The Intellectual Laziness of the Mainstream Media
OPINION: In this article we look at the recent attempts to discredit independent journalists covering the Russian Special Military Operation in Ukraine
Recently an opinion piece by Mathew Foresta appeared in The Daily Beast raising some eyebrows on social media regarding Mathew’s coverage of several independent journalists and media personalities. In the article, the aforementioned individuals had allegations thrown at them about their past instead of substantive information regarding their arguments.
Mathew appears to have relied on aesthetics and unrelated factoids of these individuals’ past. Strange inclusions into Mathew’s piece, such as Scott Ritter’s alleged history, while curious, have absolutely no bearing on the essence of the discussion about Russia’s Special Military Operation in Ukraine or alleged human rights abuses in China.
Factoids such as these were peppered into the article in an attempt to discredit the person being discussed.
Chance to Comment?
Immediately after the story broke, some of the subjects of the article took to Twitter to weigh in, unimpressed with Mathew’s reporting and sharing questions that were sent to them by email.
It is unclear as to why any of these questions would be relevant to addressing their specific points on disinformation. Questions such as:
-That you have railed against “feminizing men,” “masculinizing women,” and letting “other dudes fuck your wife.”
Now keep in mind, this is supposedly a journalist who is serious about getting to the heart of serious issues. It would be rude of us to poke fun at such hard hitting questions such as:
-That you are, or are similarly ideologically aligned, with the so called “Tankie” element of The Left that often defends authoritarian regimes, dictators, and denies human rights abuses, is this accurate?"
Lastly, our ironic personal favorite:
-That disinformation is a profitable enterprise, one from which you benefit. Do you deny this?
As Sameera pointed out in her tweet, why would anyone answer these questions? Surely one would think an email of this nature could pass as some troll, not a freelance journalist hired by a major mainstream media publication.
Danny Haiphong also joined in on Twitter and produced a video response to the Daily Beast article:
Aesthetics Over Substance
Throughout the article, a consistent pattern of presenting allegations against the subjects without actually addressing the crux of their arguments, the meat-and-potatoes. For instance, the paragraph describing Scott Ritter, a former United States Marine Corps intelligence officer as well as United Nations weapons inspector, serving from 1991 to 1998. These are the types of facts that are relevant to any reader when discussing his credibility in commenting on the on-going Russa-Ukraine conflict.
Instead, Mathew gives a brief concession that Scott was right about his assessments in Iraq, followed by an incoherent tirade about how his history with a webcam incident is somehow relevant to his credentials as a former intelligence officer & weapons inspector.
In one he interviews Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector who was correct about Iraq and WMDs. (Notably, Camp doesn’t mention that Ritter is a sex offender. He was arrested in 2001 after contacting cops who were posing as underage girls online, but the charges were dismissed on condition he entered intensive counseling, The New York Times reported. He was convicted for a 2009 incident where he masturbated on a webcam for an undercover law enforcement officer who repeatedly stated he was a 15-year-old girl.)
While this information certainly raises an eyebrow, it is completely irrelevant to the topics discussed in the context of disinformation. What matters specifically, is his professional assessment on weapons.
The irony of the section covering Li Jingjing, being sure to bring up the labels given to her by social media websites like Twitter:
Li was recently identified by the Associated Press as an influencer who pushes propaganda, and whose accounts are often inconsistently labeled as Chinese state media.
However, earlier in that very same paragraph, Mathew directly quotes from the BBC as if they are an impartial source, without mentioning that they are a British Public Broadcast Service. It seems Mathew thinks it is only worth mentioning state media affiliation when it is used to attack someone else.
Perhaps another source of irony we can appreciate from this piece is when Mathew pulls from The National Endowment for Democracy:
In an email to The Daily Beast, Haiphong claimed that the story Ziawudun told the BBC is inconsistent with her other interviews; that she was resettled by an organization that has received funding from the National Endowment for Democracy; and that “the claims she has made at present should be further investigated.”
One would assume that looking into her claims, instead of relying on aesthetics, would be the optimal path for a journalist. Is there perhaps a reason the National Endowment for Democracy and its affiliated organizations may be cause for suspicion? Perhaps the fact that the United States has used the NED in the past for dissemination of propaganda.
In case there is any doubt, they even have an official organization code within the CIA! The reason Li’s stories differ is perfectly reconciled when the only outlier is a government funded broadcast network mixed with US-Intelligence funded NGOs, such as NED and related groups.
Another paragraph that invoked some laughter was when the article attempted to imply that there is not currently an on-going information war between the United States and China.
What Li doesn’t mention in either her interview with Norton or Haiphong is that they’re all listed as co-signatories of an ideological statement deriding the “propaganda war against China.” The document laments: “Unsubstantiated accusations of genocide and forced labour in Xinjiang echo endlessly in Western media and governments, along with conspiracy theories about the origins of the pandemic.”
It is incredibly strange to pretend there is not an on-going information war between China given that there are several bills on the books recently that aim to ramp up this effort, just one example:
H.R.4521 - America COMPETES Act
The H.R.4521 - America COMPETES Act, which has already passed the house and senate, would give millions in funds to exiting US propaganda outlets, such as Radio Free Asia, which is funded by the United States government, and has been used for clandestine propaganda dissemination projects since at least the 1950s.
Social Media Responses
Reaction on social media was pretty one-sided, with a lot of the reactions poking fun at the quality of work and the absurdity of some of the content. Social Media Influencer Ian Miles Cheong for instance, poked fun at the absurdity of some of the content:
Another piece of commentary by writer publication Caitlin Johnstone, who outlines hilarious past Tweets that coincide with the response to the Daily Beast article.
Additionally Tara Reade, the subject of sexual assault allegations against President Joe Biden, also weighed in on the matter, pointing out the alleged hypocrisy of the line about rape victims found in the article.
Although we have already touched on the topic of biolabs in a previous article, it is still worth mentioning here that someone should not be derided for believing in the presence of biolabs when Victoria Nuland on C-SPAN confirmed their existence and expressed concern with them falling into Russian hands. This coupled with Scott Ritter’s testimony on the subject hardly comes close to the level of disinformation Mathew implies in his writing.
Full article on misinformation linked below.
It is unclear as to what prompted Mathew to pursue an article of this nature. We attempted to reach out to both The Daily Beast, and Mathew for comment but have not yet received a response.
At best the individuals mentioned in Mathew’s article can be criticized for having opinions that are contrary to the mainstream media narrative. The fictional narrative that Mathew presents, that these individuals are somehow professional propagandists doing the bidding for Putin, reads more like fanfiction than it does journalism. Just look at the last paragraph:
In the end, efforts like that are what these disinformation peddlers obstruct as they, uplifted by big tech, deny the bombs that fall on civilian heads, justify the tanks that roll forward in a war of aggression, and aid the boot that fall on the neck of the oppressed.
Word salad, with irony-cheese grated on top of it.