Without a robust progressive media network, we might as well get used to the damage done daily by corporate mainstream media. Tucker Carlson – the #1 cable news host – recently characterized mask wearing as "medical Jim Crow". Said Carlson on his Fox News show this week, "Medical Jim Crow has come to America. If we still had water fountains, the unvaccinated would have separate ones."
This is what's being consumed daily in homes across America. Remember, he's #1.
Corporate mainstream media make winning an election, as a progressive candidate, almost impossible. I’m not just talking about Bernie – whom I strongly supported both times. I’m talking about countless other candidates and commonsense initiatives and legislation that fail because the opposition outspends them. Simply stated, people-backed candidates and legislation hardly ever beat corporate backed ones. And corporate mainstream media plays a big role in keeping it that way. The Bernie Sanders campaign was virtually ignored by all three major cable news outlets: MSNBC, CNN and Fox News. But if you're a regular reader here, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But please keep reading, I have a short survey I'd like you to complete.
If you're over 50 and wondering what happened to media in this country, a quick study of neoliberalism will answer that question.
If you're over 50 and wondering what happened to media in this country, a quick study of neoliberalism will answer that question. There's a video about neoliberalism at the bottom of this post but WARNING - it contains strong language. The successful neoliberal movement, in a nutshell, has handed the reins of political power over to corporations. The Powell Memo, a document written in 1971 to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by a man who later became a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, lays out a roadmap for neoliberals that set the stage for where we find ourselves today. You can download it here.
Corporate control of our legislature is apparent all around us. Consider NRA-backed legislators, if the slaughter of 5- and 6 -ear-olds at Sandy Hook couldn’t motivate enough of them to vote for commonsense gun control, nothing will. Their inaction confirmed that the power of the NRA, an organization that is nothing more than the lobbying arm of gun manufacturers, is greater than Congress’concern for innocent lives.
It’s been clear for a while that if politicians want to get into and remain in office, they need to do the bidding of their deep-pocketed donors who pay for more airtime in corporate media. But what drives the masses to act to change this power dynamic?
Do we need a perfect storm? The international protests around the murder of George Floyd last summer may have been the result of one. The global pandemic, economic crisis, blatant disregard for human life by a state actor – likely all these factors were at play when millions took to the streets to protest that horrific, very public crime.
But protests alone don’t change policy. They may present an opportunity for policy makers to make some changes, but it’ll take more than protests to force them to make lasting material.
History has demonstrated that without strategic planning and a supporting infrastructure shifting the Overton Window (range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population), lasting change is unlikely. Case in point, the venerated 1954 Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision. But the efforts to desegregate the schools failed. More than sixty years later, America's public schools are more segregated than in 1954,. Why? The Overton Window has not shifted on this issue.
In fact, after a major uprising, decision-makers often offer small tokens of support to make it seem as though they “get it��� but in truth, all they do is little more than release steam.
Another case in point: Amazon. Like dozens of other corporations, Amazon’s declaration of support for Black lives was emblazoned on its website almost immediately following the riots resulted from George Floyd's lynching. But other than posting a graphic, what did the mega-corporation do? According to progressive media, not much.
The recently failed Alabama Amazon unionization effort gives insight. Amazon’s track record with nonwhite employee organizers was in conflict with its public statement that Black Lives Matter. Their unfair practices were outlined in this piece by the Guardian. Then, Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos, who rakes in $350 million PER DAY, regularly held Amazon’s Alabama employees in a captive audience, requiring that they attend anti-union meetings or suffer consequences.
After a series of these required meetings, most of the workers, earning little more than $15.00 an hour, “chose” to side with Bezos and not adopt collective bargaining.
Sixty years ago, before neoliberal leaders shifted the Overton Window, unionization and collective bargaining were normal tools in labor’s toolbox. Today, the labor movement is as weak as the progressive movement – only 10% of labor is organized and not by accident.
It took a well-crafted plan for neoliberal thought to gain a foothold with the general public – a plan that required the capture of media. It’s hard to imagine that Fox News first graced the media landscape in 1996. Today, Tucker Carlson is the #1 rated cable news show. Who, among us progressives, can’t see the damage wrought?
But we must understand that passage of legislation, court rulings and other formal mechanisms of change don’t take hold without first shifting the national narrative – at least that has been the way it’s worked for the neoliberal leadership.
They’ve used the media (including entertainment media) to prep us to accept, as normal and unchallengeable, the idea that it’s inevitable that a few human beings will have more money and power than half the global population combined, in fact, we celebrate them. They don’t want us to connect the dots between this way of thinking and unchecked global climate change.
But one thing is sure – change is a constant we can count on. Just as neoliberals strategized and then successfully implemented a plan that resulted in authoritarian/oligarchical rule, so too can progressives successfully undo that plan. It’s gonna get undone anyway. I recommend a planned undoing.
So what actions do I recommend?
I’d recommend that we begin by supporting and building a strong progressive media network. It often seems as though progressives have become so accustomed to losing that we don’t even try to go after the gold ring. We’re willing to accept merely surviving as if that were a win.
A final case in point : more than 70 years ago, progressives established the national Pacifica network. It still exists but you’d barely know this. The network has five stations on the FM dial and scores of affiliates across the nation. If you don’t listen to these stations, you’re among the 99% of Americans who also don’t listen.
I’m supporting a plan known as “New Day Pacifica” that might just change things. Designed not simply to keep the network alive but to begin the process of broadening its outreach, the New Day Pacifica effort could be the beginnings of a game changer. If the New Day Pacifica effort is voted in, I’ll be the transitional leader.
If you have contributed to Pacifica and are a current member, you’ll be asked to vote for New Day Pacifica in a few days.
I’m voting yes. I think you should too.
Here is a list of links over the years that point to the need to change the governance of Pacifica:
- This is the End - The Guardian, 2005
- Pacifica Radio Board Being Sued for Incompetence - Radio Ink 2017
- What's Up with Pacifica Radio? - KFCF Radio and News
- Behind the Crisis at Pacifica - LA Times 2020
- Pacifica Radio Airs its Troubles at Hill Forum - Washington Post 2001
- Crisis at Pacifica - Columbia University
- Selling Off Pacifica? - FAIR 1999