Many years ago when I was barely twenty years old I witnessed the spectacular arrest of a man right in front of my house. A car moving down my street was suddenly surrounded by four unmarked police cars, the driver was brutally dragged out of his vehicle, and his beautiful German shepherd was shot dead while still in the back seat. At the time I was dragging a guitar amplifier out the lobby of the apartment building I lived in. I hit the floor when I heard the shots and I witnessed the whole thing from behind the amp’s speaker box. It all lasted but a few minutes. Several men with rifles and pistols formed a circle around the cars, looked around menacingly while brandishing their arms making sure that everyone got the message to stay silent. The five cars drove away and traffic resumed. A pair of broken eyeglasses remained as a silent witness of the violent scene we had just seen.
That night I watched the news, I listened to the radio all day, read the newspapers. Not one comment about the episode. Silence. Not long after that a huge explosion rocked the neighborhood and again the media said nothing about it. That evening I was chatting with a friend and I asked him about the explosion: “Did you hear it?” He smiled and said: “The whole neighborhood heard it.” But then that was no news for the news services.
I think it was about that time that I started reading the newspapers with a more critical eye. The first thing I noticed was the hidden “tone” spread over every piece of news. The silent message was that everything was normal, nothing worth mentioning was happening there, one should mind one’s own business. Meanwhile the national debt was growing exponentially, freedoms were gradually erased to increase the “security” of the citizens, unemployment grew steady. Sounds familiar? That was Argentina in the 1970’s. The country was spiraling down a path of no return. But the press, the fourth power, were predictably silent about all of it. So it happened and the country continued its inexorable descent into chaos until today.
The present situation with the American mainstream media reminds me of all that. Looking at the numbers anyone with a brain can see that we are teetering at the edge of disaster and with us the whole world. The United States is far from being a perfect country but for the last two centuries or so it has been a great force for good in the world . If the American economic engine goes, the whole world will feel the shock. Yet the newspapers of the world say nothing about the perilous moment we are living in.
In minor matters a great number of people are more likely to believe the tabloids than say, the Washington Post, or the New York Times. Recently, debt-ridden Newsweek was sold for a dollar. That seems to me a clear indication of the size of their influence with the reading public. Predictably enough news services like Fox News are at the top of the ratings, possibly because they manage to deliver a bigger portion of what is really going on. My question would be why the failing mainstream publications don’t follow the obvious direction their markets are leaning to. I leave that one for their shareholders to answer.
The difference between the 1970’s and now is the web. Bloggers and specialized websites have more influence on public opinion than the legacy media. In time the Internet will grow even more in influence and the people will become more and more skillful at separating the chaff from the wheat. It is happening right now before our very eyes. We may have a chance to save our country yet. If we remain alert and informed, discern the truth, and act accordingly.
Published 13 June 2011.