Sunday, March 27, 2011

Media after 9/11

 9/11 was a significant event in the politi­cal history of America and an exclusive media event for the rest of the world. It proved to the world how 'sensitive' the media is in the USA and how unprepared they are to meet a criti­cal situation. But in many ways, September 11 has been what the capitalist media has been seeking to achieve for years. The nature of this capitalist media is best explained by the quotes of a fellow New York scribe that the "business of a journalist here is to distort the truth, to lie out­right, to pervert, to villify, to fawn at the foot of Mammon and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. We are tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes.” Of course this outlines the art of journalism or the principles underlying the profession there, and is reflective of George Bush’s statement during the Gulf War that “what we say goes”.
If the media in the US was as free as guaranteed by the First Amendment, they should have told the truth and exposed the covert ways that American governments have practiced down the decades. The media should have discussed frankly the American methods of policing the world, and should have led an open debate on its foreign policy. Instead the American media castrated alternative thoughts and gave no play to the brutal realities that its government helped perpetrate. The end result is a civilization that has lost its tryst with history and indeed civilization itself. The American media has failed abjectly to educate and instruct its own people to mould an unbiased world view.
Today most Americans acknowledge terrorism to be a global threat only because finally the American media started writing against it. Never had mainstream media or policy makers there condemned terrorist attacks anywhere in the world except when they amounted to scuttling US interests. Even the death of thousands of Iraqis due to sanctions on food and medicine was regarded as worth the cost by the then Secretary of State Madeline Albright. Of the US media didn’t find anything wrong with Albright’s statement as it has always bowed to the political establishment and racist lobbies. Whatever these coteries espoused, the media was only too glad to step in line. Dissenting voices are seldom heard. Noam Chomsky got it right when he said that “the elite media set a frame work within which others operate; that framework works pretty well, and it is understandable that it is just a reflection of obvious power structures. The real mass are basically trying to divert people”.
September 11 showed how badly Americans needed a crash course in world history – a history of the world starting from the bombing of Nagasaki to the brutal massacres that successive US administrations had unleashed to install puppet regimes the world over - in Guatemala, Dominion Republic, Indonesia, Chile, East Timor, Nicaragua, Angola, Panama, Iran, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Haiti, Somalia, Sudan and Yugoslavia. A history that has cost mankind around 10,000,000 of its population. And it was up to the media to lay bare the realities.
At least the American press and television can change the way they cover issues and events. That will help in finding an amicable and eco­nomical solution in these times of recession to deal against extremism. The huge amounts of money spend on security measures, waging wars and counter-insurgency operations, can be saved if the media gets its act together. At the time of the first anniversary of 09/11, America was on high alert, and Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, was taken to a secret location, as his President was when the WTC and Pentagon were attacked a year ago. Panic is no panacea. A little modesty in speech-that is the need of the hour. You call it  "media activism" or by any other jargon that you wish. Media activism is nothing but propagating mutual self-respect and a high esteem for each other's values, cultures, reli­gions and beliefs. In due course, this would create a new set of news val­ues that are rooted in humanism-anew news-speak that will avoid a lot of terminologies which in a way urge violence and hatred. Activism may not bring about changes overnight to a system steeped in capitalist conser­vatism, but this small step from the media can foster a giant leap in forg­ing international understanding and checking extremist tendencies.
At least the incident of 9/11 has helped initiate discussions on the nature of the media in America­. That is perhaps the only positive out­come of the fall of the twin towers of the WTC.

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