For a couple decades now, but especially during the rise to power of Limbaugh, Gingrich, et al., we’ve heard how liberal the “mainstream media” supposedly is. It’s probably the most devastatingly successful con job of the last two decades, if not in journalism history.
My last post considered how the media singles out individual villains rather than focusing on systemic failures. So long as the mass media are able to find convenient scapegoats for us, red herrings to distract us from a systemic ill that worsens life for the lower orders, it’s obvious, really, for whom the mainstream media are really working.
Their own corporate bosses.
And that should have been obvious all along. The people who own the media companies have no interest in showing how the system screws the middle and working class—quite the contrary.
They have an interest in giving us show. Giving us spectacle. This guy Madoff here–he’s the villain. The problem isn’t a corrupting system, it’s a lone scoundrel. And can you believe his wife gets to keep two and a half million? When others are destitute? It’s outrageous! Please, all of you, as the billions keep flowing in other directions, please focus your attention on Martha Stewart and Mrs. Madoff. Trust us, it’s the most rewarding story. Rewarding for you emotionally, and for the media moguls, the rewards are even more real.
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In any enterprise as complex as mass communication, it’s easy to cherry-pick the facts you want. Simply close one eye and focus on what you want to see–there’s always an abundance of facts to select from. And so long as journalists are like the rest of us, some will be liberal and some conservative and some moderates and independents, too.
But reporters often aren’t the ones choosing what stories to cover; stories get assigned. And stories are edited and given direction, then hacked into smaller pieces, and now more than ever the editorial department are beholden to their publishers, who are beholden to company ownership.
These are wealthy, propertied people, who live in wealthy, propertied neighborhoods, and hob-nob with their wealthy, propertied friends. Forty years ago there was a great term for them: the establishment. It was a charged term in the 1960’s, a volatile time, and like other high voltage terms (like groovy, man) it soon became dated, but it essentially meant the haves, rather than the have nots.
The irony is that the 1960s were a time when the middle class was ascendant, unlike post-Reagan America, when the middle class is increasingly squeezed and we are stratified into rich and poor.
I’m not saying there’s some evil conspiracy forged in secret by an oligarchy of the rich, a de facto plutocracy. The establishment doesn’t need to conspire.
Noam Chomsky did a brilliant job, in the movie Manufacturing Consent, at showing how it doesn’t take a cabal of capitalists meeting in secret and setting strategy for them to broadcast what they want. All they need is common goals, and a common desire to maintain the status quo.
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Conservatives such as Limbaugh and Gingrich got an awful lot of mileage out of portraying the mainstream media as liberal, when it was in fact middle of the road and trying to present diverse angles on topics. Football pundits say the best defense is a good offense, and the conservatives gained a lot of ground with those attacks. (Further, Newt Gingrich once called President Clinton “the enemy of normal Americans.” I heard it again recently on the bay area radio retrospective, KFOG’s 10 @ 10. How that for a balanced opinion?)
We’re at a curious crux, politically and financially. The enemies of big government (evil socialism!) suddenly discovered socialism was the only cure for the excesses of unfettered capitalism.
Now that catastrophe has been deferred, if not averted, the conservatives once again decry liberal solutions. And the conservative media once more ask you to focus on the sexier, more captivating, more accessible story.
Don’t let yourself be confused by macro-economics. Don’t waste time listening to bureaucrats drone on about regulations on news shows. Don’t worry about billions for health insurance or trillion-dollar federal debt or the billions sucked up in the maze of issues presented by Wall Street bail-outs.
It’s really about Bernie Madoff’s widow getting to keep two and a half million. Outrageous!
p.s. But how did she get the money in the first place?