Russiagate Rescue: How Corporate Media Keeps the New Red Scare Alive to Save Tanking Ratings

As viewers and readers flee corporate outlets in a post-Trump world, networks and print outlets are dialing up the Russiagate hysteria

Since President Trump left office, cable news networks that essentially elected him have predictably nosedived.

In the second quarter alone (April through June), CNN’s prime time ratings tanked 57 percent compared to the previous year. In the crucial advertiser-desired 25-54 demographic, the network’s prime time ratings tailspin was even worse—down 68 percent year-over-year.

For CNN’s competition over at the Resistance network, the tsunami was less pronounced but still striking: MSNBC shrunk 37 percent in primetime viewers and 48 percent in the key 25-54 demo.

The fall of these networks isn’t shocking; in a pre-Trump galaxy far far away from today’s consciousness, these outlets were already on their last legs before Trump (New York Times and Washington Post weren’t doing much better). But from the moment Trump rode down that escalator, these cable channels and legacy print outlets enjoyed a five-year ratings and subscriptions sugar high based on feeding their collective audiences a steady diet of Trump’s horridness with a side of fear mongering and sensationalism over the grave threat of Russian interference in U.S. elections.

But with the Donald gone—at least from the White House—it’s been, as they say, back to brunch for a large swath of the audiences that drove this half-decade ratings renaissance.

As a result, these networks and print outlets have been working overdrive to keep both Trump, and the new Cold War, in the news.

This was on display at the recent G7 summit as corporate media news outlets used their coverage to further manufacture consent for the U.S.’ capitalistic and oppressive hegemony. They did this by further fanning the flames of the new Cold War Democrats have been pushing for five years.  

There’s no arguing that the U.S. has a long history of meddling with foreign affairs, attempting at least 72 coups over the last half century. Many of these were violent, elevating corrupt puppet governments in the name of capitalism and U.S. business interests at the expense of an untold number of innocent lives around the world. Look no further than the 1953 U.S.’ coup in Iran, the U.S. coup of Congo in the 1960s, the Vietnam War, and the Iraq War—just to name a few.

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Despite a generation’s worth of blood on the U.S. government’s hand, the establishment corporate media has championed and applauded this violent and tyrannical behavior, continuing to do so in its coverage of the dealings between President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G7 Summit. Of course, questions about ways to improve the US-Russia relationship weren’t asked; instead journalists pushed questions to Biden about the never-ending Russiagate saga. 

This continued Cold War reenactment by corporate journalists immediately put Russia under fire while ignoring the U.S.’ sins. 

Of course, the journalists peppering Biden with questions about Russian interference have completely ignored gaping holes in the Russiagate narrative.

For starters, Shawn Henry, the CEO of CrowdStrike, the DNC-hired private cyber security firm behind the original claim that the Russian government was behind the DNC hack, quietly admitted to Congress three years ago that his company found no concrete evidence that Russian hackers actually stole emails from the DNC.

"We did not have concrete evidence that the data was exfiltrated [moved electronically] from the DNC, but we have indicators that it was exfiltrated," Henry testified to Congress.

Obviously, this admission led Russiagate czar Rachel Maddow to do a one-hour retraction of her years of Russian fearmongering, right? Ha!

Beyond the Russian hacking narrative’s core author backtracking, the corporate media put out a false story about Donald Trump’s former campaign manager’s involvement with Russiagate. The culprit was The Guardian, who published a story alleging that Paul Manafort held secret meetings with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. 

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The story produced no evidence of this meeting; no video, photos, or even embassy logs showing Manafort having ever been there. But corporate media outlets, who put out disclaimers that they themselves couldn’t independently confirm The Guardian’s report, immediately sensationalized the story, resulting in it going viral despite the story being fake. Eventually the first secretary of the Ecuadorian Embassy revealed the story to be fabricated, but the propaganda damage was done. Instead of owning up to doing the opposite of their jobs, The Guardian’s editors disappeared.

The Guardian’s story was just one examples of falsehoods about Julian Assange and Wikileaks never being corrected by the corporate media. In an important revelation, Buzzfeed revealed that Robert Mueller had investigated Julian Assange’s involvement in the alleged hacks. Not surprisingly, Mueller found no evidence to charge Assange.

But interestingly enough, this revelation didn’t make its way onto cable news screens.

These are just a few examples of a long list of disproven Russiagate “reporting.” Despite these lies, major cable news and print outlets never corrected their reporting, clinging to their lies and further “covering” the story to this day.

During the G7 Summit, Biden didn’t even attempt to deny any of the countless disproven facts of the Russian hacking accusation. Instead he floated a massive lie about America’s long-track record of global interference.

“How would it be if the United States were viewed by the rest of the world as interfering with the elections directly of other countries and everybody knew it?” the president posited to reporters.

Any decent journalist would have called Biden out on this painfully obvious and egregious lie. But corporate journalists chose to feed into the great American lie that the U.S. is a beacon of freedom who hasn’t destroyed and replaced foreign governments around the world in order to spread its corrupt brand of capitalist-democracy.

Reporters gave Putin starkly different and much more aggressive treatment when they questioned him. In questioning Putin, Rachel Scott, a congressional correspondent for ABC News, drilled Putin on his involvement with the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, Putin’s main political opponent in Russia.

In August of 2020, Navalny accused Putin of poisoning him and was transported to Berlin after falling ill from a Soviet-era nerve agent. Upon returning to Russia, he was imprisoned by Russian authorities, leading corporate media to relentlessly cover the story. The constant coverage of Navalny’s imprisonment further instills fear into Americans that Russia is a grave threat. Scott went on to cite certain organizations who call Putin an extremist; she then asked the President of Russia, “What are you so afraid of?” 

The corporate media’s PR for the U.S. government doesn’t mean Russia and Putin are angels. The imprisonment of Navalny and Putin’s other political opponents is a clear example of a dictator’s abuse of power and corruption. But the intensive focus on Navalny, while ignoring America’s loving relationships with countless brutal dictators around the world, is a disservice to viewers and readers who deserve real information and context.

This brand of reporting further polarizes America’s international relationship with foreign countries, including nuclear-powered ones like Russia, and further pours gasoline on the new Cold War Democrats have created for years.

For example, Margaret Kimberley, a progressive writer, wrote that corporate journalists portray the U.S. as a “beacon of democracy” that has every right to police other countries on what they can and cannot do. This is a lie fabricated by both the state and corporate media to keep us in the dark on injustices committed by our federal government domestically and abroad.

Democracy requires everyone to have a voice. Yet the Biden Administration recently shut down 33 different foreign news outlet websites in Iran, Bahrain, Yemen and Palestine. The supposed leading global democracy censoring the press of foreign country seems, well...  pretty undemocratic.

Of course, corporate media normalized this with no pushback, choosing to demonize these foreign outlets rather than standing up for First Amendment rights.

America’s censorship of foreign news outlets started long before Biden with the U.S. weaponizing its military as a silencer of foreign dissenting voices. During the Kosovo War, the U.S. military killed 16 people in the building for the Serbian broadcaster RTS. They even attacked the Al Jazeera office in Baghdad along with Abu Dhabi TV. President George W. Bush dipped his feet into censorship even further when he had Sami al-Haj, an Al Jazeera journalist, imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay without any charge. As a result, al-Haj sued the president.

As our military attacks news outlets overseas, our corporate news outlets pepper audiences with misinformation. The fact that corporate outlets are still clinging to the Russiagate lie is a sign they haven’t learned, nor do they care to learn, from past mistakes—even after they got Trump elected by giving him billions in free advertising to juice their own profits.

To fix their mistakes, the media decided to cling to a lie they knew would keep their predominately older audiences—who grew up during the heart of the Cold War propaganda era—glued to the TV and web. And even after it was disproved, the media still obsesses over it. If journalists can’t disseminate fact from fiction, what are they good for?

Corporate news outlets are not here to tell us the truth. They serve as messengers for our corrupt government’s propaganda. If we continue to allow big names like CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times and Fox News to spread lies and misinformation, the concept of a true free press and informed public will cease to exist. Independent investigative outlets like Status Coup exist to feed truth and give a voice to the people in a media market riddled with propaganda and corruption.

-By Christian Maitre

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