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Building the Echo Chamber: Is There Free Press in the US?

© AFP 2023 / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKIWhite House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes speaks to reporters.
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes speaks to reporters. - Sputnik International
The United States Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees freedom of the press. But is the American media truly free? According to journalist Greg Palast, it’s just the opposite. Palast joined Radio Sputnik’s Brian Becker to discuss the issue.

A recent New York Times story describes Ben Rhodes, a Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, as a key figure who shapes how the US media discusses current events. It has been suggested that Rhodes is responsible for creating a so-called echo chamber in American media, effectively corralling journalists to fall in line with the administration of the US President.

The echo chamber phenomenon can be described as a state in which a set of views is established as the only possible truth, and that view is then shared by all participants, into which no outside information or opposing view can penetrate.

"We've known this," Palast told Loud & Clear, referring to Rhodes' outing in the Times. "It's just the first time that someone from the inside confirmed it." According to Palast, this state of affairs has lasted for years.

"‘We created an echo chamber,'" Palast quoted Rhodes saying.  "‘They were saying things that validated what we've given them to say.'"

"We don't have reporters anymore," Palast said, explaining how media works today. "We have repeaters."

He illustrated this statement with a 2002 case in which a coup d'état was attempted in Venezuela, and President Hugo Chavez was kidnapped. The Times ran the story, according to Palast, to read that "Chavez voluntarily resigned, realizing what a terrible job he had done." No mention of a coup or a kidnapping was made.

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At that time, Palast contacted the Venezuelan government and confirmed that Chavez had been kidnapped. Palast then contacted the Times, and asked how they arrived at their spin. "The State Department told us," was the answer.

"The reporter was shocked that I questioned what the State Department has said," Palast said.

"The cheapest way to get information is to accept official propaganda."

Palast gave an example of how news on Iran's nuclear program was crafted.

"[The White House] says Greg Palast is an expert in nuclear physics, and he's going to tell us that Iran is going to build a nuclear bomb," Palast offered. "You might know nothing about nuclear physics, and nobody is testing your credentials, so suddenly you're an expert. Then the newspaper says ‘The experts say…' What experts?!… They don't name them. I want their names!"

Illustrating the extent to which the US mainstream media are under government control, Palast recalls the invasion of Iraq under the administration of then-President George W. Bush.

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During that time, Palast was able to "get his hands" on a set of documents with plans for Iraq oilfields. This information was "on top of the BBC News, on top of The Guardian and newspapers all of the world, but in the United States there was no mention that we've uncovered the secret plans for oil fields in Iraq."

Instead, he recalled, there was a brief article in the New York Times, saying, "The Internet theories about secret plans for oil fields in Iraq are easily debunked."

Commenting on a recent story in The Washington Post condemning Rhodes, Palast said "I find it funny, but also sickening, that the Washington Post, instead of saying ‘Mea Culpa, we were a part of the echo chamber set up by the administration,' instead attacks Rhodes for exposing their game."

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