Never before has it been so important to have independent, honest voices and sources of information. We are – as a society – inundated and overwhelmed with a flood of information from a wide array of sources, but these sources of information, by and large, serve the powerful interests and individuals that own them. The main sources of information, for both public and official consumption, include the mainstream media, alternative media, academia and think tanks.
The mainstream media is the most obvious in its inherent bias and manipulation. The mainstream media is owned directly by large multinational corporations, and through their boards of directors are connected with a plethora of other major global corporations and elite interests. An example of these connections can be seen through the board of Time Warner.
Time Warner owns Time Magazine, HBO, Warner Bros., and CNN, among many others. The board of directors includes individuals past or presently affiliated with: the Council on Foreign Relations, the IMF, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Warburg Pincus, Phillip Morris, and AMR Corporation, among many others.
Two of the most “esteemed” sources of news in the U.S. are the New York Times (referred to as “the paper of record”) and the Washington Post. The New York Times has on its board people who are past or presently affiliated with: Schering-Plough International (pharmaceuticals), the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chevron Corporation, Wesco Financial Corporation, Kohlberg & Company, The Charles Schwab Corporation, eBay Inc., Xerox, IBM, Ford Motor Company, Eli Lilly & Company, among others. Hardly a bastion of impartiality.
And the same could be said for the Washington Post, which has on its board: Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University and Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; Warren Buffett, billionaire financial investor, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway; and individuals associated with (past or presently): the Coca-Cola Company, New York University, Conservation International, the Council on Foreign Relations, Xerox, Catalyst, Johnson & Johnson, Target Corporation, RAND Corporation, General Motors, and the Business Council, among others.
It is also important to address how the mainstream media is intertwined, often covertly and secretly, with the government. Carl Bernstein, one of the two Washington Post reporters who covered the Watergate scandal, revealed that there were over 400 American journalists who had “secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Interestingly, “the use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence-gathering employed by the CIA.” Among organizations which cooperated with the CIA were the “American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald-Tribune.”
By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc. The CIA even ran a training program “to teach its agents to be journalists,” who were “then placed in major news organizations with help from management.”
These types of relationships have continued in the decades since, although perhaps more covertly and quietly than before. For example, it was revealed in 2000 that during the NATO bombing of Kosovo, “several officers from the US Army’s 4th Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) Group at Ft. Bragg worked in the news division at CNN’s Atlanta headquarters.” This same Army Psyop outfit had “planted stories in the U.S. media supporting the Reagan Administration’s Central America policies,” which was described by the Miami Herald as a “vast psychological warfare operation of the kind the military conducts to influence a population in enemy territory.” These Army PSYOP officers also worked at National Public Radio (NPR) at the same time. The US military has, in fact, had a strong relationship with CNN.
In 2008, it was reported that the Pentagon ran a major propaganda campaign by using retired Generals and former Pentagon officials to present a good picture of the administration’s war-time policies. The program started in the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003 and continued into 2009. These officials, presented as “military analysts”, regurgitate government talking points and often sit on the boards of military contractors, thus having a vested interest in the subjects they are brought on to “analyze.”
The major philanthropic foundations in the United States have often used their enormous wealth to co-opt voices of dissent and movements of resistance into channels that are safe for the powers that be. As McGeorge Bundy, former President of the Ford Foundation once said, “Everything the Foundation does is to make the world safe for Capitalism.” Examples of this include philanthropies like the Rockefeller Foundation, Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation providing immense financial and organizational support to Non-Governmental Organizations. Furthermore, the alternative media are often funded by these same foundations, which has the effect of influencing the direction of coverage as well as the stifling of critical analysis.