Like many of us I find it impossible to look away from what is going on South of our border. Every day it seems we are greeted with another insult to reality. Another blow to our sciences and our humanity. Kill the EPA. Defund NASA. Can ‘Meal on Wheels’ to seniors. More tax cuts for the few and less healthcare for the many.
You’d think such a long list of very real threats to the health and safety of the American people would be enough to engage and enrage the major media. You’d be wrong. Instead the talking heads across the electronic spectrum are consumed by ‘Russiagate’. Maddow and Olbermann nightly vie to see which they can render more purple: their face or their prose. Meantime Fox and Friends have returned to the Republican fold and kissed and made up with the President. So they are only too happy to play ping to MSNBC’s pong thereby distracting attention from the real scandals playing out in real time in the House and Senate.
So where is one to go for real news about the issues affecting real people? Well just today I ran in to an answer to that question. ‘On Contact’ with Chris Hedges is that rarest of rarities. I.e. An evidenced based electronic news program.
To compare his show with Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, et al, is like comparing the climate change reports of NASA’s Space Goddard Institute to the climate change opinions of Trump and the Republican House and Senate.
On Contact airs via the internet on RT. I.e. Russia Today. In these McCarthy 2.0 times this fact will no doubt greatly limit the reach of the show. A great pity. Would he rather be doing the very same show on a major American media outlet? No doubt. The odds of that however are about as remote as Exxon getting out of the oil business.
To give a sense of how embedded with power the major media is and has always been. Though plainly things are getting worse not better. When Hedges worked for that great ‘liberal’ newspaper the New York Times he was forced to choose between his job and speaking out against the Iraq war. To his eternal credit he quit and continued to speak out. To our credit he began his prolific book writing career, and now we have On Contact. Nowhere in the electronic news world will you find a sharper and better informed critique of the wrecking ball that Trump and the Republicans are taking to America. What Hedges rightly calls “Our annus horribilis’.
The added benefit of seeing him and his guests on TV as opposed to print is twofold. They condense a lot of information in a short period of time, and they have a chance to let their personalities shine. Turns out it ain’t only Stewart and Colbert who can bring the funny to this ongoing nightmare.
The two episodes I watched featured the superb journalists David Cay Johnston and Matt Taibbi. Johnston like Hedges worked at the New York Times before turning his hand to writing books. His most recent is a brilliant book on the life and crimes of Donald J Trump. ‘The Making of Donald Trump’.
Taibbi is a journalist for ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine and covered the Trump campaign for President which forms the basis of his latest book, ‘The Insane Clown President’. From the interview with Taibbi It sounds very much like the kind of gonzo journalism that we’ve been sorely lacking since Hunter S. Thompson covered Nixon. When asked about the title he credited ‘The Donald’ with teaching him that in our media saturated times nothing is too outrageous if you want to get attention.
Given the tenor of these ‘alternative fact’ days Hedges wonders aloud if RT, Telesur and Democracy Now are on borrowed time. They are after all the last three major outlets for evidenced based electronic news in the U.S. The last of the media outlets that we can count on to cry ‘bullshit’ in the run up to war. The last ‘TV’ news organizations willing to concentrate their resources on investigating the Banksters that have taken control of the economy and both political parties. E.g. After excoriating Hillary for her Goldman Sachs connection Trump hired four Goldman Sachs execs for his cabinet.
Trump and the Republicans in the House and Senate are in the process of destroying the ability of the EPA and NASA to collect facts on environmental poisons and climate change. The reason? Same reason Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada went after Statistic Canada and muzzled the government’s scientists. I.e. The facts argue against the outcomes their bosses in the business world desire so they have set out to destroy the fact finding organizations.
The health and welfare costs to the population of environmental and infrastructure degradation. The human and social costs of U.S. war spending. The dizzying decline of the U.S. political economy into kleptocracy. All will massively erode the U.S.’s already severely degraded social cohesion. Already the bottom third of the country live in conditions resembling the third world with health outcomes reflecting this disastrous reality. As Hedges puts it, “People in Camden no longer have to wonder what the end of the world will look like.”
It is no wonder that many more people didn’t vote than voted for either candidate. It is no wonder that people turned away from the status quo choice represented by Hillary Clinton. It is no wonder that ‘None of the above’ was once again the landslide winner of the election.
Those at the top benefiting from the policy choices that are generating these outcomes cannot abide a well informed electorate. It is why Fox news was created. Why the EPA and NASA’s climate change research are being defunded. It is essential for their continued success that policy be based upon lobbying not facts. N.B. “The financial sector has five lobbyists for every Congressman. ” – David Cay Johnson.
Every one of America’s major media outlets supported the Korean war, Vietnam war and Iraq war. Every major American media outlet supported or were mum about the overthrow of the democratically elected leaders of Iran, Chile, Indonesia. Yes, eventually, they recanted. If calling such massive crimes against humanity “Well-intentioned mistakes” counts as recanting. But this gives us scant hope they can be counted on to inform us in the run-up to the next war. Syria? Yemen? Iran? North Korea? Russia? China? The list of enemies seems to get longer every day. The addition of $54 billion to the already grotesquely bloated Pentagon budget requires a whole lot of justification it would seem.
Given this ‘perpetual war for perpetual peace’ that funds so much of America’s hi-tech corporate sector, and what happens to dissenting voices in a time of war. Given the war on reality that climate change denial requires. Will RT, Telesur and Democracy Now be allowed to continue? It is an open question. For now at least they are up and running. So if evidence based news is your cup of tea this is where you should be.
On Contact: https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/
Democracy Now: https://www.democracynow.org/
Final thoughts. When I was at university the USSR was still intact. Pravda was as much of a joke to its citizens as it was to us. The New York Times was the journal of record for, well, pretty much everybody. How the worm has turned.
Today the U.S. major media is so widely reviled and distrusted that its attacks on Trump only served to make him more popular. We also know in the aftermath of the Iraq war and thanks to all of the work by Chomsky and others that the New York Times differs from Pravda mostly by being very much better at the very same game. Most astonishing of all today you will find no better evidenced based analysis about the U.S.A coming from a news outfit funded by the Russian government! Colour me gobsmacked.
As surprising as you or I find these events imagine Chris Hedges. Fired by the New York Times for his conscience over a war they propagandized, now working for Russia Today. If there is a better nutshell description of what has happened during my lifetime I’ve yet to find it.
Jeff Berg is a founding member of Post Carbon Toronto. His writing focuses on Energy & Emissions and their micro and macro implications ecologically, economically and socially.