By MARC MCDONALD
Would you like to know what's happening in American politics and government these days? Then look to the British media.
Once upon a time, we Americans could count on depending on our nation's press to keep us informed about what was happening in our country. But those days are over. In fact, since George W. Bush first took office, if you'd limited yourself to reading the U.S. press, then you would have missed many of the biggest stories of our time.
Take the story of the 2000 presidential election and how it was stolen by the GOP. This major story got virtually zero coverage in the U.S. media. Working in the British media, American journalist Greg Palast did some wonderful, hard-hitting, investigative reporting on the election theft. But there was only one problem.
As Palast pointed out in The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, his 2003 book:
"In the USA, it ran on page zero--the story was simply not covered in American newspapers. The theft of the presidential race in Florida also grabbed big television coverage. But again, it was the wrong continent: on BBC Television, broadcasting from London worldwide---everywhere, that is, but the USA."
In retrospect, it shouldn't really be surprising that the U.S. media has ignored the Downing Street Memo story. Or that we Americans are having to look to the British press (the London Times in this instance) to find out what's going on in our own country.
The fact is, that the U.S. media has snoozed through all the important stories of the Bush administration. If important stories weren't picked up by the bloggers (like the Jeff Gannon bombshell) or the European press, then, they simply have not been covered at all.
And what "news" the U.S. media has reported has in many cases turned out to be flawed, or flat-out wrong. Take the Jessica Lynch fairy tale, for example. The U.S. media swallowed the Pentagon's version of this story whole and it wasn't until the BBC took a look that Americans learned the truth.
Far more seriously, the U.S. media, far from serving in a watchdog role, has actively worked to provide crucial support to the Bush Administration.
Recall how, in the buildup to the Iraqi war, the U.S. media did little more than stand on the sidelines, acting as a cheerleader, instead of investigating Bush's claims about the WMD issue.
On May 26, 2004, in a stunning and unprecedented half-page correction, The New York Times basically admitted that ALL of its pre-war coverage was seriously flawed.
Why is it that we Americans can't be reliably informed by our nation's own media?
Palast himself has an interesting observation to make about this problem. He notes that Britain's Guardian and Observer newspapers are the world's only major newspapers owned by a not-for-profit corporation. He notes:
"If the Rupert Murdochs of the globe are shepherds of the New World Order, they owe their success to breeding a flock of docile sheep---snoozy editors and reporters content to munch on, digest, then reprint a diet of press releases and canned stories provided by government and corporate public-relations operations."