Truth Emergency and Media Reform

By Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff

In the United States today, the rift between reality and reporting has reached its end. There is no longer a mere credibility gap, but rather a literal Truth Emergency. Americans cannot access the truth about the issues that most impact their lives by relying on the mainstream corporate media.  A Truth Emergency is a culmination of the failures of the fourth estate to act as a truly free press. This truth emergency exists not only as a result of fraudulent elections, pseudo 9/11 investigations, illegal preemptive wars, torture camps, and doctored intelligence, but also around issues that intimately impact everyday Americans.  Yet these issues are rarely reported in corporate media outlets, where a vast majority of the American  people continue to turn to for news and information.
Consider that most US workers have been faced with a thirty-five year decline in real wages while the top few percent enjoy unparalleled wealth with strikingly low tax burdens.  The US has the highest infant mortality rate among industrialized nations, is falling behind in scientific research and education, and is seriously lacking in healthcare quality and delivery.  In fact, close to 50 million Americans lack healthcare coverage resulting in the deaths of 18,000 people a year.  America has entered another Gilded Age.  Someone should alert the media.
This Truth Emergency Movement held its first national strategy summit in Santa Cruz, California Jan. 25-27, 2008. Organizers gathered key media constituencies to devise coherent decentralized models for distribution of suppressed news, synergistic truth-telling, and collaborative strategies to disclose, legitimize and popularize deeper historical narratives on power and inequality in the US. In sum, this truth movement is seeking to discover in this moment of Constitutional crisis, ecological peril, and widening war, ways in which top investigative journalists, whistleblowers, and independent media activists can transform the way Americans perceive and defend their world.
There is another growing national movement to address mainstream media failures and policies in government, the Free Press or Media Reform Movement.  However, this movement fails to address many issues of the actual Truth Emergency.  During the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform (NCMR) in Minneapolis, MN, Project Censored interns and faculty conducted a sociological survey designed to gauge conference participant thoughts on the status quo of the news media as well as the truthfulness of corporate media news and effectiveness of the media reform movement. The survey also sought to determine the level of belief and support in a Truth Emergency in the US and the varying degrees of support for key truth issues regardless of their coverage at the NCMR conference.
The survey was completed by 376 randomly selected NCMR attendees out of the 3,500 people registered for the conference.  The survey has a statistical accuracy of plus or minus 5 percent at a 95 percent confidence interval in that all the people at the NCMR hold the same beliefs.
Strong support was shown for the premise of a Truth Emergency in the US. The survey asked:  Has corporate media failed to keep the American people informed on important issues facing the nation?  Does a Truth Emergency exist in the United States?
The response was staggering. Ninety-nine percent strongly agreed, or agreed with
the first question, and only seven percent of responders disagreed with the characterization of current events as a Truth Emergency in the US.  Yet few of the events, panels, or talks at the conference reflected these concerns.
Discovering the most effective ways to chisel at the bulwark of corrupt corporate
media will require continuing thought and effort.  It is clear from our survey that media democracy activists strongly support the continuing development of independent media combined with aggressive reform efforts and policy changes as part of an overall media democracy movement. Activists also believe that both reform and grassroots independent media efforts will fit within an ongoing truth emergency theme that conducts deep investigative research into critical social justice issues. One activist said, “we cannot be afraid, democracy is in the balance.”
While recognizing that this survey was done at an independent media activist “reform” conference, fully expecting a great deal of agreement on the questions, it was still amazing that there was almost total agreement for grassroots media efforts in addition to reform work (especially given that most of the emphasis of the conference was on reform of existing mainstream media rather than direct action and grassroots movement approach with an independent and public focused journalistic endeavor).  In other words– it was reassuring to see support for a media movement of the people, by the people, and for the people.
One statement on the survey, that a military-industrial-media complex exists in the US for the promotion of the US military domination of the world, received an 87 percent approval rating among the sample. This result showed that research done by Project Censored about the continuing powerful global dominance group inside the US government, the US media, and the national policy structure is widely believed by participants at the NCMR.
NCMR participants also overwhelmingly believe the leadership class in the US is now dominated by a neo-conservative group of some several hundred people who share goal of asserting US military power worldwide. This Global Dominance Group, in cooperation with major military contractors, the corporate media, and conservative foundations has become a powerful long-term force in military unilateralism and US political processes.