may rejoice at the decline of the "Mainstream
Media" but cuts in news staffs threaten to
leave us ill informed about what's happening
around the world. No number of blogs can make up
happening to the news media in this country is
truly disturbing, but not for the reasons that
typically pepper the Bacon's Rebellion blog.
At a time when global connections matter as they
never have before, we are receiving less
information from around the world. For all of its
promise, the Web isn’t helping much.
vary for the shortcomings. Bloodless executives at
corporatized media companies are dumbing down
their products as they slash costs. Small wonder
that newspapers are losing readers, even though
(dirty little secret) they are suffering only
moderate cuts in their still-plump profit margins.
Entertainment trumps serious analysis. Editors aim
at reinforcing prejudices rather than informing.
Thus, we are left with a constant stream of
obnoxious opinionators such as Fox News’s Bill
O’Reilly who rudely shout down guests who
don’t buy their jingoism.
it’s refreshing, if a little sad, to read Mort
Rosenblum’s latest book. The author, a foreign
correspondent from The Associated Press who has
reported from 200 countries over 40 years, makes a
passionate plea for renaissance in foreign
correspondence. In "Escaping Plato’s
Cave. How America’s Blindness to the Rest
of the World Threatens Our Survival,” (St.
Martin’s Press), Rosenblum provides a
penetrating vision of a professional outsider who
nonetheless understands the core of what is
newspapers, magazines and television networks -–
called with no small arrogance the “Mainstream
Media” by some on Bacons Rebellion and
elsewhere -– respond to challenges wrought by
the Internet and demands for cost cutting,
thousands of seasoned foreign correspondents have
been let go. At least 2,500 lost their jobs over
the past two years, but my guess is that the
numbers are much larger. (Full disclosure: I was a
foreign correspondent and editor for 10 out of my
34 years in journalism).
all the words and images we call ‘media,’”
writes Rosenblum, “precious few trained eyes
see distant reality up close and these grow fewer
by the year. When reporters do warn us of a
crisis, we pay scant attention. We react to the
effect and ignore the causes.”
a short list of worries, consider that a good bit
of the terrorism that confronts the U.S. was
actually bred by actions taken years ago by the
U.S. government, rather than rabid emotions of
radical Muslim terrorists. George Bush may
pontificate about spreading American-style
“democracy” in the Middle East. Somehow, he
and the media forget that popularly elected
Mohammed Mossadeq once headed Iran. In 1953, he
was deposed in a CIA-led coup and replaced with
the repressive Shah because Mossadeq was
considered harmful to Britain’s oil interests.
Average Americans may not know this, but many
Iranians still remember, some 54 years later.
also chafes that the sense of fair play and
opportunity that used to bring so much foreign
admiration for the U.S. has been turned on its
head by post-9/11 security overreactions.
Thousands of scientists, students, journalists and
other foreigners can’t get visas to visit the
U.S. anymore. Hundreds of foreigners have been
abducted by U.S. security goons and herded,
without due process, into camps such as Guantanamo.
The round-up might have nailed some terrorists,
but it nabbed many more innocents. One was a
Pakistani chicken farmer named Abdur Sayed Rahman.
A victim of mistaken identity, he was incarcerated
for months at Guantanamo. Authorities meant to get
Abdur Zahid Rahman, the deputy foreign minister of
notes that the anti-Americanism among
Washington’s traditional Western European allies
is palpable, although the media never seems to
note it. Germany, France and the U.K. have all
recoiled from the Bush Administration’s strong-arm act, even though they have actually supported
the anti-terrorism efforts.
I get annoyed when Bacon’s Rebellion,
buying the Bush world view, coyly dismisses
Europeans as “Euro-Weenies.” My, how precious.
The list goes on. Worries that don’t usually
register with the U.S. media. These include the failure
to follow Kyoto Protocols, famine and disaster in
poor countries, the unbridled rise of global
capitalism (interesting, though, that both Germany
and Japan have kicked Wal-Mart out, saying its
cheap, aggressive style is not for them).
what can be done? Readers and viewers can start
telling media executives that the dumbing down is
insulting and demanding that foreign
correspondents be restored.
start off with,” writes Rosenblum, “we must
realize that a steady flow of trustworthy
information can only come at a tangible cost. Our
fancy new technology is useless if we do not have
real reporters watching, and listening, as events
outlets can be backed. But bootstrap blogs, such
as Bacon's Rebellion, have serious limits
since they can be exercises in solipsism rather
than efforts to inform.
Web can tell us about distant events that shape
our lives. Or it can simply comfort our
prejudices,” Rosenblum says. He adds: “With a
cheap computer at his mother’s kitchen table,
anyone can be 'media' by relaying headlines from
Yahoo! and adding uninformed commentary to fuel a
journalists” can call attention to unreported
stories, but few have the expertise or the
wherewithal to check facts and fill them into
context. With so much at stake, a “reporter”
must be a skilled worker, with education,
on-the-job training and a professional code. We
have no ‘citizen’ orthopedic surgeons.”
October 15, 2007