The crime of journalism

Information in the US is tightly controlled, an amazing feat given our perceived freedom of the press and easy access to information.

The means by which this is accomplished appear twofold: a media environment where even the incurious are overfed with useless information, and journalists who are rewarded for servile behavior.

Americans are no more or less intelligent than anyone else in the world, but we are provided with an abundance of distracting information daily. Even if we are naturally curious there are discouragements in place: Subversive information is not easily available. We have to know what we are looking for. We’re not going to stumble upon it in USA Today. And anyway, there are a thousand other interesting things going on in media. Distractions abound. It’s easy not to know anything and still be busy as hell about it.

Mainstream media outlets are rigidly controlled. Naturally curious journalists are dispatched over time. They leave either by outright dismissal or or for perceived failings such as “lack of objectivity” (code for natural curiosity). It’s easy to predict that the editor of the local newspaper will be the least intellectually curious person there, and the most willing to submit to the dictates of the publisher or owner. Mediocrity is the trait that leads to advancement – it’s the “Russert syndrome.”

You’d think that the Internet would solve these problems and free us up to know anything we want to know. It has indeed, and those who are naturally curious can now surf the world. It’s a glorious revolution. But the Internet is mostly a source of distractions. It is dominated by cheesy entertainment, pornography, gambling, social networking, music and movie piracy. People scanning the globe for information are relatively few. The Internet has introduced the naturally curious to one another, and that is revolutionary. It’s a hard thing to manage – the only real threats I’ve seen to Internet freedom are government and corporate hacking to shut down pesky websites, “net neutrality” battles, and routing of massive amounts of data through a few outlets, which allows for shut-down of service when there is a threat to entrenched power.

A correspondent whom I only know because of the Internet forwarded an AlterNet piece by Rania Khalek called “5 WikiLeaks Hits of 2011 That Are Turning the World on Its Head — And That the Media Are Ignoring.” That tone … “and that the media are ignoring,” is a tiresome cliche’ in left wing journals. It implies a failing in the American media. But in not covering the stories in Khalek’s piece, media are merely doing their job.

And anyway, Alternet is part of the media, and the information is there for us. Only a few seek it out.


Here are Khalek’s five WikiLeaks-driven events of 2011:

1) The Arab Spring*: Information is power. It all started in Tunisia, where existing unrest was exacerbated by WikiLeaks revelations of government corruption, well known. Add an immolation, and presto! Uprising.

2) The ‘worst of the worst’ included children, the elderly, the mentally ill, and journalists. These are Guantanamo detainees, horribly abused, most guilty of nothing even beginning to justify their treatment. (Terror and torture are never justified anyway.) Since our perceptions are carefully managed in the US, most of us think that Guantanamo detainees are both guilty and well-treated.

3) US allies are leading funders of international terrorism. These would be Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It is not surprising if one understands that the US itself is engaged in terror and torture, does not care about – even fears – democratic governance.

4) World leaders practically lighting a fire under the Arctic. Far from having any concern about the consequences of global warming, The US, Canada, Russia, China, Norway and other countries intuitively understand that the Arctic will be the source of resource wars in the coming decades. (I’m having a hard time conjuring up a Norwegian demon to justify bombing that country. Will we learn to hate the scourge of the Norseman as we do Muslims? Will we be told that Bjørnstjerne and Sonja are forming cells?)

5) Washington would let them starve to protect US corporate interests Hugo Chavez has control of oil, and uses it to promote relief of hunger and poverty and to free Latin American countries from the oppressive interference of the International Monetary Fund. The rotten son of a bitch. Venezuela and Haiti had an agreement whereby the latter saves $100 million a year, a tenth of its budget, on the cost of oil.

Haitians getting uppity

Exxon and Chevron were pissed about that, and as the little lamb followed Mary, the US State Department has intervened and interfered in that agreement. WikiLeaks also exposed how the US interfered in Haitian government attempts to raise the minimum wage there from 24 cents to 61 cents per hour. This, according to a US official, did not reflect “economic reality.”

It’s not hard to understand the dynamics here, why Julian Assange is under house arrest in England, why the US (via Sweden) is trying to bring him here for a show trial which will be followed by imprisonment, even death. He’s committed a crime that is rarely seen here in the land of the free: Journalism.
*How’s that Arab spring going? Egypt is out of the news, but the US must be making some progress in restoring the old order. For a brief period of time, Egyptians were letting Gaza’s de facto prisoners escape via the Rafah border into the Sinai, but the gates have shut again. Bahrain is subject to brutal and violent suppression, with aid from Saudi Arabian troops trained by the UK. It is, after all, home of the US Fifth Fleet, so the revolution is not being televised. Libya is under attack by NATO, supposedly to aid the rebellion, but more likely to merely get rid of Gaddafi’s government and replace it with one friendlier to US oil companies. Yemen’s rebel forces are currently being bombed by the US, as we open up a fifth war, four of them against Muslims. (The fifth, Colombia, is also not televised.) The US has long wanted regime change in Syria, so that revolution is being televised and widely covered here, even in Time Magazine! Abuses, which are real, are routinely exposed. I watched with horror a couple of days ago to the news that there are refugees leaving Syria. Then I remembered that the US caused some two million refugees to flee Iraq, not covered here, and then remembered too that all US news is bullshit read from teleprompters and transcribed in newspapers by toadies and lackeys.

ht/lb (PS: Woke up with an extreme case of attitude today.)

About Mark Tokarski

Just a man who likes to read, argue, and occasionally be surprised.
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16 Responses to The crime of journalism

  1. “the US caused some two million refugees to flee Iraq, not covered here, ”

    Are you the worst media reader ever? All these things that ‘aren’t covered’, are. It’s not a media conspiracy, it’s apathy.


    • I fully expected for someone to chime in saying yeah, well, there was a story here or these about this or that in Americna news media. That’s hardly the point. The function of American ‘news’ ismto direct or attention at certain things and away from others. Certain stories will be covered and will penetrate our consciousness. They know this. They are not stupid. ‘They’ are the people at the top. People down below do not even know thie own function.

      So anyway, tell me, was your CNN story on TV or just on the blog?


  2. What I’m saying Mark, is that I generally read the MSM, though I tend towards the BBC rather than American sources. The media may prioritize poorly, but the problem is not a lack of information. If you watched MSNBC or CNN, you’d know about the Iraqi refugees, you’d have a decent grasp of the Af-Pak and Yemeni theaters. Thing is, most people don’t. Fox is the most popular network, and I’m all about letting Fox be Fox, as long as you realize that Americans like what Fox tells them, and will choose that. There’s a reason Time is more popular than Mother Jones, and it’s not just money. Americans don’t want to hear that shit. The problem comes at least as strongly from the public as from the media.


    • Steve W says:

      PW, where do you get your information that says that FOX is the mot popular network? CBS completely destroys FOX as does NBC and ABC. So does PBS and NPR.

      As for news casts , NBC is the most watched followed by ABC and then CBS

      FOX is tiny by comparison.

      You think that America watches FOX but it doesn’t. Check out the numbers.


    • Fox News is not the most popular network – it is the most popular cable network. The over-the-air networks trounce Fox and every other cable network, even though their numbers are anemic by historic standards.

      If you watched MSNBC or CNN, you’d know about the Iraqi refugees, you’d have a decent grasp of the Af-Pak and Yemeni theaters.

      Do a survey for yourself – ask five people you know who are reasonably informed if they know about the Iraqi refugee crisis. Then ask five people who are not reasonably informed – average Joe’s. I’d be surprised if two of five in the first group knew anything, and even one in the second group. The Iraqi refugee crisis is not getting coverage, and the reason is that it is counter-intuitive. If we went into Iraq to install democracy and overthrow a dictatorship, then people should not be fleeing. But they are. Only if it can be woven into the official narrative, by saying maybe that they are fleeing “al Qaeda” or some such thing, will the story receive coverage.

      And, you unknowingly repeat what I said: “Even if we are naturally curious there are discouragements in place: Subversive information is not easily available. We have to know what we are looking for. We’re not going to stumble upon it in USA Today. You say that you have a "decent grasp" based on watching two cable news outlets, but how can you know that unless you compare it to non-American news outlets? That's self-fulfilling.

      BBC does a better job of covering American world activities than US news outlets, but not about the UK, and not about Iraq of AfPak due to their own involvement. Canadian Broadcasting covers American activities better than US outlets. That’s because there are fewer filters in place with outside parties. The best coverage of American foreign policy in-house is probalby Democracy Now, even given their scant budget. Al Jazeera does a good job overall.

      Americans don’t want to hear that shit.

      Americans are like that, but I’d be surprised if it were any different elsewhere. The question is whether or not our “informed” segment of the population is actually well-informed. The answer is a resounding “No!” This includes NPR listeners, perhaps the worst of the lot, as they presume to know that they are better-informed than the rest of us. They are getting their shit covered in with Hollandaise sauce, but it’s still shit.


  3. I have ‘woken up’ in recent months to the bias and distortions in the media after a trip to Damascus at Easter. Actually, I worked in Syria for two years, teaching English at the British Council and have returned regularly for different reasons – to take a student tour, be a producer for an Australian film-maker, and visit friends. Hence, I have been aware of that Syria to some extent has been a bogeyman and “under siege” by the mainstream Western media for years. But I have been shocked in the last few months at how so many people in Australia who are normally cynical about the media and government will accept without question the crude narrative presented in regard to Syria. It seems that anyone who says they are a Syrian ‘activist’, ‘human rights activist’, ‘democracy demonstrator’ can be trusted, while anyone that contradicts their story is not taken seriously.

    The brother-in-law of one of my Syrian friends was killed by armed men in Homs just before I arrived in Damascus in mid-April. He was an army officer and was in his car with his two teenage sons and a nephew; they were all killed and it was reported that their bodies were mutilated. Another friend told me that on Easter Sunday gunmen had gone into the military hospital where his mother works and had killed soldiers. I watched a lot of TV when I was in Damascus, and everyday there was footage of the funerals of soldiers or police, and interviews with their family members. And I learnt of course that innocent people were being shot in the street; some of those killed had been involved in demonstrations, but not all. Snipers or people in the crowd had apparently killed many of them.

    I am not suggesting that the army or security forces have not been responsible for the deaths of innocent people. It is inevitable that in a chaotic, violent situation triggers are pulled and innocent people are killed. But there was never any suggestion by friends that the government had a policy of killing demonstrators. In fact, the president ordered soldiers not to shoot unless they were shot at. One friend did worry that the army hadn’t had sufficient training to deal with the current situation. This is part of the complex picture. Yet, so many commentators in Australia have spoken as if what is happening in Syria is black and white; the goodies are anyone in the opposition and the baddies are the government, army and anyone who supports them. It is as simple as a comic book scenario.

    I admit it is hard to discern what is going when even the mainstream Arabic media is on the offensive and is smearing Syria. (A friend has said that Gulf oil has ‘bought’ the Arabic media.) Several Al-Jazeera reporters have resigned in protest, including the head of their Beirut office, but this is not reported in the West. One source of reports out of Syria is Cham Press (it is online in both English and Arabic). Of course, it should be read with the same discerning brain as we would read any Murdoch press report, for example. But for anyone interested in learning about Syria, it can help inform us just as much if not more than the reports in our local papers.

    I feel compelled to write and talk about Syria because of the deaths that have touched my friends there and because of my Syrian friends’ fear for their country and future. I believe that the majority of people in Syria support the president and reforms he has introduced, and they want the unrest to stop so security and stability can be restored. Until it is, there will be no investment in the country and tourists will stay away. Outsiders are being blamed for arming people and encouraging the violence.

    I am so grateful that you are questioning the reporting on Syria and you provide a platform for me to make the above points.

    Susan Dirgham


    • Thank you , Susan. Other people deal with this far more economically, and Syria was just an example of how American news is tilted to suit those who frame American foreign policy. “Friends” can (literally) get away with murder, while perceived bad guys have to be on their toes, as anything bad they do will be highlighted in our news. Coverage of terror and torture by Saudi Arabia or at Guantanamo is non-existent here, but is prevalent in those places where the US corporate/military state wants regime change.

      Good to hear an Aussie take on all of this.


  4. Ingemar Johansson says:

    From NYT.

    “According to accounts the women gave to the police and friends, they each had consensual sexual encounters with Mr. Assange that became nonconsensual. One woman said that Mr. Assange had ignored her appeals to stop after a condom broke. The other woman said that she and Mr. Assange had begun a sexual encounter using a condom, but that Mr. Assange did not comply with her appeals to stop when it was no longer in use.”

    Nothing to do with journalism.


    • Like I say, I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Just need a check. Certified, if you will.


      • Ingemar Johansson says:

        The women we’re pentagon plants, Mark?


        • The events could be real but are blown far out of proportion. If it were not Assange, it would be nothing. And yes, the US is exerting heavy pressure on both the women and the Swedes to prosecute him and extradite him to the US, where he will be imprisoned and/or killed.

          It’s late and honestly I’m having a hard time dealing with the likes of you, so easy. You don’t seem to have the foggiest idea that the world is full of intrigue and people who can make your ‘reality’ right before your eyes. Wise up, naif!


          • Ingemar Johansson says:

            Are we seeing a developing pattern?

            Ya stood up for Rep. Wiener, who disrespects women.

            And now Assange.


          • I do wish you had the courtesy to address the points I raise before moving on. it would even be nicer if you read and digested the post before commenting. I can addrss your every point. Care to have a real debate, or are you unable to deal with nuance, typcical of the right wing authoritarian personality?


          • Steve W says:


            It’s refreshing to see that you and President Obama share the exact same views on these issues.

            Are we seeing a pattern here?


  5. griffithinsider says:

    Am writing a thesis on Public Trust in WikiLeaks, the Media and the Government and need to know what your opinions are. The online survey is multiple choice and will take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Please follow the link: Please encourage others to do the survey also.


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