The Tug-Of-War Between Government And Media: Examining The Challenges Faced By Investigative Journalists
The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to obstruct investigative journalists from informing the public on what is going on in the government.
Through various means including “gagging,” the Obama administration has effectively blocked investigative journalists from reporting the truth.
The author of Stonewalled was given a firsthand look into how far the Obama administration would go to keep their activities hidden from view.
During her research for the book, she received numerous disturbing threats made by government officials in an effort to prevent her from revealing certain details of their actions.
It can be difficult for investigative journalists to paint an accurate picture when dealing with powerful governments, however, it is more important now than ever that these voices be heard and that accurate information be given to the public.
Obama Administration Has Violated The Promise Of “Unprecedented Level Of Openness”
It’s been clear since President Obama took office in 2009 that he does not always live up to his promise of an “unprecedented level of openness”.
In fact, the coverage of certain events – such as his meeting with the Dalai Lama and a Pakistani human rights activist – by traditional media outlets has been hindered by the administration.
The free press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has noticed this too, and it has shown in their rankings: between 2008 and 2014, America’s global ranking dropped from 41 to 46.
This was further exacerbated by the government’s seizure of Associated Press Phone records in 2013.
Rather than relying on traditional news outlets for information, President Obama also chooses to bypass legitimate questions by producing content using channels that he can control more easily.
For instance, instead of doing face-to-face interviews, he hosts online chats with pre-selected individuals who won’t be hostile to his policies.
He also posts pro-administration messages via his social media channels like Twitter or Facebook in order to propagate them further.
To put it simply: political transparency has been steadily declining under Obama’s presidency.
The Obama Administration’S Suppression Of Free Speech In The Press
The current Obama Administration often works to obstruct journalists from uncovering stories that may damage its public image.
Investigative reporters involved in uncovering such pieces will come under scrutiny, and they can even face legal threats – though the information they are revealing is the truth.
C-Span disobeyed the White House’s request concerning the Oval Office renovations and received a letter from the deputy press secretary, stating that no future access would be granted to the President in response.
Similarly, when CBS ran a story about whistleblowers who felt that their testimonies before Congress were being blocked by government action, White House Spokesman Jay Carney attempted to file a complaint against the reporter.
That they attempted to do so despite any specific issues with CBS’ report demonstrates just how determined this administration has been in wanting to stonewall those who would try to unearth its darker truths.
The Disconcerting Effects Of Astroturfing: How Pr Agencies Trick You With Deceitful Reviews And Ratings
Government agencies and companies are increasingly employing a technique called “astroturfing” to push their agenda.
This involves public relations people masquerading as “normal” people to spread their message more effectively – creating faux grassroots support for a product, group or policy.
This could mean anything from bloggers, reviews and Facebook accounts belonging to PR groups trying to sell you something, all the way up to politicians who machete-fake spontaneous grassroots support for a particular law, program or policy opinion or discredit opposing ideas or people with blogs or forum posts.
It’s also been shown that many people tend to align their beliefs and preferences with whatever they see as the norm – making astroturfing an effective way of influencing public opinion.
Furthermore, journalists may accept the manufactured PR spin they read on social networks as true public opinion which can distort their reporting.
All in all, government agencies and companies have become savvy to this devious tactic of pushing an agenda by fabricating reviews and thoughts — utilizing astroturfing efforts across multiple platforms.
How Government Surveillance Puts Investigative Journalists At Risk
It’s no secret that the government takes great pains to stop whistleblowing and effectively shut down any kind of investigative work that may uncover sensitive or embarrassing information.
One need only look at the events leading up to the seizure of Associated Press employees’ records in May 2013 in order to understand how extensive these measures can be.
The search was conducted in an effort to find out who provided the AP with information on a foiled bomb plot in Yemen, and just one week later James Rosen’s communications were targeted by the government as they attempted to identify his leak source regarding North Korea.
This case was dubbed ‘Obama’s War on Leaks’ by journalists, as it demonstrated how quickly and thoroughly the administration was willing to go about protecting state secrets.
And for investigative journalists such as Sharyl Attkisson, author of Stonewalled, these actions have grown ever more personal.
She claims her computers have been infiltrated since 2011 with sophisticated malware indicating potential involvement from agencies such as the NSA or FBI; this malware allegedly captures everything from passwords to conversations via her laptop microphone.
Even more frightening is that she witnessed a report she had been working on deleted before her eyes, line by line, seemingly without explanation.
It all serves as a stark reminder of just how determined the government can be when it comes to keeping certain facts under wraps – making sure investigative journalism remains vital in our society today
The Fatal Consequences Of The Atf’S Operation ‘Fast And Furious’
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) had a plan to sell guns to Mexican drug traffickers in 2009 as part of an operation called “Fast and Furious”.
However, this failed spectacularly with catastrophic effects.
Although the idea was to trace the gun sales back to drug dealers and apprehend them, licensed gun dealers in Arizona were encouraged by the ATF to make these transactions happen.
The result was firearm trafficking on a massive scale that led to deaths and violence rather than curbing it.
It’s estimated that only 700 of the 2,000 guns sold were recovered, leaving many still out there wreaking havoc in Mexico – from battles between government officials and criminal organisations to innocent citizens like beauty queen Maria Susana Gomez being used as human shields in gunfights.
Not one cartel leader was ever successfully brought down because of this foolish operation either.
Ultimately, it backfired terribly: U.S Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot dead by a “Fast and Furious” weapon wielded by a Mexican cartel member; hundreds of other innocent Mexicans have been injured or killed due to these same guns; nothing has been accomplished for US law enforcement except for hundreds of lives being tragically lost; “Fast and Furious” remains one of the most disastrous strategies ever undertaken by a government agency in modern times.
The Us Government Denied Knowledge And Invoked Executive Privilege To Conceal The Truth Behind “Fast And Furious”
The government worked hard to cover up its “Fast and Furious” gunwalking program—both directly and indirectly.
They denied any knowledge of the operation and refused to allow evidence to come out that proved otherwise.
Even Attorney General Eric Holder was sent briefings as far back as July 2010, yet he still testified before a Senate committee saying he had no knowledge of it!
To make matters worse, President Obama even invoked his executive privilege for the very first time in order to hide documents or keep them from being released.
Along with that, one email exchange surfaced between White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz and Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler talking about how to silence the author who revealed many details of the scandal.
It’s clear that many in the government have done everything they can to keep their failed “Fast and Furious” gunwalking program quiet—even if it means attempting (and succeeding) at silencing whistleblowers and other people who have information regarding this unfortunate event.
The Obama Administration’S Warren Of Taxpayer Money On ‘Green’ Companies Was A Foolish Mistake That They Tried To Hide
The Obama administration’s attempt to stimulate the economy through investing in “green energy” companies was a huge failure.
They allocated $90 billion of the 2009 stimulus package to these projects, but it turns out these investments were extremely unrealistic and led to astronomical financial losses.
Take Fisker Karma as an example – Energy Secretary Steven Chu had expected that this company would create 5,000 new jobs, reduce carbon pollution by several millions of tons, produce 75,000 to 100,000 cars each year and export more cars than any other U.S.
In reality, none of these expectations came true; in 2013, the company filed for bankruptcy after selling only 1,800 cars.
Other companies didn’t fare any better either – Think Global received $17 million in stimulus tax credits from the government yet went bankrupt three years later.
Beacon Power similarly had a poor credit rating prior to receiving a $43 million loan from the government.
In total, 12 green energy companies ran into financial trouble after having been approved for $6.5 billion in federal assistance and five of them even filed for bankruptcy!
So the government squandered billions of dollars in taxpayer money on unrealistic investments with no real chance of success.
The Government Tries To Suppress Negative Media Coverage Of Its Failing Green Energy Program
In Stonewalled: My Fight To Uncover the Truth About The Obama White House, journalist Sharyl Attkisson details her exhaustive efforts to expose the government’s “green” energy program for its financial losses.
Yet despite her research and reporting, most mainstream media outfits weren’t keen on covering this important story that was resulting in a huge waste of taxpayer money.
For instance, when Abound Solar collapsed- leading to the government losing $40-$60 million in taxpayer money- barely a few news outlets covered it.
Similarly, when Attkisson personally informed them of a “green” company facing financial trouble after receiving taxpayers money, none were willing to take up the story.
The only silver lining to this rather cloudy picture was CBS This Morning producing an accurate and well-received report on all the government investments going wrong with green energy projects.
But even that didn’t remain untouched as they received letters of objection from the administration thereafter – prompting them not to pursue any negative or critical reporting concerning such investments in future.
So while some journalists attempted exposing mismanagement of public funds by the administration, most mainstream media outlets simply played blind to these failures – making it all much easier for President Obama to pass off these losses as nothing more than an insignificant ‘scandal’.
The Reality Of Media Objectivity: How The Reluctance To Irritate Influential People And Loss Of Ad Revenue Can Lead To Propaganda Journalism
media outlets often present a biased version of the truth, as they are beholden to private interests and government agendas.
Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman speak candidly about this in their book Manufacturing Consent – an account that is supported by the author’s own personal experience.
News editors prioritize keeping profits high over telling objective stories; they even risk angering influential people like politicians or advertisers in order to avoid costly lawsuits or financial losses.
For example, when the author reported on safety concerns regarding cholesterol drugs called “statins”, her boss received an angry call from CBS’ sales manager who was worried that it would scare away one of their advertisers – a company that sold statins.
It’s not just money interests at play either: journalists need access to materials in order to be able to provide meaningful coverage but the government can restrict access and remain silent on important issues.
A case in point is Obama’s meeting with Dalai Lama where only official accounts were available; we don’t know what really went down behind closed doors, especially if there were any controversial comments made by Dalai Lama criticizing Obama’s policies towards China for instance.
Thus it falls upon us journalists to always get our facts from sources that show both sides of the story and not take what is presented to us by the government at face value.
In Stonewalled, the major takeaway is that President Obama promised access to an open government but Americans are seeing unprecedented levels of obstruction instead.
This administration has been hostile to whistleblowers and reporters who are trying to uncover the truth, not to mention most media outlets have chosen to do nothing about it.
The result of this lack of government openness is a stagnant democracy and waning trust in media institutions.
It’s time for everyone-politicians, journalists, and citizens alike-to demand greater transparency in government so that we can all have faith in our leaders and the media again.