There is a great deal of criticism about the main-stream media circulating today. But much of that criticism badly misses the mark. Don't misunderstand me. I'm not coming to the aid of media conglomerates who distort the news, or selectively choose what counts as news, for ideological or commercial reasons. But I am saying that every time a conservative mindlessly parrots the old line about the media being liberal, far from serving as a watchdog guarding against and correcting media bias, they are instead helping cover up the real abuses of the news at the hands of mass media.
As Eric Alterman demonstrated in painstaking detail in his book What Liberal Media?, the media considered as a whole - despite the party affiliation of individual reporters - is neither conservative nor liberal, neither Republican nor Democrat. Rather, it is a commercial enterprise interested less in a well informed public and more in lining the corporate coffers with gold.
In practice this means that the media consistently fails to confront power by arming the electorate with information. Instead of being told how we are being constantly screwed by those who want to use us to make themselves more obscenely wealthy, instead of being told how money and power are being consolidated into the hands of a very few, we are fed a constant diet of junk. Distracting frivolities.
Of course, all of this is a painful oversimplification, but such is the nature of blogs. While there are many diverse forms of media, and many different groups and interests represented within each form of media, the entire enterprise is handily reduced to "corporate media" or "mainstream media," or, far too often and far too inaccurately, the "liberal media." But, if we are being honest in how we use our language, we ought never to conflate "liberal media" with "corporate" or "mainstream media." Simply put, "liberal" media outlets - and there still are a few out there - have a very different interest than mainstream corporate media outlets. Liberal media, strong in its ideological convictions, believes that a well informed public will come to see that the political philosophy of the so-called "liberals" is the best way to address what ails our country. Mainstream corporate media believes - if one can describe this as a belief - that a well informed public is bad for advertising revenue.
As such, there is tremendous conflict between liberal (and even "conservative - as it, too, has ideological principles which require a well informed public, I hope) media and the mainstream media; though not that the mainstream media would notice.
The LEO, the standard bearer for local liberal media, has just published an article on the 10 big stories - vital for a well informed public, which is necessary for democracy - which have been censored, ignored, or under-reported by the mainstream media, as identified by Carl Jenson of Project Censored. Alongside these stories are Project Censored latest edition of Junk Food News - 10 stories with little or no news value which have been all over the news, distracting and dumbing down the public.
Of course, to a certain extent blaming the media for covering Tom Cruise instead of, say, civilian casualties in Iraq, Halliburton selling nuclear technology to Iran, or erosions to federal whistleblower protection is like blaming McDonalds for America choosing to eat crap. Corporate entities, the argument goes, sell what people are willing to buy. Celebrity fluff pieces, tabloid news, they sell. Global warming? Al Gore's valiant effort notwithstanding, not so much.
But I have to ask: is a corporate model the best model for the news? Sure we all believe in the gods of the market, who magically work out all things for the good of those who love money. But is the marketplace the best way to test the value of all things? Shouldn't some essentially human areas, such as, say, health care, and, yes, information, be rendered as a service instead of as a product?
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