The Unmasking of the Corporate Media

Exclusive to STR

January 28, 2008

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This is the year the corrupt corporate media loses what little credibility it still has.

Not that the Old Media deserved much trust or respect in the past; it has always been, with rare exceptions, a way for rich white men (and a few other rich people) to mold public opinion in whatever manner they desired, which typically meant "whatever manner would make them the most money." For example, newspapers (and then radio and then television) have historically been cheerleaders for war (link is to video of Rupert Murdoch saying that his media outlets have "basically supported the Bush policy" on the war; 1 min 33 sec), and as the highly-decorated General Smedley Butler told us, War is a Racket -- the most profitable government make-work program ever. Stephen Kinzer's excellent Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq includes many examples of news organizations clamoring for invasion and war, often using the most repugnant jingoism and racism in the process.

Because the money at stake from war and other ventures is far greater than the money to be made from increased news readership or viewership -- even assuming honest and reasonably fair reporting would create such an increase -- market forces that usually push for quality products are simply overpowered by the oceans of money to be made from getting the public on board with the war train, or to get the public to accept other government action that improves the corporate bottom line at the expense of the common man. Corporate ownership of all forms of major media -- including ownership by persons and groups that also have interests in other areas, such as weapons manufacturing -- has a long history and, unhappily, the problem is getting worse, not better.

An example (and a disclosure): I own stock in General Electric, which in turn owns NBC. GE also has interests in large-scale security systems and related products for government, military, and the private sector, including narcotics detection gear, video surveillance, and various products for government and corporate-owned prisons; oil and gas (from oil sands to LNG production); health care; business and consumer finance -- and many other things; GE is a huge conglomerate.

Is there any chance that NBC feels pressured to support government policies that make it easier for not only broadcast media but for all of GE's interests to make money?

Nah. Probably not.

But the flagrant (if only partial) blackout of news about Ron Paul from this corporation, right from the start of Paul's campaign, makes one wonder. And how often do you see NBC pushing to end the failed and vicious War on Drugs (or even just portraying drug war victims AS the victims they are), or to bring the troops home from our 700+ bases overseas, or to end our violent occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, or to reduce taxes or eliminate the Federal Reserve (both of which supply the government with wealth taken from the public by force, and without which most of our wars and our Empire itself would be impossible) or to do anything that might cause a loss of revenue for General Electric? Frankly, until Ron Paul began his run for president in early 2007, I rarely heard such ideas on any of the major networks. Of course, I may have missed such pro-liberty commentary and "bias" when it was aired.

That isn't to say there is never any pro-freedom material on television; among the rare exceptions to the pro-coercion norm is John Stossel of ABC, who has been a mostly-libertarian voice for years. Here is Stossel's interview with Dr. Ron Paul, which -- tellingly and shamefully -- ABC decided not to air. At least they're letting us read the interview on the web.

In light of GE's financial interests, it was particularly gallant of NBC's Tonight Show host Jay Leno to interview Dr. Ron Paul (video, 6 min 3 sec; excellent) the night after the infamous FOX debate earlier this month from which Paul was excluded (FOX is not owned by GE). Leno made it clear he was incensed at the blatant lack of fairness shown to Dr. Paul by FOX.

Paul was invited to the recent MSNBC debate, but, as usual, got the fewest questions and the least airtime of all the candidates. Still, when he was allowed to speak, Paul made the other candidates look like the economically-illiterate, war-mongering, big-government stooges they are; here's a link to Paul's responses (10 min 25 sec). No wonder Paul is persona non grata to the power elite.

Exposure on The Tonight Show, in nationally-televised debates, and in other major venues has given Dr. Paul a chance to bring libertarian ideas to millions who have not heard them before. Millions saw Leno's interview with Dr. Paul (Leno's average viewership lately has been 7.2 million -- plus those watching the interview on the web, week after week). In comparison, the readership at pro-liberty websites is so small as to be invisible -- and I'd guess that this small group mostly consists of people who are ALREADY libertarian. If you want to see large numbers of newbies waking up to the importance of freedom, consider supporting Dr. Paul. As an abolitionist regarding forcible government, I don't agree with Paul's every position -- but then I'd probably say the same thing about you and your positions. At this point, we are so far from freedom that bemoaning Paul's support for the Constitution is both silly and counterproductive; unless we begin educating people about the benefits of freedom and the dangers of government coercion -- exactly what Paul's campaign is doing -- we have zero chance to create a free society, be it minarchist or voluntaryist.

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Some believe it would be better to let the system collapse rather than move it back in the direction of small-government semi-freedom. To them I say: Are you insane? Have you looked into Russia lately? The Soviet collapse may not have given the country much freedom -- Putin is, after all, an ex-KGB man -- but at least Russia has the lowest life expectancy in the developed world (see also here, a NYT piece from 1995, four years after the Soviet collapse). Are you planning a move to Zimbabwe, where a collapse is in progress with inflation so high that new currency (with more zeros) is issued frequently just to keep up?

Me neither.

Anyone expecting a systemic collapse to bring freedom or prosperity expects the unlikely -- which makes our situation all the more ominous, because a collapse at some level is clearly beginning in America. The depth, length, and character of this collapse are still to be seen; we could have anything from a simple (if severe) recession to an economic calamity dwarfing the Great Depression combined with martial law and cascading cross-defaults in the financial system including widespread bank, bond, and other market failures, along with every attendant evil such a scenario suggests.

Either way, there is at least one bright spot in such a breakdown: People will learn of yet another way the corporate media has misled them.

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Ironically, the huge audience commanded by the corporate media -- an audience that is steadily diminishing but still quite large -- is a factor in the rapid decay of that same media's influence and credibility. Millions are noticing the bias, the dirty tricks (against Edwards and Kucinich as well as Dr. Paul), the bizarre promotion of pro-war, pro-coercion, anti-freedom candidates like Rudy and Hillary and Obama and McCain. Since the start of the presidential race last year, Rudy "freedom is about authority" Guiliani has been treated as the front runner; Americans have now seen Rudy lose to Ron Paul four times out of five, often by sizable margins. Yet Paul is still treated as an oddball, a kook, a long-shot that no intelligent person believes has anything to offer. (Yeah, why would people actually want their freedom back? Why would they want a sound foundation for economic prosperity instead of the central banking / fiat currency disaster we have now, and which has failed every time it has been tried throughout history? Why would Americans want an end to constant war and the trillion-dollar tax drain to pay for foreign bases and intervention? Why would anyone want to stop putting terminal cancer patients in prison for using pot? Really: What sort of idiot would want freedom, compassion, and prosperity?)

By now, six of the original GOP field have dropped out, leaving five, and of those five Paul is in many ways the strongest. Yet the anti-freedom candidates are the only ones we are supposed to believe have any chance to win -- and the constant insults, slights, and omissions in the media in regards to Dr. Paul are clearly designed to reinforce that propaganda.

The propaganda is working, to some extent -- propaganda always has some effect -- but I sense a race in progress between the corporate media's desire to keep the idea of freedom from getting loose in the world again, versus the spreading awareness among the public that the corporate media absolutely cannot be trusted. Clearly, the internet is on the side of the angels here, but will the net remain free enough, long enough, to make a difference?

As I said in my New Year's Eve column: "2008 will be a year to remember."

The Paradise Perspective will return on February 11.

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Glen Allport's picture
Columns on STR: 107

Glen Allport co-authored The User's Guide to OS/2 from Compute! Books and is the author of The Paradise Paradigm: On Creating a World of Compassion, Freedom, and Prosperity.