Beyond criminal? Corporate media using false reporting to indict political foes, alter reality

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Commentary by R. Clinton Ohlers

That the Washington Post published damaging fiction about the recent Georgia controversy, and the rest of the major media participated in the fraud is evidence of something much worse than “fake news.”

It is evidence of the lengths partisan Democrats, Never Trumpers, and a complicit media are willing to go in “harming their political enemies.”

New York Times reporting on the death of Officer Brian Sicknick shows the major media as willing accomplices to false claims of murder itself.

Related: Georgia in review: How corporate media uses the ‘wrap-up smear’ to criminalize politics, March 21, 2021

The harm is not limited to undermining policy goals. It extends to generating public support for criminal prosecution of opposed political leaders and their supporters, by means of willful fabrications.

Glenn Greenwald observed on March 16:

With liberal media outlets deliberately embracing a profit model of speaking overwhelmingly to partisan Democrats who use them as their primary source of news, there is zero cost to publishing false claims about people and groups hated by that liberal audience.

That audience does not care if these media outlets publish false stories as long as it is done for the Greater Good of harming their political enemies, and this ethos has contaminated newsrooms as well.

Even after “correction,” the Post demonstrates the truth of this assessment. The updated article retains the aspersions of criminality previously asserted on the basis of the now removed fake quotes.

The headline reads:

Trump pressured a Georgia elections investigator in a separate call legal experts say could amount to obstruction


Trump’s earlier call, to the chief investigator, could also carry serious criminal implications, according to several former prosecutors, who said that the president may have violated laws against bribery or interfering with an ongoing probe.

Greenwald recently published the “top ten” examples of such “independently confirmed” media fictions. They are indicators of a genuine social crisis. In every instance the purpose of the charade is to criminally implicate political opponents.

The top example is a story CNN broke on Dec. 8, 2017 claiming email proof of Don Trump, Jr.’s involvement in collusion with Russia to manipulate the 2016 election. The email, CNN claimed, demonstrated Don Jr. had received advanced access to the famous Wikileaks archive of DNC and Podesta emails a full ten days before they were released.

Greenwald reports CNN assured viewers that “this stunning and incriminating email had been obtained by ‘congressional investigators,’ and ‘multiple sources’ conveyed its contents to CNN.”

Wikileaks published the archive on Sept. 14. Don Jr., they claimed to have received the email on September 4.

In reality, the email was not dated Sept. 4. It was dated Sep. 14, the same day as the release. It was sent by a random public supporter who had read about the Wikileaks dump that day, thought it could be of interest to Trump Jr., and suggested he should take a look.

Greenwald adds:

But what was most notable about this episode is that it was not just CNN which reported this fraudulent story. An hour or so after the network shook the political world with its graphics-and-music-shaped bombshell, other news networks — including MSNBC and CBS News — claimed that they had obtained what they called “independent confirmation” that the story was true.

What had really happened was that, a la Jordan Fuchs almost three years later, one or more political operatives contacted each of these news offices with the false claim, or the other media outlets just repeated the story and outright lied about their confirmation. At best, “independent confirmation” could only mean that the other outlets had an source that was not CNN. The appearance of confirmation by a source independent of CNN’s source was as fictitious as the story itself.

The origins of the Mueller investigation itself have revealed that this mode of corruption includes the Department of Justice entrusted with prosecuting the fabricated crimes. Just months before, a FISA judge signed warrants to electronically surveil members of the Trump campaign, based on just such independent confirmation of a fake Russian dossier. In reality, the confirmation was nothing more than details from the dossier that DOJ investigators seeking the warrants had leaked to the press.

Nor do the major media limit these public criminal framing attempts to political figures and their families. They extend to those who support, vote, and protests on their behalf. Although not a criminal allegation, the slander of the teenage Trump supporter Nicholas Sandmann, guilty only of demonstrating good behavior while wearing a MAGA hat, showed the media’s willingness to unleash enormous destructive forces on a innocent minor.

The Jussie Smollett hoax, however, pretended to include attempted murder.

Events at the Capitol building on Jan. 6 reveal the major media as willing accomplices to false claims of murder itself.

For weeks following the 6th, the public heard over and over again how Trump supporters savagely and mortally beat Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. This time the news outlet was The New York Times and the sources were “two anonymous law enforcement officials.”

The story described the incident in lurid detail. Trump supporters “struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials. With a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support. He died on Thursday evening.”

The lurid details never happened. Officer Sicknick died of a stroke. He was never struck by a fire extinguisher, or any blunt object, on the 6th. He did not have a head wound. He was not rushed to the hospital.

Rather, Sicknick returned to his office. That night he was alive, and texted family members to tell them he was well. In a text to his brother he reported other than “being pepper sprayed twice” he was “in good shape.” His brother stated, Sicknick later collapsed and was resuscitated with CPR.”

Even the men arrested for deploying the pepper spray, were not charged with murder. As the Times later admitted, “both officers and rioters deployed spray, mace and other irritants during the attack” and “it remains unclear whether Officer Sicknick died because of his exposure to the spray.”

The incident is also a startling example of even the official report changing temporarily to conform to the media account supposedly drawn from official sources. In response to media rumors the next day, the Capitol Hill Police Department announced on Twitter that Sicknick was alive. Then less than an hour later the department reversed, reporting his death on their website. With reality still yet to break in, the account now matched the media misinformation. Officer Sicknick had “passed away due to injuries sustained while on-duty.”

Since Sicknick was the only person to die at the Capitol and who was not there as a Trump supporter, the tale of his death was of high political value in shaping the larger false narrative of a bona fide insurrection.

The New York Times dissemination of blood libel has worked wonders in recasting public perceptions of over a million people who came to Washington DC to show support for the president, as well as the many who had attended multiple earlier and entirely peaceful election protests and rallies.

Up to then, typical of the destructive and often violent rioting throughout the summer, what violence did occur at Trump rallies was perpetrated by Antifa members and the like against peaceful attendees, typically as ambushes from behind.

The narrative of physical violence at the Capitol has assuredly been of instrumental value in the disparate treatment of the protesters who entered the Capitol on January 6, compared with those who forced entry during the Women’s March of 2017 or entered the Capitol and cornered Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearing in 2018.

No longer viable, yet alive in the public imagination, the narrative serves to justify excessive force in the arrest of individuals rumored to have entered the Capitol, or who, like invited speaker Dr. Simone Gold, did so after police allowed entry.

One wonders how many Antifa involved in setting fires at the Seattle Federal Courthouse Building have been arrested by squads of FBI breaking down their door, guns drawn, and the support of a turret mounted vehicle.

One hopes that, in spite of Greenwald’s assessment, the major media audience still cares about some modicum of truth. What is certain is that the members of the media who serve that audience are regularly complicit in the wrap-up smear for the purpose of inventing crimes.

The willingness to do so has become so commonplace that it has distorted the public consciousness of reality.

To criminally implicate political opponents and their supporters with false reports bolstered by false claims of confirmation is the real crime. To so consign society to this dystopian false reality is equally as criminal.

R. Clinton Ohlers, PhD is a historian of science and religion and a contributing editor for the FreePressMediaGroup. Previously, he held the position of Research Assistant Professor in the Humanities at the University of Hong Kong. His book, The Birth of the Conflict Between Science and Religion, is scheduled to appear in 2022. His PhD in history is from the University of Pennsylvania.

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