Critical Media Literacy

W.J. Astore

He who pays the piper calls the tune is a saying I learned from my dad. He also taught me to never believe anything you read and only half of what you see. Direct experience is best, of course, but even when you’re living through an historical event, your perspective is necessarily limited and filtered through your own biases. All my readers, I’m assuming, don’t currently have direct experience of the war in Ukraine. So how do we know what’s really going on? And who’s paying the piper to call the tune on the media coverage of the same?

I was thinking of all this as I watched Briahna Joy Gray talk to Abby Martin on Gray’s show, “Bad Faith.” Both women remind us that major networks like Fox, MSNBC, CNN, PBS and the like are captured by corporations and rely on advertising revenue from Raytheon, Pfizer, and similar powerhouses of the military-industrial complex, big Pharma (drug pushers and dealers), and of course fossil fuel companies. They pay the piper and therefore call the tunes that we hear daily.

The result, as Abby Martin says here, is that the Russia-Ukraine war becomes a “cartoon binary that infantilizes us all,” in which Putin is Sauron and Zelensky is both Gandalf the White and Frodo, sage wizard and plucky underdog, to use characters from Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”

Is that you, Putin?

Anti-Russian hysteria has grown so common that my local liquor store was at pains to tell me that Stoli vodka comes from Latvia, not Russia, therefore I could still in good conscience purchase it without serving Sauron/Putin.

Mainstream media networks in the U.S. are owned by five major corporations, notes Martin, and their goal is to control the narrative while strengthening their positions and maximizing profits. This is why it might be wise to remember not to believe everything, or anything, that you read, and to remember as well that the pipers we listen to on the air are not free to call their own tunes.

Anyway, I highly recommend Gray and Martin’s interview. Enjoy, readers!

44 thoughts on “Critical Media Literacy

  1. I’ve wondered lately if during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 we had the same corporate-captured “news” environment we have now – would any of us be alive now?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that, yes, we’d still be here, Tom. The resolution to the Missile Crisis depended solely on the determination of both JFK and Khruschev to NOT incinerate the planet. Neither man was willing to cross the line in the name of nationalism and sheer ego. Unfortunately, we can’t say the same thing now.

      In any case, the press didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes in October of ’62; the details have only trickled out over the years. Likewise, despite populations armed with cell phones by the millions, and 24/7 coverage, we don’t know what’s going on in either the White House Situation Room or the bowels of the Kremlin.


    1. The RT piper has been largely silenced.

      I didn’t watch a lot of RT, but I enjoyed Chris Hedges and Jesse Ventura there. And of course I knew the network was funded by the Russian government.

      It’s always fun to watch PBS and see their list of major donors. And the drug ads on the major networks — they are relentless!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I find it curious that geopolitics has devolved to the level of 3rd-grade name calling: “you’re Sauron!” “No I’m not, but you’re Hitler!” Et cetera. No arguments are made and no evidence is provided. Just stupid, thoughtless slander. And if anyone has the openness to consider the Russian government’s perspective in this proxy war, which reportedly differs from that of the Russian people, then that empathizer is now a Russian asset. So much for steel manning the opponent’s reasons and arguments.

    Someone wrote (might have been at this blog) that it should come as no surprise that after being mistreated for some period of time, a beaten dog will eventually bite back. Unpredictable but probably inevitable unless its spirit is entirely broken. So after having been sanctioned and encroached upon by NATO for decades, it’s not surprising that the Russian government (not to place it all on one man’s shoulders) finally decided “Enough of this bollocks.” It’s a loss/sacrifice all around but could have been avoided if the West had been cooperative rather than antagonistic.


  3. Sorry to say that your father was wrong.
    One needs to read, lots, and then look at history (which is written) and also Think.
    Do we believe what is written in your column ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure even I believe all the stuff I write! 🙂

      Seriously, knowledge isn’t stagnant, nor is belief. The more I learn and listen, the more my views grow in elasticity, i.e. the more willing I become to consider the arguments of others.

      My dad’s saying: It’s not meant to taken literally, i.e. NEVER believe anything you read. Rather, it’s a reminder to be skeptical of what you read. My dad wasn’t advocating nihilism; just healthy skepticism.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Speaking of dads, my dad told me that the news is sensational, that the importance to oneself of what appears in the news is usually inversely proportional to the frenzy/breathlessness with which it is presented. What is common is ignored, what is most bizarre or rare is hyped. In other words, keep proportion in mind when getting “the news”

        My own take from years in TV broadcasting is that “the news” is always a tiny sample of what actually happened on a given day, hardly more than what some big name said about another big name and, even in that case, never revelatory of the real issues beneath the talk. I would witness meetings in which a “news director” would select what the public would see that day. I would wonder what the public would think if they knew this person thinking only of ratings was deciding what was the news.

        Thank you for the Bad Faith link above, where something can be learned.


        1. I had wondered why CBS News was not covering the 1/6 Select Committee investigation and subpoenas of the Party Chairs and Secretaries of State of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin re the false slates of electors submitted to the National Archives for the 2020 Election. Then I happened upon Reince Priebus’ Twitter account stating he’s a “Political Analyst @ CBS News” and I wondered no more.


          1. WELLLLL… I have learned not to post a link to anybody’s Twitter account URL in the comments section..sorry..


  4. In the spin, it’s all brain food, although it seems some/many (but not most) of us have opted for the side salad as a main course.

    FWIW, the attempt to run a rehash of the GWOT narrative is actually a good sign-it leads me to infer the powers-that-be/forces-that-are don’t have other tactics that could be useful, ie a ‘holler-back honey’ move is the residue in the barrel.

    Despite the full-on “information” war underway, I highly recommend dinner out with drinks [vodka _________, please], beef stroganoff & salad (with requested Russian dressing) etc. Jo(e)wear along with some streaming Tchaikovsky and hard cover Solzhenitsyn will be my choice after I find my little maroon beret. Rural Iowa is so much fun…


  5. My widowed working-class mother also used to regale me with bits of received wisdom like “Never believe anything you read and only half of what you see.” Later in life, I repeated that admonition to Professor Lewis Lancaster, from whom I took some graduate courses in Buddhism. His reply: “Yes. And now with Photoshop you can’t believe anything you see either.”

    Liked by 1 person

  6. US/NATO War Propaganda paints Russia as the monster in Mariupol deliberately killing Civilians.
    Mauriupol in the East is controlled by the Azov Battalion, the most murderous of all the Nazis Putin says he wants to de-Nazified in Ukraine.

    Even though Russia opened corridors for those who wanted to leave, the controlling Azov wouldn’t let anyone leave and it was those Nazis that were actually killing those who did try to leave.

    Western WAR Propaganda will not show the testimony of those who were able to get out as can be seen in several Videos here accusing Azov of killing Civilians, welcoming the Russians as liberators.
    There are 6 videos to see here:


  7. And of course now we have the internet

    Sadly the internet’s endless flow of information has created a medium that allows us to confirm our flawed biases and circulate them further. It has been argued that while holding on to preconceived notions was part of human nature before, the internet has exasperated this bad habit. The argument is that its existence has made people even more confident in their opinions, even if they are based on misconceptions.

    Online it is hard to tell the difference between legitimate and flawed information. And the result is in 2022 misinformation and fake news emerges and spreads like wild fire. Witness the Covid and Ukraine war misinformation abounding on the internet today. Back in pre-internet days it is unlikely that many people would have even heard of ivermectin or had much much knowledge of NATO. And of course nowadays one can find numerous internet articles that support any crazy idea you may have.

    So the question is – do we really know better now of what’s really going on?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right Dennis.

      But I justify the internet by the fact that the truth can be more easily found if one is willing to dig for it, whereas before it was impossible. People are empowered to speak out with either the nonsense we get from most or the honesty we get from the few. That is the saving grace that makes me prefer the present to the pre-internet days.


  8. I never heard of Harley Schlanger before today, but his analysis of what’s going on in Ukraine and the financial consequences seems as logical and reasonable as those opinions of Col. Doug Macgregor who he refers to in this 50 minute audio interview well worth listening to.

    ‘Harley Schlanger-Putin Is Exposing It All,The [DS] Is Trapped,Economic Transition Is In The Works’
    [I don’t know what the [DS] stands for?]


  9. There are at least three separate issues here.
    1. The Media, how controlled is it, and conversely is it still an open and free place to get news?
    2. Literacy. I wonder how many people have the literacy to evaluate the information they are reading.
    3. Censorship. Is any and all information to be put out on the internet?
    How about a video on how to turn a drone into a flying bomb to be used as an assassination device? Or how to do your own intravenous injections of ivermectin or bleach?

    The internet itself is a problem. Is it speech or the press? These are covered by the First Amendment. Even sites that claim they are a form of newspaper can be just one person putting out their beliefs or propaganda, e.g. Q-anon.
    The internet unlike books can be accessed by children who are easily persuaded. Parents used to be able to monitor what their children were reading but not now.

    The truth is its own justification for existing. The truth when it comes to human affairs is many layers deep. It seems that the underlying assumption about getting the truth is that it will allow one to make the correct decision. The native Americans of the Andes have a hierarchy for decision making. The base is munay which means compassion. On this is Yankay which means duty. Above this is Yachay which means thought. The last two rest on munay and must not violate it. Even this is can be a difficult way to make a correct decision because sometimes the compassionate thing is to not enable the wrong doer merely because he is crying and appealing to one’s compassion ( Kyle Rittenhouse ).

    One more ramble, the truth will not make you free. The truth is the key to the door that leads to freedom. Only those willing to use it will be free.


    1. Thanks for the clip. Dan Abrams seems to believe there’s only one form of censorship: by the state. And he seems to believe the U.S. government has no sway and influence over the media. And he seems to accept the idea that corporate interference (I suppose he wouldn’t say “censorship”) is just fine because of, well, capitalism, I guess.

      He sure is living in his own dream world …


  10. This is a comment from Ray Joseph Cormier:

    ‘Ukraine and the Deeper Global Suicide Agenda’

    The decision by the Russian President to order military action in neighboring Ukraine beginning February 24, 2022 has shocked many, myself included. The question at this point almost two weeks into military action by Russian and other forces inside Ukraine, is what pushed Russia into what Western media portrays as unilateral unwarranted war of aggression. A public threat by Ukrainian president and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskyy on February 19, during meetings with top-level NATO officials and others in the annual Munich Security Conference, provides a largely-ignored clue to Moscow actions. In addition more recent reports of numerous US Pentagon bioweapons labs across Ukraine add to the background threats. Did Moscow believe Russia faced a literal do-or-die reality?

    Some essential history

    The current conflict in Ukraine has its seeds in the 1990’s and the US-backed collapse of the Soviet Union. During high-level Two Plus Four Treaty talks pertaining to Germany’s reunification in 1990, talks between US Secretary of State James Baker III and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, along with France, the UK and the West German government, over unification of Germany, Baker gave a verbal promise that NATO would not move “one inch” to the East to threaten former Soviet territories, in return for the USSR allowing German reunification within NATO.

    For years Washington has lied about the exchange, as they moved one after the other former Warsaw Pact countries including Poland, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Baltic States into NATO and closer to striking distance to Russia. Recently Putin cited the 1990 Baker agreement to justify Russian demands that NATO and Washington give binding legal assurances that Ukraine would never be admitted into the NATO alliance. Washington until now has categorically refused to do so………..


  11. Ray and Bill, wow! the last paragraph in this link is sure frightening!

    “The question is whether this years-long provocation by Washington and NATO of Russian national security via Ukraine is aimed at destroying the viability of Russia as a sovereign nation and military power. Is it a calculated move to use sanctions against Russia to cause global collapse and energy crises, food shortages and worse, all to advance the Davos 2030 Great Reset agenda? Blame it on the “evil Putin” and Russia while BlackRock and the financial powers reorganize the world? It is too early to tell but certain is that whatever prompted the action by Russia on February 24, 2022 had to have been far more serious than CNN or other controlled Western media are telling us.”


    1. Maybe Putin is working for Davos, eh?

      What he has done and the way he is doing it ~ and the US/NATO/global reaction and response ~ is certainly paving the way for something that only the Ruling Elites will like.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Sorry about all the YouTube I have posted this morning.
    But this one is a real mind blower – make sure you watch it to the end!


  13. Sorry to lose one of my go-to sources — Canadian, in this case — for coverage of things Russian:

    On March 20, 2022, By Patrick Armstrong In EDITORIAL COMMENTS:

    I am going to pause this site and my other activities for a while until I see how things break out.

    What was a post-retirement hobby – a continuation of my job of trying to figure out what was happening in Russia – has now led to accusations of being a Russian agent of disinformation.

    Deviation from the approved narrative is to risk, at best, being accused of sowing disinformation and, at worst, of treason.

    I’m too old for this.

    Thanks for all the great information and insights, Patrick. Stay safe and hurry back to us. Dalton Trumbo and Tulsi Gabbard have withstood this raging Nixon/McCarthyism and hopefully you will, too.


    1. It’s a tough time to run a site that focuses on serious political issues, especially the Russia-Ukraine War. I’ve lost readers, with commenters suggesting that this site somehow favors a total Russian victory, even though I’ve been at pains to condemn the Russian invasion, as well as actions and inaction by the West that contributed to that decision.

      War is never a time that favors reasoned and fair-minded analysis, which is why we need it all the more.

      I’m gobsmacked by deeply irresponsible talk of no-fly zones and sending MiGs or even troops to Ukraine. People would rather risk nuclear war than appear “weak.” They’ll propose any idea, no matter how crazy and escalatory, for political advantage and bragging rights.

      The only question seems to be whether we face quick death in a nuclear war or a slow one from climate-driven disasters …

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i wonder how many Navy and Air Force Pilots are in favor a No-Fly Zone? Not Admirals and Generals, but Pilots.

        Note that no American politician, pundit, or propagandist calling for a NFZ has any intention of volunteering to go to Ukraine to participate in it and cheer it on from Ground Zero.

        And on top of the now very real threats of nuclear war and climate-driven disasters, Colonel, we also have the planet’s Ruling Elites smacking their lips at the very real probability of a resurgent COVID Wave. Thereby giving them further opportunity and justification to further increase their power, authority, and, of course, wealth.

        Throw in the pending world food shortages precipitated by the War, along with Weimar Republic levels of hyperinflation, and it is going to be a very interesting Mid-Term election here in the US in November.

        If one happens.

        In any case, it is already a very interesting Chinese Year of the Black Water Rat.


        1. It’s insane. Think of the cost of a 24/7 NFZ. Of course, cost is secondary to the utter stupidity of NATO warplanes entering an active war zone and shooting down Russian MiGs in the name of Ukraine.

          I’m sure Russia would tolerate that … and not lob a nuke or two toward a NATO airfield.


  14. Last year when I heard of the Florida National Guard deploying to far western Ukraine so as to “train” the nazi-staffed-and-directed “Ukrainian Army,” I took notice of how far distant from the eight years of actual fighting — in the far-eastern provinces — this would place them. It occurred to me that they would feel relatively safe from any real combat and in little danger of running up against the very real and capable Russian military — or so the snowflake psychopaths in Washington D.C. who dispatched those poor fools to their fate no doubt believed:

    Rambo and Popeye Teach ‘Russkies’ a Lesson

    At seven-times-one-hundred miles from the fighting
    in Donbas, some troops fierce and hard
    stand ready to high-tail it safely to westward:
    the Florida National Guard.

    Then, too, there’s a Coast Guard ship cruising the Black Sea
    Its GPS systems gone dark.
    Where once crew and captain imagined a joyride,
    things now look like Jurassic Park

    Those Russkies by now will have sure learned their lesson:
    Don’t mess with the part-time reserve
    scraped up from the Pentagram’s vast barrel bottom.
    Someone will get what they deserve.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2021

    Sure enough, a teacher arrived unexpectedly one morning to administer the lesson. See, Russia Exploits Ukraine’s Western Flank, by Larry Johnson (March 19, 2022):

    [begin quote]

    “Russian military strikes in Western Ukraine during the past week have shocked and alarmed NATO officials. The first blow came on Sunday, March 13 at Yavoriv, Ukraine. Russia hit the base with several missiles, some reportedly hypersonic. Over 200 personnel were killed, which included American and British military and intelligence personnel, and hundreds more wounded. Many suffered catastrophic wounds, such as amputations, and are in hospital. Yet, NATO and the western media have shown little interest in reporting on this disaster.” [emphasis added]

    “Yavoriv was an important forward base for NATO (see here). Until February (prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), the U.S. 7th Army Training Command was operating from Yavoriv:”

    Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine is the name given to the mission of training, equipping, training center development and doctrinal assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces. 7th Army Training Command oversees the JMTG-U mission at the Yavoriv Combat Training Center, most recently manned by Task Force Gator, 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, Florida Army National Guard.” [emphasis added]

    [end quote]

    Too bad the American and European SOBs who started sending NATO eastward in 1999 won’t have to pay the piper for the discordant and tragic tune they ordered him to play. I wonder if Senator Marco Rubio will show up and give the eulogy at the funerals for those deceased Florida National Guardsmen. Or will they even receive a publicly acknowledged burial at all?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. From a recent interview with Scott Horton of Conflicts of Interest: Scott Horton on Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine and Biden’s Reaction
    . . .
    [35:41] Scott Horton: “You know, if you go back to the war in Yemen, the state department, according to the New York Times – and I think the AP covered this, too, there’s multiple sources for this – at the State Department, the lawyers had written memos to the boss saying, ‘Sir, we’re afraid we could go to prison for war crimes in Yemen. Because the way that we’re providing arms and intelligence to the Saudis legally makes us a co-belligerent. And the Saudis are committing war crimes with our weapons. So, please be advised, sir, that your lawyers are warning you that we’re afraid that we could go to prison for what we’re doing here. It’s against the law.’ And those memos just stayed in a desk. And, of course, the Department of Justice would let any government employee murder anyone they want and would never hold anyone accountable. Ever. That’s the deal when you join government. The justice department passes you a license to lie and murder and then you do whatever you want and die happy of old age. That’s the deal. But – which is kind of funny, right? – like, here these lawyers are smart enough to go, ‘Man, we’re breaking the law,’ but they’re not smart enough to know that, ‘Oh, well, whatever. It’s not like we don’t all have letters of immunity that say we can do whatever we want.’ They have virtual ones. That’s not literal but same difference. Invoking Bush’s torture memos there, you know.”

    [37:15] “But it’s the same thing here. Doesn’t it have to be the case, right? Isn’t someone at the State Department saying, ‘Sir, we think we might go to prison because it’s actually against the law to arm Nazis to fight Russians? To kill people?’ And by the way, I mean, we have even from Amnesty which is usually just an adjunct of the State Department itself has a report about these Nazis committing war crimes in the Donbass. Torturing and murdering people. Disappearing people and all of these things. And this is who we’re getting in bed with right now.”

    [37:48] “Again, they happily invoke Afghanistan and Syria as the model here. And that just goes to show you, Our government – and I’m from here, too – but it’s true. It has been true my whole life. Our government is as evil as any of our enemies. It’s just as simple as that.”

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I subscribe to Michael Brennan of Pittsburgh University which comes only as an email. He does not have a Blog to link to.
    Many here would relate with his thoughts, but I don’t post them here because many are too long, but I find them interesting to read.

    His latest is shorter, and I can see the comparison he’s making with the current reality. Anyone wanting to get on his email mailing list, go here:

    Friends & Colleagues

    The Dark Ages are commonly referred to as The Age of Faith. Appropriately so. For it was the avowal of belief that counted above all else. A testament in words as to the state of your soul & mind eclipsed what you did and determined your fate and prospects for Salvation. When a Church prelate encountered ‘evil’ behavior &/or speech – of a sinner, of a pagan, a heretic, an apostate – the immediate reaction would be to clutch his pectoral crucifix in his left hand and make the sign of the cross with the right – left to right; right to left if Orthodox (as Putin and Kiril do). The gesture was meant to ward off the Evil One. He then would issue an interdiction prohibiting any communion with the brethren until the spiritual miscreant had taken a blood oath of fidelity to the prescribed doctrine and authority.

    In this supposedly enlightened, secular age, we are reviving the practice in modified form. Discourse about Russia/Ukraine is the outstanding case in point these days. Any public commentary about the matter, discussing any aspect of the complex situation, is required to be prefaced by a declaration of belief: a total denunciation of Russia, Putin and the invasion of Ukraine followed by praise to the glory of Ukraine’s stellar ‘democracy’ and the person of Volodymyradimir Zelensky (the Sainted martyr, who doesn’t cross himself – that’s progress). Without that avowal, whatever has been said or written is placed beyond the pale – ignored, denied relevance, and interpreted as prime facie evidence of the author’s blasphemy.

    Someone who is averse to offering testaments of faith just to be qualified to participate in the rites of public discourse is placed in a quandary. Take the vow and then move on with serious thinking OR remain silent OR suffer the slings and arrows from the outraged Faithful.

    To come down from those lofty heights, and to personalize it, my experience of the past several days confirms the suspicion that the Dark Ages are making a comeback. For anybody who cares, let me note that nowhere have I stated that I approve or support the Russian military move into Ukraine. However, I see no good reason to take the formulaic vow as a precondition for people to pay as much attention to my writing as they normally do. Nor do I plan to seek Absolution from Cardinal Biden or Bishop Blinken – even if each were not so heavily pockmarked by the wages of his own Sins.

    “All things are possible for one who believes. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    Proverbs 3:5 – 6


  17. Patrick Lawrence, “Imperial Infantilism”, Consortium News (March 21, 2022):

    “Look where this has landed us. Every time I hear Biden call Putin or some other world leader, not to Washington’s liking, a name out of the American inventory of epithets it is a reminder of how grotesquely U.S. “statecraft” has been infantilized. We cannot be surprised. How much distance is there between the infantilization of the American public and the infantilization of the post–2001 excuse for diplomacy?”

    “It’s the Peoria problem. One of the weirder practices of Americans posing as statesmen is when they address foreign officials in third-grade English. They are primarily concerned with appealing to a domestic public they have long ago treated as third-graders.” [emphasis added]

    Liked by 2 people

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