Biggest underreported stories of 2017
At the end of 2016, I wrote an article for The Daily Star titled "The biggest underreported stories of 2016". In it, I wrote: "In the 'age of the corporate media', where 90 percent of the American media is owned by six corporations [now five]…it is not difficult to understand how what the majority of the 'public sees and doesn't see' depends and is controlled by…a small number of corporations and ultimately, by those who control them. This is especially the case as it is also the 'age of the repeater journalists'. Where you have the majority of mainstream journalists worldwide simply 'repeating the narrative' portrayed in the powerful quarters of the world media…and the information they receive from the biggest news agencies (Western mostly)".
Given that not much has changed over the past 12 months—apart from a more concerted effort to stifle any other narratives that are out there by the corporate media—let's look at some of the biggest stories of 2017 that the media either underreported, or had ignored completely. The first, ironically, involves a story that the media had obsessed over now known as Russiagate—referring to the alleged collusion between President Trump's presidential campaign team and Russian authorities.
Despite the fanatical media coverage, this is one of those stories which, if you look closely, falls apart at the seams instantaneously. In the words of journalist Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept, "no matter how much you hate Trump or regard Russia as a grave villain…it has to be acknowledged that when the US media is spewing constant false news about all of this, that, too, is a grave threat…So numerous are the false stories about Russia and Trump over the last year that I literally cannot list them all"—neither can I.
But here is the gist of it. In spite of all talks of collusion between Trump's campaign team and the Russian government, the US authorities are yet to present one shred of evidence to back up their allegation. That too, over one whole year. Which simply means that there is none.
As the NSA's former Technical Leader for intelligence, William Binney, former CIA analyst for 27 years and the President's Daily Briefer (for Reagan and GHW Bush) Ray McGovern, and countless other top intelligence officials have explained, the hacking of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) was an inside job. The download speed of the files leaked by Wikileaks shows that—as there is no internet in the world fast enough to have downloaded those files at the speed that they were downloaded. Which also means that someone from inside the DNC had to have copied those files onto an external device (possibly a pen-drive) and given it to Wikileaks—and so were not hacked and leaked to Wikileaks by the Russians.
The only evidence provided thus far to continue this witch-hunt is a "dossier" which has thoroughly been proven to be fake and paid for by the DNC, and initially by the top brass of the Republican Party itself. However, there seems to be some evidence to suggest that there may have indeed been collusion between the Trump campaign team and a foreign country—not Russia, and is a whole can of worm in and of itself. So why has the media been trying so hard to tie Trump to Russia?
This brings us to the second story, which is Syria. By now plenty of evidence has come out to suggest that the Syrian war, rather than being a civil war, was a proxy war all along—funded and fuelled from abroad. Given that Trump, when he was a presidential candidate, had expressed his wish (whether he meant it or not) to normalise relations with Russia and "allow" (although it is not for him to decide) President Assad to remain in power, there is speculation that the US Deep State had wanted to use Russiagate to prevent that from happening.
Despite that, the war in Syria is now almost over (amidst total media silence) while thousands of Syrian refugees are now returning to their homeland after years of exile. ISIS has nearly been defeated, with thousands of fighters leaving for other countries which, at this point, should be a concern for the whole world.
But as the Syrian war nears its end, another war continues to rage on and is yet ignored by the media—the war in Yemen. As journalist Dan Glazebrook wrote, "Two-and-a-half years of a lethal blockade and bombardment have produced almost nothing regarding territorial gains in the…war against the Yemeni nation…This siege against a country dependent on imports for over 80 percent of its food, fuel, and medicine is nothing less than genocidal."
According to Save the Children, 130 Yemeni children are now dying every day from extreme hunger or disease, with 50,000 dead (at least) in 2017 alone. Almost 900,000 people were infected by a cholera epidemic—the biggest ever recorded. Seven million people were in immediate risk of famine and, according to the heads of three UN agencies, "Untold thousands of innocent people will die…unless the Saudi-led military coalition unconditionally lifts it blockade of the country's ports."
This war has, moreover, been a complete embarrassment for the "coalition of the killing," which includes the major western powers. So much so that a group of US Congressmen from both the major political parties has been attempting, through a resolution invoking the War Powers Act, to force the US to stop aiding the Saudi-led coalition in its bombing campaign which would collapse without support from western countries.
The only reason, however, why it has been so embarrassing is because despite the mainstream media blackout, with the advent of alternative media organisations such as Wikileaks as I wrote last year, these stories "can no longer be blacked out completely." Which brings us to the last story—net neutrality.
In December last year, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US dismantled net neutrality, the popular Obama-era regulations that prevented internet service providers from controlling the speeds at which content travels across their networks. According to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a US media watch group, net neutrality in effect "means the government prohibits cable companies and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from blocking, slowing or otherwise discriminating against the web traffic of their users." Which, in short, means that it ensured "internet freedom".
So why did the FCC remove net-neutrality? To assist the corporate media that is losing consumers on a daily basis to alternative and unbiased sources of information, fight back and regain its monopoly on the narrative behind each and every story.
A year ago, I had written that the biggest story of 2016 is that people are losing faith in the corporate media and are looking at other sources of information. Today, however, the biggest story should be that the corporations behind the corporate media have used all their weight to fight back in 2017, to ensure that people like you and me can no longer share our stories with the rest of the world in our own words and from our own perspectives, and to force us to allow the corporate media to define and explain our stories and who we are as they see fit.
If you find that unacceptable, dear reader, perhaps 2018 is your year to fight back.
Eresh Omar Jamal is a member of the editorial team at The Daily Star.