The corporate news industry continues to churn out corporate propaganda, but some members of the Wisconsin audience pursue other options.
Our thirst for truth favors “alternative media” as we watch mainstream for-profit news corporations cannibalize each other and snack on disinterested consumers.
“Disinterested consumers” are those who are duped or apathetically inclined to believe the crap they read, hear, or observe via mainstream newspapers and periodicals, and commercial radio and television. Commercial electronic media should be added to that list as well.
Up to a point, it’s possible to sympathize with people whose energy is drained at the end of the day, and who turn to the 10 o’clock car crash report as a sedative. But the long-term effects of overdosing on mainstream propaganda are seriously debilitating. Witness how willingly politicians feed erroneous information to their mainstream media friends, and how lies become reality.
In such cases, the truth exists. But it’s subverted to such a degree that even when it is revealed as truth its news value is tarnished.
Norman Stockwell is a media activist and operations coordinator at listener-sponsored community radio WORT-FM in Madison. He is a longtime independent journalist.
Stockwell told me recently, "Every metric out there shows us that people are hungry for independent media. Audiences no longer trust the 'mainstream' of corporate media - owned by fewer and fewer large corporations, and delivering a more and more homogenous and inaccurate view of the world. Independent media has grown rapidly thanks to tools such as small audio and video recorders, portable computers, and easy access to the Internet. The essence of 'alternative media' is the desire and the ability to report from the bottom up, to give voice to unrepresented and underrepresented sectors of the community. It is these voices, the voices of those affected by the policies of corporate and political elites, that give a fuller, truer, picture of events and movements.”
An anecdotal example in support of Stockwell came from the Wisconsin Uprising. Do you remember when Wisconsin Department of Administration (DOA) Secretary Mike Huebsch screeched that it would cost $7.5 million to restore the Capitol because of the 2011 protests? The Wisconsin State Journal and just about every mainstream media source in the world ran with that story.
Nevermind that the very next day Huebsch announced that he overestimated the amount by more than $7 million.
The whole issue seemed farcical if you were at the Capitol at any time during the uprising. Did blue tape and sleeping bags amount to vandalism, we wondered?
Then came the “scandalous” behavior of some doctors allegedly issuing absence excuses to protesters.
Triviata, in the mainstream press, served to divert attention away from the truth, like Governor Walker’s cut in compensation for 340,000 public employees resulting in a purchasing power reduction of between $900 million and $1.2 billion, according to the Institute for Wisconsin’s Future. Those choices, among others, were ruinous for the economy and destroyed jobs.
So here we have, as big news, DOA lies (overestimates) about cleaning the Capitol and the purported unpunished behavior of some physicians.
Nearly a year later it was revealed that cleaning the Capitol was indeed overestimated, by about 35 times. And the doctors who wrote absence notes were, in fact, quietly punished in various ways including through demotions and loss of pay.
The events were very important at the time to a neighbor of mine who claimed them as reasons supporting the likelihood he’d vote for Walker in the recall election. When the actual costs and punishments were made public, I approached him and said, “You must be happy to see these results.”
Instead, he seemed angered at being misled. Identifying me as a member of the media, he said, “It’s your fault. Why didn’t you (the media) tell us?”
What a good question! Why didn’t the media tell us?
The answer is twofold. First, the alternative media did tell us, via outlets like WORT-FM in Madison and FightingBob.com and The Progressive magazine. The second part of the answer has to do with the failure of the mainstream media to pursue the truth, no matter how many awards they may have received for their “coverage.”
Media activist Stockwell said, “"Here in Madison, during what is now dubbed by many 'The Wisconsin Uprising,' independent media abounded; with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube playing key roles - just as they did 6,100 miles away in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Most people who wanted to find out what was really going on in Madison did not turn to network television, they looked on-line or listened to a small local community radio station just six blocks from the state Capitol.”
As always, work is required to search for truth. Libraries are filled with intelligent analyses of propaganda machines and free speech suppression. They are always with us, the lies and suppressions. But so is the truth.
A quick online search for “alternative media” will yield 500 million results. Let the sifting and winnowing begin. Alternative and independent media is good for you.
Stockwell offered a definition of independent media: "Many of today's independent journalists are themselves activists, flying in the face of the journalism school maxim to be 'objective' - but in reality, no such absolute objectivity exists, rather the true goal of a journalist should be to be accurate, honest, and fair to those whose voices he or she is amplifying through the pen, microphone or lens."
Albert Camus, in 1939, wrote about this in an article for his Algerian newspaper. The article was censored by French authorities but was recently published in Le Monde and Harper’s magazine.
Camus wrote, “An independent newspaper gives the sources of its news, helps its readers evaluate what it reports, rejects brainwashing, suppresses invective, augments the standardized presentation of news with commentaries, and, in short, serves the truth within the human limits of its possibilities. However relative those limits may be, they will at least allow such a publication to refuse to do what no power on earth can make it accept: to serve lies.”
If the newspaper you read doesn’t meet those standards, it’s time for an alternative.
June 21, 2012
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David Giffey is a freelance journalist and FightingBob.com contributing editor who lives in Arena. He is the author of "Long Shadows: Veterans’ Paths to Peace" (Atwood Publishing), "Struggle for Justice: The Migrant Farm Worker Labor Movement in Wisconsin," and "The People’s Stories of South Madison."