“Quis custodes ipsos custodet?”
(translation: “Who guards the guardians?”)
– Juvenal (from The Satires – Satire VI, lines 347-348)
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Three decades ago, authors Edward Hermann and Noam Chomsky made the point in Manufacturing Consent that conventional news media in actual practice serves and defends the social, economic and political agendas of privileged groups within domestic society, the state and the global order.
It is estimated that six major corporations own and control 90 percent of everything Americans see, read and hear. Consequently certain narratives will get emphasis, and the spectrum of debate will be restricted. Without popular support, elite power interests seeking to maintain an agenda of corporate plunder and military intervention cannot prevail. Hence, the need for talking points about “humanitarian interventions”, “self-defence against the terrorists”, and “fiscal prudence” to distract and divert attention from corporate pillage.
The arrival of the internet and social media in the last two decades changed the playing field and gave independent analysts with dissenting opinions on issues ranging from foreign policy in the Middle East, to 9/11 to domestic U.S. and Canadian politics a chance to share their views with millions. According to a September 2016 Gallup poll, Americans indicated that their trust in mass media, principally newspapers, radio and tv had fallen to its lowest level in history – 32 percent. According to a Pew Centre poll conducted a year later, two out of three Americans get their news via social media, with 45 percent of those getting their news from facebook, 18 percent from Youtube, and 11 percent from twitter.
A major benchmark was reached during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election campaign. Despite reporting that appeared to favour the Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Republican Donald Trump emerged victorious, much to the chagrin and exasperation of the punditry at that time.
The assumption, first hinted at by Ms. Clinton, was that Russia was hacking into the election and using all manner of cyber tools in order to rig the election in Trump’s favour.
The powers that be now have a convenient pre-text for disrupting the spread of independent media outlets that threaten their grip on the public’s imagination. To protect us from foreign interference and “Kremlin-supported media” we have seen Facebook forge a partnership with the Atlantic Council to control the spread of fake news and disinformation. A body called the Integrity Initiative, formed in autumn 2015, to alert “politicians, policy-makers, opinion leaders and other interested parties” to the threat posed by Russia to domestic democratic institutions in the United Kingdom, the U.S., Canada and across Europe. And just last year, a new start-up called Newsguard wants to install a plug-in on all the world’s most popular browsers that would utilize the fact-checking expertise of their corps of professional journalists to discern, according to their own criteria, disinformation sites from ‘reliable’ ones.
This week’s Global Research News Hour looks into these would-be defenders of democratic discourse and goes into some depth, based on the figures spearheading these efforts, to determine the ulterior motives behind these services.
Whitney Webb, is the author of a major expose on Newsguard specifically. She shares her understanding of this informational Trojan Horse in our first half hour.
In our second half hour, geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen tracks the larger trend of assaulting independent journalism in the name of patrolling disinformation on the web. He introduces our audience to the Integrity Initiative, and the Facebook/Atlantic Council partnership. He also offers some thoughts about a recently announced decision by the Canadian government to appoint a panel of non-partisan bureaucrats to monitor elections for ‘foreign interference’ and the practical outcome of such efforts.
We end the show with an appeal to audiences to support host radio station CKUW during its annual Fundrive.
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and has contributed to several other independent, alternative outlets. Her work has appeared on sites such as Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire among others. She also makes guest appearances to discuss politics on radio and television. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.
Patrick Henningsen is an American writer and global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, occasional co-host of UK Column and is host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR). He has written for a number of international publications and has done extensive on-the-ground reporting in the Middle East including work in Syria and Iraq.
(Global Research News Hour Episode 248)
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