Free the press
Corporate media perpetuates illusions of free press. | Justin Yun/THE CHIMES
This January, I engaged in a demonstration demanding for more substance in the press. With my fellow protestors, we spent an afternoon on Sunset Blvd. picketing and talking to bystanders about corporate media monopolization and how major news outlets like CNN were owned by corporate leviathans like Time Warner Cable.
Looming in the horizon stood the CNN building, a large black-obsidian skyscraper with a red CNN logo embellished on top. It was the symbol of the media empire. An endless buffet of cable and satellite news and the brainchild of billionaire media mogul, Ted Turner. As we marched under the shadow of the dark edifice, a security guard in a suit quickly marched from the building to stop us in our tracks, as if stopping demonstrators was just a routine task on a Friday afternoon.
The security guard provided the leader of our group with a short but strict procedure. We are not to enter the building at any point in time, and we were allowed to protest so long as we do it from the sidewalk and not on CNN private property. For several hours, we held up signs and loudly sung chants as we faced the cars on Sunset Blvd. Numerous cars honked their horns in approval and onlookers yelled at us, the contents of their spontaneous outbursts made unintelligible from the traffic noise.
In the midst of protesting, several people talked to us on the sidewalk. A young man visiting from Turkey spoke about how the media uses entertainment to distract its viewers from more important issues. The man briefly complimented us on our demonstration and told us about how a Turkish news outlet featured entertaining clips of penguins instead of reporting on the most recent Israeli military operation in the Palestinian territories. What this gentleman said in a few minutes spoke a truth about the evolution of the press since the Vietnam War became the first “living-room war.”
While the mainstream media has covered war on a round-the-clock basis, it has effectively sanitized it of its violence and destruction and masked it with patriotism and to some extent, jingoist language like the Iraq War. The United States has, undoubtedly, one of the freest and most democratic press in the world. However, it is important to note that several journalists such as Julian Assange and Gary Webb have been branded as pariahs for their commitment to the raw truth and nothing but the truth. In an article titled “The Myth of the Free Press” by Chris Hedges, Hedges notes when Webb, “exposed the Central Intelligence Agency’s complicity in smuggling tons of cocaine for sale into the United States to fund the CIA-backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua, the press turned him into a journalistic leper.”
NOT THE SOLUTION
Completely shutting out major news outlets such as CNN is not the solution to the aforementioned problems. Millennials, especially college students, need to find new and novel ways to interact with the world and cultivate a rich and truth-committed press free from the demands of higher-viewer ratings and cutthroat corporate interests. Whether creating a blog or podcast, the future of journalism and the health of our democracy relies on our commitment to truth and the tools used to tell it.