Image from John Pilger’s 2010 documentary ‘The War You Don’t See’
Newsweek’s Grace Guarnieri just reported that One-Third Of Americans Agree With President Trump That Media Is ‘Enemy’ Of The People, and although it is vaguely shocking, how could anyone possibly be surprised?
Now, apparently only 1/3 of Americans agree, so maybe the news media is only 30% evil. But you ask victims of the US’s illegal wars if they think the news media outlets that supported and justified the crimes against humanity that destroyed their lives were evil, and what do you think they’ll say? 100% evil?
But it’s not news. Even if the news worthy part is Trump’s quote, it’s still not news–because nobody should quote Trump anymore, period. But anyway…
…in terms of an “evil” news media, Edward Herman & Noam Chomsky explained quite vividly in 1988 how the US news media was part of a Propaganda Model in which opinion is shaped and dissent suppressed quite thoroughly by creating the illusion of a free press. One in which debate exists but is limited to the range of opinion that serves the powerful. This should come as a surprise to no one if they understand news media outlets are businesses owned by massive conglomerates–themselves owned by massive corporations including military contractors.
Occasionally, real dissenting voices appear, but their appearance, no matter how truthful or factual, is so limited as to be practically inconsequential. The only shows that consistently manage to point out the crimes and hypocrisy of power are comedy shows like the Daily Show, Real Time With Bill Maher, Late Night With Stephen Colbert and an increasing number of others. How often have we seen John Stewart mocking the news by showing dozens of different news stations parroting the exact same headlines and catch phrases? We saw the blatant propagandizing, but did we get how sinister that is? That’s how a single company can “frame” issues and our reactions to them.
To a sane citizen, this would be some spine-chilling shit, but the news won’t address it–because, let’s face it–that would be contrary to their function.
At the very least, our society is still free enough that we can still recognize propaganda when we see it and have the intelligence to ridicule it, but the situation is far from optimal.
Had the US a truly free press, the news media would be fulfilling its responsibility to keep political power in check and strenuously object whenever political leaders threatened to wage illegal wars that are contrary to the achievements won and the international laws passed after defeating Imperial Japan and the Nazis.
They would question engagements with extremist proxy forces, and alliances with apartheid states, state sponsors of terror, and terrorist groups. They would question acts of terror by their own government. They would question policy that is conducive to destabilization, chaos and war rather than stabilization, progress and civility. And they would question the value of expending trillions of dollars to expedite these pointless and counter-productive activities while advocating holding those responsible for any crimes committed accountable.
Rather, what we see is fear and hatred dividing and conquering the nation. Citizens–family–made to fear and hate each other within their own country to such a point that violence is starting to become a worryingly regular feature of political expression and protest–justifying extreme repressive measures by the state. The 99% increasingly suffer, fight each other and find themselves locked away by the state as the powerful laugh their way to the bank.
Inasmuch as the news media have contributed to these problems by stoking the fires of fear, division, hatred and war, it would be certainly fair to say that they’ve acted as enemies of the people (at least to some extent).
Inasmuch as the news media has never been opposed to US wars or coups of any sort until public disapproval became so overwhelming they had no choice but to question the wars they previously supported, the US news media have also acted as enemies of peace, acting much in the same capacity as a Joseph Goebbels.
Ask yourself. Has the media ever been against a war before the people? Now whom does that bias serve?
Of course good journalists exist and factual/dissenting articles appear. That’s the beauty of the system. Articles dangerous to or critical of power are there–these expression aren’t totally suppressed, but they’re kept to a minimum. Most hard-hitting articles exist at the very fringes of the internet. Chomsky will tell you that Obama’s drone campaign is ‘The Most Extreme Terrorist Campaign of Modern Times’ but even the most ardent leftist on CNN will not.
That’s why we need a paradigm shift in the news media. A serious paradigm shift that enforces integrity, journalistic standards and fact-checks the shit out of everything while balancing opinion as fairly as possible. No more of this “people are saying (insert sensational/scandalous quote here)” tabloid bullshit.
At the very least, we need something resembling the Fairness Doctrine. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine was a disaster for consumers of US news media. Since then, the news landscape has become increasingly dominated by crass pundits and servile talking heads as factual assessments and reasonable debates fall far to the wayside.
Robert. F. Kennedy, Jr probably says it best:
“The devolution of the American press began in 1986 when Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine.
We had a law in this country that we passed in 1928 that said that the air waves belong to the public. The broadcasters can be licensed to use them, but only if they use them to promote the public interest, to inform the public and advance democracy. That’s why we have the 6 o’clock news. They didn’t want it. The broadcasters didn’t want that because the news departments were chronic money losers.”
“But they were forced to put on the news at 6:00 and even today you hear news on the music radio stations and that’s an artifact of the Fairness Doctrine. They said, if you’re using the broadcast air waves, you have to do that…
They no longer have an obligation to serve the public interest. Their only obligation is to their shareholders. They serve that obligation not by informing us, telling us the things we need to understand to make rational decisions in a democracy, but rather by entertaining us…”
“We know we’re the best entertained, the least informed, people on the face of the world. They got rid of their investigative reporters. 85 percent of them lost their jobs in the last 15 years.”
‘They got rid of their foreign news bureaus so the Bush and Cheney administration can say to the American people, ‘Oh, we’re gonna go into this 800-year-old fist fight in Mesopotamia and they’re gonna meet us with rose petals in the streets’ and the Americans believe them.’
‘The Canadians didn’t believe them because the Canadians still have a Fairness Doctrine… England has the same kind of rules and in Europe, but in our country, we lost those rules and, as a result, we know a lot about Britney Spears’ gradual emotional decline and we know a lot about Charlie Sheen, but we don’t know much about global warming or the fact that the Appalachian Mountains essentially no longer exist.”
Simply put, our news media, some way or another, has to be held to a higher standard. Citizens of democracies should not allow their governments to commit war crimes in their names. If the media was functioning properly, that would be impossible. Instead 52% of FOX viewers still believe Iraq had WMDs in 2003 thanks to FOX’s pro-war propaganda.
If there is to be a future for the US and for mankind, the slaying of millions of innocents on false pretenses has to end. Victims deserve justice. If the victims of the US’s illegal war in Iraq had their day in court, the owners and executives at FOX (and many others) would face the same charges Goebbels did.
Though there’s little hope of change under the current two-party duopoly, as of October 2017, Gallup polling found that 31% of Americans identified as Democrat, 24% identified as Republican, and 42% as Independents.
The emergence of a third party is possible so… Whatever new party emerges that post-Democrat/Republican Independents support, I hope they have a sensible plan to regulate the news media or enforce some kind of standards. We do sorely need them.