By Paul J. Balles
Redress Information & Analysis
Freedom of the press in the West means freedom for those who control the press to lie.
A few months ago, Google threatened to pull out of China over concerns about censorship and security. A Xinhua News Agency report didn’t mention censorship, instead referring to Google’s “disagreements with government policies”.
A few hours later US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech in Washington on Internet freedom calling for American companies to resist pressure to accept censorship.
On 12 January, Google had said it would remain in China only if the government relented on rules requiring the censorship of content that the ruling Communist party considers subversive. China hasn’t relented, and it hasn’t fared well with organizations rating press freedoms.
A few days ago, on 3 May, journalists throughout the world commemorated World Press Freedom Day. Journalists are naturally concerned about their freedom and the political conditions under which they work.
Marking the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed that freedom of expression was a fundamental human right, “enshrined in Article 19 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But around the world, there are governments and those wielding power who find many ways to obstruct it.”
In the past, complaints by journalists about violations of press freedoms have focused essentially on what governments do to inhibit or restrict journalists’ freedoms. Little if any distinction has been made of obstruction by “those wielding power”
My original comment about freedom of the press in the West meaning freedom for those who control the press to lie finds interesting support from Abe Foxman, head of the Zionist Anti-Defamation League in America.
Foxman told New York Times Magazine writer James Traub that it is “naive” to think that “the free market of ideas ultimately sifts falsehood to produce truth”.
Traub recounted: “Experience has taught Foxman that the truth does not win on its own merits; the market for falsehood is too powerful.”
When two leading American scholars published an article followed by a book on The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, the ground under the controlled press shook. For years, the mainstream media had avoided any discussion of the Israeli lobby in America.
Professors John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University could not be ignored by the media. About the book’s publication, Michael Massing wrote in the New York Review of Books: “Not since … The Clash of Civilizations has an academic essay detonated with such force.”
One comment from their book illustrates how media control works: “If politicians know that it is risky to question Israeli policy or the United States’ unyielding support for Israel, then it will be harder for the mainstream media to locate authoritative voices that are willing to disagree with the lobby’s views.”
When Israel invades Lebanon or Gaza and lies about why, the Western media remain silent. TV commentators are mum and syndicated newspapers report the distorted propaganda coming out of Israel.
Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, James Petras has taken up the problem of media control in several of his recent books and articles. He has authored 63 books in 29 languages and more than 2,000 articles.
In his book Rulers and Ruled in the US Empire, Professor Petras noted that “the Israeli lobby in the US includes seven major propaganda ‘think tanks’ which crank out thousands of position papers, editorials and op-ed pieces appearing on a daily basis in dozens of national and local newspapers…”
When China controls the press, it’s no secret. The Western press, under the control of special interests, lies under pretence of freedom.
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.