The Hazards of Corporate Media Consumption

By Joe Emersberger (TeleSUR)

(Photo: Reuters)
(Photo: Reuters)

The mainstream media should be embarrased by their notably Western-biased news coverage and editorial guidelines.

Jonathan Cook, an ex-reporter for the UK Guardian, said that high profile journalists in the western media are “paid by the media corporations to limit our intellectual horizons.” Indeed, but they probably limit their own by insulating themselves, not just their audience, from facts and arguments that undermine an imperial worldview. Just stick to reading the corporate press and you’ll be very well insulated. The general impression conveyed by U.S. government cables released by WikiLeaks is that the ruling elite accept many of the falsehoods and arrogant assumptions required to do their work with a clean conscience – though outright lying does also take place. Something very similar is likely true of corporate journalists and editors, especially the most successful ones.

For example, the editorial board of the New York Times reacted as follows to Venezuela’s probable win of a UN Security Council seat:

“This would give the Maduro government an important and prestigious appointment on a body that is expected to tackle critical issues, including the global response against fighters of the Islamic State. Colombia, Brazil and other Latin American countries should lead an effort to prevent Caracas from representing the region when it is fast becoming an embarrassment on the continent.”

Where to begin?

Since at least the 1990s, the Colombian government has consistently had the worst human rights record in Latin America. In documents made public by WikiLeaks, U.S. officials privately noted that right wing paramilitaries have killed hundreds of thousands of people and driven many indigenous peoples to near extinction. Even very U.S. establishment-friendly groups like Human Rights Watch have said for years that the paramilitaries work very closely with the Colombian military. If the USA had a “free press”, that revelation alone would have caused a huge scandal. The USA has provided very generous military and political support to Colombia for decades. Colombia’s military and its paramilitary allies are primarily to blame for the fact that by 2012 Colombia had the world’s highest population of internally displaced. What does it say about the U.S. media that Colombia’s government is singled out by the NYT editors as one that should lead any kind of regional effort?  While it’s possible the editors are fully aware of the Colombian government’s horrific record, it is likely the editors have simply made themselves ignorant by relying on western media coverage of Latin America. No corporate newspaper will ridicule the NYT for singling out Colombia’s government as respectable, or for calling Venezuela’s an embarrassment.

What would it take for the NYT editors to become deeply embarrassed by their own governments’ human rights record? The number of countries the Obama administration has bombed in gross violation of international law now approaches double digits. This is clearly not an embarrassment to the NYT. They do not call for a “global response” to terminate the never ending rush to war of the USA and its allies, who’ve rarely taken a break from bombing Iraq over the last twenty four years (and probably caused 1-2 million Iraqi deaths since 1990). [1] Rational people will call the big Imperial States, not the “Islamic State”, a threat that requires a “global response”. Point to an editorial board of a corporate newspaper willing to say that and you’ll be pointing to an ex-editorial board.

And any embarrassment the NYT editors ever felt for applauding the 2002 coup in Venezuela that briefly installed a dictatorship under Pedro Carmona has evaporated years ago.

The NYT editorial dismisses the Maduro government’s case against Leopoldo Lopez, an opposition leader jailed over his alleged role in violent protests this year, as a “travesty”. Completely unmentioned is the fact that Lopez was a perpetrator, not just a supporter like the NYT editors, of the 2002 coup. This video shows him (and Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles) leading the “arrest” (really a kidnapping since they had no legal authority to arrest anyone) of a Chavez government minister during the coup. The minister is beaten as he is dragged through a mob.  This video shows Lopez, hours later, boasting on Venezuelan TV about the “arrest” like a proud cop. That doesn’t prove that Lopez was guilty of criminal behavior in 2014, but it shows how foolish it is to assume that the Venezuelan government has no real case against him.  The NYT also claims that Venezuela’s legal system is totally biased against Lopez even though he never served a day in jail for his role in the 2002 coup. In fact, the killers of hundreds of pro-government (Chavista) peasants over several years have evaded justice in part because of the influence that wealthy government opponents continue to have over the judiciary.

Two corrections the NYT ran this year about Venezuela should also have made the editors unwilling to label as “inspiring” a movement led by people like Lopez. Unfortunately these corrections are buried under far more prominent material, like the NYT editorial, that apes the US government’s stance towards Venezuela. Perhaps the NYT editorial writers overlooked these corrections or, more disturbingly, are too indoctrinated to grasp their significance.

After being bombard by complaints from knowledgeable readers (who obviously looked beyond the corporate media for information) the NYT conceded in a correction that Venezuela’s TV networks “regularly feature government critics”.  In another correction, the NYT acknowledged that the number of people who died during protests early this year (now routinely estimated to be forty) “includes security forces and civilians, not only protesters.”  About half the protest related deaths were probably caused by violent protesters.

Try to imagine, if you can, the NYT editors hailing a protest movement that kills any “security forces” in the USA and that is led by anyone who has kidnapped US officials.  Imagine the leaders of such a movement being given, as they are in Venezuela, regular opportunities to  attack the government in the most prominent TV and print media.

According to a Lexis Nexis search, the Miami Herald and the Washington Post also ran editorials about Venezuela sitting on the Security Council. They were barely distinguishable from the NYT’s. One variation was that the WAPO editors put their class bigotry openly on display by calling Maduro an “economically illiterate former bus driver”. That’s the kind of political diversity offered by the “free press”. Corporate journalists should be embarrassed by it, but many, especially those at the highest levels, are probably incapable of it.


[1] Scientific studies of the Iraqi death toll support figures of 500,000 to 1,000,000 since 2003.

Hans Von Sponeck and Denis Halliday, UN officials who ran the oil-for-food program in Iraq, said US led bombing and sanctions during the 1990s killed 5,000 Iraqi children per month which works out to a about half a million child deaths alone.

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