chris hedges

The State of Journalism in the Digital Age

After John Kerry made his “propaganda bullhorn” speech about Russia Today, RT published a rebuttal. It began like this:

John Kerry has attacked RT for its coverage of the Ukraine crisis, calling it a “propaganda bullhorn.” Neglecting to address the US’ role in the conflict or back up his assertions with any evidence, Kerry said Russia was behind the unrest in Ukraine.

They have a point. I’ve been watching RT regularly since I got hooked on Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set. Unfortunately, she left after 3 seasons, but I still watch RT news and some of their other programs. Why? Because they include information the U.S. and British media leave out.

It’s true. American media regularly makes unsubstantiated claims RT easily refutes by sending journalists to the regions being covered. Arguably, RT was partially responsible for preventing the U.S. going to war with Syria over the false claim that Assad was using poison gas. They’re having more of an uphill battle in the Ukraine, but at least are casting doubt on the frequent misinformation coming out of Washington and the mainstream news.

News is Propaganda

I don’t care where it comes from. News is propaganda. News outlets always have an agenda and they slant their news to suit their agenda. Facts no longer matter in a media where opinion counts as news. If I worked for a media outlet and wrote, “Nazis now in charge in the White House,” I wouldn’t have to back the statement up with facts. All I would have to do is state my opinion and write about how so-and-so reminded me of Hitler or one of his cohorts. If I was a respected name working for a big-name news organisation, the audience would eat it up.

John Kerry wasn’t entirely wrong when he called RT Russia’s propaganda bullhorn. I still respect RT’s journalistic standards far more than any Western media because they know they are fighting an uphill battle. If they just spouted opinion-pieces, no one would listen, so they back up their allegations with undeniable facts. When they say neo-Nazis have a big influence in the Ukraine, for example, they back up the statement. You won’t hear about it in the American mainstream media, but even the BBC admitted that the Ukraine underplays role of far right in conflict. The BBC waters it down in the opening paragraphs, but at least it addresses the issue.

Image from BBC article cited above

You have to read between the lines to get to the truth in today. The article cited above states:

Far-right parties failed to pass a 5% barrier to enter parliament, although if they had banded together, and not split their vote, they would have probably slipped past the threshold.

In other words, although individually far-right parties failed to pass the 5% barrier, collectively they could have done so.

The article also failed to mention that the ultra-right Svoboda Party was only .3% short of passing the 5% barrier and had captured over 10% in 2012. I got this information from the Guardian, which sees the far right as a greater problem than the BBC does. The article also mentions that the problem is not a “Russian media invention” before going on to say that while Vladimir Putin bears responsibility for exposing the neo-Nazi threat, it is

necessary to break with the “it might be beneficial for Putin” logic and start to think what is beneficial for all the people living in Ukraine, and whether the radical nationalist ideas can fit the Ukrainian future to which we aspire.

The Alternative Media

chris hedgesAn amazing number of people still seem to think that “alternative media” has less credibility than the mainstream media. Alternative media has less money, reach and power than the MSM, but should have at least as much credibility. Many journalists of integrity have left the MSM because they could no longer put up with toeing the party line. Chris Hedges is a case in point.

In 2002, Hedges was part of a group of eight New York Times reporters who won a Pulitzer Prize for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. Now he reports for Truthdig. I’ve seen him on RT a few times, but never on the MSM. Why? It can only be because they don’t want to spread his version of the news. It’s certainly not because he can’t offer insightful commentary. Read his recent article, Journalism as Subversion, if you want to read a great opinion piece. Here’s a snippet:

As the mass media, now uniformly in the hands of large corporations, turn news into the ridiculous chronicling of pseudo-events and pseudo-controversy we become ever more invisible as individuals. Any reporting of the truth—the truth about what the powerful are doing to us and how we are struggling to endure and retain our dignity and self-respect—would fracture and divide a global population that must be molded into compliant consumers and obedient corporate subjects. This has made journalism, real journalism, subversive.

Of course, the alternative media isn’t always squeaky-clean. Some of the “journalism” on alternative news sites is patently absurd. Some alternative journalists, like Alex Jones, are so biased and paranoid, taking everything they say at face value would give you nightmares. Nevertheless, alternative journalism gives us just that — an “alternative” to the propaganda offered by a mainstream media that is controlled by just six corporations, all of which are dedicated to making us “compliant consumers and obedient corporate subjects.”

The State of Journalism Today

Our job as viewers, listeners and readers is to stop seeing any news personality or media outlet as an authoritative source of news and start thinking critically. It isn’t easy. We were brought up to listen to authority and not understand how the media is used to control us through fear and reward. The internet will never replace first-hand observation, but if you dig deep enough, you can uncover the truth. And as someone once said, “the truth will set you free.”