Celebrity chefs have had their day. The new rock star celebrities are journalists. They’re bigger than the brands they represent and are, in the words of Thoreau, “counter friction to the machine.” They speak truth to power and believe balance and objectivity are bullshit because lies and criminality do not deserve equal time with the truth.
Take, for example, Matt Taibbi and the late Michael Hastings who took Rolling Stone from an anachronistic music industry journal and turned it into a rabble-rousing political juggernaut. The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper is scooping American journals at every turn, making them out to be the establishment sycophants they truly are. Sites like Alternet, Truthdig and Truthout are publishing profound progressive material for the world to see on subjects that were formerly under the exclusive purview of local alternative weekly publications. Hackers and bloggers, investigative journalists, whistleblowers and scholars are collaborating in a way that speaks to what the Internet was intended to be. All under the watchful eye of Anonymous.
This is truly the new golden age of journalism. Any question that arises from this statement should be put to rest by the ignominious manner in which the government has assaulted those who challenge it. The cover story in the July 2013 edition of the Long Island Press by Chris Twarowski and Rashed Mian (rock stars in their own right) tells the story of the fearless crusaders of this generation by tipping a cap to the dissidents and truth tellers of old. As we note on our cover image (inset) these were people who were vilified in their time by the ruling class and vindicated over time by the working class. Some are famous, most are not. Yet each had the courage of their convictions and righteousness on their side.
For us, the Bradley Manning trial is the tip of the spear. His revelations, published through Wikileaks, broke open the floodgates and allowed a new journalistic sentiment to pour through. It is not a sentiment shared by the corporately controlled broadcast and print media in the United States, but it is pervasive among this new breed of advocacy writer. And while the indefatigable journalists such as Alexa O’Brien and Kevin Gosztola who are covering it every day are hardly household names, they ought to be. It’s why we chose to pay homage to them in telling the story of PFC Manning.
Recently my wife and I attended a talk at the New School with journalist and author Jeremy Scahill who was being interviewed by the Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman about his new book, Dirty Wars. The auditorium was overflowing with attendees trying to catch a glimpse of Scahill who is arguably the biggest rock star in the field of investigative journalism right now; a distinction challenged only by Scahill’s good friend Glenn Greenwald, also of the Guardian, who brought to light the NSA revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden, now the most sought after man on earth. The only two people in the audience to receive louder ovations than Scahill were Dr. Cornel West and Scahill’s mentor Amy Goodman. This was a progressive paradise that could have been an advertisement for NPR tote bags.
Ackerman was a solid choice to interview Scahill as he is also well known as a national security and government reporter for Wired Magazine, having only recently made the move to the Guardian. The Guardian’s ascendency in the U.S. is part of the intriguing backstory to the Snowden affair. Just how far under the skin of the U.S. government the U.K.-based news organization has travelled is evidenced by a recent Ackerman story confirming that the U.S. military “was filtering out reports and content relating to government surveillance programs to preserve “network hygiene.””
Network hygiene. Interesting terminology.
Perhaps it is because the Guardian is based in the U.K. that it is immune to U.S. propaganda. What’s so utterly disturbing is that Americans seem to have little defense against it. We swallow terms like “hygiene” hook, line and sinker instead of recognizing it for what it is: censorship. Our media are complicit in this linguistic cover-up, repeating government jargon and name-calling, thereby legitimizing it.
Want to counter the investigative journalism of Jeremy Scahill? Call him a terrorist sympathizer.
Looking to turn the public’s attention Edward Snowden’s revelations of the U.S. illegal data collection and wiretapping of basically the entire planet? Say he emboldened the terrorists.
Frustrated by Glenn Greenwald’s lack of respect for authority? Have lackeys in the U.S. media suggest that he too is a traitor.
Want to teach other would-be whistleblowers a lesson? Lock up Bradley Manning and strip him of all his constitutional rights by putting him in solitary confinement then parade him through kangaroo court under the guise of due process.
The people on our cover didn’t fall for any of this bullshit. They spoke truth to power and several died for their “sins.” But each of them was vindicated over time. Someday, hopefully Bradley Manning will be as well. But this will only happen if the rock star journalists of today continue to burn bright enough to illuminate the dark corporate propagandists that seek to discredit their work and shield us from the truth.