Propagandist Osama bin Laden has robbed Americans of one of their most cherished liberties -- media freedom. It might be termed blank-check journalism -- the main news media of the United States sign away their right to make judgment calls because of vaguely hinted national security concerns. At the same time that the five major TV news organizations in the United States have agreed to self-censorship, the leaders of 21 journalism groups in the U.S.
According to PR counselor James Lukaszewki, whose clients include major corporations and the U.S. military, "media coverage and terrorism are soul mates--virtually inseparable--they feed off each other... they together create a dance of death." Although the media and terrorists may deplore each other, Lukaszewski observes, both parties provide something the other needs. Terrorists seek publicity, and therefore seek to commit an "act of sufficient magnitude to gain audience attention ...
"The five major television news organizations reached a joint agreement yesterday to follow the suggestion of the White House and abridge any future videotaped statements from Osama bin Laden or his followers to remove language the government considers inflammatory," reports the New York Times.
In an interview with Lip Magazine, media critic Bob McChesney discusses mass media's failure to provide context and understanding in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. "We need our media to really lead and show direction in all three areas: explaining what's happening, explaining why it's happening, and leading debate over what can and should be done about it," said McChesney.
Professor Jerold M. Starr looks at corporate control of the U.S. media and calls for a new independent public broadcasting system: "Today a mere six corporations control more than half of all communications enterprises: books, magazines, newspapers, music, motion pictures, radio and television. Some 77 percent of the nation's daily newspapers are part of chains. Two firms control more than half the market for 11,000 magazines. Four firms control our broadcast TV networks and almost all the cable networks.
In a TomPaine.com commentary, Institute for Public Accuracy's Sam Husseini warns of the chilling effect the Federal Communications Commission, the agency that controls broadcast licenses, could have on reporting U.S. military actions. Husseini recalls the Pentagon Papers, an internal report on Vietnam that few media outlets would touch for fear of drawing expensive and threatening FCC investigations.
The "war on terrorism" has made life easier for President Bush's image handlers, reports Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz, who describes the way journalists have come to "rely on Bush's inner circle for behind-the-scenes color about the tense atmosphere" inside the White House.
TV journalists are reacting to a memo sent out to the staff of NY-area cable News 12 that bans displaying the flag while reporting. The memo, sent by News 12 news director Pat Dolan, has journalists "weighing whether wearing the flag during an intense period of patriotism and grief conflicts with their impulse to avoid any appearance of not being objective on a story," reports CNN.
The New York Times today reports that "in interviews with two dozen New Yorkers, most people said the desire for peace outweighed any impulse for vengeance, even among those directly affected" by the September 11 terrorist attack. Across the U.S. tens of thousands of Americans are already participating in peace rallies calling for military restraint and criticizing the U.S. media for poor reporting of U.S. military and foreign policies leading up to the terrorist attack. How will the news media cover and depict this unfolding peace movement and its views?
Common Dreams is one website providing an important alternative to mainstream TV coverage. TV commentators are increasingly fanning flames of war and rapid retaliation. "Americans are anxious to have some sort of retaliation take place," National Public Radio and FOX TV commentator Juan Williams stated today during FOX coverage featuring stirring music videos of Tuesday's attack set to patriotic songs.