"Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past." Orwell-- The US is probably moving toward becoming a heavily controlled Rightist state. This blog is an effort to document how that happened.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Is the Mainstream Media Snoozy?

What Palast called “snoozy” probably meant lazy, which included a disinclination to report things many people did not want to read. Moreover, the U.S. press developed a “heard instinct” which demonstrated in the Clinton years by an inclination to print charges without first thoroughly researching them. It has been said that the American media is a vast echo chamber. Part of the press is comprised of a determined and closely-knit group of right-wing writers who frequently place political objectives well above honest reporting. In the Clinton years, they learned that if a few of them raised a charge against Bill Clinton, the mainstream press would quickly follow. If the mainstream press did not deal with the questions they raised, it was accused of demonstrating its liberal bias. The same dynamics worked in dealing with George W. Bush.

James Wolcott found that “the press has given Bush and his Cabinet a horsy-back ride--. Because they’re push-overs.” Some are attracted by his apparent openness and disarming Marlboro man style. Bush was personally likeable, and it did not hurt to be good to a man favored by the conservative corporate interests that essentially controlled the media. For some time, “media consumers [were] sending the wrong message to media owners. They were not complaining about junk food news, and many of them raised strong objections whenever information unfavorable to the Republican Party was aired. In the last analysis, journalists are in the business of selling airtime and advertising pages; the news is often seen as “a commodity to stick in between the ads. The media is increasingly profit-driven and is concentrated in fewer and fewer corporate hands. The traditional barrier between editorial and advertising operations is also eroding.

By the 1990s, television journalists were drawing huge salaries, and print journalists were also enjoying greater prosperity than before. Philip Weiss, who has written for several newspapers, suggested that “reporters are making too much money” and that this was connected to their “loss of professional freedom.” Their job was to avoid printing what could anger the papers’ owners, advertisers, or readers. The blatant under reporting of FCC rule changes in 2003 that benefited the networks and big corporate interests is an example of how this works. Many of the highly exposed pundits are millionaires who benefit from the Bush tax cuts; “Self-interest most always begets a little prudence.”

During the 2004 campaign, the Bush organization repeatedly employed deception and half-truths in attacking Kerry, who proved singularly inept in answering the charges. For example he was repeatedly charged with voting against funding to supply American troops in Iraq, when the truth was that he had voted for one version of the bill but against another, which was certain to pass in any event. In September CBS Evening News took it upon itself to objectively deal with and sort out the many half-truths, but they were alone in this effort. For almost three weeks, the cable and broadcast media publicized charges that Kerry had lied about his conduct in Vietnam. During the Democratic National Convention, one of the big stories was that Teresa Heinz Kerry had told a right-wing journalist to shove it, even though it was clear he was harassing her and twisting her words. On the eve of the Republican convention, George W. Bush told Matt Lauer the war on terrorism was not winnable, but this did not receive “a fraction of the Teresa coverage.”

What appears to be a “snoozy” inclination may in part be that liberal and conservative journalists have different mindsets in approaching their task. Liberal journalists are inclined to be journalists first and liberals second. Since the socialist left has all but disappeared, they have been marked by “fetishize [d] fairness, openness, and diversity.” They tend to be pragmatic and do not have a clear vision of what the world should be like. Conservative journalists, on the other hand, are conservatives first and journalists second. They are much more inclined than liberals to zealously pursue their party’s talking points. They incline toward bunkerism, believing they are under siege. They have a clear normative vision of what the world should be like, and the absence of that blue print in reality leads them to see sinister forces working against them. The willingness of liberals to tolerate and air other views is seen by conservatives as an endorsement of what they do not like. Hence, the presence of gay people on a broadcast is seen as an endorsement of homosexuality. The difference between these two orientations energizes the conservatives and places the liberals at a great disadvantage. Given this situation, there is little possibility that what is reported in the media can serve liberalism. As Eric Alterman has noted, “[T]he bias of the American media is more conservative than liberal.”

In August 2002, the Los Angeles Times fired a sportswriter because he used his company e-mail account to criticize Congressman Bill Thomas for claiming that Bill Clinton was responsible for the corporate frauds that came to light in 2002. The Bakersfield Republican was chairman of the powerful house Ways and Means Committee. The reporter had violated company policy, but it is doubtful if the infraction merited dismissal. The Los Angeles Times is clearly not a conservative newspaper. Its overreaction to this infraction may have been a result of sensitivity to conservative claims that the press has a liberal bias. Had a conservative sports writer written a critical letter to Governor Gray Davis using company e-mail, one wonders if she would have been summarily fired. Representative Thomas is a powerful man by any account, and there is evidence that the media does not go out of its way to antagonize the rich and powerful.

In early September 2002, Connie Chung was scheduled to air a special broadcast on the Yale chapter of the secret society Skull and Bone’s. The network ran a number of promotional advertisements and then abruptly scrubbed it. Neither Chung nor her superiors were willing to discuss the matter. The “Tomb,” headquarters of the organization located beneath the Yale campus, is said to house an impressive computer system. Its membership includes President George W. Bush, his father, and many other wealthy and powerful men. Ms. Chung is not known to be a tough investigative reporter, so the piece would probably have done little more than give the names of its members, which can be found in a book by the late Anthony Sutton. The society prizes privacy and secrecy, and its members had the power to preserve it. Bonesmen helped young Bush start his early businesses, and at least one of them was a co-owner of the Rangers. Early in his term, the society held its annual reunion at the White House. When asked about the secret society, the President said “The thing is so secret that I’m not even sure it still exists.”

Only USA Today, of the nation’s major newspapers covered in any detail Jack Welch’s arrogant behavior on election night 2002. This was also the only paper to note on May 4, 2001 that of 27 Bush ambassadorial nominations, 22 went politician in nature, mostly rewards to contributors. In contrast, it noted that at the same time Clinton had nominated 23 envoys, of which 21 were career diplomats. USA Today is by no means a liberal paper, but it has “goo-goo” ( good government) leanings and will print such stories even though they reflect poorly on a Republican administration.

Sherman has written African American Baseball: A Brief History, which can be acquired from LuLu Publishing on line.http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?search_forum

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About Me

Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!