Power to the people

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Ben Cohen
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By Ben Cohen

Taking on the mainstream news media is an uphill battle against a fearsome opponent. Nevertheless, it is an important fight for several reasons.

The media serves the interests of concentrated power centres, not the general population. The news we receive has been filtered rigorously so as not to offend advertisers or parent corporations, negating its original purpose; to bring us balanced news.

It is for these reasons that the serious left (and right for that matter), fight against it in an effort to balance the propaganda it spews.

These are strong words for news institutions, but for good cause.

Let us take the comments made by Barack Obama last month about invading Pakistan if they failed to follow U.S orders The media quickly leapt on the Senator for making the comments, accusing him of inexperience on the international stage for telegraphing his future moves. Obama was also taken to task for refusing to use nuclear weapons to tackle terrorism, with commentators expressing dismay that Obama would take such a deterrent off the table.

Not one News station bothered to mention that sending troops without Pakistan’s permission would be illegal under international law, and not one program thought to mention that the threat of using nuclear weapons is a crime in itself as well.

The right of the U.S to do as it pleases regardless of conventions it has signed, and laws it purports to uphold is almost completely unchallenged in the U.S media. For something so blindly obvious, it borders on the criminal that journalists do not challenge this deeply hypocritical orthodoxy.

News shows report stories with virtually no historical background, presenting conflicts in two dimensional bullet points, then invite ‘analysts’ to discuss inane topics, like whether Hilary Clinton showed too much cleavage, or whether John Edwards sounded ‘Presidential’ enough.

Modern presidential debates are categorised into sections, like ‘Issues’, ‘Style’, and ‘Likeability’ as if all have equal merit. Americans were more likely to want to grab a beer with George Bush than John Kerry in 2004, apparently playing an important part in Bush’s victory.

Presidential candidates who offer little in the way of style but a lot in the way of substance are lampooned by the media, and written off with scant attention paid to what they are actually saying. The media destroyed Howard Dean’s presidential aspirations after clips of him whooping at a speech in 2004 were played on loop for weeks on end. Dean's sensible and very moderate views (at least by the rest of the world's standards) were of no apparent importance, and his campaign effectively ended after the ridiculous affair.

In regards to the 2008 election, Mike Gravel has consistently pointed out the financial corruption present in all the mainstream Democratic candidates campaigns, and the media does nothing other than focus on his personality. Gravel is no silky politician, but he has consistently spoken truth to power and taken no money from corporate lobbyists. Again, these are issues the mainstream media do not find interesting and they have done their best to marginalise him.

This is not journalism, and it is not news, and it should be exposed ruthlessly.


There are few institutions that deal honestly with serious issues, and most of the major corporations work within a framework that will not offend their corporate sponsors. As the economist Paul Krugman once joked that if George Bush declared the world was flat, a typical news headline would read: “The Shape of the Earth: Views Differ"....
When
an American congressional report stated that Venezuela was supplying
fake passports to Iranians so they could enter the U.S, no media
corporations evaluated the claim, only repeating the official line from Big Brother.

Journalism
in the U.S is dead, or at least it is dying fast. A career in
journalism does not mean speaking truth to power anymore; it means a
career in catering to power, and operating within its confines.

It
is dangerous for democracy, and an assault on our intelligence.
Unfortunately for the government and their corporate spokespersons, the
Internet is providing fertile ground for dissent. Thousands of bloggers
and sites are now reaching millions of people and they are holding the
media accountable for its complacency.

To use a cliché, you can
fool all the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people
all of the time. People's patience with the mainstream media is wearing
thin, and an increasing amount of people are turning to independent
bloggers for serious opinion and reporting. Yes, the world of blogging
is disorganised, confusing, and completely disjointed, but it is at
least real.

So, come and join the alternative world of
independent publishing. It's not perfect, but its the best chance we
have in bringing power back to the people.

A graduate in Politics and International Relations from the
University of Sussex, Ben Cohen is a boxing journalist for
Secondsout.com and Boxing Monthly. He is the founding Editor of The
Daily Banter.