Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Fourth Corporation

Dan Froomkin writes a column at The Washington Post called White House Watch. His latest column was about the White House Correspondents' Association dinner. He gave it a catchy title:

Party of the Damned

I spent entirely too much time reading it. He makes some good points but he doesn’t seem to have his heart in it. The mood of the piece and the mood of the affair seemed to be summed up by the night's headliner -- Craig Ferguson of The Late Late Show.

”It is your task to watch the government, to make sure they do not exceed their power. Well done on that, by the way, the last eight years. “

It’s hard to argue the point. The Press seems to have failed miserably during the Bush Administration. Not all of them. But more than enough. Mr. Froomkin doesn’t say it but you’re left with the feeling that the night’s mood was summed up as, “Well...we screwed that up. We might as well get drunk, cry in our beer, ogle Pam Anderson and start over again in the morning.”

I understand the phenomenon. Having witnessed conventions for controllers, I suspect this year’s will be much the same -- minus Ms. Anderson. Controllers were trounced during the Bush Administration too. There will be many tear-diluted beers drunk as they ask the questions, “What happened ? and “Where did we go wrong ?”

We could spend days answering those questions. There is no one answer and I believe it’s important that each man find the answer for himself. But if I may be so bold, I’d like to suggest a place to start looking -- the Fourth Estate.

”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.“

I could go off on a real tangent here but I’ll try to stay on subject and ask you to note the importance of the rights grouped together in Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution. To wit, consider the implications of a free press as equally important as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion. To speak more plainly, would you let a corporation control your religion ? If not, why would you let them control your press ? No, it isn’t quite the same thing but I hope it makes you think about the subject.

I’m haunted by the words of Al Gore in The Assault on Reason:

”The "well-informed citizenry" is in danger of becoming the "well-amused audience.”“

When you are gathering your information -- from whatever sources -- you need to ask yourself, “Am I being informed or entertained ?” Once you filter out the car chases, the latest celebrity scandal and the latest political gaffe you will find that there isn’t much time left to become informed while watching the news on the television. I hope it dawns on you that the commercial messages stick with you longer than the commentary. Such is the nature of corporations. They don’t exist to inform you -- they exist to make money.

The consolidation of the media into a few corporations represents a real danger to the electorate. One need look no further than religion to recognize the power of influence. Corporations already hold an unhealthy amount of power in our government. Everyone recognizes it. But somehow, we fail to recognize how much power -- how much influence -- corporations have over us via the media.

I was listening to Marketplace yesterday on NPR and I could hardly believe my ears.

David Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said this:

“Fox News was created as America's first self-consciously partisan television network. “

There has never been any doubt in my mind about it but evidently there has been in some minds. It always saddened me to walk into a break room full of union controllers and see them soaking up the partisan news on Fox. But there they were. And they thought they were getting the “fair and balanced” news.

The controllers hired slightly after me were all placed into a new federal retirement program called FERS -- Federal Employee Retirement System. While my retirement plan -- CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System) -- was almost entirely a standard (or what used to be standard) annuity, FERS relies heavily on a 401K type option. Everyday you would see people under FERS checking “the market” to see how their investments were doing. They felt like they were part of “the ownership society.”

I think their time would have been better spent checking out the American Enterprise Institute.

” The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (AEI) is a conservative think tank, founded in 1943. It is associated with neoconservative domestic and foreign policy views.”

And just in case your pride won’t let you click on that link to discover your downfall...

”AEI has emerged as one of the leading architects of the second Bush administration's public policy. More than twenty AEI alumni and current visiting scholars and fellows have served either in a Bush administration policy post or on one of the government's many panels and commissions. Former United States Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is a visiting scholar, and Lynne Cheney, wife of Vice President Dick Cheney and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a senior fellow.“

The Federal Government, dumping billions upon billions of dollars into the financial markets in your name, supposedly for your benefit -- for your retirement -- was really designed to help out someone other than you. It helps out the same people that gave you the current sub-prime mortgage catastrophe. You thought they were the smart-money guys -- Fox News told you so -- and they don’t even know how many bad debts they now own. Bankers -- that can’t even count up their money. And to top it all off, the Federal Government is pouring billions more into the markets to clean this mess up.

Remember this when you go to your convention this year. And remember, if Pam Anderson shows up it isn’t a good sign. She’s just there to switch your brain off -- sort of like Fox News.

Don Brown
May 1, 2008

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