Old Media Has Always Served the Moneyed and Powerful
One of the most common criticisms about ‘new’ media by the increasingly irrelevant ‘main stream’ media goes something like this-
‘New’ media is overrun with unprofessional amateurs, get-rich-quick types and corporation friendly scam artists who do not have the “expertise”, financial resources or willingness to perform “real” investigative journalism and speak truth to power. They also claim that ‘old media’ acted as an independent check on the power of government and corporations by trotting out a few famous examples of investigative journalism.
But is that really the case? Was ‘old media’ anything more than a butt-boy for the rich and powerful? Does an objective look at the success and failings of ‘old media’ support their claim to being defenders of truth and justice. Did they expose anything more than the bare minimum necessary to maintain a figment of credibility in the pre-internet era?
Let us first look at the infrastructure and business model of ‘old’ media. Traditional media, such as printing and broadcasting has always had a very high cost of entry due to technological and “regulatory” constraints. Then there was the issue of ensuring timely distribution of content via government supported physical networks or licensed bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Therefore, only an extremely small percentage of the population ever had the means, inclinations and connections to start a newspaper, magazine, radio station or TV network. The ones who were able to do so were usually very affluent and connected to large corporations or existing political parties.
To put it another way, all significant players in the ‘old’ media scene were (and are) pimps, shills and sophists for whoever owned and supported them.
I am not denying that some journalists who worked for ‘old’ media might have possessed something approaching a conscience. However most of them quickly gave up on that in return for a regular paycheck, regular promotions and a corner office. Infact, some were even able to use their past notoriety to make themselves appear especially trustworthy to the public.
It is therefore no wonder that the “scandals” exposed by ‘old media’ have almost always been stale, past-due or a cover for even bigger ongoing scams and abuses.
How many papers actually made the case that treating blacks as second- or third- rate human beings was wrong? I am talking about the situation in both northern and southern states after the American Civil War. How many newspapers actually contradicted the official story surrounding the entry of USA into the Spanish-American war? Did they question any of the evidence used to justify the decision to join WW1 in 1917? Weren’t many of them cheerleaders for Eugenics prior to 1945? Did they ever try to think through the ethical implications of what they were supporting? How many were interested in the fate of people in concentration camps prior to 1945? Was the mass murder of millions based on religion, ethnicity and political affiliation not newsworthy?
Didn’t they keep on towing the official line on major post-WW2 policies and actions? Didn’t it take them decades to tell the partial truth about what caused the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962? Didn’t many of them oppose civil rights for non-whites before they supported them? What changed? What about the american involvement in Vietnam and Laos? How many questioned the official line that killing millions of poor people was necessary for spreading liberty and democracy? Why did they abruptly change their tune after 1967? How many questioned the rationale behind Nixon’s drug war? What about economic policies under the Reagan administration? What about Saddam Hussein and the first gulf war? Wasn’t the USA behind him before it was against him? What about justifying the second gulf war?
Does anyone not remember how the media was telling us about the immense WMD program of Iraq? Or how the USA would be able to leave Iraq within a few months? And what about that Osama? Wasn’t he helping build roads in Sudan before he became the bad guy who masterminded 9/11? What about the housing bubble? Why did the media see it only after it had burst? What about the financial crisis of 2008? Wasn’t the mainstream media trying to tell everybody that financial institutions were under the capable leadership of geniuses’ educated in Ivy League universities and Oxbridge? How did that work out? How is ‘austerity’ working out today?
What do you think? Comments?