‘US govt ‘echo chambers’ manipulate public opinion on Iran, Syria, Ukraine, Iraq’

Deputy U.S. national security adviser Ben Rhodes  © Kevin Lamarque
Ben Rhodes cut a window into the belly of the beast and allowed us to see how the mainstream media in the US manipulates public opinion on government information concerning issues like the Iraq war, Iran deal, etc., says former US diplomat Jim Jatras.

Barack Obama's administration came under fire on Monday after White House National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said he created a so-called ‘echo chamber.’ According to him, it consisted of journalists and experts who were basically following the line of the White House during the Iran nuclear talks.

RT: How were these ‘echo chambers’ created, and how can you isolate a top politician from information you don't want him or her to consider?

Jim Jatras: I think Mr. Rhodes was quite explicit about this in his interview with the New York Times magazine – in fact quite proud of himself. The term he used was ‘ventriloquism.’ You have these young 20-something year old reporters many of whom know virtually nothing about the outside world, who depend lock, stock, and barrel on - let’s be honest, propaganda – they get it from the administration. What is interesting here is not just how it applies to the Iran deal, which of course is what people and Congress want to focus on, but what does this say about how passive the American media are when it comes to government information, not only on Iran, bit on Syria, on Ukraine, on Iraq, and you can go down the list.

RT: How long has this been going on for? How frequently is this kind of ‘echo chamber’ tactic employed?

JJ: I think it has been going on for quite a long time, and the only transgression of Mr. Rhodes is that he actually cut a window into the belly of the beast and allowed us to see what is going on here. But as the government apparatus has expanded and the media has cut back on the news gathering services – they essentially operate as bulletin boards for government information. And this at least goes back in my opinion to the Iraq war under George Bush, but certainly it applies to Syria, Libya, and Ukraine.

RT: How is it different from lobbyism, which is legal in the US?

JJ: This is very different from lobbying. Lobbying – what you have is either private interest, or sometimes foreign government interest and so forth, who are paid money and disclose it publicly to try to impact government policy.  

Here it is going in the opposite direction. You have the government using its influence and frankly the career aspirations of some journalists and … perhaps even illegally the payment of money to deliver information in another direction. It’s the government impact on people in the broader society and in the private sector.

RT: Do you think there will be any consequences for Ben Rhodes and Obama's administration in general?

JJ: I hope there will be consequences not only for Mr. Obama, but for Hillary [Clinton] who was part of the same apparatus here. I don’t know that there will be. As I say, people in Congress are more interested in learning the wrong lesson from this. What does this tell us about the Iran deal? They knew the Iran deal was a bad deal and they sold it anyway. I don’t think you’ll see much interest in what this tells us about the state of press freedom in this country and the degree to which public opinion is manipulated by the government. After all both parties have had an interest in doing that and they don’t want people looking to much behind the curtain about what the real mechanisms are.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.