How Journalism Turns Into Propaganda

How Journalism Turns Into Propaganda

Real journalism is dangerous for elites, which is why we have so little of it.
Stella Morabito
By

“They’ve decided you’re to go into journalism. It’s a great honor. We have to strengthen the press. It’s full of bourgeoise elements and reactionaries. We don’t send just anyone there.”

—In the screenplay “Angi Vera,” newspaper editor and Communist Party hack Anna Trajan speaks to her young protégé, groomed to destroy anyone standing in the way of the party’s narrative.

President-elect Donald Trump’s win proved how useless is the current state of journalism for investigating and conveying real news about real people. And that’s putting it kindly. Not only were mainstream journalists blind to the pain of so many in the country—particularly the long-neglected Rust Belt voters who showed up in droves to elect Trump—but they shamelessly cheered Hillary Clinton’s campaign and smeared all Trump voters while doing so.

The quote above, from an old foreign film, gives us a glimpse into how power elites seek to control the media and subvert objective journalism. I’ll elaborate on that below. But the high level of collusion we see today between Democrat power elites and the media goes back a long time. The collusion continues post-election, as the media gives lopsided coverage to angry anti-Trump protests organized by Moveon.org, which are stirring up calls for violence.

So it’s high time we analyze more closely the relationship between the media and power elites. To do that, we need to look at how and why elites conscript journalists, and why journalists can’t resist the bait. The enticements come as access, privilege, prestige, fame, influence, and very high salaries for those in the limelight.

Not all mainstream journalists are fallen, but those who resist bias tend not to be household names. For example, I highly recommend this superb post-mortem on the election by Will Rahn of CBS News. It is more introspective and insightful than anything else I’ve seen. In the end, we should remember that journalists’ weaknesses are simply human weaknesses. There are several reasons their level of prejudice has risen so high. But prime among them is how much our society has come to de-value the old ideals of virtue and honor.

Power Elites Will Always Recruit Messengers

An interesting study in corruption—and of journalism in particular—is the 1978 Hungarian film “Angi Vera,” which I quoted above. The setting is Stalinist Hungary in 1948, just after Soviet forces imposed a communist system there. The entire human infrastructure of the nation, including journalists, teachers, medical personnel, and factory foremen, is being replaced by people trained in education camps to comply with the Communist Party line. Politically incorrect administrators, officials, and thinkers are discredited and purged wherever they are found.

The movie superbly displays the predatory nature of one-party states. Its title character, an angelic-looking young nurse named Vera, is an orphan from a working-class family. She has a superb instinct for pushing all the right buttons and kissing up to all the right people in a system based on psychological manipulation. In the end, Vera earns herself a comfortable life as a well-connected elite journalist in a rigged system.

Vera’s brown-nosing and betrayals did cost her others’ trust. That upset her. For a while. But she kept her eyes on the prize, and in the end it’s clear she’ll get used to a life of material and social privileges in a society built on planned scarcity.

The film (which only recently came out on DVD, with English subtitles) is a little-known masterpiece. It may not be a direct study of the corruption of journalism. But it definitely serves as a window to the personal qualities—corruptibility, malleability, and conformity—that power elites look for when recruiting journalists, and rewarding them.

How Does Journalism Become Propaganda?

Objective journalism is actually a very new idea. A fourth estate that serves as a back-up check against abuses of power doesn’t sit well with power-mongers. As the quote above attests, those in power always hope to prevent any perceived critic from having a voice. Those who believe in a fourth estate expect to have critics. But totalitarians find it compulsory to turn journalists into their propagandists.

Of course we often behave as though objective journalism is a given. I mean, what other kind is there, right? But, alas, the human species has a thing about power. No doubt, evolutionary psychology can explain a lot. Whatever the reason, that quest for power seems to be the default setting of Homo sapiens.

But somewhere along the line—perhaps beginning with Aristotle and moving down the centuries of Judeo-Christian thought and greater recognition of natural law—a new idea started to dawn on more and more folks. All of that law-of-the-jungle stuff was a waste of human potential. So, maybe, just maybe, if we just put checks on power so no one could so easily lord it over others, well, that social balance would open more avenues to the pursuit of happiness. In fact, it would evolve into a system tailor-made to abolish slavery in all forms. A republic of sorts.

Central to this: all people would have access to objective information. That could only happen by prohibiting laws that abridge freedom of religion, speech, the press, and, perhaps most critically, freedom of association.

The whole idea was based on de-centralizing power: preventing too much power in the hands of too few people. In such a system, people could actually live in peace. They could trade freely, raise their families in peace, and build self-governing communities without meddling from the central state, the Leviathan.

In fact, all could prosper in a system that protects the natural right of every human being to express his beliefs, exchange his ideas, and have real conversations with others without being gagged. For centuries we considered the First Amendment a no-brainer. Yet today free speech is blatantly under attack on multiple fronts, in all of our institutions, especially in the very place where it was supposed to be most enshrined: the universities, where even the idea of having a conversation about having conversations is being shut down. What happened?

Back to the Default Setting

Somehow, large parts of our civil society have succumbed to that base but instinctive drive in people to lord it over others. That drive, as always, motivates those who tend to seek the reins of power. History is filled with unsavory characters determined to reset the universe so it revolves around them.

They have always—always—had major quibbles with the free flow of information. They view objective journalism as a bad joke, or in the words of Vera’s mentor above, a “bourgeois and reactionary” thing.

The point is that freedom of expression, when legally protected and practiced universally, stands in the way of their accumulation of power. So the first order of business for a power-monger is to break down free expression, to control the language. That’s a tall order when the public is well-informed. To combat a high-information public, community “organizers” have been hard at work pushing policies that cultivate ignorance, vulnerability, and scarcity.

As they march through the institutions of a society, these conditions produce a culture of confusion, dependence, fear, and resentment. Once power-mongers control all the outlets of communication—particularly the media, Hollywood, and academia—their propaganda can do its work. The work of propaganda is to condition people through political correctness to get with their program. This, in a word, means to promote the elites’ accumulation of power in perpetuity.

Journalism in the United States of America

Obviously, those whose job it is to report the news are never going to please everyone. That’s always been the case, and complaints of biased journalists have always been with us. But today’s journalism has an especially blatant disregard for objectivity, not to mention the old concept of honor. Precious few media outlets permit deviation from politically correct agitprop.

Today’s journalism has an especially blatant disregard for objectivity, not to mention the old concept of honor.

Pre-election there were copious examples wherein journalists colluded with the Democrat Party machine. WikiLeaks emails from Clinton operative John Podesta confirmed that the media lavished all kinds of special favors on the Clinton campaign. Democrat strategist and CNN commentator Donna Brazile fed interview questions in advance to Clinton’s campaign.

Undercover Project Veritas interviews exposed how Clinton operative Robert Creamer bragged about inciting violence at Trump rallies, operations that had the apparent consent of the Clinton campaign. None of this was investigated by the media. The mainstream media’s coverage imputed this violence to Trump supporters, while ignoring incidents of fire-bombing against Trump headquarters in North Carolina.

On other fronts as well, particularly in defense of Planned Parenthood, the media colluded with the powers that be. Media compliance with Clinton’s campaign turned the recent re-opening of the FBI investigation of her email server into a media investigation of FBI Director James Comey. (It worked, as Comey did a 180 with a second “exoneration” of Clinton.) Then there was the utter lack of media interest in looking at the Clinton Foundation’s highly questionable operations, including its money-laundering and pay-to-play schemes.

Of course, the list could go on and on and on. Today’s media is hopeless at independent reporting or thinking. Most people can see this. A recent USA Today poll revealed that people believe—by a 10 to 1 margin—that the media wanted Clinton to win the election. In a Suffolk University Boston poll asking 1,000 people what they thought was the primary threat to election integrity, 45.5 percent named the media, followed by 27 percent claiming it was the political establishment.

How Does a Journalist Get This Way?

Corruption on such a mass scale is most likely in a culture that rejects the idea that humans are by nature highly corruptible. This false assumption allows people to operate under the illusion that they are not susceptible to manipulation. That illusion provides optimal conditions for manipulation.

Corruption on such a mass scale is most likely in a culture that rejects the idea that humans are by nature highly corruptible.

Again, as Communist Party operative Anna Trajan stated to her protégé Vera in “Angi Vera:” “You’re to go into journalism. It’s a great honor.” Indeed, journalists see great privilege in having access to purveyors of influence, and then enjoy their approval and continued access when affirming their narrative. This is especially true in a rigged system like communism, in which privilege is the only currency of value in a stagnant economy. The shameless pandering of our current cast of journalists proves our system is also not immune to this perverse symbiosis.

Political correctness is the job description of most journalists today. It aims to saturate the masses in the elite’s preferred narrative while suppressing any competing narrative. The idea is to make sure that only those willing to play this intimidation game get a piece of the power pie. In that way, the cronyism worms deeper into the system. There is no logical end point, as it can only keep feeding on itself and get more extreme and polarizing unless something from the outside manages to stop it in its tracks.

It’s plain old-fashioned hubris, dangerous and commonplace. So journalists get this way the same way anybody gets this way: through pride, through greed, and all of the other oh-so-quaint “seven deadly sins” that our elites would tell us do not exist. Left unchecked, these tendencies metastasize. If we allow ourselves to be unaware of the dangers of unchecked pride and greed—or for that matter envy, anger, sloth, lust, and gluttony in all their forms—we fall. That’s a law of human nature, just as gravity is a law of physics.

No One Checks the Checkers

Why do people even go into journalism? Is it because they really want to report the news? Is it because they have natural curiosity and—like cub reporters of old—want to sniff out a story and really report what happened no matter whose goose may get cooked in the telling?

Anyone who tries to report objectively won’t make it through the meat grinder of political correctness.

Not so much anymore. I would guess most now do so for the prestige, and if they have a sense of purpose it is to change the world, to be heroes as so many “social justice warriors” like to see themselves. They are already pre-disposed to a narrative that matches up with the “social justice” power agenda of elites who run the show.

Anyone who tries to report objectively won’t make it through the meat grinder of political correctness and the filters they must penetrate. This drives any hint of independent thought out of journalists who may have been inclined towards independent reporting.

Now combine a lapdog mentality in the media with elites who have a problem with freedom of information because it levels the playing field. Freedom of information results in the most equal distribution of power possible. Well, that can’t be good for power elites intent to keep and exercise power, right? So wherever power elites regulate the flow of information, you’re only going to get propaganda instead of hard news.

The News as 24/7 Thought Reform for the Masses

What do you see when you tune into any of the networks today? Or social media, which is shamelessly in the pocket of the Democrat Party? For the most part, it is cherry-picked “news” that gets re-hashed and re-cycled ad nauseam based on the agendas of the political elites who have enlisted journalists as their messengers.

Without real journalism and a free flow of real information, people lose the ability to exercise real thought.

Today, when I hear a news outlet talk about its “programming,” I can’t help but think of programming computers or cult recruits. Listening to the news is more like an exercise in thought reform—in which you are being told or nudged in how to think about an issue—than it is the objective flow of actual news you can digest and think through on your own.

Obviously, conservative talk radio is biased. We all know that. But what is the only response to talk radio on the Left these days? It’s a taxpayer-funded gig that pretends to be objective: National Public Radio. One cannot listen objectively without noticing that its FM-subdued voices are blatant shills for the Borg government it represents at every turn. NPR’s claim of objectivity is stunning, although I imagine its hosts do believe their own propaganda.

This goes for the recent explosion of infotainment programs as well. From Oprah Winfrey to Ellen DeGeneres to so many TED talks, the formula is pretty much the same, even if the format differs. You have an oh-so-earnest host or presenter who massages a passive audience into accepting ideas they deem “worth spreading.” Yesterday it was the idea of the pregnant man. Today it’s the idea of assisted suicide. Tomorrow, who knows? Groupthink can go pretty far when pushed to the limit. Then what about those news-comedy schticks, like Stephen Colbert’s or Jon Stewart’s, that are neither particularly newsy nor funny?

The tragedy is that without real journalism and a free flow of real information, people lose the ability to exercise real thought. Without being able to actually think things through with the grounding of objective morality, there is no morality, period. Unchecked propaganda that suppresses real communication is extremely dangerous because it turns all of the above into a certainty. Sadly, journalists have become all too complicit in that.

Stella Morabito is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Follow Stella on Twitter.

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