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News ::
Fourth Estate Sale - a commentary
15 Apr 2002
In a time when the Whitehouse Press Secretary can refer to Ariel Sharon as “a man of peace”, or the Secretary of State demands a cease fire from a besieged Chairman Arafat, and the media reports it without the least sense of irony, you know we’ve slipped comfortably into Orwell’s worst nightmare
It’s been a bad few weeks for the corporate media. First, Ariel Sharon and his invading armies barred journalists from the action in Palestine. The few mainstream reporters who actually attempted to do their job were apparently shot at, beaten, or harassed. That presumably left the bulk of the press corp waiting in the bars of Jerusalem for the next press conference, or making occasional forays to some distant overlook to relay the latest official report. Not much news there other than the sorry state of the Fourth Estate. Ernie Pyle must be rolling in his grave.
Then, the corporate media’s long-term downward slide into public relations work was compounded by its embarrassing reports from Venezuela. Seeming like a textbook example of Orwellian Newspeak, dispatches from Caracas spoke of anti-Chavez protesters being fired upon and the military moving in to restore peace. As it turned out, the military was moving in on the government and President Chavez’s supporters were the ones receiving most of the fire. The Venezuelan corporate media and their partners from el Norte were pretty much left with egg on their face when democracy was surprisingly restored and their erroneous reports were left twisting in the wind. For added embarrassment, Latino USA’s, Phil Gunson report of the “official version” of the situation in Venezuela aired at least twelve hours AFTER that version had tanked. As the “official story” unraveled, more than a few journalists appeared for all the world more like the Fifth Column than the Fourth Estate. Do we wonder why?
In a time when the Whitehouse Press Secretary can refer to Ariel Sharon as “a man of peace”, or the Secretary of State demands a cease fire from a besieged Chairman Arafat, and the media reports it without the least sense of irony, you know we’ve slipped comfortably into Orwell’s worst nightmare. Only in the Looking Glass world of Newspeak does a U.S. president’s demand for Israeli “withdrawal without delay” magically become a demand for a Palestinian ceasefire. The readers, listeners, and viewers are left to sort out on their own whether this means Palestinian children are required to stop throwing rocks at Israeli tanks invading their neighborhood before anyone can come to a peace table, or whether the processes of rational thought have been rewritten by some faceless committee deep within the bowels of the National Press Club. War IS peace, after all.
Some may say that a good portion of the corporate press corps has sold out to the highest bidder, others may believe that self-censorship has so tied the hands of corporate-sponsored journalism as to render it pretty much useless, and still more might say that the line between news and entertainment has finally and completely broken down. But, the good news, relative as it may be, is that at least SOME independent journalists are still risking their lives and careers to report events as they see them, without filters; in other words: doing their job. All the public has to do is find them!
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