Saturday, August 26, 2023

Another Day, Another CIA Press Release Disguised As News

By Caitlin Johnstone - August 26, 2023 at 10:04AM


CNN has a new article out titled “Newly declassified US intel claims Russia is laundering propaganda through unwitting Westerners,” and it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect if you’ve been critically observing the western mass media over the last several years. An anonymous source making vague and unevidenced claims of an unverifiable nature about a longtime target of the US intelligence cartel, based solely on information provided by that same intelligence cartel.

CNN’s Kate Bo Lillis reports:
US intelligence agencies believe that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) is attempting to influence public policy and public opinion in the West by directing Russian civilians to build relationships with influential US and Western individuals and then disseminate narratives that support Kremlin objectives, obscuring the FSB’s role through layers of ostensibly independent actors.

‘These influence operations are designed to be deliberately small scale, the overall goal being US [and] Western persons presenting these ideas, seemingly organic,’ a US official authorized to discuss the material told CNN. ‘The co-optee influence operations are built primarily on personal relationships … they build trust with them and then they can leverage that to covertly push the FSB’s agenda.’
“But the official stressed that the Western voices that eventually became mouthpieces for Russian propaganda were almost certainly unaware of the role they were playing,” CNN adds.
As usual, there is no way to prove or disprove these extremely vague claims about “small scale” actions supposedly being orchestrated by a foreign intelligence agency to create mouthpieces for Russian propaganda who don’t know they’re mouthpieces for Russian propaganda. We’re meant to simply take the word of an anonymous US official citing unsubstantiated assertions by US intelligence agencies.

And it brings up a few questions.

Firstly, what precisely are we meant to do with this very vague information about this very broad supposed trend? It kind of seems like we’re meant to just generally feel more paranoid and suspicious about anyone who isn’t toeing the official western line on issues pertaining to Russia. Whose interests would that serve? Would it perhaps serve the information interests of the US empire, which the US intelligence cartel exists to promote?

Secondly, if the US intelligence cartel believes this very broad, vague threat exists, why not just tell us themselves? Why not just issue some public statements from named officials, instead of funneling it through the news media disguised as a news story? What a weird charade.

Third, and related to the second, why is CNN publishing a CIA press release and disguising it as a news story? “US intelligence agencies believe Russia is up to some shady shenanigans” is not a news story. It’s not a journalist’s job to report how the US intelligence cartel says its feelings feel about things, it’s a journalist’s job to report hard facts based on hard evidence. That’s what news reporting is. Saying the US intelligence cartel feels we should be more paranoid and suspicious about very subtle Russian influence concealed by layers of ostensibly independent actors and people who don’t know they’re actually Russian mouthpieces is just publishing state propaganda.
Fourth, and related to the third, would it not be more efficient and cost-effective at this point to simply publish all news media reporting directly out of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia? Why waste money paying stenographers like CNN’s Kate Bo Lillis to write CIA press releases dressed up as news reporting when you can just cut out the middleman and let the CIA spooks author and publish them by themselves? As an added bonus this would bring a lot more clarity to the situation and greatly improve media literacy, because westerners would no longer suffer from the delusion that they are reading actual news reporting from actual journalistic outlets.

Fifth, and related to the fourth, is it not funny how the western media pour so much more energy into reporting on Russian propaganda and influence operations than on western propaganda and influence operations, even though western propaganda and influence operations dwarf Russian ones by many orders of magnitude in terms of manipulating the way westerners think about the world? Almost as though that’s something the western media would prefer people didn’t think too hard about?

One of the craziest things happening in our world today is how westerners are being trained to overlook the massive amounts of western propaganda they’re inundated with day in and day out and focus instead on “Russian propaganda”, which has no meaningful existence in the west. In 2017 before RT was shut down in the UK, it accounted for 0.04 percent of the UK’s total TV audience. A New York University study published earlier this year found that the supposed Russian Twitter influence campaign ahead of the 2016 election which dominated headlines for years had had “no measurable impact in changing minds or influencing voter behavior”. An earlier study found that suspected Russian accounts showing up in Facebook’s news feed during that time amounted to “approximately 1 out of 23,000 pieces of content.” A study by Adelaide University found that despite headline after headline warning us about a massive wave of Russian bots manipulating online discourse after the invasion of Ukraine began last year, the overwhelming majority of fake accounts they examined (more than 90 percent) were pro-Ukraine accounts.

Contrast this microscopic smattering of influence with the fact that westerners are continually getting their news reporting from western propaganda outlets which openly publish CIA press releases disguised as news on a regular basis. These people are absolutely telling us the truth when they say we’re under constant bombardment by propaganda and influence operations — they’re just lying about who’s really doing it to us.

Reprinted with permission from Caitlin's Newsletter.
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