by William Skink
George Ochenski is a political columnist for the Missoulian. His most recent piece takes on press freedom. I read it not because I eagerly read each column every week, like I used to before Trump was elected, but because I wanted to see how Ochenski comes to the defense of a corporate media that has squandered Trump’s first term by obsessively peddling Russiagate.
Before getting to that, let’s rewind to a time before Trump and before the Indy was shuttered. Ochenski was talking about press freedom back then as well, when the Indy’s shitty editor, Robert Meyerowitz, decided to ax Ochenski as a columnist.
Here’s jhwygirl from a 4&20 Blackbird post from June, 2012:
Northern Broadcasting Network’s Aaron Flint of the Flint Report broke the news late yesterday afternoon regarding that the not-so-free-thinking Missoula Independent’s permanent severance of its relationship with long time political columnist George Ochenski was essentially the result of editor Robert Meyerowitz’s decision to not accept Ochenski’s planned column on the Indy’s 21st birthday and the importance of a free press in Montana.
So we have a political opinion columnist wanting to discuss the importance of the free press in Montana being censored by the editor of a newspaper that prominently features the byline of “Free Thinking” under its name “Missoula Independent”?
Ochenski’s response was to take his column to the Indy’s corporate competitor, the Missoulian. Several years later, with the help of POS Matt Gibson, the Indy as a competing voice is no longer a problem for the Lee Enterprises in the Missoula market. So when Ochenski promotes the concept of a free press, he is only doing so to narrowly criticize Trump without reflecting at all on the fact that Trump HAS been the target of a propaganda campaign by a corporate media that is more interested in using Russiagate to damage the Trump administration than it is in press freedom (otherwise they’d be defending Julian Assange).
Here’s a bit from Ochenski’s column:
Make no mistake about it, the individual sitting in the highest office of our nation is trying to destroy the foundational institution upon which our democracy was founded — a fearless and free press. And why would anyone who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, including the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and press, do so? Because unlike his ever-changing coterie of hired and appointed sycophants, our 325 million citizens must rely on a free press to sift fact from fiction. And without a free press, the truth is buried beneath the lies that spill endlessly from his lips.
There is a lot that Ochenski doesn’t mention in his column. He doesn’t mention how corporate media has consolidated its power since Bill Clinton enabled that consollidation in 1996 with the Telecommunication Act. Ochenski doesn’t mention the lies perpetuated by corporate media during the Bush years to enable the Bush regime to launch an unnecessary war of choice against a nation that posed no serious threat to this country. Ochenski doesn’t say anything about the “free press” that gave Trump free air-time because it was great for their ratings and shareholders.
325 million citizens are NOT getting a free press from their corporate media offerings. No, we are getting endlessly spun and manipulated content intended to push agendas and capture ratings, not tell us the truth about the world and America’s role in it.
The term “alternative media” exists because some of us citizens understand how badly we are being propagandized and we actively seek out media not beholden to shareholders, but even that is getting challenging as private tech platforms continue using their power in ways that doesn’t benefit us citizens and our need to know the facts driving policy.
I used to value George Ochenski and his opinions. That was before Trump. Now I’m not so sure his opinions are aging well. Corporate media is not a free press in the idealistic sense Ochenski is describing, and it hasn’t been for quite some time, thanks to Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama (who really ramped up the war on the last shreds of the free press), and now Trump.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again: Donald Trump is not an aberration of American politics, he is a continuation of trends that exist in a symbiotic relationship with other forces that have grown malignant, like our corporate media.
That should have been apparent when Trump bombed Syria and corporate media personalities gushed over his decision. Fareed Zakaria declared “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night,” and Brian Williams took it one step further, getting poetic at the sight of our lethal weaponry:
It was a sight that seemed to dazzle Williams, who described the images as “beautiful” in a segment on his show, “The 11th Hour.”
“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean,” Williams said. “I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”
Is this the free press George Ochenski is defending against Trump? If it is, this lowly blogger wants nothing to do with it.