Monday, September 19, 2005


The belief that in the United States we enjoy "freedom of the press" is so pervasive, that few of us are willing to question the specifics of that belief. As it turns out, this so-called 'freedom' is more myth than reality.

Hunter over at Daily Kos has an informative post about this enormous problem. The conflicts of interest between news media conglomerates and parent companies securing high-dollar construction contracts is so blatant it amounts to a sort of corporate "Piss off!" aimed squarely at the citizenry.

One example: Cable news outlet MSNBC was one of the more enthusiastic cheerleaders for bloodshed in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. MSNBC is owned by General Electric. G.E. secured billions of dollars worth of reconstruction contracts for the power grid in Iraq before the war. In other words, MSNBC did not function as a new media outlet questioning government motives and questioning the party line; rather MSNBC was little more than a glitzy PR firm doing advance work for G.E. in its bid to set up shop in the Middle East.

One could conceivably argue that there might ultimately be some poetic justice to MSNBC's sycophantic role in the quest for blood and money. The situation in Iraq is increasingly dire, something news watchers may be unaware of given the round-the-clock coverage of Katrina and its aftermath. In fact, while the camera lens has been redirected to the Gulf Coast, the death toll in Iraq has reached staggering levels--over a thousand deaths attributed to 'insurgent attacks' in the last month alone. So, one might conclude, when all is said and done the corporate 'investment' in Iraq may prove a bust, as it looks increasingly likely the U.S. will have to withdraw and leave the Iraqis to rape, maim and murder each other in the civil war that is perfectly inevitable.

However, the unprincipled profiteers who sit at the helm of G.E., Halliburton, Brown & Root, Fluor, Bechtel, et al, have already amassed billions from Uncle Sam, padding their Swiss bank accounts and furnishing their island getaways. Those who will lose are the workers hired for these war-zone boondoggles: those who haven't been kidnapped or killed will just be out of a job.
Some in the blogosphere seem to think that the news media coverage of Katrina's aftermath represents a return to good, old fashioned hard-nosed journalism. CNNs Anderson Cooper and NBCs Brian Williams have ripped into the Bush Administration again and again in front of the camera. And Bush's approval rating has plummeted. But while the news media has been rightly criticizing Bush and his political cronies over the mishandling of the hurricane rescue and relief operations, no mention has been made of the countless reconstruction contracts secured by the Friends of Cheney for rebuilding the Gulf Coast infrastructure. In fact, Halliburton lobbyist Joe Allbaugh was on the ground in the disaster zone on Wednesday, August 31, securing contracts before FEMA even knew about the deplorable conditions in the Super Dome and Convention Center.

The priorities of the Bush Administration are sorely lacking in ethical clarity and principle. This unsettling fact, however, throws the spotlight off the equally unpricipled and morally evil motives of our civil engineering construction industry. Build bigger roads; lobby to kill mass transit projects. Drill for more oil; lobby to kill environmental causes. Build more levees; lobby to kill wetlands protection. Hire illegal foreign workers; damn the American working class.

It's a sad state of affairs that, dare I say it, only a full-scale revolution in the streets could change.