MR Original – The Decline of Media and Erosion of Liberty

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October 2009

MEDIA ROOTS- The oft repeated lie will be perceived as truth. Post 9/11, the news reported has been managed propaganda, aimed at creating a climate of fear. Stories that do not reflect kindly on the agendas of the government or businesses that influence and fund the media are effectively blocked or back paged under sensationalized trivialities.

Without a functioning media that properly informs the populous which issues are significant, people will remain unaware of the pressing issues in our country and world and will be prevented from acting as responsible citizens in defense of their interests. By impeding the public from taking an informed participatory role in society, the mainstream media is crippling the democracy of the United States and undermining its very function.

Ron Suskind of the New York Times writes about speaking with a top White House aide.

“The aide said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality… We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality- judiciously, as you will- we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out.  We’re history’s actors… and all of you will be left to just study what we do.”

This statement demonstrates just how controlled our mainstream media has become.  The purveyors of information are so confident in their ability to manipulate public perception that they don’t even try to hide it.

Most Americans are unaware of even the most basic facts about the most important event of their lifetime.  A CNN 2003 Gallup poll showed that 51% of Americans believed that Saddam was personally responsible for 9/11. And despite being reported in the media that the U.S. and other countries had not found any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a 2006 Harris poll showed that a surprising 50% of U.S. adults think that Iraq had such weapons upon invasion.

These statistics are no accident.  Our country was in a volatile state after 9/11, and a great deal of responsibility was entrusted to our media to accurately report the competence of the administration’s handling of the war on terror. But the media failed in this respect, and did not scrutinize the Bush administration’s unsupported claims. The intelligence founding our pre-emptive invasion was distorted in order to manipulate public perception and garner support for the war, while the accountability from media watchdogs was virtually nonexistent.

The current and prior administrations’ agendas have been enabled by the mainstream media’s failure to report on crucial stories, and the information that is dispelled is saturated with disinformation. This makes it extremely difficult to discern the truths from the lies. For example, the Bush administration financed the preparation and distribution of false stories to the American public, and then used those stories to justify going to war. The Iraqi National Congress (INC) was paid $340,000 a month for the dissemination of information to the media about Saddam Hussein’s crimes, despite the fact that the CIA had determined their information to be completely unreliable. The propagation included inserting false stories about nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and fictional meetings between Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden into unsuspecting publications. Also, the Pentagon allotted a multimillion dollar contract to the Lincoln Group to run a pro America propaganda PR campaign in Iraqi newspapers, TV and radio in an attempt to boost the image of the war.

Due to the lack of common knowledge surrounding such issues, many people believe the media’s rhetoric is infallible, assuming the journalists are properly reporting all that is necessary to know. But television news organizations have become inundated with celebrity gossip, distorted information, and character assassinations among politicians. Once they stopped reporting on the casualties and circumstances of the Iraq war and Afghanistan occupation, it was easy to forget that we are in fact at war with one country and continuing to occupy another.

Some of the most under reported stories are the most damaging. Over the course of the last eight years, the Bush administration managed to pass constitution altering Acts that directly threaten our individual liberties and freedoms. The Military Commissions Act that was passed in 2006 dismissed the Constitutional principle of habeas corpus, one of our most innate rights as American citizens to have court review of unlawful detention. A story that should have been breaking news pinned on the front pages of newspapers was nearly ignored from mainstream media. And this is only one instance of the drastic measures that have been enacted and subsequently pushed under the rug by the prior administration and their complicit media. The John Warner Defense Authorization Act, passed in 2007, destabilized the Posse Comitatus Act and undid prohibitions on military involvement in domestic law. The National Security Presidential Directive 51 (NSPD 51), a directive that planned for the continuity of government in the event of a national emergency, allowed the Bush administration to effectively declare martial law whenever they deem it necessary.

Possibly the most frightening Act of them all, the Homegrown Terrorism and Radicalization Act, which was overwhelmingly passed in Congress by 404-4 votes on October 23rd, 2007 but was stalled in the Senate, would have initiated a new crackdown on dissent and Constitutional rights of American citizens under the guise of fighting terrorism. The act would have established a “National Commission on the prevention of violent radicalization and ideologically based violence… and report upon the facts and causes of violent radicalization, homegrown terrorism and ideologically based violence in the United States.” The idea of developing a Commission to study and report on these findings seems harmless, but the definitions of terrorism and extremism in the bill are so vague that it could be used to define or generalize any group that is working against the policies of this administration.

The definition of violent radicalization criminalizes thought and ideology, while homegrown terrorism is defined as “The ‘use, planned use, or threatened use, of force or violence to intimidate or coerce the government.” The term “force” is unclear and could encompass political activities such as rallies, marches, and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience. When the act was proposed in Congress, it was used to target websites that are putting forth unanswered questions about the 9/11 attacks, and threatened to shut them down.

Threatening to limit the information available on the internet is a slippery slope, because it is the last bastion of free media we have. More and more people are becoming disillusioned with mainstream press and have helped the internet emerge as a powerful media resource. The public is now looking on the internet to sift through the information that is under reported or falsely portrayed in newspapers and television. Because of this, extremely important organizations such as Project Censored and Common Dreams have arisen, and are taking a stand on pushing these issues to the forefront. Only independent media organizations such as these can help the restoration of a democracy and the essential role of its informed citizenry.

The systematic dismantling of our Constitution is happening unabated. If the mainstream press did its job and primarily focused on these very important topics, then the public might be more apt to vote or participate in the democratic process on a larger scale. We need an objective reporting of the facts and a press that emphasizes the importance of a responsible and active citizenry, so that we can re-establish everything our country was built on. We can stop the deterioration of our democratic process and America can once again be the shining exemplar of freedom in the world.

***UPDATE

To find out more about media consolidation and the six major corporations that effectively guide the mainstream media’s output of information watch this video.

***UPDATE

Although the Bush administration is out of office, the same constitutional erosions still apply to Obama’s reign. In March of 2010, Obama signed an extension to the controversial Patriot Act without any reforms. Additionally, Obama has sided with the Bush Administration on key civil liberties issues dealing with terror detainees, military commissions, warrantless wiretapping and national security secrets. 

The ACLU chief, Anthony Romero, has recently stated in an interview with Politico that he is “disgusted” with Obama and his position on civil liberties. He explains his point-

“It’s 18 months and, if not now, when? … Guantanamo is still not closed. Military commissions are still a mess. The administration still uses state secrets to shield themselves from litigation. There’s no prosecution for criminal acts of the Bush administration. Surveillance powers put in place under the Patriot Act have been renewed. If there has been change in the civil liberties context, I frankly don’t see it.”

President Obama is a former Harvard law professor and head of the Harvard Law Review. Unlike Bush, Obama is an expert on civil liberties, the bill of rights and the Constitution. During his campaign, Obama repeated the promise that he would restore civil liberties and work to dismantle the Bush/Cheney war on the Constitution, but he has failed on all fronts to fulfill this promise. Just because there has been a transference of administrations doesn’t mean our civil liberties have been magically restored. Obama has been seated into a benevolent dictatorship by inheriting and adopting the Bush administration’s legislative policies and just because there is a different face on the same policies doesn’t mean we should forget about the freedoms that have been curtailed. Instead, we must be even more viligant and steadfast in the movement for accountability and restoration of the rule of law.

Written by Abby Martin

One thought on “MR Original – The Decline of Media and Erosion of Liberty

  1. Hi Abby,

    In regards to promoting an open and free press and keeping the American public informed, do you have any interest in posting the presentation at your website? I would be interested in your objective response and any specific claims as to what is exaggerated, embellished, false or true in the video presentation provided in the URL below?

    http://www.stonybrook.edu/workingclass/publications/why_afghanistan.shtml

    John Medeiros

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