How much do you think the media are reliable? Well, of course, it is depends on country’s proportion of freedom of speech. Theoretically, we assume that the media in countries, where democracy is well-developed, are more reliable than any other countries. Is it simply true? What about the example of America’s war reporting in news which is the so-called ‘embedded journalism’? Are only truths reported, objectively? Can anyone confidently say the news are not biased and are not in favor of anyone?
What about relationships between media owners and politicians such as, before, Kerry Packer and Neville Wran or John Howard couple (Well, Packer had a few more political girlfriends but those two are the most representative ones) and Murdoch and Malcolm Fraser (when Murdoch was Australian, now he is American and his girlfriend is George Bush) couple? Why were and are they so close?
In one step further, let me just have some fundamental and theoretical questions. Why are the media so important in current societies? Why is it commonly believed that the media must be objective, fair and balanced? What are the media’s fundamental duties?
As it should be…
Let me start with media’s significance and importance. Since breakdowns of communist countries, western democracy system is regarded as an idealistic governing system in 21st century. Current western democracy system of government, represented as the ‘Westminster system’, is also known as the ‘separation of powers’ system. The reason of why that is called separation of power’s system is that in the Westminster system, there are four different estates (or groups) which all separated from each other estates and act as a check and balance to stop any one group, or estate, from overwhelming power. The media, the fourth estate, theoretically require delivering realities of authorities through investigating and showing what the authorities are really like, how they do and how they should be as tools of check and balance.
Moreover, the media make meanings and organize those meanings into systems or codes which interpret the world. (See Grossberg’s ‘Media Making – Mass Media in a Popular Culture’, 1998) That is why the media must be neutral and objective description of how things are and of how things are supposed to be because the media is the only way that we can perceive other parts of our society. That is in accordance with Stuart Hall’s statement, “we experience the world according to their codes of meaning”.
The former MSNBC/FOX news contributor, Jeff Cohen, said that “Media is the nervous system of a democracy. If it’s not functioning well, the democracy can’t be functioning. We’re heading towards an election where most people are never going to be in a room with Kerry or Bush. What they learn about the candidates is what the media shows them or tells them.” (See also ‘Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s war on journalism) However, who decides what to show and not to tell?
A dilemma of the media
As a person who accepts as true Marx’s theory, I personally believe that the nervous system of democracy does not work properly at the moment. The most significant reason for that belief is that the media are used just as tools of production of media owners, which means the media is merely a business in capitalism society, and tools of propaganda of ruling class as lost its natural character which is a check and balance of authority.
As we can see from the examples of ‘Rupert Murdoch’ and ‘embedded journalism’, the media has been being wandered among the areas its fundamental purpose, business and propaganda in capitalism society. It is seriously biased and manipulated in favor of power and business. There are always a lot more significant and important things beyond what we can not see from the screen. (Well, I’d strongly recommend watching the movie, ‘Wag the dog’.)
Rupert Murdoch owns 9 satellite T.V networks, 100 cable channels, 175 newspapers, 40 book imprints, 40 TV stations, including America’s fourth largest TV network, Fox TV, Internet web site ‘Myspace.com’ and Fox movie studio. He is an emperor of the media empire of Murdoch. It is widely believed that the Murdoch’s media empires’ prince and princess, New York Post and Fox News channels are the most repellent children’s of Murdoch. Murdoch’s admirable hardworking to attack people who opposed Bush administration, in the infamous examples of “Saddam lovers” and “Peter Arnett interview incident”, tell us how Murdoch’s products, are biased and in favor of power. He is willing to be a pet of Bush administration to accumulate more fortunes and to secure his empire.
“Since 1917 the Pulitzer Prizes -- named for their creator, the 19th-century press baron Joseph Pulitzer -- have been awarded to encourage excellence in journalism. I happen to think that more could be accomplished with a prize for the worst in journalism. It should be called the Murdoch”. (See Cohen’s ‘A media empire’s injustice’, 2003)
Embedded journalism, the other example of dilemma of the media, shows more clearly that the media are tools of manipulation and propaganda of ruling class and is a specific example of how the media can be useful method of propaganda.
Experiences in Vietnam made the U.S government to realize power of the media and needs for controlling media to keep their power which is available through getting publics’ supports. So they came up with a breakthrough idea, embedding journalists that make journalists to see the war only from the U.S government point of view. Not only that but also it does not allow any individual investigations. In advance, they close any kind of possibilities that could turn the public against them.
Examples of ‘Saving Private Jessica Lynch’ – the best war and rescue ‘movie’ ever, made by the U.S government - and ‘Murdoch’s outstanding work in the media field’ - Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News broadcast images that suited the U.S.A and attacked anyone who opposed the war. As a consequence, after the war, the U.S government approved Murdoch’s purchase of DirecTV, a satellite pay TV service, to increase his media empire - give us significant lessons. (See Minehan’s note, 2006)
Theoretically, the media must be able to deliver realities of governments through investigating and showing what the governments are really like, what they do and how they should be as a check, balance and medium. But in reality, there are not many examples for showing that our nervous system functions as it should work – except ‘Water Gate’.
Furthermore, as the example of Rupert Murdoch and Fox news clearly confirm the media does not function as it should be. It implies that the media industry is merely a business in capitalism society, and tools of propaganda of ruling class as lost its fundamental identity which is a check and balance of authority. Pure journalism has been treaded under the flag of capitalism.
Labels: Embedded journalism, George Bush, Jeff Cohen, John Howard, Journalism, Kerry Packer, Malcolm Fraser, Marx, Neville Wran, Peter Arnett, Rupert Murdoch, Saddam Lovers, the media, Westminster system