The Myth of the Free Press–(Hedges)—‘Kill the Messenger’ Puts Integrity of US Media in Question

Most of our clients are federal government employees. We work with food inspectors, for example, who report animal cruelty in processing plants and toxic chemical additives to your food. Our clients are UN police officers who witness and report rape and sexual abuse by peacekeeping forces. Office workers and agents at the FBI and the NSA come to us to document gross waste and abuse. As do traders and risk managers who see pervasive fraud at multinational banks and FDA officials who report drug trials faked by pharmaceutical companies. At truly repressive institutions such as the World Bank, our sources remain anonymous, but they also contact us by phone and email. As a result, at GAP, our emails are not boring, and we do not want the NSA collecting them, much less reading them. Since the Snowden disclosures, we ask our clients to meet us outside the office, downstairs, and around the corner .

Journalists must do the same with their sources. Or they need complex, user-hostile encryption programs. The loss of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure that Snowden exposed means the loss of a free press and free speech, as well as a loss of freedom of association.

==The Rise of the American Corporate Security State: Six Reasons to Be Afraid (Beatrice Edwards)

On June 28, 1971, the Supreme Court rejected the government’s argument that prior restraint was justified and, by a vote of 6–3, upheld the First Amendment. Justice Potter Stewart wrote in his opinion for the majority: In the absence of governmental checks and balances present in areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry—in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government. For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the First Amendment. For without an informed and free press there cannot be an enlightened people.

==935 Lies: The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity (Charles Lewis)

America is the “Land of Hypocrisy.” It claims to “protect freedom,” while denying millions of their right to live. It claims to be “the land of the free,” while granting fewer guaranteed rights to its citizens than most industrialized nations. It proclaims “one nation, under God” and “in God we trust” while violating the commandments and teachings of the major religions. It claims to encourage “free trade” and “capitalism” while using tax dollars to help the rich get richer. It claims to be “remaining competitive in today’s market,” while firing hard workers and exploiting cheap labor around the globe. It claims to be a “democracy” while it acts strictly in the interests of its corporate sponsors. It claims “liberty and justice for all” while executing innocent humans and depriving an enormous percentage of the world of basic human rights. It claims to be launching “peace-keeping” missions while it drops napalm and bombs on civilians from the sky above. It claims to be giving “humanitarian aid” while piling up human corpses in the streets and rivers. It claims to be stopping “the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction” while it builds upon its massive arsenal of such weapons. It claims to be fighting “terrorism” while it assassinates political leaders and bombs civilian buildings. It claims to be “liberating Iraq” while illegally slaughtering civilians with massive bombs. It claims to be protecting “truth” while it blatantly lies and deceives the masses. It claims to have a “free press” while it suppresses independent voices from radio, television, and print. Soldiers claim to be “serving their country” while actually serving the interests of the politicians and corporate elite.

==Land of Hypocrisy (Kennie Anderson)

A free press in this nation has come under assault many times since the signing of the document supposedly assuring it, but eventually some semblance of of freedom was returned, usually at the direction of the courts. This can no longer be said. The current administrations assault on this essential backbone of a free society, following years of a systemic erosion since Justice Stewart upheld the right of the Washington Post to publish what became known as the Pentagon Papers in 1971 may, however, become the most serious and successful effort to strangle press freedoms. Following the Supreme Court’s decision defending the First Amendment, in 1977 the Church Committee’s revelations of the insidious extent of the covert CIA control over news reporting in all of America’s media channels was perhaps the last point at which the American people had a realistic chance of reasserting the nations belief in the absolute necessity of defending this critical cornerstone of democracy, if they were able to express their outrage for more than a few months, perhaps even evidence it at the voting booth. Such was not the case.

Today, the government controls the media more than ever before, either covertly and not so subtle intimidation or simply through the obsequiousness of a sycophantic press corps and a corporatist oligopoly of like minded managements. The recent FCC threats against conservative alternative news sources, such as the Drudge Report, are a direct an assault on the First Amendment and on American freedom itself. To hold that, outside of the alternative media now being threatened, a truly free press exists in America is to reassert the truth of Goethe’s much worn quote “none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” The problem with this, of course, is that if you believe you live in a free society buttressed by a free American press then you logically cannot know how enslaved you really are. Rattle your chains, perhaps, just perhaps, you will awaken.

There is more truth about American journalism in the film “Kill the Messenger,” which chronicles the mainstream media’s discrediting of the work of the investigative journalist Gary Webb, than there is in the movie “All the President’s Men,” which celebrates the exploits of the reporters who uncovered the Watergate scandal.

The mass media blindly support the ideology of corporate capitalism. They laud and promote the myth of American democracy—even as we are stripped of civil liberties and money replaces the vote. They pay deference to the leaders on Wall Street and in Washington, no matter how perfidious their crimes. They slavishly venerate the military and law enforcement in the name of patriotism. They select the specialists and experts, almost always drawn from the centers of power, to interpret reality and explain policy. They usually rely on press releases, written by corporations, for their news. And they fill most of their news holes with celebrity gossip, lifestyle stories, sports and trivia. The role of the mass media is to entertain or to parrot official propaganda to the masses. The corporations, which own the press, hire journalists willing to be courtiers to the elites, and they promote them as celebrities. These journalistic courtiers, who can earn millions of dollars, are invited into the inner circles of power. They are, as John Ralston Saul writes, hedonists of power.

When Webb, writing in a 1996 series in the San Jose Mercury News, exposed the Central Intelligence Agency’s complicity in smuggling tons of cocaine for sale into the United States to fund the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua, the press turned him into a journalistic leper. And over the generations there is a long list of journalistic lepers, from Ida B. Wells to I.F. Stone to Julian Assange.

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James Risen and other journalism advocates spoke at a press conference on freedom of the press and Obama administration efforts to compel New York Times reporter James Risen to disclose a confidential source. Mr. Risen was subpoenaed in 2008 to testify at the trial of a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer accused of leaking information on Iran’s nuclear program. Mr. Risen refused to name a source for information about a CIA operation in Iran that appeared in his book, State of War. Journalists and journalism advocacy groups have supported a petition to the Justice Department to cancel the subpoena. National Press Club president Myron Belkind also spoke about the arrest of journalists covering protests in response to the police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Kill the Messenger’ Puts Integrity of US Media in Question

Defiant in the face of threats, Webb publishes a three-part series called “The Dark Alliance,” writing not only about the well-known connection between the CIA and the drug traffickers, but alleging their large-scale smuggling operation had fueled the crack epidemic in predominantly African-American communities in some U.S. cities.

From there, Webb’s life unravels.

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The journalistic integrity of U.S. media; an illicitly-financed, CIA-backed war against Nicaraguan Sandinistas; the crack epidemic of 1980’s urban America: these are the main subjects of Michael Cuesta’s “Kill the Messenger.”

“The media should take this movie as an opportunity to reassess what it did,” he said. “This was a terrible action by the major news organizations. And they should look at themselves and say ‘was our behavior proper?’ And I think if they did that they would have to admit that honestly it wasn’t. That instead of advancing a major story on a major scandal, they helped suppress the story about a major scandal. That’s the opposite of what American people expect of their news media.”

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