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May 2, 2006

Colbert Affair Exposes Loss of Rights

-- by Dave Johnson

Don Imus was the speaker at the 1996 Correspondent's dinner and his talk insulted President Clinton along the lines of the ongoing "conservative movement" narrative. Whitewater, Susan McDougal getting payoffs, Clintons getting indicted, missing billing records... The press had a field day -- coverage everywhere. NY Times, TV Notes;Imus in the Spotlight,

Perhaps the only person more delighted than Don Imus about the flash flood of publicity following his spicy speech at a Washington dinner last week was Mike Wallace of CBS.
This is no big deal, except when compared with this week's press response to Stephen Colbert's appearance Saturday. The only way to describe the press response is: intentional blackout. The New York Times, for example, wrote an article about the dinner and did not mention Colbert in the article at all. A scan of Google News (at the time this post is written) finds almost no coverage outside of the blogs.

Why is there such an obvious difference in the coverage given Bush in general, compared to the coverage given Clinton? The press coverage of President Clinton led to his impeachment, even when all of the Republican-initiated investigations found he had done nothing wrong. In contrast the press continues its blackout of coverage or even discussion of possible crimes committed by President Bush.

In 1987 Ronald Reagan ordered the FCC to abolish the Fairness Doctrine, which required broadcast media to provide balanced coverage of issues. Majorities in the Congress voted to restore the Fairness Doctrine and were blocked by Republican vetoes and filibusters. (Any time you hear a Republican complain about the "liberal media" ask them why it is Republicans, not Democrats, who oppose the Fairness Doctrine.) Following that, Republicans began to allow fewer and fewer large corporations to control more and more of these information channels. (PLEASE click the links. More here and here.)

Before these changes you would see representatives of Labor, Democrats, anti-war, religions other than far-right Christianity, and other now-banned viewpoints. One particular viewpoint you would see expressed was a concern that concentrated corporate ownership of the channels of information would harm democracy. That viewpoint is also banned now.

It used to be considered essential to democracy that the public had access to information. The pubic used to have the right to demand diversity of opinion in the media. Now even expressing such ideas is banned.

Do you think "banned" is too strong a word? Tell me when was the last time you saw or heard these viewpoints expressed? When was the last time you heard a representative of Labor expressing that employees should join unions?

Posted by Dave Johnson at May 2, 2006 7:58 AM

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Comments

I think that's a rough approximation of what's going on, but only that.

For one thing, the same shrinking diversity of outlook has appeared in print media, which were never affected by the Fairness Doctrine. And speaking as a denizen of print media, I can tell you that there doesn't seem to be any conspiracy to shut them out. It's more as if no one ever thinks to include them.

That fact (if fact it be) likely stems from the fact that, increasingly, people who work in the media tend to have very similar backgrounds compared to, say, 30 or 40 years ago. And a generation of kids are entering the business now who have grown up having never seen on TV, ever, the kinds of viewpoints you mention.

Posted by: Lex [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 2, 2006 10:14 AM

First, Dave, most demos were just happy as clams to speed the meida consoldiation. Especailly your hero, Slick Willy. He did everything he could to pass the disastrous Telecommunications Act.

Second, you are so right about banned viewpoints. I recall quite clearly that when I was a teen-ager in the sixties there was a major labor leader on Meet the Press at least once every couple of weeks. I recall seeing Walter Reuther all the time. I don't recall hearing any strong pro-labor point of view on television in the last two decades. I suppose you could count Robert Reich, but that's really not the same thing. He only appears very pro-labor in contrast to the right-wing view, which dominates to the complete exclusion of alternatives.

Posted by: richard [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 2, 2006 1:39 PM

The news is so slanted on TV it makes me sick. As for labor, if you're in NY you'll hear plenty on the news from local labor leaders, especially those the city deals with, but I'm sure that's the exception that proves the rule. As for national labor leaders -- the impression is that they've somehow vanished.

As for the correspondent's dinner, the first I've heard about Imus bashing Clinton is what you've said about it, and I've seen plenty of excerpts from Colbert's. Could this be because of regional differences?

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 2, 2006 7:29 PM

Print media is not affected by a Fairness Doctrine , but it is affected by limited ownership. Five huge corporations own almost all the newspapers, people don't care about what is happening because they don't know about it.

Posted by: bansidh [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 3, 2006 12:29 AM

I should perhaps click on the links before responding, but I'm a little alarmed at the lack of any mention whatsoever regarding Clinton's signing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Do we not dare call any attention to acts of treason committed by Democrats here? Is this a Democrat blog??
Are we all friends of Bill Clinton here?
If so, this blog is slanted and skewed, and I'm tempted to take you off my front page and move you to the rear where you'll get glanced at once every couple of weeks.
The Democratic party is the left arm of the one, conservative, corporate power whose right arm is, of course, the Republican party. I think you need to wake up to that fact if you haven't already.
So, what's it gonna be, folks?? The Right Hook, or the Left Jab?
We need to start demanding specific changes; campaign finance reform. and a return to countable, paper ballots above all else, and then the restoration of the fairness doctrine, and major revisions to The National Telecommunications Act. Til then, voting is a joke, no matter who you vote for.

Posted by: The Cosmic Fluke [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 3, 2006 6:01 AM

Hello,

Stephen Colbert is a hero. He has been given Wings of Justice Honoree award by www.buzzflash.com:
http://www.wingsofjustice.com/honorees.html

We simply turned off our tv about a year ago. The tv sets the tone and has revealed itself as very controlled. The press has been controlled by the right wingers for quite some time now. I know people who have never heard of Karl Rove or Patrick Fitzgerald and do not believe that George Bush has done anything wrong.

Will the Internet be next? Sometimes I think it already is just a bit ... why is the Internet news ignoring 9/11 for instance? Where is Barbara Olsen? Why are some of the hijackers known to be alive? Were there planes? Did they really just vanish like confetti? Why is the Internet not putting Rove, DeLay out there to roast? Come on, show a little backbone.

Keep on talking Stephen Colbert. And watch your back ... We are depending on you and Fitzgerald to spread the real news.

Aimee

Posted by: Aimee [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 3, 2006 7:15 AM

There are several things about Stephen Colbert's appearance at the White House Correspondent's dinner that you can be sure of:
1) Whoever was responsible for hiring him has either been fired or had his ass severely chewed
2) Next year, they'll be damned sure that the person who hosts it is "safe"
3) All of the host's material will be cleared first
4) Every succeeding host after this will be complared to Colbert
5) And won't measure up, or even come close!

Too bad Cheney wasn't there. It would have been delightful to see the Dark One's expression.

Colbert may have bombed in that room, but he is a sensation everywhere else. Thank you Stephen Colbert! You're my hero!

Posted by: Possum [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 3, 2006 9:32 AM

One is again left to wonder when the White House press corps(e) is going to wake up. They obviously think they are accountable to noone.

Posted by: belga [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 3, 2006 2:46 PM

I have been extremely bothered by something for some time now. It is not the "Republicans," nor the "politicians," nor the "voters" (nor Ralph Nader (!)) who are the actual cause of the current political neocon pandemic. No. It is the Fascist Media Apparatus, bought and paid for by the EconNazis.

Let's face the truth for once. We cannot possibly stop the political pandemic merely by changing "politicians." The only way it can possibly be done is by totally exposing the Fascist Media Apparatus as the nemesis of freedom and democracy.

Posted by: blues [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 4, 2006 1:35 PM

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