Bagdikian uses the war in Iraq as an external example of how American media fail to provide people with all information needed to function fully as citizens.
"The crucial test has always been that, when faced with government
coercion or distortion of reality, the news media, protected by the First
Amendment of the Constitution, would tell the American people the closest
approach to the truth that is possible for a human institution,"and in
2002, mainstream media failed that test, Bagdikian asserts.
He also details media failures that are similar to the movie, "Wag the Dog," about how media are manipulated by those in power.
"Fundamental deceptions damage the public's ability to maintain a rational
view of the real world.
Once a basic untruth is rooted, it blurs a society's perception of reality and, consequently, the intelligence with which society reacts to events."
In some ways even more disturbing was the failure of the major media to make clear to the public the meaning of crucial news reported by the news media themselves [and not appropriately emphasized] but treated as an interesting but ordinary news item."
(Bagdikian uses the example of how the timing of the war was calculated for maximum political effect on the approaching midterm elections in 2002.)
"All the news that fits"
This chapter details some other important of American media and explains some important media background.
"But no powerful nation is without a dark side to its history. The
States is not an exception.
Within the United States, the country's media are permitted by the Constitution to disagree, but too often they should have disagreed and did not."
Bagdikian says that citizens are at a disadvantage of knowing about world affairs because its media has fewer correspondents permanently stationed in foreign capitals than any other major Western nations, thus resulting in a "remarkably small pool of expertise on foreign culture and politics."
But, some media that offer another side do exist, Bagdikian offers up The Nation, The Progressive, The New Republic, etc. as a few examples.
"These smaller, less mainstream media use native nongovernmental sources within the affected countries, previously unreported testimony before congressional committees, or the research of American scholars like Noam Chomsky and other academics who are not significant sources for the main media because they are seen either as leftist or merely antiestablishment professors."
A "pernicious aftermath" of false or faulty journalistic reporting stays in memory banks of news organizations -- and are, thus, perpetuated into the future.
Bagdikian says the main U.S. news services usually report the official Washington version of events without independent investigations.
Bagdikian traces media coverage about places such as the U.S.S.R. and Chile and stresses that the former omissions and "evasion" of media still persist.
For evidence, he cites examples from Guatemala and East Timor.
American media also fail to report relevant news about themselves, especially how control of public information by only a few corporations "weakens democracy by omission of news that might interfere with media's maximizing their own profits."
As more and more media became owned by large corporations, the pressures
of Wall Street began to dictate policies of media and make certain the
goal was ever-rising profit, which Bagdikian details as having an
important impact on coverage.
An example is the way newspapers cut reporting staff and space for news, and broadcast media cut air time for serious news.
Bagdikian uses homelessness as an extended example of an issue in America
that does not receive full and adequate coverage. In essence, the media
failed to cover an important social issue.