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Arts and Culture

Chris Hedges on ‘The Death and Life of American Journalism’

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Posted on Feb 26, 2010
book cover

By Chris Hedges

(Page 2)

Certainly, as the authors point out, the faux objectivity and neutrality of the traditional news industry hastened the cultural irrelevance of traditional news gathering. The narrowing of debates within the press to the minor differences among the power elite had a debilitating effect on news. The structure of “objectivity” works far better when there are powerful social movements, such as the civil rights movement, that provide an actual alternative and demand a voice. But without these movements the press functions as courtiers in the corridors of power. It dutifully reports the Democratic and Republic positions, a condition that imposes a bland uniformity of opinion. The two parties are in fundamental agreement about the underlying economic, political and military structures which are largely responsible for our decline. The power elites do not question the permanent war economy, unfettered capitalism and the rise of the security state, and voices that do are, in effect, censored out of the commercial press because they have no power base. This has left most traditional reporters without a moral core and trapped in a ridiculous court pantomime that has damaged their content as much as the loss of advertising and the rise of the Internet. The lie told by newspapers and traditional news is the lie of omission, which is not as bad as the outright lies told on Fox News, but in the end it is still a lie. Our power elite are bankrupt, and the press, tethered to the elite, is as bankrupt as those it covers.

“The real problem with professional journalism becomes evident when political elites do not debate an issue and march in virtual lockstep,” the authors write. “In such a case professional journalism is, at best, ineffectual, and, at worst, propagandistic. This has often been the case in U.S. foreign policy, where both parties are beholden to an enormous global military complex, and accept the right of the United States, and the United States alone, to invade countries when it suits U.S. interests. In matters of war and foreign policy, journalists who question the basic assumptions and policy objectives and who attempt to raise issues no one in either party wishes to debate are considered ‘ideological’ and ‘unprofessional.’ This has a powerful disciplinary effect upon journalists.”

 

book cover

 

The Death and Life of American Journalism: The Media Revolution that Will Begin the World Again

 

By Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols

 

Nation Books, 352 pages

 

Buy the book

American society, once we lose a system of information based on verifiable fact, will become disconnected from reality. All totalitarian societies impart their propaganda through manipulated images and spectacles. And the death of traditional news is one more stage in the terminal illness that is ravaging American democracy. The rise of a totalitarian capitalism will follow, and we already have many of the new system’s information networks in place. Corporations, as the authors point out, “will be better positioned than ever to produce self-promotional ‘information’—better described as ‘propaganda’—that can masquerade as ‘news.’ The technology actually makes it easier. A major development in the past decade has been video news releases, PR-produced news stories that are often run as if they were legitimate journalism on local TV news broadcasts. The stories invariably promote the products of the corporation which funds the work surreptitiously.”

Journalism will again become what it was more than a century ago—a form of art. It will be as concerned with truth and beauty as it is with justice. It will no longer speak in the deformed language of balance and objectivity but instead be a conduit for unvarnished moral outrage and passion. It will, like classical theater, be relegated to the margins of society but will endure for the literate and the moral. It will sustain all who seek to live with a conscience in an unconscious age. Journalism will survive, but it will reach a limited audience, as the sparsely attended productions of Aristophanes or Racine in small New York theaters are all that is left of great classical theater. The larger society will be deluged with propaganda, spectacle and entertainment as news. Those who carry the flame of journalism forward will live lives as difficult, financially precarious and outside the mainstream as most classical actors and musicians. 

The solutions proposed by McChesney and Nichols to save journalism would work if we lived in a culture that placed primacy on truth and beauty. The failure to recognize America’s profound cultural shift into collective self-delusion makes the book stillborn. The authors, who know and understand journalism and the news industry, have a lot to say about the history of journalism and its decline that is worth reading, but their fatal flaw is to propose solutions that are no longer culturally relevant. They grasp the terrible consequences of a culture disconnected from a world of verifiable fact. They admirably look for solutions to save us from a world where opinions and facts are interchangeable, where lies become true. I applaud their effort, but I fear it is too late. 

Chris Hedges, a Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent, worked for The New York Times for 15 years and before that for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor and National Public Radio. He is the author, most recently, of “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.”


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By discount breitling, April 29, 2011 at 8:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The ‘solutions to save us from a world where opinions and facts are interchangeable, where lies become true’ can only come from media funded by a broad coalition of progressive parties and grass roots organizations.

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By marcus medler, October 2, 2010 at 2:23 pm Link to this comment

Democracy died with the Manhattan project!

If journalism needs to be subsidized by someone other than advertisers, look to
special and particular interests(political parties eg.). This model is all ready
pervasive.

To create informed, not just indoctrinated citizens, institutionalize public,
protected, forums everywhere.  Oops   sounds like we sort of have this.

The big deal here is not protection of a particular(traditional newspaper
monopolies) but protection of the game(rules)—- the constitution, and dissolution
of wealth and power.

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By Night-Gaunt, October 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment

They actually don’t give out “stamps” anymore. It is a debit card now. I can’t answer your question.

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By charmaine, October 2, 2010 at 4:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thanks very much for a useful article. I get a great deal of enjoyment from the writing of Chris Hedges and find him always to speak honestly and from the heart. It can only get worse for journalism and newspapers since more and more people are hitting the ‘poor’ level and money for newspapers is very far down the list. Can you buy newpapers with food stamps?

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By Night-Gaunt, April 20, 2010 at 11:25 am Link to this comment

What people need is in the area of euthenics which is living in a good environment. When you are in a poor one very few can do well enough to get out of it but they do get out of it. If they don’t then it will be a numbing despair. Can you imagine if we all started in a very positive and good nurturing environment?

Our news gathering and reporting environment is being a desolate place inhospitable to real news reports but is a fertile ground for psychophants and stenographers. That is the danger that is moving to a permanent status even as we speak.

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By Anarcissie, March 26, 2010 at 8:55 am Link to this comment

Actually, I’d say that morale is a big problem among the poor.  Before people can accomplish something they need to believe that they can accomplish something.  Well-off children see examples all around them; the poor see mostly examples of failure and misery.  So how do you break that vicious circle?

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By Night-Gaunt, March 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment

Funny how all that “self esteem” bolstering done has proven to be a failure because cheating by just letting everybody “win” fails in the primary part. To have self esteem one must think they are worth something to themselves first, then to others. Just giving it to them gratis shows just how unimportant it and therefor they are. Instead they should have taught them how good it feels to accomplish something. That builds that elusive esteem.

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By christian96, March 5, 2010 at 7:00 am Link to this comment

I discovered a few days ago that DISH netword has
added a new chaneel, LOGO.  It appears to be aimed
primariy towards the homosexual community.  I just
finished watching a movie from India about two women
who lose their love for their husbands and find
love between themselves.  As a Christian psychologist I found it interesting from many perspectives.  I taped it so I can watch it again
without being caught up in the flow of a movie with
the tender sweet music playing in the background.
I’m not interested in men.  The thought of two men
kissing is very repugnant to me.  However, I am
attracted to lesbians.  I notice, at least in the
movies, they are very tender with one another.  A
lot of staring in each others eyes, tender touching
and rubbing of the entire bodies.  The Indian women
didn’t kiss on the mouth but the insinuation was there.  One of my fantasies as a young man was to
be with two women but that was never fulfilled.  While in graduate school I met a bi-sexual woman from Pittsburgh.  Her father was a physician.  She
was very bright.  I not only enjoyed our physical
relationship but our long talks together.  I once
thought of moving to San Francisco to see if I would be accepted in the lesbian community.  Probably not. I would enjoy observing their everyday lives which
is probably quite similiar to heterosexuals.  Now
that I have reached senior citizens status I might
be more accepted.  I would enjoy talking to them
about their childhoods and lives in general as they
went through the growth processes.  When did they
first realize they were interested in another woman? Do they tend to be older, middle, younger or only
children.  It would be an interesting study to write about along with enjoy whatever happened to develop
between us.

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By Anarcissie, March 4, 2010 at 9:36 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael, March 4 at 11:39 pm:
‘Anarcissie, the links you provided were so interesting. Even a conservative can agree with the criticism of the current set-up: central server vs disempowered client.’

The whole business is fascinating, isn’t it?  Many people don’t realize that when the main communications protocols of the Internet were developed, they were designed to simply connect to communications endpoints.  There were models dominated by controllers, and they failed.  So the inherent topography of the Net became a simple, flat, decentralized, dumb set of channels with a lot of alternate paths through the network.  In theory, the network was to pay no attention to the content of the messages and vice versa, just as the letter carrier is not supposed to sit around reading your bills.

So now we are coming up on a system where anyone can communicate with anyone else, at least if they have some way of plugging into the network, and as long as the other person wants to hear/read/see what they have to say.  Or any set of people, because computers can provide a very rapid fanout of information very cheaply.  You can publish a book tonight and in theory everyone in Nigeria or Patagonia will be able to read it before tomorrow morning, if they want to.  This is going to change every form of media distribution pretty radically.  And media in the larger sense isn’t just the media; it’s the academic and political system as well, and a lot of the industrial system.  As Moglen says, every Einstein, be she in Abkhazia or Zimbabwe, is going to get to hear about modern physics.  This is what Hedges calls a sewer.

No doubt any development as radical as this is weighted with peril.  But it’s also weighted with peril for the powers that be—not only USGovCorp but, for instance, China.  Naturally many powerful people have a stake in killing it. I think we have a stake in making it live—if only to see what happens next.

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By OzarkMichael, March 4, 2010 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment

Anarcissie, the links you provided were so interesting. Even a conservative can agree with the criticism of the current set-up: central server vs disempowered client.

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By omygodnotagain, March 3, 2010 at 7:23 pm Link to this comment

Flummox, eliselouisa and Anarcisse you are all right but I think a point is missing. Chris Hedges is a fine Journalist, a fair journalist, but he is not in control of the publications that he worked for. To give an example of fair criticism from the right. In his book “Bias” Bernie Goldberg tells of an incident where Larry Doyle a veteran reporter from the CBS Miami Bureau is sent to report on a volcanic eruption on Montpellier. In his “package” he shows looting by the inhabitants. The shots were removed because all the looters were black, but the population of the island is over 90% black. Political sensitivity over sterotyping resulted in the story being tampered with.
Similar examples on the same topic, rarely will a news outlet do a crime story about a Black man raping/killing white women, nor was what happened in the Superbowl and the Convention Center in New Orleans, during Katrina, the sexual assaults and gang violence reported, even though reporters were aware of it.
That happens on both sides of the political spectrum. So yes there is a skill required to report well, to tell a story, but there are “gatekeepers” in MSM.
In the early days of the Iraq war, the most accurate reporting was done by a blogger, an Iraqi doctor.
So the conundrum is, news is expensive, requires skill and talent but the financial and/or political interests cause what is finally released to be skewed, or omitted not all the time, but in many cases.
Whereas, the Internet is an aggregator, it also as in the case of the Iraqi blogger or the most recent Iranian disturbances allows for news to be seen in an unfiltered light, without gatekeepers.

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By elisalouisa, March 3, 2010 at 5:53 pm Link to this comment

Flummox: you are correct in your critique of Hedgers and his writing. I have
wondered why the gathering of empirical fact as news no longer exists. Local
newspapers as you mentioned, no longer engage in such reporting. If you compare the Internet to a quality newspaper one might even agree with Chris
Hedges’ eye catching title ‘The Information Super Sewer’. Sock it to ‘em Chris.

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By Anarcissie, March 3, 2010 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment

Flummox—as to whether Hedges is an authoritarian, if he strongly prefers a model of information distribution in which a powerful few decide what will be published, to one in which anyone can publish anything, the former being necessarily the model of the mainstream print media, then he is an authoritarian.  How far he wants to go with it, I don’t know; his new friend Lanier was said in these pages to shill for Microsoft, refers to ordinary people (that is, you and me) as “the hive”, and supported the invasion of Iraq, so if they get along ideologically I would say “pretty far.”

As to my usage of “lying”: to lie is to deliberately communicate untruth.  Hedges conveyed misinformation about the Internet, but I suppose one might argue that he was misinformed or ignorant rather than deliberately deceptive.  On the other hand, as a reporter, it’s his assumed role not to be ignorant.  Writing in ignorance when information is available is like driving drunk: if you do harm there is something more to it than an accidental misfortune.

If I may be so tedious as to suggest getting a different and more informed view of what’s going on at present, I’ll recommend looking at some of these URLs, which are transcripts of talks by Eben Moglen, who has the combined virtues of knowing what’s going on, caring about it, not being on the take (as far as I know) and being able to explain things non-technically.

http://www.softwarefreedom.org/news/2010/feb/10/highlights-eben-moglens-freedom-cloud-talk/
http://www.isoc-ny.org/?p=1338
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbcy_ZxXLl8

I have already supplied other possibly informative URLs in previous comments on this and its sister article, the one in which Hedges calls the Internet a sewer.

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By Flummox, March 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

christian96

Hedges is saying that there is value in the gathering of empirical fact as news, and doing so is a specialized skill. And this is something that is gone in TV news rooms and almost gone in newspapers, and right now only barely exists online (since most online news outlets only aggregate, summarize or editorialize on news collected by others).

Hedges was not “lying” about anything, and his article is not pushing the interests of an authoritarian “elite few” trying to tell everyone else what to think and do. And what Hedges said was also not what the “old media” were doing when selling the Iraq war to the world on behalf of the US government.

In fact, Hedges article seems far from controversial in any regard, except if you ardently believe that the US government can and should save the news business, or think that “the internet” (though I’m not sure what on the internet, maybe Twitter?) will replace journalism with something better.

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By christian96, March 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm Link to this comment

Flummox—-Please enlighten the deluded posters what
Chris Hedges is saying!  At long last I have been
waiting on someone to bring light to the darkness.
Lay it on us!

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By Flummox, March 2, 2010 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

Wow, there are a lot of deluded posters whom I think do not understand what Hedges is saying. Some of them call Hedges an “authoritarian” (authoritarian, really?), then go on to describe what has happened to traditional media exactly the same way that he has in an apparent attempt to contradict him. Can you contradict someone by saying the same thing?

Others perfectly exemplify what is wrong with “every citizen becoming a journalist” where facts are unknowable and point of view, no matter how bad, is God. Sure, online journalism means everyone is now perfectly informed and government now works better than ever. How more deluded can an individual be?

I thought that Hedges was being overly pessimistic in this article. But reading the clueless responses from the criminally ill-informed I’m starting to think that is just might be a prophet.

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By omygodnotagain, March 2, 2010 at 7:56 am Link to this comment

First contrary to what you believe journalists do not make a lot of money and they work long hours sometimes in dangerous situations. Sure the hosts and anchors do very well, but they do very little of the work, most is done by producers, researchers, writers etc..
Second, most Journalist do their best to create a sense of balance, they will be viewed with suspicion for doing so. As happened to Chris Hedges for his critically reports from Iraq, and critical articles on Israel, those are generally no no. When the Goldstone report came out on the Gaza War if that was Syria of Lebanon, it would be headline news with Hillary Clinton demanding the UN do something. Well, no such response, in fact Obama and Congress ignored it, were they to demand UN action, you would start seeing negative reports, endlessly about his inability to quit smoking,has Wall Street done a number on him, any skeletons in the closets of any Congressman would be dusted off and made into news.
It is a form of blackmail practiced by the Israeli lobby, to get their way, and they are not alone other lobbies do they same as the Swiftboat episode in the Kerry/Edwards campaign, the Death Panels of the Healthcare debate (they want to kill Gran) or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh making a deal out of something… these guys represent interests
Only those who tow the line get promoted, so it is a self fulfilling prophesy. Occasionally those in management positions and this includes sports too, are useless, they are in that position to promote their resume, they have little interest in the job, it is a step on the path somewhere else and they have been slotted for reasons no-one knows, could be the son or daughter of a well known person, a friend on the Board.

Why I read Chris Hedges is because he is an excellent Journalist who like Robert Fisk of the Independent in Britain has paid a heavy price for being Ethical and willingly to expose the light of truth. Rolling Stone Magazine has also some very commendable writers.

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By christian96, March 2, 2010 at 6:58 am Link to this comment

Omygodnotagain—-Thanks for your response. So,
journalism students probably do take an ethics
course in an institution of higher learning but
when they get on the job they can’t(wrong word, won’t) follow ethical practices because they fear
retribution from the bully called their supervisor.
In fact the bully probably re-writes their jounalism using words to manipulate the public, such as
“radical”, “left wing”, etc.  Words the general
public can’t define but know they mean something
“bad.” I really could have opened a can of worms
by asking if lawyers take a course in ethics while
in school?  What do journalists and lawyers who
lie and manipulate tell themselves at night
when they are in bed, dark, and silent?  When Christianity was powerful they could have told
themselves something like, “Oh my God, I lied and
manipulated today.  I’m going to hell!”  Since there has been a falling away from Christianity I wonder
what the lying manipulating journalists and lawyers
tell themselves in bed at night?  Probably something like, “Man, I’m cool.  I had them in the palm of my
hand today.  And made big bucks doing it.”

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By omygodnotagain, March 1, 2010 at 10:50 am Link to this comment

Christian96
Your question about ethics is a very good one, the bases of the ethics are what are considered to be ‘good journalistic guidelines”. By that I mean, check facts, try to get first person answers, find opposing opinions and be objective meaning having no opinions. As for whose right and wrong, that is where things go awry, because in practice what happens is the context becomes important, or put another way news is told in stories, to understand or get the story certain things have to be understood by the audience. For example, when we were told Iraq had weapons of mass destruction people knew from what happened in Kuwait that we needed to get them out of Saddam Husseins hands. What was not told was why he had them, which was because the US (Donald Rumsfeld no less) had given him chemical weapons, along with the French and British to fight the Iranians. He used them against the Kurds, nor was it mentioned that the British used against the Kurds at the beginning of 20th Century. If you ask an editor why this is not included he would tell you, it was not part of the story arc, ie that it was a digression.
A more insidious practice is to use ‘coded words”. What does that mean, well to most of the world the West Bank settlements are illegal and called Settlements, when media calls them neighborhoods they are suggesting something very different. Or when you have Pro Choice but Anti- Abortion, when Abortion is put into a context of a Right to choose, Anti people are seen as reactionary.
Now call it Pro Life and Anti-Life or Pro Abortion and Anti Abortion, doesn’t sound good. This is done all the time. The decision is made by higher ups and journalists can do serious damage to their careers if they challenge them.

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By elisalouisa, March 1, 2010 at 7:13 am Link to this comment

You and I do not interpret Chris Hedges’ writing quite the same Anarcissie as I do
agree with his comments about print media.  I have valued my local newspaper
since childhood as their news is the heartbeat of communities.  However, I now
go the Internet before before I pick up my newspaper. That tells me something.

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By christian96, March 1, 2010 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

John Ellis—-I have no idea what you are talking
about.  I simply ask if journalism students are
required to take an ethics course in our institutions of higher learning and, if so, what
is the foundation for the ethics course?  What
would be taught to insure the students will act
ethically when enticed by big bucks to act unethical?
Can you or someone address these issues?

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By Anarcissie, March 1, 2010 at 5:51 am Link to this comment

elisalousia—To each his own.  In the matter of content, though, Hedges’s idea that material is forced down people’s throats via the Internet and his statement that the print media are reliable and veracious are not only incorrect, they’re ludicrous and can be disproved simply by looking at what they refer to.  I don’t see much value in that sort of thing.  And it casts a bad light on anything else he writes about.

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By christian96, March 1, 2010 at 1:05 am Link to this comment

Are Journalism students at institutions of higher
learning required to take an “ethics” course?
If so what is the foundation for the ethics course?
When Christianity was popular it could be used for
a foundation, “be truthful or go to hell.”  However,
with the decline in Christianity it makes me wonder
what would be the foundation for an ethics course.
Surely it wouldn’t be “be good for goodness sake.”
Seems like I remember that from a song about Santa
Claus.  Without a strong Christian foundation any
journalism student is going to be easily enticed
by the big bucks dangled in front of them by the
Murdochs of the world.  No conscience.  Give me the
bucks.  Isn’t that the American way now?  That
brings up a question.  The article discusses American
journalism.  Isn’t the same true throughout the world, especially Europe?  Maybe the Muslims have
a moral foundation for their jounalism students
built upon the teachings of Allah.

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By elisalouisa, February 28, 2010 at 9:03 pm Link to this comment

I don’t quite read it that way Anarcissie.  We each can critique columnists on
Truthdig as we see it. I am grateful that Chris Hedges does write a column each
week. His style of writing suits me as does the content.

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By omygodnotagain, February 28, 2010 at 7:18 pm Link to this comment

No John, I have respect for the LONG history of Christianity, for the Syriac Christians who were the one of the very first Christians, whose services are still in Arameic, the language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth, who’s communities in Iraq have been devastated by the nefarious schemings of Christian Zionists,corporate pillagers and Neo Conservatives. They gave the west the monastic tradition that formed the basis of the Wests revival.I have respect for Armenian, Anglican, Episcopalian, Coptic, Eastern Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Chaldean, Nestorian, Ukranian Catholic, Catholic and others that despite differences claim their heritage back to Pentacost. I find offensive this Johnny come lately, “Constantine in darkness” nonsense.

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By Anarcissie, February 28, 2010 at 6:53 pm Link to this comment

elisalouisa, February 28 at 1:40 pm:
‘Chris Hedges’ most recent columns,‘The Death and Life of American Journalism’, ‘Boycott FedEx’ and ‘The Information Super-Sewer’,  are related and put side by side for a reason. They tell us about how our lives are changing as to communication, livelihood from communication, quality of life and most of all the need for our participation and responsibility in helping to set standards. ...’

Hedges is not setting a very good example of participation and responsibility in writing so ignorantly about the Internet.  I don’t think he knows much about it at all, judging by what he wrote in the articles you mention.  In the Sewer article, he seemed to think the Internet was another kind of TV, only worse.  In this one, he tells us that in supposed contrast with the Internet, “the decline of print has severed a connection with a reality-based culture, one in which we attempt to make fact the foundation for opinion and debate, and replaced it with a culture in which facts, opinions, lies and fantasy are interchangeable,” as if we had not had decades of lying, misrepresentation and fantasy from every newspaper in America from the Times on down; so it looks like he doesn’t know much about the print media either, which is kind of odd since that’s his profession.  Maybe it’s just his habitual hysteria, although I think as well that he is very strongly attracted to authoritarian institutions and practices.  Thus in the conflict between the anarchic Internet and the corporate MSM he’s going to back the latter.

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By george szabo from canada, February 28, 2010 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Same old, Same old.
The older I get the more I come to realize things have not changed much over time, profit motives
and corporate interests through clever ( at times) , use of propaganda, and brainwashing of the largely
uneducated public have always and will always control the masses, who generally would prefer to live
in a pretend world, where reality is determined by the controlling corporate interests. Sort of like a really
neat circle of complete existence. Newspapers and media, being highly editorialized by the corporations that
own them are merely lackies and mouthpieces for the same corporations.
How do we break this circle ???
Perhaps by trying to educate the ignorant masses by “enlightened” non-denominational honest trusting
teachers, who do not have ulterior motives and who truly want to do good to the people of this
beautiful planet.
Ah well it was a nice thought anyway—- Maybe if there is an afterlife there is an afterhope….
     
  Keep Positive…. There is Hope….

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By omygodnotagain, February 28, 2010 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment

John Ellis
“But the Dark Ages began in AD 327 when the Christian church established a theocracy over the Roman Empire by selecting King Constantine as their first pope.  And the absolute darkness continues to this day.”

John this is bigoted, hateful, nonsense. I suggest you do some reading, such as “The Wealth and Poverty of Nation”, by a Harvard Emeritus Professor of History, who described what is known as the Middle Ages as “The Age of Invention”, while your at it read “How The Catholic Church Made Western Civilization”. In the Middle Ages the Catholic Church saved the ancient books, they opened Universities, established Hospitals. The printing press was invented in the Middle Ages. They took a bunch of Barbarian Gangbangers and in 1000 years they were sailing around the world, building beautiful churches and making timeless art, seen in cities through Europe.
I can only surmise you are a hateful misguided Christian Zionist, who is still insecure about the validity of Protestant Evangelicalism. The very last line of Matthews Gospel is “Jesus said I will be with you until the end of the Ages”.
Think about that and what you posted.

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By omygodnotagain, February 28, 2010 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment

John Ellis your allegorical light and darkness is not reassuring to me. The light does not expel the darkness easily. After the barbarians overran the Roman Empire around 450 AD it took over 500 years to begin expeling the darkness, and return to any semblance of civic society. Countries like Sudan once with famous cities like Timbuctoo have been in darkness for centuries, the same could be said for Egypt the land of the Pharoahs. After the Mongols destroyed Baghdad killing all 800,000 people (the largest city in the known world), the famed Mesopotania, the Cradle of Civilization has gone into a darkness and never come out. Just because the Christian Gospels preach that spiritual light with shine in darkness,( meaning hope will displace despair) it does not apply to the material temporal world, where evil and darkness are more like mold they spread rotting and sickening everything in its path.

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By elisalouisa, February 28, 2010 at 9:40 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges’ most recent columns,‘The Death and Life of American
Journalism’, ‘Boycott FedEx’  and ‘The Information Super-Sewer’,  are related
and put side by side for a reason. They tell us about how our lives are changing
as to communication, livelihood from communication, quality of life and most
of all the need for our participation and responsibility in helping to set
standards. 

From The Caucus: “House passes Cyber Security Enhancement Act,H.S. 4061. It
authorizes one single entity, the director of the National Institute of Standards
and Technology, to represent the government in negotiations over
international standard and order the White House office of technology to
convene a cybersecurity university-industry task force to guide the direction of
future research.
It also directs the National Science Foundation to research the social and
behavioral aspects of cybersecurity, like how people interact with their
computers and manage their online identities, in order to establish a new, more
accessible awareness and education campaign.”

There are reports the the cybersecurity measure would allow the president to
“declare a cyber security emergency,” Online privacy groups said they felt that
the bill would endow the White House with overly ambigiuous and far reaching
power to regulate the Internet.”

On another note there has been a decline in mail volume due to
communication through the internet rather than snail mail whether it be
advertising, business or personal communication. This is one reason why the
Post Office has lost billions(the amount reported is from 2.8 billion to almost 4
billion depending on which news report) this past year. Could all these
headlines be preparing us for privatization of our mail service?  FedEx can
hardly wait for the further demise of USPS.

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By omygodnotagain, February 28, 2010 at 4:00 am Link to this comment

Right now there is a bill in Congress to control the flow of information on the Internet, one Sponsor is Representative Rockafeller of West Virginia, a liberal Democrat. Big media the type Chris Hedges has worked for, often criticized but still sees as valuable is pushing this Bill. Google and the various IT entities involved with distribution of information are fighting it. So based
on what Chris wrote how should Congress vote? According to Chris and the authors of the book, neither, for Big Media is part of the Corporatocracy and the Internet is putting Journalists out of work. Logically, if the journalists are beholden to their Big Media bosses, then the only hope is that a new type of journalist, one with a social consciousness arises and uses the Internet to get their mmessage across. Like Chris does by writing for Truthdig

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By Democracydiva, February 28, 2010 at 1:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The lie told by newspapers and traditional news is the LIE OF OMISSION, which is not as bad as the outright lies told on Fox News, but in the end it is still a lie.”

Hmmmm…As in the lie of omission Paul Craig Roberts laments in his piece
THE ROAD TO ARMAGGEDON?
http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Road-to-Armageddon-by-Paul-Craig-Roberts-100225-925.html

For the most part the left is just a complicit as the right in the death and destruction caused by war.

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By Virginia777, February 27, 2010 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment

OzarkMichael:

Your blathering indictment of public education is just that:

“By the way, it isnt going to get better. I wouldn’t be surprised if public schools started teaching math as if it were for building self esteem instead of mastering facts.”

What a tacky hit at public education.

But what to expect from someone who also states “First, we must not blame talk radio for creating this problem”?

too much blather, too little brains.

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By omygodnotagain, February 27, 2010 at 4:24 pm Link to this comment

elisalouisa the world maybe more interconnected and mergers to make bigger corporations etc maybe the trend, but it is going to end. Consider, more and more people are Cyber commuting working from home, more people are shopping online, the list goes on, and the issues people face like Global warming will eventually be addressed on a local bases, public transportation, city planning etc. We are starting a phase of splintering to solve our problems because the corporate one size fits all is not working. Iraq is a great example, billions of dollars, the most powerful country in the world, and it eventually came to the conclusion that it would only work when the locals handled their own issues. The oil companies were forced to accept a license/royalty deal.Iran its neighbor is more influential.
Afghanistan will work out the same way. At the beginning of the 20th Century, one third of the worlds population was under the control of Britain. An Empire on which the sun never set and whose Navy controlled the seas and world trade. 50 years later it was gone 70 years later most of the worlds ships were built in Japan , Malaysia, Korea, Singapore.
We are headed for serious deconstruction.

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By marcus medler, February 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

May I suggest, that right now people type in-
hawaii tsunami (google or any web browser)- and
watch the unedited flow of information and
reactions from all over. The flow is somewhat
less from Chile, but soon they will be as
connected as U.s. and hawaii.. I know not what to
make of it but it is food for thought.

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By DaveZx3, February 27, 2010 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment

By John Ellis, February 27 at 2:32 pm #

“But surely it costs millions and millions to operate the WEB, an investment guarded with extreme care by the rich who ownership control the WEB”.

Not true Mr. Ellis. 

A non profit controls domain names and IP addresses to ensure standardization.  They do not control internet access or the content of the information.

Thousands of telephone and cable companies own infrastructure around the world and thus control access to this infrastructure on which the signals ride, and they sell access to the infrastructure the same way they sell you telephone service.  They do not control the content of the signals.

The data itself and the operating systems are owned and controlled by literally tens of millions of individual servers and computers around the world.

There are some big money servers which we love to access, but these are very dispensable in the whole scheme of things.  I do not need Google or Yahoo to communicate with you. 

Actually, all I really need is a cell phone that can take pictures, text and email, and I can become an instant journalist, capable of reporting all my local news directly to the world.  That is power.

And that is why information will be very hard to control in the future.  Power has been put in the hands of the people, and they will never go back to the days of elitist journalists controlling the flow of information through their MSM outlets, be they print, TV or internet. 

I think the complete transfer away from the MSM’s professional journalism method of information control and the corporate methods of product image control will take only one to two more generations. 

This is not to say that there will be no news services and corporate advertising, there will be, but it will be much different, much more truth centered, as it will have to compete with many other information systems and feedback systems which the people will use to keep everything honest.  Basically, it will be harder to bullshit the people of the future. 

I feel that way right now.  I feel I have every opportunity and capability to discern the bullshit information that is thrown at me.  And I am not particularly bright.

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By Larry Oberg, February 27, 2010 at 1:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As an academic librarian I have witnessed a shift away from the use of
‘authoritative’ printed materials toward unvetted reporting, research, and
opinion on the web. Librarians have for some time now attempted to teach
students, at least as best they can, how to separate the information wheat from
the chaff in an online world where old quality indicators no longer, or rarely,
exist. Undergraduates, with an ease that is disconcerting to most teaching
faculty and librarians, gravitate to unauthenticated online sources when
preparing their papers and reports. Today, bibliographical concerns often center
on the mechanics of citing an online source, rather than insuring clear and
proper authorial credit. Traditional definitions of plagiarism are contested and
many argue that uncredited direct borrowing from the web is legitimate in the
new online world. Teachers are better placed than I to say whether the quality of
student research has improved or declined. Still, it seems clear that these
changes in the classroom are reflected in what is happening in the world of
journalism and information gathering. Multiple unvetted ‘news’ sources create a
confusion of choice. Many are ill-equiped to evaluate these sources. Readers
most likely end by focusing in on a few agregator sites or blogs that confirm,
but do little to change, opinions and thereby contribute to the political
polarization of the society. The old journalistic model defended by Hedges
indeed had its flaws, but we are far from demonstrating that the new model can
improve upon it. Unfortunately, as individuals we can only quibble about it in a
time when hope, Obama notwithstanding, is in short supply.

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By elisalouisa, February 27, 2010 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

Even the rich who own newspapers may give editors a free hand to some
degree John Ellis. We must not assume all the rich are evil or completely
corrupt. As to the fact that city council meetings, police beats etc. will no
longer be covered or monitored by reporters, I speak from personal
experience, having attended a few City Council meetings, Planning, department
meetings, etc. Our local newspaper was owned
by McClatchy news and was a great help in reporting as to
what the Planning department was actually planning in concert with the City Council.  It got to be quite interesting at some meetings and one cub reporter did indeed assist us in being successful against the Planning Department, City
Council and local builders. Could not have been done without our local
newspaper.
You are correct John Ellis in saying that only on the WEB could posters get
away with the slander they spew out. There are some who continually attack
Mr. Hedges, I suspect for their own personal reasons be they because of his
moral standards, religious upbringing or other reasons I do not know.

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By balkas, February 27, 2010 at 10:25 am Link to this comment

Each human is,i aver, right by own definition of words and evaluation of what is true or false!

If each person wld grant to every other person his/her inalianable right to be right by own knowledge [or what s/he evalautes as knowledge or truth]much namecalling, anger, frustration wld be either much lessened or even prevented.

This maxim i base on another dictum or observation that nature-god does not make bad, stupid, malicious, arrogant, delusional people- people do that: clergy, `nobles`, and their faithful mercenairies.
And even these ARE NOT evil or bad- they BECAME bad!


There is another observation that buttresses my first tenet: we have been divided into less- and more-vlued people ca 10k yrs ago and all ills that befell us on interpersonal level since that time or even earlier is due to this factor.

The first observation, that i am right by own evalautions, pertains only on the level of ideating and use of language and not on doing level.

On level of killing innocent alien children, we use the apodictic dictum that we err- if we wld indeed err, but will never find out- on the side of not lying, killing, exploiting, deceiving.

Now, these ideas have been with us for millennia. I am not saying anything new; i am solely arraying these dicta in different words.

Probably almost everything i know, i have learned from others.

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By DBC, February 27, 2010 at 9:49 am Link to this comment

Perhaps I am a cynic, but I agree with Hedges completely.  Most people I know that have opinions about social issues get them from the so-called News programs on TV.  TV programs have one objective, get as many viewers as possible to get advertising dollars.  The only TV programs that don’t have this as the number one objective are PBS.  That is how capitalism works without intervention.  Profit is the sole measure of value in this country.  Truth is no longer important for news.  What is to blame?  I have 3 children that all question everything.  Not because of their education, but because I taught them to by example.  My 85 year old mother, on the other hand, doesn’t realize TV news is now entertainment and not news.  We could change this.  We should change it. Can we change it?  Unlikely.

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By Anarcissie, February 27, 2010 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

DaveZx3—much of what you say is correct, but the Internet is not without its problems and is vulnerable to subversion by corporations and government.

If you look at this discussion, you’ll see that many people are as authoritarian as Hedges.  That is, they desire a society in which a few, elite authorities tell everyone else what to think and do.  This was the old model of media, based in material facts like the characteristics of printing and broadcasting.  Although that model has been displaced, many people still desire it and they will try to recreate it in the new environment. 

Those who seek masters will find them.

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By DaveZx3, February 27, 2010 at 8:32 am Link to this comment

I am still disagreeing. 

My access to news I can trust has increased a thousand fold, including my local news, over the past 5 years.  My city government meetings are all televised on a dedicated cable channel.  There are dozens of paid and unpaid government servants working on committees or serving in full-time positions who operate blog sites, facebook pages or twitter accounts.  Many people monitor police and rescue channels and post and chat about the things that happen.  I can get to the heart of a local story within seconds now, rather than waiting a few days for a printed paper to be delivered.

National and international news is not much different.  The opportunities to get to the heart of stories is infinitely better now then it was 5 or 10 years ago, when you had to rely only on the “professional journalists” to tell you the story, after their editors made it fit the agenda of the ownership.

In a changing world, technology eventually makes everything obsolete.  And one thing that is becoming rapidly obsolete is the idea of the printed newspaper.  The newspaper boy, along with an army of newspaper journalists will go the way of the ice man and the milk man.  And within a few years nobody will miss them at all, or the corporations they represented. 

And the idea is totally false that the news is headed towards anything but total decentralization in the hands of the people at ground level.  Look at how hard Iran attempted to block the news of the riots in the streets.  But what did the ordinary citizens use to produce excellent news accounts?  Their individual cell phones, texting and e-mails.  Case closed. 

Every citizen becomes a journalist today, and news is delivered instantaneously without the spin of the MSM.  It is the dawn of a new era, and one where the people control the real news, and anyone who continues to follow the drivel of the MSM do so at their own risk.

Corporations will not even control their own advertising anymore, because people will all zero in on feedback sites where products and producers are discussed at length, pros and cons.  If you are not doing this already before you make any significant purchase, you are foolish.  You can’t believe advertising.  Only a small minority believe you can, and they are getting smaller every day. 

Face it, the days of controlling information are almost over.  The world is hooked up, and news travels faster than the speed of light, and it travels out of the hands of people who will be too numerous to control, and will not be corrupted by big money. 

The very idea that big corporate money can buy some slick ads and buy an election will be relegated to fantasyland, as well, in a very short period of time, if it is not already.  The American people have been screwed on too many past elections, and they are not buying all the smooth talk and slick add campaigns purchased with big dollars anymore. 

The time’s they are a changin’, and all for the good.

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By fwdpost, February 27, 2010 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

After nearly 50 years as a journalist, I will remind you there are many newspapers in the United States, and the ones not owned by corporatists are doing very well. I would, however, expect you, a web opinion writer, to predict the death of competing media that relies on reporters of fact, not purveyors of viewpoints.

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By OzarkMichael, February 27, 2010 at 8:14 am Link to this comment

Hedges complains that Americans used to prefer truth but now prefer emotion as their basis for seeking ideas.

Perhaps he is right. Lets assume he is right and see where it leads us.

First, we must not blame talk radio for creating this problem, although they might take advantage of the emotion-based society. Nor should we blame the corporations for creating this problem even though they take advantage of it.

If the adults today are flawed, something happened, something went wrong somewhere. Something changed in the way we were raised as opposed to the way our great grandparents were raised.

For the last 50 or 60 years, it must be that this nation raised children in such a way that created the current taste for emotion and lack of appreciation for truth.

Let us think about Public Education. Conservatives talk about the changes that Progressives instilled in education, such as “No prayer in schools”, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. On a deeper level in Public Schools faith and patriotism was shown to be preference, and a poor preference at that. “Thou shalt not” became “Thou shalt not tell anyone else what is wrong or right”.

Remember?

This attack on faith seems to have caused some collateral damage, perhaps accidently, I dont know. Anyway, the children inferred from this that there was no real wrong or right, and that such notions are only preference. Preference comes from emotion.

Instead of teaching children that there was absolute truth that had to be pursued, understood, and lived by, we taught them that truth is relative. Instead of teaching that the children were to continue in the traditions of the past, upholding the truths which our founders believed in, the children were taught that the founding fathers were terribly flawed, and we are better because we do as we please. We were taught that our modern sceptism and multiculturalism makes us so much wiser than they were.

Truth was to be found elsewhere, anywhere in fact but in the traditions of America. It all had to be deconstructed. Am I the only person who remembers this process? Surely not.

Hedges bewails how dangerous the conservatives have become. Get a clue, Chris. We are all equally dangerous now.

Adults today across the political spectrum tend to be equally clueless. By the way, Mr Hedges… Journalists are part of the culture and they are clueless too.

Emotion and effect have mattered to Journalists more than truth for many decades. If anything, Journalists have signalled their cluelessness more than any other group, since they are on a stage for the whole world to read. And if in this state of weakness they can be bought and sold, why are we surprised?

Furthermore, Hedges himself drips with his prejudice for his version of the truth. He has not many facts, not many attempts to work through conflicting details(who cares about those otiose buggers when we have a case to make against people we hate?) In other words, the writing of Hedges is formed by and drips with… not the quest for truth… but the persuasive power of emotion. Just like the rest of us. 

So for the last decade or two we clueless adults have been voting other clueless adults into office. And that includes our current messiah(Obama) and our despised anti-messiah(Palin). Or vice versa, that depends on wherever you’re at. 

Blaming conservative talk radio for this problem is typical Progressive bilge which covers over the real problem. The dumbing down of America occured in our government run public schools and institutions of higher learning, which certainly are not bastions of conservatism.

By the way, it isnt going to get better. I wouldnt be surprised if public schools started teaching math as if it were for building self esteem instead of mastering facts.

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By elisalouisa, February 27, 2010 at 5:45 am Link to this comment

There is real danger in the fact that our city council meetings, police
department activity, mayor’s offices, courts and state legislators are no longer
monitored by reporters who research and report the news as to local
happenings. These reporters keep local government on its toes and give
power to the people. With the death of printed news there is also the death of
local reporting, We the people definitely lose out on this one.
Where have you been DaveZx3?  Corporations are delighted with the demise of
journalism. Words are power and the power elite intend to use them for their
purposes. Main stream media is owned by the power elite and it spews out
garbage that usually appeals to our baser instincts. Corporation money buys
elections; the people no longer have a say. Their choice at election time is two
candidates that corporation money has put into place. Wake up Dave you past
posts indicate you are too intelligent to really believe what you have written.
We are headed toward globalization omygodnotagain not decentralization.
Easier for the power elite to control us. The Healthcare fiasco is just that and
for a reason. Congress no longer represents the people, it represents the
insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, doctors and others in the
healthcare business. Money talks
You are correct Virginia777 people are insisting on ways to get the truth out
and corporations are hell bent in finding ways to stop it. I ask you, who
usually wins? The corporations or the people? We should give Chris’s
suggestions more than some thought and go from there.
Main Stream Media has always been controlled to some extent Beerdoctor but
the quality of writing in years gone by on the editorial page of city newspapers
was quite high. We are as you say dealing with a new technology and the ride is
getting bumpy((probably a word Chris would not like but what the heck, Bette
Davis used it). Let’s just hang in there.

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By Avdvelden, February 27, 2010 at 4:50 am Link to this comment

DaveZX3, I think your missing the point here. The question is not if journalism is changing, but is it changing for the better? It’s not. And of course change can only come from the people, as the late Howard Zinn has so brilliantly illuminated. But this is so much easier said than done, because of the immense imbalance of power, funds ánd information, all three key to succes in striving for change.

As omygodnotagain states correctly, one of the disadvantages of online media is its essence: its immense overload of choice. The average working man or woman simply doesn’t have the time to do the job of a journalist all over again, selecting the news on critical perspective and truthworthyness.

I conclude with Hedges that we don’t live in the age of information, but in the age of desinformed manipulation. We live in a culture of propaganda based on the most openly fraudulent capitalism we have seen yet.

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By omygodnotagain, February 27, 2010 at 3:44 am Link to this comment

Emotionally, intuitively I agree with Hedges, but I believe the problem rests elsewhere. First, most people are overwhelmed by the complexity of modern life and second the information and necessary interpretations and contexts are so vast, one cannot make sound judgments. Consider, the recent Healthcare debate. 70 % of all healthcare dollars go to patients in the last few years of life. How does one begin to form an opinion on this. One would have to understand Hospitals and doctors financial business models, the economics of how new drugs and medical devices are researched and paid for, the pros and cons of insurance, the social, geographical differences in patients and their communities, one would have to be versed in ethics, to answer questions like why pay for treatment for people who have an incurable disease-death, when young families have no coverage, what are the pros and cons of rationing care etc..there are literally hundreds of considerations that one would have to balance. As a result people have zoned out, just shrugged their shoulders and said I want affordable healthcare come back when you guys in the know can figure it out. Most people deal with issues they can handle, infidelity of their spouse, that’s a real problem they can get their head around, so Tiger Wood’s episode becomes news they can understand, or Britney Spears teenage sister getting pregnant, they deal with that issue especially if they have teenage girls. I suggest that the key to improving news lies with a massive decentralization of the political/business landscape, I would go so far as to suggest a breaking apart of large corporations,  and the US itself into 8-10 mini countries or dependences. Only by deconstructing can we get a handle on manageable problems.

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By DaveZx3, February 27, 2010 at 3:35 am Link to this comment

I could not disagree more with Hedge’s assertions across the board.

Culture is not dying, it is changing.  And culture is what the people of the culture make it.  As societies mature, culture broadens and matures with them.  There are many more forms of music available today than there were 100 ars ago.  Is that bad?  Is that the death of music? 

Journalism or news is not dying either, it is changing.  I have never felt more empowered to find news and truth as I do today.  I do it quickly and economically.  And the new methods make sense, because you don’t have to cut down trees and physically deliver the news, wasting other scarce resources.  Yes, newspapers are dying, but so did vinyl records.  Did that mean the death of music?

Hedges is, as other posters noted, more over the top on this offer than usual.  I am used to his whining that corporations have taken over the world, and there is no hope for us, but this crap written here can only be appreciated by the most dedicated of his neo-communist fan base. 

His statement, “Corporations, which have hijacked the state, are delighted with the demise of journalism”  is just one of dozens of totally absurd in this article. 

The people elect congress to make laws, including regulating business to serve the population.  If congress sucks up to corporations for money, it is clear which ones do that, and it is easy to remove these people from their jobs.  Don’t reelect them.

If people do reelect congressman who suck up to corporations or use their positions to enrich their personal lives, then these people deserve the government they get. 

Corporations have not hijacked the state.  The people have ignored their responsibility to monitor their government.  If Hedges is so upset about it, why isn’t he organizing demonstrations to voice his discontent?  Where are all the progressive demonstrations?

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By mrfreeze, February 27, 2010 at 12:13 am Link to this comment

I highly recommend you all read Neil Postman’s “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” Written in the mid 1980’s, Postman describes perfectly the world in which we now live: Huxley’s Brave New World nightmare of “soma.” Our public discourse is nothing more than gossip writ large.

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By velvel in decatur, February 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

This is a thoroughly ghastly idea.  Were there a trust established that was financed by someone other than taxpayers, and were the trustees honest and honorable, maybe it would be a decent idea.
But the authors would prefer that money come from involuntary donors and that the determiners of the recipients had axes to grind…ghastly idea.
Perhaps someone in academia ought to research the loss of readership and loss of advertising.  Then they could make cogent suggestions.
For the current administration or the United Nations or some other extortionists to decide anything should be frightening to everyone.
But not the authors and their friends because they see, to believe themselves worthy of sucking up the money.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, February 26, 2010 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

I can only say this: any political awareness I can claim to possess began the moment I
stopped watching and reading the mainstream media 25 years ago. I would make the case
that in most of our lifetimes, there has never been anything close to a golden age of
journalism from which heights we have allegedly free-fallen to our present state of
informational “misery”.

And however bleak a picture Hedges paints, I would trade the New York Times (even when
it was a good paper) for Truthdig in a New York minute. From this old outlier’s point of
view, things have never been better for anyone who cares to make the effort to inform
themselves. The fact that America appears to be forming increasingly hostile factions can
be interpreted as evidence that more people are indeed informing themselves and have a
dog in the hunt as a result.

One can decry the paucity of authoritative voices in our midsts, but that would willfully
ignore the harsh reality that “truth” has always been up for grabs.

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By Virginia777, February 26, 2010 at 1:45 pm Link to this comment

I love Chris Hedges, but for gosh sakes Chris, this is a little over the top:

“Cicero did the same in ancient Rome. And when his severed head and hands were mounted on the podium in the Colosseum and his executioner, Mark Anthony, announced that Cicero would speak and write no more, the crowd roared its approval.”

What he is forgetting, is the urge to tell the truth that lies in so many people, who are writing on blogs and social networking sites like Facebook. Media is changing, no doubt. Corporate media is distorted, true. We live in scary times, true. But people are insisting on finding ways to get the truth out, he needs to remember this.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm Link to this comment

Hedges’ lament reminds me of those folks who pine for vinyl over the CD. But when was it that new technology ever presented a smooth transition? I am sorry he does not receive the money he thinks that he deserves. And what was all that chatter about “classic living theater”? What is more elitist than a form of entertainment that very few, among the vast population of the world’s poor can even afford? At least in Shakespeare’s time the great unwashed went to performances of Titus Andronicus to witness the gruesome action. It was affordable in those days, because there was competition from a trained, tricks performing bear.
It is sheer idiocy to think that there was a golden time when journalism stood for truth. Tell that to the straight faced reporters who claimed that Jack Ruby shot Oswald in order to spare Mrs. Kennedy the ordeal of a trial. And where exactly was that noble press when the Gulf of Tonkin incident was reported as fact?
Despite Mr. Hedges regret over journalistic credentials, he should face the fact that there was nothing all that ennobling about that previous setup, It just made certain folks feel more comfortable; secure in the knowledge that they were going to be paid.

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By marcus medler, February 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm Link to this comment

If one reads this closely it was all about
money!(pay) Who will pay? I note Ford wants to
hire back but only pay 14 dollars an hour. I
hope that the cost of living will drop as pay
drops(look at pilots pay) and then when a
balance is sort of in place lets see what
happens. In a society of shirtless, a political
rally giving shirts will be full.(they come for the
shirt) However, if people have shirts politicians
need another attraction. I have a little more
faith in the masses, at some point they will ask,
who screwed them? Monopoly capital ruined the
current system of mass media. The seeds of
print media destruction were planted as
consolidation became the norm. In the case of
news empires it was ‘too big to prevail’. The
same “monopoly rules” acceptance by the state
and people is what will soon ruin the internet.
There is(was) a reason in nature’s provision for
a multiplicity of seeds in an orange. The
seedless orange is mans doing.

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By theleftstuff, February 26, 2010 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The problem is not “objectivity”, of which we don’t have enough, but
dishonesty. For twenty years now, journalists have assaulted the concept of
objectivity, claiming a licence to tell untruths if a cause they felt was morally
worthy could be helped thereby. This began on the left, especially during the
fighting in the former Yugoslavia, and, to no-one’s surprise, was taken up
enthusiastically elsewhere. What I as a reader of journalism want is honesty.
That is to say I want a journalist to tell me what he or she thinks is happening,
and who has said what, and done what. That includes statements which are
believed by the journalist to be wrong or misleading, but which nonetheless are
part of the story. This is the fundamental distinction between fact and
comment, and this distinction should be present everywhere in journalism. But
we don’t get that. As Hedges himself says, minority or unpopular points of view
are simply ignored. The Iranian official statements about their uranium
enrichment plans, for example, are simply not reported, whilst the squeakings
of various western governments are covered in fawning detail.  Journalists may
privately believe that such statements are wrong or misleading, but if they are
journalists, not propagandists, they have an obligation to cover them. My
impression, from the other side of the Atlantic, is that this kind of balance
seldom if ever happens in the American media, and so I rarely read anything it
writes, and prefer specialised blogs and expert analysts, who generally have a
better record of being right.

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By Vic Anderson, February 26, 2010 at 10:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

OR they could simply return to Their JOBS as the indepedent Fourth Estate and
expose’ the awful truths of this twilight world to the Light Of DAY!

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By Anarcissie, February 26, 2010 at 10:23 am Link to this comment

If one is going to complain successfully about the inaccuracy or dishonesty of the Internet (or anything else) one needs to start out from a basis of accuracy and honesty oneself.  Hedges does the reverse: he lies about the accuracy and honesty of the old media.  Anyone who has had any opportunity to compare the actual experience of a situation or event with the way it was reported in the daily newspapers or on television will know what I mean.  The gross, and truly destructive examples, were of course Vietnam and Iraq, where the corporate media were instrumental in deceiving the people into supporting useless wars and other crimes against humanity.  These stand at the head of a very long list.

The Internet has brought a certain amount of change to that fabric of bias, propaganda and deception.  On the Internet, people often demand quotes, citations, evidence.  How often have you ever seen evidence, a source, a citation in a newspaper?  I mean something you can look up, not “Government officials stated off the record that….”  But on the Internet, anything can be challenged regardless of the power and repute of its promoters.

The difference between the newspapers and television on the one hand, and the Internet on the other, is that the former are few-to-many or one-to-many media: only one, or a few, are allowed to speak, whereas the many are allowed only to hear.  By contrast, the Internet is a many-to-many medium: anyone can speak, and anyone can listen.  Naturally, authoritarians like Hedges and his fans prefer the one-to-many model because it reflects the social order they prefer, one where the few rule the many and tell them what to think.

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By Bubba, February 26, 2010 at 9:42 am Link to this comment

Chris, you are such a Virgo. 

So was Henry George, author of Progess and Poverty.  Read it.  You’ll like it.

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By Jerry Bratcher, February 26, 2010 at 9:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with many of the ‘facts’ in CHs essay, but think that one unnoticed cause is
the change in the workday.  Thirty years ago I worked seven pretty easy hours a
day.  Now it is more like ten.  No longer easy.  This is pretty common, I think, and
it means there is less time and leisure for staying informed and involved, and
when there is time, the mind likes the easier pathway to pseudo information. 
Newzak.

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By Former Reporter, February 26, 2010 at 9:35 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

C’mon. People have always been interested in gossip and entertainment. Why do you think newspapers have printed advice columns, sports sections, wedding and birth announcements and comic strips?

Our culture is not declining—what’s really happening is that we’re now able to better track what articles are read.

We didn’t know before why someone bought a newspaper. Did she read Dear Abby? Or did she read the front page article about foreign policy? Or both? At one time, it didn’t matter why someone bought or subscribed to a newspaper, just that she bought one.

Now a potential reader has other segmented ways to get exactly what she’s looking for (no need to buy the whole newspaper to see her cousin’s wedding announcement). That means it’s suddenly more important (from a business perspective) for a newspaper to provide more of that type of information—or the paper risks losing readers.

This is exactly what’s happening online: Gossip is cheap and easy to produce, it drives traffic and brings in more money. I don’t deny that this cycle is bad for long-form, high-quality journalism.

The silver lining (as I see it) is that even though it may seem as though fewer people are reading the substantive news articles, these readers are actually more engaged and more informed. These readers are most likely choosing to read and actively seeking out informative, not simply entertaining, content.

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By Rick Spence, February 26, 2010 at 9:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

And yet ... so few journalistic organizations have bothered to do relevant and informed investigative journalism. Consumers cannot miss what they do not know.
Surely the responsible journalists and media organizations that decry the coming celebrity commodification of news should be looking for opportunities to prove that hard-hitting public-service journalism is worth paying for.

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By Kay Johnson, February 26, 2010 at 9:15 am Link to this comment

I went to hear John Nichols and Robert McChesney when they took part in a panel discussion at the Ethical Society here in NYC. In addition, David Carr (NY Times) and Pamela Newkirk (NYU Journalism School) appeared and spoke, with Laura Flanders moderating.

As I left the building that evening, I found myself unconvinced by their arguments. Suddenly, if government subsidies did become a part of journalism—would integrity return to the newsrooms? The drum-beat for invading and occupying Iraq continues to taint my perception of most mainstream media news organizations. 

Secondly, I’m not a great fan of Nichols’ work. He seems a little too elite, and a little too detached from the street reality of the U.S.A. I no longer subscribe to the Nation Magazine, and I seldom am pulled to their online website to read their version of the news. Maybe, I’m missing something by tuning out the Nation, but at least, I don’t have to read the articles that continue to be published telling Obama what he “must do,” as if he’s going to listen to John Nichols, et.al., and take action. But then, I did NOT vote for Obama, and therefore, I did NOT invest my time and money into his campaign.

On the other hand, I have a great deal of respect for Robert McChesney. I first heard him speak several years ago at the New School in NYC, introduced by Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon, and other books as well.

Like other writers on this site, I recognize the decline in education, etc., as another serious part of this issue. But then, I didn’t find the education system to be so swell when I was growing up in the 1960s—in a small conservative, very religious, community in southwest Iowa. Much to the chagrin of many of my teachers, I had an innate and unquenchable sense of curiosity, and that curiosity took me to the library, which, as Ray Bradbury has stated many times, is the real brain of any community. At the library I could read and learn anything I wanted, that is, if the book/s were on the shelf.

I certainly don’t know what the answers are—as far as supporting a press that will report the real news to us, “we the people,” but as much as I use the Internet to find reliable news, I don’t find many websites up-and-running early in the morning, and since I’m an early riser, that is an issue for me—although truthdig, despite being a West Coast entity, does post articles by 6 AM, or 6:30 AM, EST, but truthdig is one of the few.

Like so many other people who live in this country, at this present time, and for the past three years, I have been unable to find steady work, and that means I can NOT support anything, and sometimes, not even myself. This issue presents yet another crucial problem. If I could find steady work—I am a researcher—I could donate money to the online news websites that I read, but at the moment, I can NOT donate to anyone or anything—other than myself. I’m not alone in this dilemma, either.

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By Jim Dodds, February 26, 2010 at 8:17 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The flight from print is directly related to the
flight from honesty. The BBC is a publicly funded
organisation massively supportive of everything
governmental and now everything American, a
‘democracy’ that deprives so many of its own of the
basic necessities of life, particularly respect.
Where there is no respect for truth there can be no
respect for humanity and the primary job of a
journalist is to search for truth. We readers,
listeners and viewers have had enough of messages
from advertisers and governments disguised
as news from journalists protecting their jobs before their integrity which, I suggest, is the main challenge presented by
the internet. If control of the internet is
handed to the likes of Murdoch then it must be
destined for the same dumpster as it predecessors.
There are still examples of successful truthful
journalism available, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now for
one.

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By balkas, February 26, 2010 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

MSM is another part of the system of rule in US;thus has an assigned role to play.
US is ruled by a minority of people; nearly all media and entertainment industry is owned by the ruling class.

The task assigned to media, as i see it, consists of following structural members: personalization of events; including excessive use of blame/praise which we even might call gossip.
Omission of facts. And one needs to omit just one salient fact that pertains to present a fictious reality.

MSM uses a lot of generalizations [condemnation,opinions,whishes]to which wrong or right and true or false answers do not apply.
Thus can never be wrong no matter what they say.

Clergy and pols also use such language.
Thus, clergy teaches pols how not to talk to people and pols teach reporters and since there are so many of them and most people have no clue of what i am saying, they feel quite safe.

Even schooling probably teaches MSM how not talk to people. There are also limited to what they can say.

Talking ab system under which everything happens: wars,lack of health care/right to be informed, slavery, use of WMD, lyncings, racism/its sister, discrimination, etc., is off limits. tnx

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By Old Geezer Pilot, February 26, 2010 at 8:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When I grew up in Manhattan in the 40s and 50s, there
were 15 newspapers - 10 morning and 5 evening, and
every one of them was slanted in their editorials. “A
man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the
rest” (Paul Simon).

When this country was founded, there were
pamphleteers. I can assure you they were not “fair
and balanced”.

On the TV, there is FoxNews and there is MSNBC (not
as left as I would like, but…)

On the web, there is… EVERYTHING. Choose what you
want. I personally like BBC (podcasts), Guardian UK,
NY Times, and Globe and Mail (print). Tomorrow may be
different.

In the “golden age of TV” we believed that when
Walter Cronkite said it, well, “that’s the way it
is”. We now know his stories were slanted and
suppressed according to his masters orders.

I think the written word WILL SURVIVE, if only
because material that is VIEWED on TV is processes
differently by the brain. Visual images go straight
to the emotional system with little or no thinking or
analysis applied. Audio streams are in between.

I frequently prefer to read a transcript of a speech
rather than watch or hear it so that I can engage the
analytical side of my brain. I usually get a
different message. TV is NOT, NEVER WAS, NEVER SHOULD
BE a primary source of information.

Journalists need to be paid for their work, but an
Online news service could do the journalism function
that “dead tree” papers used to provide for a
fraction of the cost. No presses, no delivery trucks,
no waste, etc, etc. But we need to figure out a way
to pay them.

Warren Hellman has a new journalism project—dubbed
Bay Area News Project—funded with $5 million out
of his own pocket. That takes care of paying
reporters. But there is still the job of editing and
fact-checking, two functions I hope Mr. Hellman will
include in his organization.

We are all looking forward to the success of this new
medium.

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By elisalouisa, February 26, 2010 at 7:51 am Link to this comment

‘The Death and Life of American Journalism’ could be called Part II of ‘The
Information Super-Sewer’ for the subject is the same:the decline of traditional
news; the Internet and TV have replaced the newspaper as a news source. There is more than one reason for this and they are everyday reasons which make life better. The
Internet gets the news to you in a heartbeat; newspaper news is outdated. Also, the Internet is convenient. Yes, news has been compromised on many websites; there is more entertainment, less emphasis on reporting what is true and the distortion of facts through spin. Mr. Hedges has sacrificed much I am sure to be true to himself and this is but one reason why his writing is so valued. Ways of having writers properly compensated for their efforts should be looked in to for a decent livelihood is of primary importance. However, from what I understand Mr. Hedges
left the New York Times because he was not free to report facts as he saw them.
On the Internet you can tell it the way it is and reach a substantial audience thanks to Truthdig and other similar sites. Yes, I still receive a newspaper mostly for local news, but for how much longer I can’t say.

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By John Whiting, February 26, 2010 at 7:23 am Link to this comment

Chris Hedges has said just about everything there is to say on the subject; the rest is noise.

Almost half a century ago I was London Correspondent for the Pacifica Radio network. Their stations have gone so far down market that I’ve opened a web site devoted to KPFA as it was. Listen and weep (or rejoice, depending on your frame of mind.) http://www.kpfahistory.info.

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By Jackie9, February 26, 2010 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

Beautifully written, and so true. I am a reporter for a business publication and
have to be meticulous about my sources. When I read news stories, I see lots of
claims and opinions rather than well researched source quotes. I would never be
able to get away with that-my editors would be all over me. I agree with Hedges
that is probably too late to save mainstream journalism. It’s become so utterly
hollow. “There are more stories about celebrities and lifestyle trends than reports
about the wars we are fighting or the corruption in congress. Meanwhile, not
enough citizens care to demand better. Oops, instead of citizens I should have
written ‘consumers.’

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kerryrose's avatar

By kerryrose, February 26, 2010 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

God, Chris.

I love your work, and your most recent book (which many ideas of that book are reflected in this blog).  But we need you for solutions.  I get it.  We get it.  There must be hope.  I am an educator, and it is all about hope.

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By John Whiting, February 26, 2010 at 6:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Chris Hedges has said virtually everything worth saying on the subject; the rest is window dressing. Those of us who value an intercommunicative society will have to go back into history for it.

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By Dhamma3, February 26, 2010 at 5:24 am Link to this comment

The decline in education, the kind of learning where the ability to assess information and weigh its validity, in a reasoned and mature way, goes hand in hand with the decline of journalism (and Art, as Hedges points out).

NO Child Left Behind legislation, Charter Schools, home schooling, leaves us in a fractured society with no consensus about reality, no cohesion as a nation.

The death of the Fourth Estate represents the death of democracy.

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By thebeerdoctor, February 26, 2010 at 3:26 am Link to this comment

I suspect Chris Hedges misses his old job at the New York Times.

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By A. van der Velden, February 26, 2010 at 1:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What Hedges so accurately describes here, can be seen in Dutch press as well, the only difference being that we miss progressive, indepenbdent media who inform the public about these developments. It’s a strange paradox Europe has far stronger parties on the left who can speak truth to power, but almost totally lacks the presence of dissent in printed and online media.
The ‘solutions to save us from a world where opinions and facts are interchangeable, where lies become true’ can only come from media funded by a broad coalition of progressive parties and grass roots organizations.

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