by Eleanor Goldfield Swede
“US Congress keeps putting blocks on closing Guantanamo,” “UN criticizes Bahrain over toughened 'anti-protest' laws,” “Fukushima drainage has 20,000 tons of water with radioactive substance,” and “Washington Post sold to billionaire Amazon CEO” are just a few of the stories that have slipped under the radar of the American public due to yet another tabloid drama.
The GOP has brought the left/right banter back to the front pages with Committee Chairman Reince Priebus' call for NBC and CNN to cancel a proposed Hillary Clinton program or lose rights to the GOP primary debates. This fiasco highlights two deeply rooted and significant pitfalls of our current system: left/right childish sparring while avoiding key issues, and the corporate control of our “free media” system.
Neither one of these mentions should come as a shock to anyone who isn't tied (or shall I say, shackled) to a party ideology. Those of us who dig deeper than the whipped topping of left/right party politics have become accustomed to this sort of gnawing stalemate, punctuated by the type of periodic back and forth reminiscent of sharing a back seat with your sibling on road trips. This story in particular showcases more blatantly that interesting characteristic of our divided and splintered system: it's more important to find problems in your opponent than to fix problems in your country.
After Priebus handed over his ultimatum, CNN spokeswoman Allison Gollust had this to say: “Should they decide not to participate in debates on CNN, we would find it curious, as limiting their debate participation seems to be the ultimate disservice to voters.” The RNC fired back: “We have the right to pick who has our debates.” Now that really does sound an awful lot like an infringement on freedom of the press, not to mention openly campaigning to hide any 'bad sides' from the public, at least until you're elected. If your ideological foundation is so wobbly that it won't withstand the winds of primary season, what exactly are you peddling as reasons to vote for you? Well, in this case, because the other side is corrupt and against us, and clearly out to ruin the country – look, look, shiny!
Priebus had this to say to Fox News: “I think 23 debates is ridiculous, but the second thing that is ridiculous is allowing moderators, who are not serving the best interests of the candidate and the party, to actually be the people to be deposing our people. And I think that's totally wrong." No Priebus, what's totally wrong is that you even have the ability to threaten any media with gaining access to your lopsided foundation over something as juvenile as a miniseries starring Diane Lane.
This is almost too perfect of an example of how intimate the relationship between corporate media and political power is. They should make this into a reality love triangle miniseries! How perfect it is that Priebus whines to GOP-friendly Fox News about the bullying CNN and NBC. To be clear, I don't think that CNN or NBC are model media outlets either. In this two-party system, corporations funnel money to one or the other, steering public opinion with their consolidated media monopoly.
In 1983, 50 companies owned the vast majority of media outlets. Today, six companies do. Six companies own 90% of media in the United States. Six. The headline mentioned earlier about the Amazon CEO buying up the Washington Post is certainly not a new occurrence. And those who read or know about this acquisition are right to worry that his political views will seep into the spin and coverage of this respected publication. Of course they will!
Of those six companies, how many do you think funnel money into super PACs? GE, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner and CBS...oh, that's all of them.
Just last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee began debate on the Free Flow of Information Act, aka the Shield Law, put in place to protect journalists from having to disclose confidential sources, notes, outtakes, audio and video recordings, etc. An exemption being pushed forward is to force journalists to reveal information if it would assist the federal government in “stopping or mitigating other acts that are reasonably likely to cause significant and articulable harm to national security.”
Well, that's nice and vague. It sounds a bit like disallowing anyone who may not have your best interests at heart to moderate your debate. “Reasonably likely?” I don't even think that a stoner pre-law student would let that one slide. That smacks of the Trespass Bill, passed early last year, which allows the government to charge any American involved in political protest at any location the secret service “is or will be temporarily visiting.” Conveniently vague legislation that protects the corporate interests of both sides is pretty much the only thing that garners bipartisan support. In turn, that legislation, along with back door deals and underhanded agreements are swept under the rug by the corporate media. Oh, the vicious cycle!
And if you think I sound conspiratorial, consider this: in 2009, Jon Stewart was selected as the “Most trusted Newscaster in America, post-Cronkite” in an online poll by Time Magazine, up against Charlie Gibson, Katie Couric, and Brian Williams. Ironically, you couldn't make this stuff up for a daytime soap.
The ideological foundations may be faulty but the mechanisms to keep us occupied on tennis match volleying are strong and tangible, and too many are hypnotically nodding along.
Our “free media” is as much an illusion as the proud pillars of our two-party system. As Gore Vidal put it in The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (Odonian Press), “The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity – much less dissent.”
So, stay tuned to see who the GOP bachelor chooses for debate prime time and tune in next week for more left/right hectoring, Viagra commercials and the exciting avoidance of reason, logic and accountability.