I forgot to add for anyone who read my last post that the statement posted was not mine. As much as I would like to take credit for it, it was a letter/statement on the current mideast hostilities issued by the signatories below,
The list includes some of my favorite authors/intellectuals; especially Noam Chomsky (my person hero) but also Tariq Ali, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy and Howard Zinn (am reading a book by him now!) I have books/articles by all the people I just mentioned and can lend them to anyone who asks, articles can all be found online and I know that most of Chomsky's books can be read online as well (www.chomsky.info). The other intellectuals, to be honest, I am not familiar with but judging by their company I assume they are quite competent.
I have taken a personal vow of abstinence from cable/network news. Not just because their coverage of the War in Iraq and other mid-east hostilities is a joke, and not just because they rarely cover news at all, and not just because there is an overwhelmingly obvious bias reflective of the massive corporate media empires that own them (there is no 'liberal bias', nor any evidence for it aside for some bias with social stories like on abortion or homosexuality). But I am banning myself from cable/network news because I generally and concretely believe it will make me dumb. It is so twisted, biased, misinformed and ridiculous that I am afraid watching more than 5 minutes of it will begin to influence how I think. And here is why, and this is very important in understanding how news is shaped:
We must ask ourselves, when reading the New York Times or watching CNN; they are a business, but what are they selling? They make virtually no money from subscribers, paying 50 cents for the NYT and whatever package cable rate for CNN. So are they selling news? No.
They are selling an audience, us, the reader/viewer. They are selling the 'captive' audiences to businesses who want us to buy their products, and use advertisements to influence the audience they are buying. The NYT, for instance, is a little over 60% advertisements. Thats where they make their money. And therefore the news that is being provided to the audience is shaped and packaged in a way that is pleaseing to the advertisers, who are essentially funding the news. For example if there is a lot of news about how corporations are over-profiting and unions are being busted and the truth about whats going on in Latin America, where American corporations thrive, then the audience reading this news will begin to take action against these things.
Therefore, think logically. Why would a business patronize the NYT, pay for ads in a paper which is presenting news that goes against their corporate agenda? It quite simply would make zero sense, corporations serve one purpose; to increase the value of stocks so that shareholders may increase profits. Literally thats the #1 purpose of corporations. [There was actually a Supreme Court case about this in which Henry Ford was sued by shareholders (the Dodge brothers who later started Dodge) because he was making such cheap cars that shareholders werent making profit, and therefore the corporation wasnt serving its essential purpose. Hold off on sympathies for Mr Ford though; the notorious anti-semetic Nazi sympathizer didnt care about the common good, he was simply trying to force out other shareholders to consolidate his own power.]
There is actually a huge study done on this by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in a study published called Manufacturing Consent (one of the best books I have ever read), dialogue on it can be found here http://www.chomsky.info/books/power02.htm.
So in short, I am using the internet and NPR as my main sources of news. Now it is extremely naive to think that any news site is not biased, regardless of its source of funding. Every site has its own biases, that is why I recommend using a huge array of sources.
For a small example, when learning about the conflict with Lebanon and Israel, I turn to Ha'aretz, which is an Israeli daily paper that is published online in English (Haaretz.com) I find this to be the best Israeli paper. The Jerusalem Post is also available in English but not as good. These papers, of course, have the same bias as advertiser-funded papers of the USA but I can tell you for a fact they give much more information on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that you could ever find in the USA. In fact if you took an article from Haaretz and published it in the NYT or something people would say its too anti-Israeli.
I also go to Al-Jazeera, which is a phenomenally good source for news from the Arab point of view. Despite US propaganda to the countrary, Al-Jazeera is not some terrorist news source. It is the #1 satellite news service for the Arab world. The station operates out of Qatar with government funding but apparently no government influence (I can hardly believe thats 100% accurate, but aside from an absence of criticism of the Qatar government I find this mainly to be the truth.) Al-Jazeera does have an 'Arab bias', but why wouldnt it, its based out of the Arab world, targeting mainly Arabs. I do not believe it deliberately distorts stories, a charge I freely throw at Fox News. It is useful for finding stories on Iraq, telling the story from the side of the Iraqi people and the Arab world at large, which is almost entirely absent from American media. It also gives perspective and news from the Palestinian point of view, living under a rather brutal occupation; a perspective that is completely, I underscore completely absent from American media. Even Israeli media pays attention to this plight, but it is utterly and totally missing from American media and thus, unfortunately, a large part of the American consciousness.
So thats one example, when trying to find out things about the Middle East, assume every side is biased and thus get information from every side. The very few examples I listed, however, fall to the same biase frameworks (though to a less extreme) of American media. Thus its also important to go to independent news websites. Antiwar.com is a great one; 90% of it is articles from various news outlets around the world, about 10% is viewpoint but its visibily established. Zmag.org/weluser is a great site for information from various movements, ie movements for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador or the disaffected workers movement that occupied factories in Venzeula.
It is also good to check even more openly biased news outlets, like labor journals for example. You go to it and say, yes, I know this is a news source targeted to teh labor community and will be pro-labor. Yet you find important things that you wouldnt find on CNN.
Lastly newsletters are great. I have an email account (hotmail) that is entirely devoted to listservs and newsletters. Gush Shalom is an Israeli based peace group, who's views are pretty much aligned with mine, and who send out news letters on the status of the Israeli peace movement and perspectives on things like the Lebanon War and the less talked about offenses in Gaza. Another group that I get newsletters from, Jewish Voices for Peace, sent a newsletter today talking about a pending resolution in Congress (H. Con. Res. 450) that has 23 co-sponsors and calls for an immediate cease-fire to hostilities along the Lebonese border. Unfortunately I do not get newsletters from Arab sources regarding this conflict, but in this instance it doesnt matter as much. The Israeli groups have much better resources (because of their living situation) and their views are basically identical to mine, so Im not looking to avoid any bias.
And lest you think I have no Arab newsletter sources, I found a great one that illustrates an alarming problem in Iraq that is ignored by the American media and could offer a good solution to the Iraq War. It is a national umbrella labor organization called the Iraqi Freedom Congress, I like it so much I might devote a separate blog to it completely.
The Iraqi Freedom Congress, as I said, is an amalgam of Iraqi unions. As someone who is very pro-labor and pro-union, I have a particular affinity for this. And like most labor unions, it is secular and calls for certain equalities. It ends each newsletter with this:
"The Iraq Freedom Congress is working for a democratic, secular and progressive alternative to both the U.S. occupation and political Islam in Iraq. "
The IFC has been working hard since the removal of Saddam Hussein to establish a democratic Iraq, that is, as they say, secular and progressive. They are trying to fight the consolidate of power by pro-Iranian Islamic zealots. They are trying to fight the sectarian divisions in Iraq, in their unions you can be Sunni, Shiite, or Kurd. It makes no difference.
Their only problem is, 1. They are a union and 2. They are against the occupation (though completely unaffiliated with the insurgency, to my knowledge, as they are for peace).
But I will get more into teh IFC later, they deserve a whole blog.
My underlying point; American mainstream media not only sucks, is not only biased, misinformative and influenced in a way that indisputably constitutes propaganda; but watching/reading US main stream media will make you dumb. It just will.
1. Turn to foreign media services and read a wide array of them, from all sides
2. Read news sources with open biases to get strong opinions/facts from both sides (even the Wall Street Journal, openly pro-business and conservative, offers more informative news then outlets trying to be neutral)
3. Read newsletters from organizations, Gush Shalom and IFC are great examples.
4. Read my blog!