The West is going through an unprecedented systemic crisis: powerful forces are directing the totality of media towards a single orientation. At the same time, media content has changed. As recently as last year, the media still followed a certain logic and strove towards impartiality. In healthy competition, they presented a shared diversity of opinion. They now behave like a gang; their cohesion is based on emotion and they viciously attack any one who criticizes them.
The idea of a media alliance follows out of an experiment conducted by the “International Consortium for Investigative Journalism” (ICIJ). It does not unite the media as such, but focuses, instead, on individual journalists. The ICIJ gained fame when it published information stolen from the accounts departments of two law firms on the British Virgin Islands, the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), HSBC financial holding, and the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca. This information was mainly used to discredit Chinese and Russian players, but in part also to expose crimes committed by Western executives and leaders. But above all, under the laudable pretext of fighting corruption, this was an attack on the confidentiality of lawyers and banks and has badly damaged the reputations of thousands of honest clients. There has been no public response to this at all.
For the past forty years we have been party to a progressive reorganisation of media within international trusts. At present, 14 groups control more than two thirds of the Western media (21st Century Fox, Bertelsmann, CBS Corporation, Comcast, Hearst Corporation, Lagardère Group, News Corp, Organizações Globo, Sony, Televisa, The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner, Viacom, Vivendi). Aided and abetted by Google Media Lab and First Draft, the alliance continues to strengthen the links between its members, even though they already hold a dominant position. Because the three leading global press agencies are part of this alliance (Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, Reuters), they are certain to have hegemonic impact. This is clearly an “illegal entente”. It does not fix prices, but instead targets minds and attitudes, further enforcing an already dominant way of thought.
During the past six years, the members of the Google entente have – without exception – reported on events in the greater Middle-Eastern region with one voice. There does not seem to have been any prior agreement between them; or perhaps no such agreement has become known. It should, however, be noted that of the six international television channels involved with the NATO public diplomacy centre, five are present within this alliance (Al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, France24, Sky, but apparently not Al-Arabiya).
In the USA, France and Germany, Google and First Draft brought together both local and international media to set up a verification process for certain statements. Quite apart from the fact that no one knows who is behind First Draft, or what political interests they may have, these procedures have not resulted in a return to impartiality.
This is partly because the contents verified in these procedures were not selected for their value in the public discourse, but because they were allegations made by individuals criticizing the media alliance itself. One would like to believe that the verification process helps establish the truth; however, far from it, it reassures the public and fosters the impression that the media are trustworthy, while the individuals who criticize the media are not. This course of action does not have truth as its goal, its aim is to discredit the critics before bringing them down.
In addition to this, an unwritten law ensures that it is only criticism from outside the alliance that is subjected to this verification process. There is an undeclared ban on criticism within the group. The main thrust of this alliance is to reinforce the idea that the world is divided into two camps: “We” tell the truth, “they”, the others, are liars. This approach compromises the principle of pluralism, a prerequisite of democracy, and opens the door to a totalitarian society. This is not new, we have seen the same mechanism at work in the media coverage of the Arab Spring and the wars in Libya and Syria. For the first time, however, it is being used to attack some of the foundations of Western thought.
Finally, critical allegations never qualify as “false” in this alliance. That they might be erroneous is never considered, they are always described as lies. The aim of this is, above all, to attribute Machiavellian intentions to the critics, thereby discrediting them. This compromises the principle of the presumption of innocence.
In this sense, the approach used by ICIJ and the alliance created by Google and First Draft runs contrary to the Charta of Munich, a document accepted by the International Organization of Journalists (Chapter II, Articles 2, 4, 5 and 9).
Significantly, a number of absurd judicial actions have the same targets as the media entente. In the USA, the Logan Act was unearthed to threaten the Trump administration, even though this particular law has not led to a single indictment since it was passed, over two hundred years ago. In France, the Jolibois Article was invoked against Marine Le Pen‘s political tweets, despite the fact that the application of this law has been explicitly limited to the unpackaged distribution of ultra-pornographic magazines. Now that the principle of the presumption of innocence has been eradicated, it has become possible to subject people to all kinds of probing under the pretext of some far-fetched legal accusation. The charges filed against the Trump team and Marine Le Pen with recourse to the above-mentioned laws could just as easily have been applied to numerous other individuals. They were not.
Besides, the public no longer even reacts to false accusations spread by the alliance. In the USA, the group came up with the idea that the Russian secret service has information that could damage Donald Trump, and therefore must be blackmailing him. In France they invented the idea of fake jobs and accused François Fillon of having fraudulently employed assistants.
In the USA, both large and small members of this alliance are targeting the president. They use information taken from intercepted phone calls made by the Trump team; this surveillance was unlawfully authorized by the Obama administration. They work hand in hand with judges, whom they use to block government action. All of this suggests a mafia-like system at work.
Both American and French media belonging to this alliance have been targeting two of the candidates for the French presidential election: François Fillon and Marine Le Pen. Quite apart from the general problem posed by an alliance of this nature, a false impression of internal French intrigue has been created, even though the initiative comes from the USA. The French know that their media are being manipulated, but wrongly blame forces fighting the political right for the campaign, and mistakenly seek the manipulators in their own country.
In Germany the entente has not yet become active, but will probably do so as the elections draw near.
In the days of the Watergate affair, the media claimed the status of being a fourth “estate“, after the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The press declared it would control the government in the name of the people. Let us ignore for the moment that the actions President Nixon was accused of are comparable with those of Obama: tapping the phones of his opposition. Today we know that the source for the Watergate affair, “Deep Throat“, far from being a whistle blower, was the director of the FBI, Mark Felt. The entire affair was a battle between one part of the administration and the White House; the voting public was manipulated by both parties at the same time.
The idea of the “fourth estate” would suggest that the 14 trusts that control the majority of Western media enjoy the same legitimacy as citizens. In effect, this implies replacing democracy with oligarchy.
There remains one more point that needs clarification. What are the goals of the media entente? The only obvious link between Donald Trump, François Fillon and Marine Le Pen is that they have all attempted to renew relations with Russia and join forces with her in the fight against the matrix of jihadism, the Muslim Brotherhood. In spite of the fact that François Fillon was the prime minister of a government involved in these events, all three represent an approach that contradicts the dominant view on the Arab Spring and the wars in Libya and Syria.
Translated by Karin Baasch
This article was first published on 17. March 2017 at voltaire.net, URL <http://www.voltairenet.org/article195554.html>. (License: CC BY-NC-ND)