Given that the media, in many countries, are owned by the wealthy, it’s not at all surprising that those media tend to reflect the interests of the wealthy and powerful in its reporting.
In the U.S., the media’s role in foreign policy is particularly important given that most people are not well informed about it and can thus be easily swayed. If people are told often enough there’s a threat to their existence, it’s not hard to build opposition against that threat.
After World War II, President Truman charted a very different path than that President Roosevelt had been pursuing. Instead of attempting to work collaboratively with the Soviet Union as Roosevelt had done, Truman viewed the Soviets as an enemy. The possibility of a conflict with the communists (Soviets and then Chinese) provided a plausible rationale for the existence of a permanent military-industrial complex and huge military budgets.
In 1957, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, a leading U.S. military figure during the 20th century and hardly a peacenik, explained the support for increasing military budgets.
“Our swollen budgets constantly have been misrepresented to the public. Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear … with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant funds demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real.”
Reinforcing MacArthur’s point was a trenchant joke comparing the media situation in the Soviet Union with that in the U.S. during the first Cold War. The joke was that the difference between Pravda and the New York Times was the Pravda readers knew they were being lied to. Times readers may not have gotten the joke, but all they have to do is to consider recent history.
Did the Times consistently remind its readers about how President Eisenhower prevented a nationwide election in Vietnam because he knew Hồ Chí Minh would have overwhelmingly won a fair election? No. Making matters worse, the U.S. media instead hyped the government’s claim about the non-event in the Gulf of Tonkin. The U.S. government and complicit media lied about and opposed democracy and independence in Vietnam as well as earlier in Korea.
More recently, readers of the Times were lied to about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In addition, despite U.S. National Intelligence estimates stating that Iran does not have an active nuclear weapons program, reporters consistently raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
U.S. media constantly refers to Russian aggression. Think about that claim. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the U.S. promised that NATO would not expand one inch to the east if the Soviet Union would allow the reunification of Germany. The Soviet Union greatly feared an aggressive and hostile military alliance on its borders, especially after 26 million of its people were killed during World War II. The following three U.S. presidents, Clinton, Bush and Obama all broke that pledge and the Obama Administration also supported the violent 2014 coup on Russia’s border in Ukraine. Who is the aggressor?
These are just a few of many examples where the U.S. media has failed its responsibility to the public and instead chose to help the government create enemies. We desperately need a better media if the world is to avoid a nuclear conflict.