The American Empire exists and journalists are woefully inadequate at covering it, said David Barsamian, a leftist talk-show host.
"We are the mighty Roman Empire," Barsamian said Wednesday night at the Lory Student Center, adding that the U.S. has more than 725 military bases and installations in other countries.
Barsamian is the founder and director of Alternative Radio, a Boulder-based radio network that reaches more than 125 stations and millions of listeners, according to its Web site.
The war in Iraq is just the latest and most catastrophic of several bungled U.S. interventions, Barsamian said.
"The invasion and occupation of Iraq is one of the most outrageous wars in American history," he said. "It cannot be justified."
President George W. Bush and top administration officials "should be sitting next to (Slobodan) Milosevic in the Hague," he told the crowd of more than 140 CSU students and community members, referring to the international court for war crimes trials.
But one reason administration officials haven't been held accountable for the "unforgivable" and "unconscionable" invasion of Iraq is because American journalists are impotent at covering serious issues.
They've abandoned their jobs as watchdogs and have become "lapdogs with laptops," Barsamian said.
Former Secretary of State Colon Powell's presentation to the United Nations in the run-up to the Iraq War regarding Iraq's weapons capabilities was an example of textbook propaganda, he said.
"If (Nazi propagandist Joseph) Goebbels were around, he would have went green with envy," he said.
Barsamian said that when journalists were supposed to be digging and knocking down myths propagated by war backers, they were missing in action.
Journalists these days are more interested in the trivial, like missing teen Natalee Holloway, how long Ashton Kutchner and Demi Moore will be together and Martha Stewart's woes.
"More people in the country know about Martha Stewart than they do about events in Iraq," he said.
Geraldo Rivera was in Aruba grilling a police chief about the Holloway case, but unfortunately, that same journalistic fervor doesn't apply to issues of life and death like Iraq, Barsamian said.
Barsamian also challenged the widespread assertion in American politics that the media are liberal, instead saying that an objective analysis of American journalism would show a heavy conservative bias.
An old adage in journalism used to be "Afflict the comfortable and comfort the inflicted," but now it's more like "Comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted," Barsamian said.
Joe McInerney, a senior philosophy major at CSU, agreed about the media being conservative.
McInerney added that the media often ridiculously present two sides of a story and give them equal weight, and call that objectivity.
"If we were having a debate on whether the Earth is round, and you give the Flat Earth Society equal time, that's not a fair debate," he said, adding that journalists should dig for the truth rather than being parrots.
But many of Barsamian's claims were extremely controversial. For example, he said that he didn't support U.S. involvement in World War II, which occurred because "fascism became bigger than (America) could control."
When asked by a reporter whether there was any instance in which he would support U.S. intervention, Barsamian said "in very few instances, perhaps on humanitarian grounds.
When asked whether he has ever supported any U.S. intervention, he said "no."
Even though journalists have failed, Barsamian said, the public is catching on.
"The tectonic plates are shifting," he said. "Americans are sick and tired and have cut through the crap of corporate media."
Alternative media outlets like radio's Air America and magazines like The Progressive and The Nation are more popular than ever, he added.
"It was interesting (hearing Barsamian talk about) how the media affects people of color," said Carlos Orozco, a freshman business major at CSU.
"I feel he did a really great job illuminating that the U.S. has broken and decimated international law," said CSU alumni Eric Parthum. "He was very eloquent."
Barsamian won the ACLU's Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism, and has co-wrote books with Tariq Ali and Noam Chomsky, both noted leftist intellectuals.
Alternative Radio, which can be heard in Fort Collins at 6 to 7 p.m. Saturdays on KRFC 88.9 FM, was founded in 1986 and serves as a forum for debate while providing a voice to groups that may otherwise be unheard, according to its Web site.
"Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" Barsamian said.