Sharyl Attkisson: How Propaganda Replaced Journalism and the Dangers of Third-Party ‘Fact-Checkers’
“That’s what the propagandists know… If the same thing is said over and over again, regardless of how untrue it is, it ultimately sinks in,” says Sharyl Attkisson.
A five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist, Attkisson never imagined she would see her profession become plagued by the bias and censorship she now sees in media today. How did things get to this point?
Tonight, we discuss the proliferation of third-party fact-checkers, how big tech is controlling online discourse, and what she expects will happen if Trump launches his own social media platform.
Attkisson is the author of “Slanted: How the News Media Taught Us to Love Censorship and Hate Journalism” and the host of the show, Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.
Jan Jekielek: Sharyl Attkisson, so great to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Sharyl Attkisson: Great to be here. Thank you.
Mr. Jekielek: Sharyl, you’re the author of “Slanted,” and you’ve been studying the contemporary media landscape for some time. It strikes me that we’re in this unprecedented time where the media are censoring other media or agitating to have media censored. We have journalists doing the same. We have congressional members trying to get Big Tech to censor certain topics. We have fact checking that is highly questionable as to whether it is actually fact checking. What do you make of this whole current political climate?
Mrs. Attkisson: This is really one of the most troubling aspects of the media landscape I’ve ever encountered in my career. I’m 60 years old now, and I started in college. I would never have predicted that we would have gotten here with members of the media themselves and groups that supposedly support free press and free speech cheering on the censorship trends and denying that it’s really censorship or parsing the definition— cheering on that President Donald Trump, ex-President Donald Trump would be blocked from social media so that people can’t access what he says and what he’s doing easily.
The notion that this is happening in this country is really startling to me. The fact that people have somehow to a large degree have been brainwashed into accepting it or feeling like it’s a good thing is even more remarkable. But I trace in the book that it’s not an accident, that this really came out of the 2016 time period.
Prior to that—it’s hard to remember four years back how different things were or five years back—but nobody was clamoring for censorship or for these fake fact checks to intervene between us and our information or for people to be censored. Big Tech wasn’t interested in doing that prior to the 2016 time period. This is all very well orchestrated as part of a propaganda campaign.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s really interesting. We’ve had within the last five months at least three hearings where the Big Tech CEOs were invited to Congress. There seems to be this common trend. You have one group saying, “You need to stop censoring. You need to stop controlling the information flow. The First Amendment is important.” Another group seems to be agitating for more information control and more censorship. What do you make of this?
Mrs. Attkisson: I think you’re exactly right. When you talk to people, it’s sort of like immigration reform. Everybody wants immigration reform, but people are very divided on what that means. A lot of people think that what’s happening on social media and Big Tech is wrong. But as you said, there are a lot of people saying, “Censor more, take away more information.” There are some people saying. “Do less.”
Then there are people saying, “Do it to the other side.” In other words, do more, but do it more fairly, which I think is probably one of the most dangerous aspects because that’s both sides giving in and saying that a third party should come in and censor information.
Think about who we’re giving this control to. Third parties that have no information or knowledge that’s special or any more special than anybody else, stepping in with information they may know nothing about. But they have interests that are pushing them or supporting them, or that they’re acting on behalf of—political and corporate interests to stop, let’s say, a documentary from Epoch Times that has been researched for many, many hours, weeks, and months.
Then you have a third party who’s conflicted in nature come in, affiliated with Big Tech or maybe pushing Big Tech to do this, saying, “Well, none of that is true.” They have no idea. They haven’t done more research than you have. But they’re intervening in the process, and we’re to some degree allowing it, as if they do have expertise. Then people are demanding that they do it, as if they have some expertise or role in doing this. [This is] very dangerous.
Mr. Jekielek: You called it fake fact checks earlier. This is something that has almost become the norm and expected in the big social media companies. I’m still scratching my head around how this could be accepted as a norm. Secondly, people believe that it’s somehow acceptable.
Mrs. Attkisson: I traced that in my book “Slanted.” What happened was, and you can actually find almost the moment that it started. There was a nonprofit called First Draft. When I traced and followed the money, it was started by or funded by Google, whose parent company is Alphabet, whose CEO at the time was Eric Schmidt, a very, very big Hillary Clinton supporter.
If you look at what happened during that time period, this nonprofit came on the scene with this idea that for the first time in modern context, anyway, that there’s fake news that we need to stop. Of course, all of their examples of fake news were conservative fake news, as if there was no liberal fake news. So you could tell there were political forces behind it.
Then President Obama came out a very short time after the emergence of this nonprofit and gave a speech at Carnegie Mellon and insisted that somebody needed to start stepping in and curating our information in this wild, wild west media environment. At the time, that really made me sit up and take notice, because nobody had been asking for that.
Again, go back five years. It’s hard to remember there was a time when this was really against the norm. When President Obama suggested that, I thought, “Why is this a presidential initiative?” It’s not by accident that he’s announcing this. From that moment on “fake news,” again, not a conservative invention, or from Donald Trump, but originally a liberal invention that Donald Trump took over—a basically hostile takeover I call it—this emerges on the forefront and headlines almost every day thereafter, as the press picks up on this propaganda campaign and buys into it.
What they were doing, in retrospect, was trying to create a market for information control. Because I believe that these corporate and political forces had largely been able to control the terms of how we talk about stories on the news prior to 2016—the language we use, who is allowed to interview, what kinds of things they can say.
But when Donald Trump still got elected, after most of the media said he was dangerous and should not be elected, these political and corporate interests said, “Boy, it’s the internet’s fault. We need to come in and control the internet too. But we can’t just step in and do it. We have to make people ask us to do it, by creating a market, by creating an impression that there’s this danger out there, that third parties are needed to come in and curate our information.” That’s what I believe happened.
Mr. Jekielek: There seems to be a significant portion of the population that consumes mass media that’s just ready to believe whatever comes through it. This is something, again, that I find perplexing, because why would you?
Mrs. Attkisson: I too am surprised that there are people that would take almost anything at face value these days. I certainly don’t, whether it’s what I want to believe or not, no matter how supposedly well-sourced something is. Just common sense and history tell you too that often it’s wrong. More often than not the biggest stories out there, no matter how many people are reporting them and how many sources there are, prove to be not as advertised once the information comes out.
So I suspend my belief in almost everything until I know more. Maybe we’re more steeped in it than people who don’t really have the time or desire to study and dig. That’s what the propagandists know. There are people that take a cursory glance at the news. If the same thing is said over and over again, regardless of how untrue it is, it ultimately sinks in.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s a fascinating phenomenon. I pulled a Twitter post from Peter Boghossian, which was quite insightful. It’s something I’ve been thinking about, he was just much more eloquent in saying it. Basically, he says, “Thinking in terms of Left or Right, conservative or liberal is not an accurate way to understand the current cultural moment. A far more accurate lens is cognitive liberty—those who demand you think a certain way are on one side and those who do not are on the other.” So this is taking it a little bit deeper. What do you think about this?
Mrs. Attkisson: Absolutely. I’ve said repeatedly, that it’s tempting to divide what’s happening along Left and Right, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat. There are forces that would want us to do that, because it keeps us well divided in a way that benefits them. But there are a lot of crossovers.
As you know, there are people like Glenn Greenwald, who is quite far Left, who has observed some of the same things as analysts on the right when it comes to control and manipulation of information, the inappropriate actions by the government, and what’s happening in the press. So definitely Left meets Right on some of these really important issues. It’s important not to let these forces divide everything among political lines.
That’s what happens when you see the debates, like you see at these hearings with Republicans stepping in and saying, “Well, you censored us on this. You should censor them because they did something just as bad.” That’s playing into the whole notion of accepting third party censors coming into the middle of our information, which I think is the opposite of the tactic that should be taken—which is taking a step back and saying they should censor nothing except that which is illegal.
When you go back to Big Tech, they give us tools. We’ve always had tools to filter out stuff that we don’t want to see, or that we find objectionable. This notion of controlling information is about controlling the other guy, because we can still do that for ourselves. But people don’t want you to see information they may know about or that they don’t want you to see. That’s why I think it becomes harmful and dangerous.
Mr. Jekielek: There are studies that are often cited and perhaps you can give us a little bit more information about this. They say that “fake news” spreads twice as fast as so-called real news. Again, I’m not sure how they’re actually defining this. So there is this phenomenon that in an age where social media is so dominant and one of the major sources of news and information for many people, that this information, let’s say potentially damaging information, spreads at a rate much faster than it would have traditionally. So this is the argument for censorship. What do you make of this?
Mrs. Attkisson: That’s part of what the propagandists use to their advantage. When you look at the list of media mistakes in the era of Trump which I’ve built, which is in the appendix of “Slanted” and also on my website, [there are] 130-plus major media mistakes. I’m not counting each piece of the media that makes the same mistake. That would be hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands.
But when you look at all of these major media mistakes you wonder, “How are the same news outlets and sometimes the same reporters making such egregious errors over and over again—sloppy errors, biased errors and yet allowed to continue?” Well, if you understand and view the news landscape through the lens of it being taken over in large part by propagandists, that’s “mission accomplished,” if this fake news or if the mistakes that they make circulate around the world very quickly, as they often do.
Let’s take that story where President Trump toward the beginning of the pandemic, allegedly owed China millions and millions of dollars from some loan from 12 years before as he was trying to get tough on China. This news was broken by Politico and many others picked it up around the world. Come to find out the reporters hadn’t even done their basic due diligence. China sold that loan 12 years before, after only holding it for a short period of time. President Trump didn’t have a loan with China, as reported.
And yet instead of a “mea culpa”—and probably a lot of people don’t even know what I just said—they still think that original story was true. These stories, when the media get caught in these mistakes, they modify the stories in a way that still tries to make the same point even though they have no information, factually, that backs it up.
So they modified the headline in that case. Instead of saying Trump owes China, they modified the headlines that said Trump owed China without apologizing or making a major correction, as if the story were still true when the whole basis of the story was now proven to be false.
Going back to this concept of fake news traveling so quickly, these forces that want to get narratives and propaganda out capitalize on that. Then they use, as you said, this notion of, on the flip side we’re doing good for you by stopping other people’s fake news. They never see their own news as fake, even when it is. But then sometimes the stuff that’s actually true, is labeled as fake and must be cracked down on and censored. It’s a very twisted dynamic.
Mr. Jekielek: Fascinating. As you’re talking, I’m imagining that Spiderman meme where you have the two Spiderman figures pointing at each other, “You’re the fake news. No, you’re the fake news.” Frankly, a lot of people don’t know how to deal with that. It’s very, very difficult to know what you can accept, aside from a few trusted people through trial and error that you’ve figured out, that you can actually generally go by. Even they and we get things wrong sometimes.
Mrs. Attkisson: I just tell people—and this is a way to make this whole propaganda campaign fold in on itself—every time you see a major campaign to controversialize, whether it’s an outlet, like Epoch Times, or a reporter like me that’s reporting on a sensitive topic that certain interests don’t like, and there are attacks and there are accusations and a lot of attention is being paid to this and there are efforts to pull the information off social media, that should make you or everybody else pay more attention to it. That’s a signal, that’s a tell that says they’re a powerful interest trying to not let you make up your own mind about this information.
It doesn’t mean it’s true, but it might be true. You should take it as possibly true until you look into it more. So if you take these propaganda efforts and turn them on their head and say, “Every time they tell me something is horribly fake, and I’m to not even hear it with my own sensitive ears. I’m going to seek out that information and learn more,” then it kind of backfires, which I think would be a good thing.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s very interesting. You mentioned Glenn Greenwald earlier. He’s been chronicling this idea. There’s a notion that certain journalists or certain media put out that even criticizing certain journalists for the way they do stories is a kind of harassment of those journalists. It’s very interesting, because it’s almost like the other side of the argument and speaks a bit to what you were just talking about.
Mrs. Attkisson: What I’ve seen, if this is what you’re talking about, Glenn Greenwald criticized a reporter for some critical work she had done and then she cried foul, that this was harassment and how terrible it was. And that’s a recurring theme I’ve noticed in the media that we are very hard-nosed when it comes to the reporting that we do that takes on other people. I do that I hope in an honest and fair way.
But I certainly don’t shrink away from holding those accountable when the facts show that they should be held accountable—but when anything’s turned on us, too often, the media acts like tender souls, “I can’t be criticized; you’re being mean now.”
I remember when there were a couple of reporters, propaganda-rumor reporters I call them, from the Washington Post, that wrote a lot of untrue things and gossipy things about people. At one point, there was completely false, gossipy information written about me that was misleading and completely untrue. So I wrote on my own news site. I corrected the story, said what they said, and then said what actually happened in a very pointed way.
Offline, these reporters contacted me and said, “You’re being mean, and this is really going to hurt her career,” the young woman who I was correcting. I said, “Well, have her correct the information.” But that’s not my fault that she published without caring, published false information, and then was very sensitive when I simply corrected it factually. Again, it’s just part of this strange dynamic going on that you can’t go after the people who are wrong and doing propaganda, because then you’re mean or misogynistic if it happens to be a woman you’re going after.
Mr. Jekielek: Sharyl, there are these few platforms that I’m aware of where there is a maximum free speech, or there’s an awareness that you’ll be able to publish largely whatever you want, as long as it’s legal. There’s Substack, from the audio side of things. Clubhouse seems to be working that way and also Google podcasts, even though I don’t follow that as much myself. But at the same time, as we’ve been discussing, there are increasing calls to somehow regulate those platforms, as if there’s some kind of danger to them existing.
Mrs. Attkisson: That is, again, this same group of political and corporate interests who find every time they plug a hole and people are able to get real, unfettered information, it seems just to spring up somewhere else. And isn’t that the nature? I said in the beginning of my last book, the truth eventually finds a way to be told, and people will always seek the truth. There will always be people trying to get the facts out there, especially when others are trying to cover them up.
A real test is going to be when President Trump starts his platform, whatever that’s going to be in the next couple of months. One of his spokespeople said, “There’s going to be a lot of worry and attempts by these people who’ve worked very hard to banish him from social media. There’s going to be a lot of attempts to figure out how to control that, how to get people not to join or to make it untouchable somehow, to cancel whatever is relied upon platform-wise for that to operate.”
But I’m sure the Trump folks are thinking about that as this is being designed. So it’ll be interesting to see if they find a truly independent way to be heard, and to let people join in on the conversation in a way that can’t be regulated. I’m sure we’ll see attempts to regulate it somehow. I just don’t know what they’ll come up with as an excuse.
Mr. Jekielek: There has been this general effort among some of these media to portray Trump voters as some kind of brainwashed automatons that will follow anything he says. Again, I’m still wondering how these kinds of narratives are even possible to inject into popular consciousness?
Mrs. Attkisson: Well, this is all being done, as harmful and dangerous as it feels, [because of] desperation. Because these political and corporate interests—the reason they’re being so heavy handed about information and access is because people are not getting on board with what they’re supposed to think and do. They’re not acting the way they’re supposed to act after their information is controlled. It was very frightening for them to see, as I said, since they almost entirely controlled the media landscape in 2016.
But Trump still won the election. How did that happen? Well, they blamed the internet. So fast forward four years later. They’ve worked very hard to control the internet. And we have probably the most disputed election, in my time anyway—President Trump getting more votes than they imagined he would get, more than any other sitting president in history.
Although in the end, it’s President Biden in the White House, they were terrified once again. Despite the reign of control that they were able to exert, tens of millions of people voted for Donald Trump. I feel like this smacks more of desperation than anything.
But the harder they clamped down—it’s like the wind trying to blow the raincoat off the man. Actually, you could get the raincoat off with the sun. The harder they try to control the information, the harder some people work, and the more obvious their control is—the more we resist in terms of wanting our information free and unfettered.
Mr. Jekielek: That is an interesting phenomenon because there are always those people like yourself and myself, and frankly, millions and billions of others, who when they see that someone’s trying to control the information, they know there’s a problem. There must be something interesting there that needs to be explored. That’s one of the reasons Epoch Times has done so well recently, because we tend to cover these sorts of things. But there are very real costs to it. We’re not the only ones who have felt this sort of effect. Certainly it’s even harder for individuals than it is for organizations to deal with this. What are our next steps here?
Mrs. Attkisson: I do hope there will be a paradigm shift. I don’t think this can go on forever. It’s almost as if in trying to look at the bright side, the propagandist did us a favor by acting so quickly and outrageously and decisively in the past year, such as banishing Donald Trump from social media. If they had gone at a slightly slower pace, taking a little here and a little there, we might not have noticed it as much. It might not have felt so alarming.
But because the actions that they’ve taken are quite sudden and quite drastic, it has made activists out of people that wouldn’t really have paid much attention. You know, there’s the whole notion that a lot of people are bystanders until something happens that can turn them into activists when they might not have been. There are a lot of people and this is not a political divide among them. There are people on the Left, Right and independent, who are very motivated when they see what’s happening in this country in terms of information and they are becoming activists.
So I’d like to think that as the pendulum swings, we are way over to one side in terms of the attempts to control information. But that will invariably start swinging back the other way as people find platforms and outlets that can’t be completely controlled by these groups of propagandists. But the most important single thing people can do is to speak up and not be bullied by the people that want to keep the voices silenced, so that it appears in this artificial world that we live in online that everybody’s on the same page and everybody thinks the same thing and this is okay.
Don’t be cowed out into not speaking out. Don’t act like that’s okay. In my second book, “The Smear,” when I talk about the industry that controls our information and what they’re trying to do, I talked about how if they can get us to live online much of our lives with social media, news information, and so on—to the extent they can get us to do that and then control that box, as I call it, then they’ve got us.
But if you make sure you live outside of that box, in other words, you trust your cognitive dissonance, you talk to people in the real world and you see how it’s disconnected from much of what you see, whether it’s on social media or on the news, then you trust that and you don’t succumb to this notion that you’re an outlier. They want to create this impression that if you have a viewpoint or you believe facts they don’t want you to believe, then you’re an outlier, you’re sort of fringe. That’s what they want you to think, even when you may not be. It’s to create an impression online that you shouldn’t speak out or you shouldn’t say what you think or say what you believe, because it’s so far out there and so off the norm, when it’s not.
I’ve started to coin this new phrase that I have. What’s happening now is tyranny by the minority of people. There are issues that are now picked up. Certainly everybody’s rights in this country, to the extent that they’re not doing illegal things should be protected, and people should be heard. That’s the whole point of living in America.
But the point was not to take a very tiny minority of views or a minority of viewpoints and positions and exert them on the majority and force the majority to basically believe and say and think and do how the minority of people want them to. That’s what I feel is happening. Now there is a tyranny by a minority of people upon the majority, who are afraid of being told that they shouldn’t speak out or have the feelings or see the facts or form the conclusions that they have.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m seeing this idea that you’re just describing manifesting in all sorts of different discussions. One of the discussions is about the injection of critical race theory education into school curriculums, for example. Is this just a general broad societal phenomenon across all sorts of areas of inquiry? Is that what you’re thinking?
Mrs. Attkisson: I do. I look at the “stop Asian race hate.” Certainly there is hate going on in pockets of the country. There’s hate that we can find, sadly, against all kinds of people, colors, types, for all kinds of terrible reasons. We know that goes on. But it is not so common that we should be led to believe that every one of the United States feels that way, or that there’s an issue in every city and county in the country. It’s simply not that way.
To punctuate the point, it happens to be in the place where I live in Northern Virginia. There are a lot of Asian Americans, and actually Asians who are not Americans, but are here illegally, who were joking the other day about the notion that they would be hated, at least in our community. One of them came to a meeting I was at with a joke sign that she put on her shirt “stop Asian race hate.” It’s not to make light of what’s really happening in some pockets.
But their immediate efforts are to try to focus attention on some of these things in a way to make it seem like the whole country is experiencing some phenomenon, and that our attention must be universally focused on. For example, how bad the country is or how bad people are, when these are pockets of problems in some places that are not experienced in most of the nation.
I’ll talk about COVID the same way. As I’ve traveled the country in the past year, obviously Coronavirus is a very serious pandemic and problem, but it has hit some places very, very hard, and others almost not at all. I was surprised when I visited numerous places that never closed after March and that held school in the fall. These are smaller communities that did a full season of fall sports and have no spikes or repercussions from it.
So what you see on the news or propaganda or social media keeps us hyper-focused, as if it’s in an exaggerated sense, on phenomenons that are real and happening in some places, but certainly not the story that’s being told of all of America. That’s true of a lot of different issues that are being discussed today.
Mr. Jekielek: To your point, I would argue that there’s a very small number of very large media that seemed to behave in the way that you’ve just been describing. But those hold an enormous amount of power and reach as it’s called and continues to, despite whatever might have happened in social media in 2016.
Mrs. Attkisson: So think of how it is if you were the person trying to control the information, and you’re part of a handful of corporate or political interests who want to do this and that has a lot of money to do it. With everything fairly consolidated, you don’t really need to control all that many different people to get these narratives out and make sure you’re controlling most of the landscape. The same is true with the internet making it very easy in a sense. When the internet was an unfettered landscape, it seemed very hard to control information.
But now that a lot of our focus and attention is centered on a few firms, we rely on Big Tech to do most of our business. Well, then if you can just control Big Tech, how easy it is to control the information landscape online, which is what they’ve done. In a way, we’ve made it easier with the way we get our information now for these forces to control the public landscape in a way that’s harder to get alternative information.
If there’s a study out there that’s damaging to a corporate interest that wants to control what you think about a certain medicine or disease, you can’t get that study if you go onto Big Tech and do certain searches. If it comes up, it’s going to be called, even if it’s not, a discredited study. These are the things that they count on.
I was looking for something regarding my lawsuit against the federal government for the government’s computer intrusions into my computers when I was an investigative reporter at CBS. I knew I was searching for a piece of information that existed, and I searched on Google first and couldn’t find anything.
I went to DuckDuckGo and used the exact same search terms about my case in a way that I needed to find some information, and it came up in all of probably the first 15 results. I go back to Google, it’s nowhere to be found. I don’t know how all these metrics happen. I’m not the most important thing going on in the world. It shows you that there are many things and many ways they’re controlling the information, in unexpected ways people would probably never imagine.
Mr. Jekielek: What is the status of your lawsuit?
Mrs. Attkisson: This has been going on in some form since about 2014. The Department of Justice continues to fight it. I’m now under the third administration that refuses to simply take the forensics, which are irrefutable, and say, “Okay, the government was in my computer and spying on me.” The Department of Justice won’t prosecute anybody because it was their agents [who did it.] They’re fighting and defending the agents, the unnamed agents.
We’re stuck in civil court. I tried to get accountability from a civil level, because what do you do when the people who are guilty of the crime won’t prosecute it, because it’s them and they’re in charge. The courts don’t want this case either. The Department of Justice continually fights it successfully.
Recently, the latest iteration of the case got thrown out because it was said that the name that we have, Rod Rosenstein, former U.S. Attorney in Baltimore where one of these surveillance operations was based—has immunity. Actually, that’s true under congressional law right now. Certain officials in government, when they do illegal acts have immunity from culpability and prosecution unless Congress passes a different law.
We’re now refiling in court against lower level people who don’t have automatic immunity, but the Department of Justice and others are fighting that on venue and how much time has passed. I’ll just say in the long run, the big argument, despite the forensics of just trying to get into court and show the forensics to a jury and get discovery so we can get all the names—the courts have said and Department of Justice has argued, “You haven’t given us all the names of the people involved, the agents involved.”
We’re calling some of them John Does, because we have no way to know since the Department of Justice holds all the information until we have discovery. We have no way to get the names. We have everything we need in terms of forensics and proof. But because we don’t have the names, the government is saying and the courts have agreed, “You can’t have discovery because you don’t have names.” And we’ve argued, ” Well, we can’t get the names without discovery.” Then actually the appellate judge who sided with us said how half-assed this argument is on the part of the government, to say that the victims of a crime have to be able to solve the crime before they can go to court to get the evidence to even unearth what happened in the crime.
It’s the circular argument that we’re dealing with now. It’s all made me realize that if the courts or the government doesn’t want a case to go forward, it doesn’t matter what proof you have. It doesn’t matter what was done to you. They can pretty much keep the case from ever being heard.
Mr. Jekielek: Sharyl, this is really disturbing and I wish you all the best of success in figuring this situation out. It’s unbelievable that it’s taking so long to get some closure here.
Mrs. Attkisson: What I’ve learned, which is what a lot of the members of the public have learned in the past 7, 8, 9 years, there are two forms of justice in this country. I take no great pleasure in saying that. But if certain people commit crimes, things are handled one way. [But] if other people do it, [they’re] handled another way. If you’re just an ordinary citizen or in my case, a member of the press, even when a proven crime has been committed, if the perpetrators are in government and part of the justice system, and want to defend themselves and don’t want the case to come to light, it won’t. Odds are it won’t, and that’s been a very sad reality.
For me, I’ve tried to pursue justice, not just on behalf of what happened to me and my family, but this was part of an operation we know that involved hundreds of people. They didn’t just pick me among all journalists. They were surveilling many journalists, and they’re surveilling—as has come out since my first case was revealed—political figures and other private citizens in ways that are illegal or unacceptable. Why would that stop if they’re never held accountable and they’re allowed to control all of the information and the justice when it’s revealed as to what they’ve done and they’re never held accountable?
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts, Sharyl?
Mrs. Attkisson: I hope people stand up and don’t be bullied into thinking that the views that they have and the thoughts that they have, to the extent that they’re legal, of course, are things that shouldn’t be uttered or heard or said. Don’t fall for the information control and particularly, if you see that happening or some information that someone’s trying to ban and not have you see, seek out more information about that. That way, we can defeat the efforts to control what we see, think, and hear, by doing the opposite of what they want us to do.
Mr. Jekielek: Sharyl Attkisson, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mrs. Attkisson: Thanks for having me.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.