“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
How is today’s journalism any different than the yellow journalism of William Randolph Hearst? Sure, technology and reach is far more sophisticated. First the telegraph, then international news agencies, newsreels shown before the screening of movies, and fast forward to 1980 to CNN, the first 24 hour news network. Today with smart phones everyone is a photojournalist. We wouldn’t know about all the cop-on-black killings if it wasn’t for the average citizen with a phone, even though it’s been going on for generations. The only problem regarding catching and broadcasting a Trump lie is beating everyone else to it first.
Starting out as a circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer, Hearst and his New York Journal sent reporters to Cuba to cover the Spanish American War, sensationalizing and lying his way to the top. Although there was seriously good reporting, what most of us remember is the sinking of the USS Maine and how Hearst fanned the flames of war hysteria. Frederick Remington was hired to provide illustrations for the paper during the war. After awhile, he was getting bored with his assignment as things were quite peaceful and said, “Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return.” Hearst’s response was “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
I think you know where I’m going with this. What has changed is that the media today does not directly furnish the war. They rely on those who most profit from it to create the war and today’s media simply serves as their propaganda arm. Whereas Frank Zappa said, “Government is the Entertainment division of the military-industrial complex.”, the news media is often a branch of the entertainment division of a network.
Today we have Trump who is redefining the news media. The one thing all must understand about Donald Trump is that everything he says, how he reacts to today’s media, is based on how it affects him personally. At his rallies he still talks about the enormous crowd sizes and the love that jumps right out to him all the time. All the people he has attacked personally said or did something that offended him. Not America. Not the Constitution. Not the security of the US but him personally and directly. We see the latest with Trump going off on Omarosa Manigault by using misogynistic and racist language because her new book exposes the dirty inside of the Trump White House.
His relations with world leaders seems to be one-on-one, mano-a-mano, tête-à-tête, but usually one sided. He thinks he has a personal relationship with many world leaders that he can just pick up the telephone and call, regardless of time of day, or night, and expect a friendly ‘Good day to you, Mr. President.’ Most leaders are smart enough to amuse him but he’s just showing himself to the world to be the buffoon we all know he is here in the US.
His relations with world leaders, with the American people, and who knows, maybe space aliens his new space cadets will find, all focus on him directly. This is where the media comes in. Like voyeurs inching down a highway to see a crash, the media loves blood and gore, scandal, catching politicians in lies, and messed up military operations. ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ This is a journalistic mantra that President Trump cannot understand. Thinking that he is the best of everything, has the best mind, all the solutions, why does the press attack him so much when he falters, which of course, in his mind, he never does? In part, President Trump is a gold mine for them. How many careers are being launched today just in covering Trump? How does the son of a former NY governor, or the heir of the Vanderbilt dynasty, or a McCarthyite ‘liberal’ get to have so much air time if it wasn’t for the Donald presenting himself to them as they salivate over every tweet that comes out of the White House?
President Trump calls the media ‘fake news’ because they report on him, the president, and not in a good light. And some, like CNN and MSNBC, are so fixated on him and his failings that it’s 24/7 Russia, Russia, Russia, and every tweet and insult gets reported. This, to him, is ‘fake’ news. However, another characteristic of fake news is not reporting the news, mis-reporting it, and misinforming or misleading people about what’s really happening.
During the first Iraqi invasion we were glued to our TV sets watching the poor, young, sweet innocent nurse crying over how Hussein’s troops took babies out of their incubators and threw them on the floor, not being told until much later that she was a plant, the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US, and made up the story. Did anyone in the media challenge her?
From Condi Rice to Colin Powell, we all heard the testimony and Meet the Press moments where we were hours away from incineration or suffering horribly from biological weapons. Did anyone in the media challenge them?
The go-to list for guest speakers during any run up to a war includes former generals whose expertise is so sought out by the networks. Are we the viewing audience ever told that they, in retirement, usually work for the war-profiteering industries?
Recently, for weeks on end, Israel has been killing innocent protesters in their March of Return. Killing journalists, medics, children, amputees, people running away, people empty handed. Not a word from CNN, especially in the initial slaughter. That is fake news.
American Indians and supporters were hosed with freezing water in freezing weather, shot at, dogs let loose on them, as they were protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Barely a word. Fake news.
Child poverty in America grew at alarming rates under Obama. No mention of it.
The alleged hacks of the DNC is a given to the main stream. But no main stream media would dare to interview William Binney, Ray McGovern or Julian Assange, all with pertinent knowledge that would refute the narrative. That is fake news.
There have been momentary lapses irrespective of the ever-present yellow journalism. Clearly, Watergate and the dynamic duo of Woodward and Bernstein revived investigative journalism. Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News uncovered CIA involvement in introducing crack cocaine to Los Angeles, and then the rest of the US. Today there are countless number of respected independent journalists uncovering any number of scandals that affect not just the all-powerful, but impact on the average citizen. The Panama Papers exposed politicians from all over the world engaged in international crimes while holding their money in off-shore banks or using off-shore companies, avoiding the eyes of nations’ tax collectors. And of course there’s Julian Assange who exposed the civilian murders by the US military in Iraq, information leaked by Chelsea Manning.
President Trump is right about calling the media fake news, but for all the wrong reasons. To him, it’s fake because he’s their target. But it is fake because it manipulates public opinion, not just against him, but to further narratives that their corporate sponsors demand. In the past it was called ‘yellow journalism’ but today it has the veneer of respectability, and simply being targeted by Trump gives it more credibility, even if undeserved.