THE BLOG
04/29/2008 09:50 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Barack Obama and the Corporate Media

Let's review what we've had to endure from the corporate media in recent weeks:

Corporate media shills inundated us with "commentary" about a "scandal" they called "bittergate" based on a single phrase Barack Obama uttered at a closed-door fundraiser. These same corporate media mouthpieces jawboned incessantly about whether or not "bittergate" would hurt the Obama campaign. (That's called a "tempest in a teapot" by the way.)

They amplified a non-story about a remark at a fundraiser and then sat around very nice tables in snazzy television studios "discussing" the effects on the Obama campaign of a media event they created. (That's called a "tautology" by the way.)

Even if Obama never said a word about people feeling "bitter" about any aspect of their perfect lives in America in 2008 the corporate media would have found something else to chew on. If "bittergate" didn't offer up the opportunity they would have created another flap.

The same process was in play with the non-story of Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jr. Here's a prominent African-American pastor of a large and established church in a large and established African-American community (at least since the Great Migration) doing what he has done for decades. The corporate media then pluck him seemingly out of nowhere -- with ZERO effort to give any context to Reverend Wright's life or his public work in Chicago -- and boil his sermons down to a couple of sound bites. They then throw these sound bites in the face of white America on a perpetual tape loop, played over and over again. And then they sit around their very nice tables in their snazzy TV studios jawboning about whether or not the visual carpet-bombing they just unleashed is going to have an effect on the Obama campaign. (That's called "guilt by association" by the way -- and "propaganda.")

And then there is the even more desperate non-story of the former Weather Underground member, Bill Ayres, and his "associations" with Obama. This is an old Joseph McCarthy tactic where you take a person out of his or her context from an earlier period of their lives and then imply there are all sorts of nefarious relations and associations that took place that somehow discredit the targeted individual. No one really gives a rat's balls about what Bill Ayres did 38 years ago, not even the FBI, but the story is not about Bill Ayres, it's about sliming Barack Obama. This kind of McCarthyite smear is what you get when you allow an entire generation of Joe McCarthys to have their own television and radio shows. If McCarthy were alive today he'd have his own show on Fox News: "The McCarthy Factor" or maybe "McCarthy's America." I bet ole Tail Gunner Joe is rolling in his grave: "Damn! I was just 45 years ahead of my time!" (That's called "McCarthyism" by the way.)

So with all the "opposition research" and all of the digging and all of the traps set and the casting of the wide net trawling for damaging revelations the only things the corporate media came up with is a remark Obama made at a fundraiser, a black preacher who says some controversial stuff, and a few encounters with a former Weatherman? That's pretty pathetic -- and it won't work in the long run.

The bad news about our nutrient-starved, 24-hour media environment is that there will be more news cycles dedicated to destroying Obama or at least slowing the momentum of his campaign. It's inevitable. After "bittergate" and Wright and Ayres play out they will find new fodder. They will build up non-stories to boost ratings for as many news cycles as they can get away with and still rake in the cash from their corporate sponsors. But they know better than most of us that if the American people get bored with a "news" story they will change the channel. And nothing makes these corporate media outlets move on to the next story faster than deflated ratings. Their producers will be breathing down their necks: "To hell with Reverend Wright run the 'Girls Gone Wild' footage of Ashley Dupre!"

And that leads me to the good news, which is no matter how much the corporate media exploit a non-story to degrade or humiliate or damage Obama, the nature of the 24-hour news cycle militates against running it for too long. These "stories" have short shelf lives. One positive outcome of this terribly long election process is that by September "bittergate," Wright, and Ayres will be ratings dogs.

But you can count on Matt Drudge and the rest of them to concoct new "bittergates," and dredge up more scary black men and '60s radicals -- as well as a host of new and clever devices we cannot at this time foresee. (My guess is that one of their smears will mirror the racist ads the GOP ran against Harold Ford, Jr. in Tennessee that involved -- Gulp! -- a possible premarital hook up with a white woman.) I remember the GOP hatchet man, Lee Atwater, famously declaring that he was going to make Willie Horton so well known that voters would think he was Michael Dukakis's running mate. I wonder who Karl Rove will make voters think is Obama's running mate?

The trick for us is to find alternative sources of information and reject the frames and narratives the corporate media system imposes on our political discourse. It will require greater grassroots organizing and mobilizing and a lot of hard work among the citizenry, but it can be done.

Finally, we should all be very grateful for the work that Media Matters and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) are doing keeping the shovels moving as fast as they can behind that big fat Republican elephant.