YANA DJIN

LETTERS FROM AMERICA

Yana Djin


THE BIGGEST HOAX?

Moscow News
February, 2002


         Someone once remarked that freedom of the press exists for those who own one. This is, alas, a lamentable fact in today’s America whose constitution clearly provides for such a freedom. After the events of 9/11, it became more apparent that the freedom of expression ceased to be a right and has become a luxury afforded only by the select few who, in turn, have been handpicked by the strategic political and corporate elite of this country in order to ensure the unanimity of opinion. That opinion, in its own turn, is to strengthen and solidify the already strong and solid grip that the above elite has on the American society. 
With endless reports in the US newspapers and periodicals of the stifling fate experienced by various foreign press and media organs, most notably the recent outcry over the shut-down of the TV-6 station in Russia, it is rather curious, to put it mildly, that the index finger of the American editorial-writers and journalists never turns towards their own dwellings. For this installment, let us ignore the television medium till next time and concentrate solely on the written word: newspapers and magazines. 
           One of the books on the current best-seller’s list is that written by former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg, “Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How The Media Distort the News”. The book mostly deals with the TV news but Goldberg assures the reader that the bias spreads into the newspapers as well and that it invariably tilts to the left. His main grievance against his former profession is that most journalists and reporters that he came across during his long career were largely liberal Democrats as opposed to being the red-blooded Republicans like himself. Goldberg’s main premise is very timely and popular these days when the very word “liberal” has acquired a contemptuous, unpatriotic connotation. 
            Americans, it seems, along with their current president have invented their own English language in which words cease to mean what they have always meant. Thus, the epithet “liberal”, which in its classical and only sound interpretation signifies dedication to the principles of intellectual liberty and a strong regard for human rights has come to represent a cluster of environmentally-crazed sissies with -- lo and behold! -- socialist inclinations. As intellectually pathetic as this is, it is, nevertheless, not an innocent blunder committed by the mostly uneducated and ignorant society; a society whose president has never ventured outside of the country’s borders due to his sheer indifference and disregard towards anything that does not occur in his own back yard. Indeed, if Gore Vidal was right when he said that half of the people in the US have never read a newspaper, then it must have been the same half that saw a deserving and enlightened leader in Dubya. 
           But getting back to Mr.Goldberg’s faulty and ridiculous accusation of the American press as being liberally biased, we hardly need to labor for too long to disclose the opposite. It was precisely through the incessant repetitions (a-la Third Reich) of parodies of the word “liberal” in magazines and newspapers that it got such a bad rep in the minds and hearts of the average Americans who, like average anybodies (English, French, Russians, etc.) do not take the trouble of thinking for themselves and would rather swallow the already chewed-up notion, even if it is a lie. Goldberg might be right on one account: it is entirely possible that most journalists working for the leading US publications are liberally inclined but as a long-standing member of the media-mafia, Goldberg must have noticed that it is not they who shape the mood of a given newspaper or a periodical: the movers and shakers of the public opinion are none other than the corporate owners of the newspapers and the advertisers that sell their products and services on their pages. An average journalist working for the NY Times or the Washington Post, for example, has as much leverage in putting forth his own views as a journalist that used to work for Pravda several decades ago. As in the latter case, he must stick to the party-platform line or else... 
          For the sake of illustrating the ridiculousness of Goldberg’s accusation, let me name just a few major owners of America’s press and broadcasting, today’s almighty emperors of public opinion: Rupert Murdoch (Australian magnate), Disney Corporation, Dow Jones, Tribune Corporation, Hearst Corporation, General Electric. How can these be possibly liberal? Their whole existence and growth depends on electing the likes of Dubya and his father to the throne of presidency, for the Bush family will ensure that they pay low taxes in exchange for generous contributions to the Republican party. 
          The September terrorist attacks have given a free reign to this country’s corporate elite (which, I repeat, shapes the political elite) to censure and misinform the public on even grander scale than usual. This, of course, is done under the convenient and now-banal mask of patriotism. We’ll do anything and say or not say anything to ensure the safety of America -- seems to be the running slogan. Thus, American newspapers are under direct orders not to report the daily casualties in Afghanistan lest they stir doubts in the average, good-hearted American as to the rightness of the administration’s policy.
           The writers, social critics, film directors in this country find that their opinions are now solicited solely by the foreign press; in fact, the local media has absolutely no interest what someone like Gore Vidal or Arthur Miller have to say on any issue. They would rather listen or read the unintelligible rambling of a NY fireman? Sound familiar? Well, it should to any Russian over the age of twenty-five. The current administration does not want to hear criticism on any issue and dismisses anyone who dares not to exalt it as unpatriotic and... what next? An enemy of the people and the state? In the next installment, I would like to concentrate on the specific major publications, like NY Times, and specific editorial writers who have generally been regarded as liberal and contrarian, like Christopher Hitchens, and attempt to figure out the sudden metamorphosis that had befallen them. Why is Mr. Hitchens along with most other visible columnists clapping to the beat of the most tasteless drum. And if New York Times, along with other big newspapers an independent entity or just a parrot for rulers who need its slightly controversial existence to feign the democratic nature of the media? Is there freedom of the press in America or is it just all a big hoax?

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