One of the best ways to lie is to say nothing. In 1997, using the Freedom of Information Act, The Baltimore Sun discovered that the American army and the CIA had been teaching and using torture methods at least as early as the 1980s. And probably long before that. Yet it burst as such a shock in the Afghanistan war that many people still don't believe it. (If you're a doubter, google American army torture manual Baltimore Sun.)
If the story was well known to journalists in 1997, how come the public didn't know? Well, that was because almost the whole of the news media refused to publish it. That was true in both Canada and the US. Want to know another dirty secret? Our own CSIS has been working with the CIA on torture for years. But I've missed any headlines about it.
There's nothing evil about journalists. Their problem is that keeping quiet about some things is the only way to survive.. Any editor, reporter or commentator who tells the whole truth will soon be looking for a job – with no takers.
On Friday, June 4, 2010, the CBC carried an alarming story of severe and dangerous air pollution in a part of St. John, N.B. So I checked the Times&Transcript. Not a word. Well, maybe it was too late for that day's edition. So I waited for June 5.
This is surely rather a big story for New Brunswick. A whole residential district is suffering a pollution that causes cancer, and covers the district at a level twice that allowed in other countries. But not a word in the Times &Transcript.
The pollution is coming from an oil refinery. Guess who owns it. Guess who owns the Times & Transcript.
Notice how the Times & Transcript never asks questions about the pseudo-scientific “studies” on education released by Atlantic Institute of Marketing? It reports glowingly on them, but never a question or a comment. Google the home Page of the Atlantic Institute of Marketing. Go to the page with the officers of the institute. Run your fingers down the list of names. Stop at I.
It's not the fault of the news media that we are kept in ignorance. That decision is taken by ownership. It's true of all the news media. I was in the business some thirty years as a commentator. I was twice fired for saying things that were true but that the ownership didn't want expressed. There are no exceptions. Even the good news people, ones far better than I could hope to be, know there's a line.
That's why I find a wonderful freedom in having a blog.