Tucker: Media’s treatment of Russia-Ukraine war is reckless
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Weeks before the Russian military invaded Ukraine, a chilling story began to appear in a number of American media outlets. Unnamed sources in the Biden administration warned that Vladimir Putin was preparing what they called a false flag attack. The point of the attack was to be a pretext for war with Ukraine.
The suggestion was that Putin would stage a mass killing and then accuse the Ukrainians of doing it. So the Pentagon warned Americans to expect “very graphic propaganda,” including footage of “corpses and actors that would be depicting mourners in images of destroyed locations, as well as military equipment in the hands of Ukraine or the West.”
It was a pretty complex story, but the media accepted all of it at face value and then repeated it uncritically. One of the very few who dared to ask questions all about where the story came from was an Associated Press reporter called Matt Lee, and for asking that question, the State Department’s flack all but accused him of working for Vladimir Putin. So, that’s what happens when you ask uncomfortable questions. The media caught on quickly and stopped asking them.
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But for weeks, the administration continued to release more of what it called declassified intelligence about Russia’s plans. Officials said that Putin was about to use chemical weapons in Ukraine. Joe Biden himself repeated that story and that’s why, Biden told us, we needed to send another $14 billion in tax dollars to the Ukrainian government. Everyone in Washington accepted this at face value and the U.S. government sent the money. But Biden was not telling the truth and weeks later, the administration admitted that.
According to NBC News, multiple Biden administration officials have confirmed that there is “no evidence Russia has brought any chemical weapons near Ukraine.” So, that wasn’t true, but it wasn’t the only lie. NBC described this fiction about chemical weapons as just one of a “string of examples” of unverified information the Biden administration claimed was real. So, they weren’t just lying to us about what was happening in Ukraine, they were lying to us at scale, but amazingly — and this is the telling point — NBC was not bothered by that. In fact, they celebrated it. NBC described the lies the Biden administration had told as a “bold and so far successful strategy.” And then NBC sent out one of the many intel agency puppets it employs to let us, the viewers, know we should be grateful the Biden administration is lying to us.
KEN DILANIAN: Now we’re in the middle of the war and the U.S. has been releasing intelligence and sometimes it’s not always based on the most high-confidence reporting. For example, the United States made public that they believed there were indications that Russia may be poised to use chemical agents in Ukraine. Now that hasn’t come to pass and officials told us that one of the reasons for making that public was in part to deter it. In another case, they talked about Russia going to China to ask for military help. There’s no indication that that has happened, either, but that was a way of warning the Chinese not to do it.
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Oh, it’s all very clever. So, the Biden administration used disinformation to manipulate American public opinion, but NBC wants you to know that’s OK because it was for a good cause. It was virtuous. So how should we feel about this, a news organization that celebrates lying to the public? Well, on one level, it’s bewildering. Reporters exist to tell the truth. That’s their entire job. Learning this is like hearing a doctor brag about killing people. It gives you the chills.
If news organizations are eagerly promoting lies about a war, then what can the rest of us believe? What can we know is true? And honestly, it’s hard to know what is true. We can be sure that Russian soldiers have committed atrocities in Ukraine. There are countless pictures of that. Some number of them must be real. But we can also be dead certain the war is not, despite what they tell us, a childish tale of good versus evil. This is Eastern Europe, after all. Everything is a lot more complicated than it looks on American TV.
According to The New York Times, a recent video, for example, shows Ukrainian soldiers killing captured Russian troops. It happened last week. “These are not even humans,” says one Ukrainian soldier on camera. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry later boasted about these killings, calling them precise work. So that happened. It’s awful. Now, does the fact it’s awful justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? Of course it doesn’t. The Russian invasion of Ukraine was wrong, and the results of that invasion have been a tragedy for everyone around the world. But at the same time, since our leaders have insisted on placing this country, the United States, in the middle of that faraway war for reasons they still haven’t explained, we American citizens who supposedly run our government have a right to ask where our money is going and what is being done in our name, but that’s the last thing anyone who covers the White House plans to do. Instead, here’s what they’re doing.
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NBC’S PETER ALEXANDER: So, given these awful videos and pictures we’re seeing of the atrocities that took place in Bucha right now, is the U.S. policy still one of no regime change in Russia? And if so, why should someone like Vladimir Putin be viewed by the U.S. as someone who should be allowed to stay in power?
JEN PSAKI: Well, I think our policy is no, we are not calling for regime change, and that has not been our policy and continues not to be our policy.
ALEXANDER: I guess the question would be to say, “Then why not? If he’s a war criminal, why should he be allowed to stay in power?
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PSAKI: Well, our policy is not to call for regime change. We’re not calling for regime change.
So that was an NBC reporter, and in case you couldn’t hear him speak beneath the obedience mask, here it was: “Why should Putin be allowed to stay in power?” That’s what he said. Now it’s hard to believe that anyone could pack that much ignorance into a single question. Let’s unpack it for a moment. Where does this reporter imagine that Joe Biden gets the power to decide which world leaders should be “allowed” to govern their own countries? Is that a constitutional power that he possesses? If not, where does it come from? And what does this reporter imagine Joe Biden can do about it exactly?
He may not like Vladimir Putin. Most people don’t like Vladimir Putin, but Vladimir Putin has the largest nuclear stockpile in the world. So, let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Vladimir Putin doesn’t feel like resigning today. What next? Well, the genius from NBC News didn’t suggest “what next.” Over at CBS, meanwhile, they’re a lot more specific about “what next.” Watch this CBS News “reporter” demand that the United States go to war with Russia immediately.
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CBS NEWS RADIO’S STEVEN PORTNOY: Why shouldn’t the images of the atrocities from Bucha compel a worldwide, unified, coalition, kinetic response?
PSAKI: You mean a military war? Tell me more about what you mean.
PORTNOY: Sure, a military response led by the United States and the international partners.
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PSAKI: As in, bringing military troops on the ground from the United States and NATO?
PORTNOY: Well, the president’s described outrageous things. You’ve called them atrocities. You’ve said perhaps we should brace ourselves for worse. Why not?
PSAKI: I think what the president’s objective is and his responsibility is to make decisions that are in the interests of the United States and the national security of the United States and the American people — and that is not to go to war with Russia.
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Ever notice it is the very same people who are so personally afraid of a flu virus that they’re still wearing their little masks in public — those same people are the same ones who are encouraging other people’s kids to go die on a battlefield. So, the question was, why shouldn’t these pictures we’re seeing on television justify a war with Russia? That’s what the reporter asked, and for once, the president’s publicist, as you just saw, seemed at a loss for words.
“You mean a military war?” she asked. “Sure,” says the reporter. Sure? And with that, the bombing begins and some huge number of Americans die. It’s that simple. Sure, let’s start World War III. This is demented. It’s so completely reckless and crazy, so utterly nihilistic that you’d like to think it’s just one overheated kid in the White House briefing room failing to get his emotions under control after watching too many particularly upsetting news segments from Ukraine — and they are upsetting, but it’s not just one emotionally incontinent reporter in the briefing room. It’s everyone in Washington. All of a sudden, they’re all like this. They’re all ready to push Western civilization off the cliff after watching too much cable news.
Here’s yet another wacko in the press corps suggesting that Putin is in league with unseen White supremacist forces in the United States. So, we have here, ladies and gentlemen, a fifth column in our midst.
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ANDREW FEINBERG: Over the years, public reporting has shown that White supremacists and other domestic extremists have developed an affinity for Russia. Is there any concern that as the Russian economy continues to degrade, that Russia might try and inspire domestic extremists, domestic terrorists, to commit acts of violence on American soil in retaliation?
How is it always people like that who go into the news business? Stupid, awkward, the last people you want to have dinner with. It’s enough to make you rethink your career choices in middle age — trust us. But what he’s saying here is that could it be that Putin controls his own secret White supremacist forces here in the United States and there will be a — searching for a word — insurrection at Putin’s command? Is that, in other words, a nexus between Jan. 6 and the war in Ukraine? It’s self-discrediting. It’s literally lunacy and these are White House reporters. And it’s not just reporters covering the White House. Here’s an MSNBC anchor telling you if we don’t declare war on Russia immediately and risk nuclear annihilation, then something called democracy will end forever.
MSNBC’S ALI VELSHI: We are past the point of sanctions, and strongly worded condemnations and the seizing of oligarch’s mega-yachts. The global world order and potentially democracy’s survival hang in the balance. If this isn’t the kind of moment that the United Nations, and NATO, and the UN, and the G20, and the Council of Europe and the G7 were made for, what is the point of these alliances, if not to stop this? The world cannot sit by as Vladimir Putin continues this reign of terror.
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The mixture of total self-assurance, utter ignorance and self-righteousness is dangerous. Ukraine is not even in NATO, tough guy — but doesn’t matter. “The world can’t stand by,” says Ali Velshi. That raises the obvious question: So, what should the world do other than be horrified, which is the natural and just reaction? Journalist Aaron Maté asked Ali Velshi for verification. He asks, “How do you propose the West and NATO act? What are you calling for?” And Velshi was at least honest enough to say it: “Direct military involvement.”
Oh, what would that look like? How many people at MSNBC would die? Well, let’s see zero. How many people in America would die? Potentially many thousands, but it’s not just Ali Velshi who’s talking this way. It’s all over cable news, all over cable news, and certainly all over MSNBC. Here’s a retired army major called John Spencer calling for American troops to start shooting Russians right away.
JOHN SPENCER: I know what I’m saying. I served for 25 years. I served to protect the innocent. We are the leaders of the free world. So yes, and my wife still serves. I don’t speak for her, but I’m ready to commit at this moment, unlike I was before this day, to put people in direct contact with Russia to stop Russia. Call it peacekeeping. Call it what you will. We have to do more than provide weapons and by we, I mean the United States. Yes, we’re going to do it as a coalition with a lot of other people, but we are the example. So put boots on the ground, send weapons directly at Russia.
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So the misconceptions here are really deep. So, here’s a guy who after 25 years of telling us with a straight face, he served in the U.S. Army to “protect the innocent,” but no, you didn’t, actually. You served in the U.S. Army to protect the United States. That’s your job, period, and anybody who told you differently was lying to you. But he’s telling us that his wife is currently serving, but he wants war. So, here’s a guy itching to send his own wife into battle against nuclear-armed Russia. Let’s hope his wife never sees that tape. Let’s hope he’s never on TV again.
This is serious. War is the most serious business, obviously, any government conducts or couldn’t conduct, so you’d think in a moment like this, we could get some clear thinkers, some calmer heads as we try to chart a path forward through very complicated time, but apparently, we can’t have that. Instead, we’ve got idiot news anchors calling for regime change. “Kill Putin.” OK, what then? And then in Washington, we’ve got emotionally unbalanced buffoons like Adam Kinzinger working out his personal problems in public by yelling about “war with Russia.” Kinzinger has been saying that for weeks. Fox’s Hillary Vaughn went up to the Capitol, tracked down Kinzinger, tried to find out exactly what he’s talking about. “Should we shoot down Russian planes or not?” she asked, and we’re glad she did, because here’s what Kinzinger said:
KINZINGER: So, I’ve actually called for a no-fly zone. That’s been clear. That was a month ago, so you already have that. Second …
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VAUGHN: Are you comfortable with the U.S. striking down Russian planes in the air above Ukraine?
KINZINGER: Oh yeah. I mean, seriously, if there’s a no-fly zone implemented, you put an edict out — it’s for humanitarian purposes.
These people are children. They don’t care about the consequences of what they say. “Oh yeah, shoot down Russian planes.” Not like that could escalate into Armageddon in about eight minutes or anything. These people are insane. They’re totally reckless. It’s our future they’re gaming with. They should be ashamed of themselves, but they’re not ashamed at all. In fact, they’re doubling down on their aggression and their moral certainty and in the process, they are deeply influencing the policy of the U.S. government and therefore, once again, this country’s future. The most reckless among us fully in charge. On Wednesday, in response to their relentless prodding, Joe Biden once again suggested the United States might soon be in a hot war with nuclear-armed Russia.
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PRESIDENT BIDEN: Here’s the point. This war could continue for a long time, but the United States will continue to stand with Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and the fight for freedom. And I just want you to know that, and by the way, if I got to go to war, I’m going with you guys. I tell you. I mean it.
This war might go on for a long time. Well, not surprising. They’re getting a lot out of it in Washington. The Ukrainian people are getting absolutely nothing other than exile and death and destruction of their country. But in Washington, many are benefiting. As Joe Biden said, “If I have to go to war, I’m going with you guys.” Well, actually, no, you won’t be, Mr. President, ’cause you’ll be 80 this fall. You’re not going to lead troops into battle alongside the White House press corps. You’re just going to cause others to do that.