How Propagandists Co-Opted Fact-Checkers’ and the Press to Control the Information Landscape, part three

Here is the third and final portion of an interview of Ms. Sharyl Attkisson conducted by Mr. Jan Jekeliek of Epoch Times TV. We posted part two last Friday.

QUOTE: Mr. Jekielek: Absolutely. Let’s talk about how this social constructivist mentality is almost like we’ve given up on reality, and given up on common sense. You keep mentioning common sense. And common sense is actually really important right now to be able to function in this environment.

Ms. Attkisson: There’s a whole generation of people who have lived in the box,” as I call it. By the box I mean the Internet. They didn’t know a time when information was to be gathered elsewhere by looking around and seeing what you heard and seeing what you saw and talking to people around you and looking at books and research.

The people that want to control the information understand that if they can control only a few basic sources like Google and Twitter and Facebook and Wikipedia, they’ve got a lock on information, because we’ve all been funneled to those few sources and that’s been the goal.

So if you think of it that way, there’s a whole lot of people that get pretty much everything they know through the Internet. And the goal of the people trying to make a narrative is to make people live online and to think that’s reality.

I tell people a lot of times when you go online and you’re looking at social media and everybody’s saying something that you either don’t agree with, but they’re saying everybody agrees or they mean to shame how you feel or think, don’t buy into it. Understand that you may actually be in the majority.

As I wrote in The Smear, these people who operate in the industry, the goal of what they do online is to make you think you’re an outlier when you’re not, and to make you afraid to talk about your viewpoint on what you think, because you may actually be the majority opinion.

They want to control that and make you feel like you’re the one that’s crazy, you’re the one that can be the only one that thinks that way and you shouldn’t voice that opinion. You can be made to believe that if you live in the box. So I’m constantly telling people live outside the box.

Yes, you can get information there and do what you do online, but certainly trust your cognitive dissonance, and talk to the people around you. If you travel, talk to the people in the places you go, and you’ll get a whole different picture as I do of what’s really happening out there than if you’re looking online. That’s the only way that I predicted that Donald Trump was going to win the first election.

Now, in retrospect, maybe a lot of people are saying they could only find record of one national journalist, me, saying repeatedly on TV early and often that I thought he was going to win. And that was not based on anything I was reading online, or seeing on the news.

That was totally from listening to people as I traveled from all walks of life that I concluded that. So, that comes with living outside the box and making sure you’re not just subjecting yourself, and making it easy for the people that want to control the narrative to use you as part of that.

Mr. Jekielek: There was Salena Zito was working out in the heartland and documenting. I don’t know if she predicted that, but I remember reading some of her pieces saying, There seems to be a lot of support for Donald Trump out here.”

Ms. Attkisson: I remember I went on Fox News. On Fridays they did casino gambling, put your money on a candidate. I was sitting next to Charles Krauthammer and I put all my money on Trump. It’s not who you want to win, it’s who you think is going to win. This was my second time.

And I said, All of it on Trump,” and no one else had said anything like that. He kind of looked at me and scoffed at me like that was a stupid thing to do. And he said, Not who you want, but what you think?” I said, Yes, I’m not giving my opinion of who I want, I’m just saying this is who I think will win.”

Mr. Jekielek: That’s interesting. You have had a good track record for noticing things.

Ms. Attkisson: Yes. And again, that’s simply from putting yourself on the outside of the circle and looking in, and just using common sense and not buying into everything they’re telling you.

Mr. Jekielek: As I was reading some of your most recent writing, it reminded me of a column that I had read by Tom Harrington, who writes for the Brownstone Institute these days. He said there’s been a concerted psychological campaign to effectively insert abstract and often empirically questionable paradigms of sickness among individual citizens about their understanding of their own bodies.

Ms. Attkisson: What’s happened with coronavirus and the public narratives, they have made people act in a way they never would have acted normally. Again, if they’ve used their instincts and common sense, some of it may be good, some of it may be necessary, and some of it may not be. For example, I look at the notion of testing. Now, it’s one thing if you have to produce a test to be able to travel or to be admitted somewhere.

But what is the idea of testing all the time? Theoretically, testing tells where you are at a given point in time, but not where you’re going to be in 15 minutes. The only way to tell if you’re safe tomorrow is not to test today, because you may not be safe tomorrow.

So that has not made a lot of sense to me. Lately I’ve been hearing from people with Omicron, and it does not necessarily give you a positive result as early as we would like.

People are testing negative when they know they’re sick. I’ve talked to people who I know have gotten coronavirus and they’ll say, I tested negative, but I know I have it.” Next day, Tested negative, but I know I have it.” And then maybe on the fourth day they’ll say, I tested positive. I knew I had it.”

The purpose of the test isn’t to keep testing until the test catches up with what you know, the purpose of the test was supposedly to tell you if you were infectious or you had this coronavirus.

So it’s sort of a silly thing people are doing, just testing and testing until the test comes up with the result that they agree with. Then they believe the test on that day. That’s one example of us doing something that’s a weird behavior that we would not have done two years ago.

Mr. Jekielek: On this point, this idea of mass asymptomatic testing is something we’ve been doing for a long time. Basically there’s a lot of studies that would show that the prevalence of the virus is much greater than the awareness in the populations. The case counts were mostly driven by tests.

If there were more tests, there were more case counts. There’s a confounding of data here. Just because you test positive, it doesn’t correlate super tightly with whether or not you’re getting significant symptoms or whether you’re infectious or anything like that.

Ms. Attkisson: The push for a lot of testing certainly created a sense of alarm when people were counting how many cases there were. But again, common sense-wise, fairly early on, I thought, Where’s part two?” Certainly nobody wants to get sick. Certainly every death that happens is terrible and that we even have to say that is kind of silly, because everybody knows that.

But the flip side of that is every asymptomatic case can be seen as a potentially good development in terms of those people. Weren’t they good to go back to work a long time ago, at least for some period of time because science accepts almost universally that they have better immunity than the vaccines are providing so far? Instead of using that as the only cause for alarm, why were public health officials and the media not saying there is a flip side to the high case count?

And that is these areas should be much safer than areas that haven’t had a lot of coronavirus running through, because theoretically they’ve got more of what they call herd immunity or people who aren’t going to get coronavirus again in the very near future. That was always left out. It was only part A, the alarm and the number of cases, without the part B, a flip side that could be considered positive.

Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned what I thought was an outrageous kind of error in messaging, the complete ignoring of natural immunity or immunity gotten through COVID infection, which has been shown. If there’s anything that’s been shown to be scientific fact, it’s been that natural immunity is robust, is durable, and is effective.

There have been some questions about Omicron but it’s still coming out on that side in the body of the evidence that I’ve seen so far. And I keep looking. It’s astounding in Europe that you have to be vaccinated to do many things. If you are naturally immune, and if you’ve had COVID that counts, but not here.

Ms. Attkisson: Again, common sense should tell you something is at play because I don’t think any public health official in his right mind doesn’t understand that. It’s very basic.

The evidence on natural immunity was always ahead of the evidence on vaccines, because the virus was out well before the vaccine. So we knew how long natural immunity was lasting far ahead of how long we knew the vaccine was going to last.

So the notion this wasn’t taken into account and discussed by public health officials has to be a conscious decision that was made on somebody’s part, because you can’t avoid that discussion. That’s got to be part of the discussion, unless somebody has said, We’re not going to.” And again, that should make you wonder.

Mr. Jekielek: It sounds like there are some FOIAs (Freedom of Information Act requests) we have to do here.

Ms. Attkisson: Yes. That’s a whole other story. When I find my FOIAs now and they respond with something like, There are 3000 requests ahead of you. We can’t meet the 20-day deadline and we can’t give you the expedited processing that you’ve applied for as a member of the media, because you haven’t demonstrated a need.”

With my last CDC FOIA, I went to court over it, because that’s how you have to get them to answer. Now they won’t just give you documents. The new tactic is, and you’ve probably heard about this.

We’ll produce the documents that we said we didn’t have, but now we have so many that you’ve taken us to court.” They will produce them on a rolling basis of 500 a month for the rest of your life.

I pointed out to one judge, they didn’t say it in those words, but that the production schedule that they had proposed would make it something like 25 years for documents for a news story I was doing within a day or two. So in 25 years, it’s not going to be very helpful. This is the new tactic. Freedom of information requests are very hard to get answered. Even with going to court they’re pretty difficult.

Mr. Jekielek: There’s something like this with the Pfizer safety data if I recall correctly. But I believe a judge is fast tracking that to what? Eight months or something?

Ms. Attkisson: Again, that’s considered a fast track. Think about this. This is data gathered by the government on our behalf that we own, gathered by people we pay. There’s no question that we own it. And they drag their feet and they fight it and they use our money to fight in court, having to produce it.

When the outcome is okay, maybe instead of 50 years or 80 years, we’ll produce it within eight months, often highly redacted, so it requires more court action to go and to try to find out what’s behind the improper redactions. It’s still bought them time. It’s still allowed them to delay to get out whatever a message they want, while you don’t know what’s really in the documents. It still serves their purpose.

The interesting thing with FOIA, even when the courts come in and say, Yes, government, you have to give the public the documents they own,” no one is punished for that. Nobody ever says to them, You just made them go to court,” meaning the people or the press. You made them spend money when you should have given them the documents in the first place. You’re going to be punished for that.”

That doesn’t happen. So there’s no downside to the bureaucrats and their bosses dragging their feet or even giving dishonest information saying they don’t have documents, because nothing ever happens to them even if they go to court and ultimately are ordered to turn them over someday.

Mr. Jekielek: We’re painting a pretty dire picture here. I also know you’re a pretty optimistic person from having talked to you enough. What do you see as the path through this at this point?

Ms. Attkisson: Truth finds a way to be told. That’s a phrase that came to me when I was writing one of my books. The truth finds a way to be told and it may take some time and there may be a lot of people that don’t want a truth out, but inherently, we as humans seek it.

There may be a certain percentage of the population—someone told me this has even been studied—that is happy to go along with whatever they’re told.

But there is also a pretty large chunk of the population that ultimately wants the truth and even if it’s not what they want to hear. Our search for the truth is part of us and will ultimately win out. I also know there are three parts that are working on a solution.

There are investors who want to invest in independent news organizations more like we used to have. There are technical people trying to invent platforms that can’t be controlled and deplatformed by Big Tech. They are trying to figure out a way to make that happen. And there are journalists who want to work or contribute to a place like that.

In the next couple of years, there will be more ways to do that, more ways to find that, and people will seek that out. We’re doing it in a small way now. There are people having Substack newsletters that are getting around the censorship of Big Tech. These are ways maybe not everybody knows about and that not everybody is using, but some people are gravitating to. There’s the video platform Rumble that is not taking down videos for ideological reasons.

These things are popping up and some of them will take hold. Because the truth finds a way to be told and because we inherently seek the truth, then something will come of this.

Again, the propagandists may have overplayed their hand by being so heavy-handed and obvious about the control of information and the censorship. It’s no longer deniable.

Even people who want their information curated, they can’t always be happy with the notion that they’re not going to be able to get the full story or that they’re only getting one side of something. That comes into play too.

Mr. Jekielek: The journalists you’re talking about, we’re looking for those journalists. For those that are watching as we speak, we are in the process of hiring journalists. This is actually a question too, because the journalistic profession as a whole has really been degraded. It’s not easy to find these people that are thinking about journalism the way that you and I think about it today.

Ms. Attkisson: They’re being forced to make a choice. Let’s say you’re a journalist like I was at CBS News that was not a political reporter trying to follow the facts. Today you’ve got to make a choice.

You’re going to stay at a place that’s not going to put those stories on anymore, and you’re going to do the kind of reporting they want you to do, because either they tell you to, or you just understand that you have to self-censor, because you know what gets rewarded and what gets on the air.

Or you’re going to make a decision to go to a place that does freer reporting, but because of that has been controversialized or portrayed as ideological in a certain way.

In our industry, it’s generally okay to go work for a Left-leaning organization, because that’s considered the default and you’re part of the team and no one even ever says it’s Left-leaning. But God forbid you go to a place that’s in the middle or conservative-leaning, but that lets you do honest reporting, because then you’re just off the rails.

A lot of journalists don’t want to go there. They don’t want to be portrayed by their peers as conservative-leaning or someone who isn’t on board. Because it’s okay if you’re calling me Left, but I’m going to be really on the outside of my profession if you call me Right of center.

It’s a decision people are having to make that’s very uncomfortable for them and it’s not a great time. People often ask me, What do you tell young journalists today that want to go into the profession?” And I’m talking about not just doing general reporting, but really digging and doing good fact-based reporting.

It’s a tough question, because as a young reporter, if you go to an outlet and they want a certain kind of reporting and you don’t have the standing yet to say, I’m not going to do that.” You’re not going to get your next job. You’re not even going to stay there if you don’t do an element of what they want.

You’re going to really have to navigate some minefields to do good, accurate reporting that doesn’t betray journalistic ideals and yet satisfy the people that are controlling a lot of these news organizations and give them what they want at the same time.

Mr. Jekielek: In marketing 101, you learn about blue ocean strategy. Blue ocean means there aren’t a lot of competitors. There’s a huge interest in truth, right? You’d imagine there would be all these incredibly up and coming news organizations.

There are a few, there definitely are a few that are coming up. There are some very interesting Substack channels that have done very independent individual journalism. But I still don’t see people rushing into this space. I’m thinking, Hey, we want competitors. It’ll help us up our game.” But there aren’t that many.

Ms. Attkisson: Not a few months go by that I’m not contacted by somebody who wants to do something like that. An organization or a news group and they’re just not sure how to do it on a big scale, technologically, with investors and with the talent. All those things have to come together.

You can’t just start a website, because that’s not going to get supported in today’s environment financially. With the people that don’t want that stuff to be reported, they’re going to deplatform you or controversialize you.

Someone will figure it out, but you’re right, there’s a dearth of that sort of thing today. It’s the best you can do now. So people have asked me at the end of my book, What are recommendations?” This is a bit of a cop out because people don’t have time to do all their own research, that’s why they count on us.

Today I really encourage people, if it’s a topic you care about, to try to find some original sourcing. Epoch Times is a great place where I get all kinds of good information that I can’t get elsewhere, including great investigations with graphics that explain things in depth— good old fashioned journalism. I listed your group in my groups of places to look for as places to watch.

One thing I also suggest is to go to C-SPAN. When you see everybody’s saying somebody said something at a hearing or a news event and it doesn’t ring true, it’s just so ridiculous, but everybody’s on the same page and everybody’s talking about it, go find the original event. C-SPAN has a lot of them, not just congressional stuff.

Almost every time I’ve looked up a hearing or an event in its total context and watched it, my takeaway has been different, completely different than what was portrayed on the news.

That’s a frightening thing to think about. A lot of people are taking something and putting it on the news and giving it a context that doesn’t seem to me like it’s right, it just means there’s more than one way to interpret it anyway. But I encourage people to do that.

Then you can start saying to yourself, Who are the reporters on the issues I care about, who seem to be on target with what I know to be the truth? Then I don’t have to always do the original research because I can go to Glen Greenwald when it comes to media issues, because I think he’s spot on on that.

And some of these journalists may be Left-leaning or Right-leaning or not have a political leaning, but it’s not going to be the same person or the same news outlet that you go to for every topic. Probably you’re going to have to kind of hunt and track and find the ones that you trust on the topics you care about based on the track record. It’s getting a little complicated.

Mr. Jekielek: I think we have the same philosophy here. That’s pretty much how I consume my information. I think a hint also is if people ever admit they were wrong, that that’s a good sign. Right?

Ms. Attkisson: Yes.

Mr. Jekielek: Sharyl, any final thoughts before we finish?

Ms. Attkisson: I always say, do your own research, make up your own mind, think for yourself, trust your cognitive dissonance, and use your common sense. You’re going to be right more often than you think. Open up your mind and just read a lot, think a lot and don’t buy into the prevailing narrative at face value.

Mr. Jekielek: Sharyl Attkisson, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.

Ms. Attkisson: Thank you.

END QUOTE

-END-



Date
February 26, 2024


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