Archive for the ‘SOURCES OF INFORMATION’ Tag


John Chuckman



American intelligence warned the White House in November, 2019, about the outbreak in Wuhan, China. The warning had a number of specific observations about the nature of what was happening and was not theoretical.

Trump ignored the warning and took no action to prepare the United States, as at least making sure stocks of medical supplies were in order, which later very much proved not to be the case.

In late January, 2020, here was Trump being interviewed at Davos, Switzerland: “It’s going to be just fine,” Trump assured the interviewer. “We have it totally under control.”

In a speech in late February, 2020, Trump told a crowd, “Now, the Democrats are politicising the coronavirus… this is their new hoax.”

Imagine using the word “hoax” for a disease? One that would shortly infect 2 million of the world’s people and kill at least 150,000?

By the third week of February, 2020, advisers made a list of measures they thought would soon be required, measures such as school closings, sports and concert cancellations, and stay-at-home orders, but Trump did not act on them until mid-March.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview recently that imposition of those policies sooner would have saved lives. It made Trump and his followers very angry, and Trump may just have toyed with idea of firing Fauci, but Fauci has held his position for thirty-six years and received many high honors, and firing him would bring tidal waves of criticism.

In April, 2020, at a briefing, Trump used the smarmy methods of gossip to spread the unsupported notion that the coronavirus pandemic began when the pathogen accidentally escaped a Chinese laboratory, saying, “more and more we’re hearing the story.”

Note that contrived language, “more and more we’re hearing the story.” Yes, indeed, and the “more and more” is from Trump’s own shabby crew retailing exactly the same gossip.

It is also very much from Trump’s old favorite news source, China-hating Fox News, a network which has earned a reputation for undependable reportage, rumor-mongering, and playing to fears to boost ratings. It is the “yellow rag” (an old newspaper expression for publications with low-grade, cheap journalism) of television news networks.

Imagine the leader of a huge country depending, in any way, on that kind of source for information? And on top of the fact that he previously ignored accurate reports of intelligence professionals? He understands the difference of course. He is just being vicious. It just comes naturally to him.

Chinese experts say that although the novel coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan, there are no facts to support that it originated there. A gene sequence in the virus, compared to a world database of related viruses is said to demonstrate that the virus was imported to Wuhan.

The US National Institutes of Health had awarded a $3.7million research grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology for work on such viruses. They certainly don’t do that for second-rate outfits. Top-level science is of course international in character, just as we see with the CERN particle accelerator or the International Space Station and the world’s huge network of international collaborations and conferences.

Yuan Zhiming, an expert from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said in an interview that it is absolutely impossible for the virus to have been leaked from the institute. The standards maintained there are world-class.

Dr Gerald Keusch, Professor of Medicine and International Health at Boston University, said that no release of virus from a high-level lab, such as the one in Wuhan, has ever happened. He added, “The Wuhan lab is designed to the highest standards with redundant safety systems and the highest level of training. Many of its research faculty trained at a similar laboratory in Galveston, Texas.” Note again, with the reference to training, the international nature of high-level science.

Trump’s many references to the “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus,” instead of using the proper scientific name, is a direct appeal to prejudice and just one more in his long series of public efforts to denigrate and attack China – all of course reflecting resentment of Chinese economic success and competitiveness and not any wrongdoing. Trump’s effort was coordinated with the graceless Mike Pompeo, who tried imposing the same language on the G-7’s foreign ministers in a tele-conference. They declined to do so.

The White House was asked through diplomatic channels to stop using the terms, but when they wouldn’t, China took the unusual step – unusual, given that country’s quiet and respectful ways of conducting its affairs – of rebuking the American government in a public statement.

At the same briefing where Trump gossip-mongered about the virus’s origin, he also said with absolutely no evidence, “It took them a long time to realise what was going on, but I have a feeling they knew exactly what was going on.” He added, “Tragically, other nations put their trust in the WHO.” That from the man who shortly before had cut funding to the WHO (World Health Organization) in an effort to deflect public attention from his own blundering.

It would be hard to recall statements and acts by the leader of a major nation which were more irresponsible than Trump’s towards the world’s most important health agency at a time of global crisis.

Here’s Trump again, at this writing, “A lot of strange things were happening, but there is a lot of investigation going on, and we are going to find out,” Asked to comment on the likelihood of leaking from the Wuhan laboratory, he said, “All that I can say that whatever it came from, it came from China, in whatever form. 184 countries now are suffering because of that. And it’s too bad, isn’t it?”

All diseases arise somewhere. Evolution at the micro- and macro-level never stops anywhere. Studies of the devastating viral disease, AIDS, suggest it arose in what today is the Democratic Republic of Congo, then the Belgian Congo, likely in the 1920s, the virus changing form and passing from chimpanzees to humans. Is Belgium or the DRC to be held accountable?

Trump’s suggestions of blame for China are those of a vicious, ignorant man. Unfortunately, judging by the number of his followers, there are a good many such people in the country.

Dr. Fauci was asked to comment about a possible artificial origin for the virus. He said “There was a study recently that we can make available to you, where a group of highly qualified evolutionary virologists looked at the sequences there, the sequences in bats as they evolve, and the mutations that it took to get to the point where it is now is totally consistent with the jump of a species from animal to human.”

Posted April 19, 2020 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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John Chuckman



[Note to readers: this is a collection of thoughts loosely related to the title above rather than a finished essay]


In all American mainline publications, you will find Russo-phobia. It comes in many forms and variations, just as is always the case with propaganda and disinformation.

That sense of its being vaguely “everywhere” should serve as a warning for what is a universal characteristic of a certain kind of propaganda. Call it synthetic gossip.

Such propaganda follows the logic of big advertisers who want you to be as continuously aware of their products as it is possible to make you. That is why the Internet now is plagued by advertising, a longstanding reality of print and broadcast journalism and we see “product placement” in the films we pay to see.

That warning largely goes unheeded, just as for most people advertising saturating everything is just taken for granted as part of the atmosphere, part of the air they breathe.

And being “part of the air everyone breathes” has its real effects. In the early days of television, when advertising began to appear in everyone’s living room, often by the deceptively open and honest face of the star or host of a show, it quickly became apparent how powerful its effects were. Companies noted immediate jumps in sales of advertised products.

It had been so for radio, too, with its intimacy of a friendly, attractive voice listened to closely by families from the comfort of their living-room couches and armchairs, especially at certain evening hours.

But television was even more so with a friendly or sympathetic famous face seen glowing in a dimly-lighted room, almost a form of enchantment. A great deal of early television advertising was of the form of a program’s host or star taking a minute from the work of the program to talk to you directly about something he or she especially liked. Neighborly. Chatty. Cozy.

The approach is no longer “cozy” – Arthur Godfrey or Rod Serling or Bob Cummings taking a moment from his show to focus on you with a friendly word of recommendation – because American society in large part has moved on from “cozy.”

Part of the impact of post-early television technology has been to atomize and de-centralize society, each member of a family, for example, focusing on his or her own interests through various “media’ and devices.

A trace of the early form of personal advertising has survived in the endorsements now so widely used in every written or image format from labels to boxes. Companies pay such people great sums of money for lending their influence with fans or followers to the company’s interest of selling its product.

Advertising works as a form of suggestion in the human mind, and as with suggestion, not everyone is equally susceptible, but virtually everyone is to some degree. That’s why advertising works and why companies spend countless billions of dollars every year to place their “suggestions” “out there,” ideally in forms and in places where the most susceptible population will be exposed.

Propaganda and disinformation work exactly the same way. It is naïve to believe, as I am sure most Americans very much believed during the height of the Cold War, that only in authoritarian states is propaganda used on the people of a country. That belief was itself a suggestion constantly reinforced in television shows, movies, and in magazines and newspapers. It was inescapable.

Over the decades, advertising and propaganda have grown not just in volume but in sophistication and complexity. There is still some room for the simplistic stuff of an earlier time, but the dark arts have largely moved on.

The ideal is to plant a “targeted” suggestion in your mind, one targeted to appeal to your tastes and preferences because such suggestions are the most powerful. And ideally, that is accomplished in a manner so that you are really not aware of what is even taking place.

That is part of why we have in our daily-living environment something almost resembling a cosmic storm among the stars, a storm of cosmic rays and particles of every description bombarding everything entering a region.

That’s a pretty good description of Russo-phobia in the United States. It isn’t just in political speeches, it isn’t just in government and political publications, nor is it only in newspaper articles and television programs, it is virtually everywhere in one form or another, including just the word choices writers and speakers make and the attitudes they strike.

It is the contemporary sophisticated descendent of such rather clumsy propaganda as a television series, “I Led Three Lives” in the 1950s, or “The FBI” of the late 1960s, each episode of which had a brief personal anti-communist message at the end from J. Edgar Hoover himself.

Such shows were only one of countless ways that the “Soviet menace” was made almost tangible inside America. Politicians speeches, newspaper and broadcast story selection and emphasis and editorials kept fueling the fires.

I vividly remember, near the real start of Lyndon Johnson’s Vietnam War, a local newspaper in Chicago, and certainly not the most conservative one, having an editorial with a big bold headline, “The Reds are at the Gates!” That was likely 1964.

Even the assassination of John Kennedy was employed in the cause. Books and articles suggesting Russia was directly or indirectly involved, or that Russian-supported Cuba was, appeared for many years after his death, another measure of the size and intensity of historical anti-Russian activities.

Those suggestions were interesting because the assassination was almost certainly about the opposite of those claims and suggestions. It was about ending Kennedy’s efforts to form new communications with, and policies towards, the Soviet Union and Cuba.

In the case of Cuba, during the early 1960s, an entire industry had become established in the United States to promote hostility and war.

The CIA and FBI had massive investments in everything from radio and newspaper propaganda to gun-running operations, the training of private armies, the writing of manuals, the regular mounting of a range of terrorist operations against Cuba, plus many other activities right down to relationships with mafia interests who were offended by events in Cuba and keen to display their patriotism through cooperation with agencies like CIA and FBI.

All of it was supported by the vast resources of the State Department and other agencies and departments of government. I think few Americans today, younger ones anyway, are aware of the scale of the enterprise. Well, Kennedy very much got in its way, and it was unquestionably elements of that enterprise who killed him.

I do not mean to diverge into the 1960s or the assassination, a subject of great past interest to me.

I’m only touching on the massive legacy of anti-Russian feelings and notions fixed into the very fabric of the country. It still helps support any new anti-Russian initiatives. That always includes the Pentagon and CIA and FBI – it’s just their gut institutional instinct – but it also very much includes American political interests, and from both parties, each party’s emphasis varying over time.

In America it often takes a very long time for the public consensus to reach a conclusion about something you might think should have been apparent fairly early.

But when the establishment sets its mind to doing something, it is virtually impossible to stop it. And it has so many avenues for influencing people and keeping them confused – from corporate newspapers and broadcasters and hack writers and speakers at many institutions to virtually the entire national political establishment of both parties.

Since America is so much less a democracy than many recognize, it really isn’t necessary to fool all the people all the time. Far from it. And the flow of “information” from establishment sources is constant, virtually around the clock. It becomes part of the air you breathe.

Besides, Americans work very hard, and many have little time for becoming informed about such matters as, say, foreign affairs. If they have to trust someone with the idea of truth, it will tend to be the establishment voices easily accessed.

Most hardworking people at any level have little time or inclination to search for and assess different sources of information, as independent or foreign ones. And, truth be told, there are relatively few solid independent voices out there despite the apparent crush we can see on the Internet.

Apart from outfits on the Internet that now function virtually as agents for the establishment – outfits like Facebook, Wikipedia, or Google – the establishment has a good many inauthentic “independent” publications that it keeps going. The CIA always followed that practice with magazines and news sources during the Cold War, and it does still with sites many believe are independent voices.

Major Western European news sources today – as in Britain, France, or Germany – are in virtual lockstep with their American counterparts. If you think the Washington Post is biased – and it is, heavily – try The Guardian or BBC. They are often toe-scrunchingly insincere.

At the higher end of the employment scale in America, up-and-coming corporate and large professional office types work long hours, ten and twelve hours a day is not unusual, and often more than five days a week. It’s just expected of them. It keeps you looking like someone suitable for promotion. And the competition of others looking for promotions reinforces the discipline. When you do get home, there’s all those middle-class obligations, from the kids’ sports teams or music recitals or meetings at school to walking the dog or attending a service club meeting.

At the low end of the employment scale, millions of Americans must work more than one job just to make a go of things. Or, many jobs demand unusual hours and days. On public transit, for example, pretty good-paying working-class jobs, it is common to have “swing shifts,” where you are responsible for two periods each day. Yes, the hours between are free, but they are often effectively not very useful with not enough time to travel home and do anything substantial. These realities of everyday American economic life are I think not widely appreciated abroad.

For all its reputation for individualism, too, the United States in many matters exhibits very little of it. It is a remarkably lockstep society at a certain social level, the level that counts in influencing anything. I’ve never quite understood where that reputation for individualism, as touted in movies or novels, comes from.

The Vietnam War was a decade-long killing spree in defense of an artificially created rump state, South Vietnam, which for its entire existence was run by dictators. Although run by dictators, Americans were steadily given vague assurances that they were fighting for the values of American democracy.

The rump state served almost exclusively the economic and geopolitical interests of the United States. It served as a toehold in Southeast Asia, a kind of colony, a base for American corporations to market their wares. A pied-a-terre for the CIA. Those were the only American values ever really being served.

The big fighting got started not too long after the flimsiest of excuses, the so-called Gulf of Tonkin incident in the summer of 1964. It was a non-event, even as described in the news at the time, and later we learned it was truly a non-event with virtually nothing having happened.

But it’s the kind of thing we’ve seen in so many other places since, and notably in Syria where non-existent poison gas attacks, supposedly by the government, gave America the excuse to hurl fleets of cruise missiles at people it wanted to hurt anyway, the Syrian Army.

Of course, it was the presence of non-existent “weapons of mass destruction” that gave America the excuse to invade Iraq, destroying one of the most advanced societies in the Arab world and ultimately killing about a million people with all the violent aftermath included.

The destruction of Iraq’s basic facilities was so thorough that all these years later many in Iraq do not have dependable drinking water and electricity. The term “Shock and Awe” was coined by the public relations flacks at the Pentagon for the opening massive, overwhelming destruction, a term which gives some idea of the intensity and one, by the way, with clear bloodlines to Hitler’s concept of “Blitzkrieg” (lightning war).

Once America got into heavy fighting in a protracted war, Vietnam became many other things, including a testing ground for new methods of mass killing, an important part of a supply chain into North America for hard drugs, a laboratory for mass CIA terror tactics attempting to influence a population, and a place of endless lies.

While not all the details were apparent to anyone at the start, enough was understood by a good many to question the United States ever seriously entering the war. John Kennedy, who was inclined not to get involved beyond the level of a significant body of military advisors, was replaced by perhaps the most corrupt and ruthless man ever to become President, Lyndon Johnson, who had his chance to be a “war president,” and he wasted very little time getting things moving.

Today, we have among other wars, the war in Afghanistan. The pointlessness of the war in Afghanistan – that 18 years of bombing peasants and strafing wedding parties – was apparent to a good many from the start. I wrote a number of essays on the subject.

At the time of the invasion, I felt it was just a brute need for some kind of vengeance over 9/11, even if they didn’t know who to take vengeance on. I could imagine certain Americans sitting at bars across the country doing a lot of elbow-pumping and hooting and yelling at the first broadcasts of bombs dropping in Afghanistan, something resembling a scene from a big football game.

But the Taliban were not terrorists, the Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11. They are not pleasant people, but that is common enough in poor places where people earn hardscrabble livings. And I think my original view remains valid.

Recent revelations by The Washington Post (which to a certainty reflect someone in high places leaking for political purposes, not the investigative thoroughness of a newspaper which always doggedly supports America’s wars with the same enthusiasm as the late John McCain) tell us that even inside the military, no one understood why the United States was fighting in Afghanistan.

Yet America still fights there.

And will be still after Trump makes his election-campaign withdrawal, whose size is said to amount to a fraction of the troops.

Posted December 29, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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