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Journalist says CBP withheld passport until he agreed he writes ‘propaganda’ (washingtonpost.com)
121 points by enraged_camel 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 62 comments





Is anyone else concerned about the changes to the CBP officer population over the last few years?

The priorities of the current administration have allowed the organization to rapidly balloon in size. Those of us who have worked at fast growing startups are aware of how quickly the character of an organization can change when it doubles or triples in size too quickly. And then the kind of person who wants to be a CBP officer in this political climate is... possibly worrying?

Will the next adminstration try to purge this organization? Will they even be able to? Are we going to be stuck with a dramatically more authoritarian customs organization for the next few decades?

I'm moderately concerned.

As a meta-addition to this comment, self-censorship is absolutely real here. I normally interact online using my real name, but obviously that seems a little more fraught when there's a real possibility that your comments will be thrown back at you when you interact with a customs officer at an airport. "You clearly don't like customs agents. That probably means you're hiding something" etc.


Culture starts at the top. If you have a mean-spirited leader at the head that frame of thought radiates through the rest of organization. The bullies feel empowered to be bolder. Meanwhile the compassionate feel isolated and unsupported. Either they armor up and just do the job silently or they leave.

As a person of color I've always self-censored when dealing with the government. You give them just the information they need to know and nothing else. Lying to a federal officer is a felony; jokes, embellishments, or casual chat is simply something you don't do. You don't know who's recording and if it will be used against you later.


>Culture starts at the top. If you have a mean-spirited leader at the head that frame of thought radiates through the rest of organization.

I think it's both. You can swap the head out in a company, but the rank and file can still resist and even have the person at the head removed by political pressure. At some point, the organization itself is completely morphed and needs pruning essentially to change it. If we want to see reform, I think politically the DoHS needs significant reforms bordering on amputation in some cases. It's hard to mildly reform such an organization such that it actually result in significant, lasting change.


The concept of class warfare is a popular tool everyone knows of, but there is a nasty new war that is going on- personality warfare.

IE- Conservative aggressive males use police jobs, the DHS, and border protection to give jobs to their chums. It’s like welfare for people who lack self control. You could say that the far left has taken over Silicon Valley, but it is not the same, skilled conservative tech people still get jobs, they just need to shut their mouths and blend in when people talk at lunch or whatever. For police departments taken over by assholes, I think they filter more heavily.


Arguing which side of the aisle filters more, is not a competition I want to see expanded by complaint. Can we instead reward blending with our mouths & hearts open?

I agree - I don’t think I’m qualified to say which sides/groups filter more, nor should that be a main focus. It would be great if we could work together harmoniously and professionally without so much group identity bs.

> skilled conservative tech people still get jobs, they just need to shut their mouths and blend in when people talk at lunch or whatever.

"Skilled colored people get jobs, they just need to keep their mouths shut and respect their betters. Skilled women get jobs, they just need to keep their heads down and endure a bit of sexual harassment."

IMO that's what that argument sounds like. Toxic work environments are toxic. And just like you don't take the white dude's word for it that his workplace isn't toxic to women or African Americans, perhaps we shouldn't take the word of the left that their workplaces are not toxic to conservatives.


Do you actually know such filtering/discrimination takes place? Or is it more that liberal/leftists simply don't apply for CBP jobs in the first place? Unemployment is low - why would people who think borders are evil volunteer to police them?

This is one of those times when I don't think discrimination is needed to explain something. I doubt you find many conservatives working for LGBT or climate change charities either, but that wouldn't be for reasons of discrimination.


I am deeply concerned. The 'luke skywalker' liberal attitudes of the past don't work anymore as a rebellious outcome. You can find a lot of videos online from politicians stating their aims and values. Across the west authority is going to be the most important thing in the future politically. You can hear many politicians that were successful during the liberal era say this, like australia's pm john howard.

There is something deeply wrong about the authoritarian swing we are experiencing. There's a sizeable chunk of the populace complaining they're being suppressed or oppressed and using the attention they gain to form their own filter bubbles where they oppress and suppress thoughts they don't like. Without a second's thought about the double standard.

The west's attitude towards valuing freedom as a goal to be achieved is put under a large question mark. Are we even aiming at that anymore? Where do you go to be free? We seem to be aiming at the right to oppress others. Hm I'm not sure about that. I'm trying to figure it out in the sunlight. It seems the only way to be 'free' in the old sense is to be the king of yourself. Willing to throw away everything you could ever have or gain simply to retain authority over your own being.

Is the only place left for "the left" to be in exile? Underground and unseen is the only place left to be free? Dodging the spotlight, jailbreaking and refusing orders. Seems like a shitter world than I'd like.


> It seems the only way to be 'free' in the old sense is to be the king of yourself. Willing to throw away everything you could ever have or gain simply to retain authority over your own being.

You are channeling Epictetus[0]:

That is why [Diogenes] used to say, "From the time that Antisthenes set me free, I have ceased to be a slave." How did Antisthenes set him free? Listen to what Diogenes says. "He taught me what was mine, and what was not mine. Property is not mine; kinsmen, members of my household, friends, reputation, familiar places, converse with men—all these are not my own. 'What, then, is yours? Power to deal with external impressions.' He showed me that I possess this beyond all hindrance and constraint; no one can hamper me; no one can force me to deal with them otherwise than as I will. Who, then, has authority over me? Philip, or Alexander, or Perdiccas, or the Great King? Where can they get it? For the man who is destined to be overpowered by a man must long before that have been overpowered by things." Therefore, the man over whom pleasure has no power, nor evil, nor fame, nor wealth, and who, whenever it seems good to him, can spit his whole paltry body into some oppressor's face and depart from this life—whose slave can he any longer be, whose subject?

[0] https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page%3ADiscourses_of_Epictetu...


Interesting. With this recent resurgence of Hitler/Stalin stuff (that is basically gone now) it seems the last time we went through an authoritarian phase there was a whole host of problems with the surrounding ideas and the implementation of it. The most recent speaker of note on it went on to talk about how he thinks the only solution this time round is to be individualist masters of our own house. Many people agree with that idea. That speaker was likely influenced by Epictetus too, and the Greeks in general.

We are all individually doomed to stand and burn in the sunlight, as a hierarchy of authority forms around us. But this is only half the equation. In the past the exiled half was a matter of flesh and assumed racial identity. We aren't doing that again. But what is the exiled status? An individual that says no to authority? What is the core problem with somebody who does not bend to our current wave of authoritarianism? How do we harness this power for good? It would be trivial to f* it up. Give past dictators the power of tagging & labeling in a secret worldwide internet database that contains everybody's face & data and the world becomes very dark very quickly. We must figure out what we are fighting to protect before it's gone forever.


It's not as simple as left vs. right. Authoritarianism can build a power base on either.

Those who reject authoritarianism still have the paradox of tolerance and tyranny of the minority to deal with.

Those who band together have more power than individuals. Those who use their power to gain more followers gain more power. Eventually it doesn't really matter what they're selling, because absent any other forces, the majority will buy it.

What needs fixing is human nature on a majority scale, and no one's figured out how to do that.

It's a bit like geoengineering: we can hack it a bit in the short term, but the longer-term consequences are still beyond our comprehension/attention span.

And besides, whose 'fix' would we trust...

'Be excellent towards one another' is probably the best guidance we'll get. Enforcing that? Well, then we need definitions and rules and people exploiting them.


There seems to be a problem generally with a lack of professionalism in many branches of law enforcement. ProPublica’s coverage of sheriffs destroying equipment after losing elections or offices being fired for not shooting suspects offer some striking examples of how disconnected LEO are vs the part of society I occupy

Maybe. Or it could be confirmation bias, media painting everything rosy under Obama.

Personally, 7 years ago I (a Canadian) had much more grief flying into England than this year (or ever) going to the US.


Just on the timeframe: there haven’t been any major changes to the CBP population over the last few years, the major reorganization, cultural... adjustments and hiring sprees that inflated and led to our current situation occurred after 9/11 and throughout the aughts.

BP specifically went from like 4K in the 90s to 20k by 2010, the damage was done a while ago.


The poisoning of the wells is my primary concern and that of many others I gather. Ballooning size coupled with installing tow the line, even if it means breaking the law, leadership..

CBP officers are some of the biggest idiots, it seems, not even knowing their own field let alone anything else about the world. I was once asked why my passport didn't have the stamp when returning from Europe. First, it did have a stamp but the idiot officer flipped over that page multiple times before giving up and asking if I have another passport. I told him I did but I did not use it on this trip. He proceeded to tell me that dual citizenship is illegal and told me to get rid of the second passport. Thankfully he did not force his idiotic, wrong position on me. Of course, I told him I would. If course I did not follow his stupid, incorrect demand. These are the types of morons our country puts on the front lines of our defense and as the first impression for foreigners. It's no wonder most of the world hates us although that hate mainly stems from much worse issues. It's ridiculous to hire such idiots in these positions.

Sadly, that "moron" and thousands like him have major power over millions of people; they can deny entry to non-citizens in a heartbeat. Of course you can complain...once you go back to your country. So it pays to say "yes sir, of course sir"

Yup that's what I did. I'm a citizen and I would never complain. I've lived in an authoritarian country before. I know the drill.

> He figured he could get stuck for hours if he tried to call in the officer’s supervisor. So he gave in.

This is the unfortunate reality of CBP (and the TSA): they can make your life miserable if they’d like to, so most people just accept it in the interest of being able to get out of it quickly and going wherever they need to.


I have been repeatedly locked in a room for double-digit hours of time (without food or water) at the US border for exercising my fifth amendment rights.

It’s really time these people were held to account for their crimes.


Repeatedly? Wow. I'd be curious if there is something in particular about you or your behavior that triggers this issue? While I certainly have concerns about how CBP sometimes operates, many of us still manage to travel in and out of the US without encountering problems like this.

I'm pretty sure they keep files on everyone. If you cause trouble once, even if you're perfectly within your legal rights, they will put a note in your file.

Then you will be harassed every time. They know exactly how much they can inconvenience / intimidate you without breaking the law. The nail that sticks up gets hammered, unfortunately.

This is why I never travel outside the US.


They stopped stopping me as a matter of course 3-4 years after I stopped refusing to answer their questions. It must still be in my file. One of these days I should test it again to see if I will get another few years of harassment.

The thing in my behavior that triggers it consistently is insisting upon using my right to remain silent. All of the questions that a US border guard has for a US citizen upon entry to the USA are optional once you have proved citizenship (by silently presenting your valid passport).

They really, really don’t like that. But they have to let you in, and they know it, so they lie, threaten, intimidate, strip search, et c. I’ve had non-citizens traveling with me through the border physically molested and denied entry simply because of their attempt to enter with someone who uses their basic human rights.

The US CBP is a travesty, a national shame.


I recently watched a video of an Argentine-Canadian telling his story of why and how his family left Argentina in 1970, during the military dictatorship. He described how the government employees would treat citizens like garbage, how they looked at you with contempt. The current behavior described in this article reminds me of that.

Here's the part of the video mentioned above (Spanish, the English subtitles are okay):

https://youtu.be/b6r3wKax2NM?t=1302


The whole narrative that the media are the enemy of the people needs to die and soon or we will all regret it. The darkest ages of mankind started out with the governments of the day attacking the media and when that happens you know there is a bunch of stuff going on that can't see the light of day. Fish rots from the head, it's a repeating pattern and the border patrol feeling empowered to do this is a clear sign that should not go ignored.

> The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie — a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days — but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

-- Hannah Arendt, https://www.nybooks.com/articles/1978/10/26/hannah-arendt-fr...


Corporate media control is just as dangerous [1], but much better hidden. They present themselves as countless different TV stations and newspapers, yet we allow them to conceal their common ownership: "In 1983, 90% of US media was controlled by 50 companies; as of 2011, 90% was controlled by just 6 companies and in 2017 the number was 5." [2]

We could force them to identify their owners, just like drugs have to list side-effects. Make them change 'NBC' to 'NBC (Comcast)'.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military%E2%80%93industrial%E2...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentration_of_media_ownersh...



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That depends quite a bit on your sampling. Anything touched by Murdoch should be avoided, that takes care of a large chunk of the problem.

Also, it helps if you read more than just one language, there is some excellent reporting outside of the English speaking domain.


I can't even name how many fake scandals I've seen in the news in the past few years alone. All news is biased and they are not above publishing rumors as fact.

I agree that all news is biased. But fake scandals and other non-news is more present in some feeds than others. And once you realize that there is always bias you can at least to some extent attempt to correct for that. Mandatory reading in this context is 'Manufacturing consent'.

But even given all that negative sentiment a solid free press is a good thing and should be protected.


But even given all that negative sentiment a solid free press is a good thing and should be protected.

Yes it is, but I haven't seen people like this CBP officer suggest that the solution to their concerns is taking away press freedoms.

This officer clearly believes that the "free press" is a theory, not something they observe in practice. That is, the underlying assumption is that if the press is free to attack the government then it always will, whereas what he actually perceives is that the press is virtually the same as one party of government and will only .. as a whole .. attack the other side, not their own.

And he's right. Only 7% of US journalists claimed to vote Republican in 2014:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2014/05/06/ju...

Most journalists claim to be independent, but you wouldn't know it from their output. How many newspapers opted to back nobody in the 2016 election? And how many backed Trump? IIRC it was "none" and "all of them".

The press have made their bed, now they're lying in it. Trust in them has been in freefall for a long time, especially amongst Republicans, who this CBP officer most surely was. And they deserve this lack of trust. I routinely read stories in the press that are blatantly false, and always in support of the same political narrative. Why should anyone feel strongly about the freedom of the press when they have come out in strong support of a particular political ideology? That isn't what freedom of the press is meant to be about.


The media seems to think along the lines: if it generates revenue, then its fit to print. Until traditional news media can stand on its own again, absent corporate largess, it will not be free and independent.

Think of 'the media' as more than one person acting with different motivations. On the one hand there are the commercial people, they try to generate revenues, if possible to pay out to the owners but at any rate enough to keep the lights on. This will generate a drive to monetize and is to a large extent responsible for the trivial and the overly click-bait bits.

Then on the other hand there are a relatively large number of reasonably good individuals who have dedicated their lives - sometimes at considerable risk - to keeping watch on what happens in society: the journalists. Within the best of the media companies these are free to operate without interference from the commercial - and sometimes political - part of the machine. The more the walls between those two break down and the more editorial control the commercial part has over the journalists the worse a publication will be.

You can see this mechanism at work in great detail in those publications that have a clear mandate imposed upon them from above, less so in better run organizations. None are entirely free from it but the range is quite wide.


Exactly. Why isn't the "fake news" MSM covering the war in Eastasia? We've always been at war with Eastasia.

> The whole narrative that the media are the enemy of the people needs to die and soon or we will all regret it.

It’s not clear to me that the press as an institution is still necessary in the age of the internet. It’s also not clear to me that the media, as it exists, deserves the protections that have developed over the years. The notion of writing articles that not only don’t cite sources, but keep them secret, is obsolete.

Americans no longer trust the press: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/10/25/18022956/amazon-tru...

> The top five were the military, Amazon, Google, local police, and colleges and universities. The bottom five were the press, the executive branch, Facebook, political parties, and Congress.

And with good reason: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/a-certain-bloombe...

While Trump has undoubtedly degraded the office of the President, the blatant politicization of the media in response to him has degraded the press just as much: https://www.dailywire.com/news/leaked-transcript-nyt-staff-m...

The fact that a press is necessary to a free society does not mean that this press is what should serve that function. In this day and age of universal literacy and universal access to information via the Internet, we need reporting of facts, not self-appointed guardians of the “narrative.”

Go back and look at CNN tapes from the late 1980s or early 1990s. They’re unrecognizable compared to news broadcasts today. Neutral, unemotional, reporting of facts. No attempt to construct larger narratives or push them down viewers’ throats.


Are you unironically linking to the Washington Examiner and Dailywire as authorities about the state of the press?

I am literally laughing out loud.

Also, CNN has always been pro-US-establishment pro-corporate pro-military, a general center–right outlook, with a focus on sensationalism and opinion, lots of time given to various “Washington insiders” and ex officials, and mediocre coverage of the news. It wasn’t (like Fox) explicitly set up to be a propaganda network, and there are many good journalists working for CNN, but the end product is still pretty bad. The whole concept of a 24–hour cable TV news station is absurd, in practice. It’s not that there couldn’t be enough material to fill the day, but since cable stations have to compete for channel-surfers, every incentive is to be as salacious and repetitive as possible. 1 hours per day is about the maximum most viewers have attention for TV news coverage, and e.g. the BBC or PBS are reasonably successful at filling a bit of TV time with news, but for extended coverage newspapers are inherently a much better format. All the small important stories on the later pages are never going to make it on TV.


>> The whole narrative that the media are the enemy of the people needs to die and soon or we will all regret it.

> It’s not clear to me that the press as an institution is still necessary in the age of the internet. It’s also not clear to me that the media, as it exists, deserves the protections that have developed over the years. The notion of writing articles that not only don’t cite sources, but keep them secret, is obsolete.

That's a strange worldview. The press is not limited to dead trees but has encompassed all media that can be used to perform journalism, including the internet. It's very much an essential component of democracy, because it is the only party that is not directly or indirectly part of the government, as such they are closure to 'us' the voters than any of the other components and that is something precious. They're not called the fourth estate for nothing.

> Americans no longer trust the press: https://www.vox.com/the-goods/2018/10/25/18022956/amazon-tru....

They've been screamed at for years by buffoons that have a vested interest in getting people not to trust the press, so that shouldn't surprise you. And while you are being distracted they make off with billions and more if they can.

> The top five were the military, Amazon, Google, local police, and colleges and universities. The bottom five were the press, the executive branch, Facebook, political parties, and Congress.

Yes, and that's sad. But again, not surprising.

> And with good reason: https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/a-certain-bloombe....

Talk about unbiased sources.

> While Trump has undoubtedly degraded the office of the President

No kidding. And besides that he's set back the United States about three decades in international relationships and harmed the planet in numerous ways. Whoever wanted those applecarts upset succeeded beyond their wildest imagination. And it isn't over yet, given the amount of fear in the American political system and the tendency to see personal gain as more important than the country or the planet there is a substantial chance you'll see another 5 years of this.

The damage is already larger than what will likely be recovered during my lifetime, if that happens we can add the lives of my children to that as well.

> the blatant politicization of the media in response to him has degraded the press just as much:

That happened well before Trump. Just tune in to Fox News ("Fair and Balanced", if you need to add that you know you're being taken for a ride) for a 1/2 hour if you can stomach it to see how far that BS has gone.

> https://www.dailywire.com/news/leaked-transcript-nyt-staff-m....

You do realize that you are quoting that very same press here to expose wrongdoing by one of their own?

> The fact that a press is necessary to a free society does not mean that this press is what should serve that function.

It's the best we've got. The only alternative that is viable would be to start something new. Some people are trying that, with mixed success, and the majority become part of the press establishment within a few years.

> In this day and age of universal literacy

Literacy is not enough. The ability to read does not yet equate to being a well informed voter. The degree to which people are willing to vote against their own interest never ceases to surprise me.

> and universal access to information via the Internet, we need reporting of facts, not self-appointed guardians of the “narrative.”

Yes, that would be nice. But it's a pipe dream that you'll get that off the ground in a vacuum. So it will have to be as an alternative to that which exists, it will have to be commercially viable and it will have to show that it is in for the long haul. And even then, people are lazy: they don't want just the facts, they want their thinking done for them, hence the 'editorial pages'.

> Go back and look at CNN tapes from the late 1980s or early 1990s. They’re unrecognizable compared to news broadcasts today. Neutral, unemotional, reporting of facts. No attempt to construct larger narratives or push them down viewers’ throats.

If you think CNN of the 90's is so good have a look at BBC news reporting from the same period.

CNN has always had a very clear slant: pro American. The whole idea that CNN was somehow neutral is hilarious. But it's still miles ahead of anything Fox, Breitbart, RT or any of the other fantasy news services spit out. You get the good with the bad. And that's fine. We still have some responsibility after all: read from multiple sources, try to remove the bias as much as possible and figure out what parts you want to believe. Follow the money and keep your eye firmly on those things that vested interest would like you to ignore.


I agree mostly, but which newspaper is still objective?

In any story I'm familiar with, the only newspapers that do unbiased reporting are the Financial Times and the Neue Zuercher Zeitung.

Especially in SJW stories these are the only ones that do not misquote the targets.


I think a far deeper issue is lack of domain expertise on the part of most journalists, and the field of journalism implying this is fine or that journalists build expertise just through reporting. How many times has there been an unrigorous attempt to "show both sides", or oversimplification, or de facto adoption of charged language like "War on Terror"? The core observation/criticism underlying the "Gell-Mann amnesia effect" to me is what detracts the most from the value of most journalism.

This is not to criticize those journalists that really do justice to their subjects, for which we should definitely be thankful.


Few media sources have ever been objective. They are useful even if they have a bias.

Objectivity isn't a mandatory requirement for journalism.

Objectivity is what separates Journalism from Propaganda.

I know differences in the semantics of "objectivity" come to play here, so I'll stick to the straightforward assertion that there are Pulitzer Prizes for editorial writing [0], editorial cartooning [1], commentary [2], and criticism [3]. Op-ed writers, such as Jamil Khashoggi, are considered to be journalists.

[0] https://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-category/214

[1] https://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-category/215

[2] https://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-category/212

[3] https://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-category/213


In the case of Jamal Khashoggi he was considered to be a journalist, and it is very likely that it was his profession that got him murdered.

Not really. Propaganda is news generated with the express purpose of changing people's minds, usually in direct contradiction with the facts. Journalism can - and usually will - have some kind of bias but it will be fact based and any errors of fact will likely not be on purpose but will be accidents. The worst you'd be able to charge journalists with is to have an agenda and to select from the facts. That's bad enough, but not nearly as bad as propaganda.

Why on Earth would propaganda always need to be false? The best lies contain a kernel of truth, after all.

Yes, if you define propaganda as "intentional lies" then the media doesn't put out much of it. But that category also excludes things like "look at our wonderful town of Pripyat, the future of our glorious union!" and other such classic propaganda. (Would you describe a WW2 era poster of a Japanese soldier with a bayonetted baby as propaganda? After all, that kinda happened, and quite a few times) But I fail to see much difference between "news generated with the express purpose of changing people's minds" and "have an agenda and to select from the facts”.


Propaganda wraps a large lie in a small kernel of truth.

The wonderful town of Pripyat can be ignored easily, the demonization of another country's inhabitants less so.

Propaganda: The press is lying to you.

Journalism: All news organizations have an agenda and will bias their writing to suit that agenda.


Still seems like you're describing a spectrum and not two distinct things. Both journalism and propaganda - as you've described them - twist the truth to make you believe something else.

Which is why I say everything on that spectrum is some variety of propaganda, and the difference between journalism and propaganda is objectivity.


It is a spectrum, but the extremes of that spectrum are easily labelled. In the middle, much less so.

There are some orthogonal components as well though: for instance, one form of propaganda could simply be labelled as distraction, a bunch of feel-good happy-go-lucky stuff that serves to take your attention away from the stuff that actually matters. It can all be totally objective and still be propaganda, just like trolls that stir up the pot can be part of a propaganda machine, even if some of the stuff they write is true.

In the end, in propaganda the ends are what matters, much less the facts. In journalism the facts are what matters, and the ends - if there are any - much less so.


https://outline.com/ujBNtS

For those who don't feel like consenting to tracking/ are using firefox incognito like me, and can't seem to get past consent page.


This is crazy. Ben Watson writes/edits for DefenseOne, which has certainly published a fair bit critical of Trump & his team; but then if you are a member of the reality-based community, and a public writer about stories in the national interest, it would be hard to not do that. Calling him a propagandist harkens back to dark American behaviors of the past rather than aspirational American values. It's also not like he writes for one of the publications that would be considered a particular gadfly to the Trump community, like NYT or Washington Post, so it would be good to investigate how this CBP officer even specifically knew to "call out" Watson.

I don’t think the CBP officer has any specific knowledge of Watson or DefenseOne, but instead believes that generally journalists are propagandists and “enemies of the people” as Trump would phrase it.

That's a fair point - I had taken it as a specific political targeting as opposed to part of the whole "the press is the enemy of the people" line of rhetoric. On the other hand, anyone pushing that line probably approves of Fox News, Washington Times, etc. - how would this CBP person have known to let such a person through? I guess maybe with some response back from the individual of "Naw, I work for Fox News - we fight the liberal propaganda!"

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To imply that there hasn't been some kind of serious inflection point with the current administration is to be disingenuous. That being said, I agree wholeheartedly with holding all administrations to equal account. But that doesn't in any way mean, grossly speaking, we should immediately cry bias if the amount of "negative" reporting isn't equal across administrations.

>> Since CBP is the target of these stories, it makes sense that this officer - and many other targets - consider more and more journalists as simple propagandists.

What makes sense is that they may be having an emotional reaction to feeling like they're being criticized or accused. That in no way supports the leap that the press are propagandists on the whole, or that they are specifically if they work for a critical publication. Even worse to not keep these very personal feelings out of doing your professional duties. I do work for the DoD, and strive to keep my political views out of my job performance and interactions with others in the USG, including valued colleagues that happen to support Trump. This episode reflects poorly on the United States, period.


You are correct that there was an inflection point: The Press started doing their jobs again.

Further, you don't have to have that many of the press are propagandists. You just need to experience Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect a few times and realize notice that 100% of the coverage is negative towards you, your work, your colleagues, and you get the above reaction.

Not good, not acceptable in a professional context, but makes sense.

Former DOJ/FBI here, wife was a Capital Hill reporter attached to the White House in 2 administrations.


Somewhere something bad happened.

Orange man bad.


A simple observation - I travel mostly under a US passport - I am treated with may more respect in the EU by their border control agents than I am entering the United States.

I was watching some Trump press report and he made some completely outrageous claim like that unemployment was at 3.4% or something, the lowest in 10+ years. That is not the normal amount, the normal amount is 7-10%.

Since I read the liberal media, surely I would know if there were a historic level of low unemployment level. Maybe the true level is extremely high - 15-20% or something.

I have two tasks for you:

1. Task 1. Find the true current unemployment level. This is closely tracked, should take you less than 15 seconds.

2. Compare with the liberal media reporting. Is the tone appropriate?

Spoiler below:

Spoiler spoiler spoiler

The first article I found was "Hiring Slowed in September as Unemployment Rate Fell to a 50-Year Low", in the New York Times. If you did 1 and 2 you would find this is totally inappropriate reporting. I like this example as it's very natural and factual. The unbiased headline would be: unemployment hits 50-year low.

The facts are still there, but the actual headline is clearly biased and totally inappropriate.

There is no way that can be considered an appropriate headline.

It's like imagine if Iran agreed to denuclearize and stop seeking nuclear weapons, and the headline said: "Iran armies, planes and helicopters have the U.S. in sights, but won't be sending nuclear bombs for now". The greatest possible success could be misreported to an absurd level.

Or let's say Trump makes vaccines mandatory and signs legislation introducing fines for parents of unvaccinated children, due to child endangerment.

This would be an amazing win, but based on my research, the news would report it in an outrageously biased way. Like what's the most biased thing you can think of. Maybe:

"Trump still doubts vaccines, even as he makes some mandadory." Just something outrageously biased that takes everything away from the huge win.

Go ahead and do the exercise and you will get really clear results.

It's a really interesting exercise. If I had time I would look at a Republican (Trump) list of "wins", then do 1 and 2 for each one: find the actual facts or figures, usually quite straightforward. 2. Decide what would be appropriate reporting. See if they are reported appropriately or in an outragrously biased way. (Instead of man lands on moon, some outrageously negative version).

(I would assume if you do this exercise you will fine many Republican points are false or exaggerated, hence why it is a 2 part exercise for each point.)


Presumably the CBP officer is wearing a body-cam documenting this admission of propagandist for future use by the administration, should this particular journalist come into the crosshairs of a "Fake News" accusation.

Collecting confessions for the future.




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