The primary goal of Joseph Goebbels in his Nazi propaganda
management was to create what he called �coordinated media� -- a diversity of
viewpoints, but all expressed within the narrow parameters of party ideology.
Adolph Hitler himself would complain if he thought news coverage was too
monochromatic; he didn�t want to be bored by his own press operation. He
considered himself a news consumer, along with the rest of the German
population. With his precise sense of what people wanted to hear, Hitler knew
that propaganda couldn�t be too blatant.
Twenty-first century Americans can certainly relate to the
concept of �coordinated media.� Often observed is the phenomenon of every major
television network�s evening news shows featuring exactly the same stories in
exactly the same order, the stories� importance allocated in exactly the same
proportions. How does this happen? How is it that every network editor
exercises the same judgments about what is �news?�
Part of the answer is the growing concentration of media
power in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations. Six corporations now
control 90 percent of American media output. Naturally, the ideological range
of this output extends only as far as what will benefit the corporate agenda.
But another explanation for �coordinated� media messaging is
what is known as �the mighty Wurlitzer� -- an expression that originated with
the late Frank Wisner, a legendary CIA propaganda specialist, in reference to
the international media. He was comparing his ability to manipulate public
consciousness through the media, to playing a giant pipe organ. Wisner ended
his life mentally disturbed, shooting himself in the head. Too much power can twist
the mind, and there are few institutions in this culture more powerful than the
The role the Central Intelligence Agency plays in American
media is rarely discussed (even by progressive media watchdogs), considering
the long history of the agency�s relationship with Wall Street and media
titans, and this relationship�s importance in molding the public consensus.
In his 2007 history of the dark side of the CIA, �Legacy of
Ashes,� Tim Weiner writes, �From his first days in power, Allen Dulles [CIA
Director, 1953-61] . . . kept in close touch with the men who ran The New York
Times, the Washington Post, and the nation�s leading weekly magazines. He could
pick up the phone and edit a breaking story, make sure an irritating foreign
correspondent was yanked from the field, or hire the services of men such as
Time�s Berlin bureau chief and Newsweek�s man in Tokyo. It was second nature
for Dulles to plant stories in the press. American newsrooms were dominated by
veterans of the government�s wartime propaganda branch, the Office of War
Information, once part of Wild Bill Donovan�s domain.
�The men who responded to the CIA�s call included Henry Luce
and his editors at Time, Life and Fortune; popular magazines such as Parade,
the Saturday Review, and Reader�s Digest; and the most powerful executives at
CBS News. Dulles built a public relations and propaganda machine that came to
include more than fifty news organizations, a dozen publishing houses, and
personal pledges of support from men such as Axel Springer, West Germany�s most
powerful press baron.�
It is na�ve to think that the close and informal relations
with the media that Dulles cultivated to further CIA objectives have not been
continued by his successors.
The Church Committee hearings into abuses by the CIA,
conducted while George H.W. Bush was director of the agency in the mid-�70s,
revealed that hundreds of journalists and their bosses were either paid or
volunteer CIA �assets.� I�ve often suspected that the primary reason the Bush family
has received such a relatively free ride in the media over the years is that
Bush refused to give the Senate committee the names of these assets. The
committee accepted his counter-offer of vague descriptions of the
agency/journalist relationship, instead of names (the power elite is a cozy
What has changed over the decades (especially in the Bush
Jr. administration) is that the intelligence community has been privatized, and
many of the more questionable propaganda efforts have been shifted to private
sector �consultants� who don�t have to answer to Congress. Another trend has
been the growth of Pentagon influence in the media. When the New York Times
reported last year that the Pentagon was coordinating its public �message� with
the stable of retired military officers that all the major television networks
depend on for �independent expert� analysis of operations in Iraq and
Afghanistan (virtually all of whom are also profiting from these wars as
defense industry consultants), the story was quickly buried.
Where the evidence of a �coordinated� American media
operation is most profound today is in the area of 9/11 truth. When �Jersey
Girl� Patty Cassazza, who, along with her fellow New Jersey 9/11 widows, became
a media darling when they were trying to get an independent 9/11 commission
started, told a conference last year that she had been told by FBI insiders
that the government knew the exact date, targets and plan of the 9/11 attacks
beforehand, the revelation was universally ignored by corporate media.
Stephen Jones, the former Brigham Young University physicist
who possesses physical evidence of controlled demolition of the World Trade
Center towers, has not been welcome back at cable TV talk shows since he first
appeared on the scene, with a persona too normal to be dismissed as a
conspiracy nutcase. Jones� revelation at that same conference that he�d been
offered a bribe by a Homeland Security consultant not to publish his paper raising serious
questions about the official conclusion of why the towers collapsed, also
received zero corporate news coverage (the consultant offered an either/or
deal, and indeed, one month later, the directors of Brigham Young were
pressured by the government to force Jones� resignation).
The importance of the Internet and alternative media is
that, like the samizdat
in the old Soviet Union, they offer the opportunity to get out a message that
would never pass through the official corporate media/CIA filter -- the Matrix.
The challenge is to construct a message that can both
penetrate the Matrix (whose agents pay close attention to potential threats in
the information �battlefield,� and respond accordingly), and simultaneously be
heard over the white noise of an oversaturated global media environment.
It will probably require a little �coordinating� of its own.
Hasty lives on a farm in West Virginia, where he wrote a column for seven years
for the Hampshire Review, the state�s oldest newspaper. In 2000, it was named
best column by the West Virginia Press Association. His writing has appeared in
the Charleston Gazette, Online Journal, Common Dreams, Buzzflash, Tikkun and
many other websites. He publishes the blog, Radical Pantheist.
He plays guitar and harmonica with the folk/gospel trio, the Time Travelers.
Email:. radicalpantheist(at)gmail (dot) com.