It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in the not-so-distant past when Democracy Now! was anti-imperialist. Amy Goodman was an antagonist of Bush-era neoconservatism, now she is more likely to use her platform on The War and Peace Report to defend the thoroughly discredited White Helmets, or tell us how there are “bad actors on both sides” in Syria. The program made a bigger deal of Russia’s bombing of Aleppo (which most of the locals cheered because it allowed them to return to their homes) than they did about America’s bombing of Raqqa (which was much more deadly and came without warning) or ISIS’s bombing of Palmyra (which was one of the most heartbreaking assaults on a historical world heritage site in decades (rivaled only by China’s destruction of central Kashgar and the Taliban’s bombing of the two ancient Buddha statues at Bamiyan.) Just this week, Democracy Now! doubled down on the debunked Douma gas attack without even mentioning the three OPCW whistle blowers who recently blew the lid off the case.
The program also devoted dozens of episodes to the empty Russiagate scandal when they could have used their substantial platform to raise awareness of reality-based issues.
The so-called “socialist” publication Jacobin is another example of this content arc. If you ever wanted to see a socialist publication pushing McCarthyism, look no further than Jacobin. They also voiced their desire to see the US empire topple the Syrian and Nicaraguan “regimes.” That’s right, the leftist publication pulled out the “R word” to describe the democratically elected leftest government of Nicaragua.
Vice has been repackaging war propaganda for a hipster, millennial audience for a decade. They were pushing the new cold war on Russia before it was trendy. More recently they have embedded reporters into the ranks of the Syrian opposition and the White Helmets and written fluff pieces on them to make sure the hipsters are supporting imperialism, and they’ve left no doubt in the minds of their audience that Maduro is a “brutal dictator.”
The Intercept has done good work during the short time it has existed. Pulitzer Prize winner Glenn Greenwald co-founded the publication in 2013 after he fled The Guardian, likely due to heat he was receiving for giving the world the Edward Snowden revelations. Truth-seekers were cautiously optimistic at first, but it has mostly been hit-or-miss, and, as of late, favoring miss over hit. Its only saving grace is Greenwald, and even he is no revolutionary. The Intercept‘s editor-in-chief is Betsy Reed, previously of the The Nation, is a likely culprit of the sites establishment editorial line. The Intercept decided to not publish the vast majority of the documents that Snowden gave to Greenwald, which they are the sole possessors of, therefor this probably very important information will never reach public eyes and ears.
The Nation has also been slipping. This is a very old magazine and I would have to do weeks of research to familiarize myself with its editorial history, which goes all the way back to the Civil War. But it’s hard not to notice that editorial standards have gone downhill since the departure of journalist Aaron Mate, who won an Izzy Award for being the most cogent and diligent debunker of Russiagate’s many rabbit holes and false leads. Meanwhile, The Nation was busy pushing Russiagate.
The most recent lefty news outlet to truly bite the dust came out of nowhere. If you go to Truthdig right now you will be greeted by a pop-up that says the site is “on hiatus.” This is the same site that was founded by legendary journalist Robert Sheer and regularly featured Noam Chomsky and employed the Pulitzer Prize-winning Chris Hedges as a weekly columnist. Their hiatus is unlike any hiatus I’ve ever seen. In reality, every Truthdig employee worth a damn has essentially been fired. They went on strike in mid-March, and the site’s new publisher Zuade Kaufman has refused to speak to them ever since. The fired workers even includes the site’s founder and editor-in-chief Robert Sheer. It seems that Kaufman wants to steer the site in more of a New York Times direction, even though this will massively hurt their bottom line, at least in the short-term.
The trend is also apparent in large YouTube outlets like The Young Turks and The Majority Report. Such channels enthusiastically support Bernie Sanders, though not Tulsi Gabbard for some reason, but they always end up sheep herding their viewerships into the blue-no-matter-who box. And don’t ever expect to see anything on these channels resembling accurate information or investigative journalism when it comes to Syria.
There is a whole new generation of career journalists who have gotten the unwritten memo that you can support Bernie Sanders, but you have to be down with bombing Syria if you ever want to get published in The New York Times or The Guardian or to make a guest appearance on network news. Once a publication reaches a critical mass, it tends to get overrun my these careerists, people who went to journalism schools and got internships at newspapers and then started getting paychecks that allowed them to maintain their lifestyles, slowly they learned the lines that cannot be crossed if you want to keep those paychecks coming. At some point most of them sell their souls. If they happen upon a scoop that falls outside the acceptable parameters of discourse, they disregard it, no matter how verifiable it is, then they try not to look in the mirror; alcohol helps.
The information age is without precedent. No one really knows what’s going to happen. Even a guy like me can type out my semi-informed views, and send it off into the ether, and people will read it. One thing I do know is that the powers that be are scared of this, so they are making and implementing plans, preparing their battle strategy for the next stage in the information war. We should be doing the same.
Edit: Much of the content for this article was inspired by an episode of the Moderate Rebels podcast by Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton of the Grayzone. In it they discuss a group of friends and journalists who identify as “socialist” but are strangely not anti-imperialists. They call this group “the Brooklyn media left.” I strongly recommend their podcast.