In the “State of the News Media, 2016” authors Amy Mitchell and Jesse Holcomb paint a fairly grim picture of the American newspaper industry today while the larger entity known as “the media” continues in flux.
It is established that newspaper readership in the United States continues to decline. Television, as it has for decades, continues to provide Americans with the majority of their news and is and remains their preferred medium.
Mitchell and Holcomb, in an effort to understand what is happening in American media today, and to discern what kind of “storytelling” will predominate in the future rightly discern that the plethora of alternative (my term) media that technology in general and the Internet in particular has enabled has fundamentally changed the way Americans obtain news.
More disturbing among this trend is that 62 % of adults now get their news from social media sites. (Presumably this means they are getting their “news” third hand at best; not from a source and not from a presumably objective journalist trained in fact gathering and fact checking but from a friend or acquaintance who may have a personal agenda or an axe to grind.)
What Mitchell and Holcomb fail to mention is the effect of the massive popular shift toward alternate media. This is composed of often small news sources sometimes run by just one or at most a few people, often available on the Internet. These sources are often free of both corporate ownership and corporate sponsorship and thus many who make up this alternative source of new are presumed to be free of the kinds of biases the “establishment” press is often perceive to have and that Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman analyzed in “Manufacturing Consent.”
The founders of the nation, in 1786, while composing the federal Constitution recognized and enshrined in the First Amendment (in the Bill of Rights) the right to a free press. They understood, perhaps as well as it has ever been understood, that if a democracy is to sustain itself and to survive a fourth estate must exist such that citizens could realistically and objectively inform themselves in order to make decisions about their lives (or at least elect representatives who will do so), their futures and their communities. As media continues to evolve in modern America will media still serve this purpose?
In the October 14, 2016 online edition of Jeff St. Claire’s “Counterpunch” Stephen Martin speaks of that which the Western, main-stream-media studiously ignores: The military industrial complex, the extent to which it has captured the American (federal) political system and the havoc it is wreaking through out the Middle East under the thin pretext of “humanitarian intervention” and “bringing democracy” implied but left unsaid, to a benighted, backward people who need the “exceptional nation” i.e. The United States to “fix” them and all their problems and pathologies.
And, by and large, the American people not only “buy” this nonsensical propaganda, they buy it wholesale. Few if any question our “efforts” in the Middle East or indeed ask what are we really doing there?
In this deft essay Martin sketches out the United States’ true intent and its real interest in the Middle East and in the half dozen or so (some so covert and carried out by proxy that this author doesn’t fully understand what is being done, such as the proxy war in Somalia) wars the United States and/or its surrogate NATO has instigated since September 2001.
Martin examines the warning that President Eisenhower gave the nation in his presidential “farewell address” in 1961 in which he essentially said (and I paraphrase) that much money was to be made through the armaments industry, through the destruction and the subsequent rebuilding of foreign nations. Eisenhower having been a general in the U.S. military himself knew that there were avaricious capital accumulators who would use the military-industrial complex to become fabulously wealthy and that many of them had no qualms about killing millions of people in doing so.
And thus today, 55 years after President Eisenhower’s address to the nation the military-industrial complex rages on. It is killing (in Iraq, Libya, and Syria) and dislocating (the refugee crisis in Europe ) millions of Middle Easterners and the American and European main-stream-media remains compliant and acquiescent. We are told by the media that we are bringing democracy to that part of the world; that these are wars of humanitarian intervention; that Assad, the democratically, duly elected president of Syria is a wicked dictator and another Hitler. (True, Assad is no saint; strong and ruthless leaders have prevailed in Middle Eastern nations since France and Britain deliberately carved up that part of the world, the former Ottoman Empire, to suit Western interests after World War I often deliberately pitting factions against enemy factions. However this is another issue for another time.) Martin dissects this propaganda and shreds it to pieces.
How long, one must finally ask, are the American people going to stand-by and let themselves be complacently manipulated by a ruling class that is completely devoid of morality and that has soaked the hands of all Americans in the blood of millions?
Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s seminal work, Manufacturing Consent (1988) analyzing the state of modern American media today is a “must read” for anyone who wishes to understand how the main-stream-media “functions” in America today.
Traditionally viewed as the “fourth estate”it was long presumed that in a (at least ostensibly) free and open society such as the United States, the media, exercising its First Amendment prerogative will report forthrightly and with as much objectivity as flawed humans (and journalists) can muster, right? That’s the media’s job, to inform the public with the truth.
Turns out, at least according to my reading Chomsky and Herman, that’s far from the case.
Manufacturing Consent details how the media really works today; at the highest levels of editorship the media is in fact filtered to suit the agenda of the American establishment, as it exists in a broad sense. High level media editors are members of the establishment themselves. They are well compensated by establishment institutions. They benefit inordinately from those establishment institutions such as the economic system of private capital accumulation and private finance and for this reason they, by and large, want to see these institutions continue to prevail and thrive. Thus, according to Chomsky and Herman, when low-level reporters submit articles that challenge the status quo, the high-level editors eventually “catch wind” of the dissent among their ranks and put a quick halt to it. The muck-raking low-level journalist offender of the powers that be will almost invariably be relegated to journalistic Siberia. Journalist for establishment media know this well and they learn to keep their heads down and avoid topics that are outside the realm of “acceptable” conversation. That is acceptable to the prevailing establishment. Thus the media becomes something not unlike the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 20th century masterpiece, 1984. It is in contemporary main-stream media — like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth — that the parameter of “acceptable” discourse are set forth. Although the American establishment is not monolithic it does, generally speaking, have a broad socioeconomic agenda it is promoting and that agenda is often at odds with the interests and desires of the American people.
When Chomsky and Herman wrote Manufacturing Consent some 28 years ago there were about 600 media companies in the country. Today there are just six big corporate media giants that control 90% of the media that the typical American consumes (reference?). Things have only gotten worse in the quarter century since Manufacturing Consent was published.
Does anyone really think that American media today is acting in its capacity as the fourth estate, bringing truthful and objective news to the American public? If so I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you in Brooklyn. Cheap.
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