The reporting on the Malheur refuge occupation in Harney County has, for me, been a perfect example of how corporate news networks manipulate the narrative of events to fit their own position on the issues and people involved. Admittedly, I have questioned corporate media for a very long time, for many reasons. Perhaps it started for me with the way events were covered between September 2001 and March of 2003. Confusion, lies and omissions, controlling (and co-opting) the narrative, and what do you know, endless war resulted. There have been so many big events since (and before) then that show the same patterns in the media as the narrative is spun to portray a story a certain way. So, the way the narrative in Harney County has been spun hasn’t surprised me, but it has been an up close view of the process.
With this situation taking place so close to home, I have had the opportunity to communicate with some of the people involved. I have had the opportunity to learn about the underlying issues, to try and get a genuine understanding of why the protests and occupation happened. Now, I certainly don’t expect everyone to come away from this story changing everything about their own opinions on the matter. I don’t expect people to agree on every aspect of the issues involved. It is, after all, a tangled combination of complicated and sensitive matters. But, what I do expect, or rather, what I would like to be able to expect, is some honest reporting.
It has been sadly lacking, both in the mainstream media and the alternative media. There have been some honest and unbiased stories here and there, scattered throughout a wide range of sources. I’ll specifically shout out to Oregon Public Broadcasting here who’s reporters have followed the story closely. But the good coverage was often buried in avalanches of speculation, distortion, name-calling, and outright hatred. Social media has played an increasing role in this as well. On one hand, social media has given us a platform to communicate with people involved in these stories and to share what we learn. On the other hand, in what appears to me to be a desperate attempt to keep their stranglehold on the narrative by the media, it has become a place to whip the hateful and divisive rhetoric into a frenzy.
What is perhaps even more notable to me as I’ve followed the story obsessively, is the meticulous avoidance by the mainstream media of any perspectives that challenge the narrative the federal government has an interest in maintaining. After all, if it isn’t in the news on TV, we Americans won’t bother to look at or think about it. On the flip side, what has stood out to me in the alternative media is the sensationalizing and manipulations of the facts, and the constant repetitions of false information. Again, social media, with all of its clever algorithms, plays a powerful role in this.
How many have taken the time to look beyond our own assumptions about the Malheur refuge occupation and the shooting of Robert Lavoy Finicum? How many have bothered to challenge the media’s presentation, whether mainstream or alternative, of the story rather than simply allowing it to shape or reinforce our own perspectives?
Can we not see that an inability, or unwillingness to question the distorted narrative handed to us will only lead to more excessive police force, more ambushes conveniently hidden from public view? More lies about safe drinking water? More invasions of foreign lands, more slaughtering of countless civilians? More division, more laws, more repression? Have we become so hopelessly detached from reality that we can’t see that every American is losing rights? The front line is different for all of us, but the enemy is the same.
You may not see or feel it yet. It may not have touched your life yet, and your news might not be telling you about it yet. I wonder at what point the citizens of Germany woke up to the tyranny of the Nazi regime? I doubt the media in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s was doing much reporting on all the atrocities being committed by the Nazis. And the same can be said for our own media today when it comes to the atrocities being committed by the US government.
I’m sickened by that fact. Rather than bowing to the government’s narrative, or acting as advertising for mega-corporations, the press is supposed to report the truth. The press is supposed to investigate all angles and ask the hard questions. The press is supposed to be a weapon for the people to wield to maintain transparency and accountability within our government.
The press isn’t supposed to be info-tainment to benefit corporate or political interests.
We can do better. We need to do better. And we can’t wait any longer. Let’s start asking the hard questions in order to get to the truth in any story. Let’s push our lawmakers to confront the hard questions in order to make positive changes. Let’s make the Tamir Rices, Eric Garners, Lavoy Finicums, lead-poisoned Flint families, PTSD suffering Veterans, homeless, under-educated children, victims of wars of aggression, victims of excessive prison sentences…WE THE PEOPLE relevant again.
Author’s Note: this post has been edited from its original version to remove content that promoted Newsbud, as well as to reflect changes in my own perspectives. If you want to read the original version, contact me.