Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Myth of US Free Press!

The senior press historian brought to a climax his presentation of the American press freedom concept by announcing: Here we achieved the Founding Fathers’ dream of the open marketplace of ideas.
I told him: That was in the glorious past, when an enlightening and critical press was the public watchdog on the government. Today, it is more like the supermarket of ideas, where most thoughts are manufactured, packaged and shelved.
The professor was proud of having over 1,300 newspapers in America, but those and hundreds of radio and TV stations are mostly owned by five mega corporations. The few remaining independent papers are a rare species, threatened with extinction.
How can you maintain a true form of press freedom if everything is for sale? How can you provide enlightenment if market forces decide your form and direction? How can you be a dedicated watchdog if your eyes are constantly on the beef, and your leash is in the beef industry’s hands?
You can tell me it is not my business, if it was not America. From Hollywood movies to network sitcoms, from print news to sound bites, and from New York Times to CNN, the American media rules. They set trends and standards, educate and train, and preach the rest of us on democracy, ethics and freedom. This gives them the unique universal position of leading or misleading, and upgrading or downgrading the message and the messenger.
So, when The Washington Post and The New York Times that published the Pentagon papers, unfolded the Watergate scandal and brought the downfall of a powerful president uncritically buy this administration’s justification for the Iraq war, we have to worry. When most American papers refuse to publish a review of a best-seller book from an American president, Jimmy Carter, and his article defending himself against an Israeli smearing campaign, we have to worry. And when the open and free market of ideas fails to face off a lobby dedicated to promoting a foreign country’s interests over America’s, we have to worry.
A Pulitzer Prize winner once explained his anti-Arab, pro-Israel position saying he had a constituency to cater for. Israel’s powerful friends can hurt you, he revealed. Arabs, on the other hand, can only send angry messages, he could live with that. Thomas Friedman changed after his visit to Saudi Arabia, and was kind enough to say a few nice things about its leadership. It didn’t take long to hear from the lobby, it seems. Today, he never makes any criticism of Israel, but hardly a week passes without a jab at the evil Arabs.
The Op-Ed editors of an independent major city newspaper were telling visiting Arab reporters how free they were to take the public’s side in any fight. No government or business interests could influence the editorial policies of their paper, they assured us.
I asked them squarely: Are you free enough to criticize Israel? They said yes. But, later, one editor took me aside and told me a story. Once, Israel was misbehaving in a way that cannot be defended or ignored. Its army was bombarding the Palestinian town of Jenin in 2002, and innocent civilians were killed everyday. The editor wrote a mild criticism of Israel, balanced with a criticism of the Palestinian authorities. The next couple of days, a few Arabs wrote praising the balance and many Jews wrote criticizing the stand. All lived in the paper’s city area.
Two weeks later a flood of letters came from outside the city and state with strong criticism. They all carried the same language or text. At the same time, many individuals and corporations canceled their subscriptions and advertisements. They cited this particular article and accused the paper of anti-Semitism. Some threatened lawsuits. This was the last article of its kind, the editor said. “Our survival at the end of the day is more important to our shareholders and staff than the survival of the Palestinians.”
Another case in point, an American TV producer interviewed by an Arab radio was asked to explain the overwhelming support for Israel in the US Congress. He said: You need millions of dollars to run for Congress, and the Israeli lobby will make or break you depending on your loyalty, not to your country but to theirs. If you beat your competitor in pledging your undying loyalty to the Holy Cow, Israel, you win their steadfast support. Later, they watch you like a hawk and judge you on your voting record. One mistake and you are down with a scandal or in the next election. Therefore, the American explained, most elected politicians and lawmakers are in the lobby’s pocket. The interview was translated by an Israeli Arab-media watch group, an article was written about it in a pro-Israel paper, and the torture campaign began! In a few weeks the pressure was too much for his employers to bear and he had to resign.
We, in the Arab world, never claim to have true free press, but American media brag about it. Freedom of the press, you say? Tell me about it, America!


V. Veritas said...

In response to: "The Myth of US Free Press!"

If nothing else, Khaled Batarfi is consistent in his incessant anti U.S. rhetoric as well as his ignorance of the U.S. press and politics despite having studied at American university and despite being a self pronounced "citizen of the world."

I happened to be in Washington D.C. during the
anti-war protest, a protest that Batarfi refused to attend or write about despite the fact that I informed him of it. True, he was catching a plane out that night back to Saudi Arabia. However, Batarfi had plenty of time to at least go go over to the protest site, observe and perhaps even do a few interviews.

Batarfi's female journalistic colleagues also had
better things to do. They went shopping! SHOPPING!?

Therefore, I have linked this last protest, free press column of the late Bush critic and political watch dog journalist, Molly Ivins, so that Dr. Batarfi might lean a bit more about America's people, as well
as her free press: Stand Up Against the "Surge"

I am also happy to offer Dr. Batarfi my personal photos of the protest as well as impressions of the mood of the protesting Americans in the U.S. capitol so that he might finally know that a majority of the U.S. is against this war and has been so for a long time. However, being against the war does not mean being for Islamist terror—nor does it mean letting Arab/Muslims off the hook for their part in the escalation of the Iraqi civil war including sending jihadis as well as providing munitions, explosives and other materiel for Muslims to slaughter their brothers.

America's press is not perfect and does not always do its job. However, it is much freer than anything the Arab world has ever had, not to mention the fact that we have a few journalists who do their jobs even on their death beds instead of doing lunch or going shopping.

Batarfi, in his January article "Your Take on Arab Hypocrisy" quoted King Abdullah:

"Allah will never change to the better the situation of any people unless they first change themselves, as Allah promised in the Quran."

The world is waiting Khaled, it has been waiting for fourteen hundred years for Arabs to stop being hypocrites and finally take personal responsibility for the state of the ummah—in particular in the Arab world.

If not now, when?

If not you—then who?

V. Veritas

Vérité sans peur (Truth without fear)

Ford said...

frankly v, you're talking out of your bum.

for a long time the american press has been the sycophant of big business.

whilst i live in NZ i watch and read many news sources; american news is so sanitised that a tampon would have difficulty detecting a trace of blood.

american press is not free with information. for many years it has been spouting the words of the white house with little thought of the content or context of those words.

i understand that as an american you need believe that impartial views are the norm for news but you really need to actually watch foreign news (and your own) and extrapolate actual fact from rhetoric.
your news never mentions the fact that ahmadinejad, the president of iraq ;), has nowhere near the power of your own president (an excellent example of the missing link if i may opine).
how loud was the detraction of ahmadinejads' words when it was found the translation was wrong?
well my mute wasn't on, but apparently your news was!

how was abu gahraib covered?
a few bad apples.
how was the haditha massacre covered?
a few bad apples.

your president and vice president have both expressed that the so-called IEDs provided by iran have been provided by the revolutionary guard. as such, whether the government knew it or not the government is responsible for their actions. and should be held responsible.
where has your government acted in accordance with these remarks?

has your government held itself responsible for its' false claims of wmds?
has your legislature held your government responsible for its' false claims of wmds?
where are the flowers that cheney said you would be welcomed with?
remember rumsfeld?
"they're to the north and south of baghdad, tekrit, the point is we know where they are"
so, where are those wmds?
simple evidence of a government unwilling to call a spade a spade and a press unwilling to call them on what they say.

where's the honesty there in your news?

you continue to hold people without any reference to common or international law!
you continue to torture people in defiance of international law!

do you know what the worst thing about all this is?
osama bin laden is still breathing.
you lot have been led up the garden path whilst many in the rest of the world saw this eventual debacle and rued it's coming.
tho considering the amount of rhetoric that you are bombarded with daily this may be difficult.

there are many points upon which i could vilify both you and your country but what would be the point?
it's quite apparent the your citizens have little critical thinking in regard to what is actually important beyond the "i want" attitude that your advertising espouses.