Why the mainstream media is failing

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People are deserting mainstream media in droves but the reasons cannot be blamed solely on Google or Facebook, writes James O’Neill.

YESTERDAY'S BROADCAST of ABC’s Media Watch lamented the imminent demise of mainstream journalism. 

It pointed to the hundreds of job losses suffered by journalists, declining readership and plummeting income from advertising. 

Blame was attributed to search engines and social media outlets such as Google and Facebook poaching their revenue. A handful of young people were shown, stating that they never watched the news (presumably on TV) and that they got their “news” from their iPhones.

But a description is not a diagnosis. Media Watch, in common with most mainstream media (MSM) outlets, is either unable or unwilling to ask the central question: Why are people deserting the MSM in droves? One suspects that the question is not asked for because the response may not be palatable. In this writer’s opinion, people have deserted the MSM because, thanks to alternative media sites offering news and opinion, they understand that the MSM is part of an establishment that filters not only opinion but also basic facts.

They know from reading an ever-growing number of excellent online sites that there is a wealth of information on important issues about which they have been systematically deprived. They further appreciate that an informed opinion based on uncensored facts offers a different appreciation of the world and how it really works. The “official” version offered up on a daily basis by the MSM serves, more often than not, to benefit and support the power and privilege of select groups. 

The interlocking ownership and cross-directorships of major media organisations with prominent members of the military industrial complex offers a clue as to the stance taken by the media on reporting, or often, failing to report, relevant information.

Genie Energy and Rupert Murdoch

One illustration is Rupert Murdoch’s association with Genie Energy, a company given oil and gas exploration rights in Israel’s illegally occupied Golan Heights. Knowing that connection is important to understanding News Corp’s support for the Tel Aviv regime. The connection is not disclosed in Murdoch media outlets.

We are now reaching an important threshold stage in that more and more people are becoming aware of how they have been misled, misinformed, or kept in the dark about many issues. It is unlikely that the Senate Select Committee on the Future of Public Interest Journalism will address this issue.

Some brief, not so random examples from this writer’s experience may illustrate a wider point.

The 1963 JFK assassination

The MSM persists, more than 50 years after the event, in the myth that President John F Kennedy was shot by “lone nut” gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. This is despite a vast volume of information, including official documents such as those from the scarcely reported Assassination Records Review Board (based on the release of over a million official documents).

These reports demonstrated that there were multiple shooters in Dealey Plaza on 22 November 1963; Oswald was not one of them; that the actual assassins had connections at the highest levels of the military-industrial-intelligence complex; that the fatal shot came from in front of Kennedy; and that the official autopsy was both incompetently done and the results covered up.

The 1968 assassination of Robert F Kennedy 

The Los Angeles Coroner reported that the fatal shot to Senator Kennedy’s head was from 2-3cm behind him; that the man still languishing in prison for the assassination; Sirhan Sirhan was several feet in front of Kennedy; that more shots were fired than Sirhan’s gun contained; and that the Los Angeles Police Department destroyed evidence. There is separate evidence of connections between the plotters of both Kennedy assassinations. None of this is reported in the mainstream media.

The 9/11 attacks 

Two facts from this seminal event alone blow the official story out the window. Bear in mind that the official story has been used to justify the endless “War on Terror” that has resulted in multiple invasions of Muslim nations and the deaths of millions of people, as well as the destruction of what few protections we have against state power — all in the name of fighting terrorism and justified by the events of 9/11.

The first fact is that the “collapse” of World Trade Centre towers 1, 2 and 7, on the official version, is literally impossible because it defies some very basic laws of physics. Even alleged Muslim terrorists are not that clever. The only explanation consistent with the laws of physics is that all three buildings were brought down by controlled demolitions. The second fact derives from the Report of the 9/11 Commission. The Commission’s description of the alleged hijackers (Arab looking, wearing red bandanas, carrying box knives and so on) relies upon the alleged phone conversations of Barbara Olsen, a passenger on Flight 93 who allegedly flew into the Pentagon with her husband Ted Olsen, then solicitor general. (Griffin, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions, 2005.)

The FBI gave sworn evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called “20th hijacker”, in which they presented an analysis of all the alleged phone calls made from the four planes featured that day. Of Mrs Olsen’s calls to her husband, the FBI said: “Mrs Olsen made two attempted phone calls. Each lasted zero seconds.” (United States v Moussaoui Exhibit Number P200054).

Perhaps none of this FBI evidence has been reported by the MSM.

Flight MH17 

This flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014 with the loss of more than 50 Australian residents or citizens among its fatalities. 

The flight was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Shortly after the tragedy, the four countries then investigating signed a memorandum agreeing that none of the results of the investigation would be released without the consent of all four parties. This gave Ukraine, one of the prime suspects, an effective veto over publication of the results. The fact of this memorandum’s existence has never been published in the Australian MSM. There is a great deal else that has also been suppressed because it does not fit the MSM narrative that the shoot down was done either by Russians or by Russian-backed Ukrainian “rebels”.

These are but a very limited sample of literally hundreds of major geopolitical stories over the past decades. What all of them have in common is the suppression, or distortion, of major relevant facts — the possession of which is essential to an understanding of what really happened and why.

This did not happen by chance or inadvertence. The official version of events is repeated ad nauseam although it is impossible that the MSM is not as aware of the facts as anybody who makes even a small effort to discover more.

Current illustrations of this phenomenon include the reporting of the wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen, the continuing outrage of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians; the barrage of misinformation about the South China Sea, North Korea, Iran and Russia –usually accompanied by the demonisation or casual slander of their leaders – and ill-informed comment on China’s Silk Road Initiative.

In a separate but related category, we are subjected to an entirely fanciful set of scenarios about the F35 fighter jet, the submarine purchase, and the utility of acquiring a missile defence system.

Thanks to the internet and the courage and integrity of writers and editors on a growing number of sites presenting news and comment, people who choose to make even a modest effort can be better informed that they have been by past reliance upon the MSM.

The mainstream media seems unable to grasp this reality. Hence the calls for Google or Facebook to subsidise their failed business model and a dangerous desire by politicians and others to “control” the internet. If we are to have a real democracy where access to real information can be used to hold the politicians and others to account, then an unfettered flow of information and analysis offers the best hope.

James O'Neill is a former academic and has practised as a barrister since 1984. He writes on geopolitical issues, with a special emphasis on international law and human rights. He may be contacted at 

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