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Cohen writes: "The Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism."

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. (photo: unknown)
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. (photo: unknown)

Snowden and Corporate Media's War on Independent Journalism

By Jeff Cohen, Open Mike Blog

07 July 13


he Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism. Many of the same outlets - especially TV news - that missed the Wall Street meltdown and cheer-led the Iraq invasion have come to resemble state-controlled media outlets in their near-total identification with the government as it pursues the now 30-year-old whistleblower.

While an independent journalism system would be dissecting the impacts of NSA surveillance on privacy rights, and separating fact from fiction, U.S. news networks have obsessed on questions like: How much damage has Snowden caused? How can he be brought to justice?

Unfazed by polls showing that half of the American rabble - I mean, public - believe Snowden did a good thing by leaking documentation of NSA spying, TV news panels have usually excluded anyone who speaks for these millions of Americans. Although TV hosts and most panelists are not government officials, some have a penchant for speaking of the government with the pronoun "We."

After Snowden made it out of Hong Kong to Russia, New York Times journalist and CNBC talking head Andrew Ross Sorkin expressed his frustration: "We've screwed this up, to even let him get to Russia." By "we," he meant the U.S. government.

Last time I checked, Sorkin was working for the Times and CNBC, not the CIA or FBI.

When a huge swath of the country is on the side of the guy-on-the-run and not the government, it's much easier to see that there's nothing "objective" or "neutral" about journalists who so closely identify with the spy agencies or Justice Department or White House.

The standard exclusion of dissenting views - panels often span from hawk ("he's a traitor who needs to be jailed") to dove ("he may have been well-intentioned but he needs to be jailed") - offers yet another reason why young people, more libertarian in their views, have turned away from these outlets. Virtually no one speaks for them. While a TIME poll found 53 percent of respondents saying Snowden did "a good thing," that was the sentiment of 70 percent of those age 18 to 34.

I teach college journalism classes about independent media. New developments like WikiLeaks and independent bloggers like Glenn Greenwald may scare the wits out of establishment media, but they sure don't scare young people or journalism students.

As media employees at elite outlets have grown cozier with their government and corporate sources (Sorkin is famously close with Wall Street CEOs), they exhibit an almost instinctual antipathy toward those adversarial journalists who challenge powerful elites day after day.

Look at the reactions of some top mainstream journalists to Greenwald, who built up a big readership as a solo blogger before moving his blog to Salon and then the Guardian, where he broke the Snowden/NSA stories. I know several journalism professors who view Greenwald as one of the world's best journalists. He's known as accurate, thorough, well-documented and ethical.

It was Sorkin, the New York Times guy, who declared on CNBC that maybe Greenwald should be arrested: "I told you this in the green room - I would arrest him [Snowden] and now I'd almost arrest Glenn Greenwald, who's the journalist who seems to be out there, almost, he wants to help him get to Ecuador."

If it's strange for a journalist to suggest another journalist's arrest, it was almost as strange when Sorkin wrote in a Times column that he went down to check out the Occupy Wall Street encampment "after getting a call from the chief executive of a major bank." Sorkin concluded: "As I wandered around the park, it was clear to me that most bankers probably don't have to worry about being in imminent personal danger. This didn't seem like a brutal group - at least not yet."

Another mainstream media star is NBC's David Gregory (seen literally dancing with White House source Karl Rove in 2007). Since he interviewed Greenwald on Sunday's "Meet the Press," there's been scrutiny of Gregory's factually-misleading question: "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you be charged with a crime?" And of Greenwald's response: "I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies."

But I'm just as bothered by Gregory's retort - "Well, the question of who's a journalist may be up to a debate with regards to what you're doing" - and the ensuing discussion in mainstream outlets questioning Greenwald's bona fides as a journalist.

A Washington Post article ("On NSA disclosures, has Glenn Greenwald become something other than a reporter?") questioned the blogger's credentials as a journalist because he's also an advocate: "Greenwald has appeared frequently on TV to plead Snowden's case as a whistleblower - an advocacy role many mainstream journalists would be uncomfortable with."

The Post article spoke of "the line between journalism - traditionally, the dispassionate reporting of facts - and outright involvement in the news seems blurrier than ever." Libertarian journalist Matt Welch critiqued the article as "historically illiterate."

The truth is that many of the greatest journalists in our country's history - from Ida B. Wells to I.F. Stone - were accurate reporters of fact, but hardly dispassionate. And mainstream outlets have always had hybrid reporter/columnists offering both fact and advocacy; one of the most famous, David Broder, graced the pages of the Washington Post for years, including its front page.

Broder was a reporter, columnist and TV talking head - yet no one questioned whether Broder was a genuine journalist. That's because, unlike Greenwald, the reporting and opinions of a David Broder were militantly pro-establishment, pro-bipartisan consensus.

And Broder's not alone as a hybrid reporter/columnist in the mainstream. Let's not forget the delightful pundit who wanted to "almost arrest" Greenwald. His official Times bio states: "Andrew Ross Sorkin is a columnist, chief mergers and acquisitions reporter, and editor of Dealbook for The New York Times."

The reason Glenn Greenwald's credentials as a journalist are being questioned by some mainstreamers is not that he blurs the line between journalist and advocate. It's because of the anti-establishment content of his journalism and advocacy. your social media marketing partner


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+8 # indian weaver 2013-07-07 09:31
Avoid aggravation and frustration by never watching / listening to any corporate dis-news source, and never listen to / watch Obama or anyone promoting the fascist regime's torture and terrorist agendas and activities. Just know that they are there and act accordingly. It's not going to get any better. It's going to get a lot worse until the country as we once knew it is fried, and I don't mean "over easy".
+10 # Walter J Smith 2013-07-07 10:08
Close, but close only counts in hand grenades and nukes. This is neither: "he Edward Snowden leaks have revealed a U.S. corporate media system at war with independent journalism. Many of the same outlets - especially TV news - that missed the Wall Street meltdown and cheer-led the Iraq invasion have come to resemble state-controlle d media outlets in their near-total identification with the government as it pursues the now 30-year-old whistleblower."

The problem here is that the cart is seen to be rolling along as if it has no horse and Jeff Cohen is carping about how the wheels turn.

The Wall Street Meltdowners control the media as they control the national state.

The state controls less and less as it surrenders power to the Wall Street Meltdowners.

The Wall Street Meltdowners are now melting down the entire natonal integrity.

And Jeff Cohen is whining about how the wheels turn. Is this intentional or inadvertent obfuscation?

That is a war against journalism, no matter how crudely one concieves of journalism.

Because it adamantly refuses to acknowledge the actual center of power and how that power succeeds at destroying the US government, the human & the foodstuff gene pools, the World econonmy and the global ecology.

Hint: Television has nothing to do with news. Madison Avenue Designer Entertainment by design, it distracts the viewer from reality. So stop looking at it as if the show had some integral connection to any reality anywhere.
+7 # JSRaleigh 2013-07-07 15:24
Quoting Walter J Smith:
Hint: Television has nothing to do with news. Madison Avenue Designer Entertainment by design, it distracts the viewer from reality. So stop looking at it as if the show had some integral connection to any reality anywhere.

There was a short time - a couple of years maybe - that TV News was actually driven by journalism.

It all ended when the Military-Indust rial complex saw what happened when the American people were exposed to the raw truth about the Vietnam war.
+5 # AuntieTom 2013-07-07 11:56
All "news" (information reported about recent events) has become suspect. From whatever source. Our grasp of "truth" has been greased by the revolutionary changes in communication technology under control by the wizards of power.

Presently, I can't help but marvel at 1) the attention being paid by all to concerns about Snowden rather than concern about his revelations of government snooping on everyone (most disturbingly on our elected representatives -- who are behaving very quietly, surprise,surpri se!) and 2) the surreal invisibility of Snowden, everywhere reportedly "thought to be" for the past two weeks in some kind of international space in the Moscow airport. How is it possible for the world spotlight to be on him but he is only "believed" to be in this strangely unreal place??? Marvel! Marvel! But no one asks. I ask: what's the use of all those undercover agents and all that spying apparatus if they can't even find him in a public airport??? Zounds!!
+6 # 2013-07-07 12:09
Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Jeff Cohen, you, me ... we're all fish in a barrel, and you might as well sing your anger loud and clear enough to give the NSA eavesdroppers a splitting headache. Here's one you can even dance to, about the crappy set of opportunities available to a young man like Mr. Snowden. I'm sure he sees himself in there somewhere. Maybe you do as well.
+4 # JSRaleigh 2013-07-07 15:20
What makes you think Sorkin is NOT working for the CIA? He wouldn't be the first.

Did you think they quit using journalists just because Mockingbird got outed?
+3 # Johnny 2013-07-07 18:12
Cohen is learning. He may soon figure out that CNBC, Fox, ABC, New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, et al are in fact with the FBI, CIA, NSA, NATO, Executive Branch, Congress, Supreme Court, Mossad, Egyptian Army, Saudi dictatorship, etc. the various branches of a great war machine. It is a world war. The media are merely the propaganda arms of the concerted institutions of plutocracy waging class war against the people of the world.
-7 # nsmorris 2013-07-07 15:47
Snowden has turned the spotlight from the NSA debate on to himself. The applause on these pages drowns out important questions.
What are his real motives? To save the world? Will some revelation return to harm the country one day? Charlie Rose,like many right minded journalists,ask s pertinent questions. We are awash in journalist bashing. "Journalists= government." Such unabashed Rubbish! Who here dares to question this alleged "heroic whistleblower? Oh,those irritating ignorant journalists...S orry, but
our job as journalists is to separate information from gossip, of which there is plenty here, enough to go around the globe several times. Crossing the line from reportage to advocacy is commentary no matter how you all slice it. An inconvenient truth, Mr. Greenwald.
+5 # Johnny 2013-07-07 18:21
Bullshit. Snowden's motives are totally irrelevant. What matters only is the revelation that the idiot masses like nsmorris are kept stupid by a vast apparatus of psychological control, keeping information about his private life handy if ever the government death squads get the idea that he no longer loves his slavery. It seems pretty unlikely, considering his voracious appetite for swallowing fascist propaganda and calling it "information," while labeling "advocacy" any disclosure of reality that may embarrass his plutocratic masters.
+4 # Nominae 2013-07-07 17:08
Incredibly well analyzed, cogent and coherent article with a *howlingly atrocious* headline that does not do the article anything but insult.

Let it here be repeated that article authors, in almost all cases, do NOT write the headlines that accompany their pieces.

Here I would like to demonstrate *WHY* competent use of punctuation *matters* far beyond mere nit picking. It literally changes meanings.

For want of a properly placed comma, dash, or other punctuator, this headline:

"Snowden and Corporate Media's War on Independent Journalism"

flat out *ACCUSES* Snowden of perpetrating "war", along WITH Corporate Media, on Independent Journalism.

Note the difference in meaning with :

"Snowden, and Corporate Media's War ......" or
"Snowden - and Corporate Media's War......"

RSN, buddies, if this is *your* headline, blushing is perfectly proper, along with sparing at least one English major from fund raising to editing.

Whoever wrote it, please clean this stuff up. This author deserves better. Thank you.
+4 # Milarepa 2013-07-08 01:45
Has it come to this? Is one who reveals crimes committed against hundreds of millions of people now a criminal?
+3 # Louistruj 2013-07-08 06:43
The Biggies,Powerfu l and loaded with money and world wide control and affect the rank and file members of our society in almost every aspect of our lives. They derive their profits from the laboring class who are the majority of the consumers and spenders in goods and services which are mainly conrolled by the Powerful Corporstions. The only recource we have to attempt to make changes and reduce the abuses of power is through active grass root organiza-
tions committed to preserving the free-
doms set forth in our constitution.
+4 # pamelawy 2013-07-08 07:24
Remember when "The Fourth Estate" monitored the political process in order to ensure that political players did't abuse the democratic process and called out gummint and corporate miscreants? Ahhh. The good old days.
0 # nsmorris 2013-07-08 07:56
Pontificating "Johnny," what is really relevant is your inability to participate in civil discourse without name-calling and the ability to acknowledge there is more than one side to an argument or discussion.
Much less know who the hell you are talking about. As long as one doesn't agree with your talking points s/he is stupid. What you do reveal about yourself is your obvious proclivity for
extremism and hysteria. When is the last time you faced a government death squad
and the prospect of slavery? Step aside and move to the back of the class!
+3 # Milarepa 2013-07-08 09:59
skin of privacy

So weak
has our world become
that one man
one consciousness
one conscience
acting decisively alone
can shake us
like a terrier might shake a rat
and bigger rats than I by far

Shaking Kerry, Biden, ‘bama
not breaking their necks outright
a long slit in the skin
their skin and ours
the world’s private skin
in which we were so comfortable
so dry and warm and well
but now there’s blood
on all of us

Media fingers grab hold
tear open the wound
pull up and down
over our heads and feet
we stand here doubly exposed
bloody and cold
cringing in the winds of fate
as if we couldn’t have known
skinless could be the new normal.
0 # nsmorris 2013-07-08 21:02
Thank you, Milton
0 # nsmorris 2013-07-09 09:04
Coleen Rowley's OP-Ed column in today's
NYTimes (Jul 9)supports your concerns and view, suggesting appropriate questions the nominee for FBI director should answer.

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