In 2007, the Democratic Party's agenda will be smothered in the cradle without meaningful reform targeting the concentration of the corporate media. The Democrats must put great pressure on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reverse the obscene consolidation of media corporations that has gone on unabated for thirty years. The 1996 "Telecommunications Act," which threw the oligopolizing tendencies of the media into overdrive, must be repealed.
Because the media define, frame, and give visibility or meaning to the pressing problems of our time -- from global warming to voting irregularities, from government spying to corporate corruption -- reforming the media must be a top priority. Unless the Democrats move aggressively to reform the corporate media, break it up, and put an end to the "Media Industrial Complex," the crucial debates on the key issues will continue to be slanted, skewed, and distorted through a corporate lens that values the bottom line of Disney or News Corporation far more than what is in the country's best interest.
Vice-President Dick Cheney said on videotape he expected a short war because we "will be greeted as liberators," and President George W. Bush said repeatedly there were links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Their televised remarks were as real as the videos of the planes slamming into the World Trade Center. Yet the corporate media offer no context other than commercials and the selling of audiences to advertisers. Cheney and Bush can claim their words were "taken out of context" because there is no context for them to be taken out of.
Eighty years ago, Walter Lippmann wrote: "There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the means by which to detect lies."
Bush's PR wizards paid off Armstrong Williams to shill for "No Child Left Behind," and planted James Guckert in the White House press corps to lob partisan soft balls. They produced fake news videos and sent them to local TV affiliates in swing districts. The Sinclair Broadcasting Company was duplicitous in "Swift Boating" John Kerry. The 9-11 fairy tale that Disney/ABC produced blamed the terrorist attacks on Bill Clinton and the Democrats in an election season. And Clear Channel's 1,200 radio stations is a vast wasteland for meaningful discourse teeming with Rush and O'Reilly and Hannity and Ingraham and Beck and Savage and Bennet and Medved and Boortz and so on, and on, and on.
Twenty years ago, in Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman wrote: "We are presented not only with fragmented news but news without context, without consequences, without value, and therefore without essential seriousness; that is to say, news as pure entertainment." Fox News anchor Brit Hume pretends to be a journalist instead of a Republican mouthpiece; Tony Snow pretends to answer questions the members of the supine White House press corps pretend to ask him. President Bush pretends to know and care about what he is doing. "Politics is just like show business," Ronald Reagan said in 1966.
"Disinformation does not mean false information," Postman continued. "It means misleading information -- misplaced, irrelevant, fragmented or superficial information -- information that creates the illusion of knowing something but which in fact leads one away from knowing." The Bush Administration more so than any previous administration in U.S. history is dedicated to spreading this kind of disinformation. We know more about Tom Cruise's baby, the runaway bride, or a pedophile who claimed to have killed JonBenet, than we do about the NSA wiretaps, the CIA's secret prisons, or Maher Arar. "Focus groups" have given us the "death tax" and "personal accounts" just like Archer Daniels Midlands is the "supermarket to the world" and GE "brings good things to life." And what are we to make of a President who hosts fake "town hall meetings" with pre-screened questioners posing as ordinary citizens? Yet, miraculously, the American people still manage to grasp the truth now and then.
"Your judicious study of discernible reality," a White House aide tells a reporter, "is not the way the world really works anymore. We're an empire now. And when we act we create our own reality." Disgraced public personalities like Newt Gingrich, G. Gordon Liddy, Oliver North, Dick Morris, Richard Perle, William Kristol, Ken Pollack, David Frum, Kenneth Adelman, Charles Krauthamer, and John Fund are proven wrong, their predictions repudiated, only to be brought back later as "experts" where they can cheerlead for the next war, or denounce the next popular attempt to clip a little power from the corporations.
Our current government calls clear cutting public lands "healthy forests"; spewing more particulates in the air "clear skies"; and shredding Social Security "compassionate conservatism." In Bushspeak "freedom," "democracy," and "liberty" are not only stripped of meaning, they become their binary opposites. We are trapped in an anarchic Huxleyan discourse of disjointed images, sounds, and text, which narcotocize us with technological diversions. But we're also controlled by Orwellian corporate PR teams, paid from the public treasury, to turn freedom into slavery, war into peace, love into hate.
Saying we must understand the epistemology of the media is easy; applying our understanding is the daunting part. But there are at least five steps that might begin the process of breaking up this doctrinal system of control:
1). Enforce anti-trust laws to break up the media oligopolies;
2). Greatly expand the public broadcasting system, (especially news);
3). Publicly finance all political campaigns;
4). Implement a total ban on all political commercials on television;
5). Restore the FCC's fairness doctrine on the public airwaves.