Monday, August 17, 2009

Censorship, Media Control

From Danny Schechter, August 17, 2009: The News Dissector blog:

Uli Schmetzer, was one of those great foreign correspondents who reached the pinnacle of his profession as a scribe for Reuters and then the Chicago Tribune. Born in Germany, he moved to Australia where he plied his trade in the tabloid machine before traveling the world’s hot spots until that moment of epithany came to him as he realized that his desire was tell his readers what we was seeing and thinking about was being mutilated, censored and suppressed by the major news organizations he worked in the name of the “editorial process.” (You can read more about the book and some of his reporting on his website That’s

He has now collected his greatest hits and stories in a masterful exercise of story telling called TIMES OF TERROR: Notebook of a Foreign Correspondent published by Tizuli, a publishing house down under. Uli not only recounts his adventures on the world’s battlefields—from Tienaman Square to Cambodia to Sarajevo to Chile but tell us what his readers were never allowed to read when the lede in his stories was buried or its message was distorted. “Soon you will rrealize news is diluted and distilled by political and corporate interests well before it reaches the consumer.,” he says.

Listen to this: “I would say that 60 to 70 percent of all controversial stories I wrote throught my 37-year career as a foreight correspondent were fiddled with, diluted, changed or cut to delete potentially contentyious texts or interpretations that did not fit the the preconceptions tht most editors and agencies had developed, thanks largely to government propaganda,” WOW!

This book has the advantage of being very well written. extraordinarily insightful and honest. One passage speaks to what’s happening now as public indignation is being marshaled and manipulated in the service of special interests and against their own interests.

“Thus system is constamtly searching for new scapegoats to serve as lightening rods for occasional public indignaion,” he writes, “It blames our economic recession on terrorism instead of on unscrupulous manipulators if funds or a war that costs trillions of taxpayers’ dollars. The system bails out greedy and crooked financial institutions but has no safety net for the 50 million workers globally expected to lose their jobs thanks to “mismanagement” of executives who still pocket fat bonuses for screwing up.”

Schemtzer does not just blame the media for its sins—he argues that media organizations mirror public attitudes, biases, and preferences because rhats what is required to get the public to watch, listen or read. Media consumers tend to seek out outlets they believe agree with then, or with which they are comfortable. I remember speaking to an executive at CNN about why the news network parroted the Bush Administration line after 911. I was told that they were very conscious of not getting ahead of the public even when they knew the government was lying for fear of losing viewers. It is this symbiotic dance that leads media decisionmakers to ratiojnalize what they do as giving the public what it wants.

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