"The character assassination of R.F.K. Jr."
by Cara Marianna
The Scrum (July 6, 2023)

Un-photoshopped. Kennedy on the Joe Rogan Experience, 15 June.

We have been struck for many weeks by the spectacle of incessantly dishonest, inexcusably slanted news coverage of and commentary on Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., since he declared himself, in April, a Democratic candidate for the presidency. In our read this is a disturbing measure of the lengths to which liberal authoritarians will go to defend their control of American discourse as well as American politics. A recent opinion piece by Michelle Goldberg, who impersonates a columnist at The New York Times, seemed to us the epitome of this insidious business. The “quarantine of certain ideas”? “Policing the boundaries of discourse”? “A social consensus”? Yet more flabbergasted than we are daily flabbergasted as we read The Times, we concluded the piece warranted comment.

Cara Marianna has been intimately involved in getting The Scrum out regularly since we began publishing. Having no title, she could wear several—art director, managing editor, administrator, photo researcher, chief of correspondents. It was after reading the Goldberg column that she proposed taking it on in her first piece for us. We welcome her into our pages.

— P. L.

Cara Marianna

5 JULY—Last Friday The New York Times published another hit piece on Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., one in a long series of such, this one written by Democratic loyalist Michelle Goldberg. Whatever one may think of R.F.K. Jr., what Goldberg has to tell us proves an insightful study. Not in understanding anything useful about the man himself—no, that is not the intent of Goldberg’s piece. Instead, it illustrates clearly how propaganda is constructed, how it is used to control not only what we think and believe, but the “acceptable boundaries” of discourse itself.

This critique is not meant as an ad hominem attack. I single out Goldberg’s piece because it is exemplary of an orchestrated, institutionally sanctioned takedown of R.F.K. Jr. News and opinion pieces about Kennedy appear almost daily in corporate media, all making similar charges, all meant to destroy Kennedy’s character and credibility—none of them addressing the substance and merit of his platform. The 2024 elections are 16 months away. We must brace ourselves for the onslaught of propaganda to come. We must train ourselves now to understand it for what it is.

“Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and the Coalition of the Distrustful,” the head atop Goldberg’s commentary, tells you right away what you are to know about Kennedy’s supporters and, indeed, anyone even interested in what he might have to say. These are not people with legitimate concerns about their country and government, we are to understand. Rather, they are psychologically fragile and suspicious by nature. Implicit in the head is the unstated assertion that there is nothing wrong with or distrustful about President Biden or his administration such that any Democrat or general voter might want an alternative. No. Any and all problems inhere in Biden’s critics—who are idiosyncratically or otherwise distrustful and not sufficiently loyal. It is their distrust that is the problem.

Liberals loyal to the Democratic establishment are meant to understand, if they don’t already know, that R.F.K. Jr. and his followers are kooks, conspiracy theorists, people incapable of rational thought—in short, mentally or intellectually disturbed to one or another extent. Anyone reading Goldberg who might have had an open mind has been primed to distrust R.F.K. Jr. and his “coalition” before reading the first line of the article.

The Times opinion piece is a gross disservice to the public. R.F.K. Jr. is a candidate to be taken seriously and not to be casually maligned. He deserves to have his ideas heard—we deserve to hear them. Kennedy’s platform addresses the rotted roots of the problems facing this country. High on the list is the corruption, and indeed capture, of government by corporate and military interests. His candidacy could not be more timely, and I, for one, am glad to see him in the race. Kennedy speaks truths no other Democratic candidate is willing to utter. He is the most explicitly critical candidate of the war in Ukraine. For that reason he is a threat to the liberal establishment and their media allies. And for this reason, above all, he should be heard.

Propaganda is subtle and perverse. It has to be. Its purpose is to distort clear thinking. It uses images as well as words to play on emotions. It works on levels of our psyches that many of us are not aware of and cannot clearly see. It also confirms existing biases, prejudices, and perspectives—beliefs already established by all the propaganda we’ve been exposed to throughout our lives. As others have pointed out, notably the inimitable Australian commentator Caitlin Johnstone, it’s easy to see the propaganda produced by other countries, or other political parties, but far more difficult to detect when it’s directed at you. Almost no one believes that they’re susceptible to propaganda, which makes it all the more difficult to recognize and resist.

[The rest of this article lies behind a paid-subscriber wall and so I will discontinue coverage of this article for now.]