We rely on the media to keep us informed so that we can competently participate in political endeavors. But the quality of information depends on the integrity of whichever media we turn to for answers.
After researching political issues via mainstream and non-mainstream medias, I noticed a slight difference in the quality between the two types of media coverage concerning the Blackwater incident. CNN’s summary of the issue is as follows: Blackwater is an independent security firm that was hired to protect the American embassy in Iraq. On September 16 2007, in Nisour square, people from Blackwater opened fire on Iraqi citizens and 17 of them (some women and children) were killed. The predicament facing America is whether or not to persecute these alleged shooters and if we should continue use these kinds of mercenaries since there currently exists no obligatory regulations for them; whether we can or should punish them has yet to be decided, but “the Iraqi government wants Blackwater to fall under the jurisdiction of Iraqi law”. Despite the unruliness of such independent contractors, the U.S. has agreed to renew its contract with Blackwater for another year and the Iraqi government is annoyed (to say the least) with America’s decision because the Nisour square shooters have yet to be punished.
“The Nation” (a non-mainstream media) provided the same information as CNN, but unlike CNN it also included information about the persecution of Alaa Mohammad Ali, a Blackwater translator supporting U.S. occupation. Alaa Mohammad Ali is being punished NOT for the massacre of 17 innocent people, but for stabbing a fellow Blackwater member in the chest. No such persecutions have been brought to the Nisour square shooters or Blackwater itself. Furthermore, the White House has “displayed a complete refusal to hold armed contractors accountable in any effective way”not effective because the rules aren’t being applied to everyone. What “The Nation” openly and clearly explained was that a single man is going to suffice as the token example of the new U.S. “crackdown on contractors”, meanwhile the Blackwater shooters are still roaming free. Evidently, if America deems a contractor’s services valuable (i.e. guarding the American embassy), then it will provide a get out of jail free card, so to speak. Apparently, and most unfortunately for Alaa Mohammad Ali, he is an expendable translator.
Incidentally, the LA Times also included a piece on Alaa Mohammad Ali’s trial, but it was very brief and neglected to acknowledge America’s absurdity for dealing with the Nisour Square shooting so passively.
This issue is very disturbing. America is prioritizing itself over justice and has insulted not only the victims of the Nisour square shooting, but also the Iraqi government; it has sent the message that heinous crimes are dismissible so long as the services are indispensable. Whatever integrity America was hoping to restore by persecuting Alaa Mohammad Ali has been overshadowed by the passive treatment of the Nisour square incident. I think if America is going to continue to use these kinds of private contractors, then legal guidelines need to be established and strictly enforced; unruly contractors should be susceptible to punishmenttranslators and mercenaries alike. The U.S. shouldn’t just turn the other cheek for whichever contractors it decides are integral. If these contractors cannot be controlled or held liable, then we ought to replace them with U.S. military that can; otherwise America is harboring potential disaster; it is endorsing inhuman behavior.
The mainstream medias seemed guilty of an ideological monopoly. CNN’s information was cleaned up or insufficient seemingly to maintain a positive image of America. On the contrary, “The Nation” held nothing back; it didn’t seem to care if America might look bad. The Blackwater incident is a perfect example. “The Nation” seemed to provide the most information; it got more to the root of political crisis. CNN definitely seemed to be affected by official manipulation. KPFK (another non-mainstream media) had a diverse array of guest speakers; some were college professors, writers, reporters, or actual victims of some sort of crisis that were more than happy to speak bluntly (not just woefully) about a given topic, whereas CNN almost always used biased pundits who only elaborated on their personal ideologies instead of analyzing the actual issue. For instance, on CNN Lou Dobbs went off on a tangent about the Pope for having criticized America’s immigration policy, but he NEVER discussed the pros and cons of the policy. Instead, he whined about how inappropriate it was for a foreign religious figure to interject on U.S. politics. On the contrary, on KPFK one woman spoke about the judicial system’s inadequacy when dealing with cases of rape. She spoke candidly about her personal experience and how the judge forbade her from using such words “rape” or “sexual assault” making her trial insufficient at best; unable to clearly articulate her story, the jurors found the defendant not guilty. While her position was no doubt biased, she still managed to provide objective information.
KPFK was uninterrupted by non-related advertisements, unlike CNN. The non-mainstream medias’ issues were always somehow political in contrast with the mainstream’s occasional segments on sports, celebrities, or other frivolous, “infotainment” pieces. KPFK always got to the root of issues, and CNN only tiptoed around the topic. Any serious political discussion on CNN was exactly what Greenberg described: “The gathering of pundits from both sides of the cultural and political divide angrily shouting at one another for 30 or 60 minutes” (177). It seems that any people endeavoring to keep themselves genuinely informed ought to rely on non-mainstream medias.