Saturday, September 10, 2005

My Views

This blog is dedicated to informed debate about the current state of our media in the United States of America. I will not pretend to be non-biased, but will keep an open mind to any and all comments you may have.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the News Media has redeemed itself to a degree. The professional journalists who have bravely covered this disaster and who have not been afraid to criticize the slow response of local, state, and federal governments should be applauded. After all, the role of the News Media is to help the weak and hinder the powerful.

FEMA director Michael Brown was removed from his disaster relief duties and sent back to Washington yesterday. This is perhaps the first time the Bush Administration has taken a bold step in the direction of disciplining one of its own. However, Mr. Brown should be removed from his position as the FEMA head. Politics demands accountability to come from the top. His reassignment is simply not enough.The entire organization of FEMA is in dire need of a major overhaul as evidenced by this most recent natural disaster. What if this had been a terrorist attack? Would this response have been acceptable? Would Mr. Brown still be the FEMA director?

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Brown has little experience with disaster relief and he is not alone. Most of his fellow FEMA officials share the same sparse characteristics on their resumes in terms of actual relevant experience. However, having assisted in the President's election sure does help open some doors. Unfortunately, being friendly with the President does not necessarily make you qualified for the job.

This typifies the makeup of our government. If you have connections in Washington, you have your pick of hundreds of government occupations, regardless of actual qualifications. Before you start yelling "Bush basher," this has been true of virtually every other Administration in this nation's history. They all went to the same Ivy League colleges, raised by wealthy and powerful political families, belonged to prestigious clubs, and attended the same parties.All of this can be largely attributed to the rise of corporate politics beginning in the early 20th century. Big business interests have become practically indistinguishable from big government interests. If you don't believe me, learn who are congressmen are. A majority of the Republicans are ex-businessmen with ties to large corporations, and most Democrats have Law degrees. There are a few doctors mixed in.

So the wealthy and powerful control our democracy, what's it to you? Well, public policy has been shaped over time to conform to certain principles. These principles are motivated by profit. The government is now being run like a big business instead of like an institution to serve and protect the best interests of the public good. You might point out that the free market could also serve the public good, we do live in a capitalist democracy after all. However, corrupt policy making bought and sold by corporate interests have made true competition in the open market truly limited and very antidemocratic. This has had a detrimental affect on the public good, and in particular the Media.

I recommend reading "The Problem of the Media," by Robert McChesney. This book goes into detail to explain the history of the U.S. media, and how it has become what it is today.

You see, our news sources have not always been so nonpartisan. Starting with the early years of our history, newspapers would specifically support a particular party or interest group as dictated by that particular paper's owner, usually local. If you didn't like it, there was certain to be other papers near by with another stance. They were all very biased towards a particular brand of politics. In fact, only since the acceleration of corporate takeovers of various media organizations in the last half century has professional journalism took on its current form. Today's journalists are trained to keep their personal views private and to never allow them to affect the content of their reporting. Anyone who has ever taken a journalism or mass communications class understands this. Appearing to be as non-biased as possible generates the most profit for your employer. Lessons: Don't rock the boat, or you might fall in the lake; Minimize risks, maximize profits; Keep your mouth shut about your boss, you keep your job. I think you have the idea.

The problem with all of this is that we are human. It is virtually impossible to keep one's personal views out of sight and out of mind. This is where the popular criticism of liberal bias comes from. If a person senses a news story is trying to convey a particular message, one may conclude that it is a liberal bias. This is because most professional journalists must be college educated to be qualified, and most college professors in this area of study have a reputation of being liberal, particularly on social issues. The impact of this perceived bias on the public is strong, and therefore generates a backlash, or culture war, as we have seen in the most recent elections.

What has been forgotten in all this, thanks in part to the conservative movement is that this apparent liberal bias in the mainstream media is not actually liberal. It is corporate. Do you realize that a vast majority of our newspapers, TV, cable, satellite, movies, books, and music are now owned by 5 major corporations? Everybody has heard of all the mergers over the last decade, most of these being media related firms consolidating. Now common, even previously unrelated media firms have come together to form vast conglomerates.

This has had a dramatic effect on competition. The fewer companies there are to compete, the less risk for the current corporations, and the harder it is for smaller independent startups to enter the market. There are no price wars within this inner circle. The consumers are the big losers in this. You scoff, but have you noticed how much your cable TV bill has gone up in the last decade?

This consolidation trend tends to accelerate in a "free" market, because it forces the others on the outside team up in order to survive, thus meaning fewer and fewer choices for media consumers.Less choice is antidemocratic and anti-free market. You might make the argument that the market will efficiently resolve any problems in the long run without government intervention. However, it is in fact the government which made the policies which directly resulted in the current state of the media markets. As most of us know, our congressmen are bought and sold by special interests, especially that of big business who give millions of dollars in campaign funding for both political parties. The media lobby has successfully pressured Congress into tearing down regulations that limited the number and combinations of media outlets one corporation can own. When you are talking about control of information that is disseminated to the mass majority of the public, centralization presents a huge problem for democracy which relies on an informed citizenry for survival.

So most professional journalists and entertainers may be liberal, but who writes their paychecks? The vast majority of media owners are conservative. If you owned a huge corporation, you would be too. These owners have complete control over what goes out to the public. The little amount of autonomy that they may allow their employees are motivated by the bottom line: PROFIT. If what their 'liberal" employees have something to say that sells, then it will be said. However, if what they have to say goes against the status quo, and risks upsetting advertisers, then it will not be said. If we are all indeed motivated by money, would it not make sense to make your employer happy? Wouldn't you internalize the desires of your employer in order to keep your job, get a raise, or make more money? All journalists are pro market. All entertainers want to make money.

Therefore, how can you argue that the media is liberal? Ask Rupert Murdock of News Corp., owner of FOX, if he has any misgivings about some of the vulgar and illicit programming is put on his TV station or made by his movie production company, 20th Century Fox? After all, this is the same man who owns the Fox News Channel, widely accepted as staunchly conservative, a reactionary answer to the so called "liberal bias." No, these "filthy liberal values" that commonly take the form of sex, violence, and drugs are highly profitable and marketable values. That is what Mr. Murdock, and his other fellow media CEOs value above all else. This is known as the corporate bias.

5 comments:

  1. These un-American views are very dangerous to be posted on the internet for everybody to see.
    Since you live in North Dakota, a heavily red, conservative state, you had better shut your trap about all your poisonous liberal "viewpoints" and support President Bush and the conservative majority that is in charge of this Godly nation!
    If you keep spewing out this steaming pile of garbage about our media and brainwash every American to blindly follow the liberals, we'll all be bowing at the feet of some dictator who will do everything in his power to force the evils of communism and socialism down the throats of every good and sensible Christian who actually has faith and absolute trust in our government!
    Good Bye!

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  2. (from anonmous).....every good and sensible Christian who actually has faith and absolute trust in our government!

    Theres where you fucked up, religion got ya... instead of burying your face in biblical mythology, why dont you pull your head out of your ass and face reality...its all about money and power, and you obviosly voted for bush, so the next time ur complaining about something like the war, or why the govt took so long with the victims of hurricane katrina, OR EVEN GAS PRICES...JUST REMEMBER YOU VOTED FOR HIM. way to go...anonymous ( cant even leave ur name, so who left it?)pansy....ignore these deeply religios people tim, there nuts and thats why this nation gets there panties in a jingle, over religion, and other stupid stuff that is ridiculous to fight about

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  3. Last time I looked we lived in U. S. A. where we are all free to express our opinions. I found some of the views of Tim very interesting and I consider myself a conservative. I also consider myself a Christian and do not care for the Christian right wing conservative group as they think that if you don't argree with them that you can not be a Christian and must be a devil. they are the ones who want to rule it over everyone. They have "viewpoints" and consider them the only ones that should be out there.If you don't agree with them You are not an American. Rubbish............ keep writing Tim

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  4. First, cable going up in the last decade? That's a huge period of time, inflation anyone?

    Now... you claim that the entire media is "corporately biased." I submit, that since liberal and conservative bias are relative terms (can only be used to compare), that you cannot argue either way, since there is no other media to be used for comparison. You have lumped all of the media into one, and therefore have made your entire argument irrelevant.

    You can compare elements within the media (say something like.... FoxNews is more conservatively biased than CNN), but you cannot say the entire media is biased because you can't possibly know since you have nothing else to compare with.

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  5. Just so theres no confusion, I was talking about the person that left the annonymous comment, otherwise...TIMMY IS FREAKING AWESOME, MUHAHAHAHHAHAA.

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