The Only News Fit to Print, Colltalers
A journalist was murdered by rulers of his own country. A toddler, separated from relatives by immigration, showed up in court alone. A torture apologist got to lead the presidential race of the world’s fifth-largest nation. These were breaking news last week.
And yet, in the U.S., news was the 10-minute rant-and-praise the president performed at the White House by a mentally unsound superstar. That’s the absolutely unintended truth hidden in Trump’s, and every would-be dictator’s, motto: ‘the press is the enemy.’
It is not, of course, and besides all it means for a healthy democracy, the most consequential role of a free press is to present facts as they actually are, and reality as it unfolds. That requires courage, expedience and trust that the reader doesn’t need help sorting out the content. And yet, if a news organization is driven by ratings and not by its constitutional duty to inform, we’re in trouble.
There are many ways a democracy can and will be undermined: corrupt leaders, an oblivious electorate, massive amounts of money in politics, and most of us are very much used to all three. But a free press restores accountability and transparency, and lends legitimacy to any government. Along the well-informed citizens it serves, it’s a formidable deterrent to abuses of power.
That’s why the likely assassination of Saudi Arabia’s Jamal Kashoggi, a journalist long targeted by the royal family ruling his country, is so disturbing, besides being cruel. He was last seen on Oct. 2, caught by surveillance cameras, walking into the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Turkey, itself often accused of repressing its press, has released ghastly details about his supposed murder.
Saudi Arabia is a brutal dictatorship, whose oil-generated power and wealth has caused terrible consequences to Middle East stability. But what matters is that its Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, is also ‘best friends’ and partner in crime with Trump. With the president’s help, the Saudis have been conducting a heart-shattering strangling of Yemen, an ethnic cleansing that’s already killed 50,000 civilians – a grim average of 130 children a day – and caused the biggest modern outbreak of cholera.
The U.S. has been supplying weapons, air power, logistics and, helped by its media, total block of free journalistic coverage.
None of the major American broadcast corporations has reporters on the ground there, or dedicates more than a few soundbites per week to this carnage. All so U.S. weapon makers can keep up the $350 billion, 10-year sales contract Trump signed in May.
Another omission by these entertainment concerns that call themselves news organizations is exactly that: among the president’s
high-level meetings, including with North Korean Kim Jong-un and Russian Vladimir Putin – both downright embarrassing and unproductive – this is the one when he actually signed an accord. No wonder his reaction to the murder has been tepid, at best.
If confirmed, Kashoggi’s death will add to that of Bulgarian Viktoria Marinova, a few days later, and Slovakian Jan Kuciak, in February, already part of the 43 journalists killed so far in 2018. Obviously there can be no free press if they’re killing journalists.
Helen is an asylum seeker from Honduras, who was detained by the U.S. Border Patrol a few months ago. She’s vivacious and, like all refugees, scared and crippled by her situation. She’s also five and has been alone ever since being forcefully separated from her grandmother and some relatives. As such, she was taken to court to ‘argue’ her case before a judge. That can’t be right.
For a while, she was also part of the 13,000+ immigrant children, the majority of which is being ‘stored’ in a Texas desert tent city. Of them, over 1,200 were yanked from their parents and guardians, and some even risk never to set eyes on them again.
The Trump administration is normalizing a dangerous concept: children, including babies, representing their parents, whose absence was caused by the administration itself. Worst: this absurdity is deemed unfit for a media headline, or in-depth reporting.
World affairs coverage receives similar treatment, and news about Latin American politics, for instance, only spikes when our ‘great leader’ is praised by a supporter, or, for ratings sake, there are events fitting the narrative, such as violence or corruption.
Case in point, Brazil and the likelihood that another politico aligned with Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, gets elected president. Despite a national campaign and massive rallies to denounce and oppose Bolsonaro’s racism and misogyny, he still leads in the polls.
That is as unbelievable as learning that high-paid, well-educated white American women are among Trump enablers. For much of the support for this captain, kicked out of the Army in the 1980s on terrorism charges, comes from his praise of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil with an iron fist between 1964 and 1985. Accordingly, he picked a general for #2 in his ticket.
Much worst, however, is what history shows, if it gets a replay: the coup in Brazil inaugurated one of the worst periods for the continent, with other dictatorships following suit, and thousands murdered, tortured, or ‘desaparecidos’ in the process. With the U.S. still is an interested part, if Brazil’s leads a revival of that dark time it may spell misery to now close to a billion people.
Even though, help by the U.S. to the juntas that ruled over Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and others was more ostensible than today, it may’ve been now endowed with a powerful fan. That will be decided on Oct. 28, just over a week of the U.S. midterm elections.
A common denominator in both countries is the press’ role in the rise of both Trump and Bolsonaro. If omission is the American media’s capital sin, in Brazil is the wall-to-wall, highly biased coverage of the country’s politics. Just a few news organizations, owned by wealthy families, religious and corporate groups, they’ve been decisive in manipulating public opinion and outcomes.
That leads to the disheartening thought that, all things considered, it may be virtually impossible to stop this right wing revival any time soon. That is, unless people in both countries regain control of their own narrative, and withdraw support not just to radical leaders bent on crushing dissent but also of media corporations following their own agendas. And there’s a way to do that.
Show up and vote for candidates committed to freedom rights, with a track record for telling the truth, and caring about climate change, for starters. Brazilians and Americans may not deserve their leaders, but are responsible for electing them. Otherwise, it’ll be more of the same: murdered journalists and orphaned immigrant toddlers, trapped by an unjust system. #ELENUNCA. WC