Monday, September 04, 2006

The Bad News Looks Good, But It Is Too Little Too Late

The love affair that traditional media has had with Bush appears to be on the rocks.  For almost six years there has been plenty of bad news, but if you get your news from the television or mainstream newspapers, you wouldn’t have known it.  According to most of traditional media, Bush won two elections fair and square, he invaded Iraq to protect us from terrorism and that war has been going swimmingly even if a few Democrats are spreading lies that the violence is escalating and that civil war is imminent.

We watched as the New York Times sat on a story that would have exposed Bush’s illegal wiretapping program before the ’04 election, and then when they did run it a year later, they let the story drop with a thud.  Most Americans still haven’t heard of The Downing Street Memos and anyone that challenges the Bush administration is quickly deemed a conspiracy theorist by the press.  There are simply too many examples of a complicit press to cite (although Eric Boehlert gives it a good shot in his book Lapdogs, How The Press Rolled Over For Bush).  Needless to say, the fourth estate has been vacant for six years.  

That traditional media appears ready to pick up the ball now, in my mind, is too little too late.  Piling on now that Bush’s poll numbers are steadily in the low 30s is easy, but where were they when we really needed them to be the watchdogs of our democracy?  I can’t help but think that if most Americans were forced to read and hear about all of the things many of us had to seek out through alternative news sites and blogs, Bush would have been impeached years ago.  It’s a little too convenient that traditional media is talking about Bush being a leper in his own party, his lack of intellectual prowess and his disastrous policies that have been executed with a staggering level of incompetence now, when an impeachment trial is all but guaranteed not to happen.  The Democrats, even if they do take over both houses of Congress have shown an unwillingness to appear “divisive” and even if they could get over that psychological hump, they simply aren’t organized enough to pull off an impeachment in the amount of time Bush has left in office.  I mean really, it’s been three years since Mission Accomplished and the Democrats still can’t find a unified voice on the disaster that is the Iraq occupation.

Unlike Bill Clinton who gave a rousing partisan speech here a few weeks ago, I don’t think that Democrats are the answer (even if they are better), but I do think that the few individuals that can be part of the solution are most definitely not going to be Republicans.  What this country needs is a radical transformation of the face of power.  We all know that the GOP is corrupt beyond redemption and that the Democrats we now have representing us in D.C. are not far behind.  We know that corporations have more of a say in legislation that passes through the people’s house than ordinary Americans, and we know that democracy is a tenuous thing that requires active participation by those being governed.  I firmly believe that the reason we are so close to losing our democratic republic, is because the press abandoned its responsibility to inform and instead became paid cheerleaders for their corporate bosses that had much to gain from propping up Bush.

So I’m happy to see that traditional media is now covering stories that the blogs were covering months (and sometimes years) ago and it’s great that they are finally willing to question this president, his policies and his ability to lead his Party, let alone this country, but if I didn’t trust them last month, what have they really done to earn my trust this month.  Their paychecks are still signed by the same corporations, their interests are still the same and their failures in the recent past haven’t been acknowledged, even in the most cursory way.  For me to trust that what they are reporting now is any more valid than what they reported before, simply because I like what they’re saying, would make me as stupid as their corporate bosses are hoping I am.  I’ll be thrilled if traditional media actually looks into the crimes of this administration, but I will still keep in mind that they will have reasons for doing so that don’t involve what’s best for the public.

The answer to the problem of inadequate, corporate owned representation in D.C. is active participation by average Americans.  If we don’t like the corporate candidates we have to choose from, we must buy some of our own.  When we read news about what our government is doing, we must question the motives of those passing that news along.  Sure, we are working harder for less money every year and the economic outlook isn’t good leaving little time to actively search for relevant and accurate news, but if we don’t, we will surely be working harder for less money next year.  The only way to stop the slide is to take some responsibility, take some action and invest in our own future.  It may seem daunting, but the alternative is so much worse.


Anonymous david said...

That's an excellent analysis of the problem, LGND. Unfortunately, electoral reform is something D.C. just won't pull off. It needs to be forced on them by Referenda.

First, non-voters should be excluded from the machinery. The good corporate citizen is not only a myth but a misnomer. Corporations are not citizens and, although they are persons under the law, they cannot vote or hold office or be sent to prison. Hence, they should not be allowed to donate to any political party or try to influence the system during election time.

Second, there has to be a move to Proportional Representation if the strangle hold of the two party system is to be broken. Only when third parties have a reasonable chance of representation will Democrats & Republicans return to their Grassroots. Indeed, the rallying cry should be "No Taxation without Proportional Representation."

Third, the USA must deal with the danger of becoming a failed state. 300 million Americans doing their own thing as "rugged" individuals does not create One Nation Out of Many. You are right, LGND, there needs to be a unified vision of America. The appeal of Reaganism was that it offered a vision of united America; sadly, it was a nostalgic fantasy about as real as main street on a Hollywood backlot. Americans need to look back to the speeches of Kennedy and FDR to see what kind of visionary language is needed to deflate the WASP bubble the Republicans are living in.

Forth, Americans need to stage their own Orange Revolution. If an election is stolen, don't sit back and say "Well, whaddya know? How'd they do that?" Take it to the streets and scream "Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death!"

Last, read Tocqueville. Read Dickens on America. Read Clemenceau. Read any non-American on America. Bush certainly lives in a bubble, but his bubble is within a bubble most Americans live in. The rest of the world isn't desperate to become American. Take a tip from Canada and drop the Melting Pot metaphor and adopt the Mosaic. The world is a big place and differing ways & cultures should be celebrated or at least tolerated. Frankly, I'd rather be French than American any day. (The food is so much better and who could say no to five weeks annual vacation!)

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Jonathan said...

A free and independent press is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. The founding fathers knew that it was important that there be many sources that the public could get the information they need to make informed decisions.

The consolidation of the media that started under Reagan is a clear threat to our democracy. The vast majority of the media is now controlled by but a few multinational corporations. These corporations, like all corporations, are in business to make money. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, it is what makes the world go around. And I believe in the free market – with safeguards to protect the poor, the working class and the middle class that is. The problems begin when the media portion of these huge corporations is just a small part of the corporation’s total operations. When that is the case, as with NBC which is owned by GE, then the media portion of the company has an “obligation” to report the news in a light that enhances the corporation’s ability to make money.

I think David makes some good points. But, for my money, if the truth was reported by the media many of the ills of our government would eventually be righted by the people, either in the voting booth or outside of it.

As far as moving to France I think I’ll stay put here for now. The food is good in France but the portions are simply too small.

4:28 PM  
Anonymous david said...

I agree with you, Jonathan. However, I think liberals forget that monopolies and near-monopolies are the enemies of the Free Market. Just as sure as over-regulation is.

Conglomerates such as GE were actually created by advantages in US tax law given to such sprawling enterprises. They stiffle Free Speech and strangle innovation.

I'd recommend a book by Andre Schiffrin, "The Business of Books", to understand how global entertainment giants have contributed to the decline in standards of book publishing. Random House and Penguin account for most of what we read today and these two companies aren't at all like they were 25 years ago.

Media concentration is very bad for Free Speech. Without a Free Market of competing firms Top 40 radio had devolved to Top 10 radio. And there's often some payola involved. America is losing its intellectual diversity. Bland books, bland music, and bland news are the flavours of the day.

The portions may be small in France, but there are many courses at a meal. And, as Mireille Guiliano wrote, "French Women Don't Get Fat!"

8:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post, LBND.

The only reason the corporate media is presenting dissenting views at all is because polling evidence shows what low regard the public has for President Dimwit and his Congressional lapdogs.

Another factor is the profit motive. News organizations sustain themselves through advertising revenue, particularly political party and candidate commercials.

With so many politicians distancing themselves from this Administration or facing tough opposition, newspapers and television have to present a more balanced perspective through commercials.

They'd be foolish not to take the pot of gold being thrown at them and hypocritical for being so out of sync with their audiences views.

One thing you won't see in the runup to November is in-depth critical analysis from news editors. They'll leave the political posturing to dualing commercials and let their consumers try and form an opinion from that.

Such is the deplorable state of 21st century journalism !


11:26 AM  

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