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corporate media

trump6(In Part 1 I blogged about the Great American Stupid. In Part 2, about voting numbers and trends.)

There is no question that corporate media (CM) horrifically failed the American people in the 2016 election cycle. By treating Hillary’s email server as the very scandal of the millennium, while Donald Trump’s virtually endless litany of failings as a candidate for the highest office and as a human being were presented as just more tidbits in the here-today-gone-tomorrow news cycle (in which actual policy issues went virtually unmentioned, in any meaningful way), CM unquestionably played a key role in the disastrous outcome.

I’ve never seen anything like CM’s open, flagrant bias in this one, and my paying attention to presidential campaigns goes back to 1972. (Yeah, I was all of 11 at the time, but intellectually precocious. And a fervent Nixon Republican. But that’s another matter.) But the thing is, I don’t know that much of CM really wanted Pr*sident Trump to actually win; I don’t think they actually believed that he really could, any more than, for example, I did. Trump was seen more as ultimately harmless entertainment (and, of course, ratings-bait) than as a real threat. The intent was to create a close election, and blunt Democratic downballot gains. And as far as the fallout now coming down on corporate media, because of it all…well, everything about “President Trump” is too serious, and disturbing, a matter for any gleeful schadenfreude, on my part.
As always, sweeping statements like those in the first paragraph above, while possessed of ample truth, require a measure of qualification, here in the messy, uncertain world of…reality. How much influence does corporate media really have? Let’s consider some numbers.

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One of our missions, for sure. The title of this is paraphrased from a line of dialogue in a famous movie. 2:50 in this clip:

I’ve been known to fantasize about somehow being Harvey Keitel in that scene, and the bosses of corporate media (CM) are Brad Pitt, and I’m miraculously in a position to get in their faces and make it clear that they are g*d-damned well going to shape up, right now. But like I said, fantasy.
One of the infuriating things is that CM is so smug. They know that they own the airwaves and the newspaper printing presses, and as far as a majority of the populace are still concerned they’ll get the last word, and there’s nothing we progressives can do about it.
But the reality is that they have been getting consistently worse for decades, continuously more and more nothing but a shameless, despicable fount of plutocratic/war pig propaganda, and their behavior during this election cycle has plumbed depths more deep and vile than ever before. Is there a way to make them shape up or go under? (Is them going under even really desirable, given all of the livelihoods at stake? And most newspapers do still have worthwhile content here and there.)
I haven’t been able to come up with a way. Here are some musings.


hero_image_main_2If you remember much about the months before the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, it doesn’t take much paying attention to this one to work up a pretty strong sense of déjà vu. In both of those, we also saw polling from September into early October claiming that the race had “tightened” to very close, or even tied, before in the end President Obama pulled away to win by about the margins he’d had right after the Democratic conventions.
Various explanations have been mooted for this phenomenon. Here’s a certainly viable one that I saw last week:

One way to describe that problem is “non-response bias;” in other words, the responses of those who choose to respond would be different than those you choose not to respond. It’s a phenomenon that we’ve been aware of for a long time … it may have been the primary culprit in the notoriously disastrous Literary Digest poll that predicted a landslide victory for Alf Landon in the 1936 presidential race … but one that pollsters are just now starting to grapple with.
A more recent case was the polling spike that Mitt Romney received after a poor performance by Barack Obama in the first debate in 2012. Research after the fact, however, suggested that Romney didn’t suddenly get an influx of new backers, as much as Obama’s backers were demoralized and temporarily​ less willing to talk to pollsters, and Romney was temporarily winning by subtraction, which explained why that debate bump quickly wore off. Pollsters using more advanced techniques … especially Obama’s internal pollsters, who were relying on multiple levels of voter file information to sort voters, instead of just using random-digit dialing and talking to whoever answered … found that there really wasn’t much of a debate effect at all, and the race stayed in pretty much the same narrow band from April on.
And pollsters who are willing to dig a little below the surface (and not interested in feeding a horse race narrative in the media) are finding similar things this year.
(David Jarman/Daily Kos)

Be that as it may, there’s another hypothesis that doesn’t seem to be being given much voice, though for me it fairly springs from the data, past and present, like a jaguar. Consider:
– Much corporate media is facing further downsizing, if not outright extinction in its current embodiments, any time. (Note, for example, the age distribution among those who still inexplicably get their “news” from the plutocratic/war pig propaganda that is the network TV broadcasts. I don‘t know about their websites and radio, but I doubt that the situation is much different.) They’re desperate for a neck-and-neck race, to hopefully keep people “glued.” We’ve seen how the coverage has been, with the relentless invention of Hillary Clinton “scandals” whenever she so much as blinks her eyelids, compared to the coddling of the most vile and repulsive, and unqualified and dangerous, presidential candidate, in historical context, in U.S. history.

I don’t believe that most of the Republicans or corporate Democrats who own and operate corporate media really want Donald Trump in the White House. But they figure that the chances of that are small, and they’re probably right. Probably. (More here and here.) But they are, in addition to ratings and web traffic and so forth, hoping to help mute any Democratic downballot wave. Plus, they’re a**holes. Of a truly fetid, repellent sort.

– We’ve known from Day One that Clinton has huge advantages among minorities, women…really, everyone except white people with no post-secondary education. I personally know Republicans who are refusing to vote for Trump, and I suspect that you do, too. Moreover, Clinton’s ground game is state-of-the-art, while it’s doubtful that Trump even knows what “microtargeting” is. It just does not add up that this is tied or anywhere near it.
Given the above, to claim that polling commissioned by, or otherwise intended for use by, corporate media and other public entities looking for attention – that is, most of what’s out there – is all on the up-and-up seems to me to be pretty naïve. I do indeed hypothesize (and I’m far from the first to do so) that in all likelihood much of it is being deliberately skewed, in order to make this thing appear closer than it is.

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Beating down the education deformers, Part 3

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2016 · 3 comments

abandonedschool(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

The following blockquote is from the best succinct description of the goals and tactics of the deformer/privatization movement that I’ve seen. It was originally published in the Washington Post.

The pitch
Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.
Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters — academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, iPads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)

Needless to say, corporate-controlled “legacy”/”traditional”/whatever-you-want-to-call-it media (the daily papers, the nightly news broadcasts, etc.) play a big, key part in all of this.


terroristThe days since the Paris attacks have been as disgracefully vile in American politics and American media as anything I’ve ever seen. A couple of items of particular interest.

It was well documented that during the run-up to the Iraq war there was tremendous pressure coming from the executive suite of the news networks to cheerlead for the administration. Those who resisted were marginalized and fired if they refused to go along. It’s unlikely that the word went forth on Saturday that reporters should get on a war footing and issue demands that the president use “the greatest military in the world” to “take out these bastards.” But they don’t have to say it explicitly do they? Everyone knows the drill.
There is no doubt the Republicans are getting ready to launch a full blown campaign of paranoid bloodlust which, if successful, would have devastating consequences. The media were willing recruits in their cause fifteen years ago. Let’s hope they gather their wits about them before they take us down that dangerous road again.

Billions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the global war on terror. At every step of the way, Western governments played directly into the hands of Islamic extremists, falling for their ploys and fueling their ambitions. As Osama Bin Laden tauntingly proclaimed back in 2004, “All that we have to do is to send two mujahadin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al-Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”
For the handful of ideologues guiding the forever war, those personal and political benefits justified the price of failure. After the latest assault on Paris, it’s not surprising to see them clamoring for more force, more surveillance, more silence from progressives and more airtime for themselves. As they occupy the political center, the grayzone fades to black.

Comment below fold.


The myth of the liberal media gets a new boost

by Dan Burns on November 6, 2015 · 0 comments

mediaThe farcical gaggle of delusional, egomaniacal lunatics that is the GOP presidential field have recently been pimping the myth of the “liberal media’ even more stridently than wingnuts generally do. From reality-based articles:

Media Matters’ Brendan Karet had a good catch today on how fake news enters the media food chain. His example started with Fox News‘ Sean Hannity telling Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush that “the president said he’s going to bring in 250,000 refugees into this country.” The next day, Hannity gave the same statistic to candidate Donald Trump:

This president has committed to nearly 250,000 coming to America. That tells me we’re—we have a pre-9/11 mindset again.

What was Hannity’s source for this remarkable claim? PolitiFact looked into it, and could find only one possible source: the joke website Real News Right Now, which featured that story in September, along with reports like “Vatican City Conducts ‘Successful’ Nuclear Test” and “Joe the Plumber Caught Trying to Enter North Korea.”
…It’s a problem when presidential candidates from a major political party are getting their information about the world from a news outlet that evidently can’t tell the difference between a sub-Onion hoax site and actual news. It’s an even bigger problem when those candidates bring those bogus claims onto supposedly reputable network TV—and the real journalists aren’t able to recognize that the politicians they’re interviewing are parroting garbage factoids from Fox‘s land of make-believe.

This next article is mostly about “mainstream” media’s drooling love affair with House Speaker Paul “Lyin” Ryan (R-WI), and should be clicked on and read in its entirety. I’m just blockquoting the last paragraph, which is more general in scope.


televisionYou may have noticed that corporate media coverage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has seemed perhaps not entirely unbiased. Regarding broadcast evening news:

Of all the stories aired in October and November, many more were negative than positive. Sixty-eight percent of ABC’s stories on the ACA were overwhelmingly negative, followed by NBC with 62 percent, and CBS with 46 percent. Ten percent of CBS stories were overwhelmingly positive, and zero NBC and ABC stories were positive.
(Media Matters)

Yes, “zero.“ I’d describe it as the most flagrant disregard for even the most minimal standards of journalistic integrity, since the run-up to the Iraq War. We’re talking about the public airwaves, and I don’t think it’s too much to expect that they be used for legitimate presentation of fact-based reporting.


A summer of “scandals”

by Dan Burns on May 15, 2013 · 2 comments

corporate_sponsors_zpsc30a6ea3That’s how Republicans want it, and therefore that’s how corporate media will do their sorry “best” to work it. (Especially, here in Minnesota, both of the big metro daily newspapers, and GOP financier Stan Hubbard’s “Eyewitness News,“ not that many people choose the latter.) I wish that I could bring myself to ignore their farcical efforts, and I will try, but it will be hard to succeed entirely. Anyway, reality checks:

On Monday, President Obama weighed in on the alleged targeting of conservative nonprofit groups by the Internal Revenue Service, calling for a full investigation into what he said would constitute “outrageous” conduct. That’s one way to put it. Here’s another: depressingly normal. For much of the last century, abuse of the IRS for political ends has been the rule, not the exception. Under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, the IRS has gone after communists, students, black activists, young conservatives, and mainstream political rivals.
(Mother Jones)

The article goes on to note examples under almost every presidency from FDR on.


Media scaremongers focus on the “dairy cliff”

by Dan Burns on December 26, 2012 · 4 comments

The proposed farm legislation that made it part of the way through Congress in 2012 was not progressive. But it wasn’t because of progressives that the bill stalled;  right-wing fanatics in Congress felt that funding for food stamps (SNAP) was left at a level where poor people wouldn’t suffer enough.  (Real “Christian” of them, huh?)  So we potentially have this:

The “dairy cliff” is just the most immediate of what would be gradual price increases on foods across grocery stores if Congress doesn’t pass a farm bill to replace the one that expired nearly three months ago. Technically, farm regulations since the end of September have been operating under a 1949 “permanent” law. Because the 2008 law covered all crops planted in 2012, though, and federal funding for many agricultural programs is assured through March 2013, lawmakers have enjoyed a bit of a grace period, until Jan. 1, before products like milk would skyrocket to prices based on dairy farm production costs 64 years ago.

Specifically, milk prices could jump to $6-8/gallon, as the feds would be required by law to buy up supply.

I may be wrong, that’s been far from unheard of, but I doubt that that the above will come to pass.  I don’t see any problem with some sort of “emergency” executive order suspending government hoarding of dairy products, though presumably a handful of pitiable conservative windbags would call for impeachment, a trial, and, for all I know, capital punishment. They really are that messed up.  The important thing is that this not be used to give the right what it wants – permanent extension of tax cut handouts for billionaires – in the fiscal “cliff” fight.


Are more people spurning corporate media?

by Dan Burns on December 5, 2012 · 1 comment

The trends in where people are going for political news and analysis are readily apparent.  It is important to note that “Internet,” in the image, includes corporate media’s online presence.  (“Corporate media” means, for example, most broadcast and cable news, and daily newspapers;  you know it when you see it.)

The above is based on this and other studies.

The numbers portray a diverse landscape in which no platform dominates as the place for politics, and the vast majority of Americans say they regularly rely on multiple platforms to get political information. Just 6% said they turn regularly to just one platform.

It’s no secret that the performance of corporate media “analysts” for the election cycle that just ended was entirely wretched.  “Dead heat”…”Mitt-mentum”…”center-right nation”…whether they were deliberately dissembling in order to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, or are just plain incompetent, the result was the same.  Corporate media is useless, and deserves to go under unless it changes its ways.

Are remarks like those in the preceding paragraph making a difference?  I don’t flatter myself so.  But they’re obviously not hurting, and they’re fun to type.

To be clear, these numbers are nothing to get too excited about.  More than half of the increase in politically-oriented internet use is to corporate websites, not – alas! – to the likes of MN Progressive Project.  As with so much else, real change is a long, hard, often frustrating trek.

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