SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Pravda-ization of the News

No Context, But Propaganda Is Amusing

Try as they may to make the news as boring as possible, U.S. media outlets keep churning out hilarious “news” stories. Hardly a day passes without the release of some piece whose content is so ridiculous, its tone so absurdly credulous, that it makes us feel as if we live in a bizarre reincarnation of the propaganda-soaked Soviet Union.

Remember “Baghdad Bob”? Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, Iraq’s information minister during the 2003 U.S. invasion, kept denying reality, insisting that Saddam’s regime was winning even as attacking tanks appeared in the background of his camera shots. I had a Baghdad Bob flashback moment earlier this week while listening to NPR’s afternoon news program “All Things Considered.”

“President Obama toured the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington today joined by Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel Laureate, Elie Wiesel. Mr. Obama said the U.S. must never again allow such atrocities to take place,” said Melissa Block.


The implication is that Obama cares about protecting innocent people from state-run mass murder. That the U.S. has moral standing. But…but…

The U.S. is currently the world’s leading perpetrator of atrocities!

American wars against Afghanistan and Iraq have slaughtered at least two million people and injured many millions more. The U.S. maintains a network of “black site” secret prisons and concentration camps around the world. President Obama claims the right to assassinate anyone, including U.S. citizens, anywhere in the world, without having to explain himself to a court. We’re the #1 arms dealer on the planet. And, as a British newspaper has learned, the military maintains dozens of secret drone bases here inside the U.S., obviously for future use against the enemies of our increasingly oppressive police state.

The Obama Administration isn’t killing as many people as were killed during the Holocaust—but that’s not saying much. Does NPR think we’ve forgotten that the hands of our political leaders are dripping with blood? Or is NPR trying to compete with Comedy Central?

The report included an Obama sound bite: “And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience. Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence simply for demanding their universal rights. We have to do everything we can.”

When innocents suffer. Well, not all innocents, right, Mr. President? Like, we’re not supposed to lose sleep over the thousands of detainees—including children—in U.S. concentration camps at Guantánamo, Bagram, Diego Garcia, Thailand, and Bulgaria. All of who are, under U.S. law, innocent of any crime (because they’ve never been charged, much less convicted, in court).

Anyway, it’s not like the U.S. is doing “everything we can” for the Syrian resistance. Not that we should. But coverage like this—it really does hearken back to the glory days of Pravda and Izvestia.

It’s bad enough to be fed propaganda. But at least make an effort when you lie. This crap is insulting.

In the same report, Don Gonyea let loose this howler: “Mr. Obama announced new sanctions against nations that commit grave human rights abuses through technology that includes cell phone tracking and monitoring citizens on the Internet.”

What a kidder! Such awesomely dry delivery!

As the San Francisco Chronicle reported: “The President took aim at Syria and Iran, whose leaders have tapped compliant phone companies and Internet services to hunt down dissenters.”

Listening to and reading that, you could almost forget that Obama voted for FISA, which retroactively legalized Bush’s illegal domestic wiretapping program, which was carried out by the National Security Agency and—ahem—compliant phone companies such as AT&T. FISA also radically expanded the federal government’s right to listen to your phone calls and intercept your email without a warrant.

Obama’s own commission of “grave human rights abuses through technology that includes cell phone tracking and monitoring citizens on the Internet” is context worth mentioning in a story about Obama imposing sanctions on other countries that do the same things. Maybe something like this: “Mr. Obama, whose Administration vigorously asserts its right to track Americans’ cell phones and track them on the Internet, announced sanctions against other countries that do the same thing.”

They wouldn’t be telling us anything we didn’t already know. But here’s the thing—as ignorant and stupid as the American public is, the media thinks we’re even stupider and more ignorant!

If nothing else, our neo-Soviet media sure is funny.

(Ted Rall’s next book is “The Book of Obama: How We Went From Hope and Change to the Age of Revolt,” out May 22. His website is

6 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: The Pravda-ization of the News

  1. Propaganda’s a bitch, ain’t it? Especially when the propagandist is the consumer. You know, the ones who spout off propaganda like “environmentalism is a profit scheme”, or “recycling is bullshit”.

    Sucks when the tables are turned, eh? Eat up, Ted. Eat up. I hope you enjoy your ample servings of home-grown Obama-flavored propaganda! Your frustration is my victory.

  2. Ex,

    Recycling IS bullshit. Plastics degrade as they recycle. You can’t make new soda bottles out of old ones. After five or six trips, you end up with a final product that has no utility. But the consumers think that all those plastic bottles get reused indefinitely. Wrong. With each iteration of recycling, a smaller proportion gets used. So, from 1 million soda bottles, you might end up with the plastic from 50,000 of them going all the way through the chain. A similar situation exists with paper recycling.

    In a sustainable recycling endeavor, a company would be barred from using packaging that could not be shown to have unique, irreplaceable properties. For instance, plastic tubes and catheters would still be made. But take a look at the supermarket one day. Really look. It’s all convenience food. There is no justification for 95% of the plastic in a supermarket except that it’s for convenience. “I’m just to busy to water sugar-water for my children myself, so I buy Brand SW sugar-water. All the plastic, none of the effort!” I remember when deli counters wrapped your purchases in wax paper. The cheese and the meats never dried out then, either. But now, for convenience, it goes in a ziplock bag. Completely unnecessary.

    Meanwhile, we all sort our trash down to the molecular level so that we can be good people. And if we don’t, we get a fine. So even if we understand how futile and counter-productive it is to sort out plastic bottles (because it gives the majority a false sense of having done something), we are compelled to follow suit.

    It can’t all hold together much longer, folks. Nature and math always get the last word, and they’re finding themselves in agreement more and more lately.

  3. Weird. A column about US military adventures, and two comments about recycling???


    If Mr Rall were a patriotic American, he’d know that the US is God’s country (I guess that’s a problem for a Marxist). The US President is elected by the US people, and so can do no wrong. The people the US President orders killed all deserve to die, they are all criminals, and they have had more than adequate due process without the unnecessary expense of trials, courts, proof, or evidence (just listen to the Obama supporters interviewed by Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert), and this is clear to all patriotic Americans, who know no one can be elected President without being able to know the bad people who must be killed, and also feeling the obligation to kill them in order to keep all good American citizens safe.

    And what is particularly depressing is this unassailable fact: the Obama administration strongly supported, via an amicus curia brief, the right of the police to strip search anyone at any time for any reason or for no reason, and the Supreme Court upheld this right 5-4. But the two justices appointed by Obama were among the 4, not the 5, while justices appointed by McCain or Romney would have voted with the 5, not the 4.

    Voting for Obama affirms support for strip searches, and for the Presidential Power to kill anyone, anytime, for any reason or for no reason, or to have them incarcerated for life, and/or to have them strip searched, but it means that Obama will probably appoint Supreme Court justices who will try to restrict executive power.

    Voting against Obama or refusing to vote means supporting (or not resisting) someone who will appoint Supreme Court judges who will vote to ratify unlimited executive power.

    So choose wisely before voting or not voting.

  4. It is difficult for me to write without sarcasm, but I’ll try.

    I never met any of the 19 9/11 terrorists, but I’ve met their friends and families. Communication was difficult, since they speak very little English and I speak absolutely no Arabic, but I thought I heard words like ‘martyr’ when I first met them, but that’s a word I will never hear again, since they’ve been ordered never to use it again, or else.


    After Saudi Arabia asked US troops to come to save them from Saddam, the Muslim world was divided. Every Muslim agrees that only Muslims are allowed to enter Holy Mecca. Some Muslims say that extends to all of Saudi Arabia. Some say it extends to all of the Arabian peninsula.

    Osama bin Laden was furious that infidels were allowed on Arabian soil. He said that killing the puppet heads of Arabian states would do nothing, since the US would just replace them with clones, that only an attack on the US would teach the infidels a lesson they’d not soon forget. But Osama’s suggestions that attacking the US would be a good idea were not unlike the suggestions by a certain Grouchy Marxist that an assassination of President Nixon would be a good idea. The former was grounds for Osama’s assassination; the latter, for an order that the elderly, moustachioed Grouchy Marxist never be allowed near Nixon.

    The 9/11 hijackers heard those speeches by Osama, and figured out a way to carry them out. They met in Dubai, then went to Germany, then to the UK, and finally to the US.

    But the US government says Osama and a bunch of Afghanis and Pakistanis were involved, that they planned and paid for the 9/11 attack. And the Pakistanis ‘confessed’ after enhanced interrogation. Which, under US law, can never be called ‘torture’, with severe penalties for anyone who uses the ‘t’ word, but all those ‘confessions’ MUST be accepted as complete, irrefutable proof of guilt.

    And so, these ‘confessions’ have all been reported as irrefutable proof of guilt by the US media.

    Also reported as irrefutably true the ‘plans for an attack on the US that would dwarf 9/11’ that Seal Team 6 ‘found’ in Osama’s ‘multimillion dollar mansion.’

    As I’ve indicated before, I have absolutely no idea what to do about any of this (but I wish I did, or that someone would make a reasonable suggestion that I could follow and support).

    I’m in favour of a government that is based on proof and evidence, not on the unilateral discretion of the President, even if this unilateral discretion is now the Law of the Land, passed by Congress and upheld by the Supreme Court.

  5. michaelwme,

    You make a number of good points. Overall, they amount to, pretty much, the same notion, reiterated in slightly different ways. Basically, you take an implied Socratic approach. For instance, you discuss “enhanced interrogation,” call it (rightly) “torture,” and point out that we aren’t allowed to call it such because, well, because everyone who was involved decided that it wasn’t “torture” so it can’t be.

    Clearly, we’re arriving at the end-point of the political conversation. The United States’ actions are becoming not just more indefensible but also more incoherent. I can’t imagine that it will be much longer before the chorus of questions becomes unavoidable.

  6. I keep envisioning a Rall-esque cartoon of some sergeant calling out to his platoon (that’s playing with severed Afghani limbs and posing for photographs):

    “Come on boys! Pack up your toys! We’re off to Syria for another humanitarian mission!”