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
"Post-Modern Politics" and Eric Boehlert's
"The Press vs. Al
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
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
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
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
Ten," and the articles in that issue
and Nichols, and by
Crispin Miller. See also, pages 60-76 and 259-276 of Miller's
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
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
And the people responsible for these radical betrayals of our founding
political principles and heritage, dare to call themselves
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
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
We enumerate these "resources" in our March (2003) editorial:
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"):
(Collected Comments on Bush v. Gore).
Day of Infamy: Bush v. Gore
The Hijacked Election
The Myth of "The Liberal Media"
"The Press vs. Al
Gore: How Lazy Reporting Cost Him the Election," Rolling Stone, November 28, 2001.
Dare Call it Treason," The Nation.
Floridagate, "[Documents] nearly sixty crimes committed by the Bush campaign, Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the TV networks."
"Recount Spin: First they Stole the Election, Now They are Stealing the Truth,"
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.
"Everything the New York Times Thinks about the Florida Recount is Wrong."
"Update: Hot Recount Docs!"
"Florida Recount Media Critique: Gore Wins, Media Lies (Yet Again)."
Robert McChesney and John Nichols,
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,
Wrong With This Picture?," , The Nation, January
Ten," January 7/14, 2002.
'Disappeared Voters': Disfranchised by the GOP," The
Nation, February 5, 2001.
"So, Bush Did Steal the White House," Consortium News.
Democracy," Consortium News.
Jeffrey Toobin, Too Close to Call
Cries Eke! Buries Al Gore," The Nation, December
Copyright 2002 by Ernest Partridge