Press freedom is not embraced by our media
In my last article discussing our flawed democracy, I mentioned I’d be taking a further look at what is happening in this country. I’ve written numerous articles about our media over the years and almost always refer to the media study conducted by our foremost intellectual, Noam Chomsky. Noam studied our media at depth in the 1980s and 90s. He concluded that our media was no longer the Fourth Estate but was being used by the oligarchy (owners of this country) to manufacture the masses’ consent and sell them goods and services (consumerism). He stated:
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.Noam Chomsky
As you can see, it’s a game of manipulation from the top-down. Some would call it oppression. Others would call it a form of social engineering. Whatever you choose to define it, it has deviated from its primary role as the fourth estate or the fourth branch of government. Chomsky couldn’t find any evidence that our media was holding the government accountable. Without being held accountable by the free press, who checks the politicians’ power serving the public? Who works for the people to ensure the government is doing what it is supposed to be doing, and then who informs the people when they’ve abused their power?
“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)
The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to any form of government accountable to the people. Free media functions as a watchdog for the people. This reporter works for the people to make sure the politicians elected by voters aren’t abusing their power.
However, in the United States, approximately 85% of all media is owned by six major entertainment corporations. Ownership also means control. Now, we can start to grasp the problem. The journalists can’t serve the boardroom and shareholders while also serving the people. A journalist isn’t free to seek the truth and hold the powerful accountable because he’s an ’employee of a corporation’ seeking to maximize profits for their shareholders. Can you see the obvious conflict of interest?
As I was preparing this piece, a major announcement hit Twitter yesterday. Glenn Greenwald announced his resignation from The Intercept. Edward Snowden sought out Glenn because Edward didn’t trust any media outlet in the USA. He specifically went to Glenn, who was a journalist at the UK’s, The Guardian. Glenn worked with Edward’s trove of documents showing that James Clapper lied to the American people. The USA was spying on all American citizens through the NSA, thanks to the cooperation with Big Telecom. We’ve now seen firsthand how they are using that data to quash uprisings throughout the USA by coordinating with local and state police.
The other red flag I see today is the complete lack of coverage by our major press outlets of the disturbing Julian Assange case – a case that clearly involves press freedom and how our governments are abusing their power against a journalist for holding them accountable. To be clear, the video and documents showing our military killing innocent civilians and children, including journalists from Reuters, resulted in prison for the whistleblower and journalist but not those responsible for the crimes. We learned that our POTUS was lying to the world to start an offensive against another country and assassinated their leader in cold blood, all under false pretenses.
I could go into great detail on the Assange case, but I’ll quote the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture who has been working on Julian’s case in-depth and his “show trial”:
Because if investigative journalism is classified as espionage and can be incriminated around the world, then censorship and tyranny will follow. A murderous system is being created before our very eyes. War crimes and torture are not being prosecuted. YouTube videos are circulating in which American soldiers brag about driving Iraqi women to suicide with systematic rape. Nobody is investigating it. At the same time, a person who exposes such things is being threatened with 175 years in prison. For an entire decade, he has been inundated with accusations that cannot be proven and are breaking him. And nobody is being held accountable. Nobody is taking responsibility. It marks an erosion of the social contract. We give countries power and delegate it to governments – but in return, they must be held accountable for how they exercise that power. If we don’t demand that they be held accountable, we will lose our rights sooner or later. Humans are not democratic by their nature. Power corrupts if it is not monitored. Corruption is the result if we do not insist that power be monitored.Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, 2020
Even though freedom of the press was granted in our constitution, it does not exist in this country. It has been systematically eliminated or controlled from the top-down. If you seek a job as an investigative journalist with a top media agency, you will be told that the agency is a business first and must make a profit. This essentially means, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” And as Glenn Greenwald just discovered, even if you join an independent agency with an iron-clad agreement that their editors cannot censor you, there is a chance you will not be able to pursue the stories you wish because you might upset someone or something which could negatively impact the “business.”
Journalism—real journalism—should strive for the truth. It should make people—especially people in power—uncomfortable. It should not cling to institutions or party politics. Without a fully functioning and independent free press, the government and the politicians elected to serve the people has nobody holding their feet to the fire. There is no accountability to the people. Because we’ve lost press freedom in this country, we have become an oligarchy and a flawed democracy.