Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hostage

My colleagues and I are hostage—as you are also—to the news media for our information. Nevertheless, we have been complaining about the media since we opened up shop. We believe that the corporate media are corrupt and have gone well beyond the understandable and modest conflict of interest of the "press as a medium-sized business" ethos. Making a living from advertisements of local furniture sales and grocery items meant that egregious behavior on the part of such advertisers would get modest, if any, coverage. Corporatism raises the stakes on that game beyond mere interstate commerce or national concerns.

Today's corporate press has a different constituency with which to deal. It has to be careful with all other corporations, ours and those abroad and those in both places, especially those with which their directors interlock. They have to be careful lest the secret get out that corporations are not actually primarily interested in creating jobs, building bridges, making aspirins, or canning soups, but rather building greater and greater profits AND—something almost new in the bargain— building a power base from which its activities will be (in effect) unassailable.

The press has great power to lull the citizenry to sleep or to stimulate them to fear and loathing. The new corporate press, like its predecessors, has the power to ignore and to exaggerate. The worst elements of the press do not hesitate to lie. We all know about the Battleship Maine and the trumped up war against Spain. We all know about the run-up to Vietnam and, more recently, the frenzy to engage an enemy in Iraq, each of these adventures promoted by the press, with the complicity of the governments then in power.

The cure for a corrupt press is a clean press, but like Gresham's law for bad currency, poorly made and corrupt news tends to drive out well done news. This is because it is easy to play to baser instincts of the masses, and difficult indeed to play the game straight up, especially when that takes more time, more research, more people, more of everything that makes delivering the truthful news unprofitable.

To answer the occasional criticism: no, we are not hypocrites for using the contemporary media, for presenting articles from them to you in the American Liberalism Project's eMedia feature. We look hard at these articles for signs of integrity or, if necessary, for obvious signs of corruption that you cannot miss. Our aim is to help you understand Liberalism through the lens of the passing days' events. No, we are not hypocrites for our use of the press, but, as I say, we are hostages!

And, speaking of hostages, we are monitoring the Giuliana Sgrena Affair as closely as we can. This means that we are watching every source for signs of "party line," for signs of insight and logic, for signs of honesty and integrity.

The bad press is paying a great deal of attention to the fact that Giuliana's employer is a newspaper run by the Communist Party of Italy. Yes, that is not an oxymoron; the Italians have had a Communist Party for over a century and it occasionally polls well among the working populace, but it is not a monolithic party like the ones sponsored by the Kremlin in years gone by. The Italian Communists are an anarchic group of free-thinkers and socialists. They would deny both, but history demands the truth.

The point is, of course, it would not have made any difference if Giuliana Sgrena and her liberators were from Mars (or Venus)! The U.S. Army had to have a really good reason for shooting 300 high caliber rounds into her escape car, particularly when, as it is reported consistently, the road was too bumpy for speed and the car had been through three previous check-points prior to the fusilade.

The Sgrena Affair, if it was a deliberate ambush designed to throttle the voice of this Italian reporter, is, for me, reason enough to impeach Rumsfeld. There could be no excuse for such a thing, which (if you think about it) could not have originated on the ground in Iraq. But, we do not know, and neither do the Italians at this writing. Soon though we will have enough evidence to either drop it or gird our loins and pursue it to the necessary conclusion!

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