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US Politics

The State of the Media Vs The American State

America today, could be its greatest victim. On the streets of the US today, there is little trust in mainstream media

For the first time in a long time, the people of the United States in the candicacy of Senator Barack Obama, have an opportunity to elect as President a person who has the skills, ability and persona to make a real difference. The present state of affairs demands no less. However  a serious obstacle to his election prospects exists and its impact on the final outcome should not be underestimated.

A Danger to Democracy

The obstacle to which I refer is not Obama’s Republican opponent Senator John McCain. I am specifically referring to one of the most insidious elements in US society today. The mainstream American media.  A corrosive, politically biased force with attitudes and an agenda capable of pervading and eroding the foundation principles of a democratic nation state.

While most appreciate that media political corruption is not a new phenomenon and recognise it exists in varying degrees in other countries, America today, could be its greatest victim. On the streets of the US today, there is little trust in mainstream media.

 A Bunch of Yappers

Without doubt, media employees are less professional these days. I venture to add if they all went on strike, the news, even if presented by a part time dogcatcher, would be less tainted and far more interesting. 

These days, many so called “journalists” appear to have acquired an overrated sense of self importance. A consequence of the practice of media groups promoting them as “stars” as if they actually had real talent? Television viewers are regularly subjected to displays of their overt narcissism. Now that’s a legitimate item for a cartoon cover! Are you listening at The New Yorker?

It’s fair to suggest that some of these expensively garbed, laboriously titivated, talking heads ( both sexes, I must note) – nothing misogynous about me – would struggle to read a teleprompter. Many are plain downright rude, and more often than not, guilty of talking over each other and their program guests. It makes one wonder what sort of upbringing these people have had, and also the mindset of those responsible for engaging people who masquerade as experts on their political  programs. More aptly described as gossiping and guesswork parlours. 

Anybody here for George Stephanopoulos at ABC? Wolf Blizter on CNN? and any others you might wish to add. I’m not here to give those at Fox News a further 15 mins of fame either. Hitting their Off button now!

Media is a Business First 

Today is the era of television talkfests. Journalists inteviewing other journalists, playing at being entertaining and controversial to get ratings for each other’s program. Far better than having to roll up their sleeves and work tirelessly to deliver serious news and impartial professional commentary. The reason. Cross program promotions save money. 

The media, like the movie industry is now controlled by the accountants (aka “the beancounters”). The first priority, get a story out, but keep the costs down. If you haven’t got a story, then do a rehash on a previous story, or just make  one up. But best of all, and if possible, make sure you create controversy. Good news doesn’t rate. Stories about public lying rate higher than acts of public philanthropy, and don’t forget higher ratings means higher revenue.

Agents for Political Interests

Some American media groups are little more than advertising sales organisations who also act as propaganda promotion pimps, on behalf of particular political interests.  When you take into account the multimillion dollar salaries some of the “stars” receive – who would believe any of them would put that level of remuneration at risk to challenge an employer in defense of independent reporting?

The question is. Whatever happened to the noble concept of the “The Fourth Estate?” That now relegated to the dustbin principle  of  guaranteeing the absolute integrity and independence of the media.

Excerpt below..

The Mass Media as the Fourth Estate

Carlyle’s definition of the Fourth estate  – Link.

However, from the perspective of those researchers who see the media as situated within the model of a pluralist liberal democracy, the mass media are often seen as fulfilling the vitally important rôle of fourth estate, the guardians of democracy, defenders of the public interest.

The term fourth estate is frequently attributed to the nineteenth century historian Carlyle, though he himself seems to have attributed it to Edmund Burke:

Burke said there were Three Estates in Parliament; but, in the Reporters’ Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate more important than they all. It is not a figure of speech, or a witty saying; it is a literal fact, …. Printing, which comes necessarily out of Writing, I say often, is equivalent to Democracy: invent Writing, Democracy is inevitable. …..

Whoever can speak, speaking now to the whole nation, becomes a power, a branch of government, with inalienable weight in law-making, in all acts of authority. It matters not what rank he has, what revenues or garnitures: the requisite thing is that he have a tongue which others will listen to; this and nothing more is requisite. Carlyle (1905) pp.349-350

Carlyle here was describing the newly found power of the man of letters, and, by extension, the newspaper reporter. In his account, it seems that the press are a new fourth estate added to the three existing estates (as they were conceived of at the time) running the country: priesthood, aristocracy and commons.

Other modern commentators seem to interpret the term fourth estate as meaning the fourth ‘power’ which checks and counterbalances the three state ‘powers’ of executive, legislature and judiciary.   End of excerpt.

Policy Analysis and Communication

How can the average American be expected to make a considered, intelligent political choice prior to an election unless they receive impartial, factual information upon which they can compare policies and candidates to arrive at a decision. No well informed electorate would ever have voted George W Bush into the Oval Office for one term, much less been forced to suffer a second term of political purgatory had media not been so heavily involved politically.

Media Culprits

Serial offenders include media outlets owned and controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his ilk in media. Some of the main media groups include MSNBC, FOX NEWS, ABC and CBS to name but a few. Since taking out American citizenship in 1985, Rupert’s entry into the American media scene has been rampageous. His company, News Corporation, now owns The New York Post, The Wall St Journal and other papers and publications, including television interests which stretch the length and breadth of America. 

Media Ownership Laws

In 1985, Murdock, formerly an Australian citizen, took out American citizenship to facilitate his company News Corporation’s entry into the American media market. Under no circumstances does he ever let media ethics get in the way of his desire for ratings and dollars. Rupert Murdoch operates like the Clintons in politics. i.e. Win at any cost. He generally does. Meanwhile the country is being irreparably harmed.

Like a thief in the night media monopolies are trampling on people’s rights due to a lack of diversity in American media ownership. Who in politics will speak out? To date the silence is deafening. Politicians rely on media for free coverage.

A Template for the Media

Why was Tim Russert of “Meet The Press” so widely lauded by the American people following his passing recently? Quite simply, Tim was a rare American media personality . People trusted his judgement and respected his sense of fair play. 

Tim was just doing what all media people are supposed to do and because so many don’t, he appeared even more exceptional. Tim Russert will be missed and until American media laws are changed it is hard to see people of his integrity appearing in mainstream media in the present climate.

The New Yorker Controversy

This is the controversial magazine cover depicting Barack Obama and his wife Michelle as Muslim terrorists in the Oval Office with a picture of Osama Bin Laden on the wall and a burning American flag in the fireplace.

The New Yorker Magazine Cover

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Cartoonist Barry Blitt’s response to an email from MK, an Obama supporter.

I am distressed to receive your email. All I can tell you is it was my intention to depict the hideous innuendo and scare tactics circulated in the media as the ridiculous lies that they are. My drawing was intended to appear preposterous and ridiculous. That it is being taken at face value is very upsetting, and directly opposite to its intention. I am sorry for the hurt it has caused. I cannot actually believe this cartoon, which was meant to mock the bigots and xenophobes who spread lies, will actually give them license.I hoped the image would get people talking about the falsehoods being spread about the Obamas. I still hope that will be the case.I am sorry once again.  Barry Blitt

An auto – response from the Editor David Remnick to a letter about The New Yorker cover from another Obama supporter “Thank you for writing. We appreciate your comments and, if you have a question, we’ll do our best to respond. However, owing to the volume of correspondence, we cannot reply to every e-mail individually. About this week’s issue:Our cover, “The Politics of Fear,” combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are.  The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall– all of them echo one attack or another.Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that’s the spirit of this cover. In this same issue you will also see that there are two very serious articles on Barack Obama inside–Hendrik Hertzberg’s Comment”  End of auto – response. 

A Telling Thoughts comment

The genie cannot be put back in the bottle. Whatever damage has been done, is done.  Once again Senator Obama has been forced to deal with a ridiculous distraction in the midst of America’s most important Presidential election campaign for many years. Obama knows that the public would prefer to hear about his plans and policy benefits, not this media contrived nonsense. Yet in spite of the furore and public outcry, The New Yorker management has offered no apology that I’m aware of at this time. 

At the same time the magazine has enjoyed a bonanaza of free publicity worldwide at the expense of Barack and his family. As a candidate, he naturally would be reluctant to express his true feelings about the matter. However others did and should have. The material was obviously defamatory, racist and unamerican. Unintentional?- Who really knows? Managment of The New Yorker should hang their heads in shame.

Democracy depends on diversity of media ownership. The sooner media monopolies in the United States are broken up, the sooner political independence in Journalism will return. As it is meant to be. Media is too important to be in the control of too few hands. [signature]

Discussion

Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. Dear John:

    It is refreshing to see (and read) that I am not alone in my thinking about the role of Mass Media. Although it has worsend exponentially since Rupert Murdock came to town, true journalism has been deteriorating for some time before him. You are right about Tim Russert also. However, my point is that there are other journalists, who have been in the field as long as Tim that chose the low road of “biased reporting”. The Cover of the New Yorker is but an example of unabridged media display with the main goal being salemanship. Given the tenor of the times, careful thought would not have allowed it to be printed. Alas, as you said, much controversy, volume sales, mission accomplished!

    Posted by Robert Earl Lewis | July 17, 2008, 6:51 pm
  2. Editor David Remnick’s Excuse

    The New Yorker’s ‘serious articles’ were not complimentary to Barack Obama. They were boring, and those interviewed were small-minded and critical. I made it a point to read both articles, and it took me a whole day to get through them. That’s how depressing they were. After reading them, I had the distinct impression that the cover of the magazine was meant to bring Barack and Michelle down. However, that won’t happen. The Obamas are a couple for our time.

    Posted by Jane Anne Jeffries | July 17, 2008, 8:33 pm
  3. Hi John,

    Thank you for stating it so eloquently for us. The MSM are nothing but a bunch of rude, opinionated self-important Hollywood wanna-bees who take a page or two from Tim Russert and Christianne Annanpour when it comes to real jounalism.

    Posted by Athena | July 17, 2008, 9:38 pm
  4. Hi John,

    You did a good job on this story.

    Posted by Asher Heimermann | July 18, 2008, 7:26 am
  5. Hi John,

    A very nice piece. Murdoch/News Corporation own the NY Post which is suitable only for lining bird cages and of course Fox. They also own MySpace.

    Posted by Don Leich | July 18, 2008, 10:56 pm
  6. Just after reading your piece I found this one by Bill Moyers on the role of the MSM in Democracy:

    http://www.truthout.org/article/is-fourth-estate-a-fifth-column

    Posted by Don Leich | July 18, 2008, 11:12 pm
  7. Has any one else noted the anti Obama slant on CNN?
    All about people wanting do overs?
    Who would they pick.
    The former Wal-mart board member who’s taken millions from Dubai while sitting in a Senate seat she got solely because of her husband?
    Well yeh, if they pay attention to MSM.

    Posted by Miri | July 20, 2008, 2:23 pm
  8. Thank you for your excellent article and perspective.  What worries me the most is the hatred this one sided right-wing propaganda is creating in our people.  I see it as a grave danger to Democracy and a threat to anyone who does not subscribe to this mindset.  I can’t help but wonder if Hitler used similar tactics in order to turn the Germans against the Jews.  When I read the angry, hateful, ignorantanti-Obama blogs I can only wonder at the mind-control being exerted upon our unsuspecting citizens. We will not survive as a nation or a free society if we allow this to continue. The monopoly of our media must be stopped.

    Posted by Janet | July 20, 2008, 4:13 pm
  9. Click the OFF Button on Fox NOT news.

    The endorsement below is one of the best I’ve read and I believe it is one that would be worth printing and having to show any doubters.

    quote:

    “I’m a lifelong Republican – a supply-side conservative. I worked in the Reagan White House. I was the chief economist at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for five years. In 1994, I helped write the Republican Contract with America. I served on Bob Dole’s presidential campaign team and was chief economist for Jack Kemp’s Empower America.

    This November, I’m voting for Barack Obama.

    When I first made this decision, many colleagues were shocked. How could I support a candidate with a domestic policy platform that’s antithetical to almost everything I believe in?

    The answer is simple: Unjustified war and unconstitutional abridgment of individual rights vs. ill-conceived tax and economic policies – this is the difference between venial and mortal sins.

    Taxes, economic policy and health care reform matter, of course. But how we extract ourselves from the bloody boondoggle in Iraq, how we avoid getting into a war with Iran and how we preserve our individual rights while dealing with real foreign threats – these are of greater importance.”

    It seems likely that Obama will turn out to be in the mold of John Kennedy

    Posted by rhonda | July 21, 2008, 12:23 pm
  10. So who is the lifelong Republican – a supply-side conservative? Lifelong conservative activist Larry Hunter voting for?

    Obama…

    Yes he can!

    Posted by rhonda | July 21, 2008, 12:27 pm
  11. Thank you for an excellent article. it is so refreshing to know that there are still people in America who can think for themselves, get the facts and speak the truth. I highly commend you and your article. Thank you for being you. Helen L. Burleson, Doctor of Public Administration (708)747-0919

    Posted by Helen Burleson | August 16, 2008, 3:28 pm