Or fake à la Falbe: Public service choosing ‘US intelligence’ to protect both the US and Denmark?
April 13, 2023
Ages ago, I was born in Denmark, and I still hold a Danish passport. Quite often, I visit the homepage of the Danish Broadcasting Company – Danmarks Radio (DR). It is public service, regulated by laws passed by the Danish People’s Parliament – “Folketinget.”
I sadly admit that there is an element of masochism in my visits to DR. In the particular fields of news reporting on global affairs, security politics and peace/war, this public service’s long-term trend has been down in quality and out of relevance.
Sometimes I visit it only to see how biased the coverage of a certain event or decision in the mentioned fields is. I have often written an admittedly wry comment on social media or on my online home and blog, Jan Oberg. Why?
Because I believe that public service has a fundamentally important role to play in a democratic society serving only to inform and educate its citizenry, promote healthy informed debates and consciousness-raising, as well as convey reasonably broad-minded perspectives about its own country, the world and the relations between the two.
No such thing is happening at DR anymore. Anyone without special education can write about international affairs, even former sports reporters or youth department journalists. The main work they do is to cut and paste, translate and edit news and information that comes exclusively from US and other Western news media and bureaus like Reuters and The Guardian. Correspondents abroad serve two functions; if they are in the West, they are explaining benevolently what the US, NATO and EU do; if in China or elsewhere, it’s only negative stories, good news twisted into caricatures or non-existent. The only themes, foci and narratives promoted are those – again – of the US and selected European media.
Enigmatically, it is as if the Internet, with its incredible wealth of information and perspectives accessible from a chair at a desk with a computer, does not exist in the minds of these people. Diversity of stories, perspectives and backgrounds – as well as the fine principle of struggling to be unbiased, ‘objective’ and fair as well as triple-checking sources – are qualities of the past. The state and the media have become one.
The ethos is remarkably similar. No originality. The old-type of correspondents who lived in a region for years, spoke the language, followed the local media and told her/his audiences something original – all the result of that correspondent’s on-site investigative journalism – is dead and gone. So is the idea that each media’s outstanding feature was to bring something new, new perspectives on old stories and new stories – that is, being different from other media.
Today, it seems, the outstanding feature is to be as politically correct and isomorphic with the leading Western mainstream media as possible. In short, hellishly boring, predictable and fundamentally unable to ask critical questions about Western policies – markedly so about war and peace – and giving full blast to Russo- and Sino-phobia – by coincidence, the main designated adversaries of the US and its uni-polar global dominance.
The recent coverage of the NATO-Russia conflict and the war in Ukraine is an empirically strong example. But far from the first. The decline in international news reporting took off shortly after the demise of the Soviet Union and accelerated with NATO’s illegal bombing (both in terms of international law, the UN Charter and NATO’s Treaty) and 9/11.
Today’s Denmark, in contrast to earlier times, is an extremely loyal follower of the United States in everything foreign policy, security and warfare. It’s been a leading bomber nation since its participation in NATO’s war on Serbia/Kosovo in 1999. So these trends pertain in the extreme to the Danish Broadcasting Company as well as, say, the Swedish (which I shall deal with in a follow-up article to this).
In a more detailed analysis, I have dealt with my personal experiences with this type of media over almost 50 years. I regret that I have found so little positive to say.
Let me now turn to one concrete and extremely important case – DR’s cancellation of Seymour Hersh’s report on who destroyed the Nord Stream pipeline in September 2022.
The Danish Broadcasting, DR, cancels Hersh’s Nord Stream report and promotes US ‘Intelligence’ (CIA) instead
The case begins here on February 8, 2023. DR editor-in-chief, Lotte Stensgaard, writes that one earlier news telegram with mention of Hersh’s report has been deleted. In translation*:
“Here was previously an article on Russia’s reaction to unsubstantiated information on Nord Stream
By Lotte Stensgaard
DR Nyheder reported on 8 February that the Russian Foreign Ministry called on the US to respond to allegations made by US journalist Seymour Hersh, who in his blog claims that the US was involved in the explosions on the Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea.
However, Seymour Hersh’s post is based on one anonymous source and no evidence has been provided to substantiate the claim of US involvement in the Nord Stream 1 and 2 explosions, nor has it been possible to verify the information.
Therefore, the telegram does not fulfil DR’s ethical guidelines and has therefore been removed.”
Later, I wanted to know what motivated this quite unusual action in the light of the fact that the counter story published by the New York Times about Nord Stream being destroyed by a “pro-Ukrainian” group in a yacht immediately received substantial coverage at several editorial offices of the Danish Broadcasting Company.
So I wrote to Lotte Stensgaard, thus:
“Dear Lotte Stensgaard,
Based on what you write about Seymour Hersh’s report not living up to DR’s ethical guidelines (and therefore being taken down), would you please help me with an explanation of why the new analysis published in the New York Times, which indicates that it is a “pro-Ukrainian” group’s deed, has received such a relatively large amount of attention and analysing comments on DR.dk, TV-Avisen and other editorial departments in your house – and why it to a greater extent lives up to DR ethical guidelines.
Thank you in advance.
The answer I received was this:
Thank you for your enquiry.
Your email has been sent for reply in our official enquiry system. In future, you are welcome to write directly into this system when you contact us via this contact page: https://dr.custhelp.com/
Here you can choose, among other things, whether it is an error, a question, praise or a complaint.
I was surprised that the editor-in-chief deliberately avoided responding to a question about a text she has written herself, so I replied:
“Dear Lotte Stensgaard
Oh yes, I know that system very well.
But now it was you, as editor, who wrote the article about what I perceive as an editorial policy decision.
That’s why I sent it to you and not to the system. But if you yourself do not want, can or are allowed to answer, then I can not do much about it.
That was March 14. On April 4 came the following explanation written by editor-in-chief of DR News, Thomas Falbe:
“Dear Jan Oberg
Thank you for your enquiry. The debate about who was behind the sabotage of the two Nordstream pipelines is important, and DR has no interest or motive to suppress that discussion. When we chose to remove the article, which only quoted the blog post from Seymour Hersh, it was because the article contained so many undocumented claims based on a single anonymous source that it appeared to be almost pure speculation.
So it was not only that it was based on anonymous sources that was the reason why we decided to remove the article altogether. It was an assessment that the journalistic quality behind the article was so poor that it made no sense to add a number of reservations to our original quote story, as we would then have to make reservations about virtually the entire content. That’s why we decided to remove the article altogether.
It’s not because we want to steer the debate in a certain direction, for example, to suppress a discussion about the possibility that the US could have been behind the blast. If that were the case, it would be an extremely important story that we would publish as soon as the evidence was available.
We have discussed the theory of a possible US role on several occasions, but in formats where it is possible to contextualise and critically assess what is presented. For example, here in Orientering Udsyn, and similarly here in Restart.
When we later chose to go into the coverage of another theory, namely the one put forward by a number of German media and The New York Times about a Ukrainian-minded group, it was because these were authority sources that confirmed a concrete investigative trail. At the same time, it plays a role that these media have known and established editorial processes and a long track record of credible treatment and presentation of information without bias in relation to conclusions. I do not believe this was the case with the article by Seymour Hersh.
DR Nyheder will continue to do journalism on the blowing up of the Nordstream pipelines. Still, we will do so on the basis of documentation and sources whose claims can be verified before we publish. The story is too important for us to print every available claim that might be made on the internet, giving it a stamp of credibility just by mentioning it on our platforms. It’s all about journalistic standards, and not about the content of the story.
Editor-in-Chief, DR News.”
What to make of this?
• My question was obviously a sensitive one since it was transferred/elevated to the news editor-in-chief through a standard Q&A procedure; the author of the article was not supposed to deal with the policy decision conveyed in her text.
• Who is Thomas Falbe? According to his Linkedin profile, he has a Danish education in journalism with a recent degree from INSEAD, The Business School for the World, in Leadership Excellence through Awareness and Practice. It seems that he has lived most of his professional life at DR. He served as a US correspondent for DR 2005-2008. On the profile, his “Top Voices” are the Business Insider and EU President Ursula von der Leyen. He uses both Linkedin and Twitter, where he now and then mainly reposts colleagues’ posts and info about DR programs.
• In his reply to me, editor Falbe turns down three times that this could be about politics: DR has no interest in ‘suppressing discussion,’ that it is all about ‘journalistic standards and not content,’ and that DR does not want to ‘steer the debate.’ I did not even hint that it did. One does not have to be a psychologist to sense what’ this is about’s going on here: There is this elephant in the room, and its name is – right, you guessed it – never failing political correctness vis-a-vis the US.
• What makes me say that? The fact that you’ll search in vain at the Danish Broadcasting’s news homepage over the years for examples of critical perspectives on one US-led war after the other, NATO expansion, US/Western China Cold War policies and accusations, Ukraine, etc – and find only negative, slanted demonising perspectives on, say, Russia and China.
Hersh’s analysis simply cannot be treated otherwise. It doesn’t fit the pattern, which by the way, repeated itself throughout the Western mainstream media, including the New York Times itself (where Hersh worked for years). Hersh’s report was indeed suppressed.
• Thomas Falbe’s description of Hersh’s report – not the least compared with what he says about the counter-narrative’s qualities – is rather ignorant, if not pathetic. As a professional journalist, he can not be ignorant about Hersh’s unique and world-renowned investigative journalism over decades and his absolutely unique connections with the inside of power circles in Washington. Given the mediocre journalism quite often displayed by DR – I have documented a few of them over the years – one can safely assume that no one at the DR news section can carry Hersh’s socks.
• Falbe also ignores – deliberately, as a professional news editor – the piquant well-documented fact that both US President Biden and Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, are on record for having stated that the US would destroy Nord Stream if Russia invaded Ukraine – Biden at a press conference standing next to German chancellor Olaf Scholz. I wrote about it in Danish here and in English here, and included YouTube clips of it on September 28, 2022, right after the destruction. Mr Falbe conveniently overlooks that Hersh’s report is simply much better aligned with official US foreign policy than the alternative “pro-Ukrainian” story Falbe defends so miserably.
• If you do not want to suppress discussion, why not simply tell your audience that two reports are saying completely different things, offer their main content, strong and weak sides, and then let people judge for themselves? That would be classical journalism rather than opinion/influencer journalism that is embedded in DR’s patronizing cancellation of an indisputably important report.
• As for the counter story promoted by the New York Times, here is what Reuters – a source frequently used by DR – told the world about it on March 7, 2023 (my italics added):
“New intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials suggests that a pro-Ukraine group – likely comprised of Ukrainians or Russians – attacked the Nord Stream gas pipelines in September, but there are no firm conclusions, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.
Reuters could not independently verify the report. And:
“The U.S. intelligence review suggested those who carried out the attacks opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin “but does not specify the members of the group, or who directed or paid for the operation,” the New York Times wrote.
“Officials who have reviewed the intelligence said they believed the saboteurs were most likely Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or some combination of the two. U.S. officials said no American or British nationals were involved,” according to the New York Times report.”
This is what makes Mr Falbe characterises to me as “authority sources that confirmed a concrete investigative trail. At the same time, it plays a role that these media have known and established editorial processes and a long track record of credible treatment…”
• US intelligence – there are several agencies, but one globally infamous is the CIA – reviewed by “US officials” who suggest and believe this and that – meets the journalistic standards of DR according to its news editor-in-chief, Thomas Falbe. He believes these “sources whose claims can be verified before we publish.” (!)
In terms of context and motives, it seems to be a forbidden thought to him that the US could have an interest in covering up the story and presenting a counter story after Biden and Nuland had themselves pointed out the US as the culprit.
It’s completely incomprehensible from a journalistic perspective why anonymous ‘intelligence’ and ‘US officials’ who ‘believe’ this or that should be anything but biased in this particular case or why their hypothesis should be more credible than Hersh’s (backed up the US president).
What is not so incomprehensible is that an ally of the US can not present perspectives which go against US interests. And in this particular case, also Denmark’s interest. The Danish government may have had prior knowledge about the action that happened just south of the Danish island of Bornholm. Or it has been taken by surprise. Whichever is true, the government has neither the civil courage nor any interest in publicly pointing to the US as the culprit – but every interest in removing the attention from the US (and Hersh’s story) and making it look like some Ukrainians/Russians were out in a yacht hired in Poland and placed some explosives 80 meters down on the seabed.
Mr Falbe emphasises that DR will continue to do journalism about the destruction of Nord Stream. That remains to be seen. The Western mainstream media have closed down the Nord Stream destruction story long ago, do not put pressure on those who were to investigate it and avoid analysing the destruction’s thoroughly negative consequences for European friend and allies. Imagine the media attention if China or Russia had destroyed Nord Stream.
Remember, ignorance is strength, as Orwell wrote in “1984”.
• Finally, what about Mr Falbe’s description of the New York Times (‘the media’) as having a ‘known and established editorial processes and a long track record of credible treatment and presentation of information without bias in relation to conclusions’?
Well, it is either self-delusional, incredibly naive, devoid of factual knowledge or revealing a standard-biased mainstream mode of operation of which every decent person in public service and truly free media ought to be ashamed.
Harsh words? Perhaps, but based on empirical facts instead of fake à la Falbe.
Please find below a short reading list of predominantly American sources that proves – solidly documents – how CIA has infiltrated the media since the beginning of the first Cold War. They also show how the New York Times is one of the least trustworthy and most biased media in this field of international affairs. I would add that, in its editorials and choice of feature articles, it has always been pro-war – also now concerning the NATO-Russia conflict as it plays out in Ukraine. Against all hard evidence, the NYT promoted the lie that Iraq under Saddam Hussein possessed nuclear weapons – as a main pretext for the US invasion and occupation – with blind political correctness.
To work in places like the Western mainstream media, including public service, you must disregard this sort of disinformation, propaganda and lies and convince yourself that you promote freedom of the media – remember Orwell, ‘freedom is slavery’ – in sharp contrast to authoritarian, illiberal state media elsewhere.
Or you’ll have to quit.
Recommended reading and watching
Carl Bernstein, in Rolling Stone 1977
The CIA and the media
How Americas Most Powerful News Media Worked Hand in Glove with the Central Intelligence Agency and Why the Church Committee Covered It Up
(“By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.”)
Operation Mockingbird is an alleged large-scale program of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that began in the early years of the Cold War and attempted to manipulate domestic American news media organizations for propaganda purposes.
Operation Mockingbird Facts and Worksheets
The New York Times, December 26, 1977
Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the C.I.A.
The New York Times, December 27, 1977
C.I.A. Established Many Links To Journalists in U.S. and Abroad
Ted Galen Carpenter, Cato Institute, 2021
How the National Security State Manipulates the News Media
The American people, who count on the news profession to provide them with accurate, independent information about foreign affairs, are the ultimate victims.
Frances Stonor Saunders, 1999
Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War
Noam Chomsky & Edward S Herman, 1988
Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
Caitlin Johnstone, 2023
The US Could Use Some Separation Of Media And State
* The translations from Danish to English are of the complete correspondence, with nothing omitted. They were done by Deepl and checked and adjusted by the author.
The top cartoon is by Luka Lagator – more here.