FreeSpeech and Censorship: Thread

grarpamp grarpamp at
Wed Apr 28 15:48:52 PDT 2021

Propaganda and Fake News...

Greenwald: CNN's New "Reporter" Natasha Bertrand Is Deranged
Conspiracy Theorist And Scandal-Plagued CIA Propagandist

The most important axiom for understanding how the U.S. corporate
media functions is that there is never accountability for those who
serve as propagandists for the U.S. security state. The opposite is
true: the more aggressively and recklessly you spread CIA narratives
or pro-war manipulation, the more rewarded you will be in that world.
CNN's new national security reporter Natasha Bertrand, then of
Politico and NBC News, with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Sept. 19, 2019

The classic case is Jeffrey Goldberg, who wrote one of the most
deceitful and destructive articles of his generation: a lengthy New
Yorker article in May, 2002 — right as the propagandistic groundwork
for the invasion of Iraq was being laid — that claimed Saddam Hussein
had formed an alliance with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. In February,
2003, on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, NPR host Robert Siegel
devoted a long segment to this claim. When he asked Goldberg “a man
named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” Goldberg replied: “He is one of several
men who might personify a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.”

Needless to say, nothing could generate hatred for someone among the
American population — just nine months away from the 9/11 attack —
more than associating them with bin Laden. Five months after
Goldberg's New Yorker article, the U.S. Congress authorized the use of
military force to impose regime change on Iraq; ten months later, the
U.S. invaded Iraq; and by September, 2003, close to 70% of Americans
believed the lie that Saddam had personally participated in the 9/11

Goldberg's fabrication-driven article generated ample celebratory
media attention and even prestigious journalism awards. It also led to
great financial reward and career advancement. In 2007, The Atlantic's
publisher David Bradley lured Goldberg away from The New Yorker by
lavishing him with a huge signing bonus and even sent exotic horses to
entertain Goldberg's children. Goldberg is now the editor-in-chief of
that magazine and thus one of the most influential figures in media.
In other words, the person who wrote what is arguably the most
disastrous article of that decade was one most rewarded by the
industry — all because he served the aims of the U.S. security state
and its war aims. That is how U.S. corporate journalism functions.

Another illustrative mascot for this lucrative career path is NBC's
national security correspondent Ken Dilanian. In 2014, his own former
paper, The Los Angeles Times, acknowledged his "collaborative”
relationship with the CIA. During his stint there, he mimicked false
claims from John Brennan's CIA that no innocent people were killed
from a 2012 Obama drone strike, only for human rights groups and
leaked documents to prove many were.

A FOIA request produced documents published by The Intercept in 2015
that showed Dilanian submitting his "reporting” to the CIA for
approval in violation of The LA Times’ own ethical guidelines and then
repeating what he was told to say. But again, serving the CIA even
with false "reporting” and unethical behavior is a career benefit in
corporate media, not an impediment, and Dilanian rapidly fell upward
after these embarrassing revelations. He first went to Associated
Press and then to NBC News, where he broadcast numerous false
Russiagate scams including purporting to “independently confirm” CNN's
ultimately retracted bombshell that Donald Trump, Jr. obtained advance
access to the 2016 WikiLeaks archive.
The Huffington Post, Sept. 5, 2014

On Monday, CNN made clear that this dynamic still drives the corporate
media world. The network proudly announced that it had hired Natasha
Bertrand away from Politico. In doing so, they added to their stable
of former CIA operatives, NSA spies, Pentagon Generals and FBI agents
a reporter who has done as much as anyone, if not more so, to advance
the scripts of those agencies.

Bertrand's career began taking off when, while at Business Insider,
she abandoned her obsession with Russia's role in Syria in 2016 in
order to monomaniacally fixate on every last conspiracy theory and
gossip item that drove the Russiagate fraud during the 2016 campaign
and then into the Trump presidency. Each month, Bertrand produced
dozens of Russiagate articles for the site that were so unhinged that
they made Rachel Maddow look sober, cautious and reliable.

In 2018, it was Jeffrey Goldberg himself — knowing a star CIA
propagandist when he sees one — who gave Bertrand her first big break
by hiring her away from Business Insider to cover Russiagate for The
Atlantic. Shortly after, she joined the Queen of Russiagate
conspiracies herself by becoming a national security analyst for MSNBC
and NBC News. From there, it was onto Politico and now CNN: the ideal,
rapid career climb that is the dream of every liberal security state
servant calling themselves a journalist. Her final conspiratorial
article for The Atlantic before moving to Politico is the perfect
illustration of who and what she is:

CNN's new national security star was no ordinary Russiagate fanatic.
There was no conspiracy theory too unhinged or evidence-free for her
to promote. As The Washington Post's media reporter Erik Wemple
documented once the Steele Dossier was debunked, there was arguably
nobody in media other than Rachel Maddow who promoted and ratified
that hoax as aggressively, uncritically and persistently as Bertrand.
She defended it even after the Mueller Report corroborated virtually
none of its key claims.

In a February, 2020 article headlined “How Politico’s Natasha Bertrand
bootstrapped dossier credulity into MSNBC gig,” Wemple described how
she was rewarded over and over for "journalism” that would be regarded
in any healthy profession with nothing but scorn:

    Where there’s a report on Russian meddling, there’s an MSNBC
segment waiting to be taped. Last Thursday night, MSNBC host Joy Reid
— subbing for “All In” host Chris Hayes — turned to Politico national
security reporter Natasha Bertrand with a question about whether Trump
“wants” Russian meddling or whether he can’t accept that "foreign help
is there.“ Bertrand responded: “We don’t have the reporting that
suggests that the president has told aides, for example, that he
really wants Russia to interfere because he thinks that it’s going to
help him, right?”

    No, we don’t have that reporting — though there’s no prohibition
against fantasizing about it on national television. Such is the theme
of Bertrand’s commentary during previous coverage of Russian
interference, specifically the dossier of memos drawn up by former
British intelligence officer Christopher Steele. With winks and nods
from MSNBC hosts, Bertrand heaped credibility on the dossier — which
was published in full by BuzzFeed News in January 2017 — in repeated
television appearances.

Wemple systematically reviewed the mountain of speculation, unproven
conspiracies and outright falsehoods Bertrand shoveled to the public
as she was repeatedly promoted. But it was the document that gave us
deranged delusions about pee-pee tape blackmail and Michael Cohen's
trip to Prague that was her crown jewel: “The Bertrand highlight reel
features a great deal of thumb-on-scale speculation regarding the
dossier,” Wemple wrote.

And when information started being declassified that proved much of
Bertrand's claims about collusion to be a fraud, she complained that
there was too much transparency, implying that the Trump
administration was harming national security by allowing the public to
know too much — namely, allowing the public to see that her reporting
was a fraud. A journalist who complains about too much transparency is
like a cardiologist who complains that a patient has stopped smoking
cigarettes, or like a journalist who voluntarily rats out her own
source to the FBI or who agitates for censorship of political speech:
a walking negation of the professional values they are supposed to
uphold. But that is Natasha Bertrand, and, to the extent that there
are some people who still believe that working at CNN is desirable,
she was just rewarded for it again yesterday — just as journalists who
rat out their own sources to the FBI and advocate for internet
censorship are now celebrated in today's rotted media climate.
The Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2020

Bertrand's trail of journalistic scandals and recklessness extend well
beyond her Russiagate conspiracies. Last October, she published an
article in Politico strongly implying that Director of National
Intelligence John Ratcliffe was speaking without authorization or any
evidence when he said Iran was attempting to undermine President
Trump's 2020 presidential campaign. But last month, the Biden
administration declassified an intelligence report which said they had
"high confidence” that Iran had done exactly what Ratcliffe alleged:
namely, run an influence campaign to hurt Trump's candidacy. A former
national security official, Cliff Sims, said upon hearing of CNN's
hiring that he explicitly warned Bertrand's editors that the story was
false but they chose to publish it anyway.

It was also Bertrand who most effectively laundered the extremely
significant CIA lie in October, 2020 that the documents obtained by
The New York Post about the Biden family's business dealings in China
and Ukraine were "Russian disinformation.” Even though the
John-Brennan-led former intelligence officials admitted from the start
that they had no evidence for this claim, Bertrand not only amplified
it but vouched for its credibility by writing that the Post's
reporting “has drawn comparisons to 2016, when Russian hackers dumped
troves of emails from Democrats onto the internet — producing few
damaging revelations but fueling accusations of corruption by Trump”
(that those 2016 DNC and Podesta documents produced “few damaging
revelations” would come as a big surprise to the five DNC operatives,
led by Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who were forced to resign
when their pro-Hillary cheating was revealed).

It was this Politico article by Bertrand that was then used by
Facebook and Twitter to justify their joint censorship of the Post's
reporting in the weeks before the 2020 election, and numerous media
outlets — including The Intercept — gullibly told their readers to
ignore the revelations on the ground that these authentic documents
were "Russian disinformation.” Yet once it did its job of helping
defeat Trump, that claim was debunked when even the intelligence
community acknowledged it had no evidence of Russian involvement in
the appearance of these materials, and Hunter Biden himself admitted
he was the subject of a federal investigation for the transactions
revealed by those documents.
Politico, Oct. 19, 2020

But even when her fantasies and conspiracies are debunked, Bertrand —
like a good intelligence soldier — never cedes any ground in her
propaganda campaigns. She was, needless to say, one of the journalists
who most vocally promoted the CIA's story — published as Trump was
announcing his plans to withdraw from Afghanistan — that Russia had
paid bounties to the Taliban for the death of U.S. soldiers. Yet even
when the U.S. intelligence community under Joe Biden admitted last
week that it has only "low to moderate” confidence that this even
happened — with the NSA and other surveillance agencies saying it
could find no evidence to corroborate the CIA's story — she continued
to insist that nothing had changed with the story, denying last week
on a Mediaite podcast that anything had happened to cast doubt on the
original story: “I think it’s much more nuanced than it being a
walk-back. I don’t think that’s right actually."

Even a cursory review of Bertrand's prolific output reveals an endless
array of gossip, conspiracy and speculative assertions masquerading as
journalism. The commentator Luke Thomas detailed many of these
transgressions on Monday and correctly observed that “arguably no
single reporter has contributed more to the deranged and paranoid
national security fantasies of the center-left than Natasha Bertrand.
She's an embarrassment to her profession and will, therefore, fit
right in at CNN.”

As Thomas noted, beyond all of Bertrand's well-documented and
consequential propaganda, “she sees conspiracies and perfidiousness
around every corner,” pointing to this demented yet highly viral tweet
that deciphered comments from former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) as
inadvertently revealing some secret scheme to expand Trump's pardon
powers. That scheme, like most of her speculative predictions, never

Then there is her garden-variety ethical scandal. In January,
freelancer Dean Sterling Jones accused Bertrand of stealing his work
without credit or payment. In a post he published, Jones documented
how he emailed Bertrand a draft with reporting he had been working on,
and in response she agreed to report it jointly with him on a
co-byline. Yet two weeks later, the article appeared in The Atlantic
with Bertrand as the only named reporter. Only after Jones complained
did they insert a sentence into the story begrudgingly citing him as a
source. “By my count,” Jones wrote, “Bertrand’s article contains at
least six unequivocal examples of direct copying and revisions of my
work.” When he published his post detailing his accusations, Bertrand
arrogantly refused even to provide comment to the freelancer whose
work she pilfered.

Natasha Bertrand has spent the last five years working as a
spokesperson for the alliance composed of the CIA and the Democratic
Party, spreading every unvetted and unproven conspiracy theory about
Russiagate that they fed her. The more loyally she performed that
propagandistic function, the more rapidly she was promoted and
rewarded. Now she arrives at her latest destination: CNN, not only
Russiagate Central along with MSNBC but also the home to countless
ex-operatives of the security state agencies on whose behalf Bertrand

Once again we see the two key truths of modern corporate journalism in
the U.S. First, we have the Jeffrey Goldberg Principle: you can never
go wrong, but only right, by disseminating lies and propaganda from
the CIA. Second, the organs that spread the most disinformation and
crave disinformation agents as their employees are the very same ones
who demand censorship of the internet in the name of stopping

I've long said that if you want to understand how to thrive in this
part of the media world, you should study the career advancement of
Jeffrey Goldberg, propelled by one reckless act after the next. But
now the sequel to the Goldberg Rise is the thriving career of this new
CNN reporter whose value as a CIA propagandist Goldberg, notably, was
the first to spot and reward.

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