by Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
During the recent wave of rebellions in the US I was reminded of just how woefully, woefully inadequate the US nationwide media truly is. I only foresee one solution to ferret out what is truly going on in the United States during the 2020 summer & fall of discontent – going local, nationwide.
(However, I do please need help with this solution – more on that shortly.)
It’s not just CNN, MSNBC, PBS, NPR, etc., but the major city newspapers too, as they are owned by the same corporations/conglomerates, after all. Therefore, tuning into any of these stations/newspapers is to see the same story over and over and over; to watch just one of them is to watch them all, such is their uniformity.
That’s a huge problem in creating a politically-intelligent citizenry.
There is also a significant trend in US newspapers about which I have not read any comment: The New York Times has become not only the nation’s “paper of record” but apparently also a newswire. Look at your major city daily and you’ll likely find that reprints of Times articles are not quite on par with usage of the Associated Press but certainly exceeds the number of Reuters articles.
That’s a significant development for US culture: it certainly increases the amount of NYC-centeredness, something which had already exploded with the advent of cable TV. Using more Times articles also means less space for local coverage (newspaper journalists always view everything as a constant and hierarchical battle for precious inch space, LOL) and thus the local culture suffers from exclusion. Disagree with that? Consider radio:
For much of the 20th century local US musical culture could be rewarded with local #1 hits which were big regionally but never broke nationwide – this fostered a unique local musical arts scene, and explains why US musical culture was so vibrant and diverse in the 20th century. But steady deregulation, beginning with Jimmy Carter, and permitting the rise of media conglomerate domination – sealed by the Clinton administration’s Telecommunications Act of 1996 – immediately resulted in a total stagnation, sameness and dullness in American music (in every genre but country music).
Consider the incredibly banal and unexceptional “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X – last year it inexplicably became the longest running #1 hit ever in US history – it spent a stunning 19 consecutive weeks at the top of the charts. Some say that Lil Nas X was only so heavily promoted by the media conglomerates because he became the first openly homosexual rapper, but that misses the larger trend: we see that nearly all of the #1 hits which have spent 10 weeks or more on the charts occurred after the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – the main story here is how the cultural omnipresence of media conglomerates has standardised US culture and eliminated once-vibrant regionalisms. What holds true for music holds true for news.
However, it’s quite, quite a change in US newspapers to open one up these days and discover that half the national and world coverage are reprints from The New York Times. Only an idiot would uncritically accept the Times latest allegations based on anonymous AND discredited sources – alleged Russian bounties on US soldiers in Afghanistan – but they did the same thing to provoke Gulf War II, of course.
For real news go local and – surprisingly – go to local public television
If you really want to find some actual current information in the US you have to go to local public TV.
Take Chicago, for example, the 3rd-largest city in the US: The Chicago Tribune did just a terrible job precisely covering the enormous local impact of the Floyd rebellions, rather nullifying the usual consensus that print is more intelligent than TV.
As a journalist whose background is in print please believe that I am usually biased in print’s favor, but there is a reality about print which is rarely stated: the very medium of print lends itself to conservatism when presenting new and urgent issues.
A huge part of this is caused by the “objective” method of reporting so popular in the US – to read the newspaper is to read a “balanced” accounting, but one which is always “balanced” (i.e. censored) in favor of the corporate fascism and capitalism-imperialism upon which the US system is undoubtedly ideologically constructed. Thus, even though for the first time in 50 years Americans were in the street demanding radical changes and revolution the average newspaper was unable to reflect those demands without an omnipresent, and editorially overt, status-quo-loving counterbalance of “many believe these are mere rioters and that it useless to discover if there is a coherent ideology behind their actions”.
Television, contrarily and undoubtedly, can stick a microphone in someone’s face and that person can scream bloody murder – you can’t “balance” that via toning down their sentiments with a rewrite back at the office.
This explains why the only place I found some real discussion about actual issues which truly affect the average person is the local news on the local PBS channel (PBS is the lone public TV channel in the US).
Chicago is an interesting place in the US because it’s the 3rd-largest city but totally absent from US national coverage, which is dominated by NYC, DC and LA. However, to paraphrase the Rolling Stones: win over (understand) Chicago and you win over the bulk of the US. Chicago is the undisputed Qom of neoliberal thought, and yet also gave the world May Day. There’s no doubt that the average American peasant & worker lives/thinks/feels more like a Chicagoan than like any in that trio of rather incredibly resented US cities, so we can somewhat confidently extrapolate the current problems/solutions/rebellions/economic catastrophes seen in Chicago to the myriad of other cities both non-Americans and actual Americans never hear a word about in the national media, such as Cleveland, Tallahassee and Pittsburgh, to say nothing of Oskaloosa, the Quad Cities and anywhere in inland California.
So if you are looking for actual on-the-ground information regarding the US 2020 dystopia and the ongoing Summer of Hate as experienced by the average American, may I recommend you check out WTTW Channel 11 in Chicago – here is the home page for their main news program, Chicago Tonight. I saw their live coverage of the protests and I was surprised at what a solid (but not “leftist great”) job they did. Contrarily, I saw much more cowardice, stupidity and craven compliance from national MSM journalists doing live coverage of the rebellions.
If you watch their “full show” or just certain clips you will find intensely critical local officials & local citizens, honest roundtable discussions, sound bytes which aren’t 5 seconds long, and reporters who actually know and care about what is going on around them – these are all things absent in the national MSM. In 2020 – that’s as precious as gold. They travel all around the near-megalopolis and ask about things like: “How is the Corona hysteria ruining your business?” instead of “How is Russia ruining our country and your life”?
I have no idea why you would ever want to tune into CNN’s Chris Cuomo again: I have never seen any TV journalist use the words “I” and “myself” as often as he does. Rachel Maddow – here’s a minute-by-minute breakdown of her in 2018 and the conclusion was clear: she is not a journalist but an unprincipled propagandist, just like how Tucker Carlson’s lawyer stated last month that his viewers should not expect him to state nor verify truthful facts. The national news of Washington-based PBS or NPR? PBS fails to see the problem with using military brass as foreign policy analysts, LOL, while Neocon Public Radio is the most unabashed proponent of useless & divisive identity politics. Bottom line: if you want to see all of these places at once – just go check out The New York Times.
That is the echo chamber of the modern US – it will make you crazy, and it will certainly make you stupid with identity politics, Trump Derangement Syndrome and Russophobia.
With public TV you can actually find out what is going on with the average American in the average community – turn off the national MSM and go local: it’ll be nice to be reminded that you aren’t alone and that all Americans aren’t totally out of touch.
A request for your help
I don’t recall ever asking readers to share one of my articles, but I wish you would please share this one: I am hoping people can please pass on a truly reliable local TV news source other than in Chicago?
Please comment below if you know of one – I will check the internet and find your comments. If people give enough news sources I will make “Part 2” to this article and list them.
Wouldn’t such a list be really useful? If a munitions plant poisons half of Texas, wouldn’t it be good to have a list at your disposal to find the good local news resource?
During the recent rebellions there were major & unique happenings in places like Minneapolis and Memphis but I could not find a similar news program like Chicago Tonight to really find out the local assessments, problems and proposed solutions.
However, I have already asked dozens of journalists and activists and gotten scant replies – I worry that everybody is glued to the national MSM? Really, you need to learn more about Chris Cuomo’s personal greatness?
Given the current/looming economic disaster, even more than the upcoming presidential election, we really need to find out what the heck is actually going on in the US, no? And we can’t rely on the MSM for that.
So, if you could please pass on a reliable, quality local news recommendation I will be happy to compile them and include them all in an article on this subject in the near future.
Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis.
A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020
– March 25, 2020
March 26, 2020
Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020
Coronavirus – Macron’s savior. A ‘united Europe’ – France’s murderer – April 22, 2020
The end of globalisation won’t be televised, despite the hopes of the Western 99% (2/2) – April 27, 2020
Why do Westerners assume all African-Americans are leftists? – June 5, 2020
Trump’s only hope: buying re-election with populist jobless benefits – June 16, 2020 (Hey, I took a break since this one – so sue me. And maybe I should retire this list, LOL….)
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the NEW ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.