“The Post” with Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep rehashes the glory days of the pentagon papers and how newspapers across the country showed unity in the face of nixon’s attempts to censor revelations of washington’s outrageous and multi-decade corruption which facilitated the slaughter of millions of vietnamese and thousands of americans. It’s well acted and mostly accurate, to the best of my knowledge. Of course in a larger sense it’s an attempt to shore up the flagging credibility of the WAPO and other major newspapers which have been caught repeatedly censoring and doctoring the news for the benefit of entrenched interests such as the clinton octopus.
The irony is that the main source of the plot’s drama betrays why WAPO and virtually all the rest of the MSM are no longer reliable as a source of real news. In choosing whether to publish the pentagon papers, the newspaper’s owner is faced with the possibility of financial ruin resulting from possible repercussions to the WAPO’s recent stock IPO. Heroically, she chose to go ahead and publish anyway, starting a newspaper rebellion which forced washington into retreat. But the threat of financial ruin was very real and nearly caused WAPO to self-censor. Such problems did not exist under the old pattern of newspaper ownership, where their main concern was their ability to “scoop” their competition and maintain a standard of accuracy which fostered their credibility and profitability as a business whose sole concern was publishing a particular newspaper.
It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to see that such heroism is exceedingly unlikely now that newspapers are no longer the sole concerns of local family businesses but are controlled by far flung groups of wealthy stockholders and front companies whose financial interests are far more diverse than maintaining the credibility of a single newspaper, since they are deeply entrenched and entangled in the socioeconomic status quo as a whole. When NBC was owned by “defense” contractor General Electric for instance, it was probably not a reliable source of information about nuclear power. Now that it’s owned by media conglomerate Comcast, it is no doubt beholden to whatever financial interests Comcast has a stake in. “Scooping” is not as much of a phenomenon among the “gentlemen” of the country club circuit. Mutual backscratching is a very successful business model.
But it gets worse: the massive media consolidation enabled by bill clinton https://billmoyers.com/story/twenty-years-of-media-consolidation-has-not-been-good-for-our-democracy/ has allowed a very few of these entrenched interests to eliminate their competition and gain a near stranglehold on information flow, which has enabled an entirely new media business model: selling propaganda services to the corporate government in return for access and outright bribery in various forms. Gone are the days of heroic newspaper publishers deploying armies of dedicated newshounds in service to the public interest. The corporate state is the new reality.
Here’s the basic rule of thumb: the larger a media company’s owner is, the less reliable it is as a source of information, especially with regard to its home turf. This is just a reflection of business interests, not ideology.
You can count on wapo to publicize criticism of putin’s russia and some of it might even be accurate. But relying on RT to do the same is wishful thinking. Likewise, RT is probably a more reliable window on washington’s corruption than WAPO is.
Media literacy 101.