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June 11, 2005

Who runs the media?

-- by John Emerson

I like Brad DeLong's blog a lot. When he runs one of his frequent "We Need a Better Press Corps" pieces, it's almost always good. Except that he seems to think that it's a competency problem. It isn't.

It's a management problem. The people who own and run the media want dishonest political journalism. That's the whole story.

Even Bob Somerby, our sharpest media critic, does not talk much about the management level. But that's where the problem is.

The Party has taken over The State and will soon control The Media.

None of it is accidental. These things are happening because the people in charge want them to happen. And they're going to keep on happening for the same reason.

And if someone whines "conspiracy theory" -- what's the problem with the idea that management controls labor?

We're dealing with a regime of deliberate misinformation. No more rhetorical questions, please, Brad. It's like you're playing dumb.

Posted by John Emerson at June 11, 2005 11:28 PM

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Comments

it's always good to have you back,even if the subject on your mind (and mine) is so disheartening.

My impressions are that most ordinary people realize there's a problem, albeit in an inarticulate, unfocused way and can't imagine how things could be better so they shrug their shoulders and tune out, seeing political engagement(and voting)as something that people only do if they're either

a. wealthy, or

b. excessively earnest and naive.

And if that is what ordinary people think, to a considerable degree they're right.

Posted by: Hugo Zoom at June 12, 2005 12:02 AM

My experience has been that the people that I work with, even though highly educated, are not seeing the big picture. They are being lulled into complacency...as in "So and So reports this, so it must be true". They don't have the idea that the media can possibly be biased -- at any level. I was lucky to grow up with someone who pointed that out to me. Learning to discern news from propaganda is necessary, and most people don't know the difference, let alone teach their children that. I'm slowly trying to get my coworkers to acknowledge that. Most listen to The Party noise machines. Not that they themselves don't know if they're being fed propaganda or not; they know, but still hang onto The Party's points, regardless of if they know it's propaganda or not. People still believe in votes, and in a progressive state, alternative voices still can possibly make a mark. I think, though, that The Party wants to make sure the populace is not educated and will accept everything that Their Media tells them; Comrade, do you remember a time where one was allowed to question? Anyone over the age of 55 will warn you, your peers may not.

My two cents, for what it's worth.

Posted by: Sporkey at June 12, 2005 1:47 AM

I'm beginning to get some dim insight into conspiracy theories. In this case it goes sort of like this. We're reacting as though we're accusing "them" of a conspiracy -- because "they" are firmly convinced that WE are engaged in a huge conspiracy against them! That's why trying to discuss anything with "them" is like talking to people from another planet. They have what they firmly believe to be what amounts to secret knowledge; that they know what our "secret agenda" really is, that we've conspired against them since the Roosevelt era. All of this is, of course mythology and both sides drift farther and farther from reality.

Posted by: MJ at June 12, 2005 6:19 AM

Chris "Tweety" Matthews and Tim Russert are two of the worst offenders. They are outright Karl Rove sockpuppets pretending to be journalists. They distort the written record far more effectively than Robert Novak.

The M$M elevates media hacks who catapult propaganda instead of reporting or analyzing the news. An independent media is a long lost American fable. The M$M is an oligarchy serving the interests of America's corporate masters. Calling that a conspiracy naively assumes that corporations don't pursue their vested interest. A corporation is by definition a conspiracy.

Posted by: GaryBoatwright at June 12, 2005 7:05 AM

I like to-the-point. Thanks, John, for a clear statement of the plain truth.


Whenever some fool tells me about the "liberal media" I ask him (so far, it's always been a "him") if he's ever (EVER!) seen a company in which labor is allowed to operate against the direct class interests of management. I haven't. End of debate.


Corporate media == right wing media. Believing anything else is insane. Of course it is not a competence issue. Whining about how media "doesn't do its job" is crazy. It does its job almost perfectly. Every day.

Posted by: richard at June 12, 2005 2:38 PM

Yes, I can agree that the media is baiased.I certainly see that.But what I see more is that the people that accept that as their "news" are just too damn lazy to do a little legwork.It's all out there.Plus, it's easy.We've simply let the telivision and radio carry us away to la la land where we no longer have to be responsible for any decisions that we make.That's not correct.We need to make them responsible for what they report and the opinions that they shove down our thoats.But...you have to get people to care enough, to dig a little deeper first.Then they will demand more.Until then, we're talking vicious circle.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 12, 2005 7:56 PM

Many people don't have the time to educate themselves. They are dependent on easily-available sources, and the sources easily available for most people have the bias I mentioned.

It's our job to get other, better, easily-available sources of information to these people. They will trust the commercial media until they have an alternative, better source.

By and large I do not blame people who don't keep themselves informed. Many are working well over 40 hours a week, and/or have long commutes, and/or family obligations. Many are impoverished and/or demoralized and/or lacking in education. It's our job to reach them.

It's really a myth that there once was a time when the average voter was politically active and well-informed. There always were lots of relatively passive voters who depended entirely on someone else for their information. What's different now is the weakness of the left / liberal / Democratic pipeline, and the dominance of the Republican / conservative / commercial media pipeline. And it's our fault.

Posted by: John Emerson at June 12, 2005 8:31 PM

I think MJ's comments sound about right.

I hear you all complaining about conservative bias in the media and, well, it dumbfounds me - precisely because I often see the opposite (except in the case of foxnews which I openly admit is conservative)

it does come down to distinctly different worldviews and the manner/method of debate between the two groups is becoming much harder to navigate. But I'm a natural optimist, and that's one reason I find it so hard to relate to liberals btw - although I'm sure you all think conservatives are always angry, yet another interesting paradox on how we both think the same things about each other but don't see it in ourselves. Oh well. I guess I'll just retreat back into my war-mongering, elitist class, tree killing shell.

Pedro!

Posted by: Pedro at June 13, 2005 6:46 AM

Pedro, go to The Daily Howler or Brad DeLong to figure out what I mean. Visit either one of them a couple times a week for a month. Or read Eric Alterman's "What Liberal Media?".

The bias isn't a conservative bias, either. It's a Republican bias. Judith Miller, for example, isn't an ideological conservative. But during the run-up to the 2nd Iraq War she published a lot of Bush administration misinformation, and the Times has never called her to account for this.

What liberals especially complain about is bad and absent reporting. The most important cases are 1.)the Clinton impeachment (when rumors and slanders were reported as news, and when Clinton's exhonoration on every charge was barely mentioned; 2.) The Gore-Bush election, when the press devoted a lot of attention to meaningless and/or false things about Gore's "character" and personality, while the issues were buried and Bush got a virtually free ride; and above all 3.) the run-up to the Iraq War, when the holes in Bush administration's case for war, which were already known at the time, were ignored, and contrary spokesmen and information were buried.

By now, the press is so intimidated that it will not report false claims by Bush as false. It often doesn't even print the Democrats' refutation -- at leats, not with the prominence and clarity it gives to the Bush claims.

Remember, too -- talk radio is the media. Limbaugh thinks that the media are "they", but he is part of the media.

There are a lot of people you see who may call themselves liberals, and may seem like liberals, but they're moderates at best, and they're always saying "I'm a Democrat, but....." Bill Moyers, Paul Krugman, and 2 0r 3 others at the NYT and the WaPo are about the only real liberals out there nationally (and Krugman is on the center-right of the Democratic Party, and Moyers is retired).

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 9:10 AM

A final point is that the conservatives in the media are coordinating their activities with the Republican Party. An example is the Wellstone funeral right before the 2002 election. Within 24 hours a couple of clips from the funeral were blown up, amplified and broadcast nationally by people Peggy Noonan, Bob Novak, Limbaugh, and several. What should have been a small local issue was magnified into a fake national scandal. Democrats do not have that kind of coordinated machine.

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 9:27 AM

John,

Honestly, all you've done is proven my point. I read your "examples" of how the media is biased toward Republicans and I seriously question whether I'm living on the same planet.

Never heard of the Daily Howler and I'd bet 99% of Republican voters haven't either, so not sure what your point is there. Your link to the other site (which I also haven't heard of) didn't work for some reason.

Here's what's crazy to me about a lot of your (and I don't really mean you personally) assertions.

Republicans have vast conspiracies that allow them to raise tons more money.

Republicans have vast conspiracies that color all newscasts in whatever light they wish.

People are stupid enough to follow along like blind sheep.

Man, democrats must not stand a chance!

And YET, Bush only wins the popular vote by a few million. Surely you Democrats must be doing SOMETHING right? How come everybody isn't duped? I suppose its all you folks out in blogland that are keeping the balance.

Posted by: Pedro at June 13, 2005 10:20 AM

Pedro, I was assuming that you were genuinely dumfounded and not just arguing. If you want to know why liberals think the way they do, go to those two sites for a month. If you don't want new information, don't. Maybe you'd never heard of the Daily Howler before, but now you have. It's up to you. I'll put the DeLong URL below.

I haven't got the least idea what your criticisms of my three examples are, because you didn't make any. You just pumped out cliches about the other planet.

When people are asked about specific issues, they almost always agree with the Democrats' position. But the Republicans win most elections. Why? Because voters don't know what the Republican positions really are. For example, everyone concerned with the environment should be a Democrat. But many pro-environment voters end up believing that the Republicans aren't too bad on the environment, or that the Democrats are just as bad. There's no truth in that, but it works at the ballot box. (Anti-environmentalists know that the Republicans are good for them, BTW). Social Security is another example.

In other words, if people understood what the Republicans were doing, the Democrats would win solidly. As it is, the Republicans squeak out victories. Perhaps the difference is only 10%, but that's enough to change the whole face of the government.

You're little blind sheep quote is another cliche. I never said that. What I said is that most people don't have good information because the media are so bad. It's just natural that most people trust the mainstream press, though they really shouldn't. You can hardly blame them though.

The Democrats and some of the grass-roots groups have improved a lot in the last months, but the media haven't.

DeLong's URL:

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 10:44 AM

Still think you're proving my point, John. I could just switch a couple of things around in your previous post and you would be a dead-ringer for (please don't pass out) - RUSH LIMBAUGH. Almost verbatim I've heard Rush say "when people asked about specific issues they go republican." or "people don't know what democrats really stand for." or "people naturally trust the major media outlets but they shouldn't." You sound exactly alike!!!

And as for not commenting about your specific examples...well, I really don't have the time/energy - it just feels like endless, pointless debate. You didn't really give anything specific anyway.

Clinton impeachment - all we hear are rumor and slander and not the exhonoration? Wrong. All we heard and will remember is he fooled around with an intern and lied to the public about it. That's his doing, not the media.

Gore/Bush - media focused on Gore personality but left Bush alone. Wrong. Gore is stiff, that's the way he comes off on TV, not the media's fault, and all we heard about was Bush's DUI and cocaine addiction and bible thumping and Yale subpar grades. (way to go Kerry!)

Iraq war - holes in the plan, contrary spokesmen buried. Wrong. I heard plenty of contrary spokesmen and disagreed with them. So did Congress when they looked at the intelligence. Maybe the intelligence sucked, and maybe Saddam could have prevented the whole thing by being straightforward, maybe some countries were nervous about the oil for food scandal coming to light, or illegal military sales to Iraq, etc...maybe maybe maybe.

It's all so tiring, John. I've read your "History of the Conversative Movement" and "Why Republicans Win" and "How to fight back" and "how they do it". I read it and think, well, nothing at all. If I had time (and money) I could post a treatise on the liberal movement. Some already have. Pick your poison I say and run with it. There ain't no freaking conspiracy!

Later,
pedro!

Posted by: Pedro at June 13, 2005 11:43 AM

You're not worth talking to, Pedro. I gave you your chance.

You're tired, you don't have time to inform yourself, but you have time to gas and flap your gums. Your mind is made up anyway, but you seem to think you have something to say. Why? There's nothing there.

Centrists can be just as knee-jerk and ignorant as the right or left, if they want to be, and apparently you want to.

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 11:59 AM

Way to shut down John. Must have been the Limbaugh comparison.

I may not be a right-wing nutjob, but your reaction and the general visceral attitude of the left is a big part of why I'll never be in your camp, and neither will a lot of folks no matter what "grassroots" organizations you concoct.

Is it really so hard for you to imagine that the vast-vast majority of folks don't have time/money to surf every news outlet out there, much less run and support their own blog on the level of this one? Hell, I'm only posting on this one cuz Dave and I have a decent offline dialogue going at his initiative. I find your site amusing for the most part.

And as for folks coming in with pre-conceived notions, you might want to consider updating your bio before labeling - afterall, who'd want to shake the hand of a conservative troll like me, right John?

Posted by: Pedro at June 13, 2005 1:12 PM

Pedro, you seemed to be in good faith when you showed up, so I told you where you could get information if you wanted to know why I think the way I do. I gave you three sources.

Then you told me you didn't have the time.

What you've said so far has been generalizations and conclusions you've come to, but you haven't brought any information or arguments with you. You just tell me what you've concluded.

I absolutely agree that most people don't have the time to search out information on their own. I said so above. That's why the quality of the free and cheap media is so important, and why a new media is needed. That was the main point of my post.

From what you say, I can tell that you have never heard the liberal point of view and don't want to be. You think that the NYT is liberal, and it isn't. You think that there's no problem with the way the 2000 media focussed on personality issues and misleading factoids about Gore's personal life. Well, there was. Even some of the people who played a role in that have admitted it. Same with the runup to the Iraq war. People never really got the facts, and many are still misinformed. The biggest political decision in the at least last 10 years was based on misinformation. We don't know how bad that's going to get, either. I call that a problem.

I'm not a political operative. I'm just a citizen, and frankly for the last 3-4 months I've been a defeatist citizen. I just vent now.

If I were an operative, when someone like you came along asking to have his ass kissed and his hand held while I spoonfed him, I would have done it.

But Pedro, it's not you and the Democrats here, or you and the liberals. Just you and me, two guys. Two citizens. I don't have the time either. And no, I don't think that the Democrats will ever get your support, and that's too bad, but I already thought things were hopeless, and even if I didn't, I don't think that you'd be a very promising possibility.

I'm sorry for Dave's sake if I screwed up a dialogue, but based on what you've said here I doubt it was going anywhere.

And I never called you a right-winger. I call you a dogmatic, thoughtless moderate.

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 1:36 PM

I imagine that pedro is gone, but I'll give a concrete example of bias.

Jeff Gannon was in the White House press corps. He was working under a fake name. In the past he'd worked as a male prostitute. He was credentialed in an way that no one had ever been before, just so he wouldn't have to go through formal channels and go on public record. And finally, he alqays tossed softball questions to the press secretary whenever things were getting sticky.

Was there a big stink about it? There's tons of less-damning (and imaginary) stuff that Clinton did five or ten years ago that we still hear about all the time.

Where was the media buzz about Gannon?

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 2:56 PM

gotta head home and feed the daughter and dog, so I'll be brief.

you say I'm telling you what I've concluded, when your entire blog is dedicated to that point - telling others what you've concluded. I think that's funny.

you say I'm too lazy to lookup basic info on why liberals are liberal, when i'm a conservative who intentionally found your site (and then you send me away to figure it out). I think that's funny too.

you say that the "new media" is so important, and that this was the point of your post, and yet when somebody with opposing views enters the conversation you shut down and resort to labels and namecalling, thus proving that the anonymity and "distance" of the internet is really just a catalyst for destroying much creative thought. I think that's incredibly funny.

but hey, I'm a funny guy.

Take care John and don't feel so hopeless. Life's too short for that buddy!

Later,
Pedro

Posted by: Pedro at June 13, 2005 2:56 PM

I imagine that pedro is gone, but I'll give a concrete example of bias.

Jeff Gannon was in the White House press corps. He was working under a fake name. In the past he'd worked as a male prostitute. He was credentialed in an way that no one had ever been before, just so he wouldn't have to go through formal channels and go on public record. And finally, he alqays tossed softball questions to the press secretary whenever things were getting sticky.

Was there a big stink about it? There's tons of less-damning (and imaginary) stuff that Clinton did five or ten years ago that we still hear about all the time.

Where was the media buzz about Gannon?

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 2:58 PM

Pedro, you came to the game with a wiffleball bat. If you had ever given any reasons for your conclusions I could have argued reasonably, but you just asserted them flatly several times, with no facts or argument.

"Creative thought"? What you were shovelling out? Are you kidding?

I was polite and helpful in the beginning, but when you refused to make any effort, I lost interest.

Posted by: John Emerson at June 13, 2005 3:06 PM

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