An Open Letter to the Media – #Snowden and Latin America

Yves here. This letter from Chicago Public Media (hat tip martha r), signed by a number of prominent scholars and Latin American professionals, sets out to correct the record of the American media’s depiction of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela in their discussion of Edward Snowden’s situation. I hope our readers south of the border will be able to add to this discussion.

An Open Letter to the Media – Snowden and Latin America by Chicago Public Media

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  1. Mafer

    As an Ecuadoran, I am outraged that the US refuses to honor multiple extradition requests through Interpol for the convicted felons, Roberto and William Isaias.

    These fugitives embezzled from (and falsified the financial statements of) the erstwhile largest bank of Ecuador, Filanbanco. Their fraud cost taxpayers $8 billion in losses.

    Currently they are enjoying the fruits of their crimes in Miami, under the full protection of the US Government.

    1. YankeeFrank

      I’m sure these pigs have powerful US friends. The US is becoming a world pariah for its hypocrisy and disgustingly immoral actions. The only reason the US still has any influence on the world is its (waning) financial and military might.

      1. Banger

        I don’t think U.S. power is waning at all, nor is it’s influence thought that is true in Latin America–but in the rest of the world the Empire every day gains ground and become more robust–it is no longer strictly “American” but is now an international Empire made up of the global oligarchy and criminal class.

        1. Nathanael

          US power is most definitively waning. I don’t know if you were alive or paying attention during the 1980s or 1990s, but US power has been imploding since — well, since 2002, really. The invasion of Iraq was the “emperor has no clothes” moment, and everything the US government has done since then has added to that.

          The governments in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela would have been the targets for fascist coups under Reagan… and based on history, those would likely have succeeded. The US cannot actually pull that sort of stuff off consistently any more, despite Honduras and Paraguay.

          US power is waning. Unfortunately, it started at a very high level, so it will take a while to wane.. The power of the Roman Empire was waning by the time of Trajan, but it took a very, very long time to dwindle away.

    2. wombatpm

      Has your country considered a drone strike? I think all you need is a Presidential kill list and vague intelligence about terrorism. Due process and constitutional protections apply only within your borders.

    3. Dan Kervick

      The 21st century US has a tradition of granting immunity and asylum to criminal banksters – including our own. We’re like the Sicily of the money mafia.

      1. RBHoughton

        Your mention of Sicily caught my eye Dan.

        I see many similarities between USG polices today and Mussolini’s fascist policies in 1930s. Mussolini got his precedents from the mafia.

  2. YankeeFrank

    This is a great piece, thank you Yves for posting it. I am regularly involved in arguments with those who repeat the garbage spewed by WaPo and other US media outlets regarding the leftist government of South and Central America. Its frustrating because its hard to find counterfactuals.

    Most Americans are simply not ready to admit the scale of the propaganda that is spewed at them regularly.

    1. PaulArt

      Do most Americans know that they are consuming garbage when they are listening to even NPR? There is a saying about death in Sanskrit which goes, ‘they who have seen cannot talk about it and those who talk about it have not seen it’. In order to know about the garbage on NPR and WaPo and NYT and other media outlets, people need to get out and trawl the internet, avoid other garbage houses like HuffPo and Beast which pretend to be alternative ‘real’ media and then come to places like Naked Capitalism or Real News Network in order for them to know the kind of garbage they were consuming for news from the MSM. Those of us who are already here, never go back to the garbage or write letters to the editor starting, ‘do you have any clue….? Giving up NPR is a little like giving up smoking or drinking, you tend to flirt with it now and then with decreasing frequency.

      The other day I switched channels while driving – I usually convince myself that its ok to listen to NPR news at 3:00 PM coz BBC News at 3:00 PM on week days is among the last few good things on NPR (besides Prairie Home Companion)? I accidentally bumped into a news report deploying Senator Carl Levin’s rather large posterior. The item in question was being used by the Senator himself to lend protection to the Jackasses in Uniform in the Military who are pushing back against legislation that will remove the ‘Chain of Command’ from rape investigations. About 99% of the story was mostly the striated and quivering jelly like pockets of cellulite mightily striving to convince us how it was the ‘Chain of Command’ that took racism out of the military after the Civil Rights Act passage ergo we must allow the Chain of Command to do its work now with rape investigations blah blah blah. And then we got to the last 2% of the story for this tiny bit about Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill which throws the Generals en masse out of the picture becuase ‘they threaten people who come forward with eye witness reports of rape’. I thought to myself, nicely done. So, you see how consuming news and being well informed has become the preserve of the unfortunate few who are either very internet savvy, clever, lucky or all three. I came to NC purely because of the name – to a Marxist like myself it spelt ‘Catnip!’.

      1. Moneta

        In 2003, I started googling “US real estate bubble” once in a while. Nothing but 1980s junk would come up until one day, it caught some post from Ritholtz… from his site I found a few more.

      2. from Mexico

        PaulArt says:

        Do most Americans know that they are consuming garbage when they are listening to even NPR?

        You might be interested in Morris Berman’s comments here beginning at minute 1:15:10

        He tells the story of a group of Soviet commissars and aparichniks who came to the US and were gob smacked at how successful the US propaganda apparatus was at achieving such conformity of opinion.

        The US government propaganda apparatus and its seamless relationship with the MSM, however, may not deserve all the credit for this. Almost 200 years ago, Alex de Tocqueville had something to say about the phenomenon:

        I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. The majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

        –ALEX de TOCQUEVILLE, Democracy in America

        1. s

          The Soviets probably lament the fracas with organized religion, although, its been sorted at the end of the day… eh.

          skippy… propaganda apparatus toolbox envy methinks…

          1. from Mexico

            @ skippy

            When in The Power Principle the narrator asserts that Operation Mockingbird was “blatantly unconstitutional” or that it was “illegal” for Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to “propagandize citizens in this way,” it was that “fracas with organized religion” that laid the groundwork for this legal, moral and intellectual tradition.

            Theoretically speaking, there are two principles at work:

            1) The principle of separation of powers that was so influential in the writing of the U.S. Constitution: separation of the three branches of government, separation of federal from state government, and separation of the public sphere from the private sphere (state from religion), and

            2) The principle of the “rights of conscience,” a private sphere that is given by God and that cannot be denied by the state. (see Thomas E. Buckley, “The Political Theology of Thomas Jefferson”)

            As David Little explains:

            Jefferson and Madison presupposed a crucial distinction of longstanding significance in the Western Christian tradition between what was called the “internal forum,” or conscience, and the “external forum,” or civil government. Accordingly, human beings were believed to be subject to “two laws” and “two governments” – one an inner law of the spirit, enforced by reason and reflection of the mind and hear; and the other, an outer law, enforced, finally, by the magistrate’s sword.

            –DAVID LITTLE, “Religion and Civil Virtue in America”

            Thus Jefferson could write in The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom

            that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical…

            This principle was to resurface in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which with time was secularized to proscribe the US government from spending tax dollars to propagandize the American people, as Little goes on to explain:

            The distinction between an inner and an outer sphere of experience, between the religious and the moral dimension of life, so essential to a belief in free conscience and religious liberty, strikes me as indispensable to the whole idea of a liberal democratic order.

            Certain it is [writes Leo Pfeffer] that religious liberty is the progenitor of most other civil liberties. Out of the victory in the struggle for freedom of worship as one’s conscience dictates came victory in the struggle for freedom to print religious tracts [and, therefore, eventually freedom of the press]… [F]reedom to assemble politically can be traced to the struggle of freedom to assemble religiously. (Leo Pfeffer, Liberties of an American)

            If Williams, Jefferson, and Madison were correct, this connection is more than a historical accident. It is the result of a profound similarity between the very notion of a natural right – of a fundamental moral right – and the distinction between the inner and the outer life that Williams, Jefferson, and Madison assumed to be so important.

            For what is the idea of a fundamental moral right other than that every human being should be entitled to have protection against unwarranted outside interference or manipulation, especially of a coercive or an injurious sort? Such rights are supposed, in large measure, to guarantee and enforce an independent sphere of “personal operations” – an internal forum of conscious deliberation – that is conducted according to the “laws of mind and spirit,” rather than according to the “laws of fist and club.”

            The constitutional consequence for us as a people has been, of course, the development of a system of legally protected civil rights and liberties that only expands, as Leo Pfeffer suggests, the original right to free religious inquiry, exchange, assembly, and dissemination of ideas into our broader notions of free speech, free assembly, free press, and other freedoms. For Williams, Jefferson, and Madison, all these civil rights and liberties flow, finally, from the elemental right of free conscience, which, as Jefferson eloquently put it, “we have never submitted, we could not submit.”

            There is now a war being waged against this legal, moral, and intellectual tradition, with each successive imperial president escalating that war, to the point now that the tradition has all but been forgotten.

            1. Phrase

              Once again … thanks Yves, et al. and to ‘Mexico’ …
              “ There is now a war being waged against this legal, moral, and intellectual tradition, with each successive imperial president escalating that war, to the point now that the tradition has all but been forgotten. “
              I agree, … thank you for your very considered learned comments, and i look forward to watching the video you linked “ The Power Principle, Part II ” .
              I would agree that the literary, intellectual, academic ‘tradition has all but been forgotten’ for the general public in today’s media-centric world. A lot of that tradition today, was never generally the focus of public debate to begin with. … It is important to be reminded, thank you.
              Being a Canadian, … i am not able to comment from within the American mindset … further i will limit my comment to the recognized influence of the image-based global culture exerting alarming efficiency in being able to condition “manufactured consent” within the neoliberal consumer culture; … the terrain of the ‘battlefield’ has changed profoundly, as you would probably agree.
              … I do wish that the public debate could critically analyze such a tradition and then to deliberate public policy free from the monied captured control of legislators. … But, let us be pragmatists.
              Thinking of images, culture, and control, and living vicariously, … i am reminded of Jerry Mander’s comments about advertising in “Privatization of Consciousness”:
              … “Advertising is now literally everywhere, interrupting our lives at every turn, requiring that we deal with it. We walk through life as a kind of moving target; hawked at by media, hawked at by signs on the street —blinking, flowing, five stories high. Even clothes have ads on them, and we wear them proudly. Corporations have become like “community” for us. Steve Jobs was our guru. We mourn him as we once mourned Martin Luther King. What a transition.

              The situation has advanced to a capitalist utopia: a giant, nonstop global marketplace that carries itself into all our experiences. Life has become a process of constantly avoiding things that people are trying to sell us. Yet most people don’t complain.
              Why do we tolerate this? What right do advertisers have to treat us this way? When did we sell the rights to run pictures in our brains? …”

              “When did we sell the rights to run pictures in our brains?” … Indeed ! … I’ve just started to read Mander’s “The Capitalism Papers: Fatal Flaws of an Obsolete System”; … interesting !

              I guess a central question from the perspective of imaged-based culture would be how to strategically address the nature of our times such that our collective actions would be able to bring about a paradigm shift which would greatly reduce avoidable suffering and foster health.

              … Do the fundamental principles need to be conveyed by image-based symbols augmented by key-words ? … If the discussion is about freedom of information, should we not also, … concentrate on how to be more effective in communicating the desired message in today’s visual-media culture when contemplating such an enormous venture as gaining support for a paradigm shift ? … Is this change beyond ‘tweaks’ ?

              … But, you are right, without the ideas, messages are meaningless, unless its an advertisement !

              I realized this is inadequately articulated but … . with respect … and thanx … phrase

              1. Banger

                As Chris Hedges says of Canadians, you are where we were ten years ago and seem determined, frankly, to catch up to us. Nice post though.

        2. Inverness

          Morris Berman is wonderful to read when you have those “(Your typical)Americans are driving me crazy” moments. He is an ex-patriot in Mexico for whom leaving the USA was a necessary solution to the frustrations of dealing with rampant conformity and propaganda.

          My experiences in the States blew me away! What a lulled populace. I couldn’t believe the kinds of conversations I had. During union meetings (union meetings!), workers were afraid to speak openly because there was a “spy.” among us. Another employee says that we shoudn’t complain, the problems start with us. The speech was straight out of bloody Oprah, she could have trademarked it. Others blame the union for not doing anything for them. And who makes up the union, exactly?

          Organizing was tough, because everyone was afraid of everything. The land of being afraid of bosses and cops is more like it.

          1. Banger

            Well, exactly–fear in the U.S. is the first principle of life. It pervades everything and is at the root of our obsession with “security” both from the collective and individual point of view. Perfectly decent individuals will not question things because they fear losing their jobs even though, they probably wouldn’t if they spoke up. There are many very valuable employees who would not be fired but still worry about it.

            The “land of the free, home of the brave” is a sad thing to think about. Cowardice is considered a virtue in this country and is, in my view, the chief cause of the decline of the left in this country who still support Obama out of fear of the right. You cannot live by fear, you simply cannot it diminishes your spiritual life in the fullest meaning of the term and that is what we have done in the United States. This is one reason I prefer to live in the South which still honors some of the old virtues.

            What Americans need to understand is that this fear has been consciously engineered by the corporate state for nearly a century and turned a once relatively free country into a police state.

        3. Banger

          Much of what de Tocqueville wrote changed in the U.S. after his visit to the U.S. Whether the issue was slavery–surely, the Lincoln/Douglass debates were a sign of vigorus debate among the American people in the area of slavery, tariffs, the scope of government and even religion. During the period just prior to WWI we had a serious socialist movement in this country with large circulation magazines and a great leader in Eugene Debs. All that was destroyed by the government who used WWI to remove basic freedom of the press and of opinion which we have never completely regained except for a brief period between the mid-sixties and the early eighties and now alive on the internet in this past decade but nowhere else.

          I suggest, and I’ve lived in Europe, that in the United States there are people with highly diverse opinions but who are fearful of expressing them because, in many ways, we are one the most repressive society in the developed world because most of us are in a precarious economic position and have to be careful what we say and do. We also are the closest to a complete police state than we’ve ever been.

          The intellectual conformity right now is particularly focused on precisely those who listen to NPR–the upper-middle class professional class who already lost their spirits in grad school and learned to go along to get along and defer to the oligarchy always because even they are in a precarious position. The worst of it is that they actually believe they know what is going on when they are nearly as clueless as the Tea Party faithful.

          1. Inverness

            Well said.

            It’s NPR, and other respected outlets. This reminds me of what Goebbels said: “provide enough pluralism, and the masses will think you support diverse opinions.” The New Yorker, for example, has some good journalists, like Seymour Hersh and Jane Mayer, but also many who went along with the Iraq invasion like George Packer and David Resnick. And do I have to read another silly article by Jon Lee Anderson about Venezuela?

            Glenn Greenwald has the scrappy journalistic spirit that is supposed to keep power in check. He says during an interview, “… if you go and do any kind of investigative journalism and talk to whistleblowers, or talk to people who are dissenting or are otherwise engaged in activism against the government, or journalists who do that, you find this incredibly disturbing, intense climate of fear. Nobody will talk unless they’re using very sophisticated encryption technologies. So yeah, good little New Yorker writers who love Obama . . . you know, he’s right. For him it is abstract and conjectural. But for people who are engaged in actual critical thinking and opposition to those in power, surveillance is menacing. It intimidates people out of engaging in real dissent. That’s its principal danger.”

            1. Banger

              I still read the New Yorker but am almost at the point of cancelling my subscription. The editorial content is increasingly bad and getting worse. The latest editorial started with this notion that U.S. foreign policy is well-meaning blah, blah and keeps up the illusion that the goal of U.S. policy is benign and pro-democracy. This is simply false–U.S. policy has been consistently anti-democratic and pro-oligarch but if you read the New Yorker you are shielded from this fact–whereas decades ago they were publishing stories that showed the opposite was the case.

              Sometimes I feel utter despair at the state of the U.S. intelligentsia which has never been so self-deluded. It’s worse than in the 1950s. Perhaps its due to the decline of American universities, I just don’t know what has happened.

              1. Lambert Strether

                I gave up on The New Yorker in 2008 when Hendryk Herzberg drank the Obot Kool-Aid and turned into a cheerleader instead of an editor. Very sad, since I’d been reading it my entire life; my mother used to frame the covers and put them on the wall when she wanted a pretty picture; I still have one. It’s very sad. The horrible corrosion of public discourse since, say, 2000, has produced a lot of these small, cultural losses; NPR is another one. At some point, the cartoons and Garrison Keillor just aren’t enough any more.

                1. Timothy Y. Fong

                  I had stopped listening regularly to NPR, but tuned in the other night as I was getting ready for bed. NPR was broadcasting the “TED Radio Hour,” and the program profiled a guy who is trying to get people on the internet to translate books for free.

                  That’s right. For free. The presenters held the guy up as one of our new economy heroes, who sold not one, but TWO companies to Google. The guy mused about how awesome the space program was in the 60s, because it had around 100,000 people working towards a goal.

                  Our fearless entrepreneur mused that with the internet he could get millions working on one project. His proposal was to provide “free” language lessons in exchange for translating books. Presumably he would reap the actual dollar profits. But free language lessons! We should all feel so blessed that one of our betters would choose to provide us with free language lessons, in exchange for making him rich, again. Who needs money when they can get free language lessons.

                  Yes, working for free language lessons is so much like working for NASA with a salary, benefits, and a defined benefit pension. The breathless sycophancy of the presenter was too much for me, and I turned off my radio.

                  1. Banger

                    You might be interested in the work of Jarod Lanier who critiqued precisely this tendency in online culture. As for NPR, well, many of their reporters and producers are hoping to land jobs at Fox.

                2. Synopticist

                  Sadly the same thing is true here with the BBC.

                  It’s economic neo-liberalism all the way, but socially liberal. This is largelly the product of media as as a profession being conquered by the upper middle classes in the past couple of decades. They bring their class attitudes, but they’ve convinced themselves they’re not on the right because they’re not racist, and have lots of gay colleagues.

                  So they get criticised by the left for being rightwing on the economy, and the right for being leftwing, on things like immigration and they conclude that they must be absolutelly right in the middle, and therefore perfectly correct.

                  It hasn’t occured to them that their critics have both got a point.

                  Another factor, I have to say, is the prevalence of recreational cocaine use in the media. Long term drug use changes people’s personality.
                  The whole industry in saturated with coke, and it turns people in smug, innacurate bullshi*ters with a high tolerance for bullsh*t and a contempt for those outside their own alpha group. That leads to a lot of “screw the facts, here’s my personal view” type of analysis, and a certainty that the agenda they’re setting is the only one worth serious consideration.

                  1. Banger

                    Interesting. In the U.S., in contrast, the mainstream media types tend to be very straight-laced whereas the right-wingers tend to more into parties and hednonism. Perhaps because the American upper-middle class tend to be a bit puritanical–at least that was the case in the 80s and 90s when I knew people like that.

                  2. Glenn Condell

                    ‘Another factor, I have to say, is the prevalence of recreational cocaine use in the media. Long term drug use changes people’s personality. The whole industry in saturated with coke, and it turns people in smug, innacurate bullshi*ters with a high tolerance for bullsh*t and a contempt for those outside their own alpha group. That leads to a lot of “screw the facts, here’s my personal view” type of analysis, and a certainty that the agenda they’re setting is the only one worth serious consideration.’

                    Not just the media, surely.

                    It is notable that in this age of industrial strength phone hacking and TIA surveillance we haven’t seen much in the way of embarrassing revelations about bankers and hedgies or elite-friendly journos and pollies and bureaucrats either. Celebs and dead 13 year old girls, indeed everybody outside the ruling class and their praetorians in media and finance are fair game, but there is apparently ‘nothing to see’ there, in the conversations and communications of the architects of our condition – not just no smoking guns to prove corruption, but the drugs, the hookers, ‘the life’ in all it’s glory.

                    I suppose its a fair swap; elites get a waiver on the rule of law and we get a waiver on privacy.

                3. Banger

                  I go back to the days when Salinger was published in the New Yorker the sixties. Still, there is still some decent writing in the magazine but it is increasingly rare and only on subjects that are relatively non-controversial. I remember, a few years ago, one of those slow New Yorker stories about life in Syria going on peacefully and pleasantly despite the Iraqi refugees and instability elsewhere.

                4. barrisj

                  Totally agree, Lambert, on the slow but steady demise of the NYer…I mean, Dexter Filkins? Come now, please! Goopman is good on medical science, Mayer whenever she can get an item in, Hersh in semi-retirement (health issues?)…David Remnick? He tries, but, honestly.
                  Compare the current stable of writers to that of 15-20yrs ago, no comparison. Hendrik Hertzberg’s heart is in the right place…you know he used be New Republic Editor, right? And a Jimmy Carter speechwriter, right? And who WASN’T a “cheerleader” for the O-man back in 2008? I mean, coming after Cheney-Bush, up against McCain-Palin? Are you serious?

                  1. Lambert Strether

                    I have to confess I like Sasha Frere-Jones, and Adam Gopnik when he wrote about France. But the great days are gone.

                    As far as whether being a TNR editor is a sign of having one’s heart in the right place, hardly, unless your an Andrew Sullivan fan, of course. And as for cheerleadering, (a) I’m not into pom pom waving, and to answer your question (b) a (slight) majority of all Democratic primary voters, among others. Anyhow, I gave up my lukewarm support for Obama when he flip flopped on FISA reform in July 2008. The upside was that I had a lot of fun following the financial crisis when Lehman went belly up, instead of spending a year trashing Sarah Palin and wondering if Obama was truly a liberal at heart, like so many “progressives.”

          2. from Mexico

            @ Banger

            There are some historians who refuse to countenance the acceptance of US national mythology as being historically accurate, such as Eugen Weber:

            The Constitution replaced the old authority by a new one, the old Monarchical ruling class by a new republican ruling class resting on property and social distinction and eventually on heredity too as much as the old one had done. The big difference was that Americans could not admit the heredity and social distinction in which their society, like every other society, was based. And this created a gap between theory and practice… This tension would never be admitted, much less resolved. The fraud and the illusion necessary to conceal it became part of American history and of history itself. And it’s quite possible that without such great illusion and great deception too, no great nation can exist, at least not as a nation.

            #38, “The American Republic”

            1. Banger

              Indeed, self-deception is at the center of collective and individual ambition. But it does not have to be that way. At a certain point the contradictions demand a re-invention, usually in the form of a major paradigm change or things get increasingly stale and things begin to smeall.

      3. Moneta

        I think it is more obvious when you are not American. Here in Canada, women news anchors still mostly wear jackets and are typically from the boomer generation. Not to say they are not puppets but they are having more trouble hiding their lines of worry…

        So when I view a US news site and I have Ken and Barbie in front of me, a red light starts flashing.

      4. Dan Kervick

        I turn down the dial and switch channels all the time now, especially since NPR’s economic news has become relentlessly conservative.

        I still have to listen to NPR for news because there are no viable news alternatives within distance. But I wish someone would create a new network.

    2. aletheia33

      “it’s hard to find counterfactuals.”

      this is important. if you can’t read spanish, where do you go?

      and the history of each of these countries, the way each society has evolved, usually very differently from ours in the u.s. and dissonant in some ways to our long-conditioned assumptions, is complex and unique–and you have to know the background to begin to understand the current dynamics and how they are at play in, say, the recent protests in brazil.

      1. Bruno Marr

        Well, you can use Google translate (Spanish-English) to get a feel for South American news articles. (I know, there are several “spanish” lnaguages in S.America).

        But you can get a feel for the sentiment being expressed, even if NSA “Stellar Wind” gets translated into “silver Zephyr”. It’s useful practice, too. You may some day find yourself in S. America (after N. Amerika becomes unbearable).

  3. from Mexico

    The letter states:

    But in fact the “irony” that U.S. journalists mention is fantastically exaggerated. It is based on the notion that the governments of Venezuela under Chávez (and now Maduro) and Ecuador under Correa have clamped down on freedom of the press. Most consumers of the U.S. media unfortunately don’t know better, since they have not been to these countries and have not been able to see that the majority of media are overwhelmingly anti-government, and that it gets away with more than the U.S. media doeshere in criticizing the government.

    In some ways, however, the situation with the media in Latin America might be more healthy than it is in the US. At least in Latin America a strong oppositional relationship exists between the media and the government, and the Fourth Estate operates as an aggressive watch dog and counter-balance to the government (despite the fact the only other estate the Fourth Estate in Latin America seems inclined to hold accountable is the Third Estate, the estate made up of commoners).

    In the US, the MSM has become little more than a lap dog for the imperial presidency. The documentary film The Power Principle presents a short history of how this love affair between the US government and the MSM blossomed, which begins here at about minute 1:14:20:

    1. Banger

      Thanks for the link–that documentary should be required viewing for anyone who comments on U.S. foreign policy. If you don’t know the history you can’t comment on today’s scene.

    2. YankeeFrank

      I don’t really think it is more healthy though — the only reason the media in the leftist southern american nations are oppositional to government is because those governments are leftist. If the governments were still the standard right wing neoliberal US supported oligarchy the press wouldn’t be “oppositional” at all.

      1. from Mexico


        I made a mistake in my comment.

        In countries like Mexico, Chile and Columbia with right-wing neoliberal governments, the media and the governments operate in concert, just like in the US.

  4. D. Mathews

    There is a good research paper by professors Guillermo Mastrini and Martín Becerra, both from universities around the Buenos Aires area that purports to examine the Latin American media and how it has evolved over the last fifty years. Roughly translated, it is titled “50 Years of Media Concentration in Latin America: From The Artisanal Patriarchy to the Valorization in Scale.” You can download it in Word format from the internet in Spanish. Given my time limitations as far as summarizing it in English for you, I opted just to translate a couple of sentences from the conclusion for you here:
    If within the Latin American audiovisual market of the fifties and sixties, while still in its infancy, the influence of large North American chains was central even in terms of property relations, nowadays the major world groups possessing the greatest influence in the sector (almost all of which are groups whose main market is the USA) maintain their influence through the selling of content and technologies. [Nevertheless], the ownership of the most important multimedia groups in the Latin American region remains in the original local hands: such as Televisa (Mexico); Globo (Brazil); Cisneros (Venezuela) and Clarín (Argentina).

    1. Jim Haygood

      The government of Cristina Kirchner in Argentina has been working tirelessly to sabotage her critics in Clarín. A variety of methods have been used, including an attempt to force Clarín to divest other media-related assets such as its cable system. Argentine courts blocked this effort, so Kirchner then moved to intimidate the judicial system by taking tighter control over it.

      In a similar manner, Kirchner declared newsprint to be a strategic commodity. Its distribution is controlled by a government-owned monopoly. Opposition newspapers such as La Nación and Clarín not only find their supplies rationed, but also pay higher prices than pro-government newspapers such as Página 12.

      During Kirchner’s visit to Angola last year, a clownish government minister handed out socks embroidered with the legend ‘Clarín miente’ (Clarín lies) to Portuguese-speaking Angolan kids who didn’t have a clue what it meant. Photo:

      It’s entirely healthy that LatAm governments harshly criticize the U.S. for its gross excesses and illegalities. But the authors of the letter are naive in excusing heavy-handed tactics by LatAm governments against their critics.

      1. D. Mathews

        It’s hard to tell from Mastrini’s and Becerra’s research paper where their political affiliations lie. That is because it is an academic research paper, and a pretty authoritative one.

      2. Nathanael

        Given that Kirchner’s opposition were mostly supporters of the thuggish and murderous *Pinochet*, it becomes hard to be sympathetic to them. Or is Clarin the *left-wing* opposition?

  5. Banger

    It’s always good when scholars attempt to inject the truth into political discussions; on the other hand, there’s also something pathetic and sad about it.

    The U.S. mainstream media complains about freedom of the press elsewhere while being one of the most controlled and scripted media in the world. The range of acceptable opinion grows ever smaller even as the petty differences are amplified and distorted into weird feedback loops and teapot tempests.

    The propaganda and PR industry and contemporary journalism is one and the same. It appears that there is a virtual Central Committee that decrees the range of opinions allowed on any matter. On Latin America any regime that features regimes that seeks to raise up the poor is, by definition, a repressive regime. Castro, was always worse than Pinochet or the Argentinian junta just because he provided something for the poor. So Chavez, who unlike Castro, was elected election after election in elections more honest than our own was a dictator–simply because he, unlike prior regimes, provided benefits to the poor. Despite that his democratic cred–he was still considered a major enemy of the U.S. and, like Cuba, no positive story could be written about either country in the U.S. media. I have never seen one. And, mark you, I believe there are serious problems in Cuba and Venezuela as there are everywhere. But here in our wonderful USA, there is hunger and economic suffering to be sure but our main problem is the truth–we have very little of it in any area of life except maybe the blues.

    1. AbyNormal

      Amen Banger…so little Truth, so little Time.

      “It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it; but the young know they are wretched for they are full of the truthless ideal which have been instilled into them, and each time they come in contact with the real, they are bruised and wounded. It looks as if they were victims of a conspiracy; for the books they read, ideal by the necessity of selection, and the conversation of their elders, who look back upon the past through a rosy haze of forgetfulness, prepare them for an unreal life. They must discover for themselves that all they have read and all they have been told are lies, lies, lies; and each discovery is another nail driven into the body on the cross of life.”
      W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

      (America is oh so young!)

      “There’s something lyrical about an eternal truth. It’s a graceful riff. A free-flowing melody. Light and airy, it floats all around you. And when it lands on your ears, when you hear it for the first time, you instantly recognize it― because it’s like bumping into an ageless, best friend.”
      David Mutti Clark, Professor Brown Shoes Teaches the Blues

      1. Banger

        Well the truth I’m speaking of here is not ultimate but very relative to language and culture. What is “true” within the constraints of common culture. What we have today is a regime of lies–by lies I mean contradictions. If I say, for example, that I’m a follower of the Gospel’s and claim to follow that teaching and then I turn around and seek revenge for a wrong, or seek riches or do any of the things most Christians are doing I am going against what I claim to be the truth. If I were just a guy who made no claim to virtue then I would not be lying.

        My point is that if you take the fundamental truths we accept and then do the opposite, which is what our current leadership class does then they live a lie and are liars. If they were just straight out criminals in word and deed I would have less problem with that–in fact, I’ve known such people (criminals) fairly well and found them good company.

        As for Maugham (a big favorite of mine in high school), sure we tend to reject the teachings of our elders as a matter of refreshing and revitalizing the system and the civilization–but that’s not where we are now. We are way beyond that and we are no longer “young” but masters of the world–at least our ruling elites are. Our youth do not question old values so much as seek to find a away of ingratiating themselves to power–a radically different situation than the one my generation faced (late sixties)–of course, we failed miserably in what most of us set out to do as we went into narcissism, cocaine and sex and, later, money and that set up the current situation.

        1. AbyNormal

          oh. i should read with more care. appreciate your time with the deeper explanation.

  6. allcoppedout

    One of the great pleasures of an English summer is laid back, ironic cricket commentary – Sky TV with the sound off and BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra radio on. Sad to be paying Sky subscription, but adverts are evaded.
    Amazingly, this idyllic backcloth is probably more critical than our news coverage and media generally.

    When you look at the history of dissidents able to flee to Britain, Marx being the classic case, today’s situation is grim and farcical. No place for Snowden, Assange holed up in an embassy and no media I can think of saying anything worth listening to.

    We have perhaps become Americans with no navy, retaining competitive advantage only in games introduced to former colonies. We have 57 channels and nothing to watch unless you luck in on something late night with sub-titles like ‘The Pope’s Toilet’. There are no taverns worth the name and almost anything that can be done in public space costs and arm and a leg. I walk my dog in a public park with babbling brook maintained by volunteers and my local council.

    I don’t think we can blame the Americans. They continue the imperialism lauded in all history that is the problem and have been the best at it for a while. The truth is something we cannot bear – we have no idea why we are clinging to this rock and our best explanations from science suggest biological intelligence may have run its course and to leave the planet and reach for the stars we will probably have to give up our current form.

    We are not free anywhere because we are all tied to making a living – and this is where and how they discipline us to subservience and have for so long. We should be talking about what the planet can bear of our activity and organising ourselves and a fair basis to get this done, with proper consideration of the difficulties of population control (so we wouldn’t want to get rid of third world poverty and allow massive birth rates etc.) and resources use.

    Snowden is almost an irrelevance as a whistle-blower when we can’t even get basic action going to address our real problems – though I’d hide him in our spare room. Even Mexico remembering the ‘Soviet shock’ at the extent of the docile body in the West (and one could look to such as the Indian caste system) doesn’t cut to the chase. We just can’t get together and sort out what needs doing, beaten down by the day job or however we filch a living.

    I wonder whether our abilities in organising freak shows in sport is worth examining (at least Brazilians got on the streets to protest) in terms of how we can organise over trivia but not really on what matters. I find students at 18 generally want a better, fairer world, but know almost nothing about what really goes on. Neither did I at 18. One recent group knew nothing of the Rodney King beating and were genuinely shocked as google revealed the video. I’m glad the kids were appalled, but none of them got to the full history and analysis of this incident without a lot of help – and none had further incidents to compare – these are legion. They all thought this case an exception in a system that works well.

    Teenage (13 – 24) is peculiar to our species and I see no balanced information generally available in their lives, only crude forming to parochial interests and the chronic selfishness and desire to belong of this period. This remains a problem for all of us and is not specifically American. The enemy everywhere is the money system and it is very noticeable that Snowden has nothing to whistle-blow we could not have found out in academic literature, and no explanation of why this massive surveillance system is not able to lay bare the various money systems round the world. I suspect it has had a role and that is why banksters are getting off with large fines (to protect the information sources and techniques – an old chestnut).

    Full research details, including all information and freedom to investigate (which I’d have if I wanted to continue an old interest in epigenetic methylation) is denied us in very complex ways to render us dissident, needing to rely on ‘conspiracy’, ‘heresy’ (all turning to slurs against the Establishment),guesses or economic assumptions that stick us in the arena of equally powerful arguments that add to various paradigms and no conclusion. Even resolution of this would leave us with the problem that most people everywhere really aren’t fit to be jury members.

    Most Brits think Churchill was our finest leader. On balance I think he was an elitist, racist creep, possibly an early US mole and a bungling incompetent – note I said ‘balanced’ as the is always a ‘return of desire’. Most Yanks didn’t even know where Iraq was while we were at war there. When in conflict with Argentina the answer here was to ‘nuke Rio’. A Mexican is a disorganised Spaniard – and all the rest.

    The problem with resistance is it becomes Samizdat gossip (wonderfully funny), banal fly-posting as in German resistance against the Nazis or terrorist. The modern form is the blog. Leadership is immune – it has already ‘discounted’ all this as ‘nuisance’. And we are caught in some kind of niche market for would be ‘revolutionaries’ as surely as a teenager lusting cool through an i-Phone or logo jean uniform. Anyone know a blog using modern translation where we could talk without the oppression of English and stupid misconceptions that people who want freedom or at least the possibility of it for our kids, could start to provide services like education, news …

    1. Banger

      When the Cold War ended I was not as hopeful as others. First I knew that the West would find a new enemy and certainly that happened in rapid succession. But I also realized that the death of “communism” would lead to the continued right-wing ascendancy which, despite Reagan, was still not completely inevitable at that time because there would no longer be the rationale of the Cold War to seek economic justice to avoid a possible move towards social democracy.

      I also realized that the energy of the police state mentality would increase rather than decrease, as it did.

      What really surprised me however, was the utter defeat of the left in the developed world–not just in the power centers but in the intelligentsia. I’m stunned by this lack of dissent in academic circles. It’s good to see it crop up occasionally as in the article cited above.

      1. Synopticist

        “What really surprised me however, was the utter defeat of the left in the developed world…”

        The thing is, until the wheels fell off, it looked as if the third way, Clinton/Blairite thing was working, at least if you didn’t pay too much attention to inequality.

        That’s why we should be so pissed off with both the Eurocrat central bankers and Obama-they carried right on with those policies when it was obvious that it WASN’T working.

          1. Synopticist

            Well, for a few years it looked like getting bankers taxes to pay for a social-democratic state was a viable strategy. There was a lot of much needed public investment for a few years in the UK.

            There’s a fundamental difference between advocating a course of action when it looks moderatelly succesful, and advocating that same course when it’s a transparent failure.

        1. Inverness

          No — Clinton and Blair were both pseudo-progressives who were actually neo-cons. Clinton hired Alan Greenspan, whose literal hero is Ayn Rand, and deregulated everything. Blair is labor in name only.

      2. F. Beard

        What really surprised me however, was the utter defeat of the left in the developed world–not just in the power centers but in the intelligentsia. Banger

        Because the Left is lame, is why! (See Beefy for example.)

    2. Synopticist

      Yes, I agree with most of that.
      What I find the most worrying aspect of the political ignorance of younger people is the decline in the standards of the MSM. Guys like us are old and well informed enough to read between the lines, and we’re able to discriminate between good sources of news and bad, even if they appear sometimes in the same places.

      A lot of people, realising that they’re being fed sh*t from the corporate media, retreat to things like Voltairenet or prisonplanet, and end up even more ignorant than if they’d stuck to the BBC.

      1. Banger

        Many academics have been telling me for years that there has been a dramatic decrease in the ability of modern college students in critical thinking skills–they actually don’t get it–if they “feel” something is right it’s just right and they do not grasp that they must make an argument. That is why they are content with just regurgitating what they’ve heard and can’t seem to think for themselves–this is certainly not true of all kids but most kids.

        1. Inverness

          College and high school students seem to lack patience, and I suspect the internet plays a role in this. To develop an oral or written argument demands sustained attention, and young people have grown up online, and cannot reference a time before it was so easy to switch from website to text message.

          There is so much more information, but much of it is quite superficial, and many of us have less patience to parse through it.

          1. Moneta

            Knowledgeable individuals are often ambivalent while less knowledgeable ones are often more categorical.

            Our society is one that promotes short-termism, assertiveness and flying by the seat of one’s pants…so why would the kids want to waste time learning more stuff and thinking?

          2. Nathanael

            Critical thinking isn’t *taught*. It used to be taught in schools, which meant that the minority of the population who made it through school knew how to do it.

            Now, it isn’t taught at all — the right-wingers made an aggressive effort to prevent critical thinking from being taught.

            Critical thinking isn’t something most people do instinctively. It has to be taught.

          3. Nathanael

            FWIW, I think there’s a LOT more patience in the “online generation” than there was in the “TV generations”. Don’t fall into the mistake of criticizing the youth.

            Evidence from studies is that the kids are alright. The problem is not the kids, it’s the next several generations older.

        2. Moneta

          Your brain makes all the connections and feeds you an answer which gets pushed out to the conscious. You know you are right by feeling it.

          Of course, if you have all the wrong data stored in your brain, you can still feel right even when you are wrong. Garbage in, garbage out.

          IMO, we have way more decisions to make in our lives than previous generations did. And these decisions require a lot more knowledge which I am not convinced our education system is providing.

  7. Steve in Dallas

    I’m still desperately waiting for William Black to redirect the terribly-off-course WikiLeaks debate.

    Just because ‘whistle-blowers’ are now forced to go to the ‘media’ (and therefore, the ‘public’), as opposed to the previously well-established expert/professional/effective/life-long ‘government regulators’, does NOT mean that the media can do all the necessary functions the regulators used to perform. We need the regulators back… MUCH more than WikiLeaks. Arguing whether or not the media can protect the public from ‘criminals’ is just stupid (e.g. after proving to the public something bad is happening, then what does the public do with this knowledge?).

    Please Yves send a letter to Dr. Black and lobby for him to remove this ridiculous confusion from the debate. It will be amazing how Dr. Blacks perspective will totally change the context and quality of the debate. He would shift the focus to ‘restoring regulation’ (an obvious function of government) and away from ‘trusting WikiLeaks’ to occomodate the needs of whistle-blowers. Also, the severe damage to the media industry that the WikiLeaks debate is causing would be significantly alleviated.

    Seriously Yves, this is a perfect issue for you and Dr. Black to resolve.

  8. Steve in Dallas

    These good people will now be savagely attacked by the establishment. It’s hard to even imagine the magnitude of the global power and resources arrayed against them. Cheney and Hilary’s phones will start ringing and they’ll all fume and strategize. How could these good people not be frightened for their jobs and careers? They are truly doing a ‘Snowden’!!! They’re speaking truth to power!!!

    Thank you so very much… you ARE truly inspirational.

    Just some thoughts…

    The only hope will be to face the money power with people power, bottom-up. Take back control of the academic institutions. Organize all the local professionals and first prevent the totally corrupt administrators from continuing to collude the with mafia bankers (e.g. investigate and expose their criminality… and then physically stop the ‘private jet’ meetings ASAP). Then replace the corrupt administrations with much fewer people at much lower pay, subordinated to the faculty. The banker’s cancerous debts must then be purged. Stop the new buildings and research centers. The massive overbuilding with debt (cranes and construction everywhere… for decades now) has got to stop. Clean up the financial books… force the investors to take the losses… all the losses… NOW. Tuition will promptly correct downward and there’ll suddenly be a real environment for teaching again. (And to imagine that Larry Summers could be the next Fed Chairman? Yikes!).

  9. Waking Up

    BRAVO, to these professors (primarily) for speaking out!!
    Too bad there aren’t thousands upon thousands in academia who will speak the truth the way these professors have. BRAVO!!

  10. allcoppedout

    Most and students don’t have research skills Banger and most academics with them don’t teach much. Courses have now been designed to promote textbook teaching, often with tutors who haven’t read much more or seen the irrelevance of such to working life. Species of Marxism were often taught in a highly abstract and elite manner. Even some smart students complain critique is too dangerous because most lecturers who say they are looking for it don’t want it.
    Few lecturers realise the textbooks are hopeless and most kids need to unlearn school routines and work out their own questioning abilities. Good lecturers have left in droves as the worst practices have burgeoned and standards collapsed. It’s not about a lack of left teaching – dogma is just dogma. It’s more a death of education as an aim in itself.

  11. RBHoughton

    The lesson I have learned, from a long life trying to understand what is really going on, is this:

    The national press of every Anglosphere country misrepresents its own national news. If you are interesting in, say, USA, read the news published in Germany or Russia about USA.

    Nowadays, the digital revolution has created several online sites that are more reliable than MSM so it seems to be getting better but always take care and constantly evaluate.

  12. Jeff N

    wow, Chicago Public Media speaks the truth for once. Yesterday they had a garbage news story interviewing the Caterpillar CEO… who was begging for more Indian tech workers, because “there are no available tech workers in the US”. (SMH)

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