generation ago, campaign observers anticipated the “October
Surprise” that presidential incumbents might spring to suddenly
alter the political landscape just before Election Day. Today,
with the media reflexively responsive to the corporate regime
in power, manufactured “surprises” can occur at any time. Thus,
when thoroughly politicized American generals in Afghanistan
announced last week that they are confident of capturing Osama
bin Laden before the year is out, the folks at the Intelligence
Squad site broke out their graphics to chart the impact of
such a “surprise.”
the headline, “Bush
Shoots ‘Em Up To Pump Up His Popularity,” the Intelligence
Squad presents Gallup Poll data on George Bush’s approval ratings
from inauguration through September 11 to the present – then
posits a mid-summer gift of bin Laden’s living or dead body.
Bush’s numbers soar to Twin Towers-like heights.
a rational world such exercises would be considered unworthy
of serious journalism.
Only the lunatic fringe would wonder out loud whether the Bush
men “already know exactly where Osama is and have been waiting
to time the capture just right.” Instead, recent history dictates
that we must consider this possibility. The current administration
strives to invent each day anew, by confronting the public with
both fresh and stale layers of fiction and carefully calibrated “events.” There’s
nothing lunatic or fringe about the Intelligence Squad piece
or scores like it across the Internet. Bush’s crew definitely
has many “surprises” in store for us. It is equally certain that
the Corporate Power Media (CPM) will treat each contrived “crisis” or “victory” as
genuine; they provide the blank slates on which Karl Rove writes
Bush’s version of history. That’s their function in the corporate
matrix – and they revel in it.
a potential hazard to the general corporate welfare and to
their own particular
interests, the CPM savaged Howard Dean’s presidential campaign
with piranha-like ferocity. The breathtaking speed with which
they halved his popular support is the direct result of years
of media mergers, buy-ups, and bribery-sanctioned seizure of
the public airwaves.
we wrote in last week’s Cover Story, “The
Awesome Destructive Power of the CPM,” Howard Dean has “joined
the list of victims of U.S. corporate media consolidation.”
commentary, however, is not about the merits of Howard Dean.
If a mildly progressive, Internet-driven, young white middle
class-centered, movement-like campaign such as Dean’s – flush
with money derived from unconventional sources, backed by significant
sections of labor, reinforced by big name endorsements and
surging with upward momentum – can be derailed in a matter
of weeks at the whim of corporate media, then all of us are
in deep trouble. The Dean beat-down should signal an intense
reassessment of media’s role in the American power structure.
The African American historical experience has much to offer
in that regard, since the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements
were born in a wrestling match with an essentially hostile
corporate (white) media. However, there can be no meaningful
discussion of the options available to progressive forces in
the United States unless it is first recognized that the corporate
media in the current era is the enemy, and must be treated
our disclaimer regarding Dean’s candidacy, his stalwarts
comprised the bulk of the huge response to the commentary.
Bee is a contributor to ,
from Dayton, Ohio.
editorial on the Corporate Power Media, its victims and victimization
strategies was on the mark. That the media is the tool of the
enemy is well-known by those who have felt its blows. The blows
are like the lashes of the Plantation Overseers designed to
keep people cowed and feeling powerless. The major media is
now totally owned by the Plantation Masters, as you noted.
The Overseers were previously called Journalists, Reporters,
Hosts, and Commentators, etc. It is better to call them Overseers
at this point, for they have been emasculated. They are now
used by the Plantation Owners to do the dirty work. Some Overseers
don’t realize they, too, are slaves because they’re drowning
in a jar of honey called money.
We the People cannot
continue to rely on the media for coverage of anything crucial
to our lives. They are not on the side of the people.
The massive amount
of energy created by widespread anger throughout society
can be harnessed to devise new systems of spreading the word.
Like 21st Century Paul and Paulette Reveres, we can sound
the alarms. Like a new Underground Railroad, we can do end-runs
around the power structure. Like Malcolm and Martin and countless
others we can stand up at Town Meetings and in Church Pulpits
and on Street Corners to tell our stories, to rally our people,
to speak up. We can mimeograph broadsheets to pass around
neighborhoods. We can start community News Sheets. We can
link up through the Internet through sites like The Black
Commentator, etc. Every voice needs to be heard now. Every
voice is important.
can counter the stinking thinking. Before the upcoming presidential
election. We must get out the vote. We must monitor the vote
closely. We must deny the war criminals and charlatans in the
Bush administration and Congress and media a chance to keep
us down on their Plantations any longer.
We can do this.
Yes we can.
Bob Fleischer was
in a funk when he wrote to us from Groton, Massachusetts.
After watching Bill
Moyers last night, I realize that there is no democratic
(small-d) way out of this mess.
situation on Moyers' program was the media ownership cap. Millions
of Americans took an active part in the process to object to
the FCC's lifting the ownership cap. The FCC lifted the
cap anyway. Congress voted to retain the cap. That
gets overturned by back-room manipulation of the omnibus spending
legislation. The senate then votes to disapprove the
FCC rule, and when that gets sent to the House, Tom Delay kills
Democracy is dead,
get used to it.
I think it is possible, in principle at least, to establish
alternative media. But to bring alternative media to a prominence where it reaches
a majority (or even a large minority) of our population is hard to conceive – especially
if it is rightly perceived not just as competition but as a threat to the
very existence of the corporate media.
I despair. Got hope?
Democracy is not
dead until the people become inert. However, it is necessary
to strike directly at the corporate media, which now actively
suppress the processes of popular decision-making.
Even if popular forces
were able to halt and marginally roll back the process of media
consolidation, the political character of the corporate media
would not change, and it would remain dominant for the foreseeable
future. Therefore, it is necessary to de-legitimize the
corporate media's messages – to pull back the curtain on the
obvious reasons, this cannot be accomplished through strategies that
are themselves dependent on corporate media favor. Rather,
organizers will find that they must confront corporate
media in order to accomplish anything worth doing.
Candidates in mass
electoral campaigns are ill positioned to educate the public
about the evils of corporate media. That's a task for activist
organizations. For models, look to the history of the anti-war
and civil rights movements, and then add corporate media to
the permanent list of targets.
Of course there is
cause for hope. But progressive leadership is not yet, in general,
prepared to break with corporate media-dependent organizing
practices. Unfortunately, in a high-velocity world, inertia
can be fatal.
Brian LeCloux was
already thinking along these lines. He writes from DeForest,
analysis of how the corporate media smashed Dean is awesome! This
is the best I've read. You nailed every key point with
fact and argument.
you're on to something when you point out toward the end
that we have
to take on the media. Most of America's shopping
mall voters are still going to always get their infotainment
from the corporate networks. They are using our property,
the public airwaves to pollute the public mind. On that basis
alone we should be legally and nonviolently challenging big
for your great analysis.
DLC: the enemy
task for downplaying corporate influence within the Democratic
you for publishing this excellent article. The writers
clearly stated a feeling I've had for many months, but have
been unable to articulate so well in discussing it with others. There
was one point, however, upon which I disagree, and it
is this: "Media apologists offer fictions about
press vs. power, when in reality corporate media = corporate
power, just as Bush = corporate power. The Democrats
are no part of this equation."
in truth a very influential segment of the Democratic
party is indeed part of this; it is the Democratic Leadership
Council, or DLC. The DLC describes itself (on its website)
thus: "The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) leads
the New Democrat movement, a national network of elected
officials and community leaders whose innovative ideas are
modernizing progressive politics for the 21st Century."
their politics are not progressive. They are closely
tied with corporate contributors, and their whole reason for
being is to bring the party rightward. Their attacks
on Howard Dean have been every bit as vicious as those of the
press. I believe that progressives of all ethnic
groups and races need to come to grips with the re-shaping
of the party which the DLC promotes and executes. It,
as much as the right-wing Republicans and the press, stands
in the way of a free flow of progressive political energy.
been trying to purge the DLC from the Democratic Party for
so long, we sometimes treat the corporate faction as if it
is not there. But of course, it is. The DLC was originally
created to slow white voter and corporate dollar flight from
southern state parties in the face of growing African American
influence, and gained control of the national party machinery
under Bill Clinton and Al Gore. As Associate
Editor Bruce Dixon has pointed out, “The only masses the DLC
cares about are massed dead presidents, stacked high.” More
from Dixon’s June
12, 2002 Cover Story:
DLC's mission is to erase the last vestiges of social democracy
from the Democratic Party, so that the corporate consensus
will never again be challenged in the United States. Acting
as a Republican Trojan Horse in the bowels of the Democratic
machinery, the DLC claims the "real" party lives
somewhere off to the right, where George Bush dwells, and
that minorities, unionists, environmentalists, feminists,
men and women of peace – virtually every branch of the party
except corporatists – must be purged or muzzled.”
calls the DLC “a
candidate shakeout mechanism for big business, a clearinghouse
astute blogster named Zagg writes:
thought the piece you did on Dean and media was excellent and
in general am a huge fan of the site.
I have a similar analysis of what occurred with Dean, though I think a key
aspect in the process was the establishment of the Democratic Party itself.
They have played a role in influencing the media to marginalize the most
progressive candidates. And they took Dean down not because of how he stood
on any issue, but because he did an end-run around the Party's leadership
to jump to the top of the race. And the fact that there was a grassroots
campaign associated with Dean (even if he's done all he can to distance himself
from that campaign) was also a threat. The last thing the Democrats want
to see is a rebuilding of social movements in this country. Even the Dean
campaign, as little of a threat as it represented in comparison to a new
civil rights movement or a rejuvenated anti-war movement, apparently concerned
them enough to smash. Remember too how in 2000 the Democratic Party called
off protests in Florida taking up the issue of the systematic disenfranchisement
of black voters and opted instead to fight the result in court on the issue
of chads in predominantly rich counties. In that case they punted on the
real issue and went for a safer one and it cost them the White House. I believe
in large part it was because the Democratic Party does not want to see a
rebirth of social movements in this country.
One more observation: Notice too that now that Kerry is the frontrunner he
is not being subject to the same attacks (either from the media or from the
other candidates) as Dean was when he was the frontrunner.
Anyway, keep up the excellent work.
media frat brats
We were pleased to
hear from Dr. Janice Moulton, of the philosophy department
at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.
a good analysis of the media! Thank you.
However, I do still harbor the hope that individual journalists
would behave better if they were shown the way. Some of them actually half-apologized
to Howard Dean (like fraternity boys who had broken a pledge's leg during
hazing and said, "Oops!"). I also think that incompetence
is always a more likely explanation than deliberate malevolence. Those
Corporate Media "journalists" hang out together, feed off the
hearsay they pick up at the bar or coffee shop, are trained to go after
ratings instead of news, and forget that they might be an inspiration instead
of a destructive force.
The worst thing, I think, is
that their behavior convinces
so many people that there is
no point in learning about the
candidates, no point in getting
involved, and no point in voting. The Dean supporters have written
hundreds of letters complaining of the misleading news stories and perhaps
it had some effect. We can do something, together. Let's not put
up with it anymore. Let the Civil Rights movement be our inspiration. Let
your article be the starting point.
frat boys example is a good one. If you take that logic
further, however, you
will get closer to the truth, which is that the corporate
media guys and girls "just happen" to go after
the same people their employer's hate. (Just as the frat
boys bully the pledges simply because they can.) News
producers would get even higher ratings if they went after
bigger fish, like Bush, Cheney, etc. – but that is not
lower newsroom ranks pick up quickly on the cues given from
the top – or perish. As for the Executive Newspersons,
they hang with the other execs, not in the "coffee shops
and bars." They also hire and fire.
All of them know
exactly what they are doing. They are among the most cynical
people you will ever meet.
The Civil Rights and
Black Power movements confronted a hostile white media that
alternately censured and reviled Blacks (the southern press)
or attempted to select and contain Black leadership (the national
corporate media). Black print media, churches and informal
networks attempted to keep the movement in touch with itself.
Nowadays, however, corporate voices dominate in Black America.
As we wrote:
has had the same strangulating effects on Black radio as
in the general media. Radio One, the largest Black-owned
chain, recently entered into a marketing
agreement with a subsidiary of Clear Channel, the 1200-station
beast. Both chains abhor the very concept of local news.
is no question that Blacks and progressives must establish
alternative media outlets, and not just on the Internet. However,
there is no substitute for confronting the corporate media
head-on, through direct mass action and other, creative tactics.
The rich men’s voices must be de-legitimized in the eyes of
the people, who already suspect that they are being systematically
lied to and manipulated. African Americans have an advantage
in this regard, since we are used to being lied to and about.
Susan Shropshire got
you for the well-written and incisive article on the power
of the corporate media.
What a sorry state of affairs we live in. Obviously the fact that they got
away with lying to and about black Americans on a massive scale is part of
what gave them the arrogance to try it on everybody in the country.
I have watched every one of the Democratic debates and it is clear (and shameful)
the way the media act toward progressive candidates (and last night I swore
I saw Bill Clinton on the stage, he was mentioned so many times).
The only thing that gives me hope is that every time Kucinich or Sharpton
lay a smackdown on the moderators the audience goes wild.
JoAnne is a Dean supporter
from Sag Harbor, Michigan.
was the most cogent, incisive analysis of the "corporate/media" problem
that I have read to date. Perhaps because of our history
of being savaged by the media, African-Americans are keenly
aware of the danger. This essay should be required
reading for all Dean supporters. It certainly gave me
renewed hope that the Democratic Party will realize
that Howard Dean has got it right. It is my hope that
Rev. Sharpton will throw his support to Dean at some point. Sharpton
is politically savvy and can make a real difference to the
Christine Hayes writes
from the State of Washington:
would like to commend you on your article about corporate media squelching
the Howard Dean movement. It was an eye-opening piece. I
think it really put it in its proper perspective to bring
out the point that if it can happen to middle class white
America, we are all in trouble.
believe our country is in a dire situation at present and you
are certainly doing your part to bring this to the attention
of a sleeping America. Unfortunately, by the time they
wake up, it may be too late.
the early to mid-Sixties, opposition to the Vietnam War marked
one as a radical. Then,
white liberals swelled the ranks, some of whom became radicals.
Who knows what the corporate media’s beat-down of Howard Dean
may trigger among his millions of supporters? There’s lots
of rage out there. Here’s a letter from Joy Farmer, from Kennesaw,
you for your excellent analysis. I find the image
of Howard Dean screaming inaudibly in that Iowa room to
be a metaphor for
every American who is screaming to be heard above the right-wing din
and whose voice has been deliberately distorted and
decontextualized by the corporate media. We all cried, "Foul," at
the media's unfair and biased treatment of Al Gore four
years ago, but our scream began in earnest when the
Supreme Court appointed Bush president, even though
the 2000 election manifested so much malfeasance that democracy
was fully, and perhaps permanently, compromised.
Yet the media refused to investigate – not just in this circumstance,
but in every shady instance that has characterized the Bush
presidency. Instead, the media consistently diverts
the public's attention from such scandals as Bush's National
Guard disservice, the phony rationale for the Iraq
war, the Halliburton contracts and other White-House
related corporate irregularities, the Plame outing,
and the Administration's shameful stonewalling on the
9/11 investigation by endlessly spinning every mote in the
eye of a Democratic candidate. At the same time, the corporate
media characterize our wail of outrage as unpatriotic. Some
have even called us traitors, and most have scoffed at our
liberalism – synonymous with weakness, atheism, moral turpitude,
and a desire to foster similar characteristics in our fellow
destroying Howard Dean, the corporate media have destroyed
a decent individual, a viable candidate, and a
man who could have changed the course of American politics
for the better. In November, God willing, we will vote George
W. Bush out of office. Sadly, we have no such opportunity
to vote out the corporate media, which will continue to limit
our choices and warp our civic judgment. I fear that you
are a voice crying in the wilderness; nonetheless, you have articulated my scream,
and I am grateful.
Carl E. Hartung wants
to put in
am writing to commend you on a beautifully written, highly
insightful and compelling article should be required reading
in every high school freshman civics course. Thank you
and well done!
just read your fantastic column on the Corporate Media and
their ability to crush anyone who dares speak the truth. Thanks
so much for your insights.
way in which Democrats reach out to African American voters
in 2004 is
critically important. Drive-by campaigning, in which candidates
spend months courting white voters and independents and then
spend the last two weeks courting African American voters,
is simply not acceptable. Democrats must reach out to African
American voters and community leaders now and engage them
not just for their votes but to get their opinions about
how our future should be shaped. Registering and turning
out African American voters is simply vital to the success
of the Democratic Party in 2004….
must demand that states comply with the new Help America Vote
Act (“HAVA”) and ensure that minorities are not systematically
disenfranchised in 2004. As 2000 indicated, states have a variety
of methods of doing just that – by purging voter roles, by
discriminatory distribution of antiquated voting machines,
and by intimidating voters at the polls. There must be a vigorous
voter education campaign, training of poll watchers, and an
army of lawyers ready to monitor the elections to ensure that
African-Americans are not denied their constitutional rights
Cohen enjoyed Ms. Brazile’s article – until she championed the “HAVA” voting
law. That’s when “she lost me,” said Cohen.
Help America Vote Act is not a friend to African Americans
or anyone else interested in seeing a fair vote count. I
don't have any quarrel with Ms. Brazile's wholly justified
complaints about purging voter rolls, or intimidating voters
at the polls, but when she complains about "discriminatory
distribution of antiquated voting machines" she appears
to have been taken in by the snake-oil salesmen of Diebold
and other manufacturers of the new electronic voting machines
which are less secure, more prone to tampering, provide no
feasible means of recount and are a real nightmare – which
is becoming more and more noticed. Yes, "hanging
chads" were a problem in 2000, but they were a problem
dwarfed by purging and intimidating African American voters. The
cure proposed in HAVA is worse than the disease.
Here is just one of the many articles that have appeared on this subject:
Request Seeks Halt to Internet Voting,” Washington
Post, January 30.
I can agree with Ms. Brazile that there may some discriminatory
in the distribution of these antiquated voting machines,
ironically, they probably provide a fairer chance of getting
a correct count than do the newfangled and insecure monstrosities
that are being foisted upon us by people who have too much
faith in technology. See this link where technologist
Robert Cringely tells why such technology is not well applied
in this context:
the Money,” PBS, December 11, 2003
as always, for being
a very useful antidote to conventional wisdom.
Walton Family spends vast sums to pollute American political
ideas crafted to help the super-rich get richer. In addition
to manufacturing front groups to push their agenda, the Wal-Mart
billionaires have taken a hands-on role in making New Jersey
a testing ground for school privatization notions. The New
Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state’s largest teachers
union, has identified Walton family fortune heir John as Sugar
Daddy for local voucher activists. In last week’s ,
NJEA President Edithe A. Fulton warned of “The
Wal-Martization of Education.”
years, Walton has been an active supporter of the national
voucher movement, spending millions on voucher initiatives
and pro-voucher organizations. He is intimately allied with
the ultra-right Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, which used
its political and economic clout in that city to launch the
nation’s first publicly funded voucher program in 1990. Bradley
is also a major funding source for the national voucher effort.
urges folks to “follow the money” – the real source of the Hard Right’s
Leutisha Stills is
a frequent correspondent from Oakland, California.
Blacks should become
familiar with the many methods the Hard Right uses to co-opt
the public school system and deprive our children of quality
If your school system is "failing" the state will bring in a "hired
gun" who takes control of the entire school district and proceeds
to start closing schools. In Oakland, the hired gun's name is Randolph
Ward. They brought him in from Southern California, since he did such a
wonderful job in "cleaning up" the Compton Unified School District. Now
the kids in Compton are going cross town to school – long commutes outside
of their own districts to get educated. So they brought him to Oaktown
to do the same thing. Only Oakland wasn't Compton – and Mr. Ward
soon "got served".
Two weeks ago, at an Oakland School District Meeting, Mr.
Ward proceeded to present to a capacity-crowd of angry parents, children and teachers,
a list of elementary schools he proposed to shut down, since they weren't
cutting it under the "No Child Left Behind" requirements. There
were 11 schools on that list, the majority in predominantly Black or Latino
communities. By the time the teachers, parents, students and the
civil rights group BAMN got finished with Mr. Ward, that list was scaled
back to five schools instead of eleven. Oakland wasn't having none
of that Hard Right Agenda nonsense and told Mr. Ward to @$%# with his proposal!
However, we still have our work cut out for us. This is the
starting point towards discussions about school vouchers – first they shut down the schools. For
this reason, plus the way Wal-Mart treats its workers, I have boycotted
them ever since.
Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column is an inspiration to many
of our readers. Last week’s piece was particularly eloquent,
Glass Half Empty and Half Full.”
don’t want to
discuss anything that gives credence to negative stereotypes
perpetuated about us. The impulse is understandable, but
not particularly helpful when confronting difficult issues.
Why are so many black children born not only to unmarried
parents, but to parents who have not even formed committed
relationships? Because of DNA testing there are men paying
child support to women whose middle names they don’t even
know. That behavior doesn’t speak well for men or women and
renders moot the old, tired arguments seen in the headlines
of black publications and heard in conversation. “Whose at
fault, men or women?” “Do black men treat women right?” “Do
black women support their men?” We need uncompromising introspection,
not worthless tabloid headlines, to improve our family lives.
is important to remember our loyalty to one another despite
the many problems that black people face in dating and maintaining
marriages. Point out that the glass is full the next time someone
says that black men and women can’t get along. But it is equally
important to speak up when the more complicated and sensitive
issues are also raised. The time for platitudes has passed
Massai’s words are as compelling as Ms. Kimberley’s. He writes:
at statistics from a negative perspective does create the impression
that we Black folks are the most messed up people in the world. We
tend to internalize that impression and use it to define ourselves. I
used to be guilty of that even though I knew in the back of
my mind the stereotypes we sometimes play into aren't that
accurate. Based on statistics I'm supposed to be in or
have been in prison, dropped out of school, can't read, unemployed,
an absentee father, on drugs, have AIDS, etc. But I'm
not and neither are most of the guys on my block or at my job
or in my family. A lot of our young brothers are confused
because they don't see themselves reflected in these statistics. I
started seeing the glass half full after attending the Million
Man March in 1995, every kind of brother under the sun was
there, I didn't see any looking like the picture the statistics
paint. We have problems but there's more good about us
In our corner
Carol Asberom, of
Dayton, Ohio has an interesting way of introducing herself.
sometimes think that I am insane. That is, my thoughts and
observations of the current times seem out of step with what
I see and hear around me. I hear myself thinking, "Am
I the only one who thinks this way?” Then once a week "The
Black Commentator" arrives and reassures me that there
are others like me out there. You are a strong voice
of enlightenment. You see, I live in the hinterland of
Ohio and we have been blinded. People here work hard, go to
church, play a little, but don't do much independent thinking. You
do excellent work and I wish more people knew about you. Be
strong and be encouraged for there are many unknown and unseen
warriors out there that can be called into action once you
awaken them from the hypnosis of materialism and entertainment.
John Harshaw sends
greeting from Chattanooga, Tennessee.
started reading Black commentator in 2003. I am impressed
by the intellectual
commentary written for every willing reader. When many Black
males have been reduced to the discussion of the last "piece" they
had or would like to have, it is refreshing to have a website
where honest, hard hitting commentary is shared.
know the best is yet to come.
Humphrey describes herself as a “devoted reader” of .
She writes from Little Rock, Arkansas.
would fight before I cancelled my privileged access to The
Black Commenter. I have enthusiastically shared the web site
with many of my friends, both locally, and with others far
away. You deserve supporting in any way we can. Be advised
that everyone I have forwarded the to
were really amazed that we had not yet heard of it, and worse,
were so late to hear of it now. I prefer the positive! The
more we can stay informed and help educate each other the better
off we African Americans are in terms of being more involved
in our communities, etc. Keep up the good fight and do an article
some time about
how we can proactively support your very noble efforts. Every
issue just blows me away with the depth of your analysis of
what is happening in our country. It certainly confirms the
views I have long held but brings, more importantly, facts
and names of
those filled with greed and self-hate. Thank you for being
there for all of us!
Loretta Renford is
our favorite activist in Buffalo, New York.
Thanks for your
commitment to the education and hopeful enlightenment of
the African American Community.
know, I hope our folk understand and appreciate the push
for excellence, and where we ought to be as thinking and positive
functioning adults. It is required of us that we think critically,
and for ourselves. How else can we pick and accept leaders
if we are unable to discern their attributes and separate
personal vested interests from the collective concerns and
issues critical to our needs and well being?