Corporate Media: All the News that Suits the Suits

There was a time when corporate corruption of politics had to be hidden. Boondoggles and bribery were bad things. As recently as the 1980s, a president could reap acclaim for stating that we should stop the government from buying $800 hammers and multi-thousand dollar toilet seats. In 1977, we passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which criminalized bribery of foreign officials and governments.

But that was then and this is now. For the past decade, wasteful, anti-competitive, no-bid contracts have been the norm in government spending. We have heard many stories about war profiteers getting inflated contracts from the Pentagon and then delivering substandard weapons, body armor and medical care to our soldiers.

Last year, the Republican Chief Justice of the United States sided with the briber in a case testing whether a businessman could pay cash bribes for a candidate in a Judicial election. This term, five Republican “Justices” of the United States Supreme Court ruled that corporate bribery at every level of American politics is permissible. The Republicans say that any effort to reform our “health care” system and stop insurance company price-fixing is anti-capitalist. That’s right; the Republicans now claim that free-enterprise competition is “anti-capitalist,” and anti-American!

One reason that there has been so little outcry about this complete abandonment of the capitalist ideals of the Reagan years is that there is no longer any press competition in the United States. All the broadcast and cable networks are now owned by about five multinational corporations. And in every major city, the same corporations own all of the television and radio stations and the cable systems. Most cable systems have no competition at all.

Although it is one of the nation’s major cities, Los Angeles no longer even has a real daily newspaper. The front page of the Friday, March 5, 2010 L.A. Times was a full-page ad for a new Johnny Depp movie. I am a Johnny Depp fan. But selling the entire front page for an advertisement tells us all we need to know about the editorial commitment to any serious journalism. In 2010, speech is free to everyone who can afford to own a network or have a string of money-losing newspapers as part of the public relations department of their conglomerate.

The result of this evolution from anything resembling competitive capitalism or real free speech is apparent in a few from incidents in the past couple of weeks. Let’s look at two “non-terrorist” attacks, one D.U.I. arrest and the real reason corporations don’t want Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried in civilian Courts.

One Terrorist, Two Lone Wolves
When a doctor, with a documented history of troubled behavior, shot up a waiting room at Fort Hood, Texas, the corporate press jumped on his imagined terrorist links. The government then grabbed as many Arabic translators working for the Pentagon as it could find, and labeled them “suspicious people”, for the simple fact that they actually speak Arabic.

But when a teabagger with a history of anti-tax activism launched an airstrike against an IRS office, the corporate press quickly labeled him a “lone wolf” and a “nut case.” Once the teabagger was labeled a “sole actor,” we were told that there was no need to inquire further into his associations or possible co-plotters.

When an anti-government conspiracy propagandist decided to move from posting internet messages to shooting up a public entrance at the Pentagon, the corporate press instantly labeled him “mentally ill” and said we shouldn’t worry about the people with whom the shooter associated or those who shared his anti-government, pro-violence views.

The pretense that these violent, anti-government teabaggers are mental cases and lone wolves, acting on their own, gives a “pass” to the Businessmen who spawn them and who encourage others to take up arms against those with whom they disagree. The clarity of how this corporate misinformation causes real damage to the rest of society was put on stark display on March 3, in Sacramento.

Gay Rights, For Some
On March 3, Sacramento police stopped State Senator, Roy Ashburn, leaving one of the city’s most prominent gay bars, at about 2:00 a.m.. He was leaving the bar with a younger man for some late night private fun. His blood alcohol level was almost twice the legal limit. But this gay drunk was different from most drivers caught in routine police stops outside of bars in cities around the state.

Like homosexual Republican Congressman, David Dreier, Ashburn has been a consistent and strident opponent of equal rights for gays (that is, gays other than Republicans like himself, Dreier, Foley, Craig, Mehlman, Haggard, Myers, etc. etc.) and a consistent voice for more rights, profits, and protection from oversight for corporations. He has never met a corporate welfare measure he could oppose, or a human welfare measure he could support.

The “mainstream” corporate media has ignored the hypocrisy of Ashburn’s stance against gay rights while living his own gay life, just as they continue to support other Republicans who are gay in private life but pro-corporate in public life. The business of the corporate media is keeping the focus on salacious, sexual non-news and off of normal corporate misconduct.

If we were not spending so much time, money, and political energy debating equality for gays, women, Moslems, etc., we might be spending it on working against corporate take-over of our government. So the corporate media is an eager partner with the for-profit televangelists who want to keep people focused on other people’s sex lives and focused away from how Jesus, in the Bible, commands us to live, or how corporations are buying our officials.

Courts Keep Truth Hidden
And that’s also the reason Republicans are so adamantly against any trial in civilian Courts for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In civilian Courts, civilian rules of evidence would apply. If he were tried in a civilian Court, his attorneys could introduce evidence about his background and training. They could point out that he started college at Chowan, a North Carolina, Southern Baptist college, that stresses training its students in Southern Baptist views.

Southern Baptists broke away from mainstream Baptists over the question of slavery. Southern Baptists believe that God ordained slavery for inferior races, and for the profit of big business plantation owners. Now Southern Baptists teach that we should have no respect for anyone whose religious views differ from theirs and that warfare for profit can always be justified. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other Moslem fundamentalists share the Southern Baptist contempt for anyone who doesn’t hold their views.

After Chowan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed went on to learn technical skills and get a degree from another North Carolina school. Then he went to Afghanistan to fight against the Russians, using U.S. weapons, training, communications and money. When he turned against the U.S., complaining about our military occupation of Moslem countries, he repeatedly cited the same racist contempt for non-believers that he had learned while in North Carolina.

Neither Faux News, nor the supposedly “liberal” MSNBC have any interest in stories about Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s use of American technical training to carry out attacks built on the same pro-bigotry views which divide workers and increase profits. Corporate news organs don’t want people seeing any consistent pattern from race-based slavery through immigrant bashing and resistance to women’s equal rights and equal rights for gays, atheists, or Moslems.

tom_hall_2.jpgBut today’s anti-gay and anti-Moslem politics are no different from hundreds of years of anti-semitism, racism and sexism. Each of these “anti” policies benefits those who profit from keeping working people and the poor fighting each other instead of uniting against corporate greed. The corporate press drive to keep Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the clutches of military tribunals where evidence isn’t allowed to trump ideology is in the tradition of the 19th century “No Irish Need Apply” signs or the 20th century “Coloreds Only” signs and glass ceilings, all designed to create artificial divisions and tensions between economically oppressed groups.

Tom Hall

Published by the LA Progressive on March 12, 2010
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About Tom Hall

Tom Hall is a family lawyer in West Los Angeles. He is from Boston, and was raised in Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Quakers) to think that religion was a progressive force. During the Vietnam War, he organized draft counseling centers and worked with groups training people in techniques for disciplined nonviolent demonstrating. After the war, he became just another yuppie working to make a comfortable life. The Bush administration shocked him back into social concerns. Now he’s working to see that the Obama administration lives up to its progressive promises. Tom can be reached at ProgBlog@aol.com