By Alec Reed
Published: April 26th, 2017
It is no secret that President Donald Trump considers the media his enemy. He has consistently railed against the major “fake news” outlets, recently calling organizations such as CNN and The New York Times the “enemy of the American people”. Many news outlets, including the Excelsior, have called this claim “absurd” and said that it is yet another example of Trump’s effort to undermine journalism for his own gain. Based on Trump’s history with the media, it likely is. However, there may be some truth embedded in Trump’s comments.
A free and independent press is fundamental to democracy, but the sad truth of America today is that our press is not free and far from independent.
Many are unaware of the fact that more than 90 percent of the media in this country is owned by five gigantic corporations including Comcast, Disney, and Time Warner. The result is the consolidation of viewpoints that are allowed in mainstream political discussion. In the words of Bernie Sanders, “There are certain messages which are allowed to get out, and there are certain messages which are not.”
MIT Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky and his coauthor Edward Herman argued in their 1992 book, “Manufacturing Consent,” that the media does not operate as a check on political power. Instead, it functions as a means of spreading propaganda on behalf of the establishment with one goal: profit. The public’s right to be informed takes a backseat to the needs of the corporation, which strives to amass enormous sums of money.
It should be alarming that in a country where the top 0.1 percent of people control as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, the majority of people get their news from those deeply tied to sacks of corporate cash. For example, the highest viewed news program in January of 2017 was Fox News’s, O’Reilly Factor. According to the Hill, show host Bill O’Reilly made $49,000,000 in 2016, more $134,000 a day, and he takes the weekends off. O’Reilly’s daily income is about as much as the bottom 90 percent of individuals in the country made in a year according to the most recent US census.
Journalism is rooted in holding powerful figures accountable. However, the current issue is that the media struggles to play its role as an additional check on governmental power due to the incredible amount of money involved.
For example, the top 100 US newspapers ran 47 editorials on Trump’s recent airstrike in Syria; it used 59 tomahawk missiles manufactured by Raytheon, a major player in the so-called military industrial complex, and costed an estimated $832,000 per missile. Of the 47 articles, only one was critical of Trump’s military action. While the ramifications of the attack are debatable, the fact that major newspapers failed to give space to dissenting viewpoints is concerning, especially with regard to matters of war and peace. Like it or not, war sells papers.
The fundamental issue here is that in many ways, Trump is correct. Due to the nature of large corporations, the media often acts in its own interest to the potential detriment of our country. However, it means absolutely nothing coming from a billionaire who is merely trying to save face amidst perpetual scandal and historically low approval ratings. As with several issues Trump raises, such as the integrity of the election process and negative effects of globalist trade deals, there are real problems at the heart of tirades. Unfortunately, Trump is in no place to make genuine critiques, as he is yet another figure trapped in the web of corporate influence.
When millionaires who work for organizations representing billionaires are presenting news to the public, it is not outlandish to think that they have a vested interest in slanting the realm of allowable public discourse to benefit their corporate agenda. When consuming the news, we should be extremely aware of this and apply healthy skepticism to where our news is coming from, what it is focused on, and what it ignores.