Like a majority of Americans, I have trust issues. According to a Gallup poll at the end of last year, a majority of Americans distrust that the media is giving them fair and accurate information. Only 28% of America has faith that the news is telling them the truth. Apparently we need to wake up this 28% to the fact that journalism is dying too.
The Gallop findings aren’t that surprising, especially in a media landscape owned by fewer and fewer major corporations. The poll found that young people and Progressive leaning people are the least likely to trust the major media outlets. I’m hopeful that both demographics can start educating others as to why the media cartels can’t be trusted.
The rise of citizen journalism on Twitter and live streams has shown that the mainstream press coverage of world events is often entirely different than what people are capturing on their phones. It’s hard to believe the corporate narrative when Twitter users interview eye witnesses and network news interviews spokespeople who try to spin a story in the opposite direction. Even this week, throughout the Iowa caucus coverage, the corporate news outlets reported things entirely different than the people did on the internet. Entire precinct data was lost. The media told us Hillary Clinton won all of the coin tosses, but a YouTube video shows Bernie Sanders winning one. If we can’t trust the media to cover our election results responsibly, what public purpose do they serve?
I personally believe that every “news” outlet in the United States should have to label their bias in reporting on any story that involves their own financial interests. Be it running a fluff piece on an advertiser or political coverage of a candidate their parent company donates to, the public deserves transparency. A friend of mine in a local news outlet in Buffalo, NY recently told me about how a major company paid for advertorial on their news broadcast to advertise they were hiring minimum wage jobs due to growth. When I asked if the anchor had any issues with that, she said, “Michael, this is television. We don’t have journalistic standards. We don’t have journalists. We have haircuts and tits bolted onto TV personalities.”
How quickly the American public, distracted by reality television stars and PowerBall jackpots forgets how this was all plainly exposed for us in 2012. A wave of likely the last TV and radio news people with any ethics at all started alongside Arab Spring. Amber Lyon of CNN quit right after exposing the network’s censorship and propaganda standards. NPR’s Andrea Seabrook left because she was sick of political coverage that she equated to “colluding with power.” The New York Times admitted that Presidential campaign coverage was dictated by the candidates’ campaigns. There must have been a Kardashian sex tape or something that week, though, because nobody paid attention. We went on about our business as if we weren’t constantly being lied to. We are not just talking about Fox News, which, studies show is only 8% factually correct, we’re talking about NPR and The New York Times. Mainstream media is broken.
Media consolidation is a major part of this crisis of information. Only a handful of major corporations own nearly all of the news outlets in this country. A cabal of media cartels dictates what a majority of Americans get to know about the world they live in. That’s not just hyperbole. That’s what those in the know have told us.
“There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinion out of the paper I am connected with. Others of you are paid similar weekly salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone. The business of the journalists is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it, and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities, and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”
–John Swinton, former New York Times Chief of Staff
Non-profit organizations like Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have linked the media cartels to promoting militarism on air and in print, while profiting from war through other channels of their corporate structure and becoming a mouthpiece for the State itself. I believe it’s just that nefarious, and has been in the works for some time, because there is public record of the plot.
Former Nixon Administration CIA director William Colby once said, “The CIA owns everyone of any significance in the major media.”
William Casey, describing his job as CIA director in the Reagan Administration, famously said, “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”
In the 1950s, during congressional hearings, it was revealed that the CIA was planting news stories to control public opinion in the United States through a program called Operation Mockingbird, which placed government operatives into newsrooms. The Pentagon Military Analyst Program was a propaganda campaign of the U.S. Department of Defense that was launched in early 2002 by then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Victoria Clarke. The goal of the operation was “to spread the administration’s talking points on Iraq by briefing retired commanders for network and cable television appearances,” where they have been presented as independent analysts. Though that program was officially discontinued, it shows these tactics had been in play since the 1950s. We were warned by people in the know. These aren’t wide-eyed conspiracy theories. These are well-documented facts about the American government and press.
Since these facts have been so plainly delivered to us for generations, I suppose we shouldn’t be shocked when networks play favorites or report talking points instead of journalism. We should expect a yellow badge of journalism. We should, however, be in shock that after 65 years of being told by those from within the belly of the beast that we’re being swindled, we don’t publicly acknowledge the scam more. I for one am calling shenanigans on the media cartels. They can’t be trusted. None of them. I hope you’ll call shenanigans too. The grift is up. Be the media instead. Seek out independent journalism and independent voices. It’s our only hope for an informed citizenry.