> POLITICAL DISCOURSE
> CULTURAL DISCOURSE
> ART & PHOTOGRAPHY
In France, before the Revolution of 1789, there was the Ancien Régime and the États Généraux, translated as the ‘Estates General, which was a legislative body of the different classes (called estates) of the French people. Jeffrey Archer, in his book The Forth Estate describes the Ancien Régime and quotes Edmund Burke as saying, “In May 1789, Louis XVI summoned to Versailles a full meeting of the ‘Estate General. The First Estate consisted of three hundred Clergy. The Second Estate, three hundred nobles. The Third Estate, six hundred commoners. Some years later, after the French Revolution, Edmund Burke, looking up at the Press Gallery of the House of Commons said, ‘Yonder sits the Fourth Estate, and they are more important than them all.’”
Even Napoleon once said, “…seven angry newspapers are more dangerous than a thousand legions.” The Press wields power like no other, it shapes the way we think, and what we learn and how we view the world and ourselves. Yet their power goes unchecked; the capitalist system has turned them into propaganda machines. The biggest and best-known example is FOX News and anything owed by News Corporation, the company that is owned and operated by industrialist Rupert Murdoch. News Corp. owns so many companies and subsidiaries that it is disgusting: four publishing companies, over one hundred fifty newspapers worldwide, thirty-five magazines, at least four radio or music studios and so many television stations both regular, cable or satellite. There is no other word for it but disgusting.
Just open up your daily newspaper, and take a look at how many advertisements there are in it. Just page after page after page of advertisements with stories buried between them, just thrown and forgotten among the many ads, newspapers are more about advertisements than the news. Look at your local news provider, whether it is NY1, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC or even God forbid FOX News. Look at all the ads, and if there is a negative story about one of these advertisers it’s just about a guarantee the story won’t run. It should be a bit disturbing to us all that a news organization would put its profits ahead of its solemn duty to inform the public.
There used to be a thing called journalistic integrity. It has become obvious to me after watching the nightly news, these twenty-four hour news channels and reading what passes for newspapers in this day and age, that it is dead. During the height of the Cold War, there was a respected journalist named Edward R. Murrow who during the London Blitz of 1940 reported live as the bombs did fall. But after World War II, during the 1950s at the height of the Cold War paranoia and the burden of McCarthyism, it was only he that stood up to Senator Joseph McCarthy while all others bent before him in fear about a list of Communists that didn’t exist. But Edward R. Murrow stood up to this bullying. Now all of the old guard is gone and has been replaced over the last twenty years.
There are others of integrity, great men of journalism such as Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. Walter Cronkite became instrumental in the end of the Vietnam War. Forty years ago this past January marked forty years since the Tet Offensive in which North Vietnamese Army units and rebel Viet Cong guerrillas launched attacks all over South Vietnam, including the seizure of the American Embassy in Saigon (modern day Ho Chi Min City). The Tet Offensive was a failure in that it only succeeded in taking the old Imperial City of Hue. But after the fighting, Cronkite, the head anchor of CBS Nightly News, announced that he believed that the war in Vietnam could not be won. As President Lyndon Johnson would say, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost America.” And never in the last twenty years could I recall any news anchors with the dignity, and most importantly, the integrity of a Dan Rather or a Walter Cronkite. These were men cut from the same cloth and it is a travesty that there are no longer any men like them.
But for as much praise as I give Dan Rather, he is but a man and has his flaws. After September 11th, he was asked why people around the world hated America. He replied the he “didn’t know” but later he revealed to the BBC that he had lied so that people would not question his patriotism. I would hope that this is something that Edward R. Murrow would not have done. Murrow would have told the truth and stood up for what he believed. But we must forgive Dan Rather‘s failings, for the world is a very different place today than from that of the 1950s.
Some may wonder why I have not mentioned any women, and the truth is that there was one woman who I believed was equal to them all¾Barbara Walters. But I feel sadness and regret for her now, to have fallen as far as she has, to have gone from one of the most respected people in journalism to a host of The View on daytime television. There is one more prominent female journalist with integrity. Helen Thomas, a White House correspondent, has been shaking Presidents in their boots for the past several decades.
Nowadays, one must ask the question: Has any journalist stood up to the Bush Administration? Has anyone demanded that those in the Administration be brought to justice for the various crimes that have been committed? If so, why aren’t those voices louder? What happened to this being a “Nation of the People, By the People and For the People”? Today, we are a nation of the special interests, by the few, for the privileged. Why have we allowed this? This is the state of America today because we have allowed the few and the privileged, those with old money to run everything. As seen above, if a company wants a story buried and forgotten, it is easily accomplished. Added to the fact that for all intents and purposes, journalistic integrity is dead, the nightly news does not feature journalists¾they feature anchor men and women who care about being on TV and reporting the slop that they say is news.
What passes for news on TV is not. Instead, they push fear and paranoia onto the people. They tell you what household item might kill you, more at 11; they glorify murders and others of that ilk; its celebrity gossip and noise; noise, its all just white noise. Domestic news is downplayed and major coverage of overseas happenings is almost non-existent. Americans go about their lives barely aware of actions taken by other countries around the world. In a way, Americans are blissfully ignorant of the rest of the world, but the actions of September 11, 2001 should have shown us that the old adage, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you” is wrong and that what you don’t know can get you killed.
It may seem that all is doom and gloom, but there is a shred of hope out there. NPR, PBS and the British BBC all provide actual balanced news reports of home and abroad, sans the fake filler they put in your nightly news. But the sad thing is NPR and PBS (which are publicly funded) keep having their budgets cut by Congress because Republicans don’t want an educated public. Hence, why the travesty that is No Child Left Behind got passed. But that is a subject for another edition of Comrade X (that’s if the fascists don’t spirit me away in the middle of the night).
There is also now with the dawning of the internet (which is probably the second or third greatest invention man has ever come up with, after the wheel) which has revolutionized global communication. The internet allows anyone, anywhere on the face of this here planet Earth access to any type of information that twenty years ago was almost impossible to do. And this is relevant because in the last couple of years, news websites and “blogs” (I hate that word, and podcast, I just hate them, there have to be better words for it!) have increased in popularity allowing people to have more independent news sources. The downside to this is the questionability and accuracy of the news source (which in mainstream news is bad enough). However, it is a step in the right direction, which hopefully will spread to the mainstream media. For if the last eight years is any indication, the mainstream corporate media have failed us utterly in allowing our once great nation to degrade into what it is today.
How can we have accurate news? Well the first thing to do would be to provide public funding to all newspapers and TV news; that way they wouldn’t have to worry about offending an advertiser that was committing crimes and denying workers their rights and poisoning their customers. We need to liberate the media from corporate ties so that they can freely report on the issues without financial consequences. Or short of that, the American public should demand more funding for PBS and NPR and should watch and listen to the great programs on them; maybe, just maybe, the American public at large will learn something¾something that too many people in this nation have a vested interest in stopping.
But I must admit, that PBS and NPR have their downsides. It has been shown by various think-tanks that PBS and NPR have far more guests on their respective shows from the political Right than the political Left. It has further been shown that PBS and NPR have far more radical right-wingers on their respective shows than radical left-wingers (see www.fair.org). So maybe it is wrong to say that they are completely fair and balanced, but they are more so than regular mainstream corporate news, which is at least a start. We must also ask ourselves why these publicly funded programs are shifting to the Right? Well, the reason is that over the last ten years the Right has controlled this country. So if something offended them on PBS or NPR, they would simply cut their budget. So we must ask ourselves where is a good place to get news?
Well, an even better choice of news than PBS or NPR would be the Pacifica News Network, whose most famous show is Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman as its host. I highly recommend listening and watching this broadcast, available on CUNY TV, Free Speech TV, Link TV, and atwww.democracynow.org. Democracy Now! has amazing news coverage and manages to cut through all of the Right’s agitprop in order to tell the people the Truth! The unenviable Truth, not “versions” of the truth or the downright lies that are sold to us day in and day out in our colorless lives, which the market has created and transformed us all into mindless zombies.
Democracy Now! gives us the dirty hard Truth that makes you open your eyes and look around and realize how much is wrong with the world and why no one in power tries to change it. If I may quote Edmund Burke one more time, “Evil prevails when good men do nothing.” And that is why we must open our eyes to the lies that are floated before us everyday. Barbara Bush used to tell school children to read a book everyday; what we should be telling children and ourselves is to question what we read. For then, and only then, once the eyes of the people are opened, change will follow.
So what about the Fourth Estate and the Revolution? From this inaugural edition of Comrade X, we can come to the conclusion that the Revolution will not be televised, and that the mainstream corporate media will be counter, if not completely anti-revolutionary. So we cannot rely on them when the revolutionary times come. But afterwards, when We The People are victorious they will have to answer for the crimes they have helped commit and have covered up so that ONE percent of the population of this country can have 40 percent of the wealth! As for NPR and PBS, let us hope that this November that a liberal will enter the White House and remove the Sword of Damocles, that is the fear of budget cuts from above their head, and allow them to bring the Truth to the people as well.
L’internationale sera le genre humain!