Thursday, February 19, 2009

The US Media & Democracy in Crisis

By Robert Parry
February 19, 2009

For those of us who have criticized the U.S. mainstream media for failing to resist right-wing pressure over the past three decades, there is a sad sense of vindication watching the downward spiral of so many once-venerable newspapers. But this trend carries with it a new threat to American democracy.

Read on.


Paco said...

No Internet-based news outlet, including our own, can claim that it has the capability to do the daily news reporting that is now done by the mainstream news media.

At first this may seem true, but I think this idea has to be examined. While at present, internet based outlets generally operate on a shoestring, some like the Huffington Post do have significant funding. While not many can afford a large number of paid reporters, this is not so different from the situation of many local newspapers which depend largely on news-wire sources and stringers in place of staff reporters.

The most telling counterexample though is a news program that is out of the mainstream. For years, Democracy Now (on the Pacifica Network) has operated as one of the best sources of quality news reporting on the air despite the fact that, at least until they became televised a couple years ago, they operated on a shoe-string.

Some of the best news reporting I have heard has been from the Pacifica Network and often it has been on-the-scene reporting from places that no mainstream reporter would venture. Often it was reporting by unpaid volunteers who just wanted to get the news out.

Anonymous said...

According to my sources, Obama will address this issue, depending on how many bills he can get through Congress, in early 2010 or 2011. He plans to reinstate the "Fairness Doctrine" through the FCC to stave off the power of the radical conservative media, paticularly talk radio. If media outlets have to give equal time to those they attack, the lies and misrepresentations should stop. Although there are reports to the contrary, these are leaks to nullify complaints from the Republican right wing. However, once Obama gets the major part of his program through the House and Senate - - and the Republicans prove they are the "so-nothing party" and hurt their reelection efforts - - the president will move against the right wing press in a big way. All power to him.

Thom Allen said...

In response to your piece "'Bitter' Gore; 'Principled" McCain" I replied:
"Thanks, once again Robert Parry, for a succinct and scholarly article. As you may recall from past interactions, we are in complete agreement regarding the compromise of the 4th estate via centralized corporate control and right wing ideological demagoguery; an unholy marriage that spits in the proverbial eye of a properly informed public.

As Progressive thinkers we must put the castigation of the present status quo aside long enough to appraise our own failure to collect the many voices and collective efforts, that support a return to enlightened discourse within our own community, and marshal them into a more unified team effort. As long as we can be accurately characterized as "a herd of cats" we can not continue to claim surprise, or outrage, if we do not garner the attention of the general public.
We need to establish a unified audio/visual and print media entity that embodies our principles of truth and reason in the conveyance of information to the public; the fledgling Real News Network recently begun in Canada, comes to mind. The present economic climate, to my thinking, may present an opportunity for just such a gathering of our forces, not only to attract the necessary financial support, but to acquire, for pennies on the dollar, the requisite affiliated outlets for the new product."

I, sans any vain reason, believe it is also germane to this more expansive missive.
Your call for Progressives to band together in a coherent force to balance the scales of journalism is not lost on this citizen; neither is the overt scholarship of the work you have published, aptly described as "Lost History."
To me, the revisionist cancer fermented by rightest ideologues is not limited to tabloids, magazines, or audio-visual media; it is pervasive throughout all published and broadcast mediums, including textbooks, films, ET AL. Information has been cynically replaced, over time, with covert disinformation and overt misinformation; or propaganda, as it was once simply described.
As you have written many times, this process began many years ago; in fact, it has been around for centuries. The libraries of Alexandria were destroyed by the Greco-Roman tyrants, Cromwell similarly destroyed much during his rampage, and more recently Hitler and the Nazis. These are the historical fellow travelers of the miscreants that have turned the intellectual life of our society on its head to the point that our people now cast their votes against their own self-interest, and do not even realize it. That this has been accomplished behind the cynical banner of 'family values' and 'moral' and 'ethical' stewardship, speaks to the depths of their depravity and their utter contempt for their fellow human beings.
I say we can gather a consortium of informed and focused compatriots together, and with startling speed and strength of purpose, attract the support and resources, both intellectual and financial, of like minded citizens.
Awareness of this problem, and its causes, is widespread, and we must act NOW, while the desire for change is burning.

Bill from Saginaw said...

I agree with Robert Parry's description of the problem, but for the life of me I can't figure out how to undertake "investing substantially in honest media, to build an infrastructure that employs brave reporters" who will search out important national and local news stories and then analyze them thoughtfully.

Surely this means something other than sending a donation to NPR during their next pledge drive. Surely it cannot mean buying stock in any of the big mass media conglomerates or cable/satellite TV systems, or patronizing the advertizers who run spots on Rachel Maddow's broadcasts.

What does this remedy really mean in the real world?

Democracy Now is virtually impossible to get here in my midwest media niche. Even if Pacifica were reasonably accessible in my area, the core problem (as Parry so aptly describes it) is that the vast majority of the population is exposed, 24/7, to a whole array of content-filtered info-news that marginalizes everything that so much hints at progressive political thought, and which incessantly legitimizes the corporate right's partisan slant.

Even if the George Soros's of the world could fund think tanks and salaries for the thousands of lower echelon working journalists who are watching the job slots disappear nationwide, we would only be scratching at the surface. The brave, creative writer/researcher still needs the equivalent of a printing press, in order to publish and disseminate the end product to potential information consumers.

If "building an infrastructure" means duplicating the market penetration capability of just the Faux News conglomerate, we're talking billions and billions of bucks to even come close to leveling the playing field. And I still don't have a clue where to send my rapidly dwindling investment dollars.

Bill from Saginaw

Realist said...

Your experience in the MSM defines your sad outlook.

As much as this might pain you, print media is a buggy-whip industry. The Internet is going to replace paper as the medium, and a lot of excellent reportage is happening. The issue is for the good sites to reinforce each other with the readers as valid news sources.

I didn't get into blogging for fun. I heard Jello Biafra speaking at Kent State about how we needn't fear the media if we were the media. Since then, the bloggers have played a significant role in reversing the damage done to this nation by the MSM propaganda machine. It will only continue to grow as long as the corporations don't get to filter Internet content. But even if that were to happen, they can't control every form of technology, and all the news needed to be known will continue to be spread.

Paco said...

Can't get Democracy Now?


Bill from Saginaw says that Democracy Now is virtually impossible to get here in my midwest media niche. In fact it is available wherever you can get to the internet (it is also on both satellite networks). Just do a search for Democracy Now. In fact nearly all Pacifica programs are archived for free download (I get my downloads from KPFA or from KPFT).

Not convenient to sit at your computer to listen or watch? No problem. Here's an article on how to make it very convenient.

Let me add that I do see considerable value to getting the progressive message onto radio (and television), though personally, I rarely find time listen to that old-fashioned media. I cannot find enough time to listen to all the programs that I've downloaded on the internet.

Anonymous said...

It is time to speak the truth about Rush Limbaugh. He has made millions by trashing just about everybody and everything that is decent in the United States, and his biggest fans are born-again Christians of the religious right and the talk radio hosts who multiply his opinions to millions of listeners everyday. Many of his remarks make it into sermons and homelies across the nation. No man has done more to poison the political dialogue or secularize churches. He has turned gullible Christians into arms of the radical conservative movement. I suppose that these facts are enough truth about this media giant in many people's minds. But there is more. This man, according to mental health professionals I have spoken to, has a narcissistic personal disorder with paranoid and substance abuse clincial foundations. He needs psychiatric treatment, not a media megaphone. The solutioin to the problem he represents is the same for all media abusers - - Americans need to rise up and boycott their sponsors, send angry mail to their sponsors and picket their sponsors. Without money, their media abuse will either change or end permanently. This crisis of medial in the U.S. will only end if Americnas hit the abusers in the pocketbook. The media giants know the public dislikes them, but people still listen, instead of ripping up the newspapers, and turning off their TVs and radios and getting active. It is a public problem and will take a public solution. People need to get as mad as hell and let these folks know they will not tkae it anymore. The air waves are public property and subject to public accountability. Let's get off our backsides and begin the boycot today ratheer than read and listen to their crap.

Paco said...

Bad Link in My Earlier Comment

Not convenient to sit at your computer to listen or watch? No problem. Here's an article on how to make it very convenient and inexpensive to listen to lots of good progressive radio, no matter where you happen to live.