Freedom of the Press

My last piece was the longest, most intensively-researched, article I’ve ever posted here. Called Give Peace A Chance,  it contained a large number of links throughout in support of my various statements of fact.

Beyond some of the very eye-opening information I came across and cited in the piece itself, I had a startling epiphany.

Generally, I see noticeable differences in what is reported “out here” __ as you probably know, I’m an expat living in Japan __ and what I get from the American media.  These are sometimes slight but unmistakable differences in content, but more often of emphasis, as the respective articles understandably are tailored for different audiences.

But this time my realization went far beyond that. I encountered what can only be deemed crude and blatant censorship, a glaring lack of any coverage of specific noteworthy events by any of the standard U.S. news outlets __ the ones most commonly used by Americans.

Let me explain.

Sometimes I am accused of leaning too much on RT, the Russian news site. Personally I find it to be extremely valuable, mostly quite balanced, and a great source for a different take on world events. But since I sometimes get slammed by Russophobes for using that “damn Russkie propaganda rag”, I typically try to mix in a lot of different sources when providing support for whatever point I’m trying to make.

Since they have solid __ if often undeserved __ reputations in America, I heavily rely on the Washington Post, New York Times, Forbes Magazine, Wall Street Journal, MSNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Huffington Post, Time Magazine, and occasionally USA Today.

For non-U.S. reporting I turn to Britain’s Guardian, Telegraph and Independent, Reuters, Al Jazeera, and a few Asian online news sites.

What struck me was the number of articles related to the Ukraine crisis, the confrontation with Russia, the frenzy of military exercises throughout Europe, the escalation of the new Cold War stand-off between Russian and the West, and preparation for a possibly massive military conflict between NATO and Russia, which HAD NO COMPARABLE REPORTING in America’s main stream media __ I mean nothing!

In other words, an item would be featured in RT, but Google produced no similar article in the American press.

There were numerous examples. But let me mention a few that stood out.

“Over 100 US armored vehicles roll into Latvia, NATO flexes muscles in Europe” was the headline in RT. No mention in the U.S. of what seems like a rather startling development.

You would expect an announcement like “US National Guard sends 12 F-15 interceptor jets to Europe to guard against Russia” to raise some eyebrows. Of course, since none of the major news programs __ at least none that I can find __ mentioned it, eyebrows got the day off.

A month after the Minsk II agreement struck by France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine, which specifically bars introduction from outside countries of material support and lethal weapons, we have “Poroshenko: 11 EU states struck deal with Ukraine to deliver weapons, including lethal”, an ominous bit of treachery. While there is mention at an Iranian news site of Russian objections to this, and a link back to the RT article at Israel Foreign Affairs, discussion in major media forums is conspicuously lacking in the U.S. and Europe itself.

How about “US troops in Europe request bigger guns amid Russia anxieties”, appearing April 25? Do Americans even know there are U.S. soldiers in countries right on Russia’s border preparing for battle? They do only if they read the California Telegraph, a news outlet I never heard of before this.

No wonder very few in America seem aware of what’s at stake here, the current magnitude of the tension, the potential for this crisis escalating into World War III, or the possibility of an apocalyptic nuclear exchange between Russia and the U.S.

This is a frightening and dangerous breech of trust between the American people and its news sources. How are people supposed to make informed judgments about what their government is doing in their name without knowing what’s going on?

Then again maybe the point is . . . they’re not.

Of course, it’s much worse than just sins of omission.

The other half of the story is the deception __ the gross distortions and outright lies that sometimes appear.

Sometimes the distortions are so profound, if you were to lay an article written for U.S. public consumption next to one on the exact same topic written by a correspondent from a non-NATO country, you would think they were about two completely different, unrelated matters. Often you get an entirely opposite rendering of what actually happened.

There is, of course, a pattern here. It’s one I’ve seen unfolding and becoming increasingly obvious over the past few years.

At first it surfaced as journalists just respectfully aligning their perceptions and editorial perspectives to official government positions on any matters pertaining to international relations and formulation of foreign policy. Politeness and pandering discreetly replaced asking probing questions and conducting deep-source investigation.

That morphed into advocating and cheer leading on behalf of the government. We saw an abundance of this leading up to the second Iraq war. Press conferences with George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld were like frat parties before a home game.

American media now only mimics the official government line. Rather than actually cover the news, investigate it thoroughly and report it objectively, it merely takes dictation from the official spokespersons for the White House, State Department, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies, including the NSA and CIA. Doing original research, challenging shoddy reasoning, objecting to spurious claims, demanding proof and corroboration, all have faded into a hazy memory of quaint bygone times.

I can only draw one conclusion.

There is indeed freedom of the press in America.

But it’s not quite what I understood it to be.

Now it’s the freedom to keep Americans in the dark.

It’s the freedom cherry-pick from the vast array of newsworthy items and only publish those consistent with the preferred narrative of our government.

It’s the freedom to suppress anything which official spokespersons find inconvenient or untimely in their ongoing effort to enforce their manufactured version world events.

It’s the freedom to distort and invent facts which support official government policies.

It’s the freedom to shape the national conversation in ways that aligns with the official view of developments and incidents.

It’s the freedom to shape public perception by using loaded phrases and unrepresentative images, to editorialize while hiding behind a facade of objectivity.

It’s the freedom to malign and demonize both national and international figures who the U.S. government has targeted for character assassination and marginalization.

It’s the freedom to do balanced journalism, but with a new, different twist. Individual correspondents will balance their desire for career advancement with the demand they write the right kind of articles given the correct spin about a range of “acceptable” issues. News media organizations will balance their need for access to the White House and other high-level officials with the kind of coverage that meets the approval of those they access.

But I will give credit where it’s due. Under this new definition of “freedom of the press”, American journalists can now surely be saluted for unfailingly and aggressively exercising this time-honored privilege.

“A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will in time produce a people as base as itself.” Joseph Pulitzer

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  • George Polley

    Yep, all that and the trivia that gets reported on, like Ms. Sarah Palin or Ms. “The Rapture is Coming” former US. Congresswoman from Minnesota . . . er . . . what’s her name again? “Trivial Pursuit” also comes to mind when thinking about all this and the Not Funny At All Comedy Team the GOP is collecting for another comical run at Becoming POTUS. Makes me want to shake me auld haid and sneeze.