America’s “Chattering Class”
While a world largely dominated by American arms and culture careens from one disaster to the next, its propagandists are obsessed with trivia: whether a governor whose college year-book exhibits a photo of a black-face standing next to a hooded clansman thirty-five years ago should resign, how many hours a day the President spends watching television, or what the latest indictment from the Mueller investigation means for the accusation that Trump colluded with the Russian government to become president.
Until the nineteen-eighties, ‘the news’ was at six and ten p.m. When cable news spawned the 24 hour news cycle, it was very exciting — until it became clear that if Americans were to remain in blissful ignorance of the wider world, those hours had to be filled with something other than real ‘news’.
Americans can also watch news 24 hours a day on the major national foreign language news channels, however the more familiar BBC cannot compare to France 24 or Russia’s RT for breadth and depth of coverage, which also includes features from around the world. The absence of in-depth news about world events contributed to its transformation into wall to wall propaganda.
Currently, the most egregious betrayal of the journalists’ commitment to report ‘the news’ and nothing but the news, is the casual coverage of the US decision to withdraw from the INF treaty signed by Reagan and Gorbachev. (According to Jill Abramson, former executive editor of the New York Times in her book Merchants of Truth, the two main on-line news sites, Vice and Buzzfeed are losing readership. Neither she nor her interviewer mentioned progressive sites such as The Intercept (which is bankrolled by a billionaire) or even the centrist Huffington Post, which has editions in Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish. Not to mention The Vineyard of the Saker, run by a former Russian citizen living in the US, which also has editions in Italian, French, Serbian, Spanish — and Russian.
It is not difficult to find ‘well-educated’ Americans eager to appear on television, whether these be young black women or retiring military, thus so-called ‘news’ programs are almost entirely devoted to their analyses and opinions, in an electronic version of France’s ‘cafe du commerce’, a mocking reference to people discussing daily events, as if they, rather than the ‘professionals’, could fix the world.
The media criticizes the President for not listening to his intelligence agencies about the myriad threats to America’s well-being, however, the public cannot possibly pass judgement on the way he deals with the outside world: whether it be the Pope’s visit to the United Arab Emirates — a first for a Pontiff in a world locked in combat with Islam! — or the US-backed coup attempt in oil-rich Venezuela without having been able to follow Venezuelan politics. At the same time that it ignores the events that constitute news to others around the world, ordinary events are labelled as ‘breaking news’ requiring’ immediate and undivided attention. (This harks back to journalism’s competitive tradition, in which individual journalists or outlets seek to be first to announce events. Before television, kids sold newspapers on the street, hawking their wares with announcements such as ‘Extra, extra, read all about it’ (meaning that a print journal has put out an ‘extra’ edition to announce important news. Today it’s called ‘breaking a story and a journalist who does so garners recognition for days — if not years, in cases like the Watergate.’
That may be why a lieutenant governor accused of sex crimes gets ten times more air time than the US withdrawal from a major nuclear treaty with Russia.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.