3/16/2005

The Media Whores

We've all seen the pundits on local and national news programs, captivating us with their million-dollar smiles and their award-winning personalities. They are mostly white and mostly male and can be found on any television network, including the cable news channels. One thing they all have in common is that their news stories and commentaries could well have been written by the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, a public relations firm, or a Hollywood entertainment writer.

They are the media whores.

Just as MSNBC seems slightly more palatable than the "fair and balanced" Fox News, some of the media whores seem more professional and believable than others, but all are bad for journalism. They do not ask the tough, probing questions that try to get at some semblance of truth and hold a politician's feet to the fire, no matter which party they represent; rather, their questions are shallow and mushy, completely lacking in political knowledge and context. Many times, their pale cheeks red, white and blue with patriotic pride, the media whores gush out in agreement with their sources. The effect of this is nauseating to the audience and the legitimacy of news suffers in the end.

Where are the stories that matter? Where are the stories that show us the devestating effects of globalization, malnutrition, hunger and disease? Where are the stories that show us the effects of homelessness, layoffs, factory closings, unemployment, poverty and high health care costs? Where are the stories that show us what other cultures are thinking and doing? Where are the stories that show us the reality of war, which includes tremendous human suffering, loss of limbs, blindness, decapitation and death? Where are the stories that show the world as it is and do not sugar-coat it or accept imposed government censorship?

Instead, we get Britney Spears. We get Michael Jackson. We get the feel-good chitter-chatter of Katie Couric. We get the lies of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. We get a half-hour of network news each evening, with serious, professional, believable anchors. We get "video news releases," propaganda pieces produced to look like news stories, yet designed to promote specific government policies and agendas. These segments are often aired on news programs without comment and without mentioning that they were produced by the White House or other government agencies.

We get Robert Novak, the columnist who on July 14, 2003, illegally revealed the identity of an active CIA operative, yet is still writing columns. We get Jeff Gannon -- aka, pornographer James Guckert -- a fake news reporter who obtained White House press credentials under a false name, sat in on dozens of White House press briefings, and asked softball questions that made the Republican administration look good.

We get "if-it-bleeds-it-leads" news coverage from our local "newscenter." We get up-to-the-minute weather reports from our local "stormcenter". We get all the latest sports scores. We get game shows, survivor shows, crime shows, sit-coms and soaps out the wazoo. We get commercial after commercial after commercial and now, even, the half-hour infomercial. But why didn't we know how angry Osama bin Laden was about our military bases in Saudi Arabia? Why didn't we know what President Bush knew long before Sept. 11 -- that terrorists were planning to use commercial planes as bombs?

After Sept. 11 -- as the Bush White House made its cartoonish war plans to "smoke evil-doers out of their holes" in Afghanistan -- the media whores aided this war policy without reporting or acknowledging any alternative courses of action or without investigating the historical root causes of the World Trade Center attack. The media whores have become propagandists for U.S. war policy and largely do not tolerate dissenting opinions. They have become whores for a government that supports "good" terrorism (when the U.S. does it) and condemns "bad" terrorism (when other nations do it).

Before the "preemptive" war on Iraq, the media whores swallowed each government lie about Iraq being an imminent threat to the U.S., possessing weapons of mass destruction, and supporting Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. No serious debate. No discussion about the 1983 handshake and meeting between Reagan's special envoy Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, which took place after Hussien had used chemical weapons. No raised eyebrows. No probing questions. Only the smiles and personalities of these government lapdogs. Only flashy propaganda graphics and entertainment.

But why call them media "whores"? Isn't there a nicer term, a less offensive term? Well, sure, there are indeed nicer, less offensive terms that are used all the time in media criticism, but when television news anchors, commentators and correspondents sell the soul of ethical journalism for a salary, and thus deprive millions of citizens of the opportunity to see and hear independent news reporting, then "whore" is the most appropriate term under the circumstances. When media pundits suppress the facts about the causes and consequences of war, then "whore" is the most appropriate term. When paid media pundits would rather drool over the technology of the latest attack helicopter or "smart bomb" than to discuss civilian war casualties and GI deaths, then "whore" is an appropriate term for them.

It is not media objectivity -- as some claim -- that we need to be concerned about; it's background and context. Today's mass media cover only the present and they do not travel back in time and show old film to establish background and context for the viewer. For example, when George W. Bush says something outlandish that contradicts what he has previously said, the media rarely pull up the old film to expose his new words as a contradiction or an outright lie. They just show the new film and get pundit reactions to it. In the world of the media whores, the past does not exist. This is one of the chief ways that reality is manipulated and controlled by the media. Thankfully, the Daily Show with John Stewart takes the time to dig up the old film and show the audience what it is missing from mainstream news.

Why should citizens have to wait for the Daily Show or for an occasional call-in program on C-SPAN or wait for a documentary on WORLD LINK TV in order to become better informed? If our free press were really free, then the news providers would be practicing independent reporting. The airwaves belong to the public. Isn't it time the public ensures that the airwaves are used for the public good by denying license renewals to broadcasters who act as pimps for the messages of the Military/Industrial complex?

We need a diverse, independent media -- and we need it NOW!

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