There are laws to protect the freedom of the press’s speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press. ~ Mark Twain
Today’s news cycle is such that we are bombarded with information, much of it fake news and most of it echo and spin. There are excellent journalists, bloggers and academics out there, but too often they go unheard in the electronic haze of hysteria that passes for ‘news’. The mainstream media has few journalists worthy of the name on the payroll, but plenty of those willing to compromise themselves for ‘the inside scoop’. The CIA’s Operation Mockingbird exposed collusion between government and media decades ago. And today, when some journalists routinely submit their drafts to powerful interests before publication, getting ‘the right people’ who will ‘stick to the script’ into media is a relatively easy job.
Publicare et Propagare
Journalism is as old as civilization. Ptah-hotep, vizier to Egyptian pharaoh Djedkare Isesi, wrote sometime around 2,200 BCE of the need for “communicating truthfully, addressing audience interests, and acting in a manner consistent with what is being said.”
The Acta Diurna introduced the expression ‘publicare et propagare’, which means “make public and propagate,” and was typically written as a footnote to texts published in the Diurna. The practice of recording Senate deliberations was kept up after Caesar, though his successor refused to publish them, and thereafter they were often only published in censored form.
Then as now, information is a craft. Who crafts the information, controls the message and therefore what the population believes. As much as purveyors of information may wish to convey that the information they are reporting has objective value, free from bias and constituting simply ‘the news’, everything that is packaged as such is laden with assumptions, all of them ultimately geared towards ensuring ‘continuity of narrative’ and thus the status quo.
But good journalism, while respecting the ‘rules of the game’, will challenge official narratives. Journalism isn’t always a cushy profession; in fact, it can be downright dangerous. The Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) reports that “more than 1,000 journalists have been killed in the past nine years.”
In 2013, 129 journalists were killed. In 2014, 128 were killed. In Ukraine alone during the US-backed coup d’etat in 2014, 9 were killed, including Andrei Stenin, snuffed out by Western-backed Kiev fascists. In Gaza, 16 journalists were killed by Israeli forces during Operation Protective Edge. In Syria in 2017, 13 were killed, including Serena Shim (see photo at left), killed just over the border in Turkey.
These were not ’embedded’ journalists, or journalists masquerading as truth-tellers, but reporters and photojournalists risking their lives to tell stories that the mainstream refuses to.
Creeds and Oaths
The serious journalist is supposed to uphold the “Journalist’s Creed“, which contains this statement:
“I believe that suppression of the news, for any consideration other than the welfare of society, is indefensible.”
Of course, the task of deciding what is in the “welfare of society” does not fall to the average hack, but on his bosses, who in turn often are connected to political and corporate bosses. So if we ever end up in a situation where a culture of corruption and cronyism defines politics and business, with this definition of ‘journalistic ethics’, there is literally no chance that the corrupt will ever be called to account by the mainstream media. They are “society” and their welfare is at risk.
There are other ethical declarations for the modern day journalist, such as from the Society of Professional Journalists. Without citing all their ‘codes’, their prime directive is:
“Never deliberately distort facts.”
Distorting facts is the purposeful ‘twisting’ in different ways of the realities that face people each and every day. In this respect, when distortions of facts are broadcast ad infinitum people begin to believe half-truths and outright lies. History and the news are pregnant with this approach to deliberately mislead, whether it is allowing space for advertisers to manipulate people for their money or rallying readers behind political leaders, or pushing for war. This is no accident. Media moguls well understand that people are subject to ‘confirmation bias’. This bias, essentially, roots itself in the distortion of believing what you want to believe rather than what reality is.
At the end of the day, the journalists within the MSM surely must know whether or not they are practicing their creed, ‘deliberately distorting facts’ or simply embellishing them. Either that, or they have the self-awareness of a walnut. Why would they violate their creed? Most need a paycheck, and almost all crave recognition. And it’s much easier to follow the herd than to stick out one’s neck with an inconvenient truth.
Today the media in increasingly a single conglomerate that purveys a single message to the people: ‘trust us, no matter what we say’. This is not new. In the 1930s, the Krupp dynasty were famous for their production of steel, artillery, ammunition, and other armaments. They also owned newspapers. In their book the Merchants of Death published in 1934, H.C. Engelbrecht and F.C Hanighen observed:
“No modern business methods were unknown to Krupp. The power of the press was understood and appreciated. Krupp owned or controlled three great newspapers, the Rheinisch-Westphaelische Zeitung, the Berlin Taegliche Rundschau, and the Neuests Nachrichten. It was a simple matter to rouse public opinion to a patriotic frenzy at any time by war scares or by giving prominent space to the armament activities of other countries, especially during the feverish years before the War.”
As a time-period exposé, the authors highlight many more examples covering the period between WWI and WWII. Post 1945, the arms makers and press were interlocked once more – the examples could fill volumes. Since that time, the same corporate forces have further consolidated their alliance and power in an attempt to completely dominate the market for your mind.
Fortunately, there are some excellent journalists who try to honor their creed. Some may have developed their careers working for the MSM and learned of its pitfalls, manipulations, and lack of overall integrity. Those who have made these observations and decided instead to opt-out, who have set their own paths based on conscience and responsibility to provide facts, are sadly few and far between.
But this rare breed of journalist has objectively reported on the Gulf of Tonkin (Bắc Kỳ) the Vietnam war; the assassinations of JFK, RFK and MLK; Iraq 1.0 and 9/11,Iraq 2.0 and Libya; Syria’s moderate rebels and the White Helmets; the Ukraine coup and the scapegoating of Russia, the recent American election and the fallout therein. Unfortunately, real journalism rarely makes it to the mainstream. Instead, we have companies that act as media gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook.
The ‘Constitution Society‘ writes of an event alleged to have occurred at the New York Press Club in the year 1880. A toast was offered to the esteemed press gathered around New York journalist John Swinton. Swinton responded with this:
‘We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”
With the current leftist hysteria dominating the news, perhaps some words on the press by someone who knew how to weaponize it – Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi minister of propaganda – might bring the message home:
“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”
And play it they do.