Saturday, July 30, 2005

The complicity of the press

I stopped watching television news when we went to war against Afghanistan. It was at that time that the local news desks in Tulsa announced every program - including national news - with the slogan "America fights back" while waving flags covered the screen and patriotic music played in the background. The drumbeat to war was insidious and sickening. I remembered how I used to feel so sorry for the Soviets when I was a little girl because I had been taught that they only got propaganda for news. "Now I know what it's like," I thought.

Mike Whitney has written a penetrating article about this phenomenon called, "TV anchors: Field-marshals in the information war". Here are some excerpts:

Television news is the frontlines in the war on terror. That’s where the symbols of national pride merge with the logic of war and thrust the nation towards aggression. The same was true with Iraq. The anti-war voices were excluded, the pro-war advocates were celebrated, and the drumbeat was sounded from every corner of the country. The pre-war strategy for marshalling popular support was the most flawlessly executed public relations scheme in modern times; the thunderous music echoing in the background of carefully decorated sets, the persistent images of Saddam in the crosshairs, and a ready supply of tri-colored standards unfurling for the camera lens.

The entire campaign went forward without a glitch demonstrating the impeccable efficiency of a privately-owned information-system.
The TV news anchors play a crucial role in the media paradigm. They are the field-marshals in the information war; the face of the empire.

Is there a difference between Bin Laden and Brit Hume; between Tim Russert and Al Zarqawi?

Not a speck; they are cut from the same cloth and engaged in the same vicious blood-sport. At least al-Zarqawi can say he’s fighting to liberate his country from foreign occupation.

What does Tim Russert fight for? The unchecked power of the corporate media?
War does not materialize on its own. It requires its legions of advocates and apologists. Tom Friedman and Judith Miller are just as covered in blood as any mercenary kicking down doors in Kerbala.

The corporate boardrooms are full of murderers. They provide the imagery and lyrics for the pageantry of war. Without their skillful management the public appetite wanes and the lust for revenge vanishes. Their job is to keep the apparatus of misinformation sufficiently lubricated and chugging along at full-throttle.

The current information-system bears no resemblance to a “free press”. It is a model that has evolved from the necessities of private industry and special interest. It neither performs its mandate to inform the public nor strengthen democratic institutions. Its solitary objective is to find the balance between calculated diversion, fear mongering and patriotic claptrap.

Consider just turning off the television. Get your news from reliable sources on the internet. Or if you truly feel you must watch television news and read American newpapers, please read Media Matters every day so that you know what's being inaccurately reported or misleadingly reported. I also want to recommend the Guardian for responsible, unbiased news reporting. It is simply crucial that we take responsibility for what goes into our minds. Sadly, we cannot trust the mainstream news media to do this for us.

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