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The Mass Media Play Down Information That Puts the Nation in a Negative Light

The media not only represents the news in terms favorable to the nation, it also plays down information that puts the nation in a negative light. The news media of the U.S. is a case in point.

When the UN General Assembly opposes the U.S. virtually unanimously, the U.S. media play that down, either by not reporting the vote at all or burying it in fine print or with an obscure notice. For example, most Americans are unaware of the extent to which the United States has stood alone, or virtually alone, in votes of the general assembly of the United Nations. According to the United Nations (2001), the U.S. was the only nation in the world voting against the following resolutions:

  • Resolutions seeking to ban testing and development of chemical and biological weapons (1981, 1982, 1983, 1984);

  • Resolutions seeking to prohibit the testing and development of nuclear weapons (1982, 1983, 1984);

  • Resolutions seeking to prohibit the escalation of the arms race into space (1982, 1983);

  • Resolutions condemning and calling for an end to apartheid in South Africa (five in 1981, four in 1982, four in 1983);

  • Resolutions calling for education, health care, and nourishment as basic human rights (1981, 1982, 1983);

  • Resolutions affirming the right of every nation to self determination of its economic and social systems free of outside intervention (1981, 1983).

In 1981, the U.S. and Israel were the only nations in the world voting against 11 otherwise unanimous resolutions condemning Israel for human rights abuses committed against the Palestinians. And on December 7, 1987, the U.S. was the only nation to abstain from supporting a unanimous resolution calling for a convention on the rights of the child (United Nations, 2001).

The view that the U.S. fosters about itself, both at home and abroad, is, of course, that of being the leader of the free world. This view would be largely shattered if it were widely reported in the U.S. that, in fact, no other nation is following its lead.

On the one hand, the U.S. media foster the view that the U.S. is the best place to live in the world. At the same time, "The U.S. now imprisons more people than any other country in the world—perhaps half a million more than Communist China (Atlantic Monthly, December 1998)." One state alone, California, "now has the biggest prison system in the Western industrialized world… The state holds more inmates in its jails and prisons than do France, Great Britain, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and the Netherlands combined" (Atlantic Monthly, December 1998).

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