The NYTimes Plays Its Role In 'Keeping Fear Alive' With Pure Fearmongering Over PATRIOT Act Renewal

from the all-the-propaganda-that's-fit-to-print dept

Earlier this year, we wrote about the psychological games that surveillance state defenders play — both on themselves and the public — to continually ratchet up programs that show no evidence of working. In it, we pointed to a great post by the ACLU’s Kade Crockford, highlighting a rare case where an FBI official was forthright about what’s really going on:

If you?re submitting budget proposals for a law enforcement agency, for an intelligence agency, you?re not going to submit the proposal that ?We won the war on terror and everything?s great,? cuz the first thing that?s gonna happen is your budget?s gonna be cut in half. You know, it?s my opposite of Jesse Jackson?s ?Keep Hope Alive??it?s ?Keep Fear Alive.? Keep it alive.

Keep fear alive. Keep it alive. And, apparently, one great way to do that is to basically get the NY Times to run pure government propaganda in the form of simply repeating anonymous fearmongering from administration officials who set up a call for this exact purpose:

?What you?re doing, essentially, is you?re playing national security Russian roulette,? one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse. That prospect appears increasingly likely with the measure, the USA Freedom Act, stalled and lawmakers in their home states and districts during a congressional recess.

?We?re in uncharted waters,? another senior member of the administration said at a briefing organized by the White House, where three officials spoke with reporters about the consequences of inaction by Congress. ?We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities, and it?s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk.?

First, note the anonymity, even though this isn’t a leak or a reporter sniffing out a story and needing to protect sources. This is a “briefing organized by the White House” where they play stupid games in demanding anonymity for the sole purpose of avoiding accountability. Second, note the blatant fearmongering without any specifics. It’s pure “keep fear alive” in action — aided along by a stenographer at the NY Times.

All the propaganda that’s fit to print.

As the Intercept rightly notes, this piece was published without even the slightest critical look into the statements by those officials:

Worst of all, it?s all published uncritically. There?s not a syllable challenging or questioning any of these dire warnings. No Patriot Act opponent is heard from. None of the multiple facts exposing these scare tactics as manipulative and false are referenced.

It?s just government propaganda masquerading as a news article, where anonymous officials warn the country that they will die if the Patriot Act isn?t renewed immediately, while decreeing that Congressional critics of the law will have blood on their hands due to their refusal to obey. In other words, it?s a perfect museum exhibit for how government officials in both parties and American media outlets have collaborated for 15 years to enact one radical measure after the next and destroy any chance for rational discourse about it.

Once again, two separate government review boards, as well as judges who have looked over the program and Senators who have been briefed on the full extent of the program in question, have all said that the bulk metadata collection program has not proven useful in stopping terrorist attacks. At all.

And, of course, blatant fearmongering without comparing the costs and (lack of) benefits is completely useless. Again, it could be taken to any extreme. Would putting real-time cameras hovering over every living human being 24/7 allow the government to find out who was plotting a terrorist attack? In theory, yes. But everyone would consider it a gross violation of privacy. Just because a tool might be useful doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. So, here we have a case of a “tool” that is both a clear violation of our civil liberties and one that hasn’t even been found to be useful.

Yet why is the NY Times — the so-called “paper of record” — repeating blindly government propaganda about how important it is to keep the program alive? Keep fear alive, NY Times. Keep it alive.

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Comments on “The NYTimes Plays Its Role In 'Keeping Fear Alive' With Pure Fearmongering Over PATRIOT Act Renewal”

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36 Comments
Alien Rebel (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree with your sentiments, though I think it would be more accurate to reply to that bravely anonymous govt official that we’re always in uncharted waters; so fucking what. We were in uncharted waters when the Soviets armed Cuba with nukes, when Saddam dropped Scud missiles on Tel Aviv, and when the U.S. had an Easter egg hunt in Iraq for no apparent reason. we’re always in uncharted waters. Keep things in proportion, in perspective. Change into some clean undies and shut up with the fear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You know Mason, does it matter?

If we’re currently in uncharted waters, then what we’re doing clearly isn’t working – several terrorist attacks have happened despite the “patriot” act being in place.

And like you said – if we’re in uncharted waters after it (hopefully) expires, we’ll be back in the 90’s, where we were.

Either way, the dipshit making the quote isn’t making a convincing argument.

Tom Czerniawski (profile) says:

Russian roulette, eh?

“What you’re doing, essentially, is you’re playing national security Russian roulette,” one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse.

Since Russian roulette is played by pointing a partially loaded gun at one’s own head, how about we simply not do that? Because the way I see it, the NSA is the bullet.

Anonymous Coward says:

NYT has become an official leak outlet. Or to state it another way, an official propaganda outlet. It is articles like that that long ago got me to ignoring the NYT as a creditable source.

Any time I see an article sourced to an unnamed official, it see that as a failing of the news department to uphold accountability. I also see most of it as propaganda attempting to change public opinion.

This is one time the congress critters need to lose at Russian Roulette so that the public will become the winners.

I’m tired of the FUD, tired of the propaganda, and tired of the lies. We have the best laws money can buy by the most corrupted officials that can be elected.

AricTheRed says:

In Other News!

The National Enquirer recently ran a story about bulk meta-data collection of NYT reporting and editorial staff indicating an out of control kiddieporn addiction in the news room.

Thus the lizard people, who enjoy the taste of human flesh, are now openly controlling the US government. The Reptilians have acheived their aims of finally being able to freely spread their propaganda in an effort to prep the Earth for their impending invasion.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Because money, that's why

Yet why is the NY Times — the so-called “paper of record” — repeating blindly government propaganda about how important it is to keep the program alive?

Why? Because fear, much like sex, sells. A lot of people have the attention span of gnats, and if you’re not dangling something shiny in front of their eyes, they’re going to go elsewhere, and the newspapers know it.

Which do you think is going to sell more papers and get more attention, ‘Program that meet absolutely zero of it’s stated goals and was completely useless about to expire’, or ‘American spy agencies about to be critically crippled, opening country up to terrorists attacks!’

There’s also the whole ‘Say what the government wants you to say or no more exclusives for you’, but I’m guessing most of the fearmongering is simply profit driven, they know panicky people are easier to manipulate and sell to, so that’s what they try and create.

Anonymous Coward says:

Government budgets

…submitting budget proposals for (any government) agency…you’re not going to submit…everything’s great,’ cuz the first thing that’s gonna happen is your budget’s…cut in half…

And this has been the norm for ALL agencies at ALL levels of government for some time. Even getting an identical budget for maintenance of existing property and/or programs can sometimes be a chore. Look at our highways and schools for example. Some are in excellent condition and some need to be razed and rebuilt. (Yes, some schools and other government buildings ought to be razed and NOT rebuilt, but that’s another story.)

MikeC (profile) says:

Does is matter at all?

Do anyone, really “DOES ANYONE” think this will make the slightest bit of difference to what the NSA/FBI/CIA/XXX groups will collect or do? In fact I would have to argue if for some reason it sunsets, it’s made illegal even, someone will manufacture a reason (one that will probably get some innocent people killed) to reinstate it or they will just ignore the law – just like they are doing now.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Does is matter at all?

By making what they’re doing illegal, while they may not stop(and almost certain won’t), you at least make it slightly more difficult for them to attack and undermine the rights of the public, along with making further expansions of their power at the cost of the public more difficult to pull off.

So yes, it does matter.

Personanongrata says:

Gray Lady Down

Gray Lady Down: What the Decline and Fall of the New York Times Means for America Hardcover
November 16, 2010

by William McGowan (Author)

The New York Times was once considered the gold standard in American journalism and the most trusted news organization in America. Today, it is generally understood to be a vehicle for politically correct ideologies, tattered liberal pieties, and a repeated victim of journalistic scandal and institutional embarrassment.

http://www.amazon.com/Gray-Lady-Down-Decline-America/dp/B0096EQ276

The precipitous decline of journalistic standards at the New York Times has placed it in the lowly position of being perfectly placed for collecting bird cage droppings.

Justme says:

Is it just me. . .

Or have the the same tactics not been successfully exploited to justify continuing the failed war on drugs.

Only difference is that the ‘war on terror’ version of reefer madness, was produced by ISIS! And while the videos are certainly horrific and brutal, how many people have they killed? How many were American? How many of those American’s willingly went into a dangerous place knowing the risks?

Anonymous Coward says:

“…as well as judges who have looked over the program and Senators who have been briefed on the full extent of the program in question, have all said that the bulk metadata collection program has not proven useful in stopping terrorist attacks.”

The WH strategy from the start of the Snowden disclosures has been to try to conflate the domestic phone call program with all “bulk collection”. Why do we never hear about internet and financial and location and the other bulk surveillance programs that are undoubtedly running? Please be more precise in your language. The domestic phone call metadata program is a tiny fraction of the total surveillance. It must be made crystal clear exactly what we are talking about.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Fearmongering? Business as usual

The NSA finally offended/scared enough people for the USA Freedom Act to threaten NSA’s fief. Not that the Act would do anything useful, but NSA simply said, to itself, “It shall not pass!”

So their new strategy was simple: Stall. Get enough obstruction going in Congress to stall USA Freedom from passing. Stall on US Patriot as well, to keep USA Freedom proponents from getting a sense of urgency. Don’t worry about US Patriot for the moment. Just stall.

Then, two days before expiration of US Patriot, they threaten to call Congress a bunch of pansies on national security. So now that it’s too late for USA Freedom, Congress will give in, do the quick and dirty, and just renew US Patriot Act for another year.

So you might say it’s fear mongering. To me it looks like a strategy they cooked up when USA Freedom reared its ugly head. The result will be exactly what they want: US Patriot rides again.

tqk (profile) says:

Yet why is the NY Times — the so-called “paper of record” — repeating blindly government propaganda about how important it is to keep the program alive?

Because if they refused to parrot this !@#$, the gov’t would cut off their access to newsworthy “anonymous sources” leaks.

I can’t read the NYT anymore without a snide, sneering expression on my face. “Chyaaa, right!” comes to mind. The crap they spout about Ukraine, Russia, and Putin is revolting, not to mention pretty pathetically done. Read what NYT says, then find hundreds of others who actually tell you what went on and who the players are and what their agenda is. NYT comes up looking stupid every time.

Anonymous Coward says:

An update to the Intercept’s article:

“With the power set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, a senior administration official said, the N.S.A. has a team on “hot standby” and has contacted telecommunications companies with an action plan. Eight hours before the deadline, at 3:59 p.m., the agency would begin shutting off servers that run the program and revoking access to it’s databases. Rebooting would take about a day, the official said, and would entail going back to the telecommunication providers and obtaining a court order.”

OMG, a court order! Heaven forbid the US Gov actually follows the law (Constitution) and obtains a court order before searching through people’s phone, internet, email, text, and google search records it warrantlessly seizes.

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