If you couldn’t tell, I am being facetious above. As it turns out, it is very simple to spread propaganda worldwide. Well, at least it is if you have control of one of the 3 news agencies nearly every other news outlet parrots without any investigation into the matter.
I suggest clicking the link above and reading the whole thing but below find some choice quotes on the matter.
A study of the Syria war coverage by nine leading European newspapers clearly illustrates these issues: 78% of all articles were based in whole or in part on agency reports, yet 0% on investigative research. Moreover, 82% of all opinion pieces and interviews were in favor of a US and NATO intervention, while propaganda was attributed exclusively to the opposite side
So what are the names of these agencies that are “always at the source of the story”? There are now only three global news agencies left:
The American Associated Press (AP) with over 4000 employees worldwide. The AP belongs to US media companies and has its main editorial office in New York. AP news is used by around 12,000 international media outlets, reaching more than half of the world’s population every day.
The quasi-governmental French Agence France-Presse (AFP) based in Paris and with around 4000 employees. The AFP sends over 3000 stories and photos every day to media all over the world.
The British agency Reuters in London, which is privately owned and employs just over 3000 people. Reuters was acquired in 2008 by Canadian media entrepreneur Thomson – one of the 25 richest people in the world – and merged into Thomson Reuters, headquartered in New York.
I had imagined correspondents to be historians-of-the-moment. When something important happened, they would go after it, find out what was going on, and report on it. But I didn’t go off to find out what was going on; that had been done long before. I went along to present an on-the-spot report.
The editors in the Netherlands called when something happened, they faxed or emailed the press releases, and I’d retell them in my own words on the radio, or rework them into an article for the newspaper. This was the reason my editors found it more important that I could be reached in the place itself than that I knew what was going on. The news agencies provided enough information for you to be able to write or talk your way through any crisis or summit meeting.
That’s why you often come across the same images and stories if you leaf through a few different newspapers or click the news channels.
Our men and women in London, Paris, Berlin and Washington bureaus – all thought that wrong topics were dominating the news and that we were following the standards of the news agencies too slavishly.
The common idea about correspondents is that they ‘have the story’, () but the reality is that the news is a conveyor belt in a bread factory. The correspondents stand at the end of the conveyor belt, pretending we’ve baked that white loaf ourselves, while in fact all we’ve done is put it in its wrapping.
Afterwards, a friend asked me how I’d managed to answer all the questions during those cross-talks, every hour and without hesitation. When I told him that, like on the TV-news, you knew all the questions in advance, his e-mailed response came packed with expletives. My friend had relalized that, for decades, what he’d been watching and listening to on the news was pure theatre.” (Luyendjik 2009, p. 20-22, 76, 189)
While some topics do not appear at all in our media, other topics are very prominent – even though they shouldn’t actually be: “Often the mass media do not report on reality, but on a constructed or staged reality. () Several studies have shown that the mass media are predominantly determined by PR activities and that passive, receptive attitudes outweigh active-researching ones.” (Blum 1995, p. 16)
In fact, due to the rather low journalistic performance of our media and their high dependence on a few news agencies, it is easy for interested parties to spread propaganda and disinformation in a supposedly respectable format to a worldwide audience. DPA editor Steffens warned of this danger:
“The critical sense gets more lulled the more respected the news agency or newspaper is. Someone who wants to introduce a questionable story into the world press only needs to try to put his story in a reasonably reputable agency, to be sure that it then appears a little later in the others. Sometimes it happens that a hoax passes from agency to agency and becomes ever more credible.” (Steffens 1969, p. 234)
Among the most active actors in “injecting” questionable geopolitical news are the military and defense ministries. For example, in 2009 the head of the American news agency AP, Tom Curley, made public that the Pentagon employs more than 27,000 PR specialists who, with a budget of nearly $ 5 billion a year, are working the media and circulating targeted manipulations. In addition, high-ranking US generals had threatened that they would “ruin” him and the AP if the journalists reported too critically on the US military.
What is known to the US military, would not be foreign to US intelligence services. In a remarkable report by British Channel 4, former CIA officials and a Reuters correspondent spoke candidly about the systematic dissemination of propaganda and misinformation in reporting on geopolitical conflicts:
Former CIA officer and whistleblower John Stockwell said of his work in the Angolan war: “The basic theme was to make it look like an [enemy] aggression. So any kind of story that you could write and get into the media anywhere in the world, that pushed that line, we did. One third of my staff in this task force were propagandists, whose professional career job was to make up stories and finding ways of getting them into the press. () The editors in most Western newspapers are not too skeptical of messages that conform to general views and prejudices. () So we came up with another story, and it was kept going for weeks. () But it was all fiction.”
Fred Bridgland looked back on his work as a war correspondent for the Reuters agency: “We based our reports on official communications. It was not until years later that I learned that a little CIA disinformation expert had sat in the US embassy and had composed these communiqués that bore absolutely no relationship at all to truth. () Basically, and to put it very crudely, you can publish any old crap and it will get into the newspaper.”
And former CIA analyst David MacMichael described his work in the Contra War in Nicaragua with these words: “They said our intelligence of Nicaragua was so good that we could even register when someone flushed a toilet. But I had the feeling that the stories we were giving to the press came straight out of the toilet.” (Hird 1985)
Of course, the intelligence services also have a large number of direct contacts in our media, which can be “leaked” information to if necessary. But without the central role of the global news agencies, the worldwide synchronization of propaganda and disinformation would never be so efficient.
This chart shows the composition of the articles for the nine newspapers analyzed in total. As can be seen, 55% of articles were news agency reports (the 3 listed above); 23% editorial reports based on those reports material; 9% background reports; 10% opinions and guest comments; 2% interviews; and 0% based on investigative research.
This is just how they can start a war. I wonder what happens when they decide they want to change the global economy from capitalism to a resource-based economy, or as they put it “sustainable development”. Might they be able to use a contagious but ultimately undangerous virus, to push things like lockdowns, biometric passports, and mass vaccinations?
In this case study, the geopolitical coverage in nine leading European newspapers was examined for diversity and journalistic performance using the example of the Syrian war.
The results confirm the high dependence on the global news agencies (63 to 90%, excluding commentaries and interviews) and the lack of own investigative research, as well as the rather biased commenting on events in favor of the US/NATO side (82% positive; 2% negative), whose stories were not checked by the newspapers for any propaganda.