January 01, 2010




Inside the Military Media continued.

Grassroots Antidotes to Corporate Media Propaganda

Tens of thousands of Americans engaged in various social justice issues constantly witness how corporate media marginalize, denigrate, or simply ignore their concerns. Activist groups working on issues like 9/11 Truth, election fraud, impeachment in the Bush era, war propaganda, civil liberties abridgements, torture, the Wall Street meltdown, and corporate-caused environmental crises have been systematically excluded from mainstream news and the national conversation leading to a genuine Truth Emergency in the country as a whole.

Now, however, a growing number of activists are finally saying “enough!” and joining forces to address this truth emergency by developing new journalistic systems and practices of their own. They are working to reveal the common corporate denominators behind the diverse crises we face and to develop networks of trustworthy news sources that tell people what is really going on. These activists know we need a journalism that moves beyond inquiries into particular crimes and atrocities, and exposes wider patterns of corruption, propaganda and illicit political control by a military and corporate elite.

Recent efforts at national media reform through micro-power community radio– similar to the 400 people’s radio stations in Venezuela– and campaign finance changes, that would mandate access for all candidates on national media, have been strongly resisted by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). NAB, considered one of the most powerful corporate lobby groups in Washington, works hard to protect over $200 billion dollars of annual advertising and the several hundred million dollars political candidates spend in each election cycle.

The Truth Emergency movement now recognizes that corporate media’s political power and failure to meet its First Amendment obligation to keep the public informed leaves a huge task. Citizens must mobilize resources to redevelop news and information systems from the bottom up. Citizen journalists can expand distribution of news via small independent newspapers, local magazines, independent radio, and cable access TV. Using the internet, the public can interconnect with like-minded grassroots news organizations to share important stories. These changes are already in progress.

Becoming the Media: Media Freedom International and Project Censored

In response to Truth Emergency conference, the Media Freedom Foundation and Project Censored launched an effort to both become a repository of independent news and information as well as a producer of content in what are called Validated Independent News stories vetted by college and university professors and students around the world. As corporate media continue their entertainment agenda and the PR industry — working for governments and corporations — increasingly dominates news content, there exists a socio-cultural opening to transform how the public receives and actually participates in the validation and creation of their own news.

Corporate media are increasingly irrelevant to working people and to democracy. People need to tell their own news stories from real experiences and perspectives, as an alternative to the hierarchically imposed and “official” top-down narrative. What better project in support of media democracy than for universities and colleges worldwide to support truth telling and validate news stories and independent news sources.

Only 5% of college students under 30 read a daily newspaper. Most get their news from corporate television and increasingly on the Internet. One of the biggest problems with independent media sources on the Internet is a perception of inconsistent reliability. The public is often suspicious of the truthfulness and accuracy of news postings from non-corporate media sources. Over the past ten years, in hundreds of presentations all over the US, Project Censored staff has frequently been asked, “what are the best sources for news and whom can we trust?”

The goal of this effort is to encourage young people to use independent media as their primary sources of news and information and to learn about trustworthy news sources through the Media Freedom International News Research Affiliate Program. By the end of 2008, there were over thirty affiliate colleges and universities with plans to expand that participation several fold this next year. Through these institutions, validated independent news stories can be researched by students and scholars, then written, produced and disseminated via the web. In addition, on any given day at the Media Freedom Foundation website, one can view enough independent news stories from RSS feeds to fill nearly fifty written pages, more than even the largest US newspapers. An informed electorate cannot remain passive consumers of corporate news. As aforementioned activist David Mathison suggested in his how-to manual, Be the Media, where he argues and instructs not only about how to build community media but how to build community through media. [xx]

Part of building community is in developing awareness about the type of world we want to participate in creating, and developing strategies for achieving change. New forms of media that promote widespread responsibility for both creating and disseminating information do not remove the need for people to protest, to demonstrate, to march, to boycott and to demand entry into corporate board rooms. Rather it assures that voices can be heard and, as shown in Howard Rheingold’s Smartmobbing Democracy, [xxi] the power of new Internet communication technologies can be harnessed to mobilize more effectively. Contrasted with previous more limited technologies, Rheingold points out that now, “[m]obile and deskbound media such as blogs, listserves and social networking sites allow for many-to-many communication.”

Technology has helped level the playing field by creating a virtual sphere where people can exchange ideas and instigate activism. Grassroots, bottom-up, peer-to-peer efforts have increased in influence and effectiveness due to the speed and breadth of new communication technologies. We are currently experiencing a potential for collective activism on a scale never before seen.

The continued expansion of independent Internet news sources allows for the mass political awareness of key issues and truth emergencies in the world. The involvement of university and college professors and their students in validating news stories will be an important component of reliability verification of these sources. As we learn whom we can trust in the independent news world, we will be in a stronger position for the continued development and expansion of democratic social movement/anti-war efforts in the future.

It is up to the people to unite and oppose the common oppressors manifested in a militarist and unresponsive government along with their corporate media courtiers and PR propagandists. Only then, when the public forms and controls its own information resources, will it be armed with the power that knowledge gives to move beyond the media induced mindsets that limit change to modest reform. Grassroots media providing voice to those who would challenge elite domination are our best hope to create a truly vibrant democratic society that promises as well as delivers liberty, peace, and economic justice to all.

Peter Phillips is a professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University and president of the Media Freedom Foundation and recent past director of Project Censored.

Mickey Huff is an associate professor of History and Social Science at Diablo Valley College and serves on the executive committee of the Media Freedom Foundation and is recent past associate director of Project Censored.

Media Freedom website include:

Daily News at: http://mediafreedom.pnn.com/5174-independent-news-sources 

Validated News & Research at: www.mediafreedominternational.org

Daily Censored Blog at: http://dailycensored.com 

Project Censored: www.projectcensored.org 


[i] US General Tommy Franks, quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle, March 23, 2002, www.globalsecurity.org/org/news/2002/020323-attack01.htm   

[ii] Peter Phillips and Andrew Roth, Censored 2009, (New York:Seven Stories, Press, 2008), 19-25. This story is the number one censored story of the year at Project Censored for this year, archived online www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/1-over-one-million-iraqi-deaths-caused-by-us-occupation/ and for the earlier casualty numbers see http://www.countercurrents.org/iraq-polya070207.htm.
[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Various theories exist on the problem of the subject, from historian Rick Shenkman’s Just How Stupid Are We to historian and cultural critic Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas, but few examine its affects on the peace community. For more on the issue of American historical amnesia, see Gore Vidal on Democracy Now! at www.democracynow.org/2004/5/21/gore_vidal_on_the_united_states, also, In These Times online at www.inthesetimes.com/article/3099/the_united_states_of_amnesia/ for a broader academic look at the issue of how Americans have become arguably the least informed, most entertained people in the modern world, see the now classic work from the late New York University media scholar Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, (New York: Viking Adult, 1985). This article hopes to shine more light on the impact of all of the aforementioned on the peace movement in general and what can be done about it. For another view of this written earlier, at the outset of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, see Felix Kolb and Alicia Swords, “Do Peace Movements Matter?” Commondreams.org, May 12, 2003 www.commondreams.org/views03/0512-08.htm  

[vi] C. Wright Mills. The Power Elite, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, reissue). Also, continuing with this theme in terms of democratic communications theory/policy and the ideas of an open society, see the work of Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a category of Bourgeois Society, published in1962, and The Theory of Communicative Action, from 1981, as well as Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies, first published in 1945.

[vii]  Norman Soloman, “The Military-Industrial-Media Complex Why war is covered from the warriors’ perspective,” Extra! July/August 2005, published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), on the FAIR website at www.fair.org/index.php?page=2627

[viii] Cenk Uygur, “Conservative Media vs. Progressive Media” Posted on The Daily Kos blog, July 1, 2009, www.dailykos.com/story/2009/7/1/748854.

[ix]  Linda Milazzo, “Corporate Media Turned Out for Jena, but Not for Anti-War. Here’s Why.” Atlantic Free Press, September 23, 2007, www.atlanticfreepress.com/news/1/2473-corporate-media-turned-out-for-jena-but-not-for-anti-war-heres-why.html.

[x] For more on the Winter Soldiers, see Censored 2009, chapter 1, story 9, pp. 58-62 and online www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/9-iraq-and-afghanistan-vets-testify/

[xi]  Peter Phillips, Censored 2008, (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2007), 35-44. www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/1-no-habeas-corpus-for-any-person/

[xii] See Censored 2008, chapter 1, story 6, 55-59. Also online at www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/6-operation-falcon-raids/.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv]  Diane Farsetta, Center for Media Democracy, studies on Pentagon propaganda online at www.prwatch.org/pentagonpundits.

[xiv] Norman Soloman, “The Military-Industrial-Media Complex: Why war is covered from the warriors’ perspective,” Extra! July/August 2005, published by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), on the FAIR website at www.fair.org/index.php?page=2627

[xv] For several excellent studies of US Iraq War propaganda, see PR Watch’s John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Weapons of Mass Deception: The Uses of Propaganda in Bush’s War on Iraq, (New York: Tarcher Penguin, 2003), and their follow up Best War Ever: Lies, Damned Lies, and the Mess in Iraq, (New York: Penguin, 2006), and the exhaustive work by Anthony R. DiMaggio, Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Examining American News in the “War on Terror,” (UK: Lexington Books, 2008). Additionally, forthcoming in fall 2009, just reviewed by the authors is Robert P. Abele, The Anatomy of a Deception: A Reconstruction and Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq, (Baltimore: University Press of America, 2009).

For reports on the continuation of war policy under President Barack Obama, see Center for Media Democracy’s John Stauber, “How Obama Took Over the Peace Movement,” www.prwatch.org/node/8297. and Peter Phillips, “Barack Obama Administration Continues US Military Dominance,” www.projectcensored.org/articles/story/http-wwwprojectcensoredorg-articles-story-barack-obama-administration-c/.  <

[xvi] Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1988, 2002). For an introduction of the Propaganda Model, see chapter 1, or see a retrospective by Edward Herman, www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/20031209.htm.

[xvii]  Peter Phillips, Censored 2008, see chapter 7, “Left Progressive Media Inside the Propaganda Model,” 233-251, www.projectcensored.org/articles/story/left-progressive-media-inside-the-propaganda-model/.

[xviii]  Co-author Peter Phillips interviewed Carmon Aponte while visiting the Patare Community TV and radio station in a trip to Venezuela for a book fair in 2008. The station was one of thirty-four locally controlled community television stations and four hundred radio stations now in the barrios throughout Venezuela.

[xix] Co-author Peter Phillips attended the major journalism conference in Cuba in 2008. About his experiences there, Phillips remarked, “During my five days in Havana, I met with dozens of journalists, communication studies faculty and students, union representatives and politicians. The underlying theme of my visit was to determine the state of media freedom in Cuba and to build a better understanding between media democracy activists in the US and those in Cuba.”

Phillips continued, “I toured the two main radio stations in Havana, Radio Rebelde and Radio Havana. Both have Internet access to multiple global news sources including CNN, Reuters, Associated Press and BBC with several newscasters pulling stories for public broadcast. Over 90 municipalities in Cuba have their own locally run radio stations, and journalists report local news from every province.”

“During the course of several hours in each station I (Phillips) was interviewed on the air about media consolidation and censorship in the US and was able to ask journalists about censorship in Cuba as well. Of the dozens I interviewed all said that they have complete freedom to write or broadcast any stories they choose. This was a far cry from the Stalinist media system so often depicted by US interests.”

[xx] For more details see the Project Censored website at http://projectcensored.org/ and for more on the Project Censored International Affiliates Program, see http://projectcensored.org/project-censored-international-affilates-program. For more on how to become the media, see David Mathison’s work online http://bethemedia.com. For more on Smart Mobs, see Howard Rheingold’s work online www.smartmobs.com/book/.  

[xxi] Howard Rheingold, “Smartmobbing Democracy,” in Rebooting America: Ideas for Redesigning American Democracy for the Internet Age,” ed. Allison Fine, Micah L. Sifry, Andrew Rasiej  and Josh Levy. Retrieved from The Personal Democracy Press, http://rebooting.personaldemocracy.com/node/5484

*The co-authors would like to express sincere appreciation for editing assistance provided by Rebecca Norlander and Ellen Gaddy.



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