11/07/2008

The Price of Getting it Right

One of my favorite authors, Thomas Frank (http://tcfrank.com/), has gotten it right so often over the years that he's practically invisible. In his books (The Wreaking Crew, What's the Matter with Kansas, and One Market Under God), he has predicted the collapse of our unbalanced fantasy economy, the failure of democracy, and the corruption of our social system by corporate greed. His reward has been complete invisibility in the eyes of corporate media. Economic and business gurus like Thomas Friedman and Tom Peters (what's with all the Toms in economics?) have been consistently wrong in their predictions, analysis, and comprehension of economics and society and they are, still, considered "experts" in fields where they have demonstrated absolutely no ability to predict consequences or reactions.

Why does the media demonstrate this incredible disconnect from reality?

Mostly, the media has fooled the majority (the "can be fooled all of the time" crowd) into believing major news is about information, not propaganda. The myth of a "liberal media" is a fantasy invented by crazy rightwingers and corporate interests. It is certainly true that the majority of intelligent people are also liberal. It follows that the majority of people who can write coherent sentences will also be liberal. What doesn't make sense is the assumption that corporations run by the same kind of people who run General Motors, Apple, Halliburton & Drexler, Microsoft, and Sony would allow their news outlets to present viewpoints that are substantially in conflict with corporate interests. That doesn't happen. Dream on paranoid neocons.


What does happen is that some residue of actual thought creeps into the overall media and, since it is so at odds with the majority message, it sticks harder and longer than the propaganda. When the propaganda turns out to be grossly wrong, as has the "free market magic" drivel, the remaining message is what is left; the truth. Over time, the sum of remaining messages creates our impression of the media and, if the truth is all that remains, the overall perception of the media is "liberal."


For example, the war promoters during the Vietnam era were all promoting the corporate pro-war message. They were all fools or corporate shills. Their message has vanished into the ether. What's left is what writers like Mal Browne, Peter Arnett, Neil Sheehan, Horst Faas, Charlie Mohr and David Halberstam and that genre of analysts said about that conflict. Those authors' work sticks in history because they were right. They were right because, as Halberstam said,"My loyalty was not to the president, not to the secretary of state or to the generals who sat on their asses in Saigon. My loyalty was to the First Amendment and to my readers." When your loyalty is to the truth, you are not only right more than not you are also most likely "liberal." One of the foundations of a conservative philosophy is dogma, the act of clinging to illusion over reality. It's tough to be right when you aren't living in the real world.


The tendency of the majority to cling to fantasy doesn't offer much hope for the future. If we desperately hope that the greedy and insane are "right" and punish those who are right with banishment or derision, what hope do we have of ever creating a just and rational society? I don't mean just here in the United States of America. I mean in the world.


When it was obvious that worshiping wealth and greed was creating a monstrous split between the haves and the rest of us, most Americans worshiped greed and wealth. McSame campaigned hard on the terrible thought that Obama might actually tax the wealthy according to their ability to pay taxes and the benefits they receive from their position in society. Anyone with the slightest sense of history would know that every past war resulted in taxation on the wealthy. Income taxes were invented, in fact, to pay for wars and they were, originally, only levied on the wealthiest citizens.

Obviously, the average trust-funder hates the idea of making any useful contribution to society, but why that influences the rest of us is beyond me. The fact that this message had any stickage at all is due to the overwhelming conservative nature of the major media.

2 comments:

  1. Anonymous11/09/2008

    About that myth of the liberal media -- here's a quote from Ben Bagdikian's book The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition, (Beacon Press, 2000)

    "In 1983, fifty corporations dominated most of every mass medium and the biggest media merger in history was a $340 million deal. … [I]n 1987, the fifty companies had shrunk to twenty-nine. … [I]n 1990, the twenty-nine had shrunk to twenty three. … [I]n 1997, the biggest firms numbered ten and involved the $19 billion Disney-ABC deal, at the time the biggest media merger ever. … [In 2000] AOL Time Warner’s $350 billion merged corporation [was] more than 1,000 times larger [than the biggest deal of 1983]."

    Knowing this, my response to those who continue to rail against the "liberal media" is simple. If ever larger corporations (which also own all sorts of other things such as weapons manufacturing industries & pollution spewing factories) own the vast majority of all print & broadcast media, why should we be so stupid as to think that they would permit to exist an unfettered liberal bias in their news rooms & editorial boards? Would this not could cut into their own bottom line profits? Are we to assume that they are doing this out of the goodness of their non-existent hearts? The truly liberal views are effectively excluded from these venues & what is mistaken for being liberal is actually middle-of-the-road centrism. How are liberal voices muted in the mainstream media? It is by the self-censuring of journalists who know that their editors will not support them & by the editors who serve in their positions only at the pleasure of their publishers.

    Sincerely,
    A fan in Tucson

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  2. I especially liked "the goodness of their non-existent hearts." What a fantasy! What kind of fool thinks that Microsoft, Sony, and the rest of the corporate sharks that own the media are "liberal?"

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