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Bias in the Media: the Result of Corporate Ownership

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There may still be, perhaps in the quiet countryside somewhere, people who believe that news programs present news. Either after a hard day at the office, or perhaps taking a quick glance at their smart phone, there could be some people who believe that what they are looking at on CNN or FOX News is actually news. Perhaps those who watch MSNBC, or who faithfully read The New York Times, truly believe that news is being reported. When someone picks up a copy of Time, Newsweek or National Review, they may do so with the belief that reading it will cause them to be better informed.

It is unlikely that this is true; rather, those who rely on the corporate-owned press for information probably enjoy finding sources that support what they want to hear. And, if they are unsure of just what it is that they want to hear, their ‘trusted’ source will tell them.

For example, from the very first primary or caucus this year, CNN has repeatedly commented on what former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must do to win the nomination. Senator Bernie Sanders is only mentioned as the foil, the one Mrs. Clinton must defeat. There is little, if any, commentary, on what Mr. Sanders must do to be victorious; his candidacy is only discussed as a barrier to Mrs. Clinton’s somewhat diminished, but still expected, coronation. Even after his surprise victory in the Michigan primary, the CNN headline said: ‘Second Guessing After Second Place’, a reference, of course, to Mrs. Clinton.

On the right, the Republican front-runner, the blowhard billionaire and erstwhile reality TV star Donald Trump, is lauded for his so-called courage, boldness, and ability to ‘tell it like it is’. That his comments are often racist, sexist and homophobic, or that he relishes the thought of more war, is only news by the old definition, and therefore not worth commenting on. Back in the day (possibly), the role of a news organization was to inform the public of what was happening in the world. Today, it seems that its role is to legitimize the basest instincts of a large and growing fringe group. We were all better off when people felt a need to suppress or hide those instincts, and now we have a presidential candidate giving his unholy blessing to them.

The news media will attempt to horrify a gullible public when Daesh (also knowns as ISIS or ISIL), beheads its prisoners. But it is mostly silent when Saudi Arabia, a nation with which the U.S. has full diplomatic relations, publicly beheads its prisoners, in numbers far exceeding Daesh’s beheadings. In 2015, at least 63 people in Saudi Arabia were beheaded for drug-related offenses. Additionally, Saudi Arabia uses flogging, stoning (burying a man to his waist and a woman to her breasts, and then throwing stones at their head until they are dead), eye-gouging and amputation as punishment for such ‘crimes’ as promoting public debate on a website, bringing liqueur chocolates into the country, or this abomination: spending too much time with a member of the opposite sex. Any thinking person would be horrified and enraged by all this, but first they need to know about it. But when the corporate-owned media has its hands in so many pies, many of them oil-related, it is not about to expose the horrific crimes of an oil-rich nation.

Whenever an Israeli is killed by a Palestinian, it is headline news. Yet most U.S. citizens are unaware that, while a few Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, dozens and dozens of Palestinian men, women and children have been killed by Israel soldier-terrorists or settler-terrorists this year alone. Money talks, and Israeli lobbies use their abundant funds to ‘influence’ what passes for news in the U.S.

And in this election year, one would think (if one were particularly naïve) that the Democratic candidates, at least, would be discussing this at every turn. ‘Human rights!’, they proclaim, is what the United States stands for. Well, not exactly. Instead of condemning horrific human rights abuses, Mrs. Clinton continues her rather disturbing love affair with Israel, a nation guilty of unspeakable human rights abuses and blatant violations of international law. For his part, Mr. Sanders cherry-picks which countries he supports bombing, and neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia is on his list.

But, one might say, both parties have had a variety of debates. Surely, the debate moderators have raised these vital topics, closely questioning the candidates, thus forcing them to make public their positions. Well, let’s see what we’ve heard during these debates. Mr. Trump has reassured the public that his, um, manly qualities are all that they should be, and informed us all that Florida Senator Marco Rubio sweats a lot. Texas Senator Ted Cruz was incensed that Iran briefly held U.S. sailors who had strayed into Iranian waters, forgetting, apparently, the U.S. history of torturing its prisoners. Mr. Rubio proclaims that he’s certain that President Barack Obama wants to confiscate every gun in the U.S., without saying why, if that is the president’s goal, he hasn’t done it in seven years in office.

Mrs. Clinton, who vehemently condemns any violent Palestinian opposition to the brutal oppression under which Palestine suffers, also condemns non-violent means, telling her wealthy Israel-supporting donors that the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement must be countered. Apparently, this leaves Palestinians with the option of just rolling over and dying. Mr. Sanders talks about his ‘people’s revolution’, one that he seems a bit late arriving to, considering his long and undistinguished career in U.S. governance.

When has anyone heard the corporate-owned media question any of this? Did a debate moderator forcefully request that Mr. Trump address real issues confronting the United States, and leave the topic of Mr. Rubio’s sweating alone? Was Mrs. Clinton reminded that, by its occupation of the West Bank and blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israel is in violation of international law? Was she further reminded that, by international law, which the U.S. is a party to, an occupied nation has the right to resist the occupation? No, one waits in vain for such commentary which, in the context of U.S. politics, would represent in-depth analysis. But such commentary is not entertaining, and that is what the so-called ‘news’, and, by extension, these ridiculous debates, is all about.

One wonders if this will ever change. Will things be different under a Trump Administration (the thought of which is more than a little frightening)? If his bellicose grandstanding gets Mr. Trump into the White House, there is no reason to expect statesmanship from him, or that he will be held accountable by a corporate-owned media.

Perhaps one might think that things will be different under a Clinton Administration. When pigs fly. Mrs. Clinton knows only too well who owns her, and most of her owners also own the media.

What about a Sanders Administration, with his odd brand of revolution? ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ comes to mind. There is nothing in his background to fill one with bright-eyed hope.

Mr. Trump may not be the Republican nominee, but this writer will not insult the reader by even considering positive change from any of the other GOP clowns currently performing, or by suggesting that the media will change during any such administration.

With the ‘Citizens United’ Supreme Court decision opening the floodgates of money from super-rich corporations to their chosen candidates, with no limits, any pretense of democratic elections in the U.S. disappeared. Both major parties must solicit such contributions in order to win elections, as is true in any good oligarchy, so they must crawl into bed with the same benefactors. Therefore, any but the most superficial differences exist between the two major parties.

A viable third party is the answer, but, sadly, such a party is unlikely to ever gain sufficient traction to challenge the Republocrats. Obtaining sufficient funds to do so would require the same illicit intimacy with the holders of the amplest purse strings that the Republocrats currently have. A new monster would be created.

The only ray of hope is that the U.S. public will awaken to the dangers it faces, stop voting against its own best interests, discard its apparent reverence for incumbency, and vote out those who are oppressing them. Considering the likelihood of that is a depressing thought, indeed.

More articles by:

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

CounterPunch Magazine


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