The means by which this is accomplished appear twofold: a media environment where even the incurious are overfed with useless information, and journalists who are rewarded for servile behavior.
Americans are no more or less intelligent than anyone else in the world, but we are provided with an abundance of distracting information daily. Even if we are naturally curious there are discouragements in place: Subversive information is not easily available. We have to know what we are looking for. We’re not going to stumble upon it in USA Today. And anyway, there are a thousand other interesting things going on in media. Distractions abound. It’s easy not to know anything and still be busy as hell about it.
Mainstream media outlets are rigidly controlled. Naturally curious journalists are dispatched over time. They leave either by outright dismissal or or for perceived failings such as “lack of objectivity” (code for natural curiosity). It’s easy to predict that the editor of the local newspaper will be the least intellectually curious person there, and the most willing to submit to the dictates of the publisher or owner. Mediocrity is the trait that leads to advancement – it’s the “Russert syndrome.”
You’d think that the Internet would solve these problems and free us up to know anything we want to know. It has indeed, and those who are naturally curious can now surf the world. It’s a glorious revolution. But the Internet is mostly a source of distractions. It is dominated by cheesy entertainment, pornography, gambling, social networking, music and movie piracy. People scanning the globe for information are relatively few. The Internet has introduced the naturally curious to one another, and that is revolutionary. It’s a hard thing to manage – the only real threats I’ve seen to Internet freedom are government and corporate hacking to shut down pesky websites, “net neutrality” battles, and routing of massive amounts of data through a few outlets, which allows for shut-down of service when there is a threat to entrenched power.
A correspondent whom I only know because of the Internet forwarded an AlterNet piece by Rania Khalek called “5 WikiLeaks Hits of 2011 That Are Turning the World on Its Head — And That the Media Are Ignoring.” That tone … “and that the media are ignoring,” is a tiresome cliche’ in left wing journals. It implies a failing in the American media. But in not covering the stories in Khalek’s piece, media are merely doing their job.
And anyway, Alternet is part of the media, and the information is there for us. Only a few seek it out.Here are Khalek’s five WikiLeaks-driven events of 2011:
1) The Arab Spring*: Information is power. It all started in Tunisia, where existing unrest was exacerbated by WikiLeaks revelations of government corruption, well known. Add an immolation, and presto! Uprising.
2) The ‘worst of the worst’ included children, the elderly, the mentally ill, and journalists. These are Guantanamo detainees, horribly abused, most guilty of nothing even beginning to justify their treatment. (Terror and torture are never justified anyway.) Since our perceptions are carefully managed in the US, most of us think that Guantanamo detainees are both guilty and well-treated.
3) US allies are leading funders of international terrorism. These would be Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. It is not surprising if one understands that the US itself is engaged in terror and torture, does not care about – even fears – democratic governance.
4) World leaders practically lighting a fire under the Arctic. Far from having any concern about the consequences of global warming, The US, Canada, Russia, China, Norway and other countries intuitively understand that the Arctic will be the source of resource wars in the coming decades. (I’m having a hard time conjuring up a Norwegian demon to justify bombing that country. Will we learn to hate the scourge of the Norseman as we do Muslims? Will we be told that Bjørnstjerne and Sonja are forming cells?)
5) Washington would let them starve to protect US corporate interests Hugo Chavez has control of oil, and uses it to promote relief of hunger and poverty and to free Latin American countries from the oppressive interference of the International Monetary Fund. The rotten son of a bitch. Venezuela and Haiti had an agreement whereby the latter saves $100 million a year, a tenth of its budget, on the cost of oil.Exxon and Chevron were pissed about that, and as the little lamb followed Mary, the US State Department has intervened and interfered in that agreement. WikiLeaks also exposed how the US interfered in Haitian government attempts to raise the minimum wage there from 24 cents to 61 cents per hour. This, according to a US official, did not reflect “economic reality.”
It’s not hard to understand the dynamics here, why Julian Assange is under house arrest in England, why the US (via Sweden) is trying to bring him here for a show trial which will be followed by imprisonment, even death. He’s committed a crime that is rarely seen here in the land of the free: Journalism.
*How’s that Arab spring going? Egypt is out of the news, but the US must be making some progress in restoring the old order. For a brief period of time, Egyptians were letting Gaza’s de facto prisoners escape via the Rafah border into the Sinai, but the gates have shut again. Bahrain is subject to brutal and violent suppression, with aid from Saudi Arabian troops trained by the UK. It is, after all, home of the US Fifth Fleet, so the revolution is not being televised. Libya is under attack by NATO, supposedly to aid the rebellion, but more likely to merely get rid of Gaddafi’s government and replace it with one friendlier to US oil companies. Yemen’s rebel forces are currently being bombed by the US, as we open up a fifth war, four of them against Muslims. (The fifth, Colombia, is also not televised.) The US has long wanted regime change in Syria, so that revolution is being televised and widely covered here, even in Time Magazine! Abuses, which are real, are routinely exposed. I watched with horror a couple of days ago to the news that there are refugees leaving Syria. Then I remembered that the US caused some two million refugees to flee Iraq, not covered here, and then remembered too that all US news is bullshit read from teleprompters and transcribed in newspapers by toadies and lackeys.
ht/lb (PS: Woke up with an extreme case of attitude today.)