[R-G] Freedom of the Press: What they don't teach you in J school
fentona at shaw.ca
Thu Jul 31 09:59:29 MDT 2008
Freedom of the Press: What they don't teach you in J school
by Diana Barahona -
La Habana 22 de julio 2008
The United States has one of the highest levels of press freedom in
the world. We know this because four different press freedom
organizations say so. The fact that all four receive generous funding
from the U.S. government doesn’t seem to matter.
Fidel told Frei Betto in an interview that he considered freedom of
the press to be nothing more than freedom of ownership, and this is
true: money is power, and the U.S. press has the power to choose our
political leaders for us. Just ask Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards and
Ralph Nader, and they will tell you how they were disappeared from the
2008 presidential race as quickly and definitively as any Soviet
leader who fell into disfavor with Stalin.
The current definition of freedom of the press was developed by the
monopoly press, with the support of the state, and the tortuous logic
goes like this:
Governments, although they are well intentioned, tend towards
corruption and abuse.
An independent press is necessary to inform the public about this
corruption and abuse.
Independence is assured by not receiving any money or subsidies from
To maintain this independence, the press must be commercially
Therefore, the more commercially successful the press is, the freer it
A communications text written by professors at Cal State Long Beach
defines democracy in an equally crass way when it proposes this
argument: If democracy means distributing the greatest amount of goods
to the greatest number of people, and advertising facilitates this
distribution, then advertising is democracy (yes, the text actually
Here’s the reality of the situation, which you would be unwise to
speak of in a journalism class:
The transnational corporations control the state.
The big media companies are transnational corporations.
Therefore, the big media companies control the state.
What are the consequences of a state controlled by transnational
corporations, among them the media giants? First, the media buy laws
that enable them to become more consolidated and accumulate more
capital. Second, the media will support the state as long as it is
obedient to the transnational capitalist class. Third, if a leader
manages to become head of state and decides that his loyalty is to the
people who elected him, the media will wage war without quarter until
that leader is gone.
The Rise and Fall of Reporters Without Borders
Journalists Jean-Guy Allard, Salim Lamrani and Maxime Vivas have
written all there is to write about Reporters Without Borders. The
facts are there for anyone interested in reading them. I would just
like to add two philosophical points to the discussion of this
government- and corporate-sponsored group.
The first is that although RSF has close links to the U.S. government,
it also receives money from France, the European Union, the United
Nations (until recently), from billionaire foundations such as Soros’
Open Society Institute and Taiwan. It is also receiving money from
other sources, but who calls the shots?
Given the rise of a transnational capitalist class and the creation of
supranational institutions such as the WTO, the EU, the IMF and World
Bank, and the WEF, sociologists are struggling to create a new
definition of imperialism. Many people still believe in U.S
imperialism because it was the United States that lead the worldwide
transformation that is globalization. However the overthrow of
President Aristide in 2004, although lead by the United States, was
actually a collective effort among the elites of four countries (five
if you count the Dominican Republic), and it was one in which RSF,
international media and NGOs played an important propaganda role. A
transformed UN deployed troops after the coup to restore stability,
not to restore constitutionality. Other imperialist actions are taking
on a transnational character as well.
One way to resolve this problem is to conceptualize a transnational
state, which was proposed by William Robinson in A Theory of
Transnational Capitalism, among other works. From there, one can
hypothesize a kind of imperialism practiced by this state – not as a
unified monolith, of course, but a state in formation which already
has powerful institutions at its disposal.
This is one reason for the revival of interest in the ideas of Antonio
Gramsci. The transnational state, like the nation-state, reproduces
itself in civil society; hence, the amazing proliferation of NGOs
created or transformed to serve transnational capital, as well as the
buying off of existing NGOs. This is a long, imprecise explanation for
my hypothesis that RSF serves neither one country nor several, but the
My second point is simpler, and it is that one of the propagandistic
weapons RSF employs is to accuse leftist Latin American presidents of
provoking political polarization. This is just one of its tactics that
demonstrates the class character of its work. Polarization is a social
phenomenon that occurs when two opposing classes are in conflict. It
is only related to press freedom because the capitalist press is
acting as a protagonist in the class struggle, committing sedition on
behalf of powerful economic interests, of which it is one, but
enjoying total impunity in the name of freedom of the press. The only
way for a leftist president to avoid increasing polarization is to
cease the class struggle. But RSF takes the position that the right to
self defense exists only for capital.
The minute a journalist starts to write a story he is making choices
colored by his biases. In the face of transcendental events, there is
no such thing as impartiality. If a journalist hasn’t picked a side
consciously, he or she is already on the wrong side.
Diana Barahona recently earned a BA in journalism from CSULB, where
she was disruptive, disrespectful and had an agenda, according the
chair of the journalism school. She is now studying sociology at CSUF.
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