Media Subservience: Ignoring The Crimes of America

The anecdote is a useful device in broadcast journalism. To illustrate the ongoing recession and a recent spike in unemployment, NBC Nightly News made the effort, as they’ve done a million times before, to expose their viewers to the reality of the economic struggle millions of Americans are enduring. Sharon Tatra, Brian Williams’s voiceover told us, has been out of work since January 2010. Her unemployment benefits run out in six months. Once that happens, “she doesn’t know how she’ll pay rent or buy food.” The segment ends with Sharon in tears, frightened about her future and rueful at the crumbling of her American Dream.  It’s a rending portrait of an honest woman in hardship.

But while the media often work to make these hardships a reality for Americans, broadcasting the worst of things is out of the question. Sharon Tatra is made human for us. The victims of our empire are kept nameless, faceless, and quiet.

Take Indochina, for example. Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos were virtually destroyed by the time the war ended over 30 years ago. From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance over Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years. Over 20,000 Laotians have been killed or injured since the end of the war because of the over 75 million units of unexploded ordnance in Laos left behind. This past June, Mr. Seng (25) and Mr. Thon (20)were walking together on a plantation they keep to support themselves when Mr. Thon stepped on an unexploded grenade. Mr. Thon died of his injuries and Mr. Seng was left with severe arm, leg, and back injuries. How about something on the nightly news about how this already poor family, struck with this undeserving violence, will sustain themselves? Will they starve? Do they have any available tears for the camera? Do Americans have any notion that the leftovers of American Empire are still murdering innocent people? Are there any lessons Americans might benefit from by broadcasting this anecdote alongside Sharon Tatra’s?

It’s not that the media establishment is heartless. It’s just that the people of Indochina don’t meet the criteria for pity and awareness. The criteria for broadcasting the suffering of people abroad is generally to keep to the crimes of our enemies, white-washing our own. The people suffering famine in Somalia qualify, probably because it draws attention to the state’s new boogie man, al Shabaab, and how cruel they’re being to Somalians. Or, judging from this CBS News segment lamenting the reluctance to intervene in Somalia- entitled “Memories of 1993 Hamper Response to Somalia” – perhaps it’s adding justification for intervention. We hear a lot less about about the 23 civilians killed last February in a “mistaken” airstrike in Afghanistan, or about Noor Mohammed, 10 years old, who “lost both eyes and both arms” back in 2001 when our bombing campaign was still thought of as retaliatory. There’s a lot on the news about the hated Syrian regime‘s crimes, but much less about the beloved friend and allied regime in Bahrain. Hardly any Americans know about the terror war being fought in their name in Colombia and all the violence and tragedy that results, or about the hundreds of thousands of innocents killed in East Timor by U.S. supported militias, just as the thousands in Indochina still dying from chemical warfare and unexploded munitions are simply ignored. The media is inherently subservient to power in Washington and rarely explores tragedies caused by the overlords in government.

To a certain extent, the reason the U.S. is permitted to continue to be a leading terrorist state is because the vast majority of the public is clueless. Insofar as that is the case, the subservient media is as guilty as the imperialists.

Addendum: I should say that this is beginning to change with the decentralized nature of the internet and personal media-sharing devices and the like. At present though, the mass media is still concentrated in a few hands with close relationships with those in government, thus this subservience is still the predominant feature of news media in America.

  • Orville H. Larson

    America's Fawning Corporate Media, its "kept" press, is f–kin' worthless.
    Not a word about the U.S. Government's lawlessness and depravity. . . .

  • curmudgeonvt

    The article and it's emphasis also raises the question as to whether the American people, once appraised of the bad stuff left behind by the government sponsored terrorism and empire, would actually DO anything to curtail the practices of the empires past – and present. Point of reference: when the atrocities committed at Abu Ghraib were made public there was an initial outcry with the requisite "investigations" and congressional posturing but what happened? After a while, they crucified a couple of lower ranking enlisted members, demoted a Reserve General, and promptly made sure the press kept more of that stuff out of the line of sight. And the American people cooperated by allowing the FCM to hide the realities of war and occupation and then forgetting what was done in their names to people who did not deserve what we did to them.

    So, it's a nice gesture of empathy for those the US has shit upon over the years but I put little if any faith that anything of substance other than chest-beating and tear-shedding will be done. I agree that the American people ought to be subjected to the truth – and the gore and stark realities of what our government is doing but I don't expect anything to actually change.

    Sad, isn't it. Please, prove me wrong.

    • Avery

      I saw a documentary video about My Lai the other day.
      Lt. Calley was convicted of murder. But there was such a huge outcry from Americans that Pres Nixon was forced to release him after about 4 months in the can. The video said Nixon was getting 25,000 telegrams a DAY in support of Calley.
      Towards the end of the video, they were showing scene where hundreds of Americans were marching the streets with signs saying "Free Calley".

      There was no controversy: this guy was convicted of murder, fair and square. The platoons murdered unarmed defenseless civilians, even babies, and there were huge numbers of Americans demanding that Calley be set free, and he was.

      Casey Anthony was acquitted of murdering 1 baby, and people were sending her death threats. Dozens of Vietnamese babies were murdered, the man was convicted, and people demanded he be released.

      People are strange.

      • curmudgeonvt

        The heart of the Calley trial was whether Calley was just following orders – something on the order of the Nuremberg defense. To the best of my knowledge Calley's commanding officer nor the operations officers who sent Calley and his team to My Lai were tried. So there was a little controversy. But you're right about strange people. That's how we end up with a bat-shit crazy ultra-rightwing, ultra-christian, anti-gay ex-IRA lawyer from the suburbs of Minneapolis thinking she's qualified to be President – because she hears God whispering sweet tidings in her ear – and people defending her.

  • It is the perfect time the US government to take necessary actions to save Somalia from disaster. What US done in past time in Somalia may have contribute to current situation. Responsibility and prompt action from the government are very valuable to save human's life.

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