Category "Deconstructing The Media"

Glenn Beck Channels Rage of Self-Indulgent Baby Boomers

November 30th, 2010 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Wow. This might possibly be the the most provocatively insightful analysis of the whole phenomenon as to the source of Glenn Beck’s popularity, and the bankruptcy of his politics. Not only does it reference one of the most prescient films ever made, “Network”, its written by a former vice president of Goldman Sachs of all places!

A little over a week ago we were treated to Glenn Beck’s quasi-religious extravaganza on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. I have had a gnawing sense that there was some greater meaning to this event, despite the absence of any apparent substance in the messages delivered.

Then it hit me: I recalled that, in a 2009 New York Times interview, Glenn Beck compared himself with Howard Beale, the character portrayed magnificently by Peter Finch in the 1976 film “Network.” The metamorphosis of Beck into a self-proclaimed prophet of an ideologically conservative God suddenly made complete sense.

In Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, Beale was a newscaster who suffered a psychological break when informed that he was to be fired because of low ratings. He wandered into the studio wearing his pajamas, drenched from walking in a thunderstorm, and delivered the famous speech urging viewers to throw open their windows and scream, “I’m as mad as hell, and I am not going to take it any more.” Of course, the viewers complied en masse and Beale was given his own show that featured his lunatic rants. Ratings soared.

Before his famous exhortation, Beale recounted a list of problems plaguing society and admitted that he was totally clueless as to any solutions. Chayefsky was unsympathetic with Beale’s audience. He brilliantly described the mass insanity of a public willing to follow a prophet with no inkling of a way to address problems, based only lunatic, disassociated anger. Chayefsky intended that “mad” be read as having both of its meanings. He was appalled by the public’s self-indulgent eagerness to transform the immediate gratification of a primal scream into a social movement.

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Glenn Beck proves that Paddy Chayefsky’s observations of American society in the 1970’s are just as valid today.

I have often wondered whether Beck is a lunatic, exploited by Fox News and deserving of our sympathy. After all, he suffers from macular dystrophy, an inability to focus vision on the real world. (Chayefsky would have loved the irony.) But I now believe that he is sane (and I suppose deserving of no sympathy). He understands that disassociated anger is cathartic for today’s public. Nonsensical conspiracy theories and baseless ridicule are entertaining fillers, but his real stock-in-trade is the public’s rage at a “system” that must have betrayed them because their dreams have not been fulfilled. People are angry because they feel powerless to change conditions that they dislike. They cannot even describe what the problem is because no leader has articulated it. A rational explanation would at least mitigate the rage by calming anxieties. But no progressive leader has the courage to try it, and it is not in the conservatives‚ interest to do so. You might say that the public’s experience is dehumanizing (but if you did, you would bore the audience).

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Ideological conservatism has ruled the day for 40 years. The genius of the New Deal, in retreat throughout this period, was not ideology. It was the pragmatic observation that the only way to achieve long-term prosperity is for the government to draw the weak and less wealthy into participation in the economy. Left to their own devices, the strong and wealthy will rationally act in their own short-term interests. Only government can act in the collective long-term interest. The unbridled free enterprise and deregulation advocated by conservative ideologues can make a few people wealthy in the short-run, but it is unsustainable because middle- and lower- income families will inevitably be left behind.

What has been missing is a progressive leader willing to risk telling the public the truth.

Read The Complete Essay

NPR - The Initials Stand For Nothing

November 21st, 2010 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Good piece from Harry Shearer about NPR and its decline, including into censorship. You know what they say - if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

NPR announced recently that it’s no longer National Public Radio. Like CBS and NBC before it, it has decided that its initials are now so iconic they stand for nothing but themselves (ABC recently revived its full name, the “American Broadcasting Company”, probably to ride the early Iraq War patriotism wave).

Well, here’s a clue about what NPR stands for now. I’ve just made a documentary film about why New Orleans flooded, “The Big Uneasy”, in theaters nationwide on Monday. Having been denied access to coverage by either of the network’s two flagship news programs, I decided to buy in, purchasing some of those “enhanced underwriting” announcements that the rest of us would call ads.

The money was on the table, and then things got… kind of NPR’y. Long story short, NPR’s legal department ruled that these words were not acceptable in the announcement: “documentary about why New Orleans flooded”, that the only words that would work for them were “documentary about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina” — this despite the fact that the movie IS about why New Orleans flooded, and it most certainly is not about the hurricane (since the experts interviewed in the movie agree that the flooding was a “man-made engineering catastrophe”).

So, yes, like CBS and NBC, NPR has decided its initials stand for nothing. What the network itself stands for at this moment sounds a lot like censorship.

Read The Original Post

Ethan Zuckerman - How To Listen To Global Voices

September 3rd, 2010 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

This features some interesting discussion from Ethan Zuckerman on the imaginary
cosmpolitanism that we are experiencing in our oft-referred to globalized society, and the lack of actual diversified globalism in our media and information consumption. It contains some interesting critiques on the failings of new media, as well.

His work with the organization Global Voices serves as a helpful endeavor in providing lessons in how we would want to ‘rewire’ our information systems in order to use to the web to actually have a ‘wider world’ when it comes to communication diversity.


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Seven Falsehoods About Health Care

October 27th, 2009 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

FactCheck.org provides some background data on the swirl of BS being propagated these days regarding the whole health care issue.

So much for a slow news month. August feels like campaign season, with claims on health care coming at us daily. Does the House bill call for mandatory counseling on how to end seniors’ lives sooner? Absolutely not. Will the government be dictating to doctors how to treat their patients? No. Do the bills propose cutting Medicare benefit levels? No on that one, too.

But on the other hand, has Congress figured out how to pay for this overhaul? Not yet. Or will it really save families $2,500 a year as the president keeps claiming? Good luck on that one, too.

In this article we offer a run-down of seven falsehoods we’ve taken on recently, with some additional updating and research thrown in.

Read The Full Report

US News Media Fails America, Again

May 14th, 2009 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Robert Parry, the journalist who broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 80’s (remember that?), delivers an excellent analysis here on the dangerously corroded state of American journalism today and the role of the “pundit class” in helping to exacerbate that condition.

Watching Glenn Beck of Fox News rant about ‘progressive fascism’ - and muse about armed insurrection - or listening to mainstream pundits prattle on about Barack Obama as the ‘most polarizing President ever,’ it is hard to escape the conclusion that today’s U.S. news media represents a danger to the Republic. By and large, the Washington press corps continues to function within a paradigm set in the 1980s, mostly bending to the American Right, especially to its perceived power to destroy mainstream journalistic careers and to grease the way toward lucrative jobs for those who play ball.

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Again, the right-wing media and the mainstream press moved almost in lockstep. The deferential tone toward Bush could be found not just on Fox News or right-wing talk radio, but in the Washington Post and (to a lesser degree) the New York Times – and on CNN and MSNBC. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “America’s Matrix.”]

To some foreigners, the U.S. news media’s early coverage of the Iraq War had the feel of what might be expected in a totalitarian state.

“There have been times, living in America of late, when it seemed I was back in the Communist Moscow I left a dozen years ago,” wrote Rupert Cornwell in the London-based Independent. “Switch to cable TV and reporters breathlessly relay the latest wisdom from the usual unnamed ‘senior administration officials,’ keeping us on the straight and narrow. Everyone, it seems, is on-side and on-message. Just like it used to be when the hammer and sickle flew over the Kremlin.” [Independent, April 23, 2003]

Bush skeptics were essentially not tolerated in most of the U.S. news media, and journalists who dared produce critical pieces could expect severe career consequences, such as the four CBS producers fired for a segment on how Bush skipped his National Guard duty, a true story that made the mistake of using some memos that had not been fully vetted.

Read The Complete Article

Amy Goodman & Glenn Greenwald on the State of the Media

April 17th, 2009 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media, Video

Bill Moyers talks with alternative media heavyweights Glenn Greenwald and Amy Goodman about what can and can’t be addressed in big corporate media.

This is an excellent, concise discourse on many aspects of our co-opted media system, seeing way beyond the distraction of ‘left vs. right’. They touch on many topics, including the role of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, as well as the image of people like Tim Russert as somehow being the cutting edge of journalists holding power accountable. Glenn Greenwald here…

That Tim Russert was constantly held up as the symbol of what an adversarial journalist would be. That he was supposedly this great thorn in the side of power. And yet, his celebrity was so great that when he died it was almost treated as though it was a death of Princess Diana, and everyone rushed forward in order to from the highest political elites to media stars to treat him as what he, in fact, was. Which was a celebrity. And if you look at what Tim Russert actually did there were a couple of actually interesting episodes where not his image, but the reality of what he did was unmasked, during the Lewis Libby trial, in particular. The trial of Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff for obstruction of justice. That involved a lot of journalists, because they were participants in the effort to unmask Valerie Plame Wilson and to smear Joe Wilson. And what he said during that trial, under oath, was they asked him, well, when you have a conversation with one of your sources, with the government official, when is it that you decide that it’s confidential. And when is it that you can report it? And what he said was, well, actually, when I have a conversation with the government official, I consider that conversation presumptively confidential. And I will disclose it only if they authorize me to do so. And it was it was an extraordinary revelation, because if you talk to government officials, and you only disclose to the public things that you know, when they allow you or give you permission to do so, what you’re really describing is the role of a propagandist, not of a journalist. And yet, that was what you know, Tim Russert in many ways was. That’s what his celebrity was based in.

That’s just a small slice from this inspiringly spot on discourse of some of the real truth tellers in today’s American media system.

Watch The Video/Read The Transcript

Monsters on Television

November 14th, 2008 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Juan Cole makes a vary salient point here, the exact same one I was thinking to myself during the election, as well. I found myself nearly shouting at the television when I turned the channel to see Karl Rove on a news program being given platforms of respectability, when what they should be given are lengthy jail sentences. The only audiences people like Rove should be receiving these days are those sitting in jury docks passing judgement on the seemingly endless multitudes of criminal charges that can and should be brought against them.

Paul Krugman, among my favorite political commentators, has spoken forthrightly of how during the past few years we have had “monsters” in office, naming Tom Delay, Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. He complains that until recently, if an observer simply called them what they are, he or she was termed “shrill.” (h/t Daily Kos).

I could not agree more. But I’d like to take this discussion out of the realm of commentary and into that of action.

It is unacceptable that television news brings Tom Delay and Karl Rove on as bona fide political commentators, when both are criminals. The same thing goes for Oliver North. Delay has been indicted on corruption charges and had to step down from his seat in Congress. Rove led a campaign to have the press out a covert CIA operative who was attempting to stop Iranian nuclear proliferation, essentially blowing her cover and that of her contacts to Tehran (i.e. he is a traitor).

There was a time when individuals so tainted with crime made themselves unacceptable in polite society, including on television.

Instead, these monsters are being given air time. CNN brought Delay on to accuse Barack Obama of being a “Marxist.” To have that shameless embezzler given a platform to smear an honorable man just made my blood boil.

Folks, we need an organization that can blanket the corporate media with emails of complaint every time they bring on a criminal and parade him as a legitimate commentator. If they blow us off, it would be time to get up some advertiser boycotts.

This rehabilitation-by-media of criminals is one way the country keeps being shifted to the right every time the people find their voice. The Right gives a comfy perch on television to looney embezzlers and burglars and then wages campaigns with big money behind them to discredit even centrist leaders not in their back pockets.

I do not advocate criminalizing politics. I am not saying anything glib, such that all Bush administration figures are ipso facto criminals and should be denied a public voice. The United States government is a large bureaucracy and lots of civil servants and military have to serve whatever administration the public votes in. There are and were people on Bush’s National Security Council, e.g., who are honorable and trying to do their best by the United States.

All that I am saying is that where someone has to resign in disgrace and is actually indicted on serious corruption charges, like Delay, that should make that individual poison to television news! The Rove case is a little trickier, since he has not been indicted. But the Fitzgerald investigation showed that he tried to do something that was technically illegal. Presidential pardons also muddy these waters. Elliot Abrams lied to Congress over the Iran-Contra affair, but was pardoned by Bush senior and then actually let onto the National Security Council by W.! But a responsible citizen watchdog group could surely come up with a fair gauge of gross criminal or ethics violations that should put the individual out of the business of commenting on daily politics to millions of viewers.

Note that corporate media is much more careful about sexual scandal than it is about other kinds of crime. A politician or public figure so much as accused of sexual impropriety is often considered off limits (CNN’s Aaron Brown once sidelined Scott Ritter that way, over a date gone bad). Presumably this caution derives in part from fear of the emails they would get, and threats of advertiser boycotts, from the religious Right.

Liberals have let themselves be walked all over by the Right, which is mostly much better funded and organized than the American Left, for too long. In part, it is because we are tolerant of a wide range of speech in a way that the Right is not. But I am not arguing for restricting the range of speech. People with Delay’s or Rove’s views deserve a hearing in the public sphere. It is just that we have no obligation to give a soapbox to monsters and criminals.

So the next time you see CNN or ABC, e.g., interview Tom Delay with a straight face, send a protest email and scream bloody murder and notice which corporation paid for Delay to be on the public airwaves. But better yet, can’t we form a facebook page for this with alerts, and get organized about it?

Juan Cole’s Blog

Live From St. Paul - No Media Coverage of Journalist Arrests

September 27th, 2008 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

I applaud the courage in the face of oppressive police tactics of Amy Goodman and her crew, and I condemn the arrests of people in their homes during the RNC in St. Paul, as the video reports on salon.com show.

I am a news junky. I listen to Boston’s news station, WBZ 1030 AM, a CBS o&o station (one of FIVE they own in this market). They do minute by minute news reports all day long, and talk shows from 8 PM to 5 AM.

I heard NOTHING about police tactics, or home invasions on that station during that time, so I tried to get the info out by calling in to one of the talk shows, hosted by long-time Boston broadcaster, Dan Rea.

They were talking about Sarah Palin’s speech at the convention. I told the call screener: “I want to talk about the police violence outrside the convention during Palin’s speech.” He put me in the queue.

When my call was taken, I started with a bit of the topic, saying “I don’t think Sarah Palin said anything new from the Republican party, which must be what they wanted. HOWEVER, I have heard nothing on your station today about the police invasions of private homes in St. Paul that happened this morning, and the arrest of journalist Amy Goodman who had a convention floor pass, as did her camera operator and producer, who also had these credentials.”

I was about to say the camera man and producer are still in Ramsey County Sheriff’s custody, and to ask the host if he had ever been arrested for doing his job. I got the question out, but he talked over me and said, “Well, Paul from Arlington, we have reported all that news and we aren’t really talking about that tonight.” He cut me off.

The host, Dan Rea was for many years a TV news reporter for WBZ-TV, also owned by CBS. He seemed to have a maverick if not liberal bent. But it seems clear to me that his program director must have told him to shut up about any police violence in St. Paul, as the corporation has surely done with their national anchor Catie Couric.

Call me paranoid, but you aren’t paranoid if the really ARE out to get you!

Accessibly yours,
Paul Berg, Executive Director
Weston Community Media Center, Inc.
Weston, MA

There’s Nothing Mainstream About The Corporate Media

August 3rd, 2008 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Harvey Wasserman of the Columbus-based Free Press brings up an oft-overlooked but succinct and essential point with this piece.

As we stumble toward another presidential election, it’s never been more clear that our political process is being warped by a corporate stranglehold on the free flow of information. Amidst a virtual blackout of coverage of a horrific war, a global ecological crisis and an advancing economic collapse, what passes for the mass media is itself in collapse. What’s left of our democracy teeters on the brink.

The culprit, in the parlance of the day, has been the “Mainstream Media,” or MSM. But that’s [the] wrong name for it. Today’s mass media is Corporate, not Mainstream, and the distinction is critical. Calling the Corporate Media (CM) “mainstream” implies that it speaks for mid-road opinion, and it absolutely does not.

There is more than enough body of statistically factual evidence available to show that there is a discernible mainstream of opinion in this country and that what passes as ‘mainstream media’ is in fact reflecting viewpoints and agendas to the very far right of it.

Read The Full Article

McClellan and His Media Collaborators

June 16th, 2008 by Andy in Deconstructing The Media

Good essay by Jeff Cohen, one of the original members of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) and producer of Phil Donahue’s program on MSNBC which was cancelled only weeks before the invasion of Iraq for having had the temerity to question the premise of that war. Ironic that Phil D. lost his show for having tried to point out what now former Bush PR flack Scott McClellan openly and publicly admits in his book to having been the case all along.

We can finally see those who abandoned reporting for cheerleading and flag-waving and cheap ratings having to squirm over their role in sending other parents’ kids into Iraq. I say “other parents’ kids” because I never met any bigwig among those I worked with in TV news who had kids in the armed forces.

Given how TV networks danced to the White House tune sung by the Roves and Fleischers and McClellans in the first years of W’s reign, it’s fitting that it took the words of a longtime Bush insider to force their self-examination over Iraq. Top media figures had shunned years of well-documented criticism of their Iraq failure as religiously as they shunned war critics in 2003.

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In February 2003, there was huge mainstream media skepticism about Powell’s UN speech … overseas. But US TV networks banished antiwar perspectives in the crucial two weeks surrounding that error-filled speech. FAIR studied all on-camera sources on the nightly ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS newscasts: Less than 1 percent - 3 out of 393 sources - were antiwar. Only 6 percent were skeptical sources. This at a time when 60 percent of Americans in polls wanted more time for diplomacy and inspections.

I worked 10-hour days inside MSNBC’s newsroom during this period as senior producer of Phil Donahue’s primetime show (canceled three weeks before the war while the network’s most-watched program). Trust me: too much skepticism over war claims was a punishable offense. I and all other Donahue producers were repeatedly ordered by top management to book panels that favored the pro-invasion side. I watched a fellow producer get chewed out for booking a 50-50 show.

Read The Full Report

This does invite the question as to where was McClellan all the while this was going down and when he had a chance to actually either publicly try to stop it, or at least not allow it to happen with his complicity. One may wonder whether McClellan clearly sees history’s writing on the wall and this is his attempt at trying to absolve himself from his complicity in this whole criminal affair, hoping to try to avoid having his name listed on the international war crimes tribunal indictments when they eventually get issued. However, some of his comments and his recent efforts, particularly the flack he is taking from the reich-wing of American politics does shed some light on his sincerity in regards to his speaking out. To his credit, he stood up pretty well to the over-the-top and irrational (and factually vacant) assault from TV’s bully boy Bill O’Reilly, which you can watch here in it’s entirety courtesy of The Brad Blog.

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