From AlterNet 3-12-08 (excerpt see site for full story)
Appalling Spread of False Information Requires Stronger Media AccountabilityWhat can you do to help keep the Big Media corporations held accountable? Learn what laws are being set into motion and voice your opinion by clicking one f the links below
By Mark Weisbrot, AlterNet. Posted March 12, 2008.
"A free press is supposed to function as our democracy's immune system against . . . gross errors of fact and understanding," wrote Al Gore in his book, The Assault on Reason. But it doesn't - as Gore explains -- and that is what makes the mass media one of the most important obstacles to social and economic progress in the 21st century.
How the media treats repeated falsehoods is a key issue. For example, when the New York Times reports on the allegation -- spread by his enemies -- that presidential candidate Barack Obama is a Muslim, there is a sentence that follows immediately: "In fact, he is a Christian. . ."
The media didn't do this kind of "immune system" work when it reported on the run-up to the Iraq war. As a result, more than 70 percent of Americans were convinced that Saddam Hussein was involved in the massacre of September 11. More than 4,000 Americans and over one million Iraqis have been killed in the violence that perhaps could have been averted with better journalism.
A 2008 study by the Center for Public Integrity, "The War Card: Orchestrated Deception on the Path to War," documents 935 false statements by President Bush and seven top officials of his administration. The report notes that "much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq."
Filmmaker Michael Moore told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "We're in the 5th year of this war because you, and CNN… didn't do your jobs back then and now here we are in this mess."
The mass media fails us on many issues other than war and peace. Most Americans under 50 think they are never going to see their Social Security benefits. In fact, the probability that they won't get their Social Security benefits is about the same as the chance that there won't be a U.S. government when they retire - pretty close to zero. The media could correct this widespread false belief by merely inserting a few undisputed facts about Social Security when reporting false statements from politicians and interest groups. For example: "Social Security is more financially sound than it has been throughout most of its 71-year history"; or "Social Security's projected shortfall over the next 75 years is less (as a percent of national income) than what was fixed in each of the following decades: 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s."
(Continued at: AlterNet)