A recent article I have written for Telepolis takes up the issue of the false reality the U.S. press presents to the public with regard to Iran’s nuclear program. The article is titled, “Injecting a Synthetic Reality? Framing the narrative on Iran’s Use of nuclear energy”. The url is
The false framing of reality by the neoconservatives in the U.S. is a significant tactic they use to accomplish their political objectives. Unless there is a press to adequately challenge their activities, the public is left under the cloud of deception. A press that presents an accurate presentation of reality is critical for the public. This is why it is so important that there be a ‘New News’ to counter to false narratives presented as the news by those with hidden agendas. The public will have a more effective means to oppose these hidden agendas if they are understood. See for example, Robert Parry’s article “Why We Write”, at Consortium News, The url is:
A forum on “The Changing Media Landscape”* was held at the Columbia Journalism School (CJS) recently exploring the new media. Such a program presents an opportunity to look at the changing media landscape and particularly at what the state of journalism is and what the new means of expression made possible by the Internet and netizens can contribute to journalism. Instead of this being the focus of the evening’s events, however, it was an issue introduced into their presentations by the few speakers who had a concern with these issues.This meant that the state of journalism and how it is developing was peripheral to the evening’s events rather than at the heart. However, since challenging the false presentation of reality in the press is a critical issue, it was good to see that it was even peripherally explored. My brief review of the Columbia Journalism Program will focus on the ways the panel treated this issue so crucial to the crux of journalism, so necessary for a journalism which can challenge the powerful and play a watchdog role over our political systems. The presentation and later the responses to questions offered by Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan, an Iranian-born blogger, and journalist now living in Great Britain, provided an important example of what the importance of challenging false notions of reality and what this means with regard to journalism. Hossein, who spread blogging in Iran, has suffered from being censored in various ways for his posts. Despite this, he has been taken on to challenge the attack in the mainstream English language press against Iran, defining this attack as a form of censorship. In a response to one of the questions about censorship, he explained how the Western press has heaped hostility on Iran. He gave the example of how a prominent U.S. newspaper attacked the nationalization of Iranian oil in the 1950s calling the prime minister of Iran at the time, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq, a ‘dictator’ and threatening that Iran’s desire to nationalize its oil was playing with fire. Hossein explained how some U.S. newspapers were publishing similar articles 50 years later, focusing on Iran’s nuclear “ambitions”. Hossein pointed to the political use of the term “ambitions” to frame the Iran nuclear issue, rather than the media offering an accurate depiction of Iran’s nuclear activity. “Since when has ‘ambition’ entered politics,” he asked. He noted that with India, and other countries which already have nuclear weapons, the term “ambition” is not used with regard to them. There is no evidence that Iran is producing nuclear weapons, and none is provided. Instead the issue is framed as one of “ambition”. In defining censorship, Hossein explained that for him censorship has to do with the distortion of reality. On his web site he writes that to “censor is controlling the reality by constructing various versions of it.” The url is:
Hossein referred to corporate censorship as a serious problem. The issue of press censorship should not be restricted to the consideration of government censorship, he explained. A related presentation at the forum was that by Andrew Lih. He is currently in China and has been working on a book about Wikipedia. One of the problems he raised is how journalism is funded. A nonprofit model like Wikipedia is a model to help those who are concerned about the strings that are attached to a journalistic effort. Andrew also pointed out, however, that Wikinews hasn’t succeeded even though it is functioning on a nonprofit model.During the question section of the forum, Josh Cohen of Google News was asked about Google News removing publications from being included in the publications it indexes. Josh said this was not his area of knowledge but gave some general criteria, none of which applied to the publication the question was raised about. Another panel member mentioned that Google News does not make public its criteria for including or removing sites from its News and that it would be helpful if it did.
As part of his concluding comments, Hossein referred to the stated purpose of journalism as helping people hold the powerful accountable.
While the forum helped to raise some important issues, it would have been more helpful if it had found a way to put the focus on these issues. Much of the other discussion was related to issues like using video for websites. These may be considered aspects of new media. More significant, however, are the difficulties of journalists and journalism that are encountered when one attempts to challenge practices like the media dissemination of the false notion of Iraq’s “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (WMD). The false narrative of WMD provided the pretext for the U.S. invasion and then occupation of Iraq. It is important that a focus of good journalism be on challenging such misrepresentations in the press, especially when the the media is fomenting hostility toward Iran in the name of questioning Iran’s “ambitions”. Hossein is to be commended for proposing that these misrepresentations in the press are actually a form of censorship.
*The Program at CJS was: “The Changing Media Landscape, 2007”
COLUMBIA JOURNALISM DIALOGUES
Tuesday, Nov. 13 / Columbia Journalism School / 6:30-9 pm
SPEAKERS at the program included:
Josh Cohen, business product manager, Google News
Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan, an Iranian-born blogger, journalist, and Internet activist
Jonathan Dube, director of digital programming, CBC
Andrew Lih, author of a new book on Wikipedia and expert on Chinese media Mindy McAdams, new media education pioneer and professor at University of Florida Michael Rogers, resident futurist of The New York Times MODERATOR: Prof. Sree Sreenivasan, dean of students, Columbia Journalism School
& WNBC-TV tech reporter
The event has been archived at:
LIVE & ARCHIVED WEBCAST OF THE EVENT:
Producer: Citizen journalism platform GroundReport.com
Time: 7 pm-9 pm