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Liberating the Liberal Media

May 6, 2005
By Jason Miller

"The Times" are changing for the better! As the universe has been since the advent of the Big Bang, the Fourth Estate is in a tumultuous state of evolution. Public trust in the integrity of the mainstream media has been significantly weakened, and justifiably so.

Dave Helling, a television journalist in Kansas City, recently suggested that America is undergoing a significant paradigm shift in the way consumers get their news. Alternative media sources on the Internet, and the phenomenon of blogging, pose a significant threat to the long-standing reign of traditional forms of news delivery.

Recent Nielsen ratings show that 75% of American homes now have an Internet connection. According to the Pew Research Firm, network news audiences halved from 1993 to 2000. In 2004, about 32% of Americans got their news consistently from network news. 42% of Americans read daily newspapers, down from 58% in 1994.

Meanwhile, one in three Americans got most of their news from the Internet in 2004, and 22 million Americans were reading blogs regularly. The nascent Internet media is challenging mainstream media, and in turn freeing the Fourth Estate from its servitude to corporate and government interests.

Why would the Internet pose a threat to the mainstream news entities, often referred to as the "liberal media?" To answer this, one needs to realize that there is very little that is liberal about the mainstream media. Power moguls created the myth of the "liberal media" as a red herring to distract the American public from the true nature of the mainstream media. Just 29 companies comprise the ownership of media entities that provide nearly all mainstream media broadcasts and over half of mainstream newspaper publication.

To appreciate the absurdity of calling the mainstream media "liberal," simply consider the fact that some of the world's most powerful corporations control the delivery of the news to a vast majority of Americans who rely on the mainstream media as their source. What are the motives of the corporate masters of our "liberal media?"

Money, money, and more money

One corporate objective is profit, and to achieve this profit, they need to maximize the size of their audience to satisfy their advertisers. Sensational stories draw viewers. News becomes more of a of an entertainment venue than a source of valid information. The moral, spiritual, or historical impact of an event holds little meaning to the "masters of the information portals" in the mainstream media. Their keys to "good news coverage" are shock value and the perpetuation of the media-inspired, narcissistic worldview that America is the center of the world.

If on the same day, an industrial plant explosion killed 350 children in India, and a jury found Michael Jackson guilty, the mainstreamers would feed Americans the Jackson story until they vomited, while the story of the Indian tragedy would appear as a mere footnote. More eyeballs mean more money from advertisers. News editors act as censors by determining what stories make the cut. To please their corporate masters and grease the wheels of capitalism, America's censors prioritize our news to generate ratings and draw readers. The journalistic ideal of seeking truth for the public interest is all but dead in their world.

Manipulation is power

More important than profit is the mainstream media ownership's interest in preserving the dominance of the corporation over the individual. Starting in the 1950's, post World War II America entered into a period of mass consumption and consumerism. Over the last half century, we have moved into a dark period of unparalleled avarice driven by obsession with materialism.

The corporate owners of mass media utilize both mainstream news, and its accompanying advertising, to entice Americans to buy things they do not need and to create an image of what a "successful" person should be (i.e. thin, straight, tough, beautiful, young, wealthy). Through the medium of television, corporations have a captive audience to psychologically manipulate the American public into buying what they do not need. Think Saturday morning cartoons and toy commercials!

Reaching millions of receptive minds at once, the corporate puppeteers also perpetuate the dominant paradigm of white male patriarchy and blind patriotism. Television, print and advertising empower the elite to perpetually employ their propaganda tactics to persuade the masses to allow them to maintain their tenacious grip on wealth and power.

Meanwhile, the power of labor unions continues to wane, real wages decline, the wealth gap widens, the national debt skyrockets, social welfare programs are cut, taxes on the wealthy decline, and the military industrial complex reaps obscene profits as people bleed red to keep corporations out of the red.

Despite the First Amendment, America's federal government manages to exploit the mainstream media as a tool to further its agenda. The most flagrant example in recent history has been the Bush administration's practice of hiring journalists to present its propaganda as "news."

The US government spends a great deal of money to accommodate journalists by providing them with meeting facilities, carefully orchestrated press conferences, and propaganda. Government-funded think-tanks generate reports that provide foundations for stories. Experts quoted and interviewed in mainstream reporting are often on the government payroll in some sense, even if only through grants.

Providing journalists with such convenient sources of information gives the government a powerful means of exploiting the mainstream media to manipulate the public. Government and corporate elites share an inextricably linked interest in perpetuating America's belief in the power of patriarchy, unflinching loyalty to America, the virtue of consumption, and the dominance of the white male. Together, they cleverly employ the mainstream media to inculcate these dogmas into the collective psyche of America.

While the mainstream media is corrupted by the influence of government and corporate interests, there are examples of journalistic integrity and journalists who challenge the system. To make a sweeping dismissal of every mainstream journalist would be unrealistic and unfair. The numerous muck-raking stories aired on "60 Minutes" exposing government and corporate corruption are examples of truth-seeking in the public's interest, but even Mike Wallace and "60 Minutes" are subject to corporate domination, as evidenced by the Jeffrey Wigand story.

Journalists with high ideals still exist in mainstream media, but as Dave Helling indicated, they are a dying breed, and are often hand-cuffed by young editors who are servile to corporate interests.

Freedom is a click or two away

The Internet is the hammer and anvil America needs to shatter the shackles of psychological tyranny perpetrated by the likes of Fox, the Washington Times, and columnists like Jonah Goldberg. Media mavens such as Michelle Malkin pollute our minds with ideas that are emotionally-driven, devoid of logic, and packed with endorsements of American hubris. Critical thinkers with a social conscience reel with nausea after a small dose of her rants.

However, it is not difficult to visualize those who still believe that the mainstream media "preaches the gospel of truth" nodding their heads in silent assent as they internalize the abhorrent words of the likes of Anne Coulter. Mesmerized by the power of Anne's message, their thoughts might run like this:

"Yes, yes, Anne, the liberals are the scourge of the Earth, the cause of the numerous ills in our society, and above all, they control the media, and are out to control our minds. Thank God we have courageous conservatives like you to save us from moral decay stemming from atheism, socialism, and homosexuality."

The corporate ruling class does not tolerate assaults against the truths that "good Americans" hold to be self evident. They hire the Anne Coulters to preach the gospel that the Christian, white, straight male is the ruler of our land.

Where the true "liberal media" resides

If there is a true "liberal media," it lies within the Internet. Americans now have unprecedented access to a smorgasbord of information. We are no longer limited to the steady, pre-determined diet of brain candy and propaganda served up by the mainstream media. The Internet is comprised of over two billion websites, providing a wealth of information drawn from virtually limitless resources spanning the globe. Brain candy and propaganda are readily available, but the Internet also opens paths for the mind to a rich plethora of solid nourishment.

If knowledge is power, one can increase one's power exponentially through navigation on the Internet. Search engines like Google and Dogpile are the sextant (or in today's world, GPS devices) to guide us through the oceans of information available on the Internet. With only a few keystrokes, one can access information on topics that span the spectrum of the human capacity to think and imagine.

While responsible analysis of the source and content is a necessity when sifting through some of the flotsam and jetsam of this ocean, if one is willing to do the work, the Internet offers treasures of knowledge that the mainstream media cannot begin to rival. If I watch ABC nightly news, I get one five minute synopsis of the events that unfolded in Iraq that day. If I go on the Internet, I can find hundreds of accountings and analyses produced by varying perspectives, cultures, news entities, nations, and individuals.

As a consumer of news, I want to choose my sources, and my topics. With the Internet, I can select both. Mainstream media offers no such choice.

Can quality alternative news sources on the Internet thrive without falling prey to the same ills as their corrupt mainstream counter-parts? Many Internet publications rely on hard-working editors and freelance writers, like me, to contribute their efforts for no pay. Today I had lunch with Stewart Nusbaumer, founder and editor of Intervention Magazine, a progressive online magazine. He is a living example of a full-time editor who receives no salary, and has been doing so for years. Through the efforts of people like Stewart, a true "liberal media," which is relatively free of government or corporate manipulation, does exist.

Hopefully, there are enough socially conscientious individuals to perpetuate the integrity, individuality, depth, and variety that one can find through the Internet media. The ruling class already has enough weapons in at its disposal to maintain psychological domination over the masses.

Jason Miller is a 38-year-old freelance activist writer who has been widely published through a variety of alternative media sources. He has a degree in liberal arts, is raising three boys with his wife, and works in the finance industry. He welcomes responses to his article at willpowerful@hotmail.com.

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