While fires and tempers rage in Cairo and across Egypt, most government and media executives grow uneasy. The Middle East has not seen this level of mass popular unrest since the Shah of Iran was toppled in the late 1970s. Corrupt western propped-up regimes could fall like dominos but only a few media chieftains decide what gets aired and where on the now global but mostly US dominated Main Stream Media (MSM).
What started in Tunisia and Yemen spread quickly this week to Sudan and Egypt. But as corrupt regimes try to cling to power, it is Twitter, YouTube and Facebook that do what corporate media fails to do, broadcast real news, in real time, across the region. For decades we heard the Gil Scott-Heron ’70s spoken song, “the revolution will NOT be televised.” Maybe he was right.
But it will be Twittered.
After 15-hours of live coverage here daily Saturday and Sunday (following 9-hours on Friday night), we realised we were providing a service most in the USA could not get because of the ‘moralistic’ messaging ban on AlJazeera English as an acceptable news outlet. Media and message control is serious business and this weekend all of its flaws were glaringly shown.
AlJazeera is a pariah in the US because it dares air all sides and is the destination of choice for Osama Bin Laden’s taped messages. Yet only its reporting the last six days of the crisis in Egypt has been universally judged best around the globe. The problem? Corporate controlled media systems in the USA block its pickup from most cable systems.
Comcast, the USA’s largest cable television provider, prophetically finished its acquisition of the Us television network NBC from General Electric last week. The deal was finalised and approved as the drama in Egypt began to unfold. Comcast have a horse in the race to protect and… shouldn’t be allowed to. Their reach is already insidious. Millions of homes rely on services from cable to Internet broadband to even basic telephones. The US applauds this as ‘convergence’ but it is a very short and slippery step away from a provider and carrier exercising a total media messaging takeover.
Here in the UK, Rupert Murdoch owns BSkyB. Sky broadcasts FOX and AlJazeera to millions of UK homes but they pointedly exclude the left leaning MSNBC cable network. They will say it is a business decision but MSNBC has made attacking Murdoch and FOX News like a piñata sport. That a thin-skinned corporate executive or national propaganda arm can shut down news sources they personally don’t like should be criminal in a free society.
One can somewhat understand that a dictatorship like Mubarak in Egypt will turn off the entire internet at will, to save himself. But when US Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) thinks that this is a good option for countries to have (!?!) that is just crazy talk.
It’s bad enough the UK was able to systematically shut down cell phone service in the aftermath of the London 7/7 subway bombings but to then say it’s a precaution against other bombs hours later whilst family members try frantically to reach loved ones, is dubious at best.
But message control does not end there. When the situation truly heats up, media outlets run, hide and/or bail because it is easier to throw someone under the bus than fight for truth. (Hello, Keith Olbermann!)
I was dropped as a contributor by the website truthout.org for daring to tell the story about a group of Iranian activists trying to prevent a genocide at refugee Camp Ashraf, Iraq. truthout caved because the US considers a leading group in the story to be a terrorist organisation, too the commissioning editor lied to save herself but mostly it was the Iranian state government’s propaganda arm flooding them with negative comments that caused them to cave.
Instead of supporting their contributor (it is still funny to receive their ‘keep journalism free’ fund-raising e-mails), they chickened out while the UK and EU embrace that same group and Parliaments across the EU stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the opposition’s leaders calling for Iranian and Iraqi regime accountability.
It is hard to tell where state-sponsored and corporate media begin and end because of these insidious ties and it must stop. The smouldering situation between Iran and Iraq goes almost unreported and people are dying. The brutal Iranian regime has systematically hung some 80-people opposing its existence in the last three weeks. Hundreds have died across Egypt at the hands of a brutal dictator’s out-of-control and off-camera police force and most of it has happened far from the same three cameras we see focused on Tahrir Square.
The Iranian story is unreported out of fear by US outlets. Another high level delegation travelled to Brussels to meet with Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran to highlight the crisis in Camp Ashraf. The US delegation included General James Jones, former National Security Advisor to President Obama; Bill Richardson, former New Mexico governor and US ambassador to the United Nations under President Clinton; Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General; John Bolton, former US ambassador to the UN; and Amb. Dell Dailey, State Department’s Counterterrorism Coordinator until April 2009.
They called for the removal of the People’s Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK) from the list of terrorist groups in the United States and highlighted the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the desert.
Not a word appeared in the Mainstream Media.
The Egyptian story is under-reported and slanted towards state run television in Egypt because it is too hot to handle for these corporate media leaders also wanting contracts in country. All weekend long two side-by-side screens showed AlJazeera and CNN. CNN relied on multi-millionaire celebrity journalists like Anderson Cooper and… Egypt State Television.
AlJazeera scrambled dozens of correspondents onto the street in four locations. They continually phoned-in their reports anonymously live on-air after their bureau was the only outlet shut down by Egyptian state police. Whose reporting would you trust? Whose reporting should you trust?
I sat dumbfounded that CNN broadcast the same loop of opposition leader Mohammed al Baradei saying it was him ‘live’ in Tahrir/Liberation Square while you cold see the edit points and that it was looping. The problem was, he had addressed the crowd an hour before.
So we not only are forced to watch and listen to news actor celebrities, but also watch them live get it wrong and broadcast that as news? To quote Sarah Palin, WTF?
So it is beyond time to demand the media get it right. We also need to demand they allow all voices to be heard so we get the complete, unfiltered picture. When the media and message is controlled by a privileged few sources, we lose on so many levels, none the least being the loss of the most important element of all… discernment. Letting yourself decide what is true based on multiple inputs.
If you only watch CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC or FOX and refuse to expand your horizon to other sources, then you get what you deserve and are subjected to only one narrow point of view.
That the media’s true owners, we the people, allow them to provide corporate or government propaganda because of the economic power and control they exert, is both shameful and criminal.
Hopefully it stops here as this domino falls.
Denis G Campbell is the author of 6 books including 'Billionaire Boys Election Freak Show,' 'The Vagina Wars' & 'Egypt Unsh@ckled.' He is the editor of UK Progressive Magazine and provides commentary to the BBC, itv Al Jazeera English, CNN, MSNBC and others. His weekly 'World View with Denis Campbell' segment can be heard every Thursday on the globally syndicated The David Pakman Show. You can follow him on Twitter via @UKProgressive and on Facebook.
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