Trump has labeled as “fake news” everything that doesn’t fit his bigoted, right-wing agenda. In a recent press conference he called the establishment media “the enemy of the American people.” The New York Times, Washington Post, CNN and other indignant voices of the establishment are exposing his gross inconsistencies and wildly false sources.
So where does this leave those of us who see the establishment media not as impartial crusaders for the truth, but as an arm of the capitalist ruling class that tailors the news to fit the interests of the exploiters?
Not agreeing with Trump, of course. Climate change not real? Muslims a bunch of blood-thirsty criminals? His accusations of a liberal media conspiracy come straight out of Breitbart fake news.
‘News’ serves capitalist rulers
That should not obscure the fact that the “news” presented to us each day by the leading media outlets is carefully filtered to serve the interests of those who rule over this capitalist society.
The mechanism for this is not held secret by a narrow group of conspirators. The methods are taught in every college course on journalism.
Most reports on politically sensitive topics come from press briefings by government officials or “think tanks.” How many articles about what’s going on in the world are datelined Washington? That’s because that district abounds in agencies that craft U.S. policy and regularly feed it to the media. Even when reporters go abroad, they check in with U.S. embassies for their take on what’s happening.
On the economic front, the news comes mainly from outlets based in Wall Street or from government agencies like the Federal Reserve.
But there’s another very important step between the gathering of news — most of it based on press releases, press conferences or interviews with prominent figures — and what gets aired or into print. While it’s reporters who gather the news, it’s the editors who decide how it will be presented to the public.
An article in the Feb. 4 New York Times about how the paper functions stated: “Right now, there are more editors in the newsroom than reporters, photographers and other journalists in the field.” It explained that an article might go through the hands of as many as six editors before appearing in print. Some of these editors check facts and style, but others make more political changes. What comes out at the end conforms to the editorial opinions of the paper, for the most part.
Of course, the U.S. ruling class is not all of one mind. There can be important differences and conflicts of interest on both domestic and international questions. This is so obvious with the Trump administration.
It is the job of politically savvy bourgeois editors to understand this and present the differences in a way that they believe promotes the interests of the system as a whole. And on what are those interests ultimately based? The efficient and reliable exploitation of the masses of workers and oppressed. That’s what capitalism is all about — and capitalism is the religion of this country.
Editorial terminology reflects this. When there was a socialist bloc of countries, the media here universally referred to the capitalist West as “the free world.” Not the freedom to have food and shelter, or a guaranteed right to education and medical care. Racist segregation was part of the “free world.” So was the freedom of bosses to lay off workers and break their unions.
For the establishment media, “freedom” was all about the freedom of a few to get rich exploiting the labor of the many. Any country that restricted that “freedom” — especially if U.S. corporations and banks were involved — automatically became the enemy.
For how many decades did the U.S. media repeat the mantra that Cuba wasn’t “free” and that Fidel Castro was a “dictator” because the Cuban Revolution had kicked out U.S. corporate exploiters?
It is only since Wall Street finally realized the U.S. could never overthrow Cuba’s government that the strategy in Washington changed, allowing a few more objective reports about life in Cuba to appear in the media.
No news of south Korea uprising
Here’s another example. For almost a year now, millions of people in south Korea have been demonstrating against the government. The protests have been held every week, even in the brutal cold. The parliament finally voted to impeach the president, who is embroiled in a huge corruption scandal. The head of Samsung, the largest corporation in south Korea, has been arrested for bribing the president, who refuses to resign.
If this isn’t sensational news, what is? But where are the headlines here? Yes, there are articles about this in some U.S. newspapers, but no sense of urgency. It certainly isn’t top of the news on CNN or any other electronic outlet.
If this were Syria or Libya or some other country the U.S. imperialists wanted to invade, wouldn’t we see screaming headlines every day?
But the U.S. military is already in south Korea. It invaded in 1945 and has never left. Washington has been behind every head of state since then, including several generals who took over through coups d’etat. The current president is the daughter of one of them.
The media here — both liberal and alt-right — get the message. Don’t inflame passions against the rulers of south Korea. They’re “our” friends. Instead, go after north Korea, which refuses to give up its socialist system.
It’s not a conspiracy. It’s business as usual for the capitalist media.