Catharine Cooper | Who Do You Trust?
Who Do You Trust?
Los Angeles Times
Friday 23 May 2003
What if everything you read in the newspapers was a fabrication? What if every piece of reporting you heard on the radio or saw on the TV was manipulated? What if, in the process of biased reporting, truth became the handmaiden of power, and you became an unknowing consumer of lies?
When I was a child, my parents turned on the evening news in an attempt to link our household to world events. Newscasters were seen as purveyors of truth; reporters objectively conveying the facts. They were a far cry from today's actors and actresses, dressed and primped for the camera, for whom celebrity status is more important than the information they impart.
The recent reveal of manipulated press is appalling, and the deception, in the "guise" of truth, disheartening. The celebratory "fall" of the statue of Saddam Hussein, replete with media created audiences photographed through narrow angle lenses, and the "rescue" of Jessica Lynch, with marines gun-blasting their way into a hospital they knew to be unarmed, is criminal. Both incidents drive home the painful realization: honest journalism is in decline, if not already gasping its last breath.
A number of years ago, National Geographic magazine ran a photo cover showing the pyramids of Egypt. To the uneducated eye, the cover was pleasing enough. What was not revealed, was that the photo had been altered. The view of the two pyramids together from that angle was physically impossible. The stalwart journal of "honest" photographic essays, had fallen under the hands of graphic impress. A furor rose in the journalistic community. National Geographic's "sin" was a small drop in an increasingly large bucket.
Try a vacation on http://www.whitehouse.gov . What at one time, was a rather banal Web site, with information about tours and some background on the First Family, has become a media event in and onto itself. Each day postings of the latest Bush "event" are uploaded with photographs, sound bites, audio and video recordings. These are presented as news items, but they are not objective reporting. It is wholesale hijacking of the media for the aggrandizement of the office and its political maneuvers.
What is true and what is an illusion? Who and what can be trusted?
The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote June 2 to loosen rules governing media cross-ownership. The 1966 Telecommunications Act, forbids any one company from owning both a newspaper and a broadcast-media outlet in any single community, and limits U.S. media companies such as Viacom, General Electric, Disney, and News Corp., which own, respectively, CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox, to reaching 35% of U.S. households.
The loosening of the rule would increase the percentage to 45%. The significance is that more media would be in control of fewer hands. The already narrow channel for factual dissemination would begin to resemble one tiny strand in a fiber optic cable.
I have such little faith for the degree of corporate truth, that trusting these conglomerates to provide factual reporting, borders on insanity.
As the war in Iraq began to unfold, I increasingly sought information and points of view from foreign press. Britain, Australia, Germany, Asia and Saudi Arabia provided objective references that are difficult to find in mainstream U.S. media. While it might disappoint staunch conservatives, I was not seeking "U.S. bashing," but simply a more reasoned view of events as they unfolded.
During the Cold War, the voice of Radio Free Europe was said to have given hope to those oppressed by bitter regimes. To this day, the RFL journalists are charged to do their "utmost to ensure that all broadcasts are factually accurate. Where doubt or controversy may exist on significant points of fact, information will be based on at least two independent sources." If only our mainstream media would adhere to the same rigorous standards.
I choke each day as I look at the newspaper headlines and photographs and listen to the lead article on the 5 o'clock news. I no longer trust them as source. Political agendas, job promotions and a nation running scared color every written or spoken word.
In fact, trust is the overriding issue. I've lost trust in corporations who's wholesale mission is profit, at the expense of the environment, people's health, and their shareholders stake. I've lost trust in the government, who no longer represents the values of the Bill of Rights I was trained to embrace. I no longer trust the media to even know the truth, much less to tell it.
I wonder what it will take to change this course of events?
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