No Thanksgiving Celebration for America's Turkey-Press

Another fourth-Thursday in November is here, as we celebrate and give thanks for the gift aplenty that most of us have: Thanksgiving, America’s greatest holiday – bigger than Christmas (or kindred religious festivities) or the Fourth of July. And to that effect we not only point with pride to an abundance of material things, but freedoms as well.

Perhaps… just perhaps, we need to scale back this year enumerating the freedoms we might be thankful for, and skip altogether “freedom of the press”… for that has become but a delusion: a once-upon-a-time qualified reality now turned into pure myth.

Most of my friends, reasonable people in most everything, have an untreatable allergy to anything that may be deemed critical to the sanctity of our democratic system, not just in theory but in practice; and any criticism becomes sacrilegious, unpatriotic and unwelcome. Anything resembling a political discussion I may have with any of them is likely to end up with the same curtain call: “I’m lucky, they are quick to underline, that we live in a nation where criticism is allowed.” And I must confess I am thankful for that. But just because such criticism is protected, it doesn’t mean it exists! And therein our problem: a remarkable lack of criticism… not because we are pure, but rather corrupt.

That untreatable allergy that my friends suffer from, and which is probably of pandemic proportions in these United States, is likely the result of a bias, self-censured press.

And, of course, when we refer to the press we extend the term to cover all media. Well, perhaps not “all” media… but the mainstream media that reaches every household; not the alternative media catering to a scant 2 or 3 percent of the population who might be considered the more politically-active, and definitely the more concerned. The media we do have in mind, unfortunately, owes its existence to the goodwill and benevolence of powerful interests, all in the hands of wealthy individuals or corporate entities.

We seem to accept matter-of-factly that lobbyists for special interests are de facto the ones writing our laws. In similar fashion, those same special interests – in this case almost exclusively corporate – will make the choices as to what we read; not so much by anything they write, but by censuring what we shouldn’t read. Journalists, editors, columnists and commentators know just what cuts the mustard as a level of acceptable criticism… and employment tenure. An invisible but ever-present reminder of who foots the bill, and thus determines what gets broadcasted or printed in these United States.

That, of course, is true for 98 percent of what is consumable as news and opinion; the other 2 percent that questions and dissents… no one cares. They are hidden from view or sound, and have zero impact over the rest. And since that figure is inconsequential to any outcome, these activist-dissenters are given any and all the freedom their skinny shoulders can carry on them. After all, who ever heard of “Democracy Now!” “Indy Media” or the other pauperized sources which are often the only places in this country where you can get reliable news. Do any of us have “regular neighbors” who might have heard of world-famous (and American) Prof. Noam Chomsky before Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez mentioned him in his “Bush-devil” speech last September at the United Nations?

If we are tied down to a post with a long enough invisible leash, our freedom to roam would seem unlimited, unchallenged; that is, unless our curiosity extends beyond the radius of the leash. So, since freedom is discrete, we are obliged to be discreet. As long as those of us who dissent are voices in the wilderness, and continue having no impact, we are free. The test for true freedom will only come when the number of those who dissent grows sufficiently to be reckoned with. And that day, because of inertia in the American mind, may never come… or come too late to make a difference.

Freedom of the press has become the butt of all jokes by those who respect and treasure what true freedom is. The last five years have given us a cross-section of our less-than-formidable press; all we need to do is read the chronologically evolving socio-political commentaries of our best read journalists, Pulitzers included… regardless where in our political spectrum (right to far right) they are writing from. It would seem as a worthy dissertation topic for a PhD candidate to study some of the writings of these journalistic chameleons in their journey through the Bush Administration, and the failures suffered domestically and overseas… from Brooks (David), Dionne, Friedman (Thomas), Ignatius, Lowry (Rich), Safire, Thomas (Cal), Will and dozens more to their political right or left. And the same chameleonic experience applies to the voice-charlatans that during the same period infested the airwaves.

No one would expect, for obvious reasons affecting readership, The New York Times to validate (via news or editorials) claims that Palestinians might have against atrocities committed by the IDF. As unjust as that might be, the self-censure permeates the entire system of news-opinion delivery. Haditha and myriad other criminal acts will just have to wait until the DOD decides when and what to tell us… no sense asking them. And the government will continue to be allowed to operate without the oversight it once had from the press. At the national level, at least, those days are gone forever.

This Thanksgiving, the biggest turkey won’t be at anyone’s table. The biggest turkey, dressed as John Q. Reporter, has been pardoned by the Emperor and given the “Medal of Freedom” for services rendered: keeping Americans in a state of sublime ignorance.