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Daddy knows best
It would be hard to beat the condescension of Irish Times editorials most days, but they really excelled themselves yesterday - and on the subject of press freedom, what's more. BTW, we are all now 'citizen journalists' here on Indymedia.
"When the media writes about itself - the functions it performs and the travails of those who work in it - it often seems to others that a sense of perspective is somehow temporarily mislaid."
So went an editorial in yesterday's Irish Times, which makes it all the more remarkable that, fewer than two paragraphs later, it went on to say this:
"Where information is power, the power to decide who rules is best exercised by a well informed electorate. For the system to work with credibility, the mechanisms for informing the public cannot, by definition, be independent. Thus in successful democracies is the function discharged by the media, while not enshrined in the structure of the State like parliament or the criminal justice system, comes close to them in importance." [My emphasis]
Translation: corporate-backed press and corporated-controlled politicians are best placed to decide what the children (aka the electorate) should know and how we get to know it. That there might be any self-interest or bias in this tidy arrangement is not to be considered, let alone acknowledged.
Well, that is certainly one helluva perspective. Worryingly, no definition of a credibly functioning system is offered. This might be an oversight but then again it might not. Of course, this stuff is no suprise for those who regard the Irish Times as (for the main part) an FF/PD/IBEC daily press release, to read such pompous and outrageous paternalism.
Perhaps, though, a subconscious fear of the possible bursting of the corporate press/government bubble was lurking somewhere in the editorial writer's mind when s/he wrote:
'a savvy computer operator with a blog is difficult to silence - the citizen journalist is a growing phenomenon whose impact on the mainstream media may be profound'.
Who wants to silence the citizen journalist, then? Well, of course all the usual third world culprits are identified ('all of the Middle East, most Africa, much of South America and a fair swathe of Asia'.) The citizen journalist would be a welcome pheonomenon, in those places. Not one single mention of the wide-spread suppression of free speech which has been so atrocious in the USA since 9/11. No mention of the routine self-consoring of the Irish Times itself - and most European mainstream newspapers - and not one word about what happened to Frank Connolly and the CPI here in Ireland, to take just one glaringly obvious example of free speech, ruthlessly silenced.
I suspect that it is not just third world dictators who are finding the prospect of the citizen journalist 'difficult'. Make no mistake about what the IT is saying here. In the context of the 'responsible', fully-cooperative-with-government, corporate-backed, paternalistic western press whose wonders we have just been lectured about, this new and truly independent journalism is being carefully picked out as a potential threat to corporate-style 'democracy'. Otherwise, why not mention Indymedia.ie? Surely that is a glaringly obvious omission?
And WTF is a 'citizen journalist' anyway? Was there ever any other kind? What a splendid (if unintentionally revealing) term! It perfectly illustrates where the IT sermonisers and declaimers imagine they are coming from: they are a category of uber citizen - not quite the archaengels who are ministers and corporate CEOs but the cherubim and seraphim of our governing elite, maybe. We all knew what an incestuous and mutually-regarding world the mainstream press and government operate in, but you seldom find them making their smugness as blatant as this. Well excuse us, ladies and gentlemen, but we can hear you, you know.
The editorial begins its conclusion with a timid little bleat about the extraordinarily repressive legislation that is being introduced in many Western countires to counter 'terrorism' and urges that such moves be resisted. But in the context of an editorial which is itslef so cowardly, it is too little and too late. To make us all think we have just read something daring and challenging, the editorial finishes off by saying:
"One doesn't have to accept totally the great American journalist IF Stone's maxim 'Every government is run by liars. Nothing they say should be believed' but it is a good starting point."
In fact, Stone had it exactly right. And he could just as accurately have substituted 'newspapers' for government, if he'd thought of it.