A democratic society cannot function without an educated, informed populace, where each member is able to express his or her preferences as to how society should run. In order for this to happen, the people depend on journalists and the media to accurately and impartially report on the events occurring in the world. No matter how educated a people, or how free the society they live in, informed decision-making is impossible if the information given to them is tainted by bias, misrepresentation and omission.
Unfortunately for us, the media giants in our country have again betrayed the public trust. As the New York Times reported on April 20, 2008, retired military members, who have been serving as advisors to literally all of the U.S. media sources, have been taking direct orders from the Pentagon as to what they should say and what topics they ought to avoid. These pundits, who are presented as unbiased advisors daily on television, the radio and in print across the country, are nothing more than parrots of the latest talking points from the Pentagon and the White House. This completely undermines the supposed freedom of the press, and runs counter to the role of the media in society.
The press has a responsibility to the people of this nation to accurately report what occurs outside of our day-to-day lives, and this direct tie between the news networks and the president’s close advisors is unbelievably inappropriate. The phrase “sleeping with the enemy” jumps to mind, as does “they’re fucking lying straight to your face.”
Nobody would accept a university system in which students performed sexual favors on their professors for higher grades, because such a system gives academic rewards for non-academic functions. So why accept a “free press” which parades the lies and opinions of the executive branch and the military as truth? This behavior destabilizes our very mode of government because the people cannot accurately voice their preferences when their view of the possible choices has been deliberately skewed.
The most outrageous part of this story is that since the New York Times broke this story, no other news network has so much as mentioned it. They have buried their heads in the sand, and gambled that the American public won’t care enough to call them out on their betrayal. The sad part is, they’re probably right.
This is not the first time this story has been broken, and it will not be the last. After the first Gulf War, news networks ran stories about how military advisors and retired military members had been deliberately deceiving the public as to the nature of the conflict, the costs and the outcomes of the war. The news programs featured this point of view almost exclusively, as they did in the run up to the Iraq invasion, and as they are now in regards to Iran, Pakistan and foreign policy in general. Then, as now, the news organizations claimed they had been overly trusting and taken advantage of. Then, as now, they continued employing the same liars and mouthpieces towing the military’s line.
Why do we continue to accept this propaganda? If the definition of insanity is performing the same actions over and over and every time expecting a different outcome, then what should we call ourselves for believing the media every time they say how unexpected it was that the military took advantage of them? Of course our military is biased! War is their function – it’s what they are trained to do. Wars mean more money, which means more new weapons, more soldiers and continued existence of the war machine. Without wars to fight, they wouldn’t get funding at the same level: This is the basic reality of budgeting.
A free press cannot exist if it continues to uncritically believe the talking points of a party with a vested interest in the current state of affairs. As the mass media has proven itself unworthy of the task, we must turn to other sources in search of the truth.