Monday, January 14, 2008

End The Age of Corporate Media Control Over Elections

Decades from now journalism students will look back at the first decade of the 21st century as the age of corporate media control. Political students will be studying:

  • how Rovian politics divided Americans by playing to their fears;
  • how the corporately owned news media sold the Iraq war to American people;
  • how journalists stopped asking serious questions;
  • how people like Ann Coulter and Donald Trump were considered as serious political analyists;
  • speaking of Ms Coulter and her ilk, how their sexist, racist and homophobic slurs made them frequent guests on "news" programs;
  • how anyone ever took FOX News seriously, and;
  • how the corporate media controlled elections.

Once again, for the record, I am a John Edwards supporter. I have been since 2004 and will be until he is elected to office or withdraws from the 2008 Presidential Election campaign. I've tried not to beat you over the head with my personal political choices but since it has become clear that the corporate media is not going to level the playing field for all of the candidates, especially John, I am openly appealing to each of you for your support of the Edwards campaign and the democratic process in general.

It appears that the executives at the major news networks have already decided that it is in their best interests (ad revenue $$$) to make sure that the party nominations are decided by February 6th.

Their strategy is simple.

The corporately owned media believes that if they pretend that no one is left in this race except Clinton, Obama, McCain, Romney and Huckabee then American voters will forget that the other candidates are still in the race. The rationale being that hyping a Clinton vs. Obama "gunfight", "prize fight", or "showdown" makes for good TV (ratings). And of course, ratings translate into revenue. After all, what better way to increase market share than with juicy stories exploiting sexism, racism, religious intolerance, a senior citizen and, oh yeah, a war hero. And don't forget there's always those juicy Clinton sex scandals to fall back on if there's a slow news day.

Today one cable news network has devoted most of its early evening coverage to telling us whether Clinton or Obama is getting the "African-American vote" and, debating why the GOP has "fallen in love again" with John McCain -- all between efforts to push readers to their commentators blogs. CNN's Wolf Blitzer could be heard saying, "Democrats divided over rhetoric about race". Notably missing from the coverage was serious discussion of the issues and the candidates' postions. If you didn't know any better you would think that John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich had dropped out of the race with Richardson.

Are you going to let this strategy work?

Is this how you want the political process to work?

During last Friday's Bill Moyers' Journal broadcast, Bill and Kathleen Hall Jamieson,
Director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed exactly how the media is shaping political discussion.

BILL MOYERS: All right. The campaign changes every day. We'll be back to talk about it. What are you looking for next week?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: What I'm watching for next week is whether the substance of the candidates' positions will get through in news and in the debates. Will you be able to say before the next time that there is a vote or a primary, "I can tell you that this is how Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards differ and are similar on healthcare"? "I can tell you where the Democratic field differs from the Republican field on whether or not the Bush tax cuts should remain permanent." Where they stand in the Republican side on a pass to citizenship on immigration. Whether or not the candidates on each side have taken positions on the Iraq War and who supports a timetable, what is it, and what are its implications? Who supported the surge strategy first? And who now supports it?

If this next week is a good week for the electorate, more people will be able to answer those questions accurately and, as a result, cast an informed vote. And for those of us who can't vote next week, be on our way to casting ultimately an informed vote between the Democratic and Republican nominee.

BILL MOYERS: But if the press doesn't tell us that substance what does it say that our-- that as a democracy we allow our politics to be determined by bought ads and by a professional media whose interest is more often in personalities and bottom line than in the content of the candidates? I mean, our campaign seems designed to conceal rather than reveal the real world.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, and in moments that could be revealing, we don't seem to find a way to create mass access for the moment of revelation.


KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: Well, for example, I mean, take any of the exchanges in these days that help explain why Hillary Clinton and John McCain did so well, in which they engaged voters about real issue substance. Take those moments in which Senator Edwards talks about the patients' bill of rights and the dispute about what should and should not have been in it. It's a legitimate dispute.

There's a case to be made that some forms of lawsuits are bad and some forms of lawsuits are good. But let's hear the argument. And instead, we're engaging the politics at a high level of abstraction in which people are going to take on the special interests. But we're not exactly sure what that means. We're not exactly sure what they're going to be doing. And for practical purposes, everybody can fill in whatever that means to them. It's not actually a set of policy proposals. It's a kind of indictment of a certain form of status quo.

BILL MOYERS: But you notice that so often the mainstream press disparaged John Edwards for his anti-corporate-- anti-big money rhetoric. They dismissed him because of that.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The interesting thing to me about the Edwards candidacy is that he's making an argument that is consistent in some important ways with the argument made by Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich, and interestingly enough, Mike Huckabee, who takes on corporate greed. That doesn't seem to be a message that resonates very well when it moves into sound bites. And I'm somewhat bewildered about why not. And also, by the way, speaking of the Edwards candidacy, right now going into South Carolina, his home state where he's won a primary and has the endorsement of the steel workers in the state, he's being written off essentially as the third place candidate who basically can't survive beyond that. How, in fairness to his candidacy, can the media dismiss him when he may have at least some possibility of winning South Carolina? A possibility diminished greatly if you continue to talk about the fact that he can't win it.

So his message can't get through if he's in third. He got virtually no coverage on this last election night so his message couldn't get through there. And as a result, people aren't able to hear that message. And he's further disadvantaged because he's raised less money. And so if you want to ask, "How do you ensure that a message isn't able to get through?" put it in the voice of a candidate who carries, in the perspective of the media, no chance to be elected president.

BILL MOYERS: The campaign moves now from retail politics that you like in Iowa and New Hampshire 'cause the candidates can get close to the voters to big-- the wholesales you know in 20 states at one time. What changes?

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: The candidates who didn't have money had a chance in Iowa and New Hampshire. Notice what happens with Governor Huckabee in Iowa. You know, notice. You know, Senator Edwards is outspent and yet does well in Iowa. Notice that Senator McCain, outspent, does well in New Hampshire. You can do that when you have retail politics, when you're not contesting in many states simultaneously. You still do have retail politics able to happen in South Carolina and to some extent also able to happen in Michigan. More difficult in Michigan 'cause it's just a more difficult state to get around in. But once you begin to hit those times in which you've got large blocks of state, now money starts to matter.

KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: And a disparity in resources potentially takes a candidate now, takes a candidate out of the race who might otherwise have survived had we still been able to see them in a retail environment which doesn't privilege money as strongly.

You see this campaign isn't just "personal" for the candidates. It's very personal to millions of people in the US and around the world who are affected by US domestic and foreign policy.

Are you going to let the media wrap the campaign up into a tidy little "made for primetime" package on February 6th or are you going to say "wait just one minute"?

Here's a tangible way that you can make a difference.

John Edwards: $7 Million Dollars In One Day - Make It Happen

by KingOneEye

reprinted from DailyKos with permission

There's been a lot of talk in these parts about how the media is shutting John Edwards out of the race. He has been excluded from polling. His campaign events have not been covered. Other candidates with less to show for themselves receive more attention. Etc.....

All of the these things are true. And all of the solutions I've seen have merit. We definitely need to put pressure on the media to cover this election fairly. But the media is probably not going to alter course and suddenly exhibit a journalistic integrity that they haven't even thought about since their freshman year of college. They need to be given a reason to change course; a reason that fits their definition of news.

So either Edwards could engage in a high speed police chase with Britney's kids on his lap and a missing white girl in the trunk, or he could raise $7 million dollars in one day.

Brought to you by...
News Corpse, The Internet's Chronicle Of Media Decay.

Money is one of the key validators that establishment media recognize. It is an extension of their fixation on the primacy of wealth in this materialistic culture. It is the reason that corporations are favored by most political operators and institutions. And it is the reason that these corporate-dominated media companies are marginalizing Edwards in the first place. As more than one pundit has put it, Edwards is their worst enemy.

Edwards' campaign has been the most forthright in attacking the epidemic of corporate greed. He has brought the issue of health care into the realm of the personal by spotlighting the tragically horrendous treatment of Nataline Sarkisyan by Cigna. He is relating the challenge by Warren Buffet to Forbes 400 CEOs to prove that they pay more in taxes than their secretaries. And he has directly taken on the media corporations themselves, particularly Fox News. It is notable that he is the ONLY Democratic candidate to continue to decline to appear on Fox. Obama broke ranks last week and Clinton never really joined the effort. Neither did Biden or Dodd. Kucinich is a frequent Fox guest. Only Edwards has had the courage to make direct statements addressing the dangers of consolidated media conglomerates. From his letter to the FCC:

"High levels of media consolidation threaten free speech, they tilt the public dialogue towards corporate priorities and away from local concerns, and they make it increasingly difficult for women and people of color to own meaningful stakes in our nation’s media."

And on Fox News:

"The basis of a strong democracy begins and ends with a strong, unbiased and fair media — all qualities which are pretty hard to subscribe to Fox News and News Corp."

Given Edwards' propensity for speaking truth to power, we might have expected the counterpunch that these media corporations have wielded. But we don't have to quit fighting.

Ron Paul has managed to stir up respectable levels of exposure despite his low standings in most polls. After being excluded from a Fox News-sponsored debate in New Hampshire, he has now been invited to participate in a Fox debate in South Carolina. That reversal on the part of Fox didn't occur due to some crisis of conscience. It occurred partly because Paul's supporters were pissed and they let it be known, and partly because Paul had validated himself in terms the media can understand - fund raising. Having drawn in a record $6 million dollars in one day went a long ways toward forcing the press to pay attention.

What I want to know is this: If Paul can do it, why can't Edwards? Edwards has far more support than Paul and he ought to be able to mobilize his supporters to attempt to set a new fund raising record. I don't know if Edwards has anything like this in mind but there is no reason his supporters can't embark on this on their own.

So I propose that we do so. I would like to suggest Friday, January 18, as the day to shatter both the record and the media's tinted glass ceiling on coverage. This would give us all five days to publicize the effort. If successful, it should generate some press in time for the Sunday papers and news programs. Then on Monday, there is the debate in South Carolina, where Edwards could promote the results. This would then be followed by the primary on Saturday which, hopefully, would benefit from the newly enhanced press attention.

If we believe that the media is unfairly slanting coverage, it is up to us to do something about it. We must not let them make our decisions for us. By thrusting Edwards' visibility forward with financial support that makes the press do a double take, we are effectively slapping the collective faces of the reporters who think they know what they're talking about; of the pundits who think they know what's best; of the blowhards like Bill O'Reilly who dismissively wave off our candidates as phonies and losers.

On Friday, January 18, go to the donation page at and make a donation for whatever you can afford. Personally, I think Clinton and Obama supporters should do this as well in order to stick it to the media. I'm sure they will consider that a disingenuous ploy to squeeze money out of them, but it isn't. I am completely serious when I say that the press is out there to do us harm. It may be Edwards now, but it will be your candidate later. So this opportunity to spank them is worth embracing.

Feel free to use the the graphic above to get the word out. Post it on your blog, MySpace, Facebook, etc. ( click here to get the code)

$7 million dollars is a lot of money to raise online, and 5 days is not a lot of time to organize. But if Ron Paul can do it, fer gawds sake, we ought to be able to.

Here's just one of the many issues at stake if we don't act now:

The following video is of an emotional town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., John and Elizabeth Edwards were joined by the family of Nataline Sarkisyan, who passed away in December after her health insurance company ( CIgna ) refused to pay for the liver transplant that she needed.

Did you see this on your evening news?

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