We Americans got a graphic illustration of the demise of any independent American corporate news media these past few days as the coverage on TV and in print was saturated with reports about John Edwards' infidelity and, equally important, Russia's invasion of Georgia.
In the first case, we had the completely pointless if prurient airing of Edwards' sordid extra-marital affair. Pointless because Edwards at this time is a has-been politician. If there were any point to the coverage it should have been, as Alex Cockburn pointed out in his journal Counterpunch, the abject failure of those same reporters and "news" organizations to cover the story back last fall, when it might have mattered. Back then, when the only paper covering the story was the National Enquirer, Edwards was still a viable candidate for the presidency, or a possible contender for vice president again. It's not that his personal sex-life has any news value in and of itself. The point is that had he won the nomination, or been picked as a vice presidential running mate, its inevitable exposure later during the general election would have destroyed any Democratic presidential chances. And the corporate media knew back then all about this story. They just weren't pursuing it (and the current blitz of stories proves that they weren't holding back out of principle!).
Then there's the Georgia war. I was stunned by the graphic depictions of Russian brutality in Gori and other cities that were massively bombed and shelled, with apartment buildings collapsed into rubble, children killed, and civilians targeted. The New York Times, in particular, had photographic images of dead Georgian soldiers, of charred bodies, of hysterical mothers. On NBC News, Russian planes were shown dropping their loads of bombs on apartments.
We read that President Bush condemned the Russian invasion of another nation and called for an immediate ceasefire. Yet there was not one word of astonishment or challenge from reporters or commentators or editorial writers at this stunningly cynical statement coming from a leader who himself is responsible for the blatantly illegal and much more destructive invasion of another nation. And remember, while Georgia is on Russia's border, and was at least possibly guilty of oppressing and attacking and perhaps even killing members of the Russian minority in two of its provinces (Georgia bombed the biggest town in the secessionist province of Ossetia, killing perhaps 1000 civilians, before Russia invaded), Iraq is half a world away from America and was minding its own business, not threatening Americans in any way. Russia, thus far, has at most killed a few thousand Georgians. America has, by most accounts killed hundreds of thousands and perhaps as many as 1.2 million Iraqis, very few of them combatants.
We watch and read voluminous reports on this relatively small Russian war against its neighbor and former domestic province (Georgia was one of the SSRs in the old USSR), and meanwhile there is almost nothing being reported about the continuing five-year-old war launched by Bush and Cheney against Iraq. And certainly, over the course of five years we have gotten no visual depiction of that war even approaching the scenes that were on display from the front in Georgia.
Apparently, in the view of our corporate news editors and managers, it is important for Americans to fully witness the bloody horrors of war when that war is being fought by Russia, but we are to be carefully protected from seeing such things when they are being perpetrated by our own centurions. We aren't even allowed to see the grievous injuries and death being suffered by our own troops.
And, of course, don't feel to good about the quality of the coverage of the Russian/Georgia conflict either. This too is biased. Indeed one reason we are shown all the carnage is that the US government has been backing Georgia, and there is evidence that the US even encouraged the Georgian attacks on ethnic Russians which provoked the invasion. The US also has obligingly airlifted Georgian troops back from Iraq to Georgia.
This is not news. This is propaganda, pure and simple.
American corporate news media broadcasts and articles should include a disclaimer: "This report was approved by the media managers of the Bush/Cheney administration."
Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is "The Case for Impeachment" (St. Martin's Press, 2006 and now available in paperback edition). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net.