By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: March 17, 2015
Last week the Press Club of Mexico honored Paul Craig Roberts with the International Award for Excellence in Journalism. Roberts used the occasion to call out a tainted brand of journalism in this country which frequently involves “lying for the government and for the corporations.”
Roberts is one of the most prolific writers in America and a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. His journalism career includes Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service and Creators Syndicate. Roberts has also been one of the most strident critics of both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, calling them “vassals” of the corporate titans. Increasingly, Roberts sees the corporate media as a twin evil to Washington, writing recently that “the so-called ‘mainstream media’ has been transformed into a Ministry of Propaganda.”
Roberts’ speech at the Mexico press awards gathering on March 12 was quintessential Roberts. Roberts told the crowd that “In the United States real journalists are scarce and are becoming more scarce. Journalists have morphed into a new creature. Gerald Celente calls US journalists ‘presstitutes,’ a word formed from press prostitute.”
Roberts said that “the few real journalists that remain are resigning” and cited the case of Sharyl Attkisson, a veteran investigative reporter for CBS who resigned and wrote the book, Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington. Roberts said Attkisson felt CBS saw its role as a “protector of the powerful, not a critic.”
Roberts also talked about the recent departure of Peter Oborne, the UK Telegraph’s former Chief Political Commentator who resigned and called the newspaper’s coverage of the powerful bank, HSBC, a “fraud on its readers.” Oborne provided the full background on his resignation to OpenDemocracy, writing:
“With the collapse in standards has come a most sinister development. It has long been axiomatic in quality British journalism that the advertising department and editorial should be kept rigorously apart. There is a great deal of evidence that, at the Telegraph, this distinction has collapsed.
“Late last year I set to work on a story about the international banking giant HSBC. Well-known British Muslims had received letters out of the blue from HSBC informing them that their accounts had been closed. No reason was given, and it was made plain that there was no possibility of appeal. ‘It’s like having your water cut off,’ one victim told me.”
The story was spiked by the Telegraph, according to Oborne.
Roberts blames the failure of U.S. media to serve the public interest on the vast consolidation of American media into the hands of only six companies. Roberts said the following in his speech in Mexico:
“The US media has never performed the function assigned to it by the Founding Fathers. The media is supposed to be diverse and independent. It is supposed to confront both government and private interest groups with the facts and the truth. At times the US media partially fulfilled this role, but not since the final years of the Clinton Regime when the government allowed six mega-media companies to consolidate 90% of the media in their hands…
“The US media is no longer run by journalists. It is run by former government officials and corporate advertising executives. The values of the mega-media companies depend on their federal broadcast licenses. If the companies go against the government, the companies take a risk that their licenses will not be renewed and, thus, the multi-billion dollar values of the companies fall to zero. If media organizations investigate wrongful activities by corporations, they risk the loss of advertising revenues and become less viable.”
Roberts’ views find support in polling surveys. A June 19, 2014 poll released by Gallup asked participants if they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in television news and newspapers. The approval rating continued a decade-long decline. Newspapers came in at a 22 percent approval rating in the top two approval categories while television news achieved an even lower 18 percent approval.