Satire Trumps Surveillance

Junk Food News
PARIS, FRANCE - FEBRUARY 16: Edinson Cavani of Paris Saint-Germain (2R) celebrates with team mates as he scores their second goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 first leg match between Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea at Parc des Princes on February 16, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Written by: Matthew Allred (California State University, Maritime Academy)

Edited by: Aimee Casey (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Advisor: Dr. Nolan Higdon (California State University, East Bay

In March 2017, the corporate media covered “On ‘SNL’, Donald Trump Botches His ‘Independence Day’ Moment”, while the independent media covered “Wikileaks Just Released Documents It Says Came From Within the CIA”. Project Censored founder Dr. Carl Jensen defined junk food news as the news stories that deliver sensationalized, personalized, and homogenized inconsequential trivia at the expense of investigative journalism.  The two articles juxtaposed illustrate the corporate media’s willingness to ignore serious issues while simultaneously promoting inconsequential “information”.  This tactic hinders the investigative journalists at non-profit independent media outlets from gaining too much influence which often contradicts the corporate narrative.  The corporate media coverage of Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of President Trump on Saturday Night Live is non-newsworthy because it is trivial and does not affect the lives of American citizens. The independent media coverage of Wikileaks documents is newsworthy because the investigative journalism exposed the threat of surveillance by the CIA and other government agencies, which is relevant to all American citizens.

On March 12, 2017, The New York Times covered the non-newsworthy story, “On ‘SNL’, Donald Trump Botches His ‘Independence Day’ Moment”. The article reviewed the previous night’s episode of Saturday Night Live in which President Trump faced an alien invasion. The episode “offered ample criticism of President Trump and his young administration”. Unapologetically biased, the cast made various jokes and jabs at Trump’s administration and cabinet choices. In addition to this, the SNL sketch extended to Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, in a parody ad for perfume called Complicit: “the fragrance for the woman who could stop all this, but won’t”.

The corporate media dedicated a great amount of coverage to the junk food news story “On ‘SNL’, Donald Trump Botches His ‘Independence Day’ Moment”. On March 12, 2017, both ABC and NBC covered the events of the show as well as the jokes and insults directed toward President Trump and his administration. These articles were very similar to the one written by The New York Times.

In March 2017, while the corporate media covered “On ‘SNL’, Donald Trump Botches His ‘Independence Day’ Moment”, the independent media outlet Mother Jones covered “Wikileaks Just Released Documents It Says Came From Within the CIA”. On March 7th, Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, published the story “Wikileaks Just Released Documents It Says Came From Within the CIA.” Drum’s article focused on the new methods that the CIA is using to conduct surveillance on American citizens, and how easily CIA operatives are able to hack into private technology devices. Drum observed that, “The initial release…included 7,818 web pages with 943 attachments of CIA material”. WikiLeaks corroborated the information and issued their own statement detailing the leak, now known as Vault 7. A WikiLeaks press release described the hack as, “The largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency”. The release indicated that the CIA had been acting against the interests of the American people and violating their Constitutional rights.

The discussion of CIA surveillance is newsworthy because it threatens the privacy of American citizens. A WikiLeaks press release explained that recently, “The CIA has lost control of the majority of its hacking arsenal including malware, viruses, Trojan horses…” In response, the CIA was forced to upgrade their hacking software to affect things like iPhones, Androids, smart TVs, and even autonomous automobiles. Mother Jones writer Kevin Drum explained that “The tools in this archive are mostly bits of malware that can be inserted into smartphones and other devices”. The tools allow the CIA to remotely monitor people all over the country. The surveillance techniques that have been revealed in these leaks are an important step in reducing the influence of domestic surveillance in America.

Corporate media uses its power and influence to crowd out smaller investigative media outlets. Through their junk food news, they deliberately misinform and mislead the public from topics that are worthy of their time and attention. The deliberate targeting of President Trump by Saturday Night Live left no room for a serious discussion about how the CIA continues to violate American rights and freedoms. Because of this, the New York Times ultimately proved that its article on SNL was not newsworthy. On the other hand, Mother Jones published an article on a topic that is both relevant and important to most, if not all Americans.

Junk Food News

Nolan Higdon is a professor of English, Communication, and History of the US and Latin America in the San Francisco Bay Area. His academic work focuses on nationalism, propaganda, and critical media literacy education. He sits on the boards of the Media Freedom Foundation, Sacred Heart University's Media Literacy and Digital Culture Graduate Program, the Union for Democratic Communications Steering Committee, and the Northwest Alliance For Alternative Media And Education. Higdon is ta co-founder for the Global Critical Media Literacy Project. He has contributed chapters to Censored 2013-2017 as well as Stephen Lendman’s Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III (2014). He has published articles on media and propaganda including “Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones War on Your Mind (2013),” “Millennial Media Revolution (2014),” and “Justice For Sale (2015).” He has been a guest on national radio and television programs.
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