“Disinformation.” Just the crazy sound of the word evokes the shadowy machinations of the KGB, of propaganda campaigns and assassinations, of pinch-faced communist operatives rewriting history as in Orwell’s “1984,” and all the rest of the cloak-and-dagger intrigue of the Cold War era.
But this story is not about the past. It’s about here and now, in America, where a never-ending stream of hardcore disinformation continues to flow, poisoning our national dialogue, our culture and our very identity as a country and a people.
How can this be, you ask?
Here’s how. My friend Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking official ever to defect to the West from the Soviet bloc, defines the term this way in his book “Disinformation” (co-authored with Professor Ronald Rychlak, to be published in early 2013 by WND Books): “Disinformation is as different from misinformation as night is from day. Misinformation, is an official government tool and recognizable as such,” he says. “Disinformation (i.e., dezinformatsiya) is a secret intelligence tool, intended to bestow a Western, non-government cachet on government lies.”
To illustrate, he offers an example: “Let us assume that the FSB (the new KGB) fabricated some documents supposedly proving that American military forces were under specific orders to target Islamic houses of worship in their bombing raids over Libya in 2011. If a report on those documents were published in an official Russian news outlet, that would be misinformation, and people in the West might rightly take it with a grain of salt and simply shrug it off as routine Moscow propaganda. If, on the other hand, that same material were made public in the Western media and attributed to some Western organization, that would be disinformation, and the story’s credibility would be substantially greater.”
OK, so “disinformation” is what you call it when intentional misinformation is clandestinely conveyed to “respectable” sources – primarily the Western press – to “launder” the misinformation and make it “clean” for public consumption.
In fact, the concept of “laundering” (as in “money laundering”) is such a good metaphor for understanding how disinformation works in modern America, it’ll be helpful to quickly recall what money laundering actually entails – basically three steps: 1) “Placement” – tainted money is introduced into a financial institution; 2) “Layering” – the institution performs a series of complex transactions designed to camouflage the original source; 3) “Integration” – the formerly dirty money, now “clean,” is free to spend.
One can readily see how this same process applies to the “laundering” of “dirty” information: 1) misinformation is introduced to a respected journalism organization; 2) the media organization showcases the misinformation in a “news report,” camouflaging its original source; 3) the public receives the laundered misinformation in the form of apparently “clean” (credible) news, i.e., disinformation.
Read one of the most mind-boggling issues of Whistleblower ever – titled “DISINFORMATION AGE” – produced with the help of the highest intelligence official ever to defect from the Soviet bloc, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa.
In short, every time our supposedly free and independent press broadcasts misleading propaganda from an undisclosed source as though it were originally researched, fair-and-balanced reporting – that’s disinformation, just as in the days of Soviet communist treachery.
Believe it or not, what is being described here has long been, and remains to this day, standard operating procedure with the “elite media” in America. And it occurs in two very distinct ways.
The first way is the classic disinformation campaign, whereby major media in the U.S. carry water for foreign dictators. One of the most infamous examples involved the New York Times’ former Moscow bureau chief, Walter Duranty.
In the early ’30s, Stalin ordered his military to confiscate all of Ukraine’s food and then sealed her borders to prevent any outside sustenance from getting in, thereby intentionally starving an estimated 7 million men, women and children to death.
How did the New York Times report on this unprecedented genocidal famine? In his stories, Duranty not only denied the Ukraine famine was induced by communists – he denied anyone was dying of starvation at all! Idolizing Stalin and describing him as “the world’s greatest living statesman,” Duranty was thrilled to be granted the first American interview with this mass-murdering psychopathic dictator.
As we’ll soon see, even today this is the way of things with the establishment media, who will sell their souls for “access” to those at the pinnacle of power.
For his outrageously biased reporting, Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize. Decades later, spurred by widespread calls that the Pulitzer board revoke Duranty’s award, even the New York Times bemoaned their reporter’s “largely uncritical recitation of Soviet sources” and confessed that Duranty’s articles constituted “some of the worst reporting to appear in this newspaper.” (But his Pulitzer was never revoked.)
Another even more notorious example of the U.S. media being used in a classic communist disinformation campaign involved press coverage of the Vietnam War. Gen. Pacepa highlighted this issue for the current generation during the 2004 presidential contest between the incumbent commander in chief, George W. Bush, and Sen. John Kerry, who was evoking his “heroic” Vietnam service as a major campaign theme. Writing in National Review, Pacepa said:
On April 12, 1971, Kerry told the U.S. Congress that American soldiers claimed to him that they had, “raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned on the power, cut off limbs, blew up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”
The exact sources of that assertion should be tracked down. … Or did Senator Kerry merely hear allegations of that sort as hearsay bandied about by members of antiwar groups (much of which has since been discredited)? To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority No. 1 at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and “news reports” about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.
As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe. KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, “our most significant success.”
Fast-forward to the modern era. And let’s set aside, for the moment, U.S. media channeling of the hard-edged, intimidating, nuclear-tipped communist threat of yesteryear, as illustrated in the previous two examples.
For there has long been a second front in this same war against Western Judeo-Christian Civilization by atheistic Marxism. It’s known by various labels, including “cultural Marxism,” “neo-Marxism” and the “progressive agenda.”
Some trace this more evolutionary (as opposed to revolutionary) Marxist agenda to the Frankfurt School, or to influential Marxist Antonio Gramsci (who strategized a “long march through the institutions” whereby America’s major institutions would be gradually infiltrated and subverted by the left). Some trace it to the ’60s “cultural revolution,” when the radical left literally spilled out onto America’s streets, while university campuses gave rise to a host of radical new “liberation” movements – “sexual,” “gay,” “black,” “women’s,” “animal” and others.
But regardless of its origins, what is undeniable is the result: Today virtually all major institutions in America – from our public school system and universities to our news and entertainment media to our foundations and philanthropies to our labor unions and even to many of our churches – and, of course, to our government itself – are largely controlled by the left, even while the American people remain overwhelmingly (at least 75 percent) center-right in politics and Judeo-Christian in worldview.
Also undeniable is that the absurdly misnamed “mainstream media” have been the primary “launderer” and force-multiplier of all of these transformative leftist agendas for at least a generation.
Here is just one example – which utterly transformed America.
‘We fed lies to the public through the media’
In my book “The Marketing of Evil,” I document a classic disinformation campaign. During the late 1960s, the pro-abortion-legalization group NARAL, co-founded by abortionist Dr. Bernard Nathanson, fed statistical fabrications and other intentional lies to the news media, which in turn published and broadcast the misinformation as though it were the result of their own journalistic research. The ultimate result was the legalization of abortion and – so far – over 50 million dead babies in America.
In our interview, Nathanson (who had by that time experienced a profound change of heart and embraced a pro-life worldview) told me an extraordinary story of how he and a handful of pro-legalization colleagues successfully exploited a biased, lazy and corrupt American press:
“In 1968, I met Lawrence Lader. Lader had just finished a book called ‘Abortion,’ and in it had made the audacious demand that abortion should be legalized throughout the country. I had just finished a residency in obstetrics and gynecology and was impressed with the number of women who were coming into our clinics, wards and hospitals suffering from illegal, infected, botched abortions.
“Lader and I were perfect for each other. We sat down and plotted out the organization now known as NARAL. With Betty Friedan, we set up this organization and began working on the strategy.”
“We persuaded the media that the cause of permissive abortion was a liberal, enlightened, sophisticated one,” recalls the movement’s co-founder. “Knowing that if a true poll were taken, we would be soundly defeated, we simply fabricated the results of fictional polls. We announced to the media that we had taken polls and that 60 percent of Americans were in favor of permissive abortion. This is the tactic of the self-fulfilling lie. Few people care to be in the minority. We aroused enough sympathy to sell our program of permissive abortion by fabricating the number of illegal abortions done annually in the U.S. The actual figure was approaching 100,000, but the figure we gave to the media repeatedly was 1 million.
“Repeating the big lie often enough convinces the public. The number of women dying from illegal abortions was around 200-250 annually. The figure we constantly fed to the media was 10,000. These false figures took root in the consciousness of Americans, convincing many that we needed to crack the abortion law.
“Another myth we fed to the public through the media was that legalizing abortion would only mean that the abortions taking place illegally would then be done legally. In fact, of course, abortion is now being used as a primary method of birth control in the U.S. and the annual number of abortions has increased by 1,500 percent since legalization.”
NARAL’s deceitful disinformation campaign, bolstered by fraudulent “research,” was uncannily successful. In New York, the law outlawing abortion had been on the books for 140 years, and yet, recalled Nathanson, “In two years of work, we at NARAL struck that law down.”
“We lobbied the legislature, we captured the media, we spent money on public relations. … Our first year’s budget was $7,500. Of that, $5,000 was allotted to a public relations firm to persuade the media of the correctness of our position. That was in 1969.”
New York immediately became the abortion capital for the eastern half of the United States.
“We were inundated with applicants for abortion,” says Nathanson. “To that end, I set up a clinic, the Center for Reproductive and Sexual Health (C.R.A.S.H.), which operated in the east side of Manhattan. It had 10 operating rooms, 35 doctors, 85 nurses. It operated seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to midnight. We did 120 abortions every day in that clinic. At the end of the two years that I was the director, we had done 60,000 abortions. I myself, with my own hands, have done 5,000 abortions. I have supervised another 10,000 that residents have done under my direction. So I have 75,000 abortions in my life. Those are pretty good credentials to speak on the subject of abortion.”
Thanks to the media’s complicity, what would have been a legitimate news story – “Pro-abortion group claims legalization will save lives” – instead mutated, through the magic of media lie-laundering, into: “Studies prove legalized abortion will save lives.”
Just as Marxist disinformation in the Soviet Bloc led to millions of deaths, so has American disinformation, thanks to the complicity of the media.
What the press did to advance abortion legalization, it has likewise done with the other parts of the left’s agenda – from moral issues like “sexual freedom” and “gay rights” to today’s absurd legal interpretation of “separation of church and state” and the resulting denigration and even demonization of the Christian religion in American life.
‘Barack Obama does not approve this message’
In the former Soviet Union – a vast totalitarian state whose middle name was “deception” – news and information put out by the government or the Communist Party were almost always, by definition, “misinformation.”
When those same lies were disseminated through the Soviet press, the effect on the public was much the same as if the information had come directly from the government – because it had. The “Soviet press” was, after all, just a sham, a propaganda ministry for the government, and everyone knew it. Those who lived through the Cold War era remember the two primary Soviet newspapers – Pravda (“Truth”) and Izvestia (“News”) – and the endlessly repeated joke: “There is no truth in Pravda, and there is no news in Izvestia.”
In the same way, today’s giant Xinhua News Agency, China’s largest media organization with 10,000-plus employees and over 100 foreign bureaus, is known to answer directly to the Communist Party of China. So no clear-thinking person takes Xinhua’s “news” seriously, nor is any “laundering” of government information taking place, because no one – in the West, anyway – has any illusions as to what such “news organizations” really represent.
However, the notion that America’s “mainstream press” may likewise have devolved into little more than a propaganda ministry for the U.S. government – similar to the sham “news media” in other parts of the world – is deeply troubling.
Yet consider what was recently reported in – of all places – the New York Times.
In a July 16, 2012, story headlined “Latest Word on the Trail? I Take It Back,” Times reporter Jeremy Peters revealed the Faustian bargain most of today’s national print journalists have quietly made with the government: In return for access and interviews with top leaders and advisers, they have agreed the White House can rewrite their stories before publication!
You read that right: Once news organizations submit their story drafts to White House revisionists, writes Peters, “the quotations come back redacted, stripped of colorful metaphors, colloquial language and anything even mildly provocative.”
“Most reporters,” he explains, “desperate to pick the brains of the president’s top strategists, grudgingly agree. After the interviews, they review their notes, check their tape recorders and send in the juiciest sound bites for review. The verdict from the campaign – an operation that prides itself on staying consistently on script – is often no, Barack Obama does not approve this message.”
How widespread is this practice? “From Capitol Hill to the Treasury Department, interviews granted only with quote approval have become the default position,” writes Peters. “Quote approval is standard practice for the Obama campaign, used by many top strategists and almost all mid-level aides in Chicago and at the White House – almost anyone other than spokesmen who are paid to be quoted. (And sometimes it applies even to them.) It is also commonplace throughout Washington and on the campaign trail.”
Most reporters the Times interviewed spoke only off the record. But Major Garrett, formerly with Fox News and now a correspondent for The National Journal, said, “It’s not something I’m particularly proud of because there’s a part of me that says, Don’t do it, don’t agree to their terms.”
Yet, wrote Peters, “it was difficult to find a news outlet that had not agreed to quote approval, albeit reluctantly. Organizations like Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Reuters and The New York Times have all consented to interviews under such terms.”
As a result, although the public believes it is reading what politicians have actually said in news stories, they are not.
“Jim Messina, the Obama campaign manager, can be foul-mouthed,” wrote Peters. “But readers would not know it because he deletes the curse words before approving his quotes. Brevity is not a strong suit of David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser. So he tightens up his sentences before giving them the OK.”
Get the picture? You’re a reporter, you interview an administration official, you even have the quote captured on tape, but you can’t report it unless the White House Press Office approves the quote, edits it or gives you a new one.
As we saw earlier with Walter Duranty, journalists are routinely tempted to sell their souls for “access” to those at the pinnacle of power.
Ironically, one silver lining in the increasingly fraudulent and corrupt nature of America’s elite media is that disinformation will – by definition – almost certainly diminish. Why is that? Because disinformation depends on the news media laundering the lies being widely respected and believed. But the big media in today’s America are becoming barely more respected and believable than were their Soviet counterparts a generation ago.
The preceding was excerpted from the September issue of WND’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine, titled “DISINFORMATION AGE: How America’s news media have become ‘useful idiots’ for Marxists, sociopaths and tyrants.”