The world media acted yesterday as accomplice to an international ransom plot. The point was to convince the leader of Libya that his children had been captured by armed resistance forces. Every source from Democracy Now to the Wall Street Journal reported that two of Gaddafi’s sons were in the custody of armed rebels and that Tripoli was taken. The reports were false. As proof, one of the brothers appeared personally at the hotel where most reporters stay in Tripoli.
There seems to be a tacit agreement among news-mongers to unseat the government of Libya. To do this, reporters had to endorse an armed rebellion. Unlike the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, spurned by the media for weeks, this one was steeped in violence, and the rebels became the darlings of celebrity reporters just about everywhere but in Africa, where Libya actually is.
You would think news people would know by now not to take sides in a civil war, but no. Not only do they take sides, they spread disinformation and false intelligence to affect outcomes. They cause death.
Libya is just a continuation of the corrupt process that has turned journalists into drivers of events and not mere chroniclers. News people egged our leaders on in Afghanistan and Iraq. They got people to accept continuous surveillance. A few Augusts ago, they goaded residents not to evacuate New Orleans after the hurricane and then scared people with false reports of violence in flooded areas, delaying help for days and days.
Of all the nefarious forces that threaten us–predatory business, violent Christianity, militarism, advertising–the most injurious over the past generation has been journalism. The corruption of the media has brought us violence, pollution, antiliteracy, superstition, and the abandonment of values. The life and work of the two Murdochs and their newsrooms give us a glimpse of what passes for journalism these days: gossip gathered and dispensed by unprincipled, conscience-less thugs.
In the news business, conviction and ethics are baggage, and they interfere with the peformance of the job. That’s why reporters can talk calmly about the bombing of Libyans by our government, as if 7,000 bombing missions weren’t a bit much.
And there’s so much that reporters can’t tell you. They can’t tell you that they’re under orders not to refer to the “Libyan army.” They have to say, “forces loyal to Gaddafi” because the government isn’t recognized by the US. They now print “Nato” is if it were a word and not an abbreviation. They don’t want to remind us that it’s really N.A.T.O., the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. We might ask how a treaty meant to maintain peace in the North Atlantic can be used to drop bombs on people in the South Mediterranean.
The media offer no apologies for their part in the plot against Libya. This latest tactic, threatening targeted people with harm to family members, is both illegal and immoral, but it’s tolerated in the West now (not forgetting Israel), as necessary to protect the prosperous people of the world from the depredations of the needy and desperate majority. The news media are definitely on board for this mission. Under the new system, it’s vigilance or bust. Do unto others, and do it first. Nonviolence? Infantile.
It worries the media not at all that we have had to trash most of our value system to tolerate projects like the destruction of Libya and oil drilling in the Arctic. The stream of disinformation is so relentless that it’s hard to cull the news reports from the food, drug and cosmetic ads that pay the reporters’ salaries. They’ve got us to replace the genuine values that got us here with the ersatz values of sitcom and soap-opera characters. Under their new and improved ethic, liberated from values, we ’re OK with hair-trigger violence, justified as indispensable to the preservation of our consumer way of life from intrusion by the world’s poor and unwashed. This is ironic, because, as news-mongers won’t tell you, the abandonment of values makes us that much more vulnerable to retribution, and more deserving, too.