Thursday, May 6, 2010

Corporate Stranglehold on the Media

Ernest Partridge asks an important question about conservative spin, "Why the Left Has No Answer to the Right-Wing Lie Machine?" Partridge contends that the right-wing has unrestricted access to the media because if the oligarchy that owns mass media. There are six media conglomerates that control most of the media industry in the U.S -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) and General Electric's NBC.

What if there were a great debate concerning the nature and future of American society, and only one side showed up?

That approximately describes the condition of the U. S. media today.

The right wing is operating a super-charged carnival of hype, hysteria and hoopla, while the left struggles along with a pipsqueek sideshow: a few magazines like The Nation, Mother Jones and The American Prospect, with minuscule circulation among the already converted, some tolerated columnists like Paul Krugman, Bob Herbert, and Frank Rich, and of course there’s Shultz, Olbermann and Maddow on MSNBC.

Corporate Media

The influence of FOX News is amplified as their antics and outrages – “birtherism,” climate change denial, baseless accusations of “socialism” or even “fascism” – are uncritically reported far and wide by the mainstream media (MSM). In addition to FOX, the airwaves are crammed solid with right-wing talk shows – about 90%, by some counts. Leading these is Rush Limbaugh, with an audience estimated from fifteen to thirty million.

To be sure, there are many admirable broadcast voices on the left, in addition to the MSNBC team: Thom Hartmann, Amy Goodman, Bill Maher, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Mike Papantonio, Cenk Uygur, and Randi Rhodes. But their messages are uncoordinated, dispersed, and poorly promoted. And unlike FOX and Limbaugh, etc., there is almost no corporate media amplification of progressive talk radio and cable TV. Strange to say, some of the most incisive liberal commentary seems to originate with the comedians, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert.
Corporate Media Bias
The regressive bias of the corporate media is starkly revealed by the coverage, and the non-coverage, of the public demonstrations of last month. When a couple of thousand tea-party or gun-rights enthusiasts show up on the Mall in Washington, or across the Potomac in Virginia, the mainstream media is there to cover them en masse. But when up to ten thousand protesters gather on Wall Street, or fifty thousand jam downtown Los Angeles to protest the Arizona “show your papers” law, these events might just as well have taken place on the far side of the moon.

When Olbermann or Maddow make a trivial errors of pronunciation, attribution, or date of an event, etc. they make on-air corrections as soon as these slip-ups are brought to their attention. But when O’Reilly, Beck, Hannity, et al, tell flat-out demonstrable lies, they do so without fear of consequence and therefore without public correction. And their fearlessness is justified, for no one in the mainstream media is likely to hold them to account. To be sure, Ed Shultz calls them out in his “Psycho Talk,” and Keith Olbermann in his “Worst Persons,” and Rachel Maddow does not hesitate to call a liar a liar, but when they do the regressive talksters and the MSM take little notice, which only further demonstrates the insignificance of progressive media commentary.

Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, Bill O’Reilly told his audience that a “team of FOX researchers” had determined that, contrary to the accusations on MSNBC, no one at FOX had ever said that those who refused to sign up for health insurance under “Obamacare” would be jailed. Olbermann then promptly collected and strung together more than a half-dozen video clips of FOXers stating precisely that. The final clip was a segment from Bill O’Reilly’s show. A slam-dunk refutation, and by no means the first one. Did this embarrass FOX and O’Reilly? Not in the least.

And so it continues, almost daily: For example, the consensus of thousands of climate scientists and the conclusions of thousands of peer-reviewed scientific publications can not prevail over the well-orchestrated denialism of the oil and coal industries’ public relations campaign, a campaign that utilizes the familiar PR techniques that reassured millions of cigarette smokers that the health effects of smoking was no big deal, thus leading millions to an early demise. (See the Union of Concerned Scientists report, “Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air – how ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science.”)
False Accusations Go Unchecked

No accusation is too absurd to be credited by the right-wing propaganda machine. Last week, Rush Limbaugh suggested that the Gulf oil disaster was the result of a plot by “wacko-environmentalists. Quoting Limbaugh: “What better way to head off more oil drilling, nuclear plants than by blowing up a rig?” And on FOX News, Bush’s Press Secretary, Dana Perino, introduced a conspiracy theory by saying: “I’m not trying to introduce a conspiracy theory, but was this deliberate? You have to wonder…if there was sabotage involved.”

Such irresponsible accusations by FOX News and Rush Limbaugh are nothing new. Far more significant was the behavior of the major broadcast media (CBS, NBC and ABC) and the once credible newspapers such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, in the months immediately preceding the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2002.
The oligarchy mainstream media.

The oligarchy that owns and runs our government and controls our mass media has learned Goebbels's lesson well: A lie unanswered is a lie believed – more so if the lie is repeated, over and over again.

Accordingly, a successful propaganda campaign must accomplish two essential and coordinated tasks: (a) tell the lies, and (b) see to it that they are not effectively refuted. The six media conglomerates that now control most of the US media accomplished both tasks supremely well.

And what an impressive roster of lies it is! Here’s a sample:

  • In 2000: Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet. Gore also claimed to have “discovered” the Love Canal toxic site. Bush won the election fair and square. The Supreme Court decision, Bush v. Gore, was legally sound and, in any case, did not affect the outcome of the election. There was no reason to believe that the unverifiable touch-screen voting machines were not accurate. Lt. George Bush completed his required service with the Texas Air National Guard.
  • 2002: “Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” (Dick Cheney).
  • 2004. John Kerry’s alleged heroic war record in Viet Nam was a fake.
Etcetera, etcetera – a list of lies much too long to enumerate here.

What Remedies?

What is to be done?

The GOP and the regressive right have pointed the way; in particular, in Lewis Powell’s notorious 1971 memo to the Director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While there is considerable dispute as to the actual influence of this memo, this much is clear; whether by design or by mere coincidence, the Powell Memo accurately describes how the regressive right has achieved its current dominance in American politics. The left would do well to study that memo and, when appropriate, adopt its proposals. In particular:

  • Establish “think tanks:” progressive counterparts to The Heritage Foundation, The American Enterprise Institute, The Cato Institute, The Competitive Enterprise Institute, etc., then promote the publications of its resident scholars and their appearance on the mainstream media. There are, of course, progressive think tanks such as The Center for American Progress and Media Matters for America and their work is commendable. But the funding for these organizations is minuscule in comparison with financial support of their ideological opposites.
  • Endow academic professorships and establish scholarships and fellowships. Encourage progressives to participate in the governance of educations institutions, from local school boards to university boards of trustees.
  • Underwrite the writing, publication and promotion of progressive books, journals and websites. Establish publishing houses, like the regressives' Regnery, devoted exclusively to progressive ideas and policy proposals.
  • Gain editorial control of mass media outlets: newspapers, cable networks, radio, etc. Once in control, do not make them mere purveyors of left propaganda designed to “balance” the right. Instead, progressive media must restore the practice of responsible journalism: “just the facts” combined with aggressive investigative reporting. [...]
In the final analysis, the progressives have a formidable and invincible ally: reality.[...]

Even so, this much remains compellingly clear: unless and until the progressive left develops an effective media voice, there can be no restoration of American democracy, no return to political sanity, and no establishment of economic justice.
Read the complete article HERE.

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