Corporate interests corrupt mainstream media

On January 2, I took part in a focus group of Iowa caucusgoers to be aired on the CBS evening news. It was a fascinating experience, as each member of the group contributed unique perspectives on the issues facing America. What aired, however, was far from that. Anyone tuning into the show would assume that Iowans hold a simplistic worldview and are uninformed about the vital issues. Nowhere to be found was the group’s palpable frustration about the state of the country today, and nowhere was it suggested that the group shared a feeling of intense urgency about the January 3 caucuses. I point this out not to condemn the CBS editing team, but to make a greater point about the state of the media today. It is designed to stifle meaningful discussion, putting out only the most benign statements, and cutely packaging them for the public’s easy digestion. That is why one watching the CBS news would think that Iowans are shaking in their boots about immigrants while ignoring the need for clean energy or debt reduction. That is why the news program that night spent more time interviewing Roger Clemons on whether he may have taken steroids than it did talking to Iowans about the nation’s future. While it shouldn’t necessarily be surprising that real, controversial information is rarely presented, it should still be shocking and outrageous. The heart of the issue is media ownership. An overwhelming majority of America’s news is received through networks that are owned by large, influential corporations. For example, the NBC television network is owned by General Electric, a multibillion dollar manufacturing company. Consider that in light of the following: In 1993 Dateline NBC aired an “investigative report” about the safety of General Motors automobile fuel tanks during crashes. They showed a clip of a truck exploding on impact, citing poorly designed tanks. However, a GM investigation concluded that NBC producers had rigged the truck with remote explosives—completely staging the crash. I don’t know if NBC/General Electric just wanted to put on a good show (albeit completely fictitious) for the viewers, or if there was more malicious intent. However, one may note that General Electric does have agencies that work in the same industries as General Motors and is a competitor. The problem goes deeper than excessive reporting of unsubstantial “news,” though. Corporations exist to make money, and will do everything in their power to ensure that money continues to be made. For a company like General Electric that specializes in energy and machinery, there is no larger buyer than the United States military. Networks will therefore be more than hesitant to report on anything that might deter military action. I challenge you to watch TV news that will report on the dominance of the federal budget over your tax dollars, on all the things that were wrong with our intelligence before attacking Iraq, or the truth about the troubling US-Iranian ship confrontation. The last is example is especially disturbing. The Pentagon’s public reporting of the January 6 event suggested that there was open hostility towards American ships in the Strait of Hormoz. Allegedly, they had threatened to fire at US ships. However, the actual report from the Fleet Commander suggested none of that, claiming that it was routine interaction. Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” I don’t think it’s realistic to look for fair or objective reporting from sources that would lose money if people knew how much they were really making. However, there are places one can go to for more relevant news and unique commentary.,, and are a few examples, but there exists an important aspect of public responsibility, too. Truth cannot survive unless people constantly question what they are told, and analyze sources before coming to arbitrary conclusions.