Shirley Sherrod: The 'No Distractions' Distraction … How the administration mishandled a manufactured scandal. … How could the White House have screwed up so badly in the case of Shirley Sherrod, the Georgia USDA official who Wednesday received an apology from the Obama administration (through Robert Gibbs (left) and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack)? Sherrod was the victim of a smear by the right-wing agent provocateur Andrew Breitbart and his fellow travelers at Fox News. (Yes, that side has adopted some Leninist tactics, as conservative antitax activist Grover Norquist has admitted over the years.) They took a two-and-a-half-minute clip from Sherrod's address to the NAACP and used it to depict her as a black racist who discriminated years ago against a white farmer. It turns out the farmer thought Sherrod had been a terrific help, and a full review of Sherrod's speech suggests that, far from being a racist, she had honestly (and successfully) worked through the complex racial preconceptions we all carry around in our heads. The NAACP, which says it was "snookered" by Breitbart, acted first and asked questions later. This gave Vilsack and the White House cover to do the same. Only when Sherrod was allowed to defend herself on legitimate news programs (i.e., not on Fox) was the administration's rash and unjust firing fully exposed. So-called journalists didn't do the most elemental checking before running with the story.
Dominant Social Theme: The mainstream media is on the job, digging in depth and reporting with vigor.
Free-Market Analysis: Yesterday we reported on a startling cover story that appeared in Newsweek written by Richard N. Haass, the president of the famous Council on Foreign Relations, all-but-admitting the war in Afghanistan was a lost cause and suggesting ways that Western goals of terrorist containment could be achieved via other, less costly and invasive strategies. We suggest that such increasingly blunt reporting by the mainstream media is the firming-up of a trend that we have noted previously in numerous articles.
Leaving aside the factual problems with Haass analysis (such as why credible reports have now emerged that there was a Bush administration invasion planned for Afghanistan BEFORE 9/11), the Haass article was extraordinarily blunt and aggressive in terms of admitting what was wrong with the West's attack on Afghanistan and why problems had occurred. This is part of the trend toward tougher reporting on on government-initiated policies and programs, including military adventures. The article on Sherrod in the above excerpt from Newsweek is perhaps more evidence.
The Newsweek article could have been positioned as a defense of the administration and of reverse racism generally. Instead, the article leads with an attack on Obama and the administration's handling of the affair. Meanwhile, the Haass article comes on the heels of a remarkable expose in the Washington Post of the explosive growth of the intelligence-industrial complex in Washington DC. And also a previous Newsweek report casting doubt on the efficacy of one of Big Pharma's biggest sellers, anti-depressents.
What's going on here? Newsweek and the Washington Post, as many in the alternative press are well aware, are at least in part instruments of the Washington intelligence elite, certainly historically so. In fact, ever since Congressional revelations of "Project Mockingbird" back in the 1970s, it has been common knowledge that America's mainstream media are either partially or fully penetrated by US intel. Here's something from Project Mockingbird, courtesy of Wikipedia:
Operation Mockingbird was a secret Central Intelligence Agency campaign to influence domestic and foreign media beginning in the 1950s. … The operation was first called Mockingbird in Deborah Davis' 1979 book, Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and her Washington Post Empire. … More evidence of Mockingbird's existence emerged in the 2007 memoir American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond, by convicted Watergate "plumber" E. Howard Hunt and The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America by Hugh Wilford (2008). …
After 1953, the network was overseen by Allen W. Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. By this time Operation Mockingbird had a major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. These organizations were run by people with well-known right-wing views such as William Paley (CBS), Henry Luce (Time and Life Magazine), Arthur Hays Sulzberger (New York Times), Alfred Friendly (managing editor of the Washington Post), Jerry O'Leary (Washington Star), Hal Hendrix (Miami News), Barry Bingham, Sr., (Louisville Courier-Journal), James Copley (Copley News Services) and Joseph Harrison (Christian Science Monitor). … According to Alex Constantine (Mockingbird: The Subversion Of The Free Press By The CIA), in the 1950s, "some 3,000 salaried and contract CIA employees were eventually engaged in propaganda efforts".
Is Mockingbird ancient history or business-as-usual? Recently, it was revealed that CNN anchor Anderson Cooper apparently worked for the CIA in his younger days. Over at the Daily Koz, founder Markos Moulitsas Zúñiga (maybe his real name, maybe not) is also reported to have CIA connections. But doubtless this is just scratching the surface. We've noted that many "alternative" web sites commingle alien sightings with Austrian economics, effectively relegating free-market criticism of the financial system to the nether-worlds of "conspiracy theory" and space-alien abductions. This sort of questionable positioning is the hallmark of US intel operations.
The powerful US media-entertainment complex has done the bidding of the Anglo-American axis' for decades, or perhaps for even a century or longer. Hollywood movies often aggrandize Cold Warrior themes that celebrate the US military industrial complex while television is filled with law-and-order programs celebrating the war on drugs, glamorizing anti-terror activities, etc. The difference between the West's brand of media control and control in non-Western countries is that the West does not advertise it, and individual Western democracies are apt to pooh-pooh the reality and denigrate its necessity. This only tends to make such programs more effective.
The elite is obviously determined to ensure that its various media and entertainment holdings retain enough credibility to influence the larger conversation as they have in the past. This is necessary because there are some "bright line" areas that the elite is determined to establish and maintain. By providing the appearance of more openness and media honesty, the elite hopes to retain control of the conversation (which is ultimately one about freedom) and ensure that government solutions, however vilified, remain part of the overall conversation and are presented in a credible light. What for instance constitutes a "bright line" for elite-controlled mainstream media publications? Over at the Daily Koz, Markos Moulitsas is said to get especially exercised at any suggestion that the 9/11 investigation be re-opened.
Within this context, the harder-hitting reporting of such media enterprises as Newsweek and the Washington Post (and the media conglomerate FOX) are not surprising. The only way that the power elite can hope to retain credibility for its mainstream media holdings is if they are seen as reporting honestly and credibly on issues of importance to Western populations. The Internet has forced this evolution on elite media properties and it is one to be welcomed. It is further evidence of the impact that new communication technology is having on the powers-that-be.