Media Serve the Governors, Not the Governed

Since 2006 WikiLeaks has been censuring governments with governments’ own words. It has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do, says Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria
in Sydney, Australia

In his 1971 opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.”

That’s what WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been doing since 2006: censuring governments with governments’ own words pried from secrecy by WikiLeak’s sources—whistleblowers. In other words, WikiLeaks has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do.

One can hardly imagine anyone sitting on today’s U.S. Supreme Court writing such an opinion. Even more troubling is the news media having turned its back on its mission. Today they almost always serve the governors—not the governed.

Lauria: Media serve governors–not the governed. (Cathy Vogan)

The question is why.

Consolidation of media ownership has increased obedience of desperate journalists; entertainment divisions have taken over news departments; and careerist reporters live vicariously through the power of those they cover, rejecting the press’ unique power to hold those officials to account.

It comes down ultimately to lifestyles. Men go to war to protect and further their lifestyles. The press cheers them on for residual material betterment and increase in status.

Millions of lives erased for lifestyles.

It used to be accepted in television that news departments would lose money and would be supported by the entertainment division. That’s because news was considered a public service. TV newsmen—they were almost all men in those days—were former wire service and newspaper reporters. But greed has put the presenters’ personalities before public service, as entertainment masquerades as news. Newspapers have sacrificed investigative units to maximize profit. Government is the winner.

The abdication of the mainstream media of their constitutional responsibility to serve the governed and not the governors has left a void filled for more than a decade by WikiLeaks.

No longer do today’s Daniel Ellsbergs need to take their chances with editors at The New York Times or The Washington Post, or with their reporters spinning the damning information they risk their freedom to get to the public—no matter how disinterested and distracted the public may be.

Now the traditional media can be bypassed. WikiLeaks deals in the raw material—that when revealed—governments hang themselves with. That’s why they want Assange’s head. They lust for revenge and to stop further leaks that threaten their grip on power. That the corporate media has turned on Assange and WikiLeaks reveals their service to the state and how much they prioritize their style of life—disregarding the carnage they help bring about.

In that Pentagon Papers’ decision, the majority of the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibited the government from exercising prior restraint—or censorship—on the media before publication of classified information. But the majority of the court also said the government could prosecute journalists after publication.

Joe Lauria and John Pilger at Assange rally. (Tatiana Schild)

Indeed the U.S. Espionage Act, which has withstood First Amendment challenges, criminalizes a publisher’s or journalist’s mere possession, as well as dissemination, of classified material. A 1961 amendment to the Act extended U.S. jurisdiction across the world. Assange is threatened by it.

U.S. administrations have been reluctant to take the step of post-publication prosecution, however. Nixon did not prosecute Sen. Mike Gravel, who was constitutionally protected when he read the Papers, given to him by Ellsberg, into the Congressional record. But Gravel could have been prosecuted for publishing the Papers as a book. Barack Obama decided to back off Assange when it was plain The New York Times and other corporate media would be as liable as Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing classified information. The virulently anti-media Trump administration, however, may take that step if Assange is arrested.

From their point of view it’s easy to understand why the U.S. wants to crush Assange. But what is Australia’s excuse? Why is it fighting America’s battles? Why has the Australian mainstream media also turned against Assange after an election held in the U.S., not here? What has happened to Australia’s sovereignty? That’s a question that can be answered by Australians coming into the streets, like today—and staying there until their compatriot is at last free to leave that damned embassy. Free to continue to do the job the media refuses to do.

Joe Lauria gave this speech at a rally for Julian Assange organized by the Socialist Equality Party in Sydney on March 3. You can watch the video of the speech here:

                                                                                                                   Video by Cathy Vogan

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @unjoe .

33 comments for “Media Serve the Governors, Not the Governed

  1. March 7, 2019 at 10:15

    “New Think Progress and the Ozzard of Wiz” > satire at FauxScienceSlayer(.)com

    Multilevel Information Racketeering for Dummies and Sheeple

  2. dean 1000
    March 6, 2019 at 12:07

    Couldn’t agree more Joe Lauria: In war and peace the media serves the governors, not the governed.
    Once upon a time I thought tenure for journalists would be enough to bring us timely, accurate news. It is not enough. We need a non-profit journalist owned organization to bring national and international news to the public six days a week.
    It would be funded by requiring the government supported ( by tax deductible advertising & frequency monopolies) commercial TV and radio stations to subscribe to at least 30 minutes of the journalist newscast every day, as their primary public service. Fat Chance? Maybe not. The federal government created the American Telephone & Telegraph company ( AT & T) now privatized to bring rationality to the chaotic early telephone markets. The same thing is needed now for News. Timely, accurate news.

    It would be part of a Free Speech program that included TV, Radio stations and websites for all 435 federal election districts. Election district TV would provide free speech (no charge for the candidate) for candidates for local, state and federal office.
    Between elections there would be in-depth news documentaries and occasional nuts-and-bolts political programing on the how-to’s of democratic government from ancient Athens to the present. Some election district TV would be controlled by conservative districts others by liberal districts, maybe a few controlled by middle-of-the-roaders.
    Neither the government or the 1% could control the content of 435 call-in stations. Wikileaks would have a field day.

  3. William Newman
    March 5, 2019 at 13:04


  4. Ann Garrison
    March 5, 2019 at 00:15

    Great job but I shuddered when I saw that not a single mainstream Australian outlet covered this.

  5. Yahweh
    March 4, 2019 at 20:16

    Well, when your auto suffers a breakdown what do you do?….you fix it. When you home water heater breaks and there is no more morning hot water for your shower what do you do?….you fix it.

    This world has become a world of cowards. A world of… I can’t be bothered with this right now….

    You all deserve to be slaves….the best is yet to come….

  6. KiwiAntz
    March 4, 2019 at 18:17

    Thanks Joe for your article on Australia’s vassal state role in supporting anything that the US Empire feels compelled to do? You must understand that US/Australian/NZ Military ties go way back to WW2 when we fought as Allies in the Pacific theatre, so there is a shared History of support there! It runs deeper with Australia than NZ? NZ tended treasure its own Sovereignty more than Australia, who seen to like being a lapdog of the US? NZ has gone its own way & developed a Democrat Socialist/Capitalist model that seems to work here? We don’t fight in Foreign wars & usually just provide humanitarian aid or rebuilding assistance! NZ’s Foreign policy is vastly different than Australia’s & more humane! We placed a “No Nukes” ban on any US ships or any other Nations ships from visiting? For that sleight & insult, America removed NZ or the “Z” from the ANZUS Military Alliance becoming the ANUS alliance, a apt name for it? But the irony was & continues to be, why is NZ part of the detestable 5 eyes, US surveillance State apparatus, most Kiwi’s are unaware of this alliance & those who do know, like myself, despise this & believe NZ should be no part of it of this Global spying Network! The irony is, the US is putting pressure on my NZ’s 5G role out with Huawei, ludicrously calling this Company out as a Spy agency but it is the 5 eyes bunch that are the true spymasters? NZ will probably follow the UK & Europe’s lead to allow Huawei access to this rollout because the US has provided zero evidence that proves Huawei is a threat & its looking more likely its due to stifling & sabotaging China’s rise as a Trade Superpower? NZ also does $27 billion dollar’s of Trade with China & zero Trade with the US, so why we should abide by Washington’s dictats & orders eludes me? Australia is currently paying the price of slavishly following US commands as China, which imports huge amounts of Iron ore from OZ, now finds that this Trade has come to a grinding halt due to Australia’s belligerent treatment of the Chinese & Huawei & its support of the corrupt US Empire? One thing is certain though? The US Empires vile ambitions affect Countries across the World, even to small Nations in the South Pacific such as NZ & Australia!

    • March 7, 2019 at 16:38

      KiwiAntz, we need more New Zealand’s in the world. NZ caught my attention along time ago with Green Dolphin Street, the movie, and was impressed with their support of both public and religious schools, if they still do that. Got a kick out of ANUS, even if the N was for New. Remember a family w knew twenty five years ago who went to visit and stayed. Good stuff. Countries standing up for their sovereignty. Wow, what next.

    • Bill
      March 7, 2019 at 18:13

      you sure like exclamation points!!!

      Clark Bar! anyone?!

  7. March 4, 2019 at 14:05

    Off with their heads! Time for something new and completely different. No more lawyers and business plutocrats. Let the smart people run things for a change. Give it to the scientists. Like so:

  8. AnneR
    March 4, 2019 at 10:23

    We the people of whatever country have a lot to thank Julian Assange and Wikileaks for and what is being done to him, with, one assumes, the intent to stop Wikileaks’ essential revelatory work on our behalf and to deter others from doing similar work, is illegal. Yet that clearly doesn’t bother the Anglo-speaking governments of the world – imperialists all. But then the Five Eyes nations have never been concerned with international law when it goes against what they want to do.

    Meanwhile the state-funded media, like the BBC and NPR (a fair percentage of the latter’s funding is taxpayer monies; much of the rest coming from those corporate-capitalist-imperialist “foundations”), pump out nauseatingly pro-corporate-capitalist-imperialist propaganda all but non-stop and do so largely by Omission of opposing facts, voices, positions. And when they do speak of, say, Russia, they allow people like Adam Schiff to paint the image (as he did this morning) that the ruling elites want the sheeple to hold by describing Russia as an “adversary.” The presenter to whom he was speaking NEVER questioned this epithet. For NPR (and the BBC and doubtless the other, corporate controlled mainstream media) what Schiff said is what the American listener, reader, viewer should believe about Russia (and China and Iran and so on and on). It cannot be questioned because “we” say it is so: it’s the truth, there is no alternative.

    So it is Russian cyber meddling in US elections, Chinese cyber spying on the Anglo world…not – heaven forfend! – quite other: US and UK cyber spying on everyone around the world, interfering in other nation’s elections, governments, countries – Ho No. The hypocrisy is without bloody end – even as Congress has backed the Strumpet’s call for a coup in Venezuela (surely this is interference in another country’s electoral results?) it is extending and increasing its efforts to find that elusive thread leading from the Strumpet’s Electoral College success over Killary to President Putin’s computer….

    And many of my late husband’s friends – all well and expensively educated – are Orwelled into accepting the crap that the MSM puts out about everything (they rarely if ever pay any attention to what FUKUS is doing in MENA, what the UK and US have done to the Chagos Islanders [who?], no concern at all about the MIC and its war crimes….) American. Anything contrary to the neoliberal-“progressive” cant is ignored. It is nauseating in the extreme. So much for education eliminating ignorance. But then my late husband would not have called what his friends indulge in “ignorance.” It is stupidity – willful stupidity.

    • Sam F
      March 4, 2019 at 12:24

      Yes, frequently the “willful stupidity” of the tribe, motivated by the social and economic dependencies of the tribe, that make members fearful to criticize the narrative of the tribal tyrants exploiting those fears to demand tribal power and denounce their moral superiors as disloyal to the tribe. Education allows some to counter the propaganda, gives others the tools to do so when self-interest or knowledge can overcome their fears.

    • MarB
      March 6, 2019 at 04:16

      “So much for education eliminating ignorance….”

      “One must utilize the education of the young to condition them to what comes later.
      The schools and all methods of instruction are transformed under such conditions, with the child integrated into the conformist group in such a way that the individualist is tolerated not by the authorities but by his peers.
      Propaganda must be continuous and lasting – continuous in that it must not leave any gaps, but must fill the citizen’s whole day and all his days; lasting in that it must function over a very long period of time.

      Propaganda tends to make the individual live in a separate world; he must not have outside points of reference. He must not be allowed a moment of meditation or reflection in which to see himself vis-à-vis the propagandist, as happens when the propaganda is not continuous.

      At that moment the individual emerges from the grip of propaganda. Instead, successful propaganda will occupy every moment of the individual’s life: through posters and loudspeakers when he is out walking, through radio and newspapers at home, through meetings and movies in the evening.

      The individual must not be allowed to recover, to collect himself, to remain untouched by propaganda during any relatively long period, for propaganda is not the touch of the magic wand. It is based on slow, constant impregnation. It creates convictions and compliance through imperceptible influences that are effective only by continuous repetition. It must create a complete environment for the Individual, one from which he never emerges. And to prevent him from finding external points of reference, it protects him by censoring everything that might come in from the outside. ”
      excerpt from “Propaganda
      The Formation of Men’s Attitudes”1965, Vintage Books 1973 English Version
      by (French Sociologist) Jacques Ellul

  9. TomG
    March 4, 2019 at 09:54

    Joe, your contemplative wisdom is distilled in your simple and immensely profound words, “Millions of lives erased for lifestyles.”

  10. Bob Van Noy
    March 4, 2019 at 09:30

    You’re doing a masterful job Joe Lauria, the best way I can thank You is to add to my support of Consortiumnews…

  11. March 4, 2019 at 09:25

    Yes, this is very true.

    And when you think about it, how else could it be?

    Media depend on government for so many, many things, it wouldn’t even be rational to attack them.

    They depend on government for all kinds of regulations and laws.

    For permissions in financial transactions like mergers and take-overs, things which have featured large in recent decades.

    For access to information sources.

    For leaks.

    For general good-will in doing their business.

    The best and truest thing ever said about the press was, “If you want a free press, you must own one.”

    That is a fundamental truth.

    • March 7, 2019 at 16:50

      John Chuckman, great summation as to why. Remember the change in the Iraq invasion to have the media imbedded. Just another way of closing any loopholes.

      Must be the something in the air today. Commenter especially sharp on this article.

  12. Joe Tedesky
    March 4, 2019 at 09:21

    Australia belongs too the ‘5 Eyes’. In case you may all have forgotten the ‘5 Eyes’ are what Cecil Rhodes envisioned where England, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the USA are united into one big English speaking cabal. A cabal as racist as Hitler’s Germany was meant to be made of Aryan superiority in its concept to rule the world.

    I’m thoroughly convinced that our news in the USA should be broadcasted by small independent news agencies and, commercial free if it’s to properly operate unhinged from any outside influences. Ideally this independent media would be modeled on the same platform as C-Span. Pundits would need to clearly identify their sponsorship affiliation as, news panel anchors would not omit vital facts in order to sway the narrative of what they are reporting.

    There was a time we referred to our news as it being a ‘news report’. To day we get our news from ‘shows’ and, that’s entertainment.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 4, 2019 at 09:37
      • Skip Scott
        March 4, 2019 at 10:47

        Thanks for the link Joe. Excellent video at the bottom.

        • Joe Tedesky
          March 4, 2019 at 15:22

          You are welcome Skip. You know Skip what Professor Cole’s article brings out is how we Americans are being censored by the Israeli’s from right behind our backs. Little does any American I know even have the slightest idea of how manipulative Israel is inside our diverse society. And is it any wonder when an Israeli Prime Minster can rally our US Congress against the policies of our president as, Netanyahu did to Obama over the Iran nuclear agreement? In fact where was the outrage from our MSM as this silence embeds itself into the fabric of our American population? Funny how one of the charges in Israel against Netanyahu is due to his playing favorites with their own Israeli media. Why should this not surprise anyone but, yet Israel is doing something about Netanyahu’s instigating with his country’s media while America sleep walks ignoring any or all criticism of any kind of Israeli plot to sway our news. This all while Representative Ilhan Omar gets accused of her being Anti-Semitic over the simplest of remarks concerning outside foreign influence. America please wake up! Peace Skip. Joe

  13. Chet Roman
    March 4, 2019 at 08:59

    “The virulently anti-media Trump administration”

    Not surprising considering the almost unanimous MSM aggressive promotion of the Russian collusion hoax. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow has made a lucrative career on one narrative: Russian/Putin are at the center of Trump’s political success and anyone defending trump is a Russian agent. Journalists, like Corn and Isikoff, have transformed into propagandists serving the Deep State. Corn recently switch from his 2-year long claims of “collusion” and is now peddling a “aiding and abetting” narrative that aligns with the Adam Schiff cabal. The current state of journalism seems more like Operation Mockingbird 2.0.

    Trump has many shortcomings but his comments on the MSM are spot on.

    • Joe Tedesky
      March 4, 2019 at 15:58

      Chet although it’s been said before it’s worth repeating that the likes of the chicken-hawks (like the ones you mentioned) should be on the first wave of troops too attack when the war with Russia does come to be (let’s hope not). Only thing is, is that if it is war with Russia it will be a big relief if it is only fought conventionally. But in the dark spaces of my mind I picture these draft dodging warmongers screaming their overrated opportunistic heads off like scared little children for when the bombs and bullets do start flying. I’ll get over this mean spirited daydream of mine for the sake of my own karma but, instead I’ll pray that good people eventually do take charge of our foreign and domestic problems. Now where to find these valiant saviors we have been waiting for far too long is the only problem. Peace Chet. Joe

  14. eric32
    March 4, 2019 at 08:51

    When you send money to them, you’re supporting them and their “products”.

    People complain about what garbage mainstream news/info is – and they’re right, it’s socially/politically destructive garbage.

    But how many of these people support this garbage with subscription money paid to cable tv, satellite tv, magazine and newspaper corporations?

    • Mike from Jersey
      March 4, 2019 at 10:33

      Eric, You are exactly right. I, myself, not only cut off all TV and cable subscriptions, but I boycott any company which supports militarism. Period.

      • Eric32
        March 4, 2019 at 19:34

        I quit cable TV at the start of the year 2000.

        The “news” shows were even then obvious garbage, the ubiquitous commercials were stupid and offensive, and HBO had only one movie in the previous year that I thought was worth watching.

        Nowadays, many people are unaware of over the air broadcast TV that’s ok for football etc., and costs nothing.

        With internet, ther’e a lot of stuff out there of much higher quality and of much higher information value.

  15. Sam F
    March 4, 2019 at 07:34

    An excellent summary of the critical problem of mass media control by oligarchy.
    A good analysis article at ICH: Of course this reflects the corruption of federal government by unregulated economic power.

    We must have amendments to the Constitution to restrict funding of mass media and elections to limited individual donations, to restore democracy.

    • Skip Scott
      March 4, 2019 at 07:57

      The problem will not be fixed until we change the underlying structure of media and government elections supported by concentrated capital. I would go even further regarding elections. We should remove donations entirely, and candidates’ advertising should be illegal. Instead we should have our mass media fulfill the public service obligation for their FCC license by giving free air time to qualified candidates for speeches and debates. Instead of limiting the money, remove it altogether. The debates should be way more often, and rotated among the TV networks. State and local elections should be conducted in the same manner by local TV stations as an extension of the local news.

      • Sam F
        March 4, 2019 at 12:09

        The two methods of campaign finance (limited individual donations, free mass media coverage) are likely both part of a solution. There should be major public debate of:
        1. Which methods adequately pre-qualify candidates so that not every aspirant gets equal free airtime;
        2. Which methods cannot readily be manipulated by party bagmen and financial scammers;
        3. Which methods permit evaluation of competency and appeal in the most numerous low-level pre-qualification debates;
        4. Should other resources (travel, security, organization) be provided, purchased with public funds, or donation-financed?

        • Skip Scott
          March 4, 2019 at 14:19

          Good questions Sam.
          Obviously there has to be some fair way to cull the least qualified aspirants to keep the system from “clogging up”. Perhaps advancing from local, to state, to national venues would be a good way to go about it. As for item 4, I really think we should have it all publicly funded. Allowing for donations just opens the door for possible corruption through “bundling”.

    • Mark Stanley
      March 4, 2019 at 12:11

      Thanks for the link Sam. Swiss investigative reporting that chops up the entire load of rotten international media firewood with a scalpel–and WITH references (how refreshing!)

  16. mike k
    March 4, 2019 at 06:55

    It’s all about the money. The major media profit enormously from cranking out establishment propaganda. The rich get richer, the rest of us get poorer. That’s what capitalism is really about. The “news” that most Americans see is all a grand game of illusion which is totally fake. The real news is rightfully alarming and awakening. Tell our friends to tune in to the real news, like CN.

    • Sam F
      March 4, 2019 at 12:16

      Yes, the real news sources must prevail by diffusion of public knowledge, which is most common among students and interest group members. Evaluation and promotion of good sources is time-consuming and likely only among the well-educated, whom we hope can draw ahead of the corruption processes of oligarchy, which are always in close pursuit when their schemes are evaded.

  17. michael
    March 4, 2019 at 05:57

    Newspapers and TV ‘news’ media have dropped from at least 50 independent owners 30 years ago to five or six, of the same CIA-controlled and -rewarded mindset. The government keeps singing the same refrain; “WE cannot censure your news, but the PRIVATE OWNERS (who WE control) are free to censor our News” usually by not allowing publication of important or embarrassing (to the Establishment) stories. Real journalists, particularly investigative journalists, have also virtually disappeared over the last 30 years. I fear for the few that speak their minds on alt sites, which the Establishment will eventually squash. The situation is even worse on social media, which is our future dominant news sites. Those owners have no journalistic “comfort the afflicted, afflict the comfortable” attitudes; they are tech toadies to the Establishment, doing whatever is asked (not just censoring , but also surveillance). The Police State codified under Bush/ Cheney, expanded greatly under Obama/ Hillary and now at disposal of a deranged and manipulated Trump, has always been a part of America but seems to be unstoppable and irreversible, hurtling over a cliff.

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