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The Art of Free Media

With the U.S. Congress recently passing and President Obama signing into law the Magnitsky Act, Russian officials can be blacklisted and punishable for “human rights violations.” In response, the Russian parliament retaliated banning Americans from adopting Russian orphans. In reporting these two events, Russia Today laments the following which I thought interesting and worthwhile pondering:

There was, however, a significant difference. Under President Vladimir Putin’s “authoritarian regime,” the Russian media were filled with heated controversy over the adoption ban, including denunciations of Putin for signing it. In the “democratic” US mainstream media, on the other hand, there has been only applause for the Magnitsky Act and President Obama’s decision to sign it. Nor is this the first time leading American newspapers and television and radio outlets have been cheerleaders for a new cold war.

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  1. Mulberry Leaf
    January 22nd, 2013 at 16:28 | #1

    Reporters Sans Frontières‘s Press Freedom Index takes account of non-governmental impediments to press freedom, such as self-censorship and corporate consolidation. By this measure, the United States is certainly not the country with the freest press. Within the US, however, there is a self-serving mythos, cultivated by those “leading” newspapers, that the press is a “fourth estate” and vanguard of democracy.

    There is an attitude in the United States about “rights” and “freedoms” which come from the tradition of rugged individualism. It’s that the government should take as relaxed a role as possible; for example, to completely not control religion, yet permit public subsidies to religion and influence from it. This attitude explains how you can have protestors on every square but beggars on the same corners. Works well enough for rich, Westernized émigrés from countries like China, anyway.

    P.S.: RussiaToday is an interesting topic in and of itself. There’s an example of how you can give a publicly-funded media outlet a considerable degree of autonomy, while still relying on it to tout the pro-regime line. The Global Times really needs to learn something from RT, and Al Jazeera (an even subtler and more “credible-to-westerners” Qatari propaganda outfit) about producing appealing news.

    How much, I wonder, is it the case that newspapers simply reflect the nationalistic biases of the editors and writers of the country in which they are based? In the Huangyan Island dispute, most Filipino newspapers maintained a strident anti-China tone, despite the country having a “free” press.

  2. January 22nd, 2013 at 18:43 | #2

    @Mulberry Leaf
    Insightful as always.

    How much, I wonder, is it the case that newspapers simply reflect the nationalistic biases of the editors and writers of the country in which they are based?

    In my view, the country who is the strongest and can get away with invading anyone else on the planet because she has the military might, the answer is 100%.

    For weaker countries, they are at least tampered with the idea that in case they stake too unreasonable a position which their population embraces too strongly, they are afraid of not being able to back down. When that happens, it would give the stronger country real legitimate reason to bash it.

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