Thursday, May 29, 2008
(9:35 AM) | John Emerson:
It comes from the topCadre here may not be too interested in this kind of thing, but I am.
From Glenn Greenwald:
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the press corps dropped the ball at the beginning. When the lead-up to the war began, the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.
And my own experience at the White House was that, the higher the president's approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives -- and I was not at this network at the time -- but the more pressure I had from news executives to put on positive stories about the president.
I am a big fan of the media critics Atrios, Brad DeLong, Eric Alterman, and above all Bob Somerby. For years (in the case of Alterman and Somerby', for at least ten years) they've been documenting the shallowness, inaccuracy, dishonesty and ultimate Republican slant of the media -- especially TV and radio, but also including such highly respected publications as the New York Times and the Washington Post.
However, they tend to be too willing to slip into the "Heathers" or "Villagers" explanation. Supposedly the media are staffed by a bunch of silly, shallow, people who only talk to each other and who, for example, did what they did to sabotage Al Gore's Presidential run because he annoyed their silly little high school sensibilities.
I've always believed that it was a management problem, and I think that Greenwald's post confirms that I've been right. This does not mean that the Heathers are not silly people, and it doesn't mean that they're not culpable. But the people whose names we see are quite literally hirelings and lackeys (albeit very well paid hirelings and lackeys). They give management what it wants.
Greenwald gives several more examples, and there is a long list of reporters whose newspaper careers ended or dead-ended because of excessively accurate reporting -- Seymour Hersh is the most eminent of them. (To Greenwald's list of recent suppressions, I'd like to add the case of Lara Logan, who tried to start an email campaign to keep her bosses at CBS from suppressing a story).
Every time that I make the claim that management is responsible, rather than individual reporters, the reflex "conspiracy theorist" accusation shoots back at me so quickly that I have to ask myself whether my statement even reached the cerebral cortex at all. All I claim is that management manages, and that reporters can be hired, fired, promoted, and demoted, but people come back at me with abstruse theories proving that management does not, and can not, manage. And that I'm the crazy one, and not them.
As for management's motives, I have no way of knowing that. My present guess is that the owners and managers of the big media favor war and low taxes (and the ending of the estate tax, which is a major factors for the few family-owned publications: see here) and are responsive to the normal kinds of favors that the federal government can hand out. They are not right wing on other issues, but the Bush administration really isn't either -- by now they've double-crossed most of their conservative ideological constituencies by now. (That is to say, nativists, cultural conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and above all little-government conservatives.)
I'm sure that organized winger pressure is a factor too, but public opinion isn't the reason: the big media have always been more hawkish and more anti-tax than public opinion. I much bigger factor is advertiser pressure, since advertising pays all the bills for TV and radio, and most of the bills for newspapers. Advertisers all have their own political agendas and have never been shy about pushing them; furthermore, a substantial proportion of high-end advertising is institutional advertising (e.g. for oil companies) intended to promote a company, and not to sell any specific product.
Of course, Chomsky and company said all this twenty years ago. Maybe we shouldn't have been tuning those guys out all that time.