Just for fun, try googling some of the most important stories of the day. The results present a sorry picture of timid or outright biased media in the U.S.
On May 12, I googled “MI6 and memo” and found loads of articles about the memo that had surfaced two weeks earlier (reported on in Counterpunch by Ray McGovern on May 5) proving that President Bush & Co. had planned to invade Iraq back in July 2002 and to “fix” the “intelligence and facts” to fit the policy. My search revealed articles all over the British press, the Sydney Morning Herald had it in Australia-even China Daily, the heavily censored party organ of the Chinese Communist Party, had I! Not the corporate U.S. media, though, where this explosive story was hard to find. Even the N.Y. Times, which ran a reference to it, did so tucked into a piece on the British election headlined “For Blair, Iraq Issue Just Won’t Go Away.” For the country’s newspaper of record, it appears, the only interesting thing is how this memo from Britain’s spy chief raises question about Blair’s credibility.
The fact that it proves Bush orchestrated a war was not worth mentioning. Googling “John Conyers and Iraq” shows that even the dramatic news that Rep. John Conyers and 87 other House members have written a letter to the White House demanding answers from Bush about the British memo have failed to make it into the mainstream American media. That search turns up lots of stories, but they’re all in the alternative media. Imagine if this had been a story about 88 members of Congress demanding that Clinton answer questions about Whitewater. Would the media have blacked it out?
I also googled “real wages fall” and found a number of foreign articles, including a big one in the British Financial Times, detailing how U.S. wages in constant dollars have fallen by about 1 percent in 2005, and that since the fourth quarter of 2004, have fallen at the fastest rate in 15 years. Those statistics come from the US. Labor Department, but they’ve nonetheless gone largely unreported in the mainstream media here, which instead reported the meaningless news that employment rose marginally in the past month (unmentioned in most of those articles is that reality that despite several years of “recovery”, there are still 22,000 fewer jobs in the U.S. than there were back in 2001 before the last recession began.
The alternative media in the U.S.–both print and internet-based-have played a critical role in forcing what amounts to our “government-run” media-CNN, Fox, NY Times, Washington Post, CBS, ABC, NBC, etc.-to report honestly. By May 12, the LA Times was belatedly reporting the British memo scandal, and no doubt eventually the news about falling wages will slip into mainstream discussion, but it remains true that the news media on which most Americans rely for their information are ducking the important stories and, when they do cover them, are tucking them into inner pages.
The public knows it is being deceived. Newspaper readership and TV news viewership are falling precipitously, to the dismay of publishers and media executives.
A few days ago, in an effort to revive its sullied reputation, the New York Times ran an announcement telling readers the steps it was taking to improve its credibility. Among those steps was going to more religious figures as sources! The Times and the rest of the establishment media, would do better just reporting straight on what is really going on for a change. A simple question like, “What’s happening to real wages?” asked at a Labor Department briefing on the latest job figures, or a question about the MI6 memo at a presidential press briefing, or a question by an imbedded reporter about how the military knows that the 100 slain “insurgents” were really all combatants, would go do much more for the restoration of public confidence in the media than the opinions of a bunch of ministers. (It is nothing short of pathetic that many important stories, from election fraud to torture scandals and social security fear-mongering by the administration, are being covered in the Times by editorial writers and columnists, not by the paper’s reporters.)
But the Times is hardly alone in its cowardice and mendacity. I recently called the editor of a mid-sized suburban newspaper to find out why a story critical of President Bush had been killed at the last minute. I was told that the executive editor, a Bush backer, had killed it for political reasons but that the editor could not say this on the record. It’s a sorry commentary on the profession that this kind of hidden political interference is allowed to pass by people who should be willing to put their principles on the line even at the risk of losing a paycheck.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org