Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Failures of the Fourth Estate.

Isn't it usually the case that a few 'bad apples' ruin everything for the rest of us? I'd be happy to let 'the marketplace' set the terms and limits on a particular service or good if so many folks didn't use the concept as a facade behind which they happily continue their dirty dealings. Unfortunately there is just too much wrong being committed by people who are beyond the reach of public accountability. The system is set up to reward those who have the money to buy off our politicians, and I fear that substantial change is just about impossible. All we can do, as concerned citizens, is continue to shine the light and draw attention to the worst of the ne'er-do-wells. The fact of the matter is that humanity has not proven its ability to act in its own enlightened self-interest.

I would be a greater champion of unfettered freedom if it didn't necessarily mean membership in a group that boils every problem down to decreasing taxes. Too much of that club is only interested in short-term profits. They have no concern for the larger issues, and will do everything they can to avoid having to confront them- especially if it entails any form of personal cost. Others' problems are simply not their own. Their participation in the affairs of their fellow citizens is limited to curtailing social liberties- such as sex, drugs, and access to birth control. I'm not even convinced that they genuinely care about those issues. They just use these divisively to promote their own not-so-secret agenda... unregulated profit.

Witness the political 'Right' and their concept of 'fair and balanced'. They have seized the airwaves using a strategy mixing rabid nationalism, cultural jingoism, hate-mongering, deception and obfuscation. They've assumed command of the great symbols of US hegemony- the dollar, the cross, and the flag. Alternate voices are not being programmed or supported by the corporations that own the media. Unconstrained self-interest is not only encouraged, but demanded. The messenger is embraced only as long as the message is to consume indiscriminately. The Fairness Doctrine, which served the public by protecting them from an unchallenged stream of pro-corporate values, was repealed by Ronald Reagan and his rogue F.C.C. in 1987.

Nowadays Reagan's dismal record as president has been rehabilitated by the deregulation forces that fight to maintain a nation dominated by unchallenged corporate interests. We are subjected to crassly sentimentalized versions of 'The Gipper" on network television. Meanwhile a distinguished war veteran like John Kerry was sabotaged in his presidential campaign by Sinclair Broadcasting, which attempted to force its 62 television stations to air 'Swift-Boater' propaganda in the guise of a 'documentary'. Ironically, such blatant attempts to subvert democracy with lies are hypocritically overlooked by the countless conservative pundits who decry the 'liberal bias' of the media. Unfortunately there's hardly anyone left behind the pulpit to challenge such a ridiculous assertion.

Thank God the Internet exists to provide the opportunity for true democratic participation. There used to be a time when various outlets offered a wide range of political opinion. Nowadays even CNN is forced to hire hacks like Glenn Beck and Tony Snow. These guys don't offer any alternative to FOX or the networks... they ARE the establishment. The only 'progressive' broadcasters are Pacifica and Democracy Now. Try tuning into those grassroots sources in Western Pennsylvania. If you live within a-mile-and-a-half of Carnegie Mellon University, then you are welcome to. Otherwise don't bother looking, because you will only get more frustrated.

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