Mainstream media – watchdog or lap dancer?

Mainstream media coverage of the release of the American hikers from Iran has highlighted the decreasing role of the media as a watchdog.

­Add the coverage of the Occupy Wall Street protests, and anti-war protests – is the media doing the Government’s bidding?

The mainstream media – watchdog days are over, and slave to power days are here. U.S.-centric stories and stories presenting government-touted evil take over America’s TV screens, while the country’s own skeletons are shoved deeper into the closet.

“We’ve seen a financial crisis that the media missed. We’ve seen a deep economic distress in this country that no one predicted. We’ve seen two wars go on despite suggestions that they were about to be ended. And we see a basic characteristic that I call AAU – all about us”, said media critic Danny Schechter.

Take the American hikers that were held in an Iranian prison – mainstream headlines dramatizing and mulling over every detail, while largely ignoring America’s own ongoing detention abuses – like those at Guantanamo Bay.

“Every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay, and CIA prisons in other parts of the world”, said the men at a press conference upon their return home, but this was left out of mainstream media coverage.

“All that was mentioned was Americans were given a hard time in this prison. Well, duh!” said Danny Schechter.

“The history of Iran began when the CIA helped overthrow the Shah of Iran in 1953 and put in a regime that was tuned to American interests. That’s what the problem is. Iranians have been angry about it ever since”, said independent journalist Tim Shorrock, who has covered foreign policy for over 30 years.

The positions of outraged Americans at home are largely ignored too. Routinely marginalized, they are presented as fringe groups.

“The mainstream media often likes to ridicule and downplay true American protests. They like to think, this is just a very narrow group of people that, say, were in the streets in the last couple of weeks in the Wall street protests”, said Tim Shorrock.

This, while echoing the official stance of the American Government by applauding the Arab Spring uprising.

“Many reporters, many editors and producers really want nothing more than to have access to Government. They think of government as a source of news. They think press conferences are the place where news is generated”, said editorial columnist and author Ted Rall.

Wanting to keep their jobs, journalists play it safe.

“I couldn’t even begin to count how many times someone has told me – I can’t risk pissing off my source, I don’t want to be cut out, otherwise I won’t be able to work”, said Rall.

Afraid of being blocked from the circle of insiders, the mainstream media has traded integrity for access. This cozy relationship lets politicians play havoc with policies and laws while the media, whether its aware or not, does the government’s bidding.