damn that liberal media

Amongst practicioners of the Magickal arts, ‘tis said that to name a thing is to have power over it. Yet this power does not extend to changing the fundamental nature of a being; as calling a giraffe a robin does not allow it to fly. By changing something’s name you may befuddle or even impress the masses, but you can’t so simply alter reality.

To wax less metaphysical, let us consider the point of this article – the media in this country. The Republicans whine endlessly about the evils of the liberal media, often promoting it in their vilification to the Liberal Media. But this is, while perhaps not exactly wishful thinking on their part, still a typical bit of Republican propaganda; to wit, a lie.

Considered as a whole, the media in this country is distinctly right-of-centre, the majority controlled corporately and editorially by perhaps a dozen large corporations with distinctly and predictably neoconservative agendas. In such an unbalanced status quo, it is perhaps understandable – albeit unprofessional – for media outlets to try to paint their competition as being out of step with the party.

As understandable as their motivation may be, the nature of their criticisms is inevitably inept. One of the most frequently-levied criticisms of the so-called liberal media is that they intentionally distort the nature and conditions of our junket in Iraq. Aside from stirring up their fellow right-wing nuts into a froth of baseless indignation, this sort of allegation serves only to highlight the speaker’s ignorance about the nature of media itself.

The dictionary defines media as mass communications, and the industry thereof. For our purposes it is useful to consider the media as two separate and very different entities, the news media and the remainder. It is perhaps easiest to identify the latter as exclusive of the former, which include much (but not all!) of radio and television, a considerable portion of the magazine industry, newspapers, of course, and in these advanced times their online presences, branches, divisions, and counterparts. It is these forms of communication, whose business is at least in part to disseminate news to the masses, with which we are concerned.

Defining news is and has always been difficult. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, news is unusual things happening, or usual things not happening; but also occasionally usual things happening or unusual things not happening; sometimes things people want to see, but also things people need, broadly speaking, to see, and of course things people don’t want other people to see. In short, much like pornography, nearly anything can be news if done right, and, though difficult to define, you know it when you see it.

The definition of news is important to remember. The Republicans have a clear and open agenda – maintaining and consolidating their hold on political, and by proxy, commercial, power. To do this while maintaining a semblance of democratic process requires a degree of public support, and to ensure this support, and thus their continued survival at the top of the food chain, they and their media puppets engage in ethically dubious behaviour like imposing self-censorship, selective reporting of events, the use of highly partisan and biased reporting, and even outright propaganda. Rather than acknowledge this immoral manipulation of the public’s meme, they go on and on, criticizing the so-called liberal media for misrepresenting reality.

Pot, meet kettle.

Recent specific criticisms have been that by giving coverage to “less positive? developments in Iraq – American dead and wounded, terrorist attacks, anti-US demonstrations – the media is being biased. This is untrue. Unlike (for instance) Fox News, media outlets providing, let’s be frank, honest coverage of the American jihad in Iraq are doing what they’re supposed to – reporting news.

I’m sorry, but it’s newsworthy that American soldiers are dieing every day in Iraq, months after “major combat operations? supposedly ended, and that they’re being killed at increasingly frequent intervals. It’s newsworthy that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad to protest the de-facto American occupation of their country. It’s newsworthy that there were more terror attacks worldwide in 2004 than any of the last twenty years. Reality is, this country and its economy are in serious trouble, problems caused and exacerbated by the Republican administration. Rather than being, as right-wing nuts so often criticize them, un-American, news outlets reporting these and other stories are simply living up to their expectations and doing what is asked of them – namely, reporting news. In a country with constitutional freedom of speech and the press – the freedom and liberty to report important things regardless of government approval, or even more importantly despite government disapproval – it is those who criticize others for exercising their rights, those who are unabashedly in favor of censorship and propaganda, who are un-American.

When the religious fringe in this country bemoans the “liberal bias? in the media, what they’re really saying is that the few portions of the news media not controlled by their interests are, by their right-wing standards, not sufficiently conservative. When you’re as extremist as fundamentalist neoconservatives are today, everything looks liberal. Calling the media liberal does not make it so, for words and names alone cannot change the nature of something, no matter how often you scream, whine, and bellow them.

Or, to write in soundbites, conservatives lie… which is, truly, not news at all.

Published in: General | on April 18th, 2005| Comments Off on damn that liberal media

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