In my last article on our failing democracy, I mentioned I’d be taking a further look at what is happening in this country. I’ve written numerous articles about the media over the years and almost always refer to the media study conducted by our foremost intellectual, Noam Chomsky. Noam studied our media in depth in the 1980s and 90s. His conclusion was our media serves the oligarchy (owners of this country) to “manufacture consent and sell them goods and services (consumerism) to fuel the profits of the oligarchy.”
The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.Noam Chomsky
The Media Serves the Oligarchy
As you can see, it’s a game of manipulation from the top-down. Some would call it oppression. Others would call it a form of social engineering. Whatever you choose to define it, it has deviated from its primary role as the fourth estate or the fourth branch of government. Chomsky couldn’t find any evidence that our media was holding the government accountable. It’s really just a marketing arm for the powerful interests of the oligarchy. Period.
If the press isn’t watching the politicians, who is holding them accountable? Who is working for the people to ensure the government is serving the people? Who informs the people when they’ve abused their power?
“The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in New York Times Co. v. United States (1971)
The freedom of the press, protected by the First Amendment, is critical to any form of government accountable to the people. Free media functions as a watchdog for the people. The role of the press is to serve the people to make sure the politicians elected by voters aren’t abusing their power. Thomas Jefferson insisted on the free press or else the politicians would become “wolves just like those in the private sector.”
Media Model is About Profits
However, in the United States, hedge funds and entertainment conglomerates own 98% of all media. Ownership also means control. Now, we can start to grasp the problem. The role of a corporation is to sustain itself financially. Just like with all corporations, money provides for the survival of the entity. It’s also the same for individuals but we’ll address that dynamic in another article.
Therefore, the ultimate role of the journalist is writing articles that produce a profit for the media outlet. A journalist isn’t free to seek the truth and hold the powerful accountable because he’s an ’employee of a corporation’ seeking to maximize profits for their shareholders. Can you see the obvious conflict of interest?
This conflict of interest is why newspapers across the country are failing. They had to abandon their constitutional duty of holding the powerful accountable (which is what subscribers paid them to do). So, instead, they wrote fluff pieces for their advertisers who paid the bills. Well, that just turned them into propaganda sheets for the local Chamber of Commerce. In Muncie, Indiana, the remaining Gannett-owned daily newspaper is dying fluff and the Chamber and City of Muncie support a new rag that is a press release factory for the Chamber.
Glenn Greenwald as Example
Last year around election time, a major announcement hit Twitter. Glenn Greenwald announced his resignation from The Intercept, a media company he co-founded.
Edward Snowden sought out Glenn because Edward didn’t trust any media outlet in the USA. He specifically went to Glenn, who was a journalist at the UK’s, The Guardian. Glenn worked with Edward’s trove of documents showing that James Clapper lied to the American people. The USA was spying on all American citizens through the NSA, thanks to the cooperation with Big Telecom. We’ve now seen firsthand how they are using that data to quash uprisings throughout the USA by coordinating with local/state police and the FBI.
Glenn wanted to run a story about Hunter Biden, but his own editors wouldn’t let him. As a result, he resigned and is now publishing his own material on Substack and other platforms.
Another Obvious Case Our 4th Estate is Dead is the Assange Case
The other red flag I see today is the complete lack of coverage by our major press outlets of the disturbing Julian Assange case – a case that clearly involves press freedom and how our governments are abusing their power against a journalist for holding them accountable. To be clear, the video and documents showing our military killing innocent civilians and children, including journalists from Reuters, resulted in prison for the whistleblower Chelsea Manning and journalist Julian Assange, but not those responsible for the crimes.
Even after the world learnt the POTUS was lying so he could murder their leader in cold blood, he remains a free man. No criminal charges in the United Kingdom either.
I could go into great detail on the Assange case, but I’ll quote the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture who has been working on Julian’s “show trial”:
Because if investigative journalism is classified as espionage and can be incriminated around the world, then censorship and tyranny will follow. A murderous system is being created before our very eyes. War crimes and torture are not being prosecuted. YouTube videos are circulating in which American soldiers brag about driving Iraqi women to suicide with systematic rape. Nobody is investigating it. At the same time, a person who exposes such things is being threatened with 175 years in prison.Nils Melzer, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, 2020
The Press Has No Power
The press has immense power from our constitution, but they are not using it in this country. The same has happened in the US/UK empires controlled by US/UK oligarchies. The failing ratings and declining subscriptions of newspapers and cable news are not the fault of social media. The digital age isn’t to blame either. The subscribers and viewers aren’t getting what they need from the free press. The corporate media has become lame – not meaningful.
The oligarchy controls the press from the top-down. When seeking a job as an investigative journalist, they will tell you that the business must make a profit. This essentially means, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.” And as Glenn Greenwald discovered, even if you join an independent firm with an iron-clad agreement that their editors cannot censor you, there is a chance you will not be able to pursue the stories you wish because you might upset someone or something which could negatively impact the “business.”
It’s About Truth-Seeking
Journalism—real journalism—should strive for the truth. Investigative journalism should be the core of the enterprise wherever it is located. The mission statement, goals, and objectives of the company should be seeking the truth on behalf of the people and holding the powerful accountable. This is the goal of Julian Assange and Wikileaks and it’s why they are a threat to those in power. However, who is more powerful – a few hundred oligarchs or billions of people armed with the truth?
The university system should return to teaching their students about investigative journalism and why the truth is so powerful. The wisdom of the ages points to this truth but cowards sell us out daily. Even more cowardly men and women refuse to release the power contained within the people, planet, and their collective Gods. Our cannot grow as a result.
Good journalism should make people in power uncomfortable. It should also make viewers and readers uncomfortable since they are telling us lies and propaganda. We’ve formed beliefs and views of the world which are incorrect. The news, like science should challenge our worldview when we discover new truths. Our worldview should always be expanding if we are watching “truth-a-vision.” The so-called political spectrum would be very narrow. There are points of contention for the individual thinker, but like science disputes are getting smaller and smaller. Or, another way to look at it, we are moving closer and closer to reality or truth.