'American Conservative' Publisher Decries Major Media Conventional Wisdom, Cover-ups

A conservative magazine publisher has created a stir during recent weeks by his non-partisan attack on shoddy and otherwise incomplete reporting by the mainstream media on vital national issues.

American Conservative Publisher Ron Unz, below left, published on April 29 Our American Pravda. His subtitle was: The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today? The long article described missed or misplayed national stories over the past three decades. Among them, he wrote, was coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War, which he described as one of the nation's greatest disasters.
Unz is a former Republican gubernatorial candidate in California's 1994 elections, a theoretical physicist by original training, and a software developer by profession. A 1999 magazine cover at right described his career.

More currently, he argues that conventional wisdom and other complacency has been leading major news organizations into missing stories repeatedly in a manner so bad that it approaches the Soviet Union's press performance during at least part of the Stalin era.

The Atlantic Magazine addressed his thesis in a column this week in Why Does the American Media Get Big Stories Wrong?  Unz describes the Atlantic article as part of a gratifying reaction.
Unz amplified his views as guest on the June 7 edition of Washington Update, which I co-hosted live with Scott Draughon, founder of the My Technology Lawyer radio network. Click here to listen via archive. Call in toll free (866-685-7469 ) or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for questions or comments, including for our June 14 show hosting author and former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

My interest in the Unz column was generated by his hard-hitting, non-partisan approach, as well as by his obvious civic passion focused on several topics I have also researched for the Justice Integrity Project, the radio show, and my forthcoming book, Presidential Puppetry.

Among these topics are the anthrax attacks on Washington in 2001 that, along with 9/11, helped generate Senate support for the Patriot Act and the Iraq War. Unz cannot understand why the FBI investigation was so haphazardly covered by the national media. He asserts also that New York columnist Sydney Schanberg and many veterans groups were correct in the 1970s to assert that many Vietnam-era POWs were alive and in captivity. Unz quoted with a summary of his column by Metafilter, which he described as "a small leftist website."

Update: The Justice Integrity Project published on June 16: Backgrounder on Obama's Big Data Domestic Spying System. The purpose was to resolve conflicting claims about recent revelations about the Obama-Bush domestic spying program.

The American Conservative is a Washington-based opinion magazine. The prominent commentator and former Nixon White House aide Patrick Buchanan is editor emeritus.

A personal website contains further background information on Unz, together with a collection of many of his published writings and several major media profiles. The UNZ.org system also contains a parallel collection of his published writings, including numerous television and video clips. In 1994, he was an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate as a Republican in California. He is a graduate of Harvard University, and pursued doctoral studies at Stanford University.

Unz has wide interests in policy issues. He served as founder and chairman of English for the Children, a nationwide movement to dismantle bilingual education. His website contains further background information on Unz, together with a collection of many of his published writings and several major media profiles. The UNZ.org system also contains a parallel collection of his published writings, including numerous television and video clips. In 1994, he was an unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate as a Republican in California. He is a graduate of Harvard University, and pursued doctoral studies at Stanford University.

Contact the author Andrew Kreig or comment




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The American Conservative, Our American Pravda, Ron Unz, April 29, 2013.  The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today? A likely reason for this wall of uninterest on so many important issues is that the disasters involved are often bipartisan in nature, with both Democrats and Republicans being culpable and therefore equally eager to hide their mistakes. Perhaps in the famous words of Benjamin Franklin, they realize that they must all hang together or they will surely all hang separately. We always ridicule the 98 percent voter support that dictatorships frequently achieve in their elections and plebiscites, yet perhaps those secret-ballot results may sometimes be approximately correct, produced by the sort of overwhelming media control that leads voters to assume there is no possible alternative to the existing regime. Is such an undemocratic situation really so different from that found in our own country, in which our two major parties agree on such a broad range of controversial issues and, being backed by total media dominance, routinely split 98 percent of the vote? A democracy may provide voters with a choice, but that choice is largely determined by the information citizens receive from their media.

TAmerican Conservative, Our American Pravda: The major media overlooked Communist spies and Madoff’s fraud. What are they missing today? Ron Unz, April 29, 2013. The circumstances surrounding our Iraq War demonstrate this, certainly ranking it among the strangest military conflicts of modern times. The 2001 attacks in America were quickly ascribed to the radical Islamists of al-Qaeda, whose bitterest enemy in the Middle East had always been Saddam Hussein’s secular Baathist regime in Iraq. Yet through misleading public statements, false press leaks, and even forged evidence such as the “yellowcake” documents, the Bush administration and its neoconservative allies utilized the compliant American media to persuade our citizens that Iraq’s nonexistent WMDs posed a deadly national threat and required elimination by war and invasion. Indeed, for several years national polls showed that a large majority of conservatives and Republicans actually believed that Saddam was the mastermind behind 9/11 and the Iraq War was being fought as retribution. Consider how bizarre the history of the 1940s would seem if America had attacked China in retaliation for Pearl Harbor.

American Conservative, American Pravda: “Liberal Bias,” Ron Unz, June 5, 2013. When a small publication such as the American Conservative publishes a sharp attack against the mainstream media as I recently did in American Pravda, the ultimate result largely depends upon whether that self-same media will take any notice. Many tens or even low hundreds of thousands may read a highly popular article online, but such totals are negligible in a nation of over three hundred million, and those readers might anyway question the credibility of the charges. After all, one of my central arguments had been that our media decides what is real and what is nonsense. With the media serving as gatekeeper to its own criticism, the impact of my efforts remained in substantial doubt over the last month, but early Monday morning the ground shifted as the venerable Atlantic—one of America’s oldest publications and still among the most influential—published a very thoughtful 2,000 word discussion of my piece, under the noteworthy heading “Why Does the American Media Get Big Stories Wrong?”  Agreeing with me on some particulars and disagreeing on others, author Conor Friedersdorf helpfully summarized my critique while also providing several suggested answers to his own title-question, something that I had not treated in detail.

Atlantic, Why Does the American Media Get Big Stories Wrong? Conor Friedersdorf, June 3, 2013.  A magazine publisher has written a provocative article raising that question. I try to offer some answers.

American Conservative, McCain and the POW Cover-Up:The “war hero” candidate buried information about POWs left behind in Vietnam, Sydney Schanberg, July 1, 2010. John McCain, right, who has risen to political prominence on his image as a Vietnam POW war hero, has, inexplicably, worked very hard to hide from the public stunning information about American prisoners in Vietnam who, unlike him, didn’t return home. Throughout his Senate career, McCain has quietly sponsored and pushed into federal law a set of prohibitions that keep the most revealing information about these men buried as classified documents. Thus the war hero who people would logically imagine as a determined crusader for the interests of POWs and their families became instead the strange champion of hiding the evidence and closing the books. Almost as striking is the manner in which the mainstream press has shied from reporting the POW story and McCain’s role in it, even as the Republican Party has made McCain’s military service the focus of his presidential campaign. Reporters who had covered the Vietnam War turned their heads and walked in other directions. McCain doesn’t talk about the missing men, and the press never asks him about them.

Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues

Reason, 3 Reasons the ‘Nothing to Hide’ Crowd Should Be Worried About Government Surveillance, Scott Shackford, June 12, 2013. Most people think the federal government would have no interest in them, but many discover to their horror how wrong they are. Responding to a popular reaction to news of the National Security Agency’s massive data collection program, blogger Daniel Sieradski started a Twitter feed called “Nothing to Hide.” He has retweeted hundreds of people who have declared in one form or another that they are not concerned that the federal government may spy on them. They say they have done nothing wrong, so they have nothing to hide. If it helps the government fight terrorists, go ahead, take their civil liberties away. In his blog, a frustrated Sieradski listed many of the abuses of power our federal government is known for; he is not happy with the "nothing to hide" crowd.

Washington Post, The FCC should repeal its newspaper-broadcast ownership rule, Reed Hundt, June 6, 2013. Reed Hundt was chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from 1993 to 1997.  A widespread though unverified rumor had it that President Bill Clinton did not want the newspaper-broadcast ownership rule repealed as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act because he did not want the owner of the Little Rock newspaper to be the same person who owned the dominant Little Rock television station. Fritz Hollings, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, did not want the Federal Communications Commission to repeal the rule for the same reason, transposed to the media of South Carolina. But if I lacked the gumption and votes at the FCC to get rid of the rule then, the proliferation of Internet access and content over the past 17 years should give today’s commissioners the conviction to do the right thing. In celebration of our commitment to freedom, the FCC should eliminate the rule that constrains the owner of a broadcast TV station from also owning a newspaper in the same city, and vice versa — forthwith.

At right, President Obama and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough walk June 3 on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.)

FireDogLake, Surveillance State Secrecy & the Top Secret Court Order to Hand Over Verizon Call Data to NSA, Kevin Gosztola, June 6, 2013. A court order that was classified as top secret indicates Verizon was ordered by a US secret surveillance court to provide call data of millions of communications of Americans on an “ongoing, daily basis” to the National Security Agency (NSA) from April 25 to July 19. The order authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was published by The Guardian and columnist, Glenn Greenwald, wrote about the order for the media organization, concluding that it showed for “the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”

Washington Post, Verizon ordered to provide NSA with all call data, Ellen Nakashima June 5, 2013. Administration official says purported court order “does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls” and only relates to data, including phone number and call length.

WMR, FBI issued subpoenas on leak of DEA's Israeli spying memo, Wayne Madsen, June 5, 2013 (Subscription required). WMR has learned from a primary source that the U.S. Justice Department sought and received subpoenas to force testimony from and monitor the phone conversations and emails of journalists who received parts of or the entirety of a Drug Enforcement Administration report in December 2002 documenting Israeli "art student" espionage directed at U.S. government facilities and homes of U.S. government employees in the years and months leading up to the 9/11 attack.

Politico, Report: Leon Panetta revealed classified SEAL unit info, Josh Gerstein, June 5, 2013. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by Zero Dark Thirty filmmaker Mark Boal. Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight. A source close to Panetta said Wednesday evening that he was unaware anyone without the proper security clearances was present at the event, which included both CIA and military personnel. “He has no idea who all is in the audience. He was told everyone got the requisite clearances,” said the source, who asked not to be named. Panetta’s prepared speech was classified “secret,” according to the source. That may have led the CIA director to believe he could speak freely about the operation. The leaked version of the report does not address whether Panetta knew Boal was present at the ceremony, held under a tent at the CIA complex on June 24, 2011. “Approximately 1,300” people from the military and the intelligence community were on hand for the event, according to a CIA press release issued the following week. The disclosure of the IG report could undermine the Obama administration’s claims that senior officials have not leaked classified information. Last spring, Republicans publicly attacked President Barack Obama and his top aides, alleging that the administration leaked national security secrets to burnish Obama’s standing for his reelection bid.

Peter H. Stone, Huffington Post, Sheldon Adelson's Woes Mount With Grand Jury In Las Vegas Sands Money-Laundering Probe, June 5, 2013. The legal headaches besetting billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. now include a grand jury in Los Angeles, part of a federal money-laundering probe of his Nevada-based casinos, the Huffington Post has learned. The involvement of a federal grand jury, not previously reported, suggests an escalation of the money-laundering investigation into Sands and one of its executives, being led by the U.S. attorney for Los Angeles, according to a person with direct knowledge of the inquiry. Investigators are probing whether Sands broke money-laundering laws by failing to report millions in potentially questionable transfers of money several years ago by two-high rollers at its casinos. Both men have separately been charged with other crimes and one has since been sentenced to jail for accepting illegal kickbacks. Adelson, CEO of the Sands, is shown at left in a photo via Wikipedia. The Wall Street Journal, in a lengthy story last summer, first disclosed that Sands was a subject of a federal money-laundering inquiry and that some of its executives were also under scrutiny. The Journal reported in October that possible settlement discussions with government officials were underway. Those talks were focused on a possible deal, which, to avoid charges, may have included a fine of $100 million or more and would've required Sands to institute new internal controls for customer deposits.

Guardian, Bradley Manning Trial Focuses on His Database Access, Ed Pilkington, June 5, 2013. Bradley Manning, the source of the largest intelligence leak in US history, was allowed by his superiors to surf massive closed databases of secret information without any official restrictions, as well as download classified files to CDs and play music, movies and video games on his secure computer, his court martial has heard.
Day three of the trial, the highest-profile prosecution of an official leaker in at least a generation, focused on a tussle between the US government and Manning's defence lawyers over the environment in which the soldier worked as an intelligence analyst. The prosecution attempted to depict his unit within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division as meticulously trained in the handling and safeguarding of classified information.
By contrast, the defence team led by civilian lawyer David Coombs extracted answers from prosecution witnesses under cross-examination that presented the unit as an ill-disciplined group that operated under lapse security guidelines, even though they were stationed on active duty at a US military base outside Baghdad. Two of Manning's supervisors at Forward Operating Base Hammer were called to the stand, Jihrleah Showman and chief warrant officer Kyle Balonek, and grilled in similar fashion.

Foreign Policy, After weeks of fighting, Syrian forces overtake the strategic town of Qusayr, Mary Casey and Jennifer Parker, June 5, 2013. The Syrian army, along with pro-government Hezbollah forces, overtook the strategic town of Qusayr on Wednesday after over two weeks of fighting. Syrian state news agency SANA reported the "heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town." The regime and allied forces reportedly overtook the town after an overnight offensive. According to one Hezbollah fighter, "We did a sudden surprise attack in the early hours and entered the town. They escaped." Opposition forces said they had pulled out of Qusayr. The loss of the town, which is located about six miles from the border with Lebanon, will be a significant blow to the opposition as it lies on an important supply route.

Washington Post, NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program, Staff report, June 6, 2013.  Through a top-secret program authorized by federal judges working under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. intelligence community can gain access to the servers of nine Internet companies for a wide range of digital data. Documents describing the previously undisclosed program, obtained by The Washington Post, show the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities in the wake of a widely publicized controversy over warrantless wiretapping of U.S. domestic telephone communications in 2005. These slides, annotated by The Washington Post, represent a selection from the overall document, and certain portions are redacted. Read related article.

Huffington Post, Rand Paul: NSA Surveillance Programs Warrant Supreme Court Challenge, Mollie Reilly June 9, 2013. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY.), left, said Sunday that he is weighing a Supreme Court challenge to the National Security Agency's controversial surveillance programs, calling the organization's collection of records an "extraordinary invasion of privacy." Paul said, "I'm going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level." He continued on Fox News Sunday, "I’m going to be asking all the internet providers and all of the phone companies: Ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit. If we get 10 million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington." 

New York Times, Tech Companies Concede to Surveillance Program, Claire Cain Miller, June 7, 2013. When government officials came to Silicon Valley to demand easier ways for the world’s largest Internet companies to turn over user data as part of a secret surveillance program, the companies bristled. In the end, though, many cooperated at least a bit. While handing over data in response to a legitimate FISA request is a legal requirement, making it easier for the government to get the information is not, which is why Twitter could decline to do so. Details on the discussions help explain the disparity between initial descriptions of the government program and the companies’ responses. Instead of adding a back door to their servers, the companies were essentially asked to erect a locked mailbox and give the government the key, people briefed on the negotiations said. Facebook, for instance, built such a system for requesting and sharing the information, they said. The data shared in these ways, the people said, is shared after company lawyers have reviewed the FISA request according to company practice. It is not sent automatically or in bulk, and the government does not have full access to company servers. Instead, they said, it is a more secure and efficient way to hand over the data.

New York Daily News, Former NYPD boss Bernard Kerik released from federal prison, heads home to N.J., Barry Paddock, Greg B. Smith and Larry McShane, May 28, 2013. The former top cop was sentenced to four years in 2010. He may serve out the rest of his sentence under an unusual home-confinement arrangement. See background also in: Justice Integrity Project, Court Slams Kerik Appeal….But Seeing Is Believing, Andrew Kreig, April 5, 2011. New York's federal appeals court last week rejected former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik’s claims of unfairness when his judge sentenced him to four years in prison for tax and related charges. But I was an eye-witness to the unfairness to Kerik during his sentencing in New York on Feb. 18, 2010.

Washington Post, Message from the ruins of Qusair, Charles Krauthammer, June 6, 2013. On Wednesday, Qusair fell to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Qusair is a strategic town that connects Damascus with Assad’s Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean, with its ports and Russian naval base. It’s a major strategic shift. Assad’s forces can now advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo. For the rebels, it’s a devastating loss of territory, morale and their supply corridor to Lebanon. No one knows if this reversal of fortune will be the last, but everyone knows that Assad now has the upper hand.

Institute for Political Economy, Another Phony Jobs Report From A Government That Lies About Everything, Paul Craig Roberts, June 7, 2013. The payroll jobs report for May released today continues the fantasy. Goods producing jobs declined, with manufacturing losing another 4,000 jobs, but the New Economy produced 179,000 service jobs.


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