Political Comedian Lee Camp: How to Create NPR’s Propaganda
I never thought I’d be the target of an NPR attack piece.
Through my twenties I even looked to NPR as an outlet full of good, progressive, thoughtful reporting – You know, the soothing voices occasionally interrupted by music no one really listens to but that sounds good between soft-spoken ivy league journalists over the age of 50. Everything about NPR subtly reinforced the idea, “Everything is fine. You’re probably a middle to upper class white person or you hope to be one day, and that’s just great. Everything is fine.” They might not SAY that, but they say that. And for a long time, I was cool with that message.
Then I woke up. About the time NPR was avoiding Occupy Wall Street – or when they did cover it, acting like those of us who supported it were brainless hippies without a point or at least none that would fit easily into the lives of suburbanites with two kids, one cat, and a robust retirement account. In hindsight I should’ve woken up sooner. I should’ve seen the truth about the time most NPR shows were pushing for war in Iraq, buying into the WMD lie. Or maybe I should’ve realized the truth when Kevin Klose took over as President of NPR in 1998. Klose came straight from a nice seat as director of the US Information Agency, described as “a United States agency devoted to ‘public diplomacy’ (AKA propaganda).” So when you have one of the top government propagandists as your president, one can assume your reporting is slightly biased.
Anyway, that leads me to today. A couple days after NPR’s Weekend Edition hosted by Scott Simon did a rather awesome attack piece on me and my TV show Redacted Tonight with Lee Camp which airs on RT America. I’d like to walk you through how to write such beautiful propaganda, as I did following the NY Times smear job against me, which sounded shockingly similar (more on that later).
STEP ONE: Create a subconscious association to old Cold War Russian propaganda
Scott Simon opens his show with “Russian programming is no longer breathless proclamations about tractor production or accolades to the Kremlin. Look at a show like Redacted Tonight.” This opening sentence essentially tells the listener that everything they’re about to hear is modern Russian propaganda. Sure, he doesn’t use the word “propaganda” yet, but when you say something was ONCE accolades to the Kremlin and is now Redacted Tonight, you are priming your audience, giving them a subconscious opinion of the target before they even know what it is. This would be like saying “American programming is no longer ads where a little girl with a daisy is killed by a nuclear blast. Now it’s the Daily Show.” If you had never heard of the Daily Show, you would assume it must be a modern version of a girl obliterated by a nuclear bomb.
STEP TWO: Lie by omission
Scott Simon knows the truth, but he’s keeping it from his audience. My show is not Russian propaganda. Simon knows I’m an American in America covering American news for Americans. He does slip in that I’m American in the opening sentences, but not until the end does he reveal to his audience that I have never been told to say anything or not to say anything on RT America. And after he says that, he immediately plays a clip of me joking that my show is written by heavily bearded Russian trolls. He seems to play it as if it reveals the truth, rather than being a joke. Furthermore, assuming Simon did even an ounce of research, he knows that I’ve been doing the same type of material in my stand-up comedy act for decades – long before I was every on RT. Saying my show is Russian propaganda would be to say that all the shows on RT America are Russian propaganda including ones hosted by Larry King, Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges, Governor Jesse Ventura, Mike Papantonio, and former hosts Thom Hartmann and Abby Martin.
I’ve addressed why I do this show on RT America, and you can watch that here. But for NPR’s listeners who have never heard of me, Simon wants to essentially warn them that they are about to hear nefarious neo-propaganda put forward by dastardly Russians.
STEP THREE: Subtly let your listeners know the target is not one of us
In his second sentence Simon says, “The show is hosted and written by an American comic in black jeans with a hipster beard and long, bobbed hair, Lee Camp.” To begin with, I don’t know what a hipster beard is, but I doubt I have one. I guess Scott Simon thinks any beard is a “hipster beard.” I suppose this means Wolf Blitzer has a hipster beard too. I also don’t know what “long bobbed hair” is other than a way of saying, “He’s a fuckin’ long hair!” This description is all basically Simon’s way of letting his elitist older core audience know, “This guy is NOT one of us. He probably doesn’t even OWN a salmon-colored button-down shirt.”
STEP FOUR: Imply that curse words = enemy of the state
Simon next plays a few sentences from my show, bleeping out the word “fuck.” Then he interrupts and says, “A lot of profanity. In fact ONE profanity over and over…” So Simon’s first sentence about me was to insult my clothing and look. His first sentence about my show was to express near horror at the fact I use the word “fuck”. First of all, I take great exception to the idea I only use ONE profanity. My profanity is varied AND prolific. Name another show where you’ve recently heard Congress described as a “Steaming bucket of mangy dicks.” But again this is designed so Simon can let the nice NPR listeners know, “He’s not one of us. He uses dirty language.” Isn’t it amazing that it’s been a half century since the 1960’s and yet the insults against the “counter culture” are all the same – “He’s a long-hair hipster with a dirty mouth!” As George Carlin said, dirty words can “impact your mind, curve your spine and lose the war for the Allies!” Clearly Scott Simon didn’t get the memo that fearing dirty words is not something most of America is doing anymore. Americans are far more worried about where their next paycheck will come from or how to get healthcare for their sick child. If you look at the situation our country is in and don’t say “FUCK” to yourself, then you aren’t paying attention.
STEP FIVE: Bring in an “Expert” who clarifies how awful the target is
Next, Julia Ioffe is brought on to explain how horrible Redacted Tonight truly is and why your children should be asked to leave the room and cover their ears until the terrifying thought bombs are extinguished. NPR identifies Ioffe as simply someone who writes critically about Russia for the Atlantic and other platforms. What Simon doesn’t want his listeners to know is that Ioffe is a hardcore neocon neo-McCarthyist who spends her days spouting fake news about Russia, such as this lovely piece of fact-free reporting entitled “How Russia Hacked America.” In the credits of that piece she thanks two private intelligence firms for helping her out – Fidelis Cybersecurity and Farsight Security. Fidelis used to be owned by General Dynamics, one of the biggest weapons contractors riding the Russia hysteria to billions of dollars in profits. Julia Ioffe is not even close to an unbiased critic of my show. She’s quite the opposite – a useful idiot for the weapons industry which collects bundles of cash from the deaths of millions.
And those Russian hacking claims? I covered the reality of those claims on my show with former 27-year veteran CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
It’s very telling that while Ioffe and Scott Simon breathlessly attack dissenting voices, they choose NOT to cover how our 2016 election was ACTUALLY rigged as reported on by the nonpartisan Project Censored here, here, and here. I have also covered all of these stories extensively on my show.
Ioffe is not only a pure xenophobe, seemingly trying to angle our country towards nuclear war, but she also is – apparently – an expert on comedy! Her opening lines – “[Redacted Tonight] is very shrill. Lee Camp is very shrill. It looks like the kind of rantings I would engage in when I was an angry 15 year-old.” Apparently when Julia Ioffe was a mere teen, she was angrily spouting about how unfettered vulture capitalism destroyed Puerto Rico even before the hurricane did, or the unlimited war powers that both Democrats and Republicans voted to give Donald Trump, or perhaps the secret family making billions from our opioid crisis. I guess little Julia was once very well informed. But now, as an adult, she has changed her ways – becoming a good shill for the corporate state, toeing the pro-war propaganda line without a second thought.
STEP SIX: Shrug off or ignore any positive attributes
At one point Scott Simon talks about attending a taping of the show where the audience “laughed and cheered when prompted – but sincerely.” In the audio version the words “but sincerely” drip with disgust. This is about as close as Simon can come to admitting Redacted Tonight has very large, active, and excited fanbase of people who see through the ridiculous mainstream media and want something more, something deeper.
Another positive attribute of my show, in my opinion, is the fact that we’re left of the corporate-owned Democrats. Simon mentions that I mock both Republicans and Democrats but that’s where he leaves it. If he watched more than ten minutes, he knows that I don’t simply attack everything for the sake of mockery. I go after our ruling elite who are bought and sold by massive corporations, soulless people who seem fine with a level of inequality that surpasses even ancient Rome just before its collapse. This is the most important thing any viewer should know about my show, but NPR intentionally leaves it out. The reasoning is obvious – because it would attract a lot of viewers. And when you’re busy making new Cold War propaganda, you don’t want such stumbling blocks in your path.
STEP SEVEN: Bring in another “expert” to simply lie
Scott Simon next asks executive producer of Second City, Kelly Leonard, if Redacted Tonight is funny. Leonard response: “It is funny, but there’s a problem. ” Leonard says the real trouble is that I avoid certain subjects – such as hacking of the election. But in fact, I HAVE talked about hacking the election here, here, here, here, here, here – You get the point. I’ve talked about it FAR more than any other comedy news show Leonard can list. The problem is I don’t talk about it from the false narrative Leonard and Simon WANT me to – the narrative that calls it “hacking the election” even though no one is even accusing Russia of actually hacking voting machines, which is essentially impossible from a foreign country. (Instead voting machine rigging happens right here at home.) The accusations only have to do with hacking emails at the DNC (that showed *REAL* corruption) – and even those accusations have been debunked by experts.
So even if Leonard disagrees with my more truth-based views on the hacking, he still provably lied when he said I don’t talk about election hacking. Either he lied or he’s so woefully unfamiliar with my show that he’s hardly seen any of it. Which is worse? Scott Simon then lets this grand lie go unchecked, or Simon doesn’t know that I’ve covered the hacking extensively. Again, which is worse?
STEP EIGHT: Simply call your target evil
Leonard next says, “I think comedy is a superpower. And a very smart person once said, if it can’t be used for evil, it’s not a superpower. And in this case, that’s kind of what I feel is going on.” Yep, my show is clearly being used for evil. A show which tirelessly fights for a more egalitarian and just society – You could hardly find an episode where I’m not covering those issues and giving solutions for how to get there – Such a TV show is using comedy for evil. …Hence the sinister beard and long hair.
STEP NINE: Refuse to have the target on for a live interview
The number one question I’ve gotten about NPR’s attack piece was about this sentence by Simon, “We asked Lee Camp for an interview but couldn’t agree to his ground rules.” Simon is being intentionally vague here. Saying that we couldn’t agree to ground rules makes the listener think I said, “I’ll do an interview but no questions about Russia, and you have to be dressed as a chicken during the entirety of it!” In fact, what Simon doesn’t reveal to his listeners is that I simply said, “I would love to do a live on-air interview.” That is all I said, and I said it repeatedly over email. NPR cannot have me on for a live on-air interview because that would not allow them to cut out all the things they don’t want viewers to know. It would not allow them to redact certain parts and take things out of context. I was told by the producer of Weekend Edition that they rarely do live interviews – which means they do indeed have the capability. I, myself, have an interview show that is never filmed live because it simply doesn’t air live. So I am not opposed to pre-taped interviews played in their entirety, but NPR is not looking for that. If Simon valued honesty, he should’ve stated, “Lee Camp agreed to a live interview, but we were not willing to do that.”
STEP TEN: Bring back the New Cold Warrior faux expert
Julia Ioffe comes back to call me and my team “co-conspirators” and “useful idiots.” (Which is it? Are we conspiring or are we idiots??) She says we are not creating the show “…for the rights and the lives of the little man or the little person. It’s for Putin’s power.” And although I find it hilarious to respond to a moral attack coming from someone spouting talking points on behalf of weapons contractors, I’ll do it anyway. Ioffe is perfectly wrong in her assertion. I’ve been doing politically minded stand-up comedy for nearly 20 years. Long before I ever created Redacted Tonight, I was speaking about the same issues – endless war, gut-wrenching inequality, environmental destruction – all the topics I continue to cover on my show. When I decided to work with RT America, it came down to one simple thought – I don’t believe we have a lot of time to waste. Our world is collapsing around us – for example the earth has lost half its wildlife in the past 40 years. We have to talk about all these issues, which are redacted from our corporate media. We have to provide information to people in new and interesting ways, and I’ve been trying to do that for two decades. Julia Ioffe on the other hand wants to create war, death, and continued destruction while tearing down anyone who dissents.
STEP ELEVEN: One last parting lie – “No one’s watching anyway.”
Scott Simon closes by saying fewer than 30,000 people are likely watching RT America. He says, “That’s not far from the average attendance at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game.” But one can assume Simon knows he’s lying. Even without factoring in television views, the average episode of Redacted Tonight gets over 30,000 views on YouTube alone, which does not count Facebook and other platforms. Clips from each episode add hundreds of thousands of more views on YouTube. I have recent web exclusive videos that have over 150,000 views each on YouTube. Assuming Simon can do a simple search, he knows he’s misleading his listeners as to how many people watch my show. If he can’t do a YouTube search, it might be time for him to throw in the ol’ crusty “journalism” towel.
If I really wanted to get down in the mud with Simon, I might mention that he has nearly 1.25 Million Twitter followers and yet his tweets – almost without exception – receive between zero and ten retweets. This either means Simon isn’t saying much of value or his 1.25 million followers aren’t listening to him to begin with.
It’s also a bit comical Simon picks Milwaukee as the city to use in his parting jab. Milwaukee also happens to be the home of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, which helps fund NPR and therefore receives glowing segments like this in what seems to be a pay-to-play scenario. Even when corporations are not influencing NPR’s coverage, they are still benefiting from what NPR proudly calls “the halo effect” simply by being an underwriter. Basically NPR brags that they scrub clean the image some of the worst corporations in the world, making them angelic – corporations like ExxonMobil, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo.
Furthermore Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting did a study (“Some Things Considered Mostly By White Men”) that included Weekend Edition and other NPR shows and found that most of the commentary is by white men and in recent years there is less and less political coverage. The lack of political coverage is actually by design. NPR’s job is to cast reality in a pro-corporate pro-war light via two avenues, one is by straight up propaganda, such as hit pieces against dissenting voices – anything outside the corporate unfettered-capitalist paradigm. (I covered this in a recent web exclusive video.) Another avenue is to simply fill the airwaves with useless information that makes us feel smart and comfortable but contributes nothing to informing the population about what is REALLY happening. This is why Scott Simon produces pieces like this one about waiting in line. (It has 9 retweets as of this writing.) If you listen to the piece, he actually could have gone deeper and made the segment meaningful. He could have talked about how our system seeks profit over all else, even over the innately fair process of waiting in line. He could’ve discussed how those ideals then become codified in our cultural mindset, creating an immense level of misery and inequality. …But instead he left it as a weak version of Andy Rooney (which is impressive because I thought Andy Rooney was a weak version of Andy Rooney).
When he does cover politics, Simon has proven to be war hungry. Right now he seems to be Cold War hungry – which could lead to nuclear war. In the past he supported the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In case it was never mentioned on NPR, the Iraq War killed over one million people according to Reuters. Even in 2003 he reassured his listeners that not finding weapons of mass destruction (the entire premise for the war) didn’t really matter that much anyway because the greatest threat to Iraqis was the regime that the U.S. had taken down. (One assumes he doesn’t mean the greatest threat to the million who were killed during our obliteration of their country.) Simon helped manufacture the consent for such a horrific bloodbath, and I wonder whether that sits with him at all.
Since Weekend Edition did a poor job of finding guests who could speak intelligibly on the issues at hand, I did it for them. Author Max Blumenthal said of this segment, “NPR only interviewed neo-Cold Warriors, giving figures with no expertise on Russia a platform to hold forth on Russian meddling, and offering figures with no experience in comedy a platform to criticize Redacted Tonight‘s comedic value. NPR interviewed Lee Camp’s fans but no media professionals from the left who could have offered a nuanced perspective on RT. And they deliberately obscured Camp’s principled left-wing positions by claiming that he bashes the GOP and Democrats equally, with the Dems as a stand in for the living, breathing left social movement that Camp is part of. If anyone is looking for slanted propaganda under the guise of news, look no further than this piece by the semi-official radio outlet of the US government.”
And Scott Dikkers, co-founder and longtime head of The Onion publicly stated to Scott Simon, “I was disappointed you thought it necessary to tar [Lee Camp] as little more than a Putin Stooge. He happens to be a talented and hard-working comedian on the populist/left end of the spectrum.”
This is the second major attack piece on me and my comedy show in recent months, one on NPR and one on the cover of the NY Times Arts section. These smear jobs are similar in nature, and I’m far from the only one experiencing such attacks. Many dissenting voices have been attacked, suppressed, and maligned, and it’s up to those of us who value truth and open debate to stand up and demand better. The good news is that corporate media and the profit-over-people they uphold are right now fighting for their lives, and the only way of maintaining their power is by drumming out those of us calling attention to the reality.