The Democratic Party establishment is in a panic after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s convincing victory in the Nevada presidential primary on February 22. An easy way to gauge the reaction of the Democratic Party old guard is to watch their mouthpieces spout off on MSNBC, the network that pretends to be at the forefront of liberal politics but in reality protects the interests of corporate Democrats like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. MSNBC is, with some reservations due to being more grounded in the real world, the opinion molder for many Democrats in a similar fashion to how Fox News affects Republicans.
This year the Democratic Party establishment had the fix in for former vice president Joe Biden the same way they had the fix in for former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in 2016. She lost the election, but hey, she won the popular vote! So what? So a surplus of a few million people, mostly in California and New York, voted for Hillary Clinton. It didn’t matter because their votes didn’t count as much as the votes of a few tens of thousands of people in Rust Belt states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. So the Democratic Party establishment had decided to do it all over again, this time with Joe Biden as their old guard hack.
A banner displayed by striking Chicago teachers in September 2012 questioning the real interests of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel and his Democratic Party colleagues. Photo by Flickr user Groupuscule.
The old guard claims their anointed one is the most electable in the general election, a higher priority than ever now that everyone has had nearly four years experience of the alternative, the current president. Everyone, progressive and corporate Democrat alike, agrees four more years of that will destroy the republic as well as the Democratic Party. The old guard deploys fear of four more years of the current president to maintain themselves in power at whatever cost in lies and money. Claiming that only their front person has electability in the general election didn’t work in 2016, and it won’t work in 2020.
The reason is lack of broad appeal to potential voters who are inclined to sit on the sidelines instead of getting behind a corporate Democrat like Joe Biden. The Democratic Party establishment persists in under counting and under cutting the progressive, Socialist portion of the party because it scares off their backers on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms. The country, and the Democratic Party in particular, are more liberal than the establishment and the corporate media will admit.
Woody Guthrie wrote and performed “So Long, It’s Been Good to Know Yuh (Dusty Old Dust)” in 1935. The policies and appeal of the president at the time, Franklin Roosevelt, would not look out of place today in the campaign of Bernie Sanders, yet conservative corporate interests in politics and in the media persist in portraying Senator Sanders and his supporters as fringe radicals.
The resulting propaganda from outlets like MSNBC convinces some voters that a presidential candidate such as Bernie Sanders would represent only a fringe of the Democratic Party, while Joe Biden or Michael Bloomberg or Pete Buttigieg would represent the mainstream of the Party, and therefore would be the only electable choice for the more conservative general populace. That’s not true. Look at the results in Nevada.
“Lenin was sent into Russia by the Germans in the same way that you might send a phial containing a culture of typhoid or cholera to be poured into the water supply of a great city, and it worked with amazing accuracy.”
— Winston Churchill (1874-1965)
At a February 13 House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing to question newly appointed Special Representative for Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, on United States policy toward that country, Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) impugned Mr. Abrams’s veracity since he is a known liar who narrowly escaped felony perjury charges in 1991 by cooperating with Iran-Contra Affair Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh. Mr. Abrams took exception to Ms. Omar’s statement. She went on to outline his participation in war crimes and meddling in the internal affairs of several Latin American countries, all while serving as the Reagan administration’s Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs, an Orwellian title for someone who demonstrated contempt for human rights if they got in the way of his neo-conservative anti communist dogma.
None of the activities and attitudes Representative Omar outlined as pertaining to Mr. Abrams are in dispute, yet in the February 13 public hearing he didn’t want to own up to them. Elliott Abrams has been the point man for dirty work abroad for Republican administrations for nearly 40 years, and yet he expects American citizens and the people of the world to believe he has performed his services only for democracy and for human rights. When someone points out publicly how his record has demonstrated the exact opposite, Mr. Abrams gets testy, even nasty. Apparently his narcissism doesn’t allow for anyone calling him out as the nasty person he truly is, though it’s interesting that in his reaction he confirms it.
Everyone around the world must know, and the Venezuelans in particular must realize, that since the current presidential administration has assigned Elliott Abrams to the case in Venezuela that country is now in for a nasty, horrific time at the hands of the new envoy. It is as if a hockey team has sent in its most egregious enforcer off the bench. With Mr. Abrams on the job, Venezuelan oil will soon be back within the control of big American and European fossil fuel companies and the international banks will be able to squeeze indebted Venezuela dry, and that’s the endgame of the whole regime change charade and manufactured humanitarian crisis of aid supplies rotting at the Venezuelan border. The only ones who don’t know this, or pretend not know, are corporate media outlets and the consumers who uncritically suck at the corporate media teats of CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and major newspaper and radio outlets. Slap a patina of democracy and humanitarianism on it, no matter how flimsy, and the American public will largely stand up and salute it, no questions asked, lest they be branded unpatriotic. It worked in 2003 for the Iraq invasion and has worked innumerable times before.
And it’s a tactic which has always worked wonders for Elliott Abrams in his career of promoting democracy and humanitarianism, while only incidentally serving corporate and government interests, which are the same thing. What a great guy! Anyone who believes otherwise is unpatriotic, and possibly a communist. A reasonable person might question why the despicable Mr. Abrams is representing the United States abroad in any capacity at all rather than lying low in shame, if not in jail, but then to stay sane a reasonable person had best give up such honest questions in today’s America.
A scene from the 1984 film Dune, directed by David Lynch, with José Ferrer as the Emperor, Siân Phillips as the Reverend Mother Gaius, Kenneth McMiIlan as the Baron, and Alicia Witt as Alia. Warning: gruesome images.
It wouldn’t be surprising news if the current administration resurrected for its damnable purposes Mr. Abrams’s fellow war criminals Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger. Now that’s a triumvirate of inglorious foreign policy pros to sicken the world! In their world it’s bad enough up is down, 2+2=5, and evil has the upper hand, but everyone is also expected by the current administration, its leaders and its followers, and even by the press, the so-called Fourth Estate for its purported independence from power, to not only swallow their hypocritical bilge, but attest to its toothsome flavor and heartily endorse it for others to swill in large doses. Here’s to you, Mr. Abrams!
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.” — from “The Second Coming”, a 1919 poem by William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).
The problem with cable news junkies is that they believe themselves with utmost confidence to be well informed, when really they are not. Their misplaced confidence in their knowledge of current events that matter is an example of the Dunning-Kruger effect. Since these people sit before their televisions for hours each day absorbing cable television news programs, they assume they are better informed than the average citizen, a situation which they will cite smugly and insufferably to everyone in their personal orbit.
They are wrong. Cable news may give them a broad grasp of current events that is broad, but it is an inch deep. Alternately, they may have a deep grasp of stories such as the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, but in the usually superficial ways that cable news promotes the story as a kind of tawdry reality TV drama, rather than an examination of hard issues. Cable television networks long ago blurred the line between entertainment and news, probably beginning with around the clock live coverage of the 1990 Gulf War by the Cable News Network (CNN), coverage that was steered by the American government as much as possible and resulted in a narrative arc showcasing video footage of superior American battlefield technology fed to CNN by the American military.
Two men attending the October 2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., make satirical comments about Fox News and its viewers. Photo by David Shankbone.
13 years later other cable news outlets, and corporate media generally, followed the 1990 Gulf War CNN formula in coverage of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, this time accompanied by some unashamed cheering from major media figures such as Dan Rather at the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). When the cable news companies, which unlike CBS need to fill 24 hours with supposedly newsworthy content, weren’t breathlessly following America’s overseas military adventurism, they were jumping in with both feet into the latest scandal, controversial congressional hearing, or human interest story of dubious news value such as the 2009 balloon boy hoax.
What the cable news junkies who sit rapt before their televisions as all this unfolds fail to account for are the corporate puppet masters behind the scenes of the major media companies. In this accounting, it is the questions that are not asked that matter, and the stories that are not pursued by reporters who have either absorbed the parent corporation’s views or are reined in by editors who have. They are not getting the whole story, maybe not even half of it. In the interest of selling their viewers to advertisers, the corporate media steers clear of uncomfortable territory, now more than ever over the past 30 years.
A scene from the 1988 film A Fish Called Wanda, with Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline. Warning: foul language.
Now a loyal viewer of Fox News or of MSNBC, to name the two most popular cable news providers from ostensibly opposite ends of the political spectrum, can go through an entire day of watching without having his or her world view and opinions seriously challenged. Yes, there are real differences in coverage and bias between the two networks. In the broader picture that includes smaller independent news organizations like Democracy Now!, however, the differences between Fox News and MSNBC amount to the choleric disagreement between the Yooks and the Zooks in Dr. Seuss’s The Butter Battle Book. Neither network questions the basic assumptions of their corporate masters. Day after day of gobbling up the news as dished out by CNN, the perceived middle-of-the-road cable news outlet, does not make a consumer well informed so much as well suited to be a foot soldier in the corporate takeover of America and its transformation into a full-blown police state.
New York Giants football team co-owner Steve Tisch has spoken out publicly against the National Football League’s (NFL) new policy of punishing teams which allow players to kneel for the national anthem, saying he doesn’t intend to punish any Giants’ players for exercising their First Amendment rights to protest police brutality. Mr. Tisch also criticized the current president of the country for weighing in on the issue, particularly since he appears to misunderstand the reason for the protests and believes the players are against the flag and the anthem, and therefore America.
Considering the Troll-in-Chief’s poor grasp of many issues, such as his recent characterization of the small Balkan nation of Montenegro as a place filled with “very aggressive people” who could involve the United States in World War III in order to come to their aid as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it is possible he does not understand the true reason for the protests initiated by Colin Kaepernick in 2016 when he was a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. It is equally likely he saw how many in the corporate media used the shorthand term “anthem protests” and how it caught on with much of the public who superficially skim news stories, a group of people which often includes his most loyal supporters, the Trumpkins, and he exploited people’s ignorance to mis-characterize the protests as disloyal demonstrations by spoiled, privileged athletes. There is deep irony in Chief Bone Spurs shamelessly dumping on black athletes as spoiled and privileged ingrates when many of them worked their way up from poor backgrounds to earn a lucrative spot in the limelight afforded to only a tiny percentage of those playing sports.
On July 7, 2016, community members and Black Lives Matter activists gather outside the Minnesota governor’s residence in Saint Paul hours after police shot and killed Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. Photo by Tony Webster.
The Troll-in-Chief knew very well his Trumpkins would eat up his slanders of the black athletes. Almost all the players kneeling in protest of police brutality were black, largely because unnecessary police killings have affected black people most of all, and as such the protests were in tune with the Black Lives Matter movement. What better way for the Trumpkins to vent their resentment against millionaire black athletes than to ignore the real reason for their protests in favor of slamming them as un-American? They don’t support our troops, who died for a colored piece of cloth and a song glorifying war! Actually, if anything, those troops died defending the right of the NFL players to kneel or stand for the national anthem. That’s a complex, abstract concept, however, and for the Trumpkins it’s much easier and more satisfying to howl hateful epithets at black players for doing something they don’t like, even though the players have a perfectly legal and moral right to do it.
Warning: Police brutality! Clip art by liftarn.
The current president has harbored a grudge against NFL owners since the 1980s when they refused him membership in their club after his ill-fated stint as owner of the New Jersey Generals franchise in the United States Football League (USFL). He probably sees stirring the pot of the “anthem protests” as revenge. He likely couldn’t care less about the real issues involved. That’s the definition of a troll. In the 1933 Marx Brothers film Duck Soup, the leaders of a small Balkan nation named Freedonia exhibit equal parts comic ineptitude, corruption, ignorance of facts while manipulating lies, and demonization of imagined internal and external enemies as a way of distracting the populace and covering their own tracks. A superficial comparison with Montenegro might come to mind, though a deeper understanding of the satire in the film reveals a more apt match with the current leaders of our country.
The headlines in the corporate media after the Democratic primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th congressional district on June 26 often omitted her name in favor of touting the loss by her opponent, establishment Democrat Joseph Crowley, whom the corporate media did name. Brushing aside the intentional or unintentional slight of the old boys’ club in the corporate media and Democratic party establishment, the victory of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in the 14th district in New York, a district encompassing the eastern Bronx and part of the Queens boroughs of New York City, was a major step forward for the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), of which she is a member.
A panoramic view of the antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) on the Chajnantor Plateau in the Chilean Andes against a starry night sky. The Moon and the Milky Way are visible across the center of the sky. Photo by Babak Tafreshi. The Democratic Party establishment keeps looking for new stars to lead it, ignoring the new leaders emerging from the grass roots and pushing them aside.
Fox News blowhard Sean Hannity posted the following list on his television show of the points in Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, no doubt with the idea of horrifying his viewers with her plan for destroying America, if not all of western civilization:
Medicare for all
Housing as a human right
A federal jobs guarantee
Gun control / Assault weapons ban
Criminal justice reform / End private prisons
Immigration justice / Abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
Solidarity with Puerto Rico
Mobilizing against climate change
Clean campaign finance
Higher education for all
Curb Wall Street gambling / Restore Glass Steagall
Actually, that all sounds pretty good! Thanks, Mr. Hannity! With that agenda, it’s no wonder Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the DSA are worrying not only the retrograde part of the electorate represented by Sean Hannity, but the Democratic Party establishment lately represented by Joseph Crowley. Let’s look forward to that agenda catching on with voters and being pushed by them across the country in areas beyond the Democratic Party stronghold of New York’s 14th congressional district.
The ending of Ron Fricke’s 1992 film Baraka, with music by Michael Stearns.
Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away,
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out!
There may be dogs about!
I’ve looked over Jordan and I have seen;
Things are not what they seem.
What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise!
A look of terminal shock in your eyes!
Now things are really what they seem;
No, this is no bad dream.
— The first two stanzas of the song “Sheep”, by Pink Floyd, from their 1977 album Animals.
The First Slave Auction in New Amsterdam [New York City] in 1655, an illustration by Howard Pyle (1853-1911), published in 1917 after his death. Slave or master, master or slave, it has been ever thus.
Why listen to or read reports from corporate media outlets about what the comedian Michelle Wolf said at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, April 28, when C-SPAN has the entire video of her speech available so that you can make up your own mind about it?
There has never been an age when information was as freely available in relatively open societies such as ours, and yet people out of laziness, habit, or ideology continue to rely on corporate media to relay news to them. Corporate media has a bias, though, and ultimately that bias has less to do with left or right than it does with green, as in the color of American currency. The part of Ms. Wolf’s remarks that the corporate media objects to most has nothing to do with what she says in the first sixteen minutes, largely about Supreme Leader, his incompetent administration, and the morally or legally corrupt officials in it, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but about her criticisms of their ethically bankrupt empowering of this administration for the sake of lining their own pockets. There are reaction shots of stuffed shirt audience members either stony faced or sour pussed in disapproval throughout Ms. Wolf’s remarks, but in the last three minutes, and especially the last minute, when she takes it up a notch, the reaction shots show media and administration types alike shooting daggers at her from their eyes. You know then she was speaking the truth, and that they weren’t going to report that part of her speech if they could avoid it.
Brit Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band, in an excellent performance of “Sheep” from 2015 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
But allowing lazy, dishonest media to get away with reporting like that are lazy, dishonest citizens who don’t care about the truth. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Criticizing the media is easy really, like shooting fish in a barrel. Who swallows the bait when they boost the weapons of mass destruction myth as reason for invading Iraq? Who goes along meekly when the corporate media repeats the lie from the powers that be that the banks and other financial institutions who nearly destroyed the economy in 2008, and did destroy the livelihood of millions of citizens, are too big to fail and require a bailout from the same people they screwed? Who listened and watched enraptured as the corporate media gave more coverage to a reality TV star presidential candidate in 2016 than any other candidate, regardless of substantive discussion of real issues? Who?
Who was born in a house full of pain?
Who was trained not to spit in the fan?
Who was told what to do by the man?
Who was broken by trained personnel?
Who was fitted with collar and chain?
Who was given a pat on the back?
Who was breaking away from the pack?
Who was only a stranger at home?
Who was ground down in the end?
Who was found dead on the phone?
Who was dragged down by the stone?
— The last stanza of the song “Dogs”, by Pink Floyd, from their 1977 album Animals.
The pejorative expression “liberal media” has become a time-worn truth for some people after it has been repeated often enough, mostly by themselves. To them, attributing a news story to the “liberal media” is as good as saying the story is worthless. Their listeners are meant to take at face value the assertion that the media has a liberal bias, because they themselves never question the phrase. Of course the media has a liberal bias, because everyone says it does.
At least everyone within a certain circle says it does, and the people within that circle repeat the formula ad nauseum. Citing facts to these people about how the major media outlets are controlled by as few as a half dozen corporations, all of them concerned with promoting business rather than any leftist agenda, has no effect on them. They are addicted to the drug of blaming the faults of their right wing leaders on a mythical “liberal media”. Individual reporters within the big media corporations often lean to the left, but it does not follow that their personal views find their way into print or onto television or radio. The editors, who have their ears tuned to the desires of their corporate bosses, would not allow it, and they set the parameters for what will be in a news story and, more importantly, what will not.
Chuck Colson (1931-2012), officially White House Special Counsel in the Nixon administration, but unofficially the director of dirty tricks. After being sent to prison for seven months for his role in the Watergate scandal, he got religion.
Consumers of news media have no idea what is being left out, what questions are not being asked, and what assumptions are not being challenged. It is what a news organization leaves out that determines its political bias, more than what it releases for consumption. Yes, a newspaper may endorse the Republican or Democratic candidate for office, but what about the idea that neither candidate represents with sincerity any interests other than those of the business class that donated the largest sums to their campaigns? What about in the run-up to war in Iraq in 2003 the reality that there was very little skepticism of the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war from supposedly liberal media outlets like The New York Times and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)? To persist in labeling such organizations “liberal media” belies not only a willful ignorance of the facts, but a bent in political philosophy that is so far rightward it makes Rush Limbaugh appear centrist.
Before the 1950s, major media outlets were seen for what they were then and still are today – centrist or right-leaning organizations that were interested in a healthy bottom line, without investigating too deeply into the feathered nests of the owners’ wealthy friends in government and business. Starting in the 1950s with critical reporting of racial atrocities in the South, and continuing through the 1960s and 1970s with critical reporting on the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, and the CIA, the major media strayed from it’s generally cozy relationship with the powers that be. It was an anomalous twenty to thirty years, and the Nixon administration sought to rein in the press using, among other tools and dirty tricks, the “liberal media” propaganda lie, repeated often. By the 1980s and the Reagan administration, a cowed press corps had reverted to previous form. By 2003, it would be difficult to distinguish the uncritical cheerleading among the press corps for the Iraq War from the rah rah press reports at the beginning of the Spanish-American War a little more than a hundred years earlier.
Harvey Korman and Slim Pickens brainstorm on the kinds of people they need to help them destroy the fictional western town of Rock Ridge in Mel Brooks’s 1974 film Blazing Saddles. No mention of any “very fine people” among them, however. Warning: foul language.
The “liberal media” excuse is a handy one, and some people will cling to it no matter how badly the current Oval Office occupant behaves or how heinous the words coming out of his mouth or from his Twitter tirades. Anyone who continues to excuse him by blaming the “liberal media” for slanting the words the president himself uttered in response to the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, is in denial about the situation and is suffering from cranial rectumitis so severe that no one else should have to listen any longer.
And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. ‘Reality control,’ they called it: in Newspeak, ‘doublethink.’
― from 1984, by George Orwell.
The idea, so long promulgated that people have come to uncritically accept it as truth, of a “liberal media”, meaning by that the mainstream, corporate media, has never been more laughable than today. If people think corporate media outlets such as Cable News Network (CNN), Microsoft National Broadcasting Company (MSNBC), the New York Times, and the Washington Post, are “liberal” then perhaps their definition needs adjustment, because all of these media outlets are owned by giant corporations, and giant corporations are not known for liberal views.
Reproduction of a Charles Mills painting by the Detroit Publishing Company, depicting a young Benjamin Franklin (center) at work on a printing press.
What is more important with news is what is left out than what is left in and reported on. Those are the editorial decisions that filter down from corporate headquarters. Individual reporters may be to the left of Karl Marx, but it hardly matters if editors change their stories at the bidding of headquarters. What matters are the terms of debate, or what is open to question and what is not. Much of this is internalized by reporters eventually, or they don’t get to become editors. They have certainly learned and adopted as Gospel the rules of the game by the time they are ready to move up to senior staff.
But readers or viewers of the news never learn what has been left out by politic editors on behalf of their conservative corporate masters. Not every corporate master is conservative? Doubtful. Liberalism doesn’t go with that territory. Some astute members of the public may pick up the general drift of coverage from a particular outlet, but when it comes down to really important matters, they are addressed in nearly the same way by all the corporate media. It comes down to the narcissism of minor differences that Sigmund Freud pointed out when he wrote “It is precisely the minor differences in people who are otherwise alike that form the basis of feelings of hostility between them.” For the diversion of the masses, educated as well as uneducated, the pundits on television and in the op-ed pages of the newspapers dispute how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, while their corporate masters fleece everyone of every last dollar. It’s a neat trick.
All of that aside, it truly is a disgrace to see the open contempt the current presidential administration and it’s Republican allies around the country display for the Fourth Estate, the Free Press. The corporate, greed-based media, have brought some of this treatment upon themselves with their craven promotion of a shallow reality television star for president – what did they expect? – but what is truly unfortunate is how the disgraceful treatment coming from the White House press room has overflowed to independent news outlets that try to honestly hew to journalistic principles.
The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement”, an 1866 painting by Paul Cézanne (1839-1906).
There are questions to answer, however, before getting up in arms about the bad behavior of the current presidential administration in how it treats media it doesn’t like. First of all, the question of how the current crowd got into office can be bypassed. They are there now, and that’s that. The main question for now is: Who watches these television news shows uncritically and then counts themselves as informed? and Who reads these newspapers that have long since stopped being liberal in anything but stale reputation only, and thinks that they are caught up on the latest left of center take on important issues? Who are these delusional viewers and readers whose uncritical attention and financial support allows this charade to continue and thrive? Are they the ones who support a Free Press against an antagonistic, authoritarian regime in Washington, D.C.? Don’t bet your last corporate media stock share on it.