Bringing in-depth reporting of crime and corruption in high places
SUBVERTING THE MEDIA
discussing the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Dan Rather, the well-loved
anchorman for CBS Television, described the now famous Zapruder film
that captured footage of the shot which killed President John F. Kennedy.
The movie, taken by amateur cameraman, Abraham Zapruder, was quickly
snapped-up by Life magazine for $250,000.00. Although Life published still frames of the movie, the 18 second
film was kept under lock and key – not to be seen by Americans until
Rather’s remarks were misleading.
He told his viewers that the film showed JFK falling forward
– confirming the official view that Kennedy had been shot from behind.
However, the film clearly showed Kennedy lurching violently backwards,
evidence of a frontal shot. To
add to the confusion, the Warren Commission report printed two frames
of the film in reverse – again implying a rear shot - an accident the
FBI typified as a “printing error.”
still pictures lifted from the Zapruder film were also published by
Life magazine. Remarkably,
they too were published in reverse order, thereby creating the impression
that the President had been shot from behind by lone gunman Lee Harvey
Oswald. Until the film
was shown to Americans in its entirity, no one was the wiser. Following the broadcast in 1975, a massive controversy followed
giving rise to ongoing allegations of conspiracy.
Zapruder film clearly showed President Kennedy had also been shot from
the front. The result immeasurably
strengthened the charge -
that had been bubbling in the background – that the President had been
assassinated as a result of a well orchestrated conspiracy, and that
this was covered-up to protect the guilty, who many now believe involved
senior figures in the CIA and US military.
Not least it was pointed out that Henry Luce, the founder of
Life magazine was a close personal friend of Allen Dulles, the Director
of the CIA. Moreover, the
individual who purchased the Zapruder film for Life magazine was C.J.
Jackson, formerly a “psychological warfare” consultant to the President.
these events were to lead to accusations that the media were culpable
of the worst form of toadying and propaganda.
This, in turn raised serious questions about the role and integrity
of the mass media. Some
years later, Washington Post reporter, Carl Bernstein – who came to
fame with his colleague Bob Woodward, for their expose of the Nixon
administration’s illegal re-election campaign activities, known as “Watergate”
– dropped a media bombshell on an unsuspecting America.
an October 1977, article published by Rolling Stone magazine, Bernstein
reported that more than 400 American journalists worked for the CIA.
Bernstein went on to reveal that this cozy arrangement had covered
the preceding 25 years. Sources
told Bernstein that the New York Times, America’s most respected newspaper
at the time, was one of the CIA’s closest media collaborators.
Seeking to spread the blame, the New York Times published an
article in December 1977, revealing that “more than eight hundred news
and public information organisations and individuals,” had participated
in the CIA’s covert subversion of the media.
journalist is worth twenty agents,” a high-level source told Bernstein.
Spies were trained as journalists and then later infiltrated
– often with the publishers consent - into the most prestigious media
outlets in America, including the New York Times and Time Magazine. Likewise, numerous reputable journalists underwent training
in various aspects of “spook-craft” by the CIA.
This included techniques as varied as secret writing, surveillance
and other spy crafts.
subversion operation was orchestrated by Frank Wisner, an old CIA hand
who’s clandestine activities dated back to WW11.
Wisner’s media manipulation programme became known as the “Wisner
Wurlitzer,” and proved an effective technique for sending journalists
overseas to spy for the CIA. Of
the fifty plus overseas news proprietary’s owned by the CIA were The
Rome Daily American, The Manilla Times and the Bangkok Post.
according to some experts, there was another profound reason for the
CIA’s close relations with the media.
In his book, “Virtual Government,” author Alex Constantine goes
to some lengths to explore the birth and spread of Operation Mockingbird.
This, Constantine explains, was a CIA project designed to influence
the major media for domestic propaganda purposes.
One of the most important “assets” used by the CIA’s Frank Wisner
was Philip Graham, publisher of the Washington Post.
A decade later both Wisner and Graham committed suicide – leading
some to question the exact nature of their deaths.
More recently doubts have been cast on Wisner’s suicide verdict
by some observers who believed him to have been a Soviet agent.
however, Wisner had “implemented his plan and owned respected members
of the New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communication vehicles,
plus stringers…” according to Deborah Davis in her biography of Katharine
Graham – wife of Philip Graham - and current publisher of the Washington
Post. The operation was
overseen by Allen Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence.
Operation Mockingbird continued to flourish with CIA agents boasting
at having “important assets” inside every major news outlet in the country.”
The list included such luminaries of the US media as Henry Luce,
publisher of Time Magazine, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, of the New York
Times and C.D. Jackson of Fortune Magazine, according to Constantine.
there was another aspect to Mockingbird, Constantine reveals in an Internet
essay. Citing historian
C. Vann Woodward’s New York Times article of 1987, Ronald Reagan, later
to become President of the US, was a FBI snitch earlier in his life.
This dated back to the time when Reagan was President of the
Actor’s Guild. Woodward says that Reagan “fed the names of suspect people
in his organisation to the FBI secretly and regularly enough to be assigned
an informer’s code number, T.10.”
The purpose was to purge the film industry of “subversives.”
these stories hit the news, Senate investigators began to probe the
CIA sponsored manipulation of the media – the “Fourth Estate” that supposedly
was dedicated to acting as a check and balance on the excesses of the
executive. This investigation
was, however, curtailed at the insistence of Central Intelligence Agency
Directors, William Colby and George Bush – who would later be elected
US President. The information
gathered by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee chaired by Senator
Frank Church, was “deliberately buried” Bernstein reported.
this suppression of evidence, information leaked out that revealed the
willing role of media executives to subvert their own industry.
“Let’s not pick on some reporters,” CIA Director William Colby
stated during an interview. “Let’s
go to the managements. They
were witting.” Bernstein
concluded that “America’s leading publishers allowed themselves and
their news services to become handmaidens to the intelligence services.”
Of the household names that went along with this arrangement
were: Columbia Broadcasting System, Copley News Service – which gave
the CIA confidential information on antiwar and black protestors – ABC
TV, NBC, Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Newsweek,
Time, Scripps-Howard, Hearst Newspapers and the Miami Herald.
Bernstein additionally stated that the two most bullish media
outlets to co-operate were the new York Times and CBS Television.
The New York Times even went so far as to submit stories to Allen
Dulles and his replacement, John McCone, to vet and approve before publication.
the role of Mockingbird in muzzling and manipulating the press began
to be revealed. In 1974,
two former CIA agents, Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks, published
a sensational book entitled “The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence.”
The book caused uproar for the many revelations it contained.
Included amongst them was the fact that the, until then, widely
respected Encounter magazine
was indirectly funded by the CIA.
The vehicle used to covertly transfer funds to Encounter and
many other publications, was the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF)–
a CIA front. A decade earlier,
in 1965, the CCF was renamed Forum World Features (FWF) and purchased
by Kern House Enterprises, under the direction of John Hay Whitney,
publisher of the International Herald Tribune and former US Ambassador
to the United Kingdom.
Chairman of Forum World Features was Brian Crozier, who resigned his
position shortly before the explosive book went on sale.
Crozier, a former “Economist” journalist, was a “contact” of
Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6).
His employment to head up the CIA financed Forum World Features
in 1965, caused a row with MI6 who felt the CIA had breached the secret
agreement between the UK and USA by recruiting one of their own assets.
media style was more discrete than Mockingbird.
He preferred, when possible, to insert his pre-spun propaganda
stories to unwitting members of the media, who would reprint them unaware
of the bias they contained.
In time, Crozier would go on to head up a shadowy anti subversive
and dirty tricks group called the “61,” that sought to counter communist
propaganda. Another group
of which he was a member was the Pinay Cercle – a right wing Atlanticist
group funded by the CIA - that claimed credit for getting Margaret Thatcher
elected as British Prime Minister.
propaganda operation, run from Lisburn barracks in Northern Ireland,
and under nominal British Army control, participated in extensive media
manipulation around the same time.
Known as “Clockwork Orange” this involved the construction of
propaganda material designed to discredit prominent members of the then
Labour government as well as some in the Conservative shadow cabinet.
Especially targeted was then Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
Clockwork Orange relied heavily on forged documents that would
be given to selected journalists for publication.
Many of these forgeries sought to demonstrate secret communist
ties – or east bloc intelligence affiliations – amongst high profile
aim was to destabilise Wilson and the Labour government by falsely showing
them to be soft on communism or even pro communist.
This operation clearly favoured a right wing Conservative administration
under the leadership of Mrs. Thatcher.
In the event, Wilson resigned, said to have been sickened by
the numerous personal snipe attacks against him.
During the time he was under siege, Wilson experienced numerous
break ins at his office, as well as having his phone lines tapped -courtesy
of unnamed officials in the security service, it is believed.
By 1979 the Conservative party was returned to power.
with the demise of the cold war the motive for media propaganda has
collapsed. Or has it?
James Lilly, former Director of Operations at the CIA later became
Director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute – a think
tank heavily staffed by former intelligence types.
Lilly, in giving testimony to a Senate committee during 1996
observed: “Journalists, I think, you don’t recruit them.
We can’t do that. They’ve
told us not to do that. But
you certainly sit down with your
journalists, and I’ve done this and the Station Chief has done it, others
have done it…”
even as the cold war rationale for subverting the media recedes into
the distance, press manipulation continues anon.
A classified CIA report surfaced in 1992, that revealed the Agency’s
public affairs office “… has relationships with reporters from every
major wire service, newspaper, news weekly, and television network in
the nation.” The report
added that the benefits of these continued contacts had been fruitful
to the CIA by turning “Intelligence failure stories into intelligence
success stories…” Basking
in a glow of self satisfaction, the report continued “In many cases,
we have persuaded reporters to postpone, change, hold or even scrap
stories that could have adversely affected national security interests.”
the last word goes to Noam Chomsky.
A Professor of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, Chomsky has extensively investigated the role of today’s
media. His analysis is
un-nerving. The democratic
postulate, Chomsky says, “is that the media are independent and committed
to discovering and reporting the truth…”
Despite this axiom, Chomsky finds that the media supports “established
power” and is “responsive to the needs of government and major power
groups.” He additionally
argues that the media is a mechanism for pervasive “thought control”
of elite interests and that ordinary citizens need to “undertake a course
of intellectual self-defence to protect themselves from manipulation
and control…” The covert
role of the media has now apparently shifted its focus.
One time expediter of the “cold war,” it now clamours for the
extension of “corporate power.”
the CIA behind Thatcher’s election?
Crozier’s protege was Robert Moss – a speech writer for Margaret Thatcher.
It was Moss who wrote Thatcher’s now famous speech “The Sovietization
of Britain” that resulted in her being nick-named the “Iron Lady.” It was Thatcher’s strident anti-communism and laissez faire
free market economic policies that made her so attractive to powerful
right wingers in the Conservative party, and ensured her election as
Conservative leader. Moss,
received much of his inspiration from Cord Meyer, Jr., the London CIA
Station Chief -and long time expert in covert operations.
Additional input to Moss came from the CIA’s Miles Copeland,
formerly the head of the CIA’s “Gaming Room” in Langley, Virginia.
The Gaming Room was used to simulate covert actions prior to
them being acted out for real.
of Professor Noam Chomsky
Profile of Professor Noam Chomsky
of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Noam Chomsky
is an internationally acclaimed, scholar, writer and political activist
who has extensively scrutinised the thorny subject of media manipulation
by elite and corporate interests.
His books “Necessary Illusions – Thought Control in Democratic
Societies,” and “Manufacturing Consent,” co-authored with Edward Herman,
are considered classics on the subject.
Chomsky argues that the role of money and elite interests continue
to undermine a meaningful society.
Professor Chomsky’s views will be expounded more fully in an
exclusive interview to be published in a forthcoming issue of The X
The CIA use of the media to undermine Chile
his expose of the CIA’s subversion of the media, reporter Carl Bernstein
outlined how Chile’s socialist Prime Minister, Salvador Allende, was
brought to ruin by a CIA sponsored media campaign.
According to Bernstein, one of the Agency’s most valuable media
“assets” was Hal Hendrix, the Miami News Latin American correspondent
during the 1960’s. Hendrix,
who was known as “The Spook” by his colleagues, was at the forefront
of a CIA sponsoered anti Allende media campaign.
Other reporters sympathetic to the CIA’s strategy, funnelled
Agency funds to Allende’s political foes, as well as writing anti Allende
propaganda for CIA controlled newspapers.
The entire “get Allende” campaign was orchestrated by the Nixon
White House which was under pressure from major US corporations like
Coca Cola and IT&T to “keep Allende from taking power.”
and corporate suppression of the news
Noam Chomsky, and his co-author Edward Herman, in their book “Manufacturing
Consent,” have gone to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate how media
censorship operates. Self
censorship, the authors maintain, largely results from a set of “filters”
inculcated into the very heart of journalism, that Chomsky and Herman
call the “Propaganda model.” The
first of these “filters” the authors maintain, arises from corporate
ownership primarily resulting in the mass media being beholden to “profit
orientation.” The argument
is that the largest media enterprises are now owned not just by one
or two corporate entities, but by dozens of them – via cross-ownership.
Consequently, a given media outlet is less likely to bite the
hand that owns it.
authors go on to cite a number of additional filters that operate behind
the scenes. These range
from the power of advertisers through to the role played by powerful
pressure groups – for example the military – who work hard to “shape”
information in a favourable light.
This is a clear example and one that defence correspondents are
all too aware of. The Pentagon
can be a great aid to a defence journalist providing inside information
and other access. But this
sort of co-operation and access is dependent on the angle or “spin”
that will appear in the resulting story.
In other words the article must meet with their approval.
If, on the other hand, the story attacks the military, co-operation
is quickly pulled. Other
powerful pressure groups operate in a similar fashion.
These include, for example, the arms, oil, pharmaceutical, farmers
and brewing industries.
barely any story reaches the media that hasn’t been artfully packaged
by Public Relations guru’s - retained for their ability to slant stories
in favour of their clients interests.
Television news regularly air news items that use pre-shot footage
supplied by corporate film wizards.
In the past, the fag-smoking, booze-guzzling archetypal reporter
trudged the streets tracking down a front-page story.
Today, however, the media hound merely cuts and pastes the contents
of a freebie, pre-spun “Press Pack” – directly to his computer Desk
Top Publishing programme. In
short, investigative journalism has been replaced by a clubby merry
go round of money spinning splutter that regales the reader with carefully
wrought stories fronting as news items.
do the media cover seriously controversial subjects.
During the heady days of the Scott enquiry, few stories appeared
that looked at the financing of weapons to Iraq and Iran.
A few journalists knew this was a major aspect of the arms to
Iraq affair, but how many newspapers revealed which British banks had
been up to their neck in weapons financing?
Corporate money has massive clout and if you want to stay in
business, as a journalist, you don’t rock the boat.
By any measure this is self censorship.
most journalists and they will chuckle and say it is not. Sure, some stories are “spiked” – that is the nature of journalism.
Spiked stories generally result from legal reasons and constraints,
media professionals will tell you, but rarely result from direct action
to suppress stories that the public should learn about. Occasionally, a newspaper proprietor may step in a kill a story
for their own reasons. These
just as often end-up in the pages of Private Eye, so little advantage
ultimately accrues. At
least that is the rationale.
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