US Becoming More Like Japan – nakedcapitalism brings us the Controlled Press Edition

07 Nov

Taking a closer look at the control of information inside the US and abroad – how the stories we need to hear are buried or killed until they are largely irrelevant… or useless to the people reading them, at any rate.

The US Becoming More Like Japan: Controlled Press Edition

from naked capitalism by Yves Smith

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Marshall Auerback, who lived in Japan during its early post bubble years, sent this e-mail:

Today’s New York Times reports on how the Saudis warned the US about the planned parcel bomb attack emanating from Yemen.

Buried in the story was this line: “The German magazine Der Spiegel told The New York Times it would report the Saudi warnings in its editions next week, and the American officials confirmed them to The Times.”

In the old days in Japan, the local press never broke a big story until it was broken open first by the foreign news agencies. That’s how the Lockheed bribery scandal was broken in Japan, which doomed Prime Minister Tanaka (he was convicted but never went to jail thanks to endless appeals, which ran through until his death in 1993).

Now it appears the same thing is happening here. Unless the news comes from a non-traditional news source (e.g. Rolling Stone Magazine), then it takes foreign coverage to force the local press to cover it.

And the march to Banana Republic goes on…

This trend has actually been some time in the making. Even some news stories in the BBC don’t get picked up in the US unless a domestic outlet with some reach picks them up. As Greg Palast wrote in 2004:

When the fattened cats at Disney put the kibosh on Michael Moore’s new film, Fahrenheit 9-11, they did more than censor an artist. Gagging Moore is only the latest maneuver in suppressing some most uncomfortable facts: the Bush Administration’s killing off investigations of Saudi Arabian funding of terror including evidence involving a few members of the bin Laden family in the USA….

Those stories ran at the top of the nightly news in Britain and worldwide but not in the USA. Why?

Our news teams picked up several awards including one I particularly hated getting: a Project Censored Award from California State University’s school of journalism. It’s the prize you get for a very important story that is simply locked out of the American press.

And that hurts. I’m an American, an L.A. kid sent into journalistic exile
in England.

What’s going on here?

Why the heck can’t agents follow the money, even when it takes them to Arabia? Because, as we heard repeatedly from those muzzled inside the agencies, Saudi money trails lead back to George H.W. Bush and his very fortunate sons and retainers. We at BBC reported that too, at the top of the nightly news, everywhere but America.

Why are Americas media barons afraid to tell this story in the USA? The BBC and Guardian stories were the ugly little dots connected by a single theme: oil contamination in American politics and money poisoning in the blood of our most powerful political family. And that is news that dare not speak its name.

This is not the first time that Michael Moore attempted to take our BBC investigative reports past the US media border patrol. In fact, our joke in the London newsroom is that if we can’t get our story on to American airwaves, we can just slip it to the fat guy in the chicken suit. Moore could sneak it past the censors as ‘entertainment.’

Here’s an example of Moore’s underground railroad operation to bring hard news to America: In the Guardian and on BBC TV, I reported that Florida’s then Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, removed tens of thousands of Black citizens from voter rolls just prior to the 2000 election. Her office used a list of supposed ‘felons’ – a roster her office knew was baloney, filled almost exclusively with innocents.

I printed the first installment of that story in the Guardian papers while Al Gore was still in the race. The Washington Post ran my story seven months later. By then, it could be read with a chuckle from the Bush White House.

The Black voter purge story would have never seen the light of day in the USA, despite its front-page play over the globe, were it not for Moore opening his book, Stupid White Men, with it

Unless you read the foreign press, or have lived overseas and have reason to keep on top of US coverage, it’s easy to be completely unaware that this sort of thing goes on. I was in Australia right before and during the second Gulf War, and the disparities in reporting were marked. Stories about civilian casualties, the deterioration of living conditions (looting of hospitals, limited electricity, lack of physical safety) and the rising discontent even among Iraqis who had supported the invasion were regular items in Oz and virtually taboo in the US. And remember, Australia was an ally in that war.

I have no doubt that there are other instances of reporting disparity, where matters important to American citizens are either not being featured in the US, or being covered late and only when it gets enough visibility via an unconventional outlet that the MSM finally picks it up. I hope readers will provide additional examples.


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