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Corporate Media’s threat to Freedom

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There’s no similarity between the corporate media and a “free press”. The corporate media operates according to its structural make-up, which requires it to serve the interests of ownership and maximize profits. Its top-down style of management ensures that it aligns itself with the political powers that, in turn, create the opportunity for greater prosperity. This explains why media giants have consistently concealed the Bush administration’s attack on civil liberties, supported the expansion of executive power, and paved the way for global war. After all, they are just acting in their own best interest, accommodating the political establishment to allow for more consolidation and expansion. One hand washes the other.

The cozy relationship between the administration and the corporate media has made it nearly impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. In fact, the media is the primary instrument for shaping the public’s perception of the government and for projecting an image of the US to the world beyond. It’s no surprise, then, that much of the media’s work appears like nothing more than propaganda that attempts to promote a benign image of the US.

Naturally, this symbiotic relationship has intensified as the needs of the administration have increased. Now, it is the media that crafts the storyline of American magnanimity while the US military carries out war crimes in Falluja and torture in Baghdad. It is the media that showers praise on the Dear Leader while thousands wallow in squalor in New Orleans or are bombed into submission in Tal Afar. It is the media that waves the flags and sings the patriotic anthems that prepare the nation for war. The media has become indistinguishable from the political establishment; executing its duties in a manner that best serve the objectives of the state.

Confidence in the media has never been lower. A broad section of the public doesn’t believe anything they read in the papers nor do they see reporters as impartial observers of world events. This should be no great surprise. As we’ve already noted, the model of a privately-controlled media ensures that the facts will be massaged to suit ownership, so it should be expected that credibility will eventually suffer. That’s what we are seeing now.

The marriage between the media and the state increases the danger to the public interest. In fact, the media has become little more than a marketing tool for the administration, promoting its vastly unpopular wars, its attacks on the social safety-net, and its vicious assault on civil liberties.

It is fair to say that the media has assumed an adversarial role to the American people. It now functions exclusively as a weapon in the imperial arsenal; extolling the state and special interests while savaging the institutions of democracy and personal liberty. It is no exaggeration to say that the American people have no greater enemy than the corporate media.

If we consider even a few of the critical stories the mainstream media has intentionally suppressed, we get a clearer idea of why this may be true.

The media steadfastly refused to cover the allegations of irregularities in the 2004 presidential election; dismissing the anomalies as conspiracy theories. Independent investigations have cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of the balloting, and just last week, the GAO confirmed suspicions that widespread voter fraud may have taken place. Whether or not the elections were fairly conducted is immaterial; given the suspicious results of the 2000 election, this was a story that should have been covered, but was purposely ignored to silence critics and divert attention from the dysfunctional electoral system.

The media has stubbornly refused to cover the massive and devastating siege of Falluja; an assault that displaced 250,000 civilians and intentionally destroyed water lines, electrical power, sewage treatment plants, government buildings, hospitals and schools. Even now, a full year later, journalists have been kept from entering the city or photographing the largest single war crime of the ongoing conflict. And, even though news services around the world are confirming the use of banned weapons, including napalm and other “unidentified” substances during the attack, the corporate media refuses to give details or demand an independent investigation. It is interesting to compare the media’s silence on the American-generated carnage in Iraq to its front-page coverage of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Lavish attention has been devoted to Hariri’s death because the UN investigation helps to advance American foreign policy goals. The media plays a vital role in clearing the path for future imperial conflicts, and certainly, Syria is now on the short-list of US targets.

The media has also refused to cover the Downing Street Memo; the damning document written by a member of Tony Blair’s national security team who verified that Bush planned to “remove Saddam through military force” as early as July, 2003 (even though they were saying that that they would “exhaust all peaceful means”) The unprovoked attack would be “justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

Even though the memo provided the first piece of irrefutable evidence that the administration deliberately manipulated the facts, no American newspaper referred to the memo for more than 7 weeks after its discovery. The details of the Downing Street Memo are still unknown to many Americans; that’s why George Bush can still say, as he did on Memorial Day, that “Democrats had the same intelligence” as he did when they voted for the war. The memo proves that Bush was lying; the facts never mattered.

The media has also refused to provide any coverage of the mercenaries who were deployed to the streets of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. This is the first time in American history that a foreign (corporate) army has carried out operations on US soil. The media made sure that no photos of these corporate warriors appeared in any of the newspapers or TV programs. The absence of coverage raises serious questions about censorship in Bush’s America.

The media refuses to provide news of the Iraq war and the devastation of Sunni heartland. Al Qaim, Husbaya, and Tel Afar have all been attacked with the same ferocity as Falluja; forcing the townspeople to flee and then destroying the water, electricity, sewage and other critical parts of the infrastructure. The Pentagon is now engaged in a scorched earth strategy knowing full well that its policy of killing journalists will keep the story from being reported. The obliteration of these cities shows that the military has abandoned the idea of achieving a political solution in Iraq. The present strategy is aimed at “destroying the resistance’s ability to wage war”, by systematically laying to waste one city after another. This is the Rumsfeld solution, but you won’t find it in the media.

The news from Iraq focuses entirely on the random acts of violence which perpetuate the racial stereotypes of Islamic extremists and justify the American occupation. The media has worked in conjunction with the Pentagon to create the story of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi; the embodiment of a ruthless Muslim fanatic who kills simply because he “hates freedom”.

No one can categorically deny that Zarqawi may exist. The fact is, however, that there has never been a positive identification of him, nor has anyone ever provided concrete proof of his whereabouts. Reporters are responsible to provide the facts to their readers, not to promote a narrative that suits the Pentagon’s agenda.

These are just a few of the stories that the media has refused to cover because they conflict with the goals of the administration. If we look deeper we see that the Cheney Energy papers, the 9-11 “whitewash, the corporate scandals, the “Able Danger” program, and the attacks on civil liberties, have all met a similar fate. Stories that are incompatible with the aims of ownership or administration policy are usually left on the cutting room floor.

Freedom is impossible where the information systems are monopolized by private corporations. Democracy requires that people have access to divergent points of view so they form their opinions free from coercive influences. The corporate model aims for uniformity in order to limit the range of debate and narrow the choices. In America, the news has become a study in uniformity; presenting the very same topics of interest from precisely the same perspective; only the network anchors is different. This creates the impression that the facts are generally agreed upon, which is not the case. 65% of the American people do not support the media’s pro-war stance, and yet, the anti-war position is nowhere to be found on commercial TV.

The war on terror is not simply a misguided crusade against non-state actors like Al Qaida. It is a sweeping plan for global corporate domination. Managing information is vital to that effort. Knowledge is power, and there is a deliberate attempt to seize that power by controlling the sources of information. In effect, it is the privatization of the truth; standardizing information through greater media consolidation and disseminating it through its own filtering systems. Its inhibiting effects on our democracy have already been seen in the curtailing of civil liberties and the twisting of facts that led to the Iraq war. The further merging of the state and the media portend a strengthening of autocratic government and a loss of personal liberty.

The multi-headed dragon of corporate media must be confronted and defeated. Al Qaida may pose a threat to our security, but the alliance of state and media poses a clear and present danger to our freedom.
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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.

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