Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Corporate media enemy #1

pv vivekanand

HAD a catastrophe like hurrican Katrina hit any part of the ancient Roman empire, it would have taken months for the news to reach other parts of the world and, even at that, the truth about the extent of the disaster would not have been known. It might have taken weeks for the empire to order help for the victims (if indeed if it chose to bother about its subjects). After all, messages had to sent on horseback and only on a need-to-know basis. Such was the status of communications, say 2,000 years ago, and that was perhaps one of the reasons that the Roman empire lasted for about 500 years (BC27-AD476).
In today's era of the American empire, it takes nanoseconds for news to travel. The world knew that a hurricane was expected to hit the US Gulf Coast, saw it when it happened and witnessed the chaos it unleashed, causing thousands of deaths and wreaking havoc in one of the most sensitive area of the American empire within minutes after it occurred.
However, it was not the mainstream media of the US which brought the realities and magnitude of the disaster to the Americans and international community at large. It was through the thousands of blog sites in cyberspace that millions of people realised the gravity of the situation.
Indeed, the mainstream media did have their role, but it could not be compared with the effect that the messages that appeared on the blogsites that raised demands that the US government answer why rescue and relief work was delayed for three days and an array of related questions directly linked the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.
It is no secret that the mainstream or corporate media in the US did not live up to their professional obligations to the public during the build-up to the Iraq war or even after the invasion. If anything, they played along with the administration's campaign to build a case for invading Iraq on false pretexts and many Americans see them even as a party to the war itself because they misled the people by focusing on administration claims and downplaying or simply ignoring facts that belied the government's claims.
That grave shortcoming was highlighted during the Katrina crisis, and it was an opportunity for the "accused" to make amends. And a few of them did grab the chance and started reporting the truth and asking the right questions — for the first time since Sept.11, 2001.
Well, they could not have done otherwise in only becasue the evidence was so clear to everyone.
For the first time since Sept.11, 2001 a handful of reporters from the corporate media institutions — newspapers, radios and television channels — started carrying criticism of the Bush administration that it was being inept, dangerous and deceptive. They refused to play the public relations and spin game organised by the White House.
And those who refused to continue to prop up the smoke-screen for the administration were widely praised, if only because they were seen as doing what they should have been doing since Sept.11, 2001.
However, there is hesitation and reluctance on the part of many others to live up to their professional obligations and they are targeted in a campaign mounted in cyberspace: They are being called the worst name in the US:  Corporate Media — America's #1 Enemy.
"The corprate media have been complicit in criminally deceiving the American people. Never before have Americans been so uninformed and misinformed about so many vital issues," says a comment on "It's time to call a spade a spade. This is no laughing matter. The corporate media are undermining democracy by failing to inform the American people of the harm being done to our environment, to our economy, to our rights as citizens and to our humanity. They distract us with trivial stories that we used to have to read about in the supermarket tabloids.
"They have not only failed to inform us, they have actively deceived us. They are our enemy."
In April 2003, one month into the US invasion of Iraq, Kanak Mani Dixit wrote from Nepal:" One casualty of the war on Iraq has been the image of Western media as the exemplar of journalistic accomplishment.....
"It started after September 11, 2001, when television, press and radio began to ply the American public with what it wanted to hear about the rest of the world. This was then force-fed to the rest of the world. In the run-up to Gulf War II, the American press did not question or caution, at one with the weak-kneed representatives and senators who gave George W. Bush carte blanche to misrepresent his way to war.
"Perhaps the worst hour of Western journalism is when its embeds or operatives — hardly journalists — reported on heroics on the desert road to Baghdad, while displaying an unwillingness to present any direct connection between the blazing night sky on television and the death and maiming of civilians on the ground."
Although many have welcomed the newfound "courage" of some corporate media journalists to question the official versions coming out of the White House in the wake of the Katrina disaster, the change is nowhere near the desired level, some others argue.
"The momentary outcry in New Orleans was an anomaly, not a trend," says "It was an emotional response to unimaginable suffering that could not be denied by those who saw it up close. That’s all it was."
The article argues: "Even as this is being written, the blame is already shifting in aftermath of Katrina. The Bush administration is throwing the onus of ineptitude onto the local authorities in Louisiana and many in the corporate media are going along with the ruse. At this very moment some reporters have taken to drawn military press releases rather than filing
firsthand reports."
"Had the corporate media shamed the devil from day one, so many people might be alive today. The war against Iraq, like flooding of New Orleans, need never have happened.  So much suffering, so much death and so much destruction might have been avoided if questions had been asked in time and if truthful answers had been demanded.  But they were not asked, and even the simplest truth has yet to emerge.
"The task then, is up to us.  We, alone, must try to shame the devil. At this very moment, because there has been a crack in the wall of silence, we have an opening to do just that. For the first time ever, there was outrage, there was horror, and there was rebellion in the ranks of the corporate media.  Surely it was impulsive and unplanned, but it was real. We can take advantage of this momentary glitch in their armour and storm the media Bastille in its moment of weakness."
And how to go about doing it?
The writer suggests that the American people confront the corporate media.
When and where is the forum to do so?
"The time is September 24, 2005," says the writer referring to the date where tens of thousands of anti-war protesters are expected to converge on the US capital in response to a call made by Cindy Sheehan, an American woman who lost her son in the Iraq war.
"The goal is to show the nation and the world that we will no longer allow this administration, with the complicity of the media, to continue on its path of failure and destruction. The corporate news media will be in attendance, and we can challenge them wherever we see them.
"Ask them the questions they should have asked. Record their answers, or their evasions. Film the media as they film the protesters. Challenge their silence. Challenge their betrayal.  Carry signs that expose the media for the culprits they are. Accuse them of their betrayal and demand that they start asking the questions they have avoided for all this time. Let then know you know what they are and let the nation and world know what they have done. We can do it.  We really can."