Op-Ed by Carey Wedler
On Sunday, protesters, veterans, and a global network of their allies cheered as the Army Corps of Engineers denied a final easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline, temporarily blocking the project.
Mainstream outlets from ABC, NBC, and CBS to TV behemoths CNN and MSNBC rushed to report the breaking news, many pouncing on a story they spent months ignoring.
According to an article from early September published by Fairness and Accuracy in Media (FAIR), a national media watchdog group:
The broadcast news networks—ABC, CBS and NBC—have aired exactly one report on the Dakota Access Pipeline protests since the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe began an encampment against the project in April, according to a search of the Nexis news database. That report, read by Anne-Marie Green, aired on the CBS Morning News at 4 a.m. on September 5. Here it is in its entirety:
“National Public Radio reports violence during demonstrations against a proposed oil pipeline in North Dakota. Protesters confronted workers Saturday at a construction site. Police say four private security guards and two guard dogs were hurt. Tribal officials say the construction destroyed an Indian burial ground and cultural sites.”
FAIR noted that in spite of this brief, one-sided report, NPR’s version did feature footage from Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman — but CBS excluded it:
Goodman’s footage shows the construction project’s security guards wielding pepper spray and deploying attack dogs to provoke and injure demonstrators—violence on the part of the pipeline authorities that got left out of CBS‘s rip-and-read on the protests.
Two weeks later, FAIR again reported on the media blackout, though this time it mentioned several instances of mainstream outlets like MSNBC and CNN providing “lengthy (by TV news standards) and sympathetic reports.” Still, FAIR noted gaps in coverage across establishment sources. “ABC News and NBC News [were] yet to broadcast a word about the pipeline struggle, according to searches of the Nexis news database,” FAIR wrote, noting “no TV outlet in the Nexis database” had covered the trespassing charges against Goodman.
The media went on to ignore other instances of journalists being abused by law enforcement. One independent journalist who contributes to mainstream outlet Politico was shot with a rubber bullet while reporting on peaceful protests in November. Though some outlets covered the incident, premium cable networks (MSNBC and CNN, for example) appeared to ignore it altogether.
Indeed, over the course of several months, the establishment media avoided providing extensive coverage of the DAPL protests, even as police tactics grew increasingly aggressive.
Back in August, Anti-Media Editor-in-Chief Nick Bernabe explained one of the reasons why:
The corporate media in the United States is deeply in bed with oil interests. From fracking advertisements on MSNBC to individuals on Big Oil’s payroll literally working for Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, the ties cannot be understated. Why would mainstream media publicize a standoff that could potentially kill an oil pipeline when their own financial interests would be negatively affected? The answer is they wouldn’t.
Where the mainstream media failed, the independent media relentlessly covered the protests, promoting livestreams of the events that showed journalists and protesters being brutally arrested. Independent outlets made videos, posted articles, and ensured literally millions of people learned about what was occurring at Standing Rock, all while their journalists were under attack on the ground. Anti-Media journalist Derrick Broze was tasered by police immediately after he identified himself as media (he was also reporting on behalf of Activist Post, Mint Press News, and his own organization, the Conscious Resistance).
During this period, the mainstream media was busy propping up Hillary Clinton, spreading Cold War-era propaganda, and most recently, attempting to smear independent media in the fallout from the election.
The weekend before Thanksgiving, the corporate media took an unprecedented interest in the protests at Standing Rock after police fired water cannons at protesters in freezing temperatures. After livestream footage showed hours of the onslaught, headlines from establishment print media outlets began to emerge. But as FAIR noted, many failed to convey the severity of the situation. In fact, FAIR contends multiple outlets intentionally downplayed it.
The organization condemned the New York Times headline on the standoff, “16 Arrested at North Dakota Pipeline Protest as Tensions Continue,” noting, “Sorry, New York Times–when more than 470 people have been arrested opposing the pipeline since August, that’s not the news.”
FAIR noted that NPR, CBS, ABC News, framed the events as a “clash” between protesters and police:
This ‘clash’ framing—also utilized in headlines on CBS (11/20/16) and CNN(11/20/16)—implies a parity between police in military vehicles, employing water cannon, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber-coated bullets and concussion grenades (one of which may have cost an activist her arm), on the one hand, and basically unarmed civilians on the other. (Police say one officer was hit in the head by a thrown rock.)Declare Your Independence!Profit outside the rigged system! Protect yourself from tyranny and economic collapse. Learn to live free and spread peace!
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One almost gets the sense that editors writing headlines like these have enlisted themselves on the sheriff’s team, waving spectators away with a ‘nothing to see here, folks.’
The Washington Post (11/21/16) got the news into the headline, but framed it from a police perspective: ‘Police Defend Use of Water Cannons on Dakota Access Protesters in Freezing Weather.’
Though FAIR notes several media outlets did acknowledge the severity of police behavior in their headlines, some of the biggest names in news failed to fully report on the events of that evening, throughout which hundreds of protesters were injured while one cop was hit in the head with a rock. The next major story they covered was the veterans’ movement to join and defend protesters, a viral story that broke throughout Thanksgiving weekend.
Fast forward to Sunday and the corporate media was fully reporting on the Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to block the pipeline by refusing to grant a final easement to the pipeline company. They were reaching huge audiences.
NBC’s Facebook video on the event has over one million views. MSNBC’s video has over six million views. The latter had a reporter on the ground corresponding live, and CNN, too, had a reporter on the ground. CNN even stepped in to report on the police’s ongoing tactics of silencing journalists, inviting Amy Goodman, whose persecution they previously found unworthy of coverage, onto their broadcast to detail her experience covering the protests on the ground.
While on one hand, the media’s acknowledgment of the protests is great news — for once, the media is covering an issue of relevance — on the other, it highlights many problems with corporate sources of information.
The media failed to highlight months of law enforcement’s mistreatment of protesters but swooped in to cover escalating tensions that followed. And this is precisely the problem. Though the establishment media dutifully reported the viral story that thousands of veterans were organizing to attend Standing Rock, they failed to adequately report on the exact issues that prompted the veterans’ visit.
As the group said prior to their arrival:
We’ll be standing alongside peaceful water protectors, who’ve endured violent attacks from the private security funded by DAPL and more brutality and arrests at the hands of militarized police and DAPL security.
Though the mainstream media’s coverage of the events undoubtedly helped raise awareness in the past several weeks — even if many headlines subtly distorted reality — their initial refusal to report on the situation should serve as yet another indictment of the failing establishment.
While independent media efforted to make it to Standing Rock on limited budgets and literally put their lives on the line to broadcast the unfolding events, corporate media rested lazily on their gilded super-platforms, refusing to highlight the struggles of journalists and other Americans (they were busy cooking up shoddily sourced narratives to discredit the very media that’s been on the ground reporting on the DAPL protests).
There are many lessons to be learned from Standing Rock. Most notably, it is the power of protest, overwhelmingly peaceful action, and the ability of people of all walks of life to come together and collectively and effectively challenge the establishment. Without the help of government or the lapdog media, protesters were able to raise thousands of dollars and enjoyed abundant donations of food, cold weather gear, and camping supplies. Journalists received modest but helpful donations to travel to Standing Rock and cover the protests — precisely because the mainstream media wouldn’t. The veterans, alone, were able to raise over a million dollars (though mainstream media coverage admittedly must have helped boost that figure).
Just as individuals proved they can take care of each other, the independent media — with your support — proved its ability to spread awareness and, ultimately, drove the story so far into the national narrative that corporate outlets had no choice but to acknowledge it.
The mainstream media is becoming increasingly irrelevant because of the exact behavior they displayed at Standing Rock. Please help continue this trend by supporting the news outlets and journalists who forced them to cover the story in the first place.
Unicorn Riot had multiple journalists on the ground and provided some of the best livestream footage of the events, even as some of them were arrested in the process. The Free Thought Project published a list of effective ways to help that was widely circulated; actress Shailene Woodley, who was arrested at Standing Rock in October, linked FTP’s article in an op-ed for TIME, a mainstream outlet. Derrick Broze was reporting and livestreaming for Anti-Media and others in North Dakota. He made three trips to Standing Rock to cover the events and in addition to being tasered by police four times after identifying himself as media (see video above), he was also pepper sprayed.
On Sunday, Broze posted on Facebook following news of the Army Corps decision, pointing out that “This small victory has come because of mass opposition and awareness. This was achieved through social media and the independent media. This is yet another example of the power we hold.”
Still, he cautioned:
Finally, all of our fighting, donations, and efforts are ultimately wasted if we do not change our own individual actions. The evolution is in the conversations, it’s in the day to day actions we take. We can end the oilgarchy, statism, and environmental destruction once we change our thinking and ultimately our habits. First, we become conscious on an individual level and then we create empowered communities.
Through the events at Standing Rock, it’s become apparent we no longer need the establishment media and overarching corporate state to achieve these goals — and perhaps we never did.
This article (Here’s Why You Can’t Trust Mainstream Media’s Reporting on the DAPL) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Carey Wedler and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11 pm Eastern/8 pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, please email the error and name of the article to [email protected].