Tuesday, August 11, 2009

How Big Media Subverted US Democracy with Lies, Smears and Gross Propaganda

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

Rush Limbaugh---as loathsome as he is --is a tool, a media whore! The real power still resides in the media boardrooms and they just don't give a shit if every media outlet in America is run by a muzak machine or a raving lunatic like Limbaugh. They're in it for the big bucks and power.

Limbaugh's lies and misrepresentations would have been seen to be those of just another run-o-the-mill fringe nut job if the right wing had not succeeded in stealing what had been the publicly owned air waves! They did seize the media as the textbook first step preceding the takeover of legitimate government. The GOP and the complicit Rush Limbaugh conspired to benefit the very, very few --the ever shrinking 1 percent --which as a result now owns more than 95 percent of the rest of us combined. For the shrinking number of huge corporate media conglomerates 'public service' is just a quaint sop that over some twenty years, they've done away with completely.

Whenever Rush heard his masters' voices, he served them well. He rationalized and excused the new age of robber barons; he sugar coated 'greed is good'; he elevated Scrooge to sainthood: "Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons...then let them die and decrease the surplus population."

Tragically --much of Rush's power comes from cowardly, so-called 'Blue Dog Democrats' easily spooked by liars like Limbaugh and Hannity.
In conservative states, right-wing talk show hosts are spreading lies about reform. No wonder Blue Dog Dems are blocking health care overhaul.


The Blue Dog Seven are spooked by pressure from their constituents and recent polls that show American's approval of Obama's health care initiative has dropped below 50 percent for the first time.

Drive across the seven states they represent: Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, and Utah, turn on your car radio, and you'll know why public opinion has changed. According to Pew research, 22 percent of Americans get their news from talk radio. And conservative talkers have been lying to their listeners about what's in the health care bill.

Lies from Sean Hannity like, "If you don't have private insurance the year that this bill is passed, you can't get that later on from your employer." Lies from Rush Limbaugh that the bill would "outlaw individual private coverage." Lies provided in talking points from the Republican National Committee like "Democrats are proposing a government controlled health insurance system, which will control care, treatments, medicines and even what doctors a patient may see."

Tell a lie often enough [Rush's motto and modus operandi], and people will believe it.

--Limbaugh's Lies Sabotage the Health Reform Debate
It is bad enough that folk like O'Reilly, Hannity and Limbaugh betrayed the nation with a concerted, orchestrated campaign --a policy of lies! It is worse that Democrats have either rolled over or bent over to take it!

The public is likewise betrayed, stabbed in the back, by the FCC, the Federal agency that had been given the responsibility by law to represent the public interest but instead sides with the huge media moguls.
Despite overwhelming public opposition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted time after time in favor of relaxing media ownership limits.

housands of Americans have spoken out at public hearings and written to te FCC in opposition to media consolidation. In 2003, when Michael Powell's FCC voted --without any public input-- to allow one company to own up to three television stations, the local newspaper, the cable system and up to eight radio stations in one media market, more than 3 million Americans spoke out and the courts eventually overturned the rules. In December 2007, the Commission overturned a 30-year-old ban prohibiting a single company from owning both the local newspaper and a television station in the same community. The Senate subsequently passed a "Resolution of Disapproval," but further action stalled in the House.

--Common Cause, Media and Democracy
The result of FCC inaction or incompetence has been the de facto theft of the publicly owned 'airwaves', your airwaves, the 'airwaves' that the Communications Act of 1934 said belong to you --the people --as a principle of law. The use of the term 'de-regulation' to characterize the government theft and subsequent transfer of your airwaves is 'Orwellian', a tactic intended to hide the real intent. And we have let them get away with it! If you have checked the price of air time lately, you must surely know that this theft has been worth billions, possibly trillions!

The truth is the government of the US, dominated by the endemically corrupt right wing and the organized crime syndicate called the GOP, literally stole your airwaves and transferred ownership of them to right wing liars and demagogues like the Fox Network, Sinclair et al --big corporations where the likes of Bill O'Reilly and other right-wing shills had merely to wag an accusing finger while shouting "LIBERAL, LIBERAL" to sink a candidacy or --earlier --impeach the most competent President since FDR.
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

--Macbeth (IV, i, 14-15)

Reasonable, rational voices are simply drowned-out by the right wing noise machine consisting of the Religious Right and the K-Street advocates of big corporate financed fascism --a mind-numbing 'hell's broth' if ever there was one.
In 1983, 50 corporations controlled the vast majority of all news media in the U.S. At the time, Ben Bagdikian was called "alarmist" for pointing this out in his book, The Media Monopoly. In his 4th edition, published in 1992, he wrote "in the U.S., fewer than two dozen of these extraordinary creatures own and operate 90% of the mass media" -- controlling almost all of America's newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, books, records, movies, videos, wire services and photo agencies. He predicted then that eventually this number would fall to about half a dozen companies.

This was greeted with skepticism at the time. When the 6th edition of The Media Monopoly was published in 2000, the number had fallen to six. Since then, there have been more mergers and the scope has expanded to include new media like the Internet market. More than 1 in 4 Internet users in the U.S. now log in with AOL Time-Warner, the world's largest media corporation.

In 2004, Bagdikian's revised and expanded book, The New Media Monopoly, shows that only 5 huge corporations -- Time Warner, Disney, Murdoch's News Corporation, Bertelsmann of Germany, and Viacom (formerly CBS) -- now control most of the media industry in the U.S. General Electric's NBC is a close sixth.

--Media Reform Information Center, Links and Resources on Media Reform
The following just in subsequent to Big Dan's comment [below] having to do with media consolidation.
WASHINGTON - The Federal Communications Commission ordered its staff to destroy all copies of a draft study that suggested greater concentration of media ownership would hurt local TV news coverage, a former lawyer at the agency says.

The report, written in 2004, came to light during the Senate confirmation hearing for FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. received a copy of the report "indirectly from someone within the FCC who believed the information should be made public," according to Boxer spokeswoman Natalie Ravitz.

--Media ownership study ordered destroyed, FCC draft suggested fewer owners would hurt local TV coverage
Why should Rush Limbaugh, for example, be paid millions for puking up lies and loathsome opinions on airwaves that by right and by law belong to YOU? So ---what, in fact, happened to the American media?
After Nixon's demise, the right wing of the Republican party decided that they could no longer afford to allow the free dissemination of information to the US public. The simple solution? Have their friends buy up the major networks, newspaper chains and magazines, so they could be controlled from the top on the corporate level. The Left's Media Miscalculation was to stand by and watch them do it.
"The American Fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist, the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."

-- Henry A. Wallace, Vice President to FDR, 1944 --The Danger of American Fascism
Having wrested control over the channels of public information, they went on to remove any impediment to their injecting their poisons into the public dialogue. The first step was to get rid of the fairness doctrine.
Under FCC Chairman Mark S. Fowler the FCC began to repeal parts of the Fairness Doctrine, announcing in 1985 that the doctrine hurt the public interest and violated the First Amendment.

In 1986 the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a loose interpretation by the FCC of an aspect of the Fairness Doctrine, ruling that Congress had "never made the doctrine a binding requirement." In August 1987, the Commission abolished the doctrine by a 4-0 vote, in its Syracuse Peace Council decision. The FCC insisted that the doctrine had grown to inhibit rather than enhance debate and suggested that, due to the many media voices in the marketplace at the time, the doctrine was perceived to be unconstitutional.

In the spring of 1987 Congress attempted to contest the FCC vote and restore the Doctrine (S. 742, 100th Cong., 1st Sess. (1987)), but the legislation was vetoed by President Reagan. Another attempt to resurrect the doctrine in 1991 ran out of steam when President George H.W. Bush threatened another veto. (Wikipedia)
The next step was to further remove any requirement that a "news" show tell the truth. FOX and a number of other "news" organizations took it to court in an elaborate and complicated case that began in 1996 with an investigative report into the effects of a Monsanto product given to dairy cows called BGH. Jane Akre and her husband, Steve Wilson were reporters at FOX affiliate WTVT in Tampa Bay, Florida. They produced a story that, while true, was not exactly friendly to Monsanto.
"The station was initially very excited about the series. But within a week, Fox executives and their attorneys wanted the reporters to use statements from Monsanto representatives that the reporters knew were false and to make other revisions to the story that were in direct conflict with the facts. Fox editors then tried to force Akre and Wilson to continue to produce the distorted story. When they refused and threatened to report Fox's actions to the FCC, they were both fired."
A wrongful dismissal lawsuit was filed by Akre, which she won.The jury unanimously ruled that she was only doing her job as a journalist by refusing to air “a false, distorted or slanted story.”

FOX appealed, and the result was stunning. "During their appeal, FOX asserted that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. They argued that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves." On February 14, 2003 the Florida Second District Court of Appeals unanimously overturned the settlement awarded to Akre. The Court held that Akre’s threat to report the station’s actions to the FCC did not deserve protection under Florida’s whistle blower statute, because Florida’s whistle blower law states that an employer must violate an adopted “law, rule, or regulation." In a stunningly narrow interpretation of FCC rules, the Florida Appeals court claimed that the FCC policy against falsification of the news does not rise to the level of a "law, rule, or regulation," it was simply a "policy." Therefore, it is up to the station whether or not it wants to report honestly.

Well, not wanting to resort to such an obvious pun, I am unable to avoid it. 'It is up to the station' sounds to me way too much like putting the FOX in charge of the hen house. [insert groan here]

--SadButTrue, The Existentialist Cowboy
The Pew Research Center for People and the Press reports that the public is just as fed up with this evil system as am I. Seventy-seven percent against 17 percent want more coverage of issues and less punditry, bullshit and claptrap. All three epithets describe the swill puked up by the arch-demogogues Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly as well as a legion of lesser ass kissers and wannabes like Ann Coulter. Fifty-seven percent wanted real debates in the recent Presidential primaries and election. Only 42 percent wanted news about which candidate was leading who in the various polls. Some fifty five percent wanted more news about all the candidates --not just those deemed by big media to be "front-runners". Democrats generally got more coverage than Republicans, (49% of stories vs. 31%.) One reason was that major Democratic candidates began announcing their candidacies a month earlier than key Republicans, but that alone does not fully explain the discrepancy.

Overall, Democrats received more positive coverage than Republicans (35% of stories vs. 26%), while Republicans received more negative coverage than Democrats (35% vs. 26%). For both parties, a plurality of stories, 39%, were neutral or balanced. Talk radio was more negative about almost every candidate than any other outlet. Network television was more focused than other media on the personal backgrounds of candidates. For all sectors, however, strategy and horse race were front and center.

It was not so long ago that Democrats couldn't buy a good story. Still, media fixation with every aspect of politics but issues is evidence of insidious media cynicism, an entrenched belief that Americans will not read or understand a story unless is has star quality and celebrity in it.

Americans themselves are largely to blame. Americans have a choice: they can either behave intelligently or they can continue to be stupid, easily duped by the likes of Fox, Limbaugh and less successful liars! Americans have a choice! But if Americans simply will not behave responsibly or as if they had more than two working brain cells among the lot of them, then there is nothing on the Existentialist Cowboy that will help!
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