Sunday, September 26, 2004

U.S. news media failing the American people....

That the U.S. news media has failed the American people for at least the past 20 years is obvious to anyone who goes through life with its eyes wide open.

Issues that matter in our lives are treated as afterthoughts or, are totally omitted while issues that are peripheral, at best, are repeated over and over and over again.

Were it not for the Web, it would be very difficult to keep up with what is truly going on around the world:

"The American mainstream television news media, in whole and in part,
has CATASTROPHICALLY FAILED the American people and is singularly
RESPONSIBLE for the untimely deaths of tens of thousands of innocent
people. It is not too late for them to reverse course, to take again the
simple rules and requirements espoused by Murrow and Mencken and place
them at the forefront of their institutional mission. Nothing less than
the basic stability of our republic is at stake."

t r u t h o u t Perspective - Tuesday 21 September 2004

Your Media is Killing You* by William Rivers Pitt

The American mainstream television news media, in whole and in
part, has catastrophically failed the American people and is singularly
responsible for the untimely deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

The trajectory of this plunge is easy to chart. The 1980s saw
unprecedented DEREGULATION of the rules pertaining to the ownership of
media outlets. Thus began the combination and CONSOLIDATION of dozens of
differing viewpoints under the iron control of a few massivecorporations.
The many voices became one voice, and a dullard's voice at that.

The opening year of the 1990s saw the push towards our first war in
Iraq. Rather than hold to basic standards set by Edward R. Murrow and
the other giants of journalism - see it for yourself, do the legwork,
because the American people deserve to know what is happening - the
mainstream television news media decided their best course was to allow
themselves to be hand-fed by the Pentagon. No footage, no reports, no
news whatsoever would be released to the public without first passing
through Defense Department screeners. The American people learned from
this that war looks like a video game, that death is remote, that
victory is a simple matter of pushing a button.

After surrendering their integrity to governmental and military
entities which lie as a matter of course, the mainstream television news
media learned with the trial of O.J. Simpson the simple truth espoused
by H.L. Mencken: "No one ever went broke underestimating the
intelligence of the American people." Day after day, for sixteen months,
every television was filled around the clock with soap-opera
entertainment passing itself off as news. The American people, deprived
of substantive information about the world around them, learned that
real news is only about celebrities.

Then came the greatest entertainment-as-news extravaganza of all
time: The Monica Lewinski scandal and the impeachment of a President who
lied about sex. As an athlete will lose muscle tone if he stays away
from the gym or the playing field, so did the intellectual muscles of
the media atrophy after years of avoiding the basic efforts required in
their field. Why run a scoop down about the war if I can just publish
this Pentagon-prepared battle assessment? Why investigate Whitewater and
the death of Vince Foster when I can just regurgitate this fax I just
got from the Republican National Committee's media headquarters? If I
can just get in front of the camera with a salacious bit of gossip, I
can become an anchor. For many 'journalists,' the inflated nonsense of
the impeachment was their "White Bronco."

Meanwhile, during the period beginning with the O.J. trial and
concluding with the impeachment extravaganza, the Taliban was taking
control of Afghanistan in the wake left by the completion of our
anti-Soviet policies in that nation. A man named Osama bin Laden was
preparing to attack anything and everything American he could get close
to. UNSCOM weapons inspectors under Scott Ritter were taking Iraq's
chemical and biological warfare capabilities apart literally brick by
brick, and the sanctions against that nation, which were killing
hundreds of thousands of civilians, were also reducing Saddam Hussein's
conventional arsenal to a large collection of formidable paperweights.

One threat was on the rise, another was on the wane, but this is
boring stuff compared to ill-fitting leather gloves and a stained blue
dress. The American people were never provided the full scope of the
security issues facing their country, because the television news media
they relied upon didn't want to put in the work. Often, when
then-President Clinton acted to address these security issues, he was
accused of "wagging the dog," i.e. manufacturing unimportant threats to
obscure the really important stuff, like whether or not he purchased
gifts for Lewinski at the Big Dog store on Nantucket.

Think of these points - media laziness, media complicity with the
powers-that-be, media obsession with fantastically unimportant gossip
and tabloidism - and then remember those tall buildings in New York
collapsing to the ground. Perhaps the 'journalists' involved could have
been focusing on other things before that dark day?

Sunday night's episode of the CBS News program '60 Minutes' had a
long, detailed and graphic expose on the fighting that recently took
place in Najaf and Fallujah. All of the commercials for the program,
however, focused on the '60 Minutes' interview with New England Patriots
coach Bill Belichick. It was a clever bit of sleight-of-hand; by now,
Americans have been well-trained to spurn whatever tiny molecules of
substantive news that might somehow blunder across their screens,
because the truly important stuff has more to do with who is sleeping
with J-Lo and how Ben feels about it.

Sports is, of course, the champion distraction. Listen to any sports
talk radio show; if the American people could rattle off housing or
budget statistics, if they could quote from memory the casualty
statistics from Operation Iraqi Freedom, the way they can tell you in
half a second how many doubles Manny Ramirez hit in his rookie season,
half-bright loafers like George W. Bush would never have a prayer in
American politics. Perhaps CBS knew this. Millions of viewers made time
to watch Belichick, and were treated to a bloody and terrifying and
accurate view of the Iraq occupation that has been thoroughly,
completely and utterly absent.

For more than two years now, this column space has been dedicated to
describing, with all truth and verified data in hand, the mess an
invasion of Iraq would create. This column was among the first to
declare that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that any
alleged connection between Osama bin Laden and the government of Iraq
was laughable on its face, that democracy was a pipe dream in Iraq, that
we would not be greeted as liberators, and that any military action in
Iraq based upon these unfounded claims would result in a destabilized
Middle East, a world filled with furious former allies, and an ocean of
blood spilled by American soldiers and Iraqi civilians.

All of this has come to pass.

How is it that little, with its limited resources and
small staff, got it right time and again while ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC,
CNBC, CNN and Fox - with their massive financial resources and their
huge pool of reporters - got it so totally and continuously wrong? The
answer comes in two parts.

The first part is the degree to which these nationally broadcast
news stations have become compromised by the corporations that own them.
The ownership of the media is key to understanding the process. Take the
example of General Electric, owners of NBC, MSNBC and CNBC. This company
is one of the largest defense contractors in America; they get paid
every time we go to war, and yet we somehow believe they will tell us
the truth of war, even though it affects their profit margin. Such
thinking is folly.

Take the example of AOL/TimeWarner, owner of CNN. This company lives
and dies by the 'outsourcing' of American technological jobs overseas,
where labor is cheaper. Do you think they will tell a straight story
about the economy with so much on the line? Such thinking is folly, and
never mind the fact that AOL/TimeWarner's largest investor is a Saudi.
So much for the truth about who really supports Osama bin Laden and
international terrorism. So much for the truth about what really
happened on September 11, and why.

The decision by the mainstream television news media to get into bed
with the very entities they are supposed to stand watchdog against has
been a mortal one. Once it becomes acceptable to get your reporting from
Defense Department and military spin-doctors, without doing any work on
your own, the GAME IS OVER. What started with the Gulf War as a new
'reporting' technique has become an INSTITUTIONALIZED process of
standing as MOUTHPIECE for those who deserve the strongest SCRUTINY.

The White House and Defense Department boys know this, and EXPLOITED
it ruthlessly in the run-up to the Iraq invasion. Immediately after the
9/11 attacks, the Bush administration sought to capitalize on the tragedy by using
it as an excuse to invade Iraq, something the power-pitchers in the administration
HAD WANTED for more than a DECADE.

A shadowy and little-known media consulting company called The Rendon Group got a $100,000-a-month contract from the Pentagon right after the attacks. The Rendon Group was getting paid to offer media strategy advice. Or, in other words, PROPAGANDA.

The Rendon Group has been around a long time, and stands at the
center of the media's FAILURE to report accurately on the invasion and
occupation of Iraq. The Rendon Group has received close to $200 million
from the Pentagon and CIA over the last several years to spread
anti-Hussein propaganda far and wide. One of the first steps they took
was to create in 1992, out of absolute thin air, the Iraqi National Congress.
The Iraqi National Congress, and its most famous spokesperson
Ahmad Chalabi, are entirely the CREATION of a media strategy company
doing the bidding of the United States government.

Since 1992, the Iraqi National Congress has become accepted
completely by the mainstream news media as a legitimate group. They were
embraced by the American Congress under Newt Gingrich and given HUNDREDS
of MILLIONS of DOLLARS. They were, with the help of the aforementioned
Congress, the driving force behind the passage of the Iraqi Liberation
Act in 1998, an Act which made the removal of Saddam Hussein a matter of
American law. All this for a group made out of nothing by what amounts
to a media consulting company.

The post-9/11 money paid to the Rendon Group returned handsome
dividends for the investment. Rendon creation Ahmad Chalabi, who has
since been accused of giving vital national security secrets to Iran,
arranged an interview between Judith Miller of the New York Times and an
Iraqi defector named Adnan Ishan Saeed al-Haidieri. al-Haidieri claimed
to have personal knowledge of the vast and growing stockpiles of Iraqi
weapons of mass destruction. Miller, thinking Chalabi and the Iraqi
National Congress were worthy sources, believed al-Haidieri and printed
an exclusive report on the threat posed by Iraq in the Times.

Time and a little legwork has since exposed al-Haidieri as a total
fraud, but Rendon's propaganda got out there; as the New York Times
goes, so goes the rest of the mainstream media. Miller's report,
released in 2001, created a LANDSLIDE push towards war, and allowed
George W. Bush to sell the American people a frightening and utterly
INACCURATE portrait of why war was necessary, and necessary now.

Companies like The Rendon Group are a bellweather for exactly how
DEPRAVED our journalistic institutions have become. Millions of dollars
in government contracts are there for the taking by anyone who wants to
scam the media with bogus stories. The media is more than happy to
oblige, because it relieves them of having to put the necessary work in.
Meanwhile, stories that might negatively affect the parent companies go
by the boards, and everyone is happy.

Well, almost everyone is happy. The families of 1,033 American
soldiers who have died in Iraq aren't happy. The families of the 17,000
or so American soldiers who have been 'medically evacuated' from Iraq
for things like missing legs and faces aren't happy. The families of the
20,000 or so civilians killed in the invasion of Iraq aren't happy, and
a lot of them are taking their unhappiness to the streets with grenades
and rifles so they can make more American families unhappy by killing
American soldiers.

Don't look to the mainstream television news media for an apology or
a reversal of course anytime soon. They can't report the truth now. To
do so would expose them as the incompetent lapdogs they have become, and
as anyone who has ever screwed up at work knows, the hardest person to
face after a grievous error is the person you find in the mirror.

The second part of the answer to that question - How is it that
little got it right time and again while the entire
mainstream television news media got it wrong? - is simplicity itself.

We put in the work. We did the research in triplicate. We talked to
the people who knew the score. We took the time. We cared. We understood
that September 11 did not require us to click our heels and say "Yes
sir!" to whatever balderdash Mr. Bush and his crew spouted. Quite
completely the opposite is true. We understood that September 11 made it
more important than ever for us to be very, very good at what we do.

The American mainstream television news media, in whole and in part,
has CATASTROPHICALLY FAILED the American people and is singularly
RESPONSIBLE for the untimely deaths of tens of thousands of innocent
people. It is not too late for them to reverse course, to take again the
simple rules and requirements espoused by Murrow and Mencken and place
them at the forefront of their institutional mission. Nothing less than
the basic stability of our republic is at stake. >>


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