NOTHING NEW: ‘Fake’ & Weaponized News Has Long Haunted Our War-Weary World


21st Century Wire
by Mark Anderson

 

Hearst Pulitzer WAR toon
Hearst vs Pulitzer battle for the yellow journalism title (Image Source: US Library of Congress)

Today’s ‘fake news’ crisis is by no means a recent phenomenon born during the Presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, as the mainstream media would have us believe, even while big media outlets hypocritically label alternative news outlets as the sole source of fake news.

Not only is America suffering under the maliciously misleading fake news peddled by today’s “mainstream” media; America and the world also have gravely suffered, at least since the mid-19th Century, under an orthodox media that was — and remains — a weaponized menace to peace and social concord. There is hardly a more unsettling example of an early war-mongering media figure than famed editor Horace Greeley.

Stepping back for a moment, it’s notable that the liberal-internationalist New York Times — unlike liberal-left street protestors who typically march against U.S. military intervention in foreign lands — has long interpreted liberalism quite differently on the geopolitical level. Our esteemed “newspaper of record” spanning three centuries, has frequently used its pages to call for, justify or not seriously challenge claims made by governments as the pretext for highly questionable military interventions. This has led to the current reality of perpetual, unwinnable “conflicts” that are prosecuted without even the pretense of Congress officially declaring war as the Constitution requires.

And pesky facts — such as the reality that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein never possessed the kind or quantity of “weapons of mass destruction” to excuse the U.S.-led coalition’s March 2003 “shock and awe” intervention in Iraq — have never been allowed to obstruct the Times’ support for Iraq and subsequent wars. The role of the Times, along with its staff reporter Judith Miller, in presenting the false case for that war is well documented. In addition to this, a tertiary story that Saddam Hussein was hosting al Qaeda terrorists and he have been involved in the 9/11 attacks of 2001, was concocted by members of the Bush Administration and then injected into both the US and British mainstream media.

All that was needed was somebody to hate in the true Orwellian tradition, so the military-industrial-banking-intelligence-media complex gave Americans Iraq as the phony target of their revenge.

DRUMMING-UP A ‘CIVIL’ WAR

All told, the Times’ famous slogan, “All the News That’s Fit to Print” might just as well be: “All the Wars That Are Fit to Fight.”

So, it’s all the more ironic that of all newspapers, the New York Times, on July 28, 2011, in a respectable article by James M. Lundberg, clearly outlined (in accordance with other sources) Horace Greeley’s unhinged Times-style actions to help propel the U.S. into an incredibly bloody war against itself — the grossly misnamed “Civil War.” (A civil war is that in which two or more factions fight for control of a government, while this war involved southern states seceding from the Union to form another government. Big media and court historians don’t even bother using correct terms.)

1 Horace Greeley

19th Century media mogul Horace Greeley.

Horace Greeley (1811-1872) founded and edited the widely influential New York Tribune. Having served briefly as a congressman from New York, he also was the new Liberal Republican Party’s unsuccessful candidate in the 1872 presidential election against incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant — the celebrated Union general whose military actions were partly made possible by Greeley’s poison pen. To Greeley, the pen was not mightier than the sword; rather, his pen was a sword, wielded in zealous pursuit of a fratricidal war that ended up solidifying federal dominance over the several states.

Under the robber barons of Greeley’s day (who would later foist a central bank on America, based on several economic “panics” that the big newspapers hyped, instilling widespread fear) such federal dominance became an enduring debt slavery that, to this day, has arguably made all Americans into perpetual serfs under the yoke of compound interest, massive taxes and endless toil. And Greeley’s fingerprints are all over that bleak outcome, however unwitting he may have been about it.

Greeley and the Tribune railed over the South’s black agrarian slavery and urged the North to take up arms to “end’ such servitude, while northern media moguls kept extremely quiet about the slavery of children working in northern factories.

Lundberg noted, “It didn’t take long for Horace Greeley, the nation’s most loved, hated and widely read newspaper editor, to become impatient with the progress of the war. From the moment news of Major Robert Anderson’s [northern] surrender at Fort Sumter reached New York City, drumbeats and bugle calls for immediate military action could be heard in the columns of Greeley’s paper, the New York Tribune.”

Greeley and his deputies, while ignoring the towering task that others would have to undertake to prepare for the anticipated titanic collision of military forces, poured his messianic vision into the Tribune’s pages to sway the people toward war, although even President Lincoln himself was not yet on “the same page” as Greeley. But the delusional Mr. Greeley would not settle for a mere sovereign making his own decisions.

“Never mind the logistical challenge of assembling, arming and training a suitable military force — the people, or at least the [Tribune] editors, were ready, and there was hardly a moment to lose. What appeared to be lacking, from Greeley’s perspective, was a necessary vigor from President Lincoln and his administration,” Lundberg wrote. “Within a week of Lincoln’s initial call for volunteers on April 15, 1861, the Tribune was already sharply critical of [Lincoln’s] apparent sluggishness.”

Greeley gloated that the “People” supposedly stood ready to fight “with old flint-lock muskets if [they] can get no better.” But, he wondered, “Will the government stand by the People?” And before April was out and military operations still hadn’t started, Greeley, casting objectivity aside and seeking the dehumanization of the South, was reminding Lincoln: “We are at war with these pestilent rebels and traitors,” while urging “heavy and instantaneous blows at Maryland and Virginia.”

The manipulation of the narrative did not end there. Greeley even called for the absolute conquest of the South on the first of May, 1861. “We mean to conquer them,” he blathered, “and we shall do this most mercifully, the more speedily we do it.” Who could argue with an offer as gracious as merciful conquest?

As Lundberg explained, Greeley believed “the Union could be saved and much bloodshed spared with swift, decisive Federal action. And swift, decisive action would be effective because the Rebels were weak, disorganized and unlikely to fight if their cause of independence appeared lost.” Moreover, Greeley believed that “secession had been the work of a small minority of fire-eating fanatics; a quick blow and a little taste of the full force of the Union Army would embolden the silent majority of Southern Unionists he believed had yet to be roused.”

But it was easy for Greeley, who couldn’t have had the slightest idea how this clash of arms would turn out, to assume from the safety of his desk that bloodshed could be spared by a quick attack. Such a large-scale battle of Americans against Americans — brother against brother, fathers against sons in some cases, reddening U.S. soil itself on such a huge scale — was an unprecedented, utterly unpredictable thing. If sparing bloodshed was to be the goal, then avoiding war would have been the prudent path. But poisoning public opinion via newsprint, in favor of war, would make war appear unavoidable on both sides of the conflict.

Greeley, having seriously injured himself chopping wood on his Chappaqua Farm, tapped Fitz Henry Warren, a Washington correspondent, to watch over the newspaper. Warren promptly filed a trembling dispatch, describing Union forces in ultra-glowing terms. And while Greeley popularized the well-known words “Go West, young man” in the days of westward expansion and the opportunities it afforded, another phrase that historians associate with Greeley’s newspaper was born in latter May of 1861: “On to Richmond!”

But according to Lundberg, it was Warren who sired that refrain and also declared: “Unloose your chivalry, Man of high command . . . pierce the vitals of Virginia, and scourge the serpent seed of her rebellion on the crowning heights of Richmond.”

Keep in mind that the simmering North-South conflict hadn’t yet morphed into a full-blown war, even as Greeley’s paper agitated for all-out war and never allowed for cooler heads to prevail. For many, the unavoidable question is: Whose war was this? The Union’s? Or the New York Tribune’s?

Warren wasn’t the only Tribune staffer to escalate the nation into full-blown war. The “On to Richmond!” slogan, which at first was printed in the Tribune’s tiny type within dense columns of war correspondence, was given new life with slightly different wording by the Tribune’s Charles A. Dana about a month later. As Lincoln and his commanders continued careful deliberations, Dana recklessly threw the paper’s full weight behind Warren’s idea that Richmond must be taken immediately.

1 Richmond
Beginning June 28, the paper’s masthead bore in boldface what Dana called:

THE NATION’S WAR-CRY
Forward to Richmond! Forward to Richmond!
The Rebel Congress must not be allowed
to meet there on the 20th of July!
BY THAT DATE
THE PLACE MUST BE HELD BY THE NATIONAL ARMY!

Greeley did come to his senses a little. He soon came to regret his subordinates’ choice of words when the Union’s push toward Richmond became the deadly debacle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861—following the approximate schedule that had been urged by the Tribune. Furious rebuttals against Greeley came from the Northern public and some press, as saner minds saw the travesty of the situation at a time when—unlike today—mainstream news journals were not so centrally controlled and offered a reasonable divergence of opinion.

As Lundberg related, “Henry Jarvis Raymond’s Times blasted the ‘insane clamor’ of ‘certain reckless journals’ and their ‘senseless and incessant cry’ of ‘Onward to Richmond.’”

But the Albany Evening Journal, offered an especially precise appraisal: “The ‘on to Richmond’ dictators [emphasis added] have added another year to the war, a hundred millions of dollars to its cost, and opened graves for fifteen or twenty thousand more soldiers.”

The Albany paper, perhaps not realizing the full import of its own words, had pinpointed what Greeley’s Tribune had become — a weaponized media, which would become the norm in the mainstream media as the 19th Century gave way to the 20th Century, and into the 21st Century.

WAVERING FALSE FLAGS

The great “unmentionable,” however, is something that this New York Times account of Greeley’s exploits did not address and which the Times will always avoid altogether: That the South’s April 1861 attack on a Union military outpost at Fort Sumter, S.C., which provided the initial push toward the “Civil War,” would be a harbinger of things to come — in that it was a type of “false flag” operation, clandestinely arranged by the White House to maneuver the South into firing the first shot, the same basic model used against Japan in the lead-up to Pearl Harbor 80 years later.

And less than 40 years later, when the American battleship USS Maine, on Feb. 15, 1898, was destroyed in Havana harbor, the media’s lack of seeking accurate knowledge as to exactly what blew up the ship gave leading 19th Century newspapermen the platform they needed to instead detonate “information bombs”, once again, instilling fear and overriding wiser counsel in order to blame Spain, and catapulting the U.S. into the Spanish-American War — the first international-scale war that set the dangerous precedent of constant U.S. military patrols and interventionism across the world.

The leading fake news figures of that era who so inflamed public opinion toward that war are still household names: William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer, the latter being the namesake of the famed Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.  These two moguls, who became emblematic of the era of sensationalized ‘Yellow Journalism‘, competed to see who could better ratchet up war fever against Spain.

Hearst, on whom the movie Citizen Kane was loosely based, with Orson Wells playing the media mogul, was an especially reckless newsman. Ironically, Hearst had developed his passion for journalism in his early 20s and wrote for the Harvard Lampoon while a college student before working as an apprentice for the New York World’s editor, none other than future rival Joseph Pulitzer.  Hearst’s father had become wealthy from Western mining interests, so the younger Hearst was able to use his dad’s backing to acquire the New York Journal.

“As Hearst sought to gain readership for his New York Journal against Pulitzer’s New York World, he pursued increasingly sensational stories,” author and history teacher Ian C. Friedman noted online.  “Front pages shouted about the boy who bit into a stick of dynamite thinking it was candy and leading to an ‘awful death,’ and a tale of a deranged girl running down a street with her hair ‘all ablaze,’ and other stories of violence, sex, catastrophe, and mayhem were typical of what became known as yellow journalism, so named because the newly-introduced colored comics sections often spread [yellow ink] to other parts of these newspapers.”

Hearst’s penchant for publishing fake or exaggerated stuff as if it’s “real” or accurate was given full reign as he angled for an ill-advised, pointless U.S. intervention in Cuba. In so doing, he took the forbidden leap from journalism to war participation.

“[He] was persistent in finding ways to achieve it, including organizing a daring and successful rescue mission to free a young, female Cuban political prisoner, Evangelina Cisneros, which he proudly trumpeted on the front page of the Journal,” Friedman added. “Though the Cuban insurrection against their Spanish rulers was stagnating, Hearst continued to send many of his high-profile writers and illustrators to the Cuba in hopes of capturing a great story.  Among Hearst’s employees was the famed illustrator Frederic Remington.  In 1897, Remington became very bored by the lack of anything newsworthy in Cuba and cabled to Hearst, “Everything quiet. There is no trouble here. There will be no war. Wish to return.”

Responding to Remington’s message, Hearst famously replied, Please remain.  You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.

Less than three weeks later, the USS Maine exploded in Havana’s harbor. The cause of the explosion that claimed 274 lives remains a mystery to this day.  Theories include that the ship detonated an external mine; that the blast was caused by an undetected internal coal fire; that it was attacked by the Spanish; and even that it was intentionally attacked under a clandestine American operation to force the U.S. into the war on false pretenses.

Clearly, if we do not know what happened to the Maine even now, then Hearst certainly did not know what happened at the time of the explosion, yet he published headlines such as, “CRISIS AT HAND . . . SPANISH TREACHERY . . . Maine Destroyed by An Outside Attack, Naval Officers Believe.”

Other “war first, ask questions later, if ever” situations would follow. The May 1915 sinking of the British passenger ship Lusitania, which, having been secretly loaded with munitions, is thought to have been used as bait to help spark World War I. And even if the German U-Boat which sank her was not directly “baited,” the British admiralty, in tandem with the American admiralty, knowingly and willfully let that ship leave New York loaded with munitions, bound for  “shark-infested” waters (German U-boats). Yet the existence of the munitions was not officially admitted until 1982.

Nearly 1,200 unwitting passengers and the crew perished in an event that shifted American opinion against Germany, priming the pump for the U.S. to enter the war.

Moreover, gutsy historian John Toland and retired sailor and researcher Robert Stinnett, among others, exposed the FDR Administration with reams of evidence demonstrating how Washington DC knowingly baited the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor, an event which sparked U.S. entry into World War II (and also for treacherously denying Pearl Harbor’s commanders any warning of the coming attack).

Stinnett, who earned 10 battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation in World War II and was in the same naval aerial photography group as George H.W. Bush, was no flunky. His book on Pearl Harbor, ”Day of Deceit” absolutely destroys those who hopelessly cling to the “surprise attack” narrative, which still includes the deceitful big media.

There was also the second of the two Gulf of Tonkin incidents on Aug. 4, 1964, in which North Vietnamese forces allegedly fired upon the U.S. Naval vessels. But an in-depth U.S. Naval Institute review found that the Aug. 4 incident, which was the turning point that led to full U.S. involvement in the Vietnam conflict, never happened. “There was not a second attack on U.S. Navy ships in the Tonkin Gulf in early August 1964. Furthermore, the evidence suggests a disturbing and deliberate attempt by Secretary of Defense McNamara to distort the evidence and mislead Congress,” the USNI concluded.

Congress, without a responsibly skeptical press to rely upon, soon passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to cement the U.S. into what became the Vietnam nightmare. But no formal war declaration ever occurred.

TOTAL INSTITUTIONAL FAILURE?

Yet, as increasingly more people in our Internet age ask harder questions and finally discover the truth about all these watershed events, only mainstream editors, reporters and court historians, with rare exceptions, believe the old official narratives anymore—narratives which ushered America into wars in such a manner that war has become a permanent fixture in U.S. geo-politics.

Put another way, the Western press has not only utterly failed to stop the power of government from ballooning into a perpetual war machine — despite institutional claims that it “speaks truth to power” — the mainstream media has been a major agent in justifying and escalating wars, without ever acknowledging its dreadful history of doing so. Covering-up real history and failing to consider other viewpoints and correct the record is arguably another form of fake, weaponized news because it denies the world a full reckoning of its past, thereby making future wars much more likely.

Instead, an honest look at history shows, with only minor exceptions, that the mainstream orthodox press of yesteryear laid the groundwork long ago for the modern centralized news institution that relishes in “fear porn” — supporting ongoing war, mayhem and grave economic uncertainty by covering up past and present realities, avoiding solutions and constantly recycling the corrosive narratives that go nowhere and cause real, lasting harm and have put, and continue to put, large swaths of humanity into early graves.

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Author Mark Anderson is an investigative journalist and features writer for American Free Press, and is editor of The Truth Hound. Contact Mr. Anderson at truthhound2@yahoo.com

21st Century Wire

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