believe everything you read in the paper" is a very old
and eminently sensible adage. However, a growing number
of Americans have taken this saying one step further and
no longer believe anything they read, hear or see
that is put out by the corporate U.S. media.
A post on a
U.S. talk-board colourfully sums up the jaundiced view
of many Americans: "Fake news and opinion in the
corporate-owned media has poisoned public debate on the
issues to the point where I no longer watch the
television, listen to radio news or read U.S.
the poster prefers to tune into overseas media outlets
for news that is "more comprehensive and honest, showing
both sides of the issues".
by the many emails I receive on the subject, many
Americans now rely entirely on the Internet for their
news gathering often visiting alternative and outspoken
websites such as CounterPunch, Online Journal and
Alternet, which receive millions of hits each month.
question here is: does the US public have solid grounds
for disenchantment with its media?
Lebanese-American journalist and columnist Helen Thomas
long dubbed "Dean of the White House Press Corps"
believes it does. She says when it comes to challenging
President George W. Bush concerning his foreign policy
the U.S. press "has rolled over and is playing dead".
Furthermore, she believes the news is being managed by
the White House. "President Lyndon Johnson once said,
after he left office, 'I lost the people's confidence
because Vietnam came into their living rooms every
administration has not allowed that to happen. There are
no pictures of bloody Iraq babies like there were from
the recent Russian tragedy," she said referring to the
Beslan School siege. "This war has become so sterile".
who used to sit regally in the front row during White
House press conferences has now been relegated to the
back and complains that Bush's aides hand pick
interview conducted last May by Alternet, Thomas
explains how some reporters were intimidated by a
post-9-11 politics of fear. "Everybody, even reporters,
started wearing flags after 9-11.
White House briefings, there was an atmosphere among the
reporters that you would be considered unpatriotic or
un-American if you were asking any tough questions. Then
it segued into a war where you'd be seen as jeopardizing
the troops if you asked certain questions."
certain major newspapers were later driven to admit
their failings in the lead up to Iraq's invasion. The
Washington Post went as far as to publish a 3000 word
front page apology on how the paper systematically
downplayed Iraq war critics.
executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. admitted mistakes
were made, saying, "Across the country, the voices
raising questions about the war were lonely ones. We
didn't pay enough attention to the minority".
Pentagon correspondent complained about important
newsworthy pieces that were killed off by editors or
consigned to tiny columns in the back pages. "There was
an attitude among editors: Look we're going to war. Why
do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?"
Times' editors issued a similar self-flagellating
editorial while blaming much of their reporting errors
and omissions upon disinformation from self-interested
Iraqi exiles with much to gain by going to war.
gung ho reporter Judith Miller, who has been accused of
having a cozy relationship with not only former Iraqi
dissidents but also the White House, is today in jail
for refusing to name the whistler-blower in the Valerie
Plame (a CIA agent whose cover was leaked by a top White
House official) case. Loyalty to the principles of her
profession or loyalty to her masters is the question on
the lips of many.
Massing, author of "Now they tell us" a book on
the press coverage in the lead up to war has been
scathing in his criticisms of the media and in
particular on the incestuous relationship between the
Bush administration and journalists.
maintains there are "dinner parties going on where high
officials go to the houses of journalists," and,
further, that Pentagon correspondents are often
reluctant to criticize in case they are excluded from a
flight carrying Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq or Afghanistan.
also describes a climate of intimidation with
journalists who dare put their head about the parapet
being targeted by right-wing Fox News anchors and radio
hosts like Rush Limbaugh when careers risk being
Within the U.S., editors and
journalists were unwittingly or wittingly acting as
administration propaganda mouthpieces, while those on
the battlefield were mostly embedded with the troops.
Indeed, independent journalism was actively discouraged
with non-embeds being banned from Fallujah during its
virtual leveling by U.S. troops.
academic study of television reports produced by
'embedded' correspondents found that embedding had led
to a sanitized picture of war, one which avoided graphic
or disturbing images.
detractors of the system, devised by the Pentagon, say
embedded reporters become too friendly with one side of
the equation and relied upon the troops as protectors in
which event impartial reporting was near to impossible.
Moreover, they say, reports from embeds were closely
monitored by the US military and often censored in the
name of security.
embedded reporter who didn't play by the unwritten
Pentagon rules paid a heavy price.
NBC News correspondent and media pool reporter Kevil
Sites filmed a marine shooting dead an unarmed injured
Iraq on the floor of a Fallujah mosque. And although he
broadcast the piece with a host of caveats as to the
amount of stress under which the marines were working,
Sites was vilified as unpatriotic by much of the U.S.
broadcast media and was subjected to hate mail and death
other hand, the marine was generally hailed as a hero,
and although investigated by the military, was
ultimately given the all clear.
proponent of the 'shoot the messenger' philosophy was
David M. Huntwork, who wrote an article titled: Embedded
Reporters: a Bad Idea. "When it come to blaming someone
for what we saw in Fallujah, blame not the marine but
those who filmed and released such footage to the
world," he writes in all seriousness.
result of such skewed reporting, many of those Americans
who do not have either the time or the inclination to
search out alternate news sources still live under the
illusion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the
intention of using them and believe that Saddam Hussein
was not only linked to Osama bin Laden but also involved
with the attacks on 9-11.
they have no idea that more than 100,000 civilians have
been killed at the hands of allied forces in Afghanistan
and Iraq or that proscribed weaponry, such as depleted
uranium tank shells, cluster bombs and napalm were used
by U.S. forces.
those who have woken up to the fact that there were no
WMD or links to Al Qaeda, are many who have, with the
aid of the media, swallowed 'propaganda plan B': the
invasion was to liberate Iraq from a cruel dictator and
bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people. For
those souls enjoying blissful ignorance the 'oil' word
is banned from their vocabulary.
Iraq is in deep crisis, still occupied and fighting a
strengthening insurgency, causing its brightest and best
too sadly pack their bags, phrases such as 'freedom and
democracy' never ring as hollow.
U.S. media for all its apologizing remains in deep
denial. Iraq's invasion will go down in history as a
terrible and cruel blunder. It's a failure of massive
proportions. It has no redeeming feature, not one. Yet
the American media still cannot bring itself to admit
that and go some way to redeeming itself.
When it comes to Israel-Palestine
coverage, the US media is notorious for its blatant
pro-Israel bias resulting in many Americans believing
that Palestinians are the occupiers of Israel and not
the other way around.
to Palestine Media Watch (PMW), the New York Times is a
main culprit. When at the end of June, Israel settlers
attacked a Palestinian youth with stones as he lay on
the ground unconscious, the story was covered by all
major foreign and US media outlets with the exception of
further accuses the Times of over-reporting the deaths
of Israeli children and under-reporting the deaths of
Palestinian children, as documented by a study "If
conducted by a non-profit organization and released last
April, showed that in 2004 "at a time when eight Israeli
children and 176 Palestinian children were killed – a
ratio of one to 22 – Times headlines and lead paragraphs
reported on Israeli children's deaths at a rate 6.8
times greater than Palestinian children's deaths."
PMW highlights the Times' repeated omissions to inform
its readers that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza
have been held under illegal military occupation since
variously of pro-Israel and pro-Palestine bias is CNN.
Israelis have written letters to the editor accusing CNN
of referring to what they insist as 'rocks' thrown at
tanks by Palestinian children as mere 'stones'.
Israeli government has also weighed in to oust CNN's
correspondent Rula Amin. Israeli spokesman Nachman Shai
told a group of US pro-Israel supporters: "We are
putting real pressure on the heads of CNN to have [Amin
and others] replaced with more objective pro-Israel
reporters that are willing to tell our side of the
Fisk, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, who writes
for the Independent has long chastised US reports for
their pro-Israel bias, accusing some of them as actually
'lying' about realities on the ground.
series of US lectures, Fisk talked about a February 2001
Newsweek article "Terror goes global" that depicted a
Palestinian man in a threatening pose with a gun. Fisk
recounted how he later learned that the Palestinian in
question was peacefully attending the funeral of a
we hear that Palestinians are killed in 'clashes' as
opposed to being killed by Israeli soldiers," said Fisk
before speculating out loud why Palestinians are
considered terrorists, Arabs are considered terrorists
while Israelis are seemingly exempt from that label.
interesting to note that the recent attack by a
right-wing Jewish Israeli on Arab-Israeli passengers
travelling on a bus was reported by the US and British
press as having been carried out by "an Israeli youth"
or "an Israeli extremist" or merely "an Israeli".
However, the Israeli press and the Israeli government
were quick to give the young man his apt title of
to say, Fisk's lectures went almost ignored by the US
media but they made a big impression on his American
audiences who were told: "You are the victims more than
we are. You don't know what's really going on."
Payola from above
Perhaps the most damning
indictment on the relationship between some Conservative
journalists and the Bush administration are reports
confirming three syndicated columnists – Michael
McManus, Maggie Gallagher and Armstrong Williams - were
paid to promote the government's agenda. In other words,
the administration used taxpayer's dollars to pay
writers to come up with 'opinions' in order to
indoctrinate those same taxpayers into following the
right when he said the US public doesn't know what is
going on but one thing is for sure, thanks mainly to the
Internet and satellite television, it is slowly but
surely awakening to that fact. Hopefully, when the
tipping point arrives - as it surely will - the US media
will have little choice but to return to the basics of
honest and ethical reporting. In the interests of global
stability and justice for all of us sharing this one
beautiful planet, that day can't come quickly enough.