Alternative News?

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The performance of both corporate and independent media reporting the Iranian election should provoke apprehension among news consumers. When conservative Fox, liberal PBS, and radical Pacifica all refer to the Iranian president as "hard line", and uncritically assume a stolen election, news is not being reported. A party line is being toed.

Whether owned by profits or non-profits, news media do not originate from pristine sources of truth and objectivity. And when they become a vast echo chamber in which allegedly competing voices all resonate with the same story, their lack of unbiased analysis promotes a dangerous intellectual paralysis.

What news media call objectivity is a point of view, which they so label. Does it reflect prevailing wisdom? Or the idea that what prevails is wisdom? That’s called objectivity. But even that definition was degenerated with the Iran story, as most alternative viewpoints only differed in the picture’s details, without questioning the frame in which they were placed. Whatever their ownership, they bought fiction and sold it as fact.

Despite no evidence other than propagandists telling them it was so, minority voters in Iran believed that they were entitled to win an election. Here, bits of information were reported even when sources were unknown, and images open to interpretation were deemed incontestable reality. Throngs of demonstrators were labeled a revolutionary upheaval of society, rather than the passionate demand – however manipulated – for social reform, which they were.

Polls had predicted Ahmadinejad would win decisively, and when he did it was reported as fraud. Then, all hell broke loose. At least among a roused population of Iranians, and a nation of misinformed Americans. Those led to believe they were entitled to victory demanded a recount. The results were supposedly reported too quickly, with no question raised as to Ahmadinejad’s main opponent calling himself the victor just as quickly. And Iranians were only voting for one office, with four candidates. How long should it take to know the winner?

Within minutes of polls closing in America, media projections forecast victories in hundreds of races. Are these all examples of fraud? A good case could be made that the Iranian vote was more democratic than ours, since Independent candidate Ralph Nader wasn’t allowed in the same room with ruling party members Obama and McCain, while Ahmadinejad debated all three opposition candidates on Iranian national TV.

None of those demonstrating in Iran, or twittering in America, were aware of any reality other than their respective sense that despite any evidence but their beliefs, a soundly defeated candidate had won the election. And this story was told in most of what passes for the alternative media, where with few exceptions, all spoke of the stolen election and the suppression of democracy in that fundamentalist citadel of oppression.

Most of all, the need to rid the world of "hard liner" Ahmadinejad was repeated with disrespectful reference to his supposed lack of intelligence, height, or proper western values. Why this bigoted, simple minded assault on an elected leader with vast support not only in Iran – where most people neither own computers nor speak English – but all over the world? Because alone among world leaders, he openly speaks against the injustice Israel has inflicted upon the Palestinians, and questions the holocaust while pointing out that whatever the full story, it was a European crime; why are Palestinians paying for it ? Most of the world finds that common sense, but in the west it’s grounds for excommunication from the church of capital, and dismissal from the human race.

Had John McCain’s voters repeatedly been told they were entitled to victory, and then that their votes were stolen by Obama, what might have happened in America? When multitudes of Americans demonstrated against war in Afghanistan and Iraq, what happened? The war continues, presently expanding to Pakistan. When students were murdered while protesting the Viet Nam war, what happened? It went on for five more years. It takes infantile arrogance to swallow a soap opera of online gossip posing as foreign politics, while our nation’s responsibility for murderous international chaos is apparent to the rest of the world but continues to evade most of us. Given our mass marketing of false consciousness, what can a public know or believe?

As new governments demand radical change, imperial power calls them tyrants and terrorists committed to destroying civilization. They strike fear in the hearts of profiteers by creating democracy from the bottom up, and redistributing wealth from the top down. Whether motivated by Socialism, Islam or Christianity, these movements for social justice are causing panic at the imperial center. But it is inexcusable for allegedly alternative media to blindly, and often willingly, follow the party line that portrays foreign leaders critical of the West as despots, and movements deriving power from real majorities as criminal for not serving their entitled minorities, which are socialized to be satisfied on demand without concern for any material reality but their own.

When such thought pollution flows though channels of information supposedly presenting critical points of view, only the internet offers any relief from total mind management. And it is threatened with corporate marketing control, as well as the old GIGO problem: garbage in garbage out. Viewpoints are not diverse simply for being expressed in familiar language or with acceptable accents. All who wish for a free flow of information and opinions as a means of achieving democracy need to not only support alternative sources, but see to it that they truly present viewpoints critical of the established order, and that they work to transform that order into one that serves the majority, rather than reinforces minority control. We saw an almost complete failure to do that among many of our supposed alternatives, and that must change if we are too have a future offering real hope for humanity.

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