Monday, September 08, 2008

Glenzilla roars

Glenn Greenwald -
The single dumbest claim in our political culture is that the huge corporations which own our establishment media outlets promote a "liberal" ideology. Why would General Electric ever use NBC and its other media assets to promote political liberalism? They lavishly benefit from the whole panoply of right-wing policies -- from endlessly expanding defense spending to deregulation. Their multiple businesses depend upon maintaining good relations with the right-wing ideologues who run our Government. Even ignoring all of the above-documented empirical facts, the very idea that a corporation like GE -- or Viacom (CBS), Disney (ABC) and Time Warner (CNN) -- would actively promote a left-wing agenda in its news divisions and undermine the very Government power centers on which they rely has been the most self-evidently moronic premise one can imagine. As Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone confessed in 2004:
Senator Kerry is a good man. I've known him for many years. But it happens that I vote for Viacom. Viacom is my life, and I do believe that a Republican Administration is better for media companies than a Democratic one.
And yet the myth of the large-corporation-owned "Liberal Media" persists, and even intensifies.

This decision by MSNBC is as alarming as it is illustrative. They just implicitly chided and overtly demoted their most popular and valuable news personality because the White House, the McCain campaign and the Right demanded that they do so. It's fine for Brit Hume to host a "news program" and for hard-core right-wing ideologues to dominate cable news. The fact that Dick Cheney (understandably) viewed Tim Russert's Meet the Press as the ideal forum to allow the White House to "control the message" bothered nobody outside of a few online critics, and didn't remotely impede the perception of Russert as the Beacon of Tough and Objective Journalism. But MSNBC's ratings-based decision to feature Keith Olbermann is a grave threat to modern journalism and must be stopped. So decrees the White House and the McCain campaign, and so the GE-owned MSNBC complies.
Of course it should be obvious to any thinking person that claims of a liberal media are ridiculous on their face. The problem, unfortunately, is that too few people truly think about much of anything these days. Many Americans operate on an instinctual rather than intellectual level, perhaps in part due to the increasing pressures of modern life, where just getting by can mean two spouses with two jobs each. But I get the feeling (there you go!) that a good deal of this is due to poisoning of the intellectual well by the Right. By constantly hammering the notion into our heads that the media have a liberal bias and so are not to be trusted, many Americans have concluded that it's pointless to try and learn the truth from media sources, so they simply go with their gut and hope for the best. And since conservatism plays on ingrained stereotypes and thus has an instinctive appeal to our baser impulses, while liberalism requires conscious diligence, conservatism just feels "right" to many Americans. Being a liberal requires effort, and Americans are nothing if not creatures of ease and comfort.

The good news is that the conservative system is unsustainable in a functioning democracy. The bad news is that our democracy is dysfunctional. But it hasn't completely malfunctioned - yet. There's still time to start the repair process, but we have to act quickly. Otherwise we'll have to jack up the entire country and drive a new government underneath.

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