in over 140 countries. Home-schooled, he began his career as a news photographer and moved up the ladder to reporter, morning anchor/reporter and prime time anchor/reporter. Along the way, he won two Emmy awards and two Edward R. Murrow awards. Covering Mexico's drug war, he realized that national media was not interested in the truth of what was happening in Mexico or the problems associated with the failed "war on drugs" in the United States. In 2010, Swann moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to take a prime time anchor job with WXIX and became the producer/writer/anchor of a segment called "Reality Check." It was while covering the 2012 Republican Presidential primary that he began to confront the problems in the American electoral process, the stranglehold of America's two-party system and the suppression of voters' choices by mainstream media. Today, Swann is soliciting for funds via Kickstarter to launch the Liberty Rising Truth in Media Project and continue his brand of successful, truth-telling journalism.
Daily Bell: Give us some background on yourself and how you became an investigative journalist in this day and age.
Ben Swann: My career in journalism began with taking a job out of necessity. I have three brothers who were working as news photographers in El Paso, TX and I was looking for a job. One of my brothers suggested that I come to work with him and I did. I really enjoyed the process of being a news photographer and editor. After almost 2 years in business, I had gotten married and had my first daughter and I needed to make more money so I began the process of moving from behind the camera to in front of the camera. It was a long road that has taken me over 14 years.
Daily Bell: You won two Emmy awards and two Edward R. Murrow awards. What were those awards granted for, specifically? Are they valid awards within the context of current US reporting? What do they stand for, in your opinion?
Ben Swann: My awards are for a variety of kinds of reporting, breaking news, continuing news coverage, best newscast. These awards are the more high profile but I have also won over a dozen Texas and New Mexico AP awards in a number of categories. While it is always nice to have the awards, I have not submitted my work for an award in four years. Simply put, I am not really interested in needing to have my work validated.
Daily Bell: Is the Internet the hope of the future for independent journalism?
Ben Swann: The Internet and steaming video technology is the future for journalism and entertainment. I have been in the broadcast industry for a long time and I am also a guy who watches trends. There is no question that the next real frontier to reach an audience is online. Independent journalists have an opportunity here but so does corporate media. The future of this platform is an exciting one.
Daily Bell: You seem to have libertarian tendencies. Is that a fair characterization? What motivates you?
Ben Swann: Many people believe that I am a Libertarian and that is not quite true. I am a journalist who believes that the Constitution is the standard for those in power and seeks to hold elected officials to their oath of office. In addition, I do have a liberty mindset and a belief that our nation was founded on an idea of individual freedom. In my profession, I am a truth seeker and as such, I believe that when one seeks truth, it leads to liberty.
Daily Bell: How did journalism in the US become so intertwined with the state?
Ben Swann: Journalism, I believe has always been intertwined with power. When American journalism became so profit driven, it really became about being popular with those in power and with viewers. Over the past 20 years, we have watched the left/right paradigm in media explode in reach. That has created a media even more intertwined with entrenched political power.
Daily Bell: You were homeschooled. Tell us about that and give us your impressions of education in the US today.
Ben Swann: Homeschooling deeply affected my worldview and certainly my view of education. I believe that most of what takes place in American classrooms has very little to do with education and is much more about social engineering. Interestingly, we are now in a second generation of Americans who are being homeschooled. Millions of American children have broken out of the mass produced student mindset. I, for one, am very glad.
Daily Bell: You are not afraid of tackling complex subjects. You reported on a theory that more than one shooter may have been behind the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, for instance. How was that report received?
Ben Swann: From the public, with great enthusiasm. Keep in mind, with my report on Sandy Hook, the Wisconsin Sikh Temple shooting and the Aurora Colorado theater shooting, I was only reporting what eyewitnesses at each of these scenes described… multiple gunmen firing weapons from multiple locations. As a journalist, my job is to question things. At the end of that report, I simply asked why surveillance video from any of these scenes has not been released, which, by the way, is common practice by law enforcement across the country. Furthermore, I am not the only one who has called for the release of this video. In Colorado, the attorney for a group of families suing the theater has asked for the same thing to no avail. The biggest criticism I have received has come from other "journalists," mostly blog writers who have referred to me as a "truther" reporter because I ask questions without first having the answers in hand. Not sure how that works but that is what they have claimed.
Daily Bell: You earned a Bachelor's degree in liberal arts from BYU at age 15 and a Master's in history at 16, in 1994. Tell us about that.
Ben Swann: Growing up, I was homeschooled by a process of distance learning. From elementary school on, I was enrolled in accredited schools and attended from a distance. My mother did not have anything to base her homeschooling experience on and so we didn't take breaks during our school year. Over time, never taking a summer off begins to add up. By the time I was 12 I was ready to enter college and by 15, ready to begin a Master's program. It was the only world I knew.
Daily Bell: We believe communication technology is the crux of human history. The Gutenberg press changed the world 600 years ago and helped generate the Reformation, the Renaissance, the discovery of the New World and the US Revolution. Is what we call the Internet Reformation making the same sorts of changes today?
Ben Swann: I believe it is. One hundred years from now, I believe that generations around the world will look back to this time in human history as one where information and technology came together in a profound way and restored power to the individual.
Daily Bell: Is there an active globalist conspiracy at work in the world today? If so, should people confront it?
Ben Swann: There is certainly collusion between those in political power and those who own and run major corporations and media. Does that mean they are all sitting around in a dark room smoking cigars and plotting against us? No. But it does mean that the average person in America and around the world has a very small number of people attempting to control their behavior, family's life and future for the sake of profit and power.
Daily Bell: Are you worried about your own safety and career?
Ben Swann: No. We all have a limited number of days and can do nothing to change that. What we can control, however, is how we spend those days. I will spend mine pursuing truth.
Daily Bell: In 2010, you moved to Cincinnati, Ohio to take a prime time anchor job with WXIX and became the producer/writer/anchor of a segment called "Reality Check." How did that come about?
Ben Swann: "Reality Check" was born out of a research project in which a consulting firm told station management that there was an opportunity in our market to do "Snopes-style journalism." The "Reality Check" idea was presented to me and I was given the space to create the segment. It took off from there.
Daily Bell: You covered the 2012 Republican presidential primary and began to confront the problems in the American electoral process, the stranglehold of America's two-party system and the suppression of voters' choices by mainstream media. How did your thinking on these issues evolve?
Ben Swann: In many ways, the 2012 primary was an education for me. I knew nothing of "bound delegates" or "unbound delegates" prior to covering the primary. I had no real understanding of a caucus process, or the role of delegates in a party convention. Nor did I really understand the powers that controlled our debate system for the general election. For me it was a learning experience that I was fortunate to be able to share with viewers.
Daily Bell: You confronted President Barack Obama directly in an interview about the constitutionality of his "kill list" and confronted Mitt Romney about the railroading of duly elected delegates during the 2012 Republican National Convention. How did they respond? Was there a backlash?
Ben Swann: The only backlash came from station management who felt that I should be focusing on issues that were strictly Cincinnati focused.
Daily Bell: In April 2013, you announced you were leaving Fox TV. Did you feel forced out in any way?
Ben Swann: No. On the contrary, the station really wanted to keep me at Fox 19 but I strongly felt that now is the time to begin this new venture.
Daily Bell: Journalism in its purest form is a high calling. In its worst (current) form, it is nothing more than propaganda and distraction for the masses, as you explain on your website. What is the state of journalism in the Western world today?
Ben Swann: Western journalism is in a very poor state. A new Pew poll shows that just 28% of Americans feel that journalists provide anything useful to society. American journalism is in a worse state than other nations. At least Glenn Greenwald and the UK Guardian have done great reporting on the NSA. American media hasn't broken one single part of that story.
Daily Bell: Comment on these issues and how well US journalism is covering them:
Loss of civil liberties
Ben Swann: Depends on the liberty. Fox wants to talk about the second amendment. MSNBC wants to talk about 4th amendment rights… everybody wants to pick and choose rather than stand up for the full rights of the American people.
Daily Bell: The drug war
Ben Swann: Very poorly because there is no clarity as to why the drug war cannot be won, why drug use is a state rights issue and how Mexican drug cartels are the biggest threat to national security America actually faces.
Daily Bell: Foreign wars and intervention
Ben Swann: No national media in the US are willing to stand up to the military-industrial complex.
Daily Bell: The growing police state
Ben Swann: Same for the police state. To criticize the expanse of federal and local police powers is somehow seen as unpatriotic.
Daily Bell: The endless printing of currency
Ben Swann: Not talked about.
Daily Bell: The rise and fall of the petro-dollar
Ben Swann: Other than "Reality Check," I don't think I have ever heard the term petro-dollar used in a news broadcast.
Daily Bell: Drone strikes
Ben Swann: Only with praise. American media rarely ever talks about the "collateral damage" of innocent people killed by these strikes or the violation of due process rights for Americans killed by drone strike.
Daily Bell: Disregard for rule of law
Ben Swann: Media bends the rule of law and the Constitution to fit whatever platform their particular political party now supports.
Daily Bell: There is a virtual industry of academic journalism throughout the US. Why aren't these schools and universities doing a better job of turning out journalists who are inquisitive and value the great traditions of US exceptionalism?
Ben Swann: Because most colleges and universities no longer teach journalism. They teach broadcasting and electronic media, instead. There is a big difference between teaching someone how to be a journalist, how to apply ethics and be a critical thinker and teaching someone how to read a teleprompter and shoot and edit video.
Daily Bell: Should journalists understand economics? Do they?
Ben Swann: Yes. Most, no.
Daily Bell: Are journalists in the US instinctively Keynesian? Should they understand Austrian Economics as well?
Ben Swann: Most are instinctively Keynesian, though I would submit that 90% of American journalists cannot tell you who John Maynard Keynes was. They know the idea that when the economy is down government stimulates the economy but they don't know where that theory comes from. Further, I believe somewhere between 95 and 99% of journalists would not know the name Fredrick von Hayek and have no concept of Austrian economics. Should they know? Absolutely.
Daily Bell: Should journalists fight to uphold the US Constitution and freedom of speech? Or should they try not to have any viewpoint at all? Is it better as a journalist to be studiously neutral and not inject any personal perspectives into reporting? Is that even possible?
Ben Swann: It is not possible but to that point, not necessary. A journalist should have a point of view. That view should be to hold those in power accountable to their oath of office. As a journalist, I did not decide that an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States would be the oath of office for the President, Congress, local lawmakers, police, military members, etc. That, however, is the oath and journalists should be holding those who have sworn the oath accountable.
Daily Bell: Are journalists entertainers these days or reporters?
Ben Swann: Most want to be entertainers. The industries are almost interchangeable.
Daily Bell: You're now starting your own independent reporting career. Tell us about the Liberty Is Rising Truth In Media Project and Kickstarter. It is a three-step process. How does that work?
Ben Swann: The first step in that process, Inform, involves the creation of high-end, high-quality Reality Check-style segments that can be presented to the public via streaming content sites such as Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, or devices such as Roku and on BenSwann.com.
Step 2 is to Engage. We are currently building out a multi-faceted platform of engagement where we will work together to take single issues and impact public opinion. This platform will contain resources like stats, infographics, archived articles and other educational materials that will be available to download or share.
Students: This platform will work directly with college student groups like Young Americans for Liberty, Young Republicans, Young Democrats and politically independent groups, giving students hard facts and data to share with peers and teaching them how to hold information sessions on campus.
Journalists: We will work with journalists across the country challenging them to engage in critical thinking and questioning of local, state and national leaders on issues of importance. We'll equip them on how to challenge the status quo in their newsrooms and move beyond reading press releases.
Faith Based Communities: We will engage faith-based communities (Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, etc.) and challenge the acceptance of government control over their religious activities.
Local Lawmakers: We will engage local and state lawmakers and challenge the over-reach, over-taxation and policing for profit that is taking place in every city and town in America.
Tea Party: We will engage those in the Tea Party movement who entered the movement for the right reasons to protest over taxation and government control.
Occupy: We will engage those in the Occupy movement who rightly protested the consolidation of wealth among a small group of people who have created a crony capitalist system (that isn't capitalism at all).
The goal is to help Americans escape the Left/Right paradigm of arguing with each other while politicians and big money run the nation and our lives. We desire to create unity among all these groups in the areas where we can agree.
Step 3 is to Activate. Through strategic partnerships with established political and student groups as well as individual experts in the fields of medicine, education, economics, security, drug policy etc. we will begin to crowd-source "change strategies."
The end result of these strategies will include legal and legislative process for changing US policy overseas and here at home. We will challenge lawmakers who continue to engage in hypocritical behavior and are unwilling to stand up for rule of law. As a long-term goal, we will eventually work with lawmakers to draft legislation to correct the nation's trajectory.
Daily Bell: You want to produce 100 high quality five- to six-minute high quality digital cinema episodes of "Ben Swann Full Disclosure." Why is the programming and quality important? Are you starting to receive funding?
Ben Swann: Why do the videos need to be so high quality? Simple. We need to spread this message as far out as we can. Like it or not, we live in a very media-savvy culture and if the public at large is to take this kind of journalism seriously, they need to be able to hear and see it in a way that is deemed credible. You can watch network news programming all day and never hear anything of substance but it sure looks pretty. If we are to educate and inform the public on issues of war, the drug war, monetary policy, drone strikes, the NDAA, CAFR, crony capitalism, etc. it MUST be done in the style and format generations of Americans have been trained to accept as "professional."
So far, we have raised over $250,000 dollars. If we do not reach out full goal, we will ask for those who have backed the project to move their backing over to Paypal where we can begin a scaled version of the project. Right now we are 20% funded, which means we could begin by doing 20% of the episodes.
Daily Bell: You want to spread these films into new arenas such as streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify. Again, the goal is to engage the largest audience possible. How does that work?
Ben Swann: The films will be distributed via multiple platforms. First, we continue to share new content virally via Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and BenSwann.com, and continue to allow alternative media blog sites to use our films without charge and embed them, as long as they are shown in their entirety. This is important because we want as many people exposed to our journalism as possible.
We will be rolling out a highly interactive, informative website that will include all Full Disclosure episodes, a forum, Ben Swann podcasts and a mobile app.
Also, as mentioned, we are going to attempt to spread these films into new arenas such as streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu and Spotify. Again, the goal is to engage the largest audience possible.
We are having conversations now with a number of distributors and feel very good about the process. It is exciting to hear people in the industry talk about how unique and timely this project is.
Daily Bell: Why should people be part of this?
Ben Swann: This might be the easiest question of all. There is a generational change in how American's view journalists. For people under the age of 35, the majority say they get their news from… wait for it… the Daily Show! That tells me two things.
1. Americans under the age of 35 consider "comedians" journalists.
2. Americans under the age of 35 consider "journalists" a joke.
I have heard from literally tens of thousands of people who say that I am helping to restore journalism. that the work I have been doing puts networks to shame. Simply put, this is a chance to take that journalism to the next and best level – one where we are not dependent upon an established news network. That means we have the power to cover any story no matter how controversial, to give the people a voice in the stories we investigate on their behalf, and a process by which we don't simply sit back and complain about all that is wrong in America but where we act to change things.
Daily Bell: Can you change the way people look at news and receive information using your planned independent model?
Ben Swann: Absolutely. Consider again the Pew poll that I cited a few minutes ago. As the public is abandoning the current idea of journalism in the left/right paradigm, the time has never been better to shatter the mold and create something new.
Daily Bell: Should others try to do it, too? Can they join you?
Ben Swann: Yes and yes. Ultimately, our goal is to create a full online 24/7 streaming Internet news network that blends the best of the mainstream model with the best of alternative media and the current user controlled models like Reddit where users can up and down vote stories.
Daily Bell: What is the point of journalism in the West today? Does it seek to create an informed public?
Ben Swann: I believe that it seeks profit over everything else and then to be an arm for political interests, second.
Daily Bell: What needs to change in the West to return to a more republican way of life?
Ben Swann: A clear separation of corporations and government must take place to restore a Constitutional Republic.
Daily Bell: What's your take on the West's money system and central banking? Is that the root of the problem?
Ben Swann: Not sure if it is the root of the problem but it is certainly one of the biggest problems we face. Right now the central bank is destroying the value of the dollar. Meanwhile, China is doing everything it can to unhinge our dollar from petroleum. Those forces combined will lead to economic disaster for the US unless we the people do something to change it immediately.
Daily Bell: Provide our readers with specifics again on how they can help you.
Ben Swann: Go to BenSwann.com and click on the tab "Truth in Media Project." There you can back the project and help us to make this a reality. Already, nearly 4,000 people are backing the project. To me, that is the most important part of what we are doing. I really want to see people in the liberty movement step out and show their support. By now, those who have followed me know that I am in pursuit of truth no matter where that pursuit takes me. Together, I believe we have a chance to shatter the current media model and create something that will shape our nation moving forward.
Daily Bell: Thanks for your time. Good luck.
Ben Swann is an immensely innovative young man who is using the tools of modern technology to help reinvigorate journalism.
This brings up larger issues that have to do with reporting as a profession. According to the Knight Foundation, there are more than 500 journalism and communication schools and departments around the country, and facilities like the Columbia Journalism School regularly graduate up to 400 students a year.
This is big business annually and with all the time, energy and attention paid to journalism in the US, one has to ask why it has failed so lamentably in the current era. These failures are on evident display throughout modern media, with the biggest one being 9/11 itself − where there are plenty of unanswered questions about what really happened and why.
The "tent-pole" event of the 21st century remains in many ways a mystery and yet Homeland Security, dozens of vast US and Western intel shops and, finally, a scale of data gathering never before witnessed in the history of humankind have sprung from it − ostensibly justified by what occurred.
The US and the world have been substantially reshaped by these occurrences. The US Constitution in many ways has been cast aside while wars have exploded throughout the Middle East and elsewhere based on terrorist confrontation that may or may not exist.
The West's mainstream history is not merely a pastiche put together by "victors" but a deeply contentious narrative that has similarities to a deliberate propaganda campaign. Globalists are ennobled, unnecessary wars are justified, money is not properly explained and even the concentration on the Great Game is a kind of misdirection.
Fortunately, much has emerged in the 21st century to help us revise what we may call the Dark Age of history in the 20th century. As revisions to the Internet record are noted, much is changing in terms of people's perceptions throughout the West, and this is penetrating even to the mainstream − even to Western journalism itself.
A culture is the product of its history. Let the narrative change and conclusions will change. This will happen whether or not top media spin-masters bless it. We look forward to following Mr. Swann's career, which is in some senses a metaphor for a deeper transformation.
Editor's Note: The interview includes pertinent statements expressed elsewhere in similar contexts.
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