Arrest of Gov’t Critic and Journalist Max Blumenthal Signals Escalation in War on Alternative Media


by Alan Macleod, The Unz Review:

The SWAT-style raid on the home of government critic and journalist Max Blumenthal signals a new level of escalation in the US government’s war on dissent.

Max Blumenthal, the editor of independent media outlet The Grayzone, was secretly arrested on October 25 in a “SWAT-style” morning raid on his Washington D.C. home. He was held in D.C. Central Detention Facility for two days incommunicado, without the ability to communicate to the outside world, having been refused a phone call. He claims to have been shackled by his hands and ankles for some time and kept in a series of cages and cells. Blumenthal was arrested on a five-month-old assault charge stemming from an incident that took place during the D.C. Venezuelan Embassy siege.

A Venezuelan opposition supporter, Naylet Pacheco, claims that Blumenthal kicked her in the stomach several times during a conflict between the embassy protectors and supporters of opposition leader Juan Guaído, who proclaimed himself President of Venezuela in January. At the time of the incident, The Grayzone was publishing a series of investigative reports and news updates that contradicted the Trump administration’s narrative, noting how much of the supposedly grassroots uprising, was, in fact, funded by Washington and exposing the corruption and violent tactics of opposition members. The warrant for the charge had initially been rejected. It was, however, revived later without Blumenthal’s knowledge.

“If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arrangement. I have nothing to fear because I’m completely innocent of this bogus charge,” he said. “Instead, the federal government essentially enlisted the DC police to SWAT me, ensuring that I would be subjected to an early morning raid and then languish in prison for days without even the ability to call an attorney.”

A War on Dissent

When asked for comment, political comedian and TV show host Lee Camp told MintPress News that this was the latest example of the government trying to silence dissenting opinion and controlling the media:

“This is the continued descent into a fascist state. When the US government is arresting journalists in dramatic fashion clearly because their reporting is threatening to the power elite, then what else can one call it?”

Corporate media largely applauded U.S.-backed regime change efforts in Venezuela, refusing to even call them a “coup” and instead preferring to frame them as a people’s “uprising,” taking the same line as the Trump administration that they claim to “resist.” Many of those same media outlets have also begun to partner with the government in a stated effort to fight fake news. The primary consequence of which has been to undermine and reduce the reach of alternative media, a vital counterweight to the corporate message. In response to a call to arms in the Washington Post, algorithm changes to Facebook, Google, YouTube, Bing, and others have led to independent news sites being de-ranked, disincentivized, and sometimes, deleted.

Despite his ordeal, Blumenthal has still been treated better than others who ran afoul of the U.S. government. Chelsea Manning is still held in prison, Edward Snowden is in exile, while Julian Assange, whose condition in solitary confinement is deteriorating, faces a highly uncertain future. On Assange, mainstream media largely applauded his April arrest, describing it as a “long overdue” (Washington Postand “satisfying” (Saturday Night Live) detention of an “anti-American” (National Review) “narcissistic” (Washington Post) “Internet Troll” with an “outsized view of his own importance” (the Times) leaving his “voluntary confinement” (the Daily Beast) to finally “face justice” (Daily Mail) for his “indisputable crime” (New York Times).

The Embassy Siege

The Trump administration refused to recognize the results of the January 2019 elections that awarded Nicolás Maduro another term in office. Instead, it announced its support for self-appointed President Juan Guaído as the rightful head of Venezuela. This, despite the fact that Guaído has never stood for the office and that over 80 percent of the country didn’t even know who he was. Following Guaído’s self-declaration of his presidency, the Trump administration demanded that all Venezuelan diplomats leave the United States, so those in Venezuela’s Washington D.C. embassy formally invited peace activists to enter and protect the integrity of the building.

Just as Guaído attempted to take the presidential palace in a coup attempt in April, supporters of the far-right anti-President tried to storm the Venezuelan embassy in D.C., an event closely covered by The Grayzone, and by MintPress News’ Alex Rubenstein, who was amongst those invited to protect the building. Rubenstein detailed how the attackers attempted siege and intimidation tactics to the embassy protectors out and enjoyed the tacit support of the local security services, who refused to protect the embassy’s territorial integrity, a serious diplomatic violation.

Radio silence from Corporate Media

The dramatic story of a SWAT team bursting into a dissident journalist’s home, bundling him into a car and holding him incommunicado for days appears not to have interested either corporate media or professional press freedom groups like Reporters Without Borders or the Committee to Protect Journalists. When pushed for comment, the US Press Freedom Tracker excluded this case on a technicality, stating:

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