How Media Distorts Facts, Shapes Public Opinion for Profit and Why Ethics Must Return to Journalism
US president Trump has just completed his first five months in the office, yet his Democrat opponents and the mainstream US media accusations about ‘Russian collusion’ have not abated in the least.
And while the POTUS was readying for his second foreign trip to Poland and the two-day G20 summit in Germany, new leaks – this time to his advantage – have appeared in the cyberspace. Namely, a secret video recording spread like wildfire across digital media space where a CNN producer admits the media giant is exploiting the ‘Russiagate’ theme to boost ratings.
For CNN, at least, as it was made clear, the Russia storyline is just business ― nothing more, nothing less. Once more, the President felt vindicated for calling the Trump-hating mainstream media ‘fake news’.
Many were happy with the leak exposing the CNN ‘toying’ with the truth, including the President himself, as he followed with his own strike on the network via his favorite social media platform that even got him a nickname of – Tweeter–in–Chief ― where he published a video of himself wrestling a man with the CNN head. Day before the tweet, the president announced that he would henceforth refer to CNN no longer as fake news, but as ‘fraud news’, and sure enough in his now signature move, started tweeting under a #FraudNewsCNN hashtag.
A day later CNN announced it has traced down the author of the original video, and continued attacking president accusing him and his White House press team of lying when denying that president was inciting hatred, bigotry and promoting violence with the explosive tweet.
The Twitterati community responded by mocking the CNN and other major media, for being able to find the video producer within an hour, but not a single shred of evidence for ‘Russian hacking’ for more than six months, save for the cartoonish ‘FancyBear’ nickname and the sporadic Cyrillic letters in the hacking script.
Now, back to the story of US elections’ ‘Russian hacking’ ― heavily promoted by major US media outlets ― the allegations simply lack logic. The CNN editor video leak and the New York Times retraction article about ‘all 17 US intelligence agencies’ (actually three) confirming the allegations aside, nearly a year since the speculations first timidly appeared in the US media not a single shred of evidence has been provided to the public.
The media reports and the official statements use vague expressions, such as ‘we firmly believe’, but facts of Russian hacking we are yet to see.
The only fact so far is that the media and the Trump opponents need ‘Russiagate’ to achieve their own financial and political goals.
The recent video leak of the CNN editor’s admission on the reasons behind ‘Russia obsession’ proves that Russia bashing serves the US media heavyweights like CNN, New York Times, Washington Post to boost their ratings, and promote official agenda – and, naturally, profit, lest we forget what the MSM is all about.
While there is nothing wrong with making money ― because journalists and media houses need to eat too ― ethical reporting on vital matters in international affairs affecting all cannot and should not be compromised for the sake of profit.
The dangerous game played by the mainstream Western media for the interests of their respective governments, security agencies and multinational corporations, at least since the Yugoslavian and Iraqi wars, has taken a toll of over million lives combined and equally as high a number of refugees.
As a dangerously powerful ‘soft power’ weapon ‘CNN effect’ has distorted facts and shaped public opinion to such a grotesque level that nations have accepted lies as truths and were dragged into wars that run contrary to the very principles of democracy, and human rights that their governments claim to be promoting.
The same facts’ distortion strategy has been used to present Syrian civil war as a dystopian reality. Stories and videos are scripted and produced in such a way as to present villains as victims, and victims as villains, again without shred of evidence, or at best ― as in the case of (infamous) White Helmets group ― staged, Hollywood-style productions.
Alternative media outlets, hacktivists, dissenting groups and individuals that oppose official narrative and strive for objective, investigative journalistic practices are simply denied access to the mainstream media so their voices are not being heard by the majority – lacking the amplifying power of the mass media machinery.
The result of such distortive reporting threatens to destroy not only media pluralism, but most importantly the truth itself by shaping a public opinion based on – at best insinuations and allegations – at worst, outright lies and fabrications.
The first military intervention under the US President Donald Trump was the missile strike on a Syrian airbase, based on the fabricated story about Syrian government forces use of chemical weapons against ‘rebels’.
Timing, storyline, even the sequence of events surrounding the alleged chemical attack and the missile attack that followed seems to follow a familiar script, replayed earlier in at least two other theaters of war – Bosnia and Kosovo, to name a few. The whole Syrian ‘chemical attack’ incident eerily resembled the prelude to the Iraqi invasion of 2003 and the then Secretary of State, Collin Powell holding a vial of (some) white powder as a proof of Saddam Hussein’s possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). The spoof-proof was so solid that US went on to invade Iraq, the catastrophic move that later led to the rise of Islamist extremism we’re battling to this day across the region.
Needless to say that the WMDs were never found in Iraq, but the country was nevertheless destroyed to rubble, its natural and cultural wealth looted, while millions have lost lives and livelihoods in the process.
The supporting role of media in amplifying this official, yet false narrative cannot be emphasized enough.
The power of media in the digital age has increased exponentially. Statistically speaking, a message posted on social media platforms can reach millions of views within a matter of hours, phenomenon unfathomable only years ago.
So-called ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions that have ripped apart the Middle East at the beginning of the second decade of the millennium are an example of the power that social media has on shaping people’s opinion and consequently, actions.
Combined power of the global corporate owned mass media and the most powerful world governments and non-governmental entities today threaten the freedom of speech and willingly participate in the distortion of truth and facts, for the sake of profits.
Journalists who succumb to the pressures of reporting lies versus facts are accomplices in the brutal game played on the public minds and curbing of one of the basic human rights – the right to free speech. This practice has to change, or else we are in danger of becoming a mindless mass blindly following totalitarian doctrine hiding its ugly face behind the mask of ‘democracy’.