Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Abby Martin is an internationally known journalist who hosted the no-holds-barred ‘Breaking the Set’ on Russia Today. She currently writes and directs a weekly documentary series called The Empire Files, on teleSUR English. She founded her own media organization, Media Roots, and sits on the board of Project Censored, one of the largest research groups in the country. Abby’s empathy, passion and editorial independence makes her a unique and relatable voice to those seeking honest independent media. [Applause] Thank you so much everyone for that, and first of all, thank you so much for The Venus Project for hosting me at this amazing event. And happy birthday to visionary Jacque Fresco. [Applause] This is a man who has spent his entire life innovating for a better world, and I think we need to give him one more round of applause, for that! HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY! [Applause] [Applause] [Applause] It’s a total honor to be asked to speak at your centennial celebration, so thanks again. And it's great to meet so many people here who already know my work from Russia Today, 'Breaking the Set.' My new show on teleSUR is a little different. It’s a little bit less energy, but a little bit more depressing, maybe. It's called the Empire Files; it’s on teleSUR English and it's a weekly documentary series that provides crucial historical and political context to the most pressing issues that we face today, which I think is really important when we're looking at these issues in an isolated context, especially reacting to the mainstream media 24-hour news cycle. From the alliance with the brutal Saudi theocracy to the US funding death squads across Latin America, each chapter of the Empire Files really lays bare another devastating effect of militaristic imperialism. So definitely check it out, if you haven’t yet! on YouTube. Thank you. [Applause] Most people are here ... because they are very acutely aware already of the crisis of civilization that we face. But I want to read a breathtaking statistic that I think really exemplifies EVERYthing that’s wrong with the world we live in today. According to the latest Oxfam study, 62 people now own more wealth than half of everybody living on the planet. Think about that statistic for one second. 62 people, just 62 people, own more than half the world’s population! The gap between the rich and poor is widening at an alarming rate. The wealth of the poorest half, 3.6 billion people, has fallen by $1 trillion dollars since 2010. And at the same time, the wealth of the world’s richest 62 lucky mother fuckers has increased by more than half a trillion dollars! This OBSCENE trajectory proves that when people make more money, it doesn't trickle down! Instead, untaxed trillions sit hoarded offshore. In the US, for the first time in over 50 years, over half of public school students are living in poverty or are food insecure. Think about that too. I mean, how are teachers supposed to meet standardized testing requirements when they’re busy worrying about whether or not their students are eating food, or wearing shoes. Instead of organizing to help those most in need, our ruthless system criminalizes poverty and homelessness, the extreme consequences of which are playing out all around us, driving desperate people to commit violence, crime, and terrorism. This growing dysfunction is built into an economic structure that institutionalizes barbarism and inequality. But it’s not just a system in the abstract. This global order installs powerful rulers. I saw the way it works firsthand, throughout my career. I didn’t start out wanting to be a journalist. I began as an anti-war activist and organizer in college during the lead-up to the Iraq war. But I quickly saw the issues I was rallying behind were either being distorted or completely ignored in the media. And witnessing the media’s complete obedience to the criminal, murderous policies of the Bush administration, propelled me, forced me to act. I taught myself video production and just put myself out there in the community, first San Diego and then Oakland, the first citizen journalism project that I founded called Media Roots. And it wasn’t just one issue. It was every issue, because it all stems from the same criminal corrupt system. From net neutrality to food justice, I wanted to build upon an under-reported aggregate of stories that impacted everyone, because I was convinced if people only knew what was happening! If they only knew what this government was doing around the world, then of course, they would organize to stop it. But, informing the masses in today’s world is a daunting challenge, given the state of journalism. It doesn’t take long in your political awakening to realize that the establishment press we’ve all been trained to trust, exists as just another arm of the corporatocracy, only utilized to maintain itself. Didn’t start off that way, it started out as a free public service. But as the corporatocracy became more entrenched, telecomm companies got hugely rich off profiting the free utility of public air waves, and begin tightening their grip on the market, eating each other up, just as we’ve seen in every other industry. In the 1980’s, 50 corporations controlled most news media in America. By 1992, that number shrunk to 2 dozen. And today, only 6 corporations control 90% of everything Americans see, hear, and read. About 120 or so executives on the boards of these 6 companies also have interlocking positions in every industry from defense to pharmaceuticals ... to banking. Aside from this blatant conflict of interest lies the problem of self-censorship and advertising pressure within these networks. Right now, who has heard of the TPP? I am sure many people. Okay, good job. But, of course, this hugely important so-called free trade deal - which people are calling NAFTA on steroids - between 12 countries that will completely eviscerate national sovereignty and undermine US laws!! ... totally blacked out! 100%, on the mainstream media. Why? Well, their corporate sponsors are among those negotiating the secret deal. 600 corporate advisers negotiating this deal between 12 countries, without any sort of semblance of democratic participation from the people. It’s unbelievable. Net neutrality, another important issue of our time, maintaining the egalitarian nature of the web, has been totally sidelined by the same media companies controlled by massive telecommunications companies, the same companies that are trying to install a pay-to-play network on the Internet. Many people around the world may be wondering how a reality-star billionaire, with zero political experience is this close to becoming the president of the United States of America, as am I. But I think a quick scan of our ad-infested click-bait media tells you one reason. America’s salivating mainstream media punditry IS WHO LEGITIMIZED Donald Trump! by covering him 24/7, because fear sells, baby! And apparently so does fascism. Trump has been given more media coverage than ALL Democratic campaigns combined, 23 times more than Bernie Sanders! It’s unbelievable! CBS head Les Moonves actually recently boasted about this. He said “Trump may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS. The money's rolling in, and this is fun. It's going to be a very good year for us. Sorry, it's a terrible thing to say. But bring it on Donald. Keep going.” The media may understand the consequences of promoting Trump’s xenophobic bigotry. But the short term profits for companies like CBS, far outweigh the dangers of a Trump presidency. The corporate takeover of the Fourth Estate has disemboweled any semblance of a democracy in this country. For decades, journalists in DC have cared far more about their access, than about their jobs. I saw this first hand in DC when I was actually scolded by media officials for asking questions unsolicited to Rand Paul in Congress. When I first was a newbie, I got my official press badge, and I was like “Cool, now I can just go ask and confront politicians in the halls of the Congress.” And very quickly, the first person I saw walking down the hall was Rand Paul, and I asked him a question: I said “Why did you endorse Mitt Romney?” He ignored me, kept going; I thought that was the end of it. A week later, RT started getting calls from the Congress press bureau, threatening to arrest me for stalking and harassment. Mm-hmm! I wanted to put it on air, they didn’t want to because they, they were really catering to the Ron Paul audience at that time, and I was really new and I didn’t really know what to do. The charges were all basically empty threats. But they did call me into the office, and I sat down in an interrogation room in the halls of Congress, with all the main bureau chief heads, from the corporate media networks, and they basically told me “You don’t do that. You don’t come in here, and ruin our access that we've worked for decades to maintain.” And that was my first lesson of how journalism actually worked in DC. You know, the media doesn’t only work to protect its bottom line. It also plays a key role in manufacturing consent for Empire. Conditioning us to believe that somehow because we’re born within a particular landmass that we’re ordained to go kill millions of people around the world. Displace and maim, countless millions more. Dictate the future for tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of people, every year around the world. Even so-called alternative press outlets like Vice and others, promote US Empire and American exceptionalism; these are very dangerous notions that keep society subservient. The myths also justify untold criminal policies by rationalizing a war economy that runs on death and destruction. Those in power have a lot of reasons to control the narrative, of course, not only to whitewash the long list of injustices and crimes they carry out every day, but to conceal the cataclysmic course they’re driving us down. Those in power don’t just control the media, of course, they control our energy resources too. Under this system, the US continues to rely on an industry that imperils all life on Earth. According to the latest UN report, in order to avoid the worst predicted effects of climate change, 3/4 of known existing fossil fuels need to stay in the ground. That means halting all production, stopping, right now! And that’s to avoid the worst effects! the worst effects. But the empire is doing the opposite of that: chasing profits at any cost. Under Obama, the US has become the world’s largest oil and natural gas producer. That’s astounding! The US military is the biggest polluter on the planet, yet exempt from all environmental legislation, from the Clean Air Act to the Kyoto treaty. With all interrogation about how the richest country in the world could POSSIBLY pay for health care and education for its citizens, little is asked about how we can possibly afford to maintain endless war, occupation, as well as a military budget that stands bigger than the next 7 countries combined. If this system put the needs of the people and the environment first, there would be very little dependency on such a damaging fuel source. Stanford engineers, as you’ve seen in the documentary this morning, have already developed a cost-effective state-by-state plan to transition the entire US to renewable energy sources by 2050! The money spent on the Iraq war alone, which killed 1 million people, 5% of Iraq’s entire population, and planted the seeds for ISIS to flourish, could have covered all global investments to halt climate change trends. Think about that! The Iraq war could have halted all global climate change trends, just the cost of that. There’s plenty of money to solve humanity’s pressing problems. The issue isn't resources; it’s how they’re being used. You know, as much as Cuba is criticized, it’s never hailed for its achievements. I was able to spend weeks there, reporting and found it fascinating that, under a crippling economic embargo, this small island nation was still able to produce standards of living comparable to most European countries. High-quality free education, high-quality free health care, a home and more, as HUMAN rights. Not to mention a completely green sustainable agricultural system. Amazingly, or not so amazingly, Cuba’s crime rate is one of the lowest in the entire hemisphere's. Oddly enough, it seems that when people have their basic human needs met, they're less likely to commit crimes. I mean, you know, these resounding accomplishments were made in an economy based on scarcity. Imagine what can be done in the richest country in the world! ... ... if people came first, not profits.