Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- February, 2002

The Press and Party Symbiosis

"Facts are stupid things." Ronald Reagan, 1988

"I don't care what the facts are." George H. W. Bush, 1988

With the published and broadcast accounts of the NORC study of the 2000 Florida election, the American mass media continued undiminished, its campaign of spin, distortion and outright lies, in behalf of the illegitimate Bush regime.

That campaign was apparent to the critical spectator during the 2000 Presidential contest, as the media engaged in a deliberate slander of Al Gore, concocting baseless accusations that Gore was an unscrupulous liar and exaggerator, while at the same time covering-up George Bush's manifest lack of qualification for the Presidency. Immediately following the Presidential debates, where Gore displayed clear superiority of knowledge and intellect, "pundits" and fake "focus groups" drew attention away from substance and competence and toward such irrelevancies as "body language" and "likeability."  (See our "Post-Modern Politics" and Eric Boehlert's "The Press vs. Al Gore").

The great media bootlick continues today, with a cult of personality that a Stalin would envy – Howard Fineman's groveling Newsweek cover story on "the first family," CNN's "Profiles in Leadership," focusing exclusively on GOP Bush operatives, Tom Brokaw's kowtow, "Inside the Real [sic] West Wing," and so on, ad nauseam..  Occasional TV "house liberals" such as Mark Shields, Al Hunt and Bill Press serve as tokens and targets, as their moderation is overwhelmed by the dominating conservative bias of the broadcast (and especially the cable) media.

Outside of a very few liberal renegades at such liberal enclaves as Boston, New York and San Francisco, "talk radio" hosts in the heartland are wall-to-wall, dawn to dusk, coast to coast right-wing ranters. 

Heretofore reliable sources of independent reporting and liberal opinion such as the Washington Post and the New Republic have defected to the "conservative" side. Bob Woodward has been promoted to establishment hack, and Carl Bernstein has disappeared without a trace. (Didn't I see his face on a milk carton the other day?). A repeat of the Woodward-Bernstein exposé of Watergate, or the publication of the Pentagon Papers under current conditions is unthinkable.

Authentically progressive voices are occasionally found on CSPAN and such PBS programs as Frontline and, most admirably, Bill Moyer's new program "Now." But these are so rare, that we have given up on the mass media, and turn now for our information and opinion to the "small magazines" such as The Nation, and The American Prospect, and via the internet to the foreign press and independent liberal web sites (in "The Internet: Last Refuge of the Liberal").

In the Soviet Union, the government completely controlled the media. That is not the condition today in the United States. Here, the Bush administration and the media are symbiotic – they mutually nourish and serve each other. And both media and administration are subsidiaries to their "investors" – the ten publishing conglomerates and five media empires that control virtually all of the print and broadcast media. (See The Nation's study of media empires, January 7/14, particularly  "The Big Ten,"  and the articles in that issue by  McChesney and Nichols, and by Mark Crispin Miller.  See also, pages 60-76 and 259-276 of Miller's The Bush Dislexicon.)

International conglomerates, purchased politicians, and toady media are wrapped into a tight embrace that is squeezing the life-blood out of our democracy. Because the media barons apply A. J. Liebling's rule: "freedom of the press belongs to those who own the presses," independent critics of the "established order" are having an increasingly difficult time finding the means to express their views to a large and significant audience. (See our "Free to Agree"). This is not what the founders of our Republic had in mind when they established the free press in the first of our Bill of Rights.

After these two years of spin, misinformation, and outright lies, one would be naive indeed to afford much trust in the commercial media – least of all the broadcast and cable media.

This dreadful situation is not without remedy. When Rupert Murdoch decided to add to the right-wing propaganda machine, he founded the Fox cable channel and put GOP propaganda guru, Roger Ailes, in charge. It is past time to set up a progressive alternative to Fox – and to CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, and NBC. The resources are out there, in the hands of such wealthy liberals as George Soros and Ted Turner (who must be gagging over what has become of his prodigal media child, CNN). Also there are the Hollywood liberals such as Steven Spielberg, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Barbra Streisand and, of course, "President" Martin ("Jed Bartlett") Sheen. I understand that Streisand has floated the idea of a liberal news channel.. Well, why not? Surely the financial resources are there – and, my Gawd!, think of the talent and the charisma! Boffo! In the meantime, I read somewhere that Redford is starting up a Sundance Documentary channel. Could be very helpful.

But one cannot overstress the importance of establishing an alternative, dissenting, progressive broadcast voice – adding a discordant note to the monotonous right-wing drivel that is the mass media today.

During the past two years we have experienced an unprecedented assault upon our system of Constitutional democracy. "Liberalism" has been successful characterized as some kind of subversion,. With the demise of the Fairness Doctrine, the mass media have become unchallenged and unrefuted "Ministries of Truth" for the right-wing establishment. The will of the American voter has been nullified, first by an unscrupulous Florida state government, and then by a treasonous decree of five Supreme Court justices. A fanatical Attorney General threatens to take away our Constitutional civil rights, while the President has unilaterally decreed the Freedom of Information and Presidential Records Acts to be null and void. The Vice President has announced that he and his office are not subject to Congressional oversight. National energy policy has been dictated, and federal regulators effectively appointed, by private corporate interests that have "invested" in the President. And finally, due to its disregard or outright violation of numerous international treaties, combined with its unilateral acts and threats of violence, the United States of America is widely regarded in the international community as a "rogue state."

And the people responsible for these radical betrayals of our founding political principles and heritage, dare to call themselves "conservatives."

Meanwhile, the same press which has manipulated us and lied to us these past two years, now tells us that Bush's "approval rating" (whatever that means), is now at 83%. Well, maybe.

The condition of the American democracy is grave, and the prospects are grim – but not hopeless. After all, despite the bias, spin, slander and lies of the captive media, a plurality of voters cast their ballots for Al Gore, and the Democrats managed to gain control of the Senate (thanks to the principled decision of a maverick Republican).

However, in the face of the media opinion polls reporting high approval of the Bush administration, the opposition of the Democratic Party has so-far been feeble, and the opposition of the progressive press and citizens has been disorganized and incoherent. Even so, there are considerable moral and tactical resources available to the progressive counter-revolution.

We enumerate these "resources" in our March (2003) editorial:  
Don't Just Get Mad – Get Smart!

Copyright 2002 by Ernest Partridge


Mark Crispin Miller on being willing "to do anything to get elected."

Or, "Consistency, thy name ain't GOP."

"The whole rightist propaganda mill that ran the country ragged following election day [November, 2000]... was so blatant, and the propaganda so pervasive, that you couldn't not notice the hypocrisy – unless you were a part of it, in which case you believed that the hypocrisy was wholly on the other side. Thus it is, of course, with all hermetic propaganda systems, be they democratic or authoritarian. Indeed, that big, loud network of Republicans – shifting ground from one hour to the next, bitterly attacking principles that they had just now bitterly defended, and screaming at the Democrats for doing things that they themselves had done or were about to do – behaved exactly like their erstwhile enemies in Moscow (and New York), executing endless swift volte-faces to toe the party line.

"Thus we had the GOP – the long-term bastion of states' rights – now demanding, then defending, the use of Federal power to overturn a ruling by the high court of the state of Florida. The party that had long decried – and was even now decrying "judicial activism" was also gratefully applauding the Supreme Court's highly activist decision to itself elect the nation's president. The party that was even now decrying judicial interference with the legislative3 branch was also now applauding the Supreme Court for having halted a state recount on the grounds that there was "no clear standard" for the process – when the standard had been written by the Florida legislature. The party that was vehemently arguing that hand recounts are wholly unreliable and absolutely not to be allowed was at the same time calling for hand recounts in New Mexico, and was supporting as its leader, the very man who had approved the passage of a Texas law permitting hand recounts in close elections. The party that had just pulled off a massive keep-out-the-vote campaign I Florida's most heavily Democratic precincts, disenfranchising tens of thousands of black, poor white, and Hispanic voters, now hailed the Supreme Court's decision to abort the recount under the equal protection clause in the Constitution. And even as they frantically demanded, then defended, all those shifts and gimmicks, the Republicans assailed Al Gore as one ‘who would do anything to get elected...'"

The Bush Dislexicon, pp. 56-7.

At this site ("The Online Gadfly"): 

We Dissent (Collected Comments on Bush v. Gore).
Day of Infamy: Bush v. Gore
The Hijacked Election
Post-Modern Politics
The Myth of "The Liberal Media"
Newspeak Lives!

Eric Boehlert, "The Press vs. Al Gore: How Lazy Reporting Cost Him the Election," Rolling Stone, November 28, 2001.

Joseph Bugliosi,  "None Dare Call it Treason," The Nation.

Democrats.com, Floridagate, "[Documents] nearly sixty crimes committed by the Bush campaign, Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the TV networks."

Bob Fertik, "Recount Spin: First they Stole the Election, Now They are Stealing the Truth," Democrats.com. 

For Fessenden and John M. Broder, "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote," The New York Times, November 12, 2001.

Mickey Kaus, "Everything the New York Times Thinks about the Florida Recount is Wrong."

Mickey Kaus, "Update: Hot Recount Docs!"

Paul Lukasiak,
"Florida Recount Media Critique: Gore Wins, Media Lies (Yet Again)."

Robert McChesney and John Nichols, "The Making of a Movement" The Nation, January 7/14, 2002.

Doyle McManus, Bob Drugin and Richard O'Reilly, "Bush Still Had Votes to Win in a Recount, Study Finds," Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2001.

Mark Crispin Miller, The Bush Dislexicon, Norton, 2001.

Mark Crispin Miller,  "What's Wrong With This Picture?,"  , The Nation, January 7/14, 2001

The Nation, "The Big Ten," January 7/14, 2002.

Gregory Palast, "Florida's 'Disappeared Voters':  Disfranchised by the GOP," The Nation, February 5, 2001.

Robert Parry, "So, Bush Did Steal the White House," Consortium News.

Robert Parry, "Dissing Democracy," Consortium News.

Jeffrey Toobin, Too Close to Call

Gore Vidal, "Times Cries Eke!  Buries Al Gore," The Nation, December 17, 2001.

Copyright 2002 by Ernest Partridge

Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .