Mainstream Media: Enemies Of American Democracy

In this era, when Americans are clamoring for change, shouldn’t we create change in the information industry? The corporate filters will not nurture us with the news we need. Those of us who consider ourselves progressive should strategize innovative ways of creating new media models.

[Speaking Truth To power]

Now that the 2008 Presidential Campaign is over and we await the inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama, it’s time to examine the other losers of the elections, beside Republicans: the establishment media.

For the past eight years, their conduct has been scandalous. In a democracy, the responsibility of the media should be to educate the populace, while acting as another check against those in power that would violate the public trust. On those counts American “mainstream” journalism has failed us.

In fact, to say they have failed may even be charitable. Because, at times, it seems their objective is to willfully conceal information that would empower the people. For example, there was the 2000 Presidential Elections in Florida.

How many Americans truly realize that election was stolen allowing, arguably, the worst presidency in U.S. history to slither into the White House? How many are aware of the anti-democratic shenanigans of vote-rigging and voter suppression tactics employed by the Republican Party skunks to disenfranchise Black Floridians?

The very apathy exhibited by most Americans to this most shameful violation of basic democratic principles couldn’t have been pulled of if the mass media wasn’t so effectively corrupt. Why do we call them “mainstream” when they don’t reflect the viewpoints, or racial diversity, of regular folk?

The 1968 Kerner Commission Report aptly described media as “shockingly backward.” Whose interests are such media serving? All of us know how terrible the last eight years have been. We may choose to blame the Bush Presidency alone—But shouldn’t we be pointing an accusatory finger at American journalism too?

Isn’t their behavior even more atrocious, since they haven’t exposed the blatant lies and thievery of those who’ve looted our national treasury? If they had done their jobs, we could’ve kept these swindlers out of the White House and, perhaps, prevented 9-11 and the Iraq War.

Let’s not forget media served as patsies, and provocateurs, for this war. Jayson Blair was excoriated for his journalistic malfeasance at The New York Times. Yet, what about the journalistic malpractice of reporters like the New York Times’ Judith Miller who echoed the unchecked spoon-fed lies of Dick Cheney and helped sell the war?

What about the fraud perpetrated by Armstrong Williams, who sold his soul for some gold, servicing the agenda of this White House by writing a series of positive articles about the flawed “No Child Left Behind” policy? What about The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward’s suspicious behavior in the Valerie Plame incident, where he concealed from his editors his knowledge of the internal intrigues into that treasonous affair?

Media’s conduct was equally reprehensible at every phase of the past election cycle. To list them all should be the subject of a book. Let’s examine a few. Ironically, although, mainstream media is still nearly as lily white as they were when the Kerner Report came out, media nonetheless sees no problem exploiting issues of race when it suits their vain interests. For the last few days, CNN has been running a story about comments, characterized as racist, that have been made about Barack Obama. Ironically, one of the comments highlighted was made by Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, who referred to Obama as being “tanned.” The temerity of CNN’s “gatekeepers” is unbelievable.

Isn’t this the same network that gives airtime to Bill Bennett who declared on his radio show “it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—abort every Black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down”?

Yet, CNN allowed Bennett to spin absurdities about his racist comments being taken out of context by the fictitious “liberal” media. Amazingly, when the Reverend Wright story was being inflamed Bennett was then allowed to articulate and pontificate his insight on the “controversy.” Even worse, another race-baiter, Sean Hannity, dared George Stephanopoulos to introduce the Bill Ayers issue into the mix, during the Democratic Primary debate hosted by ABC News: Stephanopoulos obliged.

Senator Obama responded with a speech, destined to go down in history as one of the most eloquent and honest about race ever articulated by a politician. So why wasn’t this classic speech played like the continuously looped snippets of Rev. Wright? Instead, xenophobic pundits, like immigrant-basher Lou Dobbs, denigrated this oratory.

People like Dobbs, who promote hatred of immigrants, have blood on their hands, like that of the 37-year-old Ecuadorian, Marcello Lucero, who was murdered by seven Long Island teens last Saturday. Now, that Senator Obama will become President Obama, many are talking trash about America’s transformation into a “post-racial” society. They claim racism died.

But the truth of the matter is, although he was clearly the superior candidate, Obama only received 43 percent of the white vote; 55 percent of whites voted against him. Conversely, media insinuated, in classic divide-and-conquer style, that Latinos wouldn’t support a Black candidate. Some sell-out voices were enlisted to support this divisive argument.

This incendiary fantasy ignored the Afro-Latino population and its influence. Obama’s win obliterated that racist notion; he received 67 percent of the Latino vote. Black people should acknowledge that love showed by our Latino brothers and sisters.

In this era, when Americans are clamoring for change, shouldn’t we create change in the information industry? The corporate filters will not nurture us with the news we need. Those of us who consider ourselves progressive should strategize innovative ways of creating new media models. The Internet is a tool that holds great promise in this regard. Therefore, we should all support the fight for “net-neutrality” being waged by many, including our media reform compatriots at Free Press.

It’s time we topple these media manipulators.

Benjamin is a member of The Black Star News’s Editorial Board; those who want to engage in a serious discussion of media reform can contact him at (212) 481-7745.

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