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Reform Media Reform: Pursuit and Reporting of Truth Emergency Issues
Reformers who are always compromising, have not yet grasped the idea that truth
is the only safe ground to stand upon.
—Elizabeth Cady Stanton27
There is a literal truth emergency in the United States regarding not only distant wars, torture camps, and doctored intelligence but also issues that most intimately impact our lives at home.
George Seldes once said, “Journalism’s job is not impartial ‘balanced’ reporting. Journalism’s job is to tell the people what is really going on.” Michael Moore’s top-grossing movie Sicko is one example of telling the people what is really going on. Health care activists know that US health insurance is an extremely large and lucrative industry with the top nine companies “earning” $30 billion in profits in 2006 alone. The health-care industry represents the country’s third-l argest economic sector, trailing only energy and retail among the one-thousand largest US firms.
In spite of recent health care reform, at least 16 percent of Americans still have no health insurance whatsoever and that number will not soon decline, as insurance costs continue to rise two to three times faster than inflation. The consequences are immediate and tragic. Unpaid medical bills are now the number one cause of personal bankruptcy in the country, and a recent Harvard Medical School study estimates that nearly 45,000 Americans die prematurely each year because they lack coverage and access to adequate care.28 That’s 15 times the number of people killed on September 11, 2001. In fact, 2,266 veterans died in 2008 due to lack of health coverage.29 For a nation awash in “Support the Troops” rhetoric, bumper stickers, magnets, and other paraphernalia, it seems odd that the US press largely ignored the Harvard Medical School study that reported this troubling statistic. Despite these findings, Congress opted against a public option or single-payer bill, even though a majority of the public and health practitioners support these policies. Corporate media has largely shut out these approaches from the discussion, often even when dealing with veterans’ affairs.
In terms of elections, political analysts have long counted on exit polls as a reliable predictor of actual vote counts. The unusual discrepancy between exit poll data and the actual vote count in the 2004 election challenges that reliability. However, despite evidence of technological vulnerabilities in the voting system and a higher incidence of irregularities in swing states, this discrepancy was not scrutinized in the corporate media. They simply parroted the partisan declarations of “let’s move on” instead of providing any meaningful analysis of a highly controversial election.
The official vote count for the 2004 election showed that George W. Bush won by three million votes. But exit polls projected a victory margin of five million votes for John Kerry. This eight-million-vote discrepancy is much greater than the margin of error. That margin should, statistically, have been under 1 percent. But the official result deviated from the poll projections by more than 5 percent—a statistical impossibility.30
Tens of thousands of American engaged in various social justice issues constantly witness how corporate media marginalize, denigrate, or simply ignore their concerns. Activist groups working on exposing issues like 9/11 Commission problems, election fraud, impeachable offenses, war propaganda, civil liberties abuses, torture, and many corporate-caused economic and environmental crises have been systematically excluded from mainstream news and the national conversation, leading to a genuine truth emergency in the country.
A growing number of media activists are finally joining forces to address this truth emergency by developing new journalistic systems and practices of their own. They are working to reveal the common corporate denominators behind the diverse crises we face and to develop networks of trustworthy news sources that tell the people what is really going on. Activists know we need a journalism that moves beyond forensic inquiries into particular crimes and atrocities, one that exposes wider patterns of corruption, propaganda, and illicit political control to rouse the nation to reject a malignant, corporate status quo.
An international truth emergency, now in evidence, is the result of missing fact-based, transparent, and truthful reporting on fraudulent elections, compromised 9/11 investigations, and illegal preemptive wars, compounded by top- down corporate media propaganda across the spectrum on public issues. Glenn Beck was able to say on national Fox News television in June 2009 that the 9/11 truth movement openly supported the shooting at the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum that month. Beck claimed that 9/11 truth proponents saw shooter James von Brunn as a “hero.” Beck’s statement is completely without factual merit and represents a hyperrealist slamming of a movement already slanderously prelabeled by the corporate, and even much of the progressive media, as “conspiracy theorists.” These ad hominem attacks are no substitute for factual reporting and fair coverage. Journalists are supposed to be trained to ferret out conspiracies against the public, not to shy away from them for fear of being attacked.
Conspiracies tend to be actions by small groups of individuals rather than massive collective plots by entire governments. However, small groups can be dangerous, especially when the individuals have significant power in huge public and private bureaucracies. Corporate boards of directors meet in closed rooms to plan their profit-maximizing strategies. If they knowingly make plans that hurt others, violate laws, undermine ethics, or show favoritism to friends, they are involved in a conspiracy.
In addition to attacking, labeling, and reporting falsehoods, critics of unofficial investigations into 9/11, election fraud, and other controversial issues lump together all the questions, lines of inquiry, or both as if each had equal validity. Obviously, they do not. This, however, allows critics to dismiss fact- based, transparent inquiries into major problems with official explanations of these crucial matters by focusing on only the most absurd claims. These fallacies including overgeneralizations, straw persons, appeals to questionable authority, and red herrings that distract from actual fact-based investigations.
Here is another case in point: former Brigham Young University physics professor Steven E. Jones and over 1,200 scientific professionals in the fields of architecture and engineering have now concluded that the official explanation for the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings is implausible according to laws of physics.31 Especially troubling is the collapse of Building 7, a 47-story building that was not hit by planes, yet dropped in its own “footprint” at nearly free-fall speed in the same manner as a controlled demolition.
To support his theory, Jones and eight other scientists conducted chemical research on the dust from the World Trade Center. Their research results were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, Open Chemical Physics Journal. The authors found traces of thermite. Thermite is a pyrotechnic composition of a metal powder and a metal oxide, which produces an aluminothermic reaction known as a thermite reaction and can be used in controlled demolitions of buildings. This data raises significant questions that should be explored, regardless of what one believes. This should be a part of our political discourse, given how much of the policy in the past nine years has been based on assumptions about 9/11. In a free society, this type of inquiry would be a matter of civic principle, not national ridicule—which is what it has largely been, when not ignored outright by corporate media. To challenge the official narrative of 9/11 in the United States is akin to denying the existence of God, the ultimate blasphemy or heresy in a theocratic culture.
These are some of the reasons we are in a truth emergency, which is predicated on the inability of many to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Corporate media, Fox in particular, offer “news” that creates a hyperreality of real-world problems and issues. Consumers of corporate news media— especially those whose understandings are framed primarily from those media alone—are embedded in a state of excited delirium of knowinglessness. This lack of factual awareness of key issues leaves people politically paralyzed. The real free press is supposed to inform and embolden citizen action, not distract and misinform to the point of a dysfunctional democracy.
To counter knowinglessness, media activists need to include truth emergency issues as important elements of radical-progressive media reform efforts. We must not be afraid of corporate media labeling and instead build truth from the bottom up, with all available facts. Critical thinking and fact finding are the basis of democracy, and we must stand for the maximization of informed participatory democracy at the lowest possible level in society. In order to maintain democracy, the free press must thrive. We the people must become the media. Our survival as a free society depends on it.32
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