Editor's note: Danny Haiphong is a journalist based in the United States and activist with the No Cold War international campaign. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
U.S. politicians frequently accuse media outlets in China and elsewhere of spreading "fake news" on behalf of their governments. Social media channels in the United States have labeled publications "state-affiliated media" to belittle press coverage within countries Washington views as adversaries, such as China or Iran. However, ample evidence exists that "war-affiliated media" more aptly describes the U.S. press.
According to journalist Dan Cohen of MintPress News and the Grayzone, U.S. media outlets are deeply wedded to the military-industrial complex through the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). CNAS is an influential foreign policy think-tank with at least 16 alumni currently employed in key positions in the Joe Biden administration's Pentagon and State Department. Top funders of CNAS include the State Department and Northrup Grumman Systems Corporation, one of the largest military contractors in the world.
Several national security correspondents from the largest U.S. media outlets are writers in residence with CNAS. This includes long-time New York Times correspondents and Iraq War enthusiasts David Sanger and Michael Gordon. Sanger and Gordon were important purveyors of the Bush administration's weapons of mass destruction lie that justified the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Gordon currently writes for the Wall Street Journal and has been promoting the Wuhan "lab leak theory." Washington Post correspondent David Finkle joined CNAS soon after Amazon mogul Jeff Bezos purchased the outlet in 2013.
The connection between U.S. media and Washington's imperial ambitions runs deeper than CNAS. New documents obtained in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal that the Pentagon possesses immense influence over Hollywood. The documents contained evidence that the Pentagon frequently requires script edits and the inclusion of recruitment advertisements in major films and television programs in exchange for material aid. Major script edits were made to the U.S.'s hit series Homeland while Captain Marvel and numerous other films were tied to military recruitment campaigns upon the Pentagon's request.
Televised news media is just as embedded in the military-industrial complex as Hollywood. For more than a decade, NBCwas majority-owned by General Electric (GE), a major manufacturer of supplies for nearly every weapon used during the U.S. war in Iraq. Boardrooms of major U.S. media outlets often include prominent executives of weapons manufacturers who wield significant influence over staffing newsrooms. Former CIA director John Brennan, who has defended the agency's use of torture, is employed as an intelligence analyst for MSNBC. Former National Intelligence Director James Clapper is a security analyst for CNN, as is former CIA director Michael Hayden.
Such a media environment not only indicates a deep conflict of interest but also the hypocrisy of American exceptionalism. Political leaders in Washington endlessly boast about the United States' inherent superiority in "free press."
A screenshot of the Grayzone webpage
A screenshot of the Grayzone webpage
These same political leaders rarely mention that while U.S. media corporations gladly accept funding from weapons manufacturers and hire national security officials as correspondents, they simultaneously fail to come to defend Julian Assange, Daniel Hale and other whistleblowers persecuted for exposing U.S. war crimes. U.S. media rarely, if ever, challenges the foreign policy establishment precisely because the existence of their companies and staff largely depends on support from both the war industry and military officials.
This is especially true in relation to China, which has become a principal target of U.S. foreign policy and is routinely demonized as a "threat" to U.S. values. U.S. media provides cover for aggression by publishing evidence-free material that projects inhumane, evil qualities onto China. Michael Gordon's co-authored article in the Wall Street Journal, for example, was key to the Biden administration's decision to investigate the "lab leak theory." The majority of Americans now hold a negative view of China partly because of the U.S. media's sensationalized and often fabricated stories about the country.
A central function of the U.S. media is to manufacture consent for the U.S.'s imperial agenda from the general population. That's why Secretary of Defense Llyod Austin could accuse China of aggression in the South China Sea during his visit to Singapore without the presence of a counter-narrative. Vice President Kamala Harris is also scheduled to visit Singapore and Vietnam and reported to promote a similar message. Both Harris and Austin can rely on the media to refrain from criticizing their support of dangerous policies, such as the U.S. military's expansion in the South China Sea, which blatantly interferes with China's internal affairs and regional partnerships.
U.S. media operates as a propaganda arm of the war industry and the Pentagon. It shares responsibility in fostering an atmosphere of war in a moment when cooperation and solidarity are most needed. Once the veil of a "free press" is lifted, the ambitions of an imperial hegemon desperate to hold onto its outmoded system of unilateral domination become clearer.
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