The Control of the American News Media
James Kelso – TBR News.org
A covert policy, formulated by Ronald Reagan in conjunction with the CIA, was termed “perception management” and was formalized on January 14, 1983 when President Reagan signed the National Security Decision Directive No. 77. The Reagan White House and the CIA felt that a resurrection of anti-war activism in the United States as had occurred during the prolonged and futile Vietnamese war could curtail or halt the Reagan/CIA policy of “aggressive containment,” specifically in Central America.
This project was also called ‘public diplomacy’ and while it was ostensibly created to develop American public support for Reagan’s foreign policy, it also was constructed to effect control over the opinions of the American public through control of the American media, both TV and press reportage.
Under the “perception management/public diplomacy” program, the CIA was instructed to take a number of steps to bring the American public’s perceptions into line with an official U.S. governmental policy.
The first step in this program was to fully analyze the cultural, ethnic, political and religious backgrounds of the general population and attempt to discover what themes resonate best with the greatest number of Americans. When this was been achieved, the next step was to create specific themes to address these cultural weak spots, or “points of public concern.”
The second step was to gain control over organs of public information such as existing media outlets, so-called “think tanks” ( the Rand Corporation}, political opinion polling agencies, national news wire services, and the creation and promotion of media news personalities entirely in the pay of the government and obedient to their demands.
Although the Central Intelligence Agency is not mandated to operate within the United States, nevertheless, it has been heavily involved in influencing domestic American public opinion almost since its inception in 1948. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hoover long had a friendly and very effective relationship with the media but the CIA seized upon Hoover’s idea and made it their very own.
Through their efforts, many major American newspapers, and early television stations, were developed as CIA-responsive entities. In return for valuable news information, the media was expected to support international policies of the CIA, protect its interests by not reporting certain matters and, most especially, to attack individuals and organizations that were felt to either be hostile or potential impediments to CIA policies. These policies were initially foreign in nature but later, under the Nixon administration, expanded to cover domestic issues as well.
The Cold War was, in essence, not an ideological war between capitalism as represented by the United States and communism as represented by Soviet Russia. It was in reality a trade war between the two countries and in America, the CIA was in close connection with, and heavily influenced by, American commercial interests. Many top CIA officials had the closest economic and social connections with the business leadership of the United States and more often than not, acted as their enforcing arm in international matters. Governments hostile to American business interests were undermined and overthrown by CIA operatives by misrepresenting the aims of these foreign governments to the President and Congress.
While one element of the CIA had put Fidel Castro in power in Cuba (because Batista was considered unacceptable to several major American business concerns) another branch sought to remove him because he had, among other acts, nationalized the nickel industry (owned by American interests) and the lucrative casinos. The latter were owned and operated by the American Mafia who also had strong connections with the CIA. When Guzman in Guatemala tried to nationalize United Fruit holdings in that country, the CIA forced his ouster and replacement by a CIA informant, Arbanez.
In addition to foreign policy matters, the public resistance to the war in Vietnam was of great concern to not only the Johnson White House but also to the CIA. The US had initially entered that area at the request of the withdrawing French because the vast and very profitable rubber plantations in Vietnam were being threatened with seizure. CIA units under William Colby were brought into Vietnam for the express purpose of removing any anti-American elements from South Vietnam while American military units were detailed to put down the guerrilla activities of the North Vietnamese Viet Cong.
This “civil pacification” program was called “Operation Phoenix,” and was run by Colby with the aid of South Vietnamese police and security forces, supported by US Special Forces. This program, which failed in its goals, unleashed a bloody terror that surpassed anything the Third Reich’s SS Combat Groups ever did in Eastern Europe.
The eventual failure of the Vietnam campaign and the resultant collapse of the liberal Johnson administration brought a very conservative Republican Nixon into power. This president was clearly determined to halt the growing anti-war, and by definition liberal, movement in the United States and to fully prosecute the policies of “aggressive containment” throughout the world.
Nixon and his administration viewed the American media as liberal and anti-conservative and during both his first and into his second terms, Nixon sought by every means, legal and otherwise, to break up anti government groups by using the FBI against them, to destroy their leadership by any means available and to bring the American media under control.
The CIA was involved in much of this, opening first class mail, electronically spying on many Americans in direct competition with the FBI and both agencies engaged in ferocious territorial wars. Too much of this manipulation became public, again through the medium of the press, and Nixon was eventually forced from office, the FBI and CIA publicly discredited and much of their power greatly curtailed.
As American conservatives regrouped after their defeat, they became firmly determined to both regain power and prevent the media from its perceived anti-governmental policies during the Vietnam struggle.
Out of the political ruins, Richard Nixon’s former Treasury Secretary William Simon was one of the leaders of a powerful movement to not only establish better control of what they viewed as a far left media but to set up various support organizations like think tanks and supportive private economic organizations that would fully support government policies, whatever they might be. From many wealthy individuals and corporations, millions of dollars were raised. In addition to open sources, even more money was obtained from dubious sources, such as the Reverend Moon and a number of Asian groups whose names never appear on any donors list, although a number of them are known to international law enforcement agencies involved with the interdiction of narcotics. The CIA first got into the drug business when they inherited a complete system from a former KMT General operating against the Communists in Burma. When the CIA discovered the incredible amounts of off-the-books money they could make running, and later refining, opium products, they took to the business like a duck takes to water. Much of this illegal money went back into the political coffers of whatever political organization that could best keep secure the CIA’s official position in whatever administration chanced to be in power.
As George H.W. Bush had been DCI in 1976, his elevation to Vice President under Reagan and later, to the Presidency itself was considered to be of great importance to the Republican/CIA axis of power and many ultra-conservative CIA agents were brought into both the Reagan and, especially, into the following Bush administration..Chief among these émigrés were Donald Gregg and Walter Raymond, Jr. who left the CIA and moved into the White House. After the promulgation of the National Security Decision Directive No. 77.Raymond, who had conducted what was euphemistically called “public awareness” for the CIA took over the duties of the Reagan “public diplomacy” section of the White House. A small army of professional “psywar” (or psychological warfare) experts from the CIA, the DIA and the NSA flooded into the White House to develop and firmly cement a strong, coordinated policy of complete media control. Their agents, acting under the highest authority, developed working relationships with mainstream book and newspaper publishers and the rapidly-amalgamating television industry. Blandishments were tried, followed by veiled threats and eventually, a strong network of massive American print and television media cooperation was secured.
During the Reagan-Bush administrations, powerful media controls were developed and successful tactics for the destruction of any opposition and the media support of any and all ultra-conservative ventures solidified.
With the unexpected loss of the White House to the liberal Clinton, the fury of the dispossessed Republicans knew no bounds and they renewed their plans for the discrediting of any liberal elements in American politics and the strengthening of the machinery needed to remain in what they hoped would be permanent power.
Determined to regain the White House and hopefully, control of both the Senate and the House, the Republicans, allied with fanatical Neocons and the equally fanatical Christian Right, launched a long and thoroughly vicious campaign against the liberal Democrat Clinton. This did not result in his being removed from office as his enemies devoutly prayed but gave the political very far right the foundation for the next campaign. George W. Bush, a political cipher, was chosen as their candidate because it was well known that he was easily controlled and with his nomination, the state was set for an unprecedented campaign of savagery and massive vote fraud. In all of this, the American media, attempting to avoid the stigma of liberalism, joined in the attacks and often spearheaded them.
In the 2000 Presidential campaign, an obedient media turned from savaging the liberal Clintons to an ugly campaign against Al Gore and this pattern of conservative viciousness started again in the 2004 campaign but as public perception of Bush’s gross and growing failures both in Iraq and the field of domestic economics grew, the media began to alter its stance. Presidents come and Presidents go but the media wishes to abide so allegiances shift. The business community, seeing Bush’s growing and deep unpopularity with a significant part of American consumers, now hedges its bets. No one likes to back a loser and CEOs are not idealists.
The Republican “informational message” machine, taking a leaf from the activities of Hitler’s brilliant Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels, became unrivaled in its ability to shape how a majority of Americans perceived events. All media is dependant for income from advertising revenues. With their unrivalled and powerful business connections, the Republicans have been easily able to use economic pressure against media entities that they viewed as uncertain. Also, most of the news in the United States does not come from local reporters but from the wire services. Firm control of the few remaining American news services guarantees that a newspaper in Keokuk, Iowa and Alviso, California receive the same news copy at the same time as the major papers and television stations. De facto Republican control of the wire services guarantees that a small paper without correspondents in Washington or Moscow are forced to take what is called “boilerplate” (fully controlled) news for their local papers and other media outlets.
.It is interesting to note that the public Internet has made great inroads into the once-exclusive domains of the American media and the public, obviously disbelieving and disillusioned about the accuracy and fairness of the media are turning more and more to the Internet as a source of news. There exists a great body of highly accurate, non-controlled and very informative news information available to the American public. This consists of hundreds of very reputable news sites but unfortunately, they are only available on the Internet. Among these are: The British Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, the French AFP, the Toronto Globe and Mail and many mid-East, Russian and Asian English-language daily news sites. Much of this uncensored and objective news is culled by various American news website operators and given to a public on a daily basis. Anyone who does not believe that the American media is a fully controlled entity need only look at foreign news sites to see what may be known by but is never reported in the American press. This growing trend is frightening to both the Republicans and their allies in the mainline media because it is free and the Internet sites are not responsive to pressure from any governmental agency or corporate advertising entity.
It is a sad commentary on the decline of the American media’s reportage when 65% of Americans between 18 and 25 openly acknowledge getting all of their news from the satiric John Stewart’s program. “The Daily Show” and not from the major networks.
Last updated 06/11/2004