America’s Road to Nowhere

The fact that the American Left lacks the media outreach to the public that the Right has is proving decisive as conservatives consolidate their influence in blue-collar communities that, ironically, are suffering from right-wing excesses of the past three decades, as Danny Schechter explains.

By Danny Schechter

Oil prices are rocketing. Iranian warships are moving into the Mediterranean to shadow the U.S. warships already there. Propaganda news is growing with rumors of Al Qaeda links with Iran, and, then, less speculative news about real links between the terror group and the armed opposition in Syria.

As Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi puts it, the smell of war is in the air and on the air, “You can just feel it: many of the same newspapers and TV stations we saw leading the charge in the Bush years have gone back to the attic and are dusting off their war pom-poms.”

U.S. Marines patrol street in Shah Karez in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 10. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert Storm)

CLG adds: “Officials in key parts of the Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Tehran from pursuing its [alleged] nuclear program, and believe that the US will be left with no option but to launch an attack on Iran or watch Israel do so.”

The timing now seems to be for war in October, just before the next presidential election. Does that mean that the White House believes that war fever will generate more support for an embattled Commander in Chief? Orwell was right in his classic 1984: “the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.”

Here in the “homeland,” the FBI busts a “terrorist” on his way, we are told, to blow up Congress. Turns out he was supplied with phony weapons by the FBI itself, a specialist in entrapment. The G-Men supposedly became suspicious when they heard that this young Moroccan, living illegally in Virginia, told someone who told someone that the “war on terror” was a war on Muslims. That’s probably a majority view in the Middle East, but to the FBI it was menacing and proof of evil intent.

After their puppet “suspect” was in custody, they reassured one and all that Congress was never at risk. (Nor, now, is the FBI’s next appropriation!)

What a relief! Congress has survived to fight another day in its own war — a partisan war without end. For the most part, the political logjam and stalemate continues and not just because of warring ideologies.

Unseen and only rarely commented upon by pundits who know how to cover political horse races but not political skullduggery is the role that big money plays behind the scenes. That is mostly kept out of sight and out of mind.

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship write: “Watching what’s happening to our democracy is like watching the cruise ship Costa Concordia founder and sink slowly into the sea off the coast of Italy, as the passengers, shorn of life vests, scramble for safety as best they can, while the captain trips and falls conveniently into a waiting life boat.

“We are drowning here, with gaping holes torn into the hull of the ship of state from charges detonated by the owners and manipulators of capital. Their wealth has become a demonic force in politics.

“Nothing can stop them. Not the law, which has been written to accommodate them. Not scrutiny — they have no shame. Not a decent respect for the welfare of others — the people without means, their safety net shredded, left helpless before events beyond their control.”

Yes, “we are downing here.” But is not just money per-se that is the problem, but those one percenters who are manipulating it as a weapon to drive our democracy into the dumper.

Charles Pierce names and shames them in the pages of Esquire, writing about the “the undeniable fact that, over the course of a decade, a bunch of cheats, thieves, and suited mountebanks stole most of the national economy and then wrecked whatever was left of it.

“But what’s most extraordinary about the whole thing is that, after they swindled their swindles and heisted their heists, and got paid off by the rest of us for having looted our national economy, they all kept doing the same things they were doing before. These included extravagant bonuses and, of course, continued crimes of capital that ought to be capital crimes.” Wow!

On the same day I read, Joe Nocera in the New York Times saying it’s not important to punish the banks. So, clearly the liberal media is in large part in cahoots with the right-wing message points, avoiding any structural analysis, while pushing for mild “reforms” unlikely to reform anything.

One consequence of our corporate news system, according to Richard Flanders in The Atlantic, is that Americans are being steered into becoming even more conservative.

“Even with the president’s approval rating showing signs of life and the Republicans busily bashing themselves over the head — ‘one is a practicing polygamist and he’s not even the Mormon,’ retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor recently quipped about her party’s two frontrunners — America continues to track right, according to polling data released by the Gallup Organization this week,” he writes.

“Americans at this political moment are significantly more likely to identify as conservative than as liberal: conservatives outnumber liberals by nearly two to one. Forty percent identify as conservative, 36 percent as moderate, and 21 percent liberal.”

Most upsetting is that the people who suffering the most are stuck in the “Alice in Wonderland” world of conservative ideology. This study concludes: “The ongoing economic crisis only appears to have deepened America’s conservative drift – a trend which is most pronounced in its least well off, least educated, most blue collar, most economically hard-hit states.”

The public becomes dumber, in part, because our media is a dumbing-down machine. No wonder, alternative voices are brushed to the margins by our not so free press. This past week, I was interviewed by RT and AlJazeera, but none of the U.S. TV news networks that I used to work for will have me on. It’s not a personal thing:  I am not alone.

Yes, MSNBC has added two progressive hosts, but in the morning, on weekends, when viewing is lowest. Fox, meanwhile, dumped Judge Napolitano and his sometime sensible and outspoken libertarian show. Can’t have that, can we?

It’s time for Occupy Wall Street to add media reform to its emerging agenda. The media war is as real as any other, and unless we fight that one, we will lose all the others. Politics is a war of ideas, of different narratives in collision. It’s not enough to chant, “We are the 99 percent.” We have to explain who rules America and how to change it.

One way to do it is educate the country about how many of the same interests that own the banks own the media. Perhaps that’s why most media outlets are not reporting that unemployment increased this month and that underemployment is up to 19 percent.

Writes Rex Nutting on Market Watch: “Everyone knows that the Great Recession has inflicted tremendous damage to the lives and fortunes of millions of Americans. But what you may not know is that most of the suffering is still to come. We’re not even halfway done with this mess.”

A mess it is, a “mistake” it isn’t. That’s why activists can’t give up

If there was ever a time for progressives to unite around some coherent ten-point plan that can be used to reach potential supporters and broaden the movement for change, this is it. The aspiration should be to build a coalition that can win, to “occupy the mainstream.”

Sadly, here as in Greece, where the economic crisis is at a boiling point, a headline in the Financial Times sums up a key obstacle to fighting back: “Greek Left Has Most Support But is Fragmented”

What say you, unions, churches, minorities, students, workers, activists, feminists and occupiers? Do we work together or lose apart? Assuming that the GOP self-destructs, do we really think that more ‘Bama can make the difference that needs making?

News Dissector Danny Schechter’s blog is now at NewsDissector.Net. Danny made the film Plunder (Plunderthecrimeofourtime) on the financial crisis as a crime story. Comments to dissector@mediachannel.org .

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3 comments on “America’s Road to Nowhere

  1. For those who think the “liberal media” is a right-wing conspiracy theory, allow me to present some inconvenient truths:

    * The top 20 donors of the Top 100 all-time donors (which includes corporations and unions gave mostly to Democratic politicians: http://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php
    * The top 100 corporations in the Fortune 500 donate more to liberal political groups and candidates than they do to conservative ones: http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=16588
    * Mainstream media executives and employees donated heavily to Democratic candidates, especially to Barack Obama, in the 2008 election: http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/beltway-confidential/2010/08/obama-democrats-got-88-percent-2008-contributions-tv-network
    * The majority of journalists in the media identify as left-of-center, vote for Democratic candidates, and support liberal positions on economic and social issues: http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=32928

    So yeah, the liberal media is a well-documented fact based upon empirical evidence. But I don’t expect liberals to notice it because, well, it’s hard to spot a political bias when you pretty much share it. If a newscaster declares on the 6 o’clock news that global warming is a scientific fact and the only way to stop it is through cap-and-trade, liberals will accept it as gospel fact while everyone else will be a tad bit more skeptical. But I guess this is why liberals tend to trust the media more than conservatives: http://www.gallup.com/poll/143267/distrust-media-edges-record-high.aspx

  2. Pingback: America’s Road to Nowhere | Consortiumnews « Tribune of the People

  3. “Assuming that the GOP self-destructs, do we really think that more ‘Bama can make the difference that needs making?”

    Barring an enormous change to the Constitution between now and November, there’s no third option.