Matt Johnson / CC BY 2.0

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald — widely recognized for his reporting on the government surveillance programs that National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed in 2013 — says the corporate media is largely to blame for the rise of Donald Trump.

Why? “Because the rules of large media outlets — venerating faux objectivity over truth along with every other civic value — prohibit the sounding of any alarms” about Trump or other dangers, he writes.

Greenwald cites the recent criticism of National Public Radio commentator Cokie Roberts, who was admonished on the air by NPR “Morning Edition” host David Greene for violating “objectivity” after she wrote a column urging “the rational wing” of the Republican Party to do everything it can to stop Trump. (In her column, Roberts, who is known as a nonpartisan, described Trump as having “deeply flawed” policies and lacking “emotional intelligence.”)

In contrast, Greenwald points out, “[T]he two most revered figures in American broadcast journalism history — Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite — would have been fired from NPR and multiple other contemporary media outlets for their most notable moments: Murrow when he used his nightly news broadcast to repeatedly denounce Sen. Joseph McCarthy, and Cronkite when he did the same about the Vietnam War.”

Greenwald continues:

This abdication of the journalistic duty inevitably engendered by corporate “neutrality” rules is not new. We saw it repeatedly during the Bush years, when most large media outlets suppressed journalistic criticism of things like torture and grotesque war crimes carried out by the U.S. as part of the war on terror, and even changed their language by adopting government euphemisms to obscure what was being done. Outlets such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR refused to use the word “torture” to describe techniques long universally recognized as such — which were always called torture by those same media outlets when used by countries adversarial to the U.S. — because to do so would evince “bias,” lack “neutrality,” and “take sides” in the torture debate.

Contrary to what U.S. media corporations have succeeded in convincing people, these journalistic neutrality rules are not remotely traditional. They are newly invented concepts that coincided with the acquisition of the nation’s most important media outlets by large, controversy-averse corporations for which “media” was just one of many businesses.

Large corporations hate controversy (it alienates consumers) and really hate offending those who wield political power (bad for business). Imposing objectivity rules on the journalists who work for their media divisions was a means to avoid offending anyone by forcing journalists to conceal their perspectives, assumptions, and viewpoints, and, worse, forcing them to dishonestly pretend that they had none, that they float above all that. This framework neutered journalism and drained it of all its vitality and passion, reducing journalists to stenography drones permitted to do little more than summarize what each equally valid side asserts. Worse, it ensures that people who wield great influence and power — such as Donald Trump — can engage in all sorts of toxic, dishonest, and destructive behavior without having to worry about any check from journalists, who are literally barred by their employers from speaking out (even as their employers profit greatly through endless coverage).

— Posted by Donald Kaufman