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The Empty Piety of the American Press

Linked by Paul Ciano on April 22, 2018

Chris Hedges:

The press, giddy with its newfound sense of mission and purpose, is carrying out a moral crusade against Donald Trump. The airwaves and print have shed their traditional claims of “impartiality” and “objectivity.” They fulminate against Trump, charging—falsely—that he was elected because of Russian interference and calling him a liar, ignorant and incompetent. They give airtime to his bitterest critics and bizarre associates, such as Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a onetime star of “The Apprentice” and now a fired White House aide, and Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who says she had a sexual relationship with Trump. It is great entertainment. It is great for ratings. It is great for profits. But it is not moral, and it is not journalism.

The empty piety is a mask for self-interest. It is accompanied by the veneration of the establishment politicians, generals, intelligence chiefs, corporate heads and hired apologists who carried out the corporate coup d’état that created our system of “inverted totalitarianism.” The corporate structures that have a stranglehold on the country and have overseen deindustrialization and the evisceration of democratic institutions, plunging over half the country into chronic poverty and misery, are unassailable. They are portrayed as forces of progress. The criminals on Wall Street, including the heads of financial firms such as Goldman Sachs, are treated with reverence. Free trade is equated with freedom. Democratic politicians such as Barack Obama—who assaulted civil liberties, transferred trillions of dollars upward to reigning oligarchs, expanded the drone wars to include targeted assassinations of American citizens, and used the Espionage Act to silence investigative journalism—are hailed as champions of democracy. Deference is paid to democratic processes, liberties, electoral politics and rights enshrined in our Constitution, from due process to privacy, that no longer exist. It is a vast game of deception under the cover of a vacuous morality.

Where is the flood of stories about families being evicted or losing their homes because of foreclosures and bank repossessions? Where are the stories about the banks and lending agencies that prey on recent college graduates burdened with crippling loans and unable to find work? Where are the stories about families going into bankruptcy because they cannot pay medical bills and the soaring premiums of for-profit health care? Where are the stories about the despair that drives middle-aged white men to suicide and millions of Americans into the deadly embrace of opioid addiction? Where are the stories on the cruelty of mass incarceration, the collapse of our court system and the reign of terror by police in marginal communities? Where are the investigative pieces on the fraud and the tax boycott that have been legalized for Wall Street, the poisoning of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries? Why is climate change a forbidden subject, even as extreme weather devastates the nation and much of the rest of the planet?

If the press sided with citizens and exposed the corporate systems of power that hold them captive, its advertising income would dwindle and it would be treated as an enemy of the state. Since corporations own the airwaves and declining city newspapers, this will not happen. Journalism will remain burlesque.

The press, like the Democratic Party, is playing a very dangerous game. It is banking, as Hillary Clinton did, on Trump being so repugnant he and those who support him will be replaced with Democrats. It relies on polls to guide its tactics and strategy, forgetting that every national poll offered assurance that Trump would lose in 2016. This gamble may work. But it may not. Policy issues accounted for only 10 percent of the media coverage during the 2016 presidential race. News reports concentrated on the latest polls, scandals, publicity stunts, campaign tactics and strategy as well as Trump’s bombastic remarks, according to a report issued by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University. In short, there was little substance to the coverage. This will only get worse.

The disease of celebrity and greed, which warps and deforms the personality of Trump, warps and deforms celebrities in the media. They share Trump’s most distasteful characteristics. The consequences are ominous. An ignored, impoverished and frustrated underclass will turn to increasingly bizarre politicians and more outlandish con artists and purveyors of hate. Trump is only the beginning. The grotesque mutations to come, ones that will make Trump look reasonable, are being spawned in newsrooms across the country.

Paul Ciano

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