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WTF? Michael Jackson STILL Top Story on Corporate News

This isn't news, really, just a rant.
Does anyone need any more evidence that the major media does not have our best interests in mind when selecting which stories to cover and highlight? Bush is facing (or, rather, trying to avoid) heavy public protest in London, people are protesting the FTAA in Miami, and terrorists have struck again in Istanbul, killing at least 27. And yet what is the top story on the websites for ABC, MSNBC, CBS, FOX News, and CNN? Answer: Michael Jackson. In my opinion, I hope that Mr. Jackson is given a fair trial, and I hope that if found innocent he is left alone, and if found guilty he is punished appropriately. But any more than that and I really do not care about his story. There are people arrested for child molestation all the time. That's unfortunate, but I don't think every case deserves to become front-page news. Nor do I think that this particular case deserves the attention it is getting. Michael Jackson is a freak, no doubt; I suppose it is human nature to wonder about him. But his alleged crime is all too common, and if not for Jackson's fame I doubt there would be much interest in his case. So it seems that the process used by all the major news outlets to select the top story is not one based on a rational regard for what is most important and most in need of attention, but rather is based AT BEST on a base human tendency to curiosity in the face of the strange. In other words, the gossip pages have moved up front.

Of course, there could be something much more sinister at work here than base human nature. Media consolidation has brought with it a disturbing homogeneity in the media landscape. The fact that ALL the major news outlets in this country have made the decision to highlight Jackson over the several other current stories that I believe are far more important shows at best a horribly unsettling conformity of thought among the people in the media. But it seems unlikely that this one segment of the population should just happen to be so very like-minded. Instead, I believe that it is the hierarchial structure and profit motive of corporate news that is the problem. Important stories can be blocked from being reported by editors with an agenda, and I think that most of the time, that agenda is not so much political as it is based on maximizing profit. Michael Jackson is chosen as the top story because he appeals to the lowest common denominator and what is most basic in all of us; thus his story sells. But making a profit cannot be the prime motivator for the media in a democratic society, because a democratic society requires open debate, and open debate can only exist where even unpopular ideas and facts are given their proper airing.

I completely believe that American media has let down America and, by extention, the world, by not covering the stories that are most important at this moment. On the other hand, Indymedia is a model of how the media could work to the benefit of democracy. Even a state-run news outlet can be better that the corporate-dominated model we have now. Just look at the BBC. Not perfect, but a hell of a lot better than what we have in this country.

Best Interest? 20.Nov.2003 16:14


Um... they just want to sell papers and ads. This story sells. Everybody knows that. Where've you been?

Its Called Bread and Circuses 20.Nov.2003 16:34


What the American Propaganda Machine is doing is not accidental nor it is driven only by profit concerns. The focus on these sensationalized "Trials of the Century" are essentially a modern day form of "Bread and Circuses." This is a propaganda technique
first pioneered by the Roman Empire and now actively embraced by the American Empire

The real reason... 20.Nov.2003 16:58


is because its so serdom a millionare goes to jail, it HAS to be news...

also 20.Nov.2003 18:09


It's supposed to be "proof" to the Amerikan people that the "justice" system actually works. You know "even rich people aren't above the law", "justice is blind", blah blah. They should put a disclaimer at the bottom of the story that says something like "results are not typical", like you see on those weight loss product testimonials.

George W. Bush Loves Michael Jackson 20.Nov.2003 18:53

William Rivers Pitt william.pitt@mail.truthout.org

George W. Bush Loves Michael Jackson

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Friday 21 November 2003

A number of explosions tore through the British consulate in Turkey today, killing scores of people. George W. Bush is in England, surrounded on all sides by enraged British citizens whose massive protests have required nearly every police officer in London to be put on the line of defense.

This is happening in a nation that has been, both in government and among the populace, one of the strongest allies America has ever known. There are a couple of wars happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, neither of which are going very well. A great many soldiers and civilians have died in the last year. Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, and after nearly 750 days, the American people have still been given no explanation for why September 11 happened.

It is 3:16 p.m. on Thursday afternoon as I write this. CNN has been covering, with total exclusivity, a parking lot outside a police station for the last hour. They covered an airplane landing. They covered the same airplane sitting still on the tarmac. They covered the airplane slowly moving into a hangar. All the while, talking head after talking head explored every conceivable facet of the parking lot, the plane, the tarmac, and the hangar, as well as a variety of parallel issues. No stone of data was left unturned.

Why? Michael Jackson is about to surrender to police.

In the last two years, CNN has not devoted this much energy and coverage to any story in the manner that is unfolding right now. Enron, the stock market, the reasons for September 11, the nomination of Henry Kissinger to chair the investigation into that event, the disinformation that was pushed by the Bush administration before the attack on Iraq, the civilian casualties during the attack on Iraq, the American troop casualties during and after the attack on Iraq, the missing weapons of mass destruction, the missing Osama bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan that is far from over, the outing of a CIA agent by the Bush administration in an act of political revenge, and about two hundred other explosive stories did not get the attention that Michael Jackson is getting now.

One talking head just said, "I'm waiting for a white Bronco to pull up."

The other talking heads laughed and kept on going. A detailed discussion progressed about the tail numbers on Michael Jackson's plane, along with questions about how all this will affect Jackson's fans. We're approaching the two-hour mark in the coverage.

For a while we had the Petersons to obsess the mainstream television media. Then we had Kobe Bryant, and for a bit both stories ran concurrently with 'Breaking News' announcements throughout daily coverage. Neither managed to seize national attention, and so periodically CNN and the other networks were forced to mention that the fighting in Iraq is getting a lot of Americans killed, the promised weapons of mass destruction have not been found, and no one but Dick Cheney can say that Iraq was involved in September 11 without looking like a total blithering idiot.

And then, like a surgically enhanced cavalry charge, Michael Jackson blasts to the forefront to rescue the mainstream media from perhaps being required to cover matters of substance. The ability for these talking heads to natter on for weeks and weeks about Jackson, previous charges against him, his musical history, his personal oddities, his baby-dangling antics, and "Oh my goodness, what do we tell the children?" is pretty much bottomless, but we will spend the next several weeks, again, racing to that bottom as quickly as television signals can travel through a coaxial cable.

A black Bronco just left the airplane hangar, and is driving slowly, slowly to the police station. CNN is on it. CNN is all over it.

One of the shots on my television an hour ago showed a gaggle of reporters and cameras gathered outside the police station, waiting for Jackson to arrive. The talking head working the microphone at that moment mistakenly called those people "journalists." This is not journalism, and those people are not journalists. This is entertainment television passed off as news of import. This is more poison poured into our national discussion. This is the grand bull moose gold medal winning distraction of all time.

George W. Bush should send Michael Jackson flowers and a thank-you note, and send more flowers to CNN. The Republican Party effected an historic takeover of Congress in 1994, during a time when the only television coverage one could find focused on OJ Simpson. The timing was exquisite.
We're right back, today, to that marvelous chapter in American journalism history.

TV news viewers who think they are getting the hard truth from the mainstream media just forgot Bush exists, forgot the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have dogged his state visit to Britain, forgot the attacks in Iraq, forgot the dead soldiers, forgot September 11, forgot everything except a mutant in a Bronco who lives in a place called Neverland.

They just showed Jackson in handcuffs. The talking heads almost fainted. God bless America.


William Rivers Pitt is the Managing Editor of truthout.org. He is a New York Times and international best-selling author of three books - "War On Iraq," available from Context Books, "The Greatest Sedition is Silence," available from Pluto Press, and "Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism," available in August from Context Books.

Actually... 20.Nov.2003 19:36


The NBC website had the explosions in Istanbul as their lead story late last night, but now it's been buried.

Smoke and mirrors! 20.Nov.2003 19:39


It's the age old trick of deception by drawing attention from what they don't want us to see.
Then they can go merrily about their business of world domination.
Don't mind the blood and guts.
Only watch it when we script it for our benifit, say the CEO's

Then when they get caught in a lie, opps we were misinformed!

Here is some good information on media control.

 link to www.sfgate.com

U.S. gets Mideast views via satellite
WorldLink newscast compiles Arab news, but it's not on cable

Jamal Dajani says the average television viewer in Egypt can watch news broadcasts originating from scores of Middle Eastern countries, several European stations and even CNN.

In the United States, most viewers must choose among stations headquartered within the country's border.

"All you have to do is go to a rooftop at a high building in Cairo and look at the thousands and thousands of satellite dishes, from high-rises to shacks, " said Dajani, who produces a news show for WorldLink TV, a satellite channel in San Francisco that shows foreign newscasts, documentaries, feature films and world music. "What we're missing is, these people in the Middle East actually have more access than we have."

There are few foreign-language news programs on U.S. television.

WorldLink TV, which is available nationally, is an exception. Its "Mosaic" program, a compilation of Arab newscasts with English voice-overs, is shown daily. Since the war in Iraq started, it has expanded from one half-hour block to several programs of varying lengths that are updated throughout the day.

But "Mosaic" can't be seen by most Bay Area television viewers because the majority subscribe to cable. In the United States, less than 20 percent of TV households receive satellite broadcasts.

Dajani constantly watches both U.S. and Arab newscasts, compiling "Mosaic" from news reports of more than a dozen stations, including broadcasts from the United States, Iraq, Israel, Yemen and Abu Dabhi. Even a quick look at a "Mosaic" broadcast shows that the Arab stations are more graphic, and the foreign journalists get much more access to Iraqi military and civilians.

Dajani said the result is a much fuller picture of the war in Iraq.

He cited one recent broadcast on CNN, which showed Iraqi civilians happily greeting U.S. troops and accepting their gifts of military rations. While the CNN footage ended there, Dajani said several Arab stations showed what happened next.

"Afterward, the residents holding the MRE's were chanting 'Long live Iraq' and 'Down with the U.S.A,' " Dajani said. "They took the gift, they were happy,

but then they started attacking the United States."

WorldLink TV isn't the only outlet available in the United States showing these images, but it may be the most accessible.

Satellite provider Dish Network offers an international package that includes several Arab stations, including Qatar's Al-Jazeera, but the broadcasts are not translated into English.

On Monday, Al-Jazeera debuted a Web site with English translations, but it was quickly attacked by hackers and remained down three days later. At the Web site sf.indymedia.org, frustrated anti-war activists filled message boards with e-mails decrying the loss. "So much for freedom of the press," lamented an e-mail from someone identified as Oneworld.

Protesters demonstrated Thursday at San Francisco's Fox News Channel bureau demanding that the cable channel "dedicate air time to showing the reality of war," according to the organizing group.

The paucity of Arab views of the war on the airwaves may be a matter of simple economics. While WorldLink TV President Kim Spencer said it only took $3 million to get the station on satellite in 1999, a new cable station can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to get started.

One alternative is local cable television, whether on public access or for- profit stations such as Bay Area-based KTSF (Channel 26), which already runs programs in Cantonese and Greek, as well as English.

Arab American Community Television, a South Bay group, has been developing a weekly English-language program focused on Arab issues that they hope to launch on a small local station in a couple of months.

"We've been struggling with it for a while," said Umaima Baqer, program director of AACTV.

Baqer said everyone she talks to shows interest in the program, and she has a roster of 30 volunteers, but the cost of airtime is keeping the show from its debut.

Getting the programs on the air is only half the battle.

WorldLink TV, which has received grants from 15 foundations, doesn't have the money for a big marketing campaign. In many cases, viewers discover the programs by accident.

San Francisco resident Kay Pachtner's family subscribed to satellite television more than a year ago to get Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers baseball games. She was flipping around when she saw a program on WorldLink.

After watching "Mosaic" for most of this year, she's convinced Americans' view of the war would be altered if they saw it with Mideast eyes.

"People in the United States are good and decent people, by and large," Pachtner said. "If they had access to the differing cultural views of what is going on in the world, there's no way they would support this war. They would be in the streets even more than they are today."

Maurine Bunce of El Sobrante has been glued to WorldLink's programs since she discovered the channel months ago.

"It's such a shame that it's limited to satellite people," she said.

Back at WorldLink, Dajani has worked 20 straight days on "Mosaic," a program that most of his neighbors can't see.

Dajani had positive things to say about CNN's reporters, but he said the Middle East stations add color to the black and white version of news that most Americans receive.

"With such an important story, I cannot look only at what the embedded journalists are giving me," he said. "There's an air raid, and then five minutes later I can tune into Abu Dhabi television, and they have a reporter sticking a microphone in the face of an Iraqi lying in the rubble or in the hospital. That's the full picture."

WorldLink's Spencer said the station is expanding "Mosaic" as fast as it can, with streaming video from Middle East newscasts now available at www.worldlinktv.org.

E-mail Peter Hartlaub at  phartlaub@sfchronicle.com.

2003 San Francisco Chronicle | Feedback

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Preachin' the word 20.Nov.2003 22:07


I agree, there is serious deception play right NOW! Big Time!

The encouraging thing is that people are beginning to get it. As time goes by, they are beginning to see the light. I continue my endless rant, pointing out everything, sending e-mails with links to news and websites, encouraging open discussion with others whenever possible. I have observed a marked change in attitude in many regarding the war. Now that the SSS is quietly gearing up for the draft, many are really starting to pay attention. We can post on these forums and preach to the choir all night long to no avail. Get the word out to those who are in the FOX, CNN, MSNBC, Michael Jackson stupor. The spell has been cast upon these poor souls and it must be broken.

The administration has given us the ammo to break the spell so. In my opinion, the DRAFT is the biggest single piece of information that will get people to the polls next November.

DO NOT STOP the sharing of this information. Get the word out. Anyone you know who has children over 15 must be made aware of the potential Draft in 2005.

Leave copies of articles in the break room at your workplace. I recently printed this in huge font "Bush in '04 = Military Draft in '05". I left a few copies around the office, the copy room, lunch room, and so on. A few days later I noticed a co-worker had pinned up a copy in her cubicle. A few people were asking her about it and she was a preachin' the gospel my friends. Apparently she lost a brother in Vietnam and now has two high school boys of her own. You would have never picked her out as an activist, but she has come out now in a big way!


Pop star... 21.Nov.2003 14:13


While I appreciate the comments made regarding the use of the Michael Jackson case to ignore FTAA protests, etc, I think the issue here is that so many Americans are so dumb that the news stations have to play to the lowest common denominator-- namely, Michael Jackson. I'm not going to warrant a guess on what percentage of Americans have no idea what the FTAA is, or that Bush was in London, but I'll bet it's pretty high. Clearly the media could take the high road and educate us about what's really going on, but instead they are responding to and encouraging ignorance, a desire to see things in black and white (ie, guilty or not guilty), and a tendency in the American public to utterly ignore anything that isn't entertaining-- apparently news folks thought that repeatedly showing Michael Jackson in handcuffs was entertaining. I think that regardless of other international events going on, the corporate media is going the way of the tabloid press because that's what makes the typical American watch the news, buy the paper, etc, etc. This is not a phenomenon unique to the US, but I think we feel it much more because none of the news we see is even respectable, as the BBC, Spain's El Pais, etc are. Not that they are free of any corporate interests but, although they are widespread and frequently read/watched, like Fox News, they at least are informative and intellectual in their orientation.

anti-gay (transgender?) paranoia 23.Nov.2003 01:52

Der 00's Meister

I liked the content and anlysis of most of the comments on this web page, and I do believe that the Michael affair is largely a diversion from more important news items. However, did anyone notice that, on Faux News on November 18th, Michael's story was presented side-by-side with the talking heads trashing gay marriage? It's kind of like binary nerve gas --- both elements are innocuous, but, when combined, the product is extremely lethal.

I really don't think that it was coincidental that FN did this. I know that, in Wisconsin, where I live, there's a huge push by the legislature to outlaw gay marriage by statute before the judiciary declares it a constitutional right for gays. Also, the "ideological cop" where I work, who may well be a military intelligence-trained disinfo op, had iron-fisted control of the TV on our evening break and was always trying to steer discussion towards his bashing of Michael Jackson in particular and "homosexuals" in general (he refuses to use the word "gay", claiming that "they need to be called what they are"). Hopefully people realize that, when the media bashes gay people and wants to inflame anti-gay prejudice, the more visible or unusual transgendered people (e.g., Michael Jackson) are always prominently featured in the news.

I recall years ago when Oprah interviewed Michael for a one-hour news special. She and the program wouldn't touch the transgender issue. When I lamented this at one of my bar hangouts, a patron who used to work in the media told me that, for the media, it's a taboo subject (as is the fact, I would bet, that, in recorded statistical history, over three-quarters of all the murders of transgendered people on this planet have ocurred in the US).

So, we should all focus on more important news items and issues. But please don't forget the significance of this bizarre "coincidence".