Plural Perspectives

Plural Perspectives
Plurality promotes and powers Perspectives

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Is A Referendum Any Real Remedy to Fix the US Media’ Malady?

At a time when crisis faced by complacent media’s derelictions are being catalogued by concerned commentators, some interests groups instead of urgently pursuing remedies look for pseudo-issues for their activism. Some propose restricting viewers’ choice as a solution. One glaring example is The Defenders Council of Vermont which has tasked itself to educate Vermont's citizens about the nature, reality of threats facing the United States. One wonders if this lot is cognizant of the dire dereliction the US media is experiencing, its consequences and if they could instead propose any appropriate antidotes to reverse such conditions? They can serve a better cause by encouraging more media critics who are raged at the media’s triumphalism by the manner conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are reported. Like those who, in the words of Salon’s Jayne Lyn Stahl: "broach, and critically analyze, the issue of the long term costs of this war not merely to our veterans, but to our national ethos."

Stahl, a widely published American poet and essayist, wishes to know why the media is refusing to air any details of a staggering 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Rand Corp., who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and depression. In a recent letter to the New York Times, former Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, accused the mainstream media of vastly underreporting the numbers of vets who return from war injured or hurt.

An exceptional example worth emulating by all genuine media activists is Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher, the author of “So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits, and the President Failed on Iraq”. The book is an edited collection of his extraordinary E&P columns from 2002 to 2007 about the war, which together constitute a powerful indictment of the big American newspapers. Mitchell was first to spot many military analysts who appeared on cable and network news shows were, in fact, scripted by the Pentagon, and further tainted by having business links to potentially huge profits from war contracts.

Here are some reasons why the American citizens more than ever need a compelling antidote to the cult of misinformation. As one who has been on the cutting edge of exposing the Bush administration's pre-emptive war on the media, Mitchell, the author of nine other nonfiction works, wrote that pundits who agitated for an attack on Iraq should be “on their knees begging the American public for forgiveness”. Media outlets ought to answer why it hasn't sufficiently probed the cakewalk crowd who promised a casual march to victory in Iraq. When media activists will press for an accountability of the likes of Ken Adelmen who misled the American media by claiming: 'measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America's war on terrorism.' Had American taxpayers an easy access to alternate information sources it wouldn't have taken them four years to question the wisdom of the 'cakewalk' bunch.

What we need to give the public a true picture of continuing this war, the kind of honest "bad news" both in human terms and the trillion-dollar price tag yet to come. General Ricardo Sanchez's address to military editors and reporters is a clarion call for often compliant and at times co-opted journalists to wriggle out of their age of denial, dismissal and disapproval of sources that could have (and still can) otherwise provided alternate views of Iraq.

'America must hold all national agencies accountable for developing and executing the political and economic initiatives that will bring about stability, security, political and economic hope for all Iraqis,' said General Sanchez, adding: 'The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave-off defeat. The administration, Congress and the entire interagency, especially the Department of State, must shoulder the responsibility for this catastrophic failure and the American people must hold them accountable.' Sanchez asked point blank: 'Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leaders involved in the management of this war?' While it took a uniformed officer four years to speak his mind in public is not unexpected, what is far more worrisome is that the US mainstream media has not risen up to secure straight, clear-cut answers.

Encouraging and embracing alternate sources of media has become increasingly important at a time when many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of overstepping their boundaries.

Serious short-comings of a complacent media, compounded by the derelictions of the complainant lobbyists raise the greatest ever need for encouraging alternate sources to help put a check on the American media’s misgivings and misreporting not as an occasional aberration but on a 24/7 basis.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Pitting Prejudiced Perceptions with Professional Perspectives?

Rebuffed by two city committees, an interest group that wants to get Al-Jazeera English off the city's cable television system is seeking to put the matter to voters in a referendum. The Defenders Council of Vermont (DCV), says it is working with some Burlington residents to get enough signatures on a petition to get the matter on the ballot for the November election.

The recommedation by two advisory committees in Vermont State, USA that Al Jazeera news channel should continue to be offered on Burlington Telecom cable is not unusal but in line with how professional bodies elsewhere reflect on the merits and demerits of this news channel serving as an alternate source on global developments. The Citizens Advisory committee established by the Vermont Public Service Board and the Telecom Advisory Committee created by the Burlington City Council pondered if having Al Jazeera English brings any value to Burlington viewers. The timing of their deliberations coincided with that of the juries at two presigious media awards who recently looked at AJE's professional credentials.Al Jazeera English has excelled at the 17th Amnesty International UK Media Awards announced in London on 17th June . The awards recognise excellence in human rights reporting and acknowledge journalism's significant contribution to the UK public's awareness and understanding of human rights issues.

It may be recalled that on 10th June 2008, the award for “Best 24 Hour News Program” at the 48th Monte Carlo Television Festival conferred upon Al Jazeera English is not an aberration, but, one in a series of accomplishments scored by a news channel launched only in November 2006. The award recognized Al Jazeera English’s “extensive international reach and efforts to dig deeper to give its international audience a richer understanding of the events that affect their lives.”

The Defenders Council of Vermont has tasked itself to educate Vermont's citizens about the nature, reality of threats facing the United States. The DCV now calls for a referendum over what news channels should be available in Burlington. One wonders how all this fits with the learned and informed assessment of those who practice and profess media backed by decades of knowledge and experience.

For those who refuse to red between the lines here are some excerpts that may serve as eye openers should they sincerely wish to know how some well-informed and learned American professionals have recently evaluated the quality of what the US viewers are being offered: As major US television networks shy away from a candid coverage of the Middel East, increased access to alternate providers will help raise competition & accountability. CBS’ chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan who appeared on “The Daily Show” recently voiced a few candid observations about broadcast coverage of Iraq becoming increasingly scarce in U.S. media, which the NYT picked up in a story on 23 June 2008. “If I were to watch the news that you hear here in the United States, I would just blow my brains out because it would drive me nuts,” she added.

Another recently published book that truly reveals how the culture of professional journalistic lapses, manipulation, "embedded" reporters, and the outright lies and mendacity by the neo-con media handlers, has built a vast institutional apparatus that is still fully in power, and still dangerous and destructive. Greg Mitchell, the author of "So Wrong For So Long", lists the failures of the media and journalism to hold the political establishment accountable and hence, placing the vitality of democracy at risk.

Eric Boehlert author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush" is aghast at how the mainstream media -- through the collusion of its big multi-billion dollar corporate parents -- has joined the military-industrial complex in an ongoing effort to prop up a failed administration, guilty of illegalities, deception, fraud, negligence and gross failure.

It is increasingly feared that modern politics and media overload mean excellent sources of information are swallowed in a fog most Americans ignore or into which they refuse to peer. Writers like Larry Beinhart author of Fog Facts: Searching for Truth in the Land of Spin" having been pointing out how television news is the primary fog machine that leaps over the big facts that are essential to the functioning of democracy to get to a story about a runaway bride.

Instead of referring to it as "a threat", DCV's should explore if access to channels like Al Jazeera could provide objective coverage of critical foreign policy and security issues, while many US media organs tiptoe around issues in fear of not to over step their boundaries. Armed with diverse news sources, the American people can crosscheck and verify the government's position to rid themselves of half-truths from the corporate media, which remains a willing accomplice in keeping American viewers continually subjected to what former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan calls "Washington's Culture of Deception."

It seems that the right of US viewers’ majority to have alternate news channels is being objected to by a handful but noisy few. Interestingly, many of such vocal elements possess no expertise either about the society in the Middle East its media, or the regional discourse on issues existing there.

Why some elements insist that Burlington need not get diverse news sources, is it because they have blind faith in whatever is doled out by corporate media or because some need to hide from the whole truth? Is it by mere chance that a campaign is pursued to deny the American viewers getting the other side of the story that usually doesn't make it on US media since many of whom are either co-opted by corporations and/or corruption?

One would expect media activists to ask the major US channels draw adequate attention to matters that are of vital concern for American lives. But many are found silent on most occasions. Others are observed busy to attract attention on irrelevant and insignificant issues.

Who, then, will lobby for the American people's right to get the fullest and clearest picture of the way American wealth and treasured lives are committed abroad?