Paul Jay and Abby Martin on Trump and ‘Fake News’
Paul Jay and Abby Martin discuss Trump’s cabinet appointments, Jill Stein’s effort to recount the vote, and who’s really producing the fake news
PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. Well, Thanksgiving is over, and for those of you who may have thought that after Thanksgiving it all would have been over and it would’ve turned out the world had moved into an episode of The Twilight Zone that actually had come to an end, in fact, no. Donald Trump is the President-Elect, and now to discuss all of that and the consequences with me are Abby Martin. Abby joins me from New York. Abby’s the creator and host of The Empire Files on teleSUR English, and a show that I was Executive Producer of. Thanks for joining us, Abby.
ABBY MARTIN: Hey, Paul. Nice to be on.
PAUL JAY: So, I guess it’s a little bizarre. I’ve said to some people that it almost feels like a 9/11 moment to me, and not…
ABBY MARTIN: Yeah.
PAUL JAY: …not quite the disaster of 9/11, but the day after 9/11, if you didn’t live in the shadows of what were the Twin Towers, you kind of went back to kind of normal life, but knowing that everything had changed to a large extent. And I feel somewhat the same with the Trump presidency. This is not to in any way idealize the Obama presidency. Anybody that watches The Real News knows that we were mostly scathingly critical of the Obama Administration. On the other hand, as you and I have talked about before, this is… it looks like with Pence, the return of Cheneyesque politics. What do you make of it?
ABBY MARTIN: Oh, yeah. I mean, Mike Pence himself said that his… the person that he idealizes the most is Dick Cheney. He says that he wants his vice-presidency to be, quote, “very active”. We’re talking about a person who received the most funds from Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, and we’re looking at the administration now. It’s shaping up quite nicely for these billionaire Christian evangelicals, Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince’s sister, pioneer of charter schools, undermining of public education, and now she’s running the Education Department in the US.
So, Mike Pence is a very scary figure. Not only did he support the Iraq War, vote for it, he also was one of the main pioneers of the conspiracy theory that Saddam was involved in the anthrax attacks, and going out there selling that, not to mention his vehement anti-gay policies, public push for conversion therapy in Indiana. He is a pretty scary figure, Paul, especially when you consider that Trump asked him to run, quote, “foreign and domestic policy”, as we know from John Kasich, who was told and asked if he wanted to be VP, and he was told, “You’re going to run foreign and domestic policy.” That’s how insane the situation is.
So people who are telling me, “Oh, Trump is this mastermind. He’s just pulling together all these people. He’s really going to change things.” He is a puppet. He knows nothing. He has no insight on global affairs or policy plans at all. He didn’t even know the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas. He said, “I’ll worry about that when I’m in.” So, he is just getting sidelined. I mean, it is a fire sale right now in the White House of people who are the craziest outliers of the GOP that hitched their wagons on him — that were smart enough to do that, right? — that have been completely castigated and ostracized from mainstream establishment. They’ve hitched their wagons to Trump, and they are getting lavishly rewarded as we speak.
PAUL JAY: We’ve talked about before on The Real News, but I think one should keep repeating, the power that helped elect Donald Trump, in the final analysis, was the billionaire Robert Mercer. Working for Mercer was Steve Bannon, who Breitbart News Mercer’s the primary owner of, Kellyanne Conway ran Mercer’s super PAC for Ted Cruz. So, two of the critical people, one who now is going to be Chief Strategist in the White House, Steve Bannon, described by Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, as being a very good Zionist, and I think that’s part of what’s not being touched on enough by people commenting on all this, the extent to which all of the people in foreign policy are very, very strong — not supporters of Israel — supporters of Likud, supporters…
ABBY MARTIN: Oh, yeah.
PAUL JAY: …of the most right-wing politics in Israel.
ABBY MARTIN: Yeah. I think the mainstream media is missing the point when they’re focusing on anti-Semitism when it comes to Breitbart. Breitbart is a hardcore Zionist. Everyone on that platform supports Zionism, like you said, the Likud Party, extreme, extreme ideological, right-wing party in Israel. You know, just like Theodor Herzl said, the founder of Zionism, “Anti-Semitism is our greatest friend.” I mean, they know that that works hand-in-hand to legitimize the State of Israel.
Look, I wanted to talk about Mike Pence again really quickly, because he said something insane, Paul. He said that right now we’ll have a President that will no longer tell the American people what he won’t do in regards to torture. Someone asked him if torture was off the table. And that was his bizarre, opaque response to that. As we know, Trump has already said that he would waterboard not only terrorists but their innocent family members. You know, Mike Pompeo. You look at all of these people, and I think there’s one common theme is that they’re all hardcore Islamophobes, which is very scary at a time when we are essentially bombing seven countries. Obama just increased the role of the drone campaign to al-Shabaab, I think, in Somalia, and he’s handing this over to a reality star game show host that knows absolutely nothing — he’s handing over the most vast, unprecedented executive power apparatus to Donald Trump.
And, so, yes, we have every right to be scared of what Trump is doing and everyone he’s appointing, and we should be on alert. But, like you said, no one should be apologizing for the Obama Administration and all the things that he failed to do that now Trump will be overseeing. Guantanamo Bay. I mean, are you kidding me? Bannon — you talked about Bannon — here, we’re talking about fake news all over the media, here’s the real pioneer of fake news. This is going to be de facto state media. Breitbart is now going to be the chair… you know, in the ear of the Commander-in-Chief, Breitbart. You know when you’re looking at Donald Trump tweeting and everyone thinks oh, he’s this… he’s this genius, right? He’s trying to, oh, he’s challenging safe spaces by saying that Hamilton should be a safe space. No, he is a moron. What you see on Twitter IS the real Donald Trump. Okay? These people are throwing him for a loop. I mean, they are getting in there and really running the show.
PAUL JAY: And Breitbart News was apparently created while Breitbart, the founder, was in Israel, and his idea, his vision was a Huffington Post that was an unmitigatedly pro-Israel. The slogan they had as the guiding line was “pro-Israel, pro-freedom”. The whole origins of Breitbart are in this ultra-ultra-right wing Zionism, and Steve Bannon, after Breitbart dies, Mercer comes in and becomes the main financier, brings in Bannon, and carry on that mission, and that’s one of the common threads that runs through all the people around Trump is bringing to Cabinet. Then there’s one other common thread: they all want to target Iran.
ABBY MARTIN: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Look, there is one good thing: we’ve staved off war with Russia, potentially, for a couple of months. What no one is talking about is the insane fear-mongering and war-mongering against Iran. Donald Trump brought this up multiple times during his candidacy, which was all the Obama Administration was too soft on Iran. The deal was bad. He wanted to eradicate the deal. What is that going to do? And then you have people like John Bolton who’s obsessed with bombing Iran. I mean, all of these people are. So, yeah. This wasn’t a loss for the neo-cons, okay? This wasn’t a loss for the war hawks or defense contractors. Iran is as scary to me as the build-up in Syria. So, this is not a joke. These people are serious, and they are obsessed with Iran. So, yes, on one hand, we’ve staved off an escalation of the Cold War; on the other hand, Iran is right around the corner, Paul, and no one’s really talking about that.
PAUL JAY: Other than The Real News. But, yeah, you’re right. There’s very little talk about it. In fact, I see on some of the sites that are alternative, progressive, left, a kind of idea that maybe in Trump there might be some hope that there wasn’t in Clinton, that he’ll be more accommodating with Russia and such. And while there might be some short-term accommodation with Russia — and I think it will be in order to advance the targeting of Iran — the people that are around Trump that are really going to run the foreign policy are every bit as aggressive in their rhetoric about Russia as Clinton, and then some. In fact, when Pence was running with Trump — and he would speak, not Trump, but Pence — he was attacking Clinton for not being aggressive enough towards Russia. That was one of his main critiques of her at the State Department.
ABBY MARTIN: Yeah, and Pence also said that he wanted a no-fly zone in Syria, and when Trump was asked, he said, “Oh, I didn’t know that Mike Pence said that. I disagree with him.” Well, too bad. Mike Pence is going to be running foreign and domestic policy, so if he wants a no-fly zone, well, I guess that’s not off the table, either. And then you look at Jeff Sessions, it’s a complete disaster. I mean, here you have the NAACP coming out and saying, “This is the man who has, literally his entire career, lobbied against civil liberties and equality.” That’s not a good mark on your record, Sessions, to be denied as a federal judge because you were too racist, and now you’re Attorney General? Wow. And he’s horrible on criminal reform and drugs. He thinks that Obama’s biggest problem was being too lackadaisical on marijuana reform. I mean…
PAUL JAY: Yeah. I think one of the things — and a tell of where the Trump Administration is going — is that there’s virtually not a single appointment that’s a sop, a giveaway, to half of America, or more than half, that voted, that didn’t vote for him. There’s not even something symbolic, okay, the odd meeting here, like with Tulsi Gabbard. But no attempt at, quote-unquote, “compromise”. If this had been the Democrats in the Obama Administration, they would’ve made sure they threw in some hard-right Republican here and there…
ABBY MARTIN: Oh, yeah.
PAUL JAY: …just to appease that camp, because they were always about appeasing that camp. But no. This is unmitigated hard right from beginning to end.
ABBY MARTIN: Right, exactly. And a lot of people I’ve heard will apologize for Trump saying, “Look, he said whatever he…” because they acknowledge that he’s a con artist, right? And they’re, like, “Look, he just said whatever he needed to to get elected.” Well, that may be true, but I think the one constant factor about Trump is his unpredictability, because he can blow wherever the wind blows. And that’s actually scary, because we have no reason to believe that he doesn’t mean the things that he said. We have no reason to believe, especially when you’re looking at the first hundred days of his agenda, and the people that he’s appointing, we have every reason to believe that he is meaning to go through with the most extreme, hawkish, anti-immigrant policies, anti-Muslim policies. I don’t see why people are continuing to apologize for him and saying, “Let’s wait and see.” I don’t think that we need to wait and see. We’re seeing right now with his agenda online and also his appointees. It’s very crystal clear. So I don’t see this whole, you know, “Trump is really a liberal. He’s a secret Democrat.” No, he…
PAUL JAY: Yeah. Give him a chance. Let’s see what… give him a chance. Let’s see what he does. Some people have called this normalizing the Trump presidency, and I agree with that, that you can’t normalize this presidency. Yes. All the presidents from World War II on are essentially… I don’t think there’s an exception that couldn’t be charged with war crimes, but this is a step in the Cheneyesque direction. This is an aggressive US foreign policy on steroids, and a policy that is already aggressive. But let’s move on a little bit. What do you make of this attempt by the Green Party to have a recount in some of the close swing states?
ABBY MARTIN: Well, I know that a couple of people, Green Party representatives, Chris Hedges, came out yesterday to publicly disagree with Jill Stein’s approach. Look, I thought it was bizarre. I didn’t really know what to make of it. I had no idea why Jill Stein was doing this on behalf of the Democratic Party, especially when you’re looking at 2000, completely stolen election, 2004, there were also discrepancies with the exit polls. That was never recounted. And we just got Bush again. So, I find it odd now to do this. However, I do support it, and I’ll tell you why. A, we don’t live in a democracy. We all know that. We live in an oligarchy. There’s a two-party dictatorship. We have the worst electoral system in the developed world — literally. Like, the Electoral College is so frickin’ archaic, it’s insane that we haven’t repealed that yet.
So, you know, that all aside, I take Greg Palast’s approach, where he’s saying, look, forget about the Russian hacking — that’s what I disagree with him, the statement kind of alludes like, gives legitimacy to that, that theory that Russia had something to do with hacking the election. I agree with Greg Palast where he’s saying there were millions of people not that voted illegally, like Donald Trump says based on Infowars as fake news, but he’s saying, yes, millions of people weren’t counted. Millions of provisional ballots, millions of absentee ballots, millions of people who were purged from the GOP scam Crosscheck. That is a fact. That happened.
So, at the very least, maybe we can start a conversation about how screwed up our electoral system is. And maybe at the very least we could talk about how there is massive election fraud on behalf of the establishment to squelch out minority voices in this country. And I, for one, would like to see the discrepancy with the paper ballots and hand-counting with the voting machines. Because I voted with a provisional ballot and I would like to see, hey, was that counted, or not? Like, this is a huge problem here. The Crosscheck is an insane thing. Everyone should watch Greg Palast’s documentary on that.
But, yeah, I mean, in that respect, I do agree with it. And let’s see what happens. But it is odd that, on one hand, you could see it as giving legitimacy to the Democratic Party, and we know that the millions of dollars to fund this is really coming from the Democrats, and I think it really speaks to their spinelessness that they refuse to lead the charge on any of the elections when there was clear, either election fraud or whatever, and now you have Jill Stein taking it upon herself. It’s an odd situation, but, at the end of the day, I do think our elections are horrible, and I agree with paying attention to them.
PAUL JAY: Right.
ABBY MARTIN: What do you think?
PAUL JAY: Well, I find it a little strange to wage this fight in public.
ABBY MARTIN: Yeah.
PAUL JAY: I don’t see how that helps the Green Party, to have this kind of critique. I mean, it is, it’s done, and she’s doing it, and I don’t know what the internal decision-making processes are. I mean, frankly, it’s… if you’re asking me, I don’t think there’s any much chance that this recount will change things.
ABBY MARTIN: It’s a pipe dream.
PAUL JAY: On the other hand, if there’s a wildest odds that it might, I mean, I’ve said all along, as aggressive and militarist as Clinton is, I think this is going to be worse in the same way Cheney-Bush was worse. So, we’ll see. But it’s not a good thing to wage this kind of fight publicly like this. I’m not sure it’s good for the future fortunes of the Green Party. But that’s not up to me.
Let’s go on to fake news. A lot of big hubbub about fake news and some website came out with a whole list of websites that are supposedly echoing Russian propaganda, including some sites like Truthdig and Truthout, and some others that in my opinion are journalistic sites, and do not do that. The Real News is not on that list. I guess — I don’t know — if someone watches our coverage, they’ll see that, in fact, we have no… we’re not shy about critiquing the Russian oligarchy or Putin, although we always make sure we talk about American war crimes first, which make Russian crimes pale in scale, but at any rate, what do you make of this whole fake news thing?
ABBY MARTIN: I agree that fake news is a problem. Right? We have Breitbart de facto state media, we have Infowars basically in the ear of the President and he’s tweeting out insane, preposterous, outlandish, false, blatantly… things. Right? But on the other hand, you have Establishment media like The Washington Post and you have this anonymous propaganda finder account called Prop or Not, which is publishing this hit list — it’s essentially McCarthyism, right? — in the new era. It’s including very credible sites like Truthdig, Counterpunch, Black Agenda Report, Naked Capitalism, conflating it with fake news sites that you can say are legitimately fake or skewed or biased extremely, right? Like Infowars or Breitbart. And, of course, Breitbart, I don’t think is on there, which speaks to a lot.
So, I think it says a lot when we’re focusing and trying to conflate actual investigative journalism and journalism that goes against the grain with Russian provocateurs and the whole main thing that this account is trying to do: the premise of their argument is that these, quote-unquote, “fake news” sites actually shaped the election in favor of Trump. That they purposefully muddy the waters, poison the well, to make people believe all this fake stuff, and basically that’s how Trump won. I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think that they’re completely missing the point here. The point is — back to this Infowars thing — Trump tapped into this kind of conspiracy culture like no one else has ever, and I think that not enough people are talking about… everyone’s so shocked at all these white working class voters who came out to vote for him. No one’s really talking about the Alex Jones audience that came out in droves, that probably were never politically active before. And it stems back from the fake news thing.
Trump tweeted out that the protesters were paid. That they were professional. There is a serious problem on the Internet right now where people are either not fact-checking anything and they believe everything they read, and they conflate every alternative news site with these crazy blogs that are totally unfounded and have no credibility. And I think that that just comes back to media literacy. Don’t read a list on Washington Post, and take it with a grain of salt: fact-find for yourself. It’s not that hard. I mean, it took me five seconds even not knowing how to have any journalistic skills whatsoever, someone who is involved in canvass organizing in college, I knew immediately that that paid protester thing on Craigslist was just a canvassing job position. I mean, the bus picture where people said the protesters were bused in. Once again, it was debunked by the original tweeter. He took down the tweet.
So, these things, I think it comes back to media literacy, understanding what the truth is, and not just taking any website with a grain of salt, and understanding the agenda that places like Infowars has. Look, they hitched their wagon to Pamela Geller gravy train, long ago, when they knew that Islamophobia made money, and it’s basically a Fear Inc. operation.
PAUL JAY: Right.
ABBY MARTIN: So, you look at credible sites like Truthdig and Real News, which has no corporate state funding at all, those are the sites that I think people should be looking at, and not sites like Infowars that sells penis pills or penis enhancement in between their insane fear-mongering broadcasts. And, unfortunately, that’s who’s in the ear of Trump.
PAUL JAY: And if you want to talk about why Trump won, and then you want to connect that to fake news, you need look no further than all — almost all — of the corporate-owned news, which is the biggest fake news that helped elect Trump. And I’ll give you on three points: first and most important, why aren’t there screaming headlines every single day, both on corporate TV news and newspapers about climate change? If they had been dealing with the climate change crisis with the urgency it requires and what all scientists say, including recent reports that say we could pass the 2 degree threshold by 2050 — that’s 34 years away. And that model was before Trump was elected — who knows what that does to that model now, in terms of when we hit 2 degrees, given it just exploded most climate change policy around the globe, Trump’s election.
So, if people had been really educated and given the urgency that objective facts call out for, how the hell would so many people vote for a climate denier? Number two. Even now the coverage of the Cabinet, and the people, there’s almost no conversation about what we were talking about, that they’re all focusing and targeting on Iran, and they all have a strategy of regime change, weakening Iran — in other words, they’re talking about another war in the region. No talk about that. Yes, they talk about how crazy some of these people are and so on, but that issue, and certainly leading up to the election, that’s no surprise that that’s where this Trump Administration was going.
You look at Rudy Giuliani’s speech at the Republican Convention, he was crediting Iran with supporting terrorist attacks on the United States. Which is clearly there’s no evidence of, and if he’s going to talk about anybody doing that, it’d be the Saudis, but, no, Giuliani targets Iran, as did others that spoke at the Republican convention. And then, of course, the whole way corporate media has dealt with the economic crisis. And not dealing with the issue of who really is responsible for that crisis, and how the whole bailout of ’07-’08 made massive more money for the billionaire class, and so on. They treated Sanders as some kind of marginal outlier. So, yeah, of course, they can point to some small sites that supposedly are manipulated by the Russians, most of whom that accusation’s ridiculous. But it’s corporate news elected Donald Trump.
ABBY MARTIN: You know what, Paul? You just hit it right on the head. I can’t believe that I didn’t start off with that, which is that here’s why people even believe this fake news because mainstream media is completely distrusted. There’s an all-time distrust in corporate media. And we’ve known that for a long, long time, right? And I think that’s, to your point, that’s why Trump became president, is because the entire media Establishment lined up behind Hillary, and that was as clear as day, even during the debates, other than the Fox News debate, it was just every single question was for Trump, hammering Trump. And people saw that, and people absorbed that, and people already think the media is lying to them, and so when they think Trump is an ally to them, and that the media is lying to them, that sows a dangerous, dangerous sentiment where you have them kind of believing, and then you have it validated by the Commander-in-Chief, saying that there are millions of people voting illegally, the protesters are paid.
So, I understand why people are completely shutting out all of the establishment press and going to these sites. The problem is these establishment press is blaming the only solution, which is the credible, independent, grassroots journalism that is telling the truth, that isn’t fake news. So it’s a really, really dangerous conflation on behalf of the establishment media, instead, of course, look in the mirror, having some introspection. Why did we lose? Why don’t people trust us? Instead, they have to punch down to the people who are doing the real work.
PAUL JAY: All right. Thanks very much, Abby.
ABBY MARTIN: Thanks so much, Paul. Great to talk to you.
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