Monday, May 9, 2016

Nothing New Under the Corporate Media Sun

Even though Bernie Sanders now has little to no chance of getting the Democratic nomination, the media are not letting up on him. The fact that he is still campaigning and still railing against the malefactors of great wealth has the malefactors screaming for him to stop, just stop already and be quiet or go away and leave them alone unless it's to help "unify" their private, closed Party.

The latest incident that has them clutching their pearls in elite hysteria was his appearance last week on The Rachel Maddow Show, where he had the effrontery to criticize the corporate-owned media.

Though he speaks truth to power about the shallow, sporting-event, identity politics-driven nature of the coverage, his solution -- for a Democratic Party-financed TV network to counter Fox News propaganda -- had me scratching my head. I sadly suspect that his particular "revolution" is now devolving into a public relations battle between the two big business parties. Why not go whole hog and call for a resurgence of an independent socialist press that is not beholden to advertisers at all? He could have plugged Jacobin, Counterpunch or any of the several genuinely leftist outlets. 

I suppose I quibble. But personally, I wouldn't want Debbie Wasserman Schultz's lunch-hooks anywhere near a new progressive version of Fox.

 MSNBC, for years the unofficial house organ of the DNC and the Obama administration, only recently pivoted to general election coverage. Comcast is not stupid. The "overlords," as Maddow calls them, know a good Donald Trump deal when they see it. There is more advertising value in airing an empty Trump podium or an empty Trump suit for minutes or hours at a time than there is in discussing "issues" or covering a Bernie Sanders rally. 

Since Bernie is still out there, New York Times pundit Paul Krugman continues to falsely equate reactionary Trump supporters with "Bernie Bros," who allegedly are sending harassing Tweets to both himself and the Two Nates (Cohn and Silver) -- the duo who so successfully predicted a near-zero chance for a Trump nomination.

Krugman just can't seem to quit his angry white Bernie straw-dudes, even though the Left actually does include women, older people, and black and brown citizens to boot. The scary socialist trolls are as big on "empirical denial" of "center-left" facts as conservatives!
Although it’s a bit worse when some of those supporters are actual campaign surrogates. Of course, campaigns can’t be held responsible for everything their supporters say, all, we can ask whether Sanders himself is inclined to dismiss inconvenient facts. Well, as you know, I think the answer is yes, on issues ranging from economic projections to the sources of Clinton primary victories.
 I was therefore primed to notice when Sanders declared that Democrats need their own version of Fox News. What does he mean, exactly? Should the proposed network engage in similar factual distortions and outright falsehoods, except this time in the service of progressive goals?
 By the way, it wouldn’t work. Fox caters to an audience of angry old white men; the angry young white guys who would want a left-wing version of this message are fewer in number, have less purchasing power, and anyway don’t get their news from TV. But that’s a side point.
I broke down and wrote a response, because it seems that despite my avowed boycott, I just can't quit the habit of occasionally calling out the Conscience of a Neoliberal:
 Krugman is right. Some on the left, whom he persists in denigrating as "Bernie Bros", are indeed in empirical denial. They have trouble accepting the fact that wealth rules the world, and that the corporate-owned media do not represent the public interest.. They believe in a utopia of debt-free public education, health care for all, a decent job at a decent wage, a secure retirement, a more or less permanent roof over their heads. How silly of the desperate ones to want change today or tomorrow instead of 50 years from now, if even then. How anti-pragmatic of them not to get with the program, and join in the team effort of lambasting Trump and cheerleading Clinton to the finish line.
Why won't they listen to Krugman and former DNC Chairman Ed Rendell, who has already warned them not to make a fuss at the convention of party bigwigs?
What this is really about is a resurgence of socialist ideas, with or without Bernie Sanders. Back in the waning days of the last Gilded Age, vested wealthy interests were terrified of an anti-capitalist muckraker named Upton Sinclair. Getting the Bernie treatment in the NYT and elsewhere is nothing new. Sinclair even went so far as to measure the column inches devoted to plutocrats as opposed to humanitarians to prove his point.

Read "The Brass Check," his exposé of corporate journalism, and you will see that nothing much has changed, except that the media are much more consolidated.

The "facts" still have a well-known money bias.
My comment was inspired by Chapter XXII of Sinclair's book, which begins:
The thesis of this book is that our newspapers do not represent public interests but private interests; they do not represent humanity but property; they value a man, not because he is great, or good, or wise, or useful, but because he is wealthy, or of service to vested wealth. And suppose that you wished to make a test of this thesis, a test of the most rigid scientific - what would you do? You would put up two men, one representing property, the other representing humanity. You would endeavor rigidly to exclude all other factors; you would find one man who represented property to the exclusion of humanity, and you would find another man who represented humanity to the exclusion of property. You would put these two men before the public, having them do the same thing, so far as humanly possible, and then you would keep a record of the newspaper results.
Sinclair, never famous for personal modesty, compared his humanitarian self ("besides Jack London, the most widely known of living American writers throughout the world") to Vincent Astor, whose only claims to fame were first that he was born; second, that he lived on an estate; third, that he married money, and fourth, that he inherited $65 million -- at the time, beating the all-time record for inherited wealth. Sinclair continued,
And now for the action of the two men. It appears that the New York Times, a great organ of world capitalism, in its effort to camouflage its true functions, had resorted to the ancient device of charity, used by the Christian Church ever since it sold out to the Emperor Constantine. Early in December of each year, the Times publishes a list which it calls "One Hundred Neediest Cases" and collects money for these hundred families in distress. The Times never goes into the question of the social system which produces these harrowing cases, nor does it allow anyone else to go into this question; what it does is to present the hundred victims of the system with enough money to preserve them until the following December, so that they may never again enter into competition for mention in the list, and have their miseries exploited by the Times.
That should help answer Bernie's question. Plutocrats don't want you to know about their game, because what they don't want you know could hurt them, very badly. Sinclair self-published his book in 1919, ten years before the oligarchic greed he decried crashed the entire economy. Later, it was the activist pressure of the socialist movement that actually ushered in FDR's New Deal. If they'd had the likes of Hillary Clinton, Paul Krugman and their neoliberal free-market ilk around to lecture the proles and propagandize for the wealthy, who knows? We might never have gotten a national jobs program, publicly funded infrastructure, and Social Security.

The Times still does its annual charity drive as it serially glorifies the extremely wealthy all the year round. Just check out the real estate section on any given day, to see what kind of digs $10 million will buy you. 

 Were it not for real estate magnate Donald Trump's billions, do you really think he could have gleaned all his free front-page publicity from the Times and other outlets? You don't need a scientific study to prove that Trump has gotten more coverage than the Pope, Bernie Sanders and millions of actual poor people combined -- or anyone who can't afford the price of a subscription, let alone the price of a display ad.

Upton Sinclair finished his New York Times take-down with the following humorous anecdote. When he wrote an open letter to Vincent Astor in 1914, asking him to justify his lavish lifestyle when millions of his fellow citizens were starving, only one of the many city papers in circulation at that time published it. That was the New York Call, a small socialist paper. The Gray Lady turned up her nose at such a thing. An attack on capitalism? No way!

Then Astor got wind of the letter, and he answered it. Or, as Sinclair theorized, a shrewd family lawyer or a secretary probably answered it. Astor's reply was offered to every major newspaper, and every major newspaper published it. Most of them, including the Times, splashed it on their front page, with Astor's picture. They wrote glowing accompanying editorials about the magnanimous indignation of the young multimillionaire who deigned to defend himself against those nasty socialist attacks. Astor complained that Sinclair's ideas were "fallacious and impracticable," and that help for the needy would come over time, without the need for radical change. Besides, he sniffed, he'd spoken to experts, and was informed by experts that "the condition of laboring people has greatly improved over the last several generations."

Sound familiar? Upton Sinclair was a Bernie Bro.

And less than two decades later, the whole economic system came crashing down because of oligarchic greed and the media's enablement of it.

I have a feeling we won't have to wait 20 years for the next big "event." For one thing, the earth itself, drowning and burning and melting as it is, just never learned how to get with the incremental, pragmatic program. 

Mother Earth is an impatient Bernie Bro. Pass it on. 


Meredith NYC said...

One aspect of the media problem is this---congress underfunds public radio and TV, which is thus subject to the conformity pressures of commercial media.

Other countries fund public media better, so they can serve as a counterweight to commercial media. This has to affect the media power balance somewhat. I don’t know if public media abroad has to read out their list of corporate sponsors every hour like ours does. I’ve long ago had to stop watching the PBS Newshour. Sometimes listen to NPR, and turn off their frequent commercials reciting their sponsor list.

We should look to countries with better political representation of the majority—in h/c, unions, taxes, jobs policy, family leave, min wage, low cost college, etc---and analyze how their media differs from the US.

Seems that where they have more public funding of elections, they often ban privately funded campaign ads on TV. They have free media time for all candidates. Thus a huge source of profits in US media doesn’t pertain in these countries. This has to affect their coverage---and reduce the pressures to conform to the powers that be.

It’s remarkable how consistent the NYT negative coverage of Sanders has been. Not even 1 reporter or columnist would stick his/her neck out to avoid sarcastic putdowns of Sanders. Not 1 proposal of his was even given the respect of objective discussion. Krugman has sharpened his scornful, mocking tone and now writes completely emotional columns on everything.

I saw a comment once that Rupert Murdoch tried to buy up media in Germany but he was stopped. Don’t know any details but that sounds like an interesting story.

Seems other countries have a more ideologically identified media covering the spectrum. And didn’t US newspapers once do the same, back in the day? Now the Times is pro establishment Dem centrist and it has no progressive on its op ed pages at all. Thus our political norms are redefined. Is it Dean Baquet? Going along with the status quo money flow?

Meredith NYC said...

MSNBC has changed completely. I watch it much less. Ed Schultz is on RT now. Rachel and Chris Hayes are anti Sanders. And their personalities are getting too offputting--- hyped up, compulsive yackers. Lawrence is easier to take. When Haye's had on a Sanders spokesman recently, he kept just kept interrupting and cutting him off. But at least he did have Matt Taibbi on last week, which I caught the end of by accident.

Karen Garcia said...


I don't know which I hate worse, MSNBC or CNN.

I agree about Maddow and Hayes. Their mannerisms drive me as nuts as their actual "reportage." Rachel with her manic pencil-twisting, imaginary note-taking seems more infatuated with her own clever repartee with the camera than anything. And Hayes is hopped up on something, for sure, with the incessant bobbing up and down. He always looks as though he's trying desperately to hold it until his next bathroom break.

I miss Cenk, and yes, even blowhard Keith Olbermann at times. Although his self-serving bloviating about moving out of Trump Tower after spitting on it makes me not miss him quite so much.

The Times has always been The Times. They pretended to be liberal when Bush was in power. I still wonder if Bob Herbert really quit, or whether he was fired. That was a very sudden departure.

Meredith NYC said...

That's it exactly...Maddow totally infatuated with her own repartee---she has no idea she's a crashing bore. She has very few guests--she's 'enough' for the hour, Chis is like a Mexican Jumping Bean. They think the more words they use in a sentence the more 'important' they become.

I wonder if one of the comedy shows has ever done a satire where the guest keeps waiting endlessly for the host to finish his spiel, but that never comes, so the guest takes out a sandwich and a book or something?

I happened to see Cenk on cspan --after years--he was co moderating a debate between Alan Grayson and opponent.

Sometimes I watch France 24's eve show 'The Debate' with guests, depending on topic. They feature our campaign sometimes. I often check out a bit of Thom Hartmann, or Schultz on RT.
Al Jazeera went off the air suddently, I forget why.

Btw, excellent comment on Krugman's blog today---I hadn't seen it, and some other good ones also. I replied to the reply to you. PK is really asking for it! He may be as oblivious as Rachel Maddow.

Pearl said...


Break Free or Burn in Hell: a Message From the Canadian Tar Sands

Pearl said...

Tar-ma is a Bitch!: the Real Tragedy of Fort McMurray

From Counterpunch

annenigma said...


I'd just like to say that you're really on a roll lately! I'm thoroughly enjoying your posts. Thanks.

Valerie said...

Brilliant analysis, Karen! A great weaving of Upton Sinclair's voice in your essay. History is definitely repeating itself with a captured press and a greedy, heartless plutocracy. Loved your response to Kruggie.

Yes, I agree we have another financial crash in our very near future. Australia's fortune is very much dependent on China's growth, particularly construction, and our own real estate boom. We have negative gearing (the mortgage on a property is far more than the owners/investors can get in rent) that is out of control. Home buyers are pushed aside as investor,s who are loaned far too much from banks itching for profits, buy up everything in site. Any efforts to rein in the cost of housing will cause many people and most investors who are over-leveraged to fall on hard times. The politicians don't want to be the good, strict parent who does what is best for the future, so the Australian government just watches and hopes for the best.

We have a lot of passivity in politics here - not hopeless people being beaten down by the system like in the U.S. - but people who have had it so good for so long that they think nothing can go wrong despite many warnings. We have a plutocracy that is alive and well here, but people just aren't aware of how far its influence extends.

Came across a great essay on an Australian gold mining company using ISDS kangaroo courts to pollute a major source of clean water in El Salvador.

The multi nationals are an evil bunch.

Karen Garcia said...

Thanks for all the great comments.

Was off the grid -- a massive Time-Warner outage caused by some mysterious outside force "accidentally" severing a fiber-optic cable is the official explanation. Internet service still not up to par, not that it ever really was up to par.

Ste-vo said...

"Bernie Sanders Wins West Virginia, Prolonging Race With Hillary Clinton" ~ NEW YORK TIMES/5.11.16
#1 Top Headline - digital edition.
My comment: "Thank you New York Times. Headlines and stories like this make me give another donation to the Bernie Sanders campaign!"
Biggest one yet.

Pearl said...

is a trusted commenter in the NYTimes.

'Hillary Clinton would make a lovely Secretary of State in a Sanders Administration'

Best speech ever of Bernie's after the West Virginia win and he is not being ignored now.