Soviet-Style Media Propaganda in America

December 26th, 2020 4:01 PM

Over there in The Wall Street Journal as we travel through the Christmas holiday season, was this very perceptive piece by one David Satter. Mr. Satter is identified as the “author of Age of Delirium: the Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union and a member of the academic advisory board of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.”

At one stage in his earlier life he was the Moscow correspondent for The Financial Times of London, arriving in the Soviet capital in 1976. He went on to work for The Wall Street Journal as a special correspondent covering Soviet affairs. Suffice to say, he knows well how a state-run media runs.

Among other things in his WSJ article Satter says this: 

“One of the pillars of the Soviet Union was a controlled press in which all coverage was organized to confirm a mendacious ideology.

…Soviet practices would have once been unthinkable in the U.S. media. But in August 2016, Jim Rutenberg, media columnist for the New York Times, wrote that if journalists believed that Mr. Trump was a “demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalist tendencies,” it was necessary to “throw out the textbook of American journalism.” The Times started to characterize Mr. Trump’s statements as “lies” in news stories and suppress news that worked to Mr. Trump’s advantage, such as the Hunter Biden story this fall.”

Satter’s reference to the 2016 story by The Times’ Jim Rutenberg is indeed worth recalling. Here is an excerpt from that column

“If you’re a working journalist and you believe that Donald J. Trump is a demagogue playing to the nation’s worst racist and nationalistic tendencies, that he cozies up to anti-American dictators and that he would be dangerous with control of the United States nuclear codes, how the heck are you supposed to cover him?

Because if you believe all of those things, you have to throw out the textbook American journalism has been using for the better part of the past half-century, if not longer, and approach it in a way you’ve never approached anything in your career. If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that. You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional.”

Mr. Satter has hit the nail on the head. To read or watch the American mainstream media today is to read or watch the American version of Pravda - “Truth” - as it was during its long incarnation as the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. 

From the lies of Trump-Russia collusion to the theme that the President is an authoritarian, one untruth after another has been spread repeatedly by the mainstream American media, in exactly the style of the Soviet Union propagandists. 

As this is written, here is a headline in The Washington Post: "Trump is an authoritarian wannabe. He must never hold power again." 

The column was written by Michael Gerson, a one-time speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Gerson writes without the least sense of, shall we say, a self-awareness that understands the irony of an ex-Bush aide accusing Trump of being a wannabe authoritarian.

By way of example there is this from New York magazine, written in 2017 when, yes indeed, Trump was being accused of being an authoritarian. But…ahem…here was the title of that New York article: "Don’t Forget George W. Bush Had Authoritarian Tendencies, Too." 

The article by Ed Kilgore cited Bush specifically for being an authoritarian, quoting Bush critic Jonathan Rauch as saying this of the 43rd president:

“After the 9/11 attacks, Bush claimed alarmingly broad presidential powers. He said he could define the entire world as a battlefield in the War on Terror, designate noncitizens and citizens alike as enemy combatants, and then seize and detain them indefinitely, without judicial interference or congressional approval or the oversight called for by the Geneva Conventions.   

…And as the example of George W. Bush shows, the sooner the president is denied imperial powers, the sooner his imperial pretensions can be exposed as mere power-grabs.”

And over here at the leftist Jacobin site was this

“The media is full of anti-Trump pundits pining for the leadership of George W. Bush. Yet virtually every aspect of Donald Trump’s presidency was built on the hard-right, authoritarian legacy of his Republican predecessor.”

Put another way? Michael Gerson spent years laboring for a president repeatedly labeled as…an authoritarian. Without a peep of objection that I can find.

The point here is that this is but one example of just how the new propaganda media works. 

Pick a theme from the last four years: Trump-Russia collusion, Trump has told a bazillion lies, Trump is an authoritarian, Trump will get us into a war with North Korea, it’s impossible for Trump to get a vaccine by the end of the year. Yada yada yada.

All of these things and more - including themes that have nothing whatsoever to do with Trump - were flatly untrue. Which, in a society where the media is honest, would have been reported by that media. 

A real media this minute would be investigating the results of the 2020 election and whether or not the President and his supporters are correct that there was indeed at least some election fraud. But, of course, that’s not what the media is doing. They simply ignore the evidence, repeatedly label the very idea of voter fraud “baseless” - and move on.

The real problem here, and Rush Limbaugh has frequently touched on this himself, is that the liberal media’s loss of their one-time monopoly because of the rise of conservative media has in fact resulted in a self-outing of not just their far-left beliefs but of a resulting behavior in which the “truth” is whatever they say it is…repeated endlessly over and over and over again.

Which, to bring this back to David Satter’s point, only emphasizes that what Americans are now dealing with is “a controlled press in which all coverage was organized to confirm a mendacious ideology.” And that the American media, exactly as The New York Times Jim Rutenberg advocated in 2016, has indeed made it a point to “ throw out the textbook of American journalism” in support of the left’s “mendacious ideology.”

Ahhh well.

The year ends. 2021 looms.

Stay healthy, and Happy New Year.