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Media Consumers Beware: Watchdogs Warn of Bias, Politics, and Influence Tainting the “News”

Friday, October 13, 2017

Media Consumers Beware: Watchdogs Warn of Bias, Politics, and Influence Tainting the “News”

As America attempts to come to grips with the incomprehensible evil perpetrated in Las Vegas, it’s worth keeping in mind that what we know (and perhaps what we don’t know) about the event is being filtered through a media apparatus that is flawed at best and deliberately biased and deceptive at worst. Two sobering reports from media whistleblowers this week drive home that point with unmistakable clarity.

The first comes from Project Veritas, which describes itself as a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to “to investigate and expose corruption, dishonesty, self-dealing, waste, fraud, and other misconduct in both public and private institutions in order to achieve a more ethical and transparent society.” The group secretly videotapes subjects candidly describing their roles at the various organizations it targets for investigation.

Project Veritas’s “American Pravda” series has focused on the media itself, with prior releases including segments on CNN producers and personalities casting doubt on the network’s own narrative about Russian influence in the U.S. presidential election and demeaning the American electorate as “stupid.” 

An American Pravda video published on Tuesday concerns New York Times Audience Strategy Editor Nicholas Dudich. Dudich’s role is to manage videos that the Times places on social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Project Veritas’s James O’Keefe describes him as the “gatekeeper for the Times’s extensive online video content library.” In the video, Dudich himself brags, “my voice is on every … my imprint is on every video we do.” 

Previously, Dudich had worked for the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

During the video, Dudich openly mocks the idea of being objective in his role at the New York Times. “No I’m not,” he tell a Project Veritas operative. “That’s why I’m there.” 

He also talks about how he’d attack not just Donald Trump himself, but things associated with him, including his sons, his business, his hotels, and his brand. Dudich believes that with sufficient investigative pressure – and other countermeasures such as “boycotts” and “hacking” -- Trump could eventually be forced to “resign” his role as president or “lash out and do something incredibly illegal … .”  

Goading him, the Project Veritas operative asks Dudich to “promise” that he will emphasize damaging information about Trump in his work. “Oh, we always do,” Dudich replies. 

The video goes on to quote from a 2004 New York Times employee publication, “Ethical Journalism: A Handbook of Values and Practices for the News and Editorial Departments.” “Journalists have no place on the playing field of politics,” the quoted section states. “Staff members are entitled to vote, but they must do nothing to raise questions about their professional neutrality or that of The Times.” Despite this stricture, Dudich describes Donald Trump during the video as a “threat to everything.”  

Bizarrely, Dudich also claims that he’s the godson of former FBI Director James Comey. He acknowledges that this is an obvious conflict of interest, given his work for the Times, and states, “No one at the Times has any idea about it.” Dudich goes on to say he should have “recused himself” from covering Comey’s testimony, but did not.

And if that weren’t all enough, Dudich brags that used to be “an Antifa punk once upon a time.” He even shows a female Project Veritas operative a scar on his hand that he said came from “a Neo-Nazi’s tooth.” And not only did fight on behalf of Antifa, he claims, but he did so at the urging of the FBI. “I was an asset,” he insists, “it was intelligence gathering … .” 

Later in the video, however, Dudich retracts the claim about his connection to the former FBI director when confronted with his own father’s insistence that their family doesn’t know Comey. “Then why did you say that?” the Project Veritas operative asks him. “Eh, I don’t know,” Dudich answers. “It’s a good story.”

Nick Dudich of The New York Times, in other words, does not distinguish between “a good story” and an intentional, elaborate lie. 

After the video was released, The New York Times issued a statement, claiming they are “reviewing the situation.” The statement described Dudich as a “recent hire in a junior position” and said he is responsible for “posting already published video on other platforms” but was “never involved in the creation or editing of Times videos.” The Times also allows that Dudich appears to have “violated are ethical standards and misrepresented his role.” 

To date, it is not clear if The Times has taken any corrective or disciplinary action against Dudich.

The second item comes from none other than Sharyl Attkisson, the former CBS News reporter who was virtually alone amongst mainstream media figures in vigorously pursuing the Operation Fast & Furious story during the Obama administration. 

In a piece for The Hill, Attkisson uses the unfolding Harvey Weinstein scandal (which we report on elsewhere this week) as a springboard for a larger discussion of how powerful people with powerful connections manipulate the media. “The Weinstein question aside,” she writes, “I can tell you that every day, in newsrooms around the country, stories are killed because powerful people know how to get them killed.”

Even the intentions of good, unbiased journalists are often thwarted, she claims, by “PR companies, crisis management specialists, global law firms, super PACs, advertisers, ‘nonprofits,’ business interests, political figures, famous people, important people, wealthy people, and their own corporate bosses.”

Their tools of deception include “fake social media accounts, letters to the editor and editorials, journalists, nuisance lawsuits, bloggers, nonprofits, online comments, Wikipedia, [and] paid ‘articles’ written by for-hire ‘reporters,’” Attkisson continues.

She ought to know. Atkkisson’s reporting on Fast & Furious led to figures within the Obama administration trying to suppress her efforts, with an aid of former Attorney General Eric Holder characterizing her as “out of control” for failing to stick to the administration’s authorized version of events. Attkisson would later cite CBS’s “liberal bias, an outsize influence by the network’s corporate partners and a lack of dedication to investigative reporting” in her decision to resign from the network.

Attkisson concludes that all of these forces result not just in the suppression of fearless reporting but in self-censorship by the reporters themselves, some of whom finally conclude that their employers “don’t pay … enough to do stories that take on certain powerful interests.” 

Already, media accounts of the Las Vegas tragedy have shifted in significant ways. And legislation to curb the rights of law-abiding Americans has already been introduced, even before the facts are known. As the story continues to unfold, critical thinkers should therefore wonder – as Attkisson says she does whenever she watches the news – “what parts might have been forced into the story or what material might have been removed.”

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