July 23 A Capital Idea Part 20: The News Media Been has Bought and Paid for
When I was a child, we used to watch the evening news. Walter Cronkite, or Dan Rather, would report the news matter of factly. At the end of the show, Walter Cronkite would say "and that's the way it is" in his trustworthy way. As far as I can tell, that is the way it was. News was news. The fictional character Lou Grant played by Ed Asner, as well as Mary Tyler Moore who played Mary Richards on the Mary Tyler Moore show, were honest arbiters of the most important news.
Somehow, those days went out the window. In the intervening years, I came to realize how easily biased the news could be. The choice of what to cover on the news is one means of biasing the news, and how it is covered is another way. Apparently, news corporations realized that too, during this same time frame. Wealthy Australian conservative Rupert Murdoch bought the FOX station and turned it into Fascists On Xanax, or Faux News, as some have called it -- a mouthpiece for conservative thinking. Other stations have appeared to cave in to conservative pressures as well. My hometown's newspaper, the Press Enterprise of Riverside, CA, had consistently conservative editorials, and slyly had a somewhat greater number of conservative columnists than liberal ones, although not disproportionately enough to be obvious. One of the so-called liberal ones was Thomas Friedman. Give me a break! He was supposedly a liberal, award winning columnist, but whenever I read his commentaries, he was promoting unregulated international capitalism or cheerleading for the invasion of Iraq. In 2004, when the Press Enterprise recommended that we vote to re-elect Bush, I promptly cancelled my newspaper subscription. Now, I get my political news from the internet, the Thom Hartmann show ("where smart people get their news") and other progressive radio shows, and my friends on Facebook and the Thom Hartmann site. I don't read newspapers anymore, although I know they are struggling financially. Part of the problem is due to the advent of internet, but partly it is there own fault for slipping into a state of dishonesty as they pretend to be fair, but actually are corporate mouthpieces.
I still watch news shows on television sometimes, but not as much as I used to. Actually, an auspicious event happened about a year ago, when we were forced to go to digital television signals from analog ones. When that happened, we got a bunch of new public stations, many of them foreign language, including several Chinese ones that Eunice likes to watch, plus several stations which have more open minded reporting such as the Bill Moyers show which has recently been replaced by "Need to Know" or Jim Lehrer's newshour. At the same time, our television became unable to get the FOX station. Meanwhile, the signal from KCAL which emanates from Los Angeles and has mostly news, became very unreliable. So much for the great digital signals we were promised! But that's okay with me, considering that the stations which were added were mostly good ones, while the stations we could no longer receive because they were broadcasting from distant Los Angeles were ones I had problems with such as FOX, and the evangelical Christian station. We have never had cable television here because I don't want to spend an extra monthly fee to get a bunch of extra stations most of which we don't even want, and the ones we do like, would probably only serve as additional distractions from our purposeful, productive activities. I would rather let my wife Eunice use the money to fund charities, such as sponsoring poor children -- I think we sponsor 4 of them currently -- donating to research on diseases, and also donating to public television stations. Today is Eunice's birthday, and she already put several donation letters in our mailbox. Instead of receiving on her birthday, she is giving. Good on my beautiful wife!
The bigger issue is that the mainstream private media is largely owned by a few small corporations, which are basically looking after their own financial interests. As such, they tend to have a conservative bias, no matter how much conservative talkers whine about the so-called "liberal media bias." Most of these corporations are owned by conservatives, who hire people who will not defy them or suggest anything contrary to their interests. If they do, they will be subject to immediately losing their jobs. Since these are private corporations presenting what they claim to be the news, they engender an inherent conflict of interest. How can a private entity which is being run like an empire with its owner as king, be a fair arbiter of the news? The simple answer is that this is not possible. There are many progressives I am sure working for these people, as well as many conservatives, but anything contrary to the corporate bottom line is untouchable. The corporate media bias arguably may be the single biggest factor behind the corporate takeover of America, and basically, this is a conservative bias -- a fascist bias urging the merger of corporate and state interests, and the development of modern feudalism as they pull the wool over the eyes of the public, so to speak.
Note also that the revenue of these corporations is also corporate, in the form of advertising. Thus, the corporations which present us with their version of the world and attempt to make it ours, are simultaneously supporting the consolidation and internationalization of big business as we watch competing businesses be swallowed up in a wave of corporate monopolization. The sad fact is that advertising works, giving those with the money to use them, an unfair advantage over others. This insidious effect of advertising is another aspect of corporatization which needs to be abolished, to be replaced by consumer report and Angies' List type organizations which represent public interests rather than corporate interests. The news which we see or read from privately owned businesses will never be critical of their corporate sponsors, but rather, will promote them!
In summary, we need to get rid of this entire system of privately owned so-called "news," both its corporate sponsorships and inherently biased news itself. Also, we need to require that commentary is labelled as commentary, cheerleading as cheerleading, and real news as real news. We, the public, need to own our own news. Publicly sponsored media can serve this purpose, as it already does but only in a small degree. Only when the news as a whole comes to represent the public interest and "need to know" (the name of the show which replaced Bill Moyers show), will we be able to see the world as it is, rather than the warped view of the world presented to us by the corporate media.