Presidential Politics 2008
23 April 2008
The 41 signers of an open letter denouncing ABC's farcical conduct during the most recent presidential debate may have thought they were doing the right thing - but they managed to send the wrong message. Although there is no doubt that George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson made fools of themselves and their corporate employers in the "worst" debate of the season, the signers failed to place last week's televised travesty in the context of the rapid extinction of any semblance of professional journalism among corporate media. In expressing hope that corporate media will "return to serious journalism" during the general election debates, the letter gives the impression that last week's debacle was an aberration - when, in fact, nonsense and lies posing as "news" has become the norm.
Corporate Reporters Tell Lies for a Living
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
About 40 journalists, drawn largely from the left-liberal section of the U.S. and British press spectrum, posted an open letter denouncing ABC's "revolting descent into tabloid journalism" during last week's televised presidential debate. George Stephanopoulos' and Charles Gibson's "gotcha" questions to the candidates were "a disgrace," wrote the signers - "the worst" of this campaign season.
All this is, of course, true. American corporate so-called "journalism" some time ago crossed the line separating that which is less than useful and outright disinformation. For nearly the entirety of the first hour of the debate, Gibson and Stephanopoulos wallowed in a sick caricature of journalism that should be preserved for use as future evidence when corporate propagandists will finally be punished for their crimes against reality - with additional penalties levied for inducing cruel and unusually excessive boredom. However, the 40 complainants, while deploring "ABC's miserable showing," gave corporate so-called journalism in general far too much credit for veracity, creating the impression that ABC's oafs, Gibson and Stephanopoulos, represented a qualitative deviation from the otherwise high standards of the moneyed media. The signers hope that their letter and "the public uproar...will encourage a return to serious journalism in debates between the Democratic and Republican nominees this fall."
Unfortunately, such hopes are unfounded, since you can't return where you've never been. Pretending that corporate media routinely engage in "serious journalism," only occasionally marred by failure to "serve the public interest," is itself a distortion of the historical record. Gibson and Stephanopoulos are pure products of the corporate disinformation machinery, well-paid and well-trained. They are, if anything, too loyal to their mission: to frame, and if necessary make up, a reality most favorable to the corporate class.
Witness the corporate media's enthusiastic complicity in the genesis of every U.S. war of the "television age." George Bush and his gang didn't fool the American people into believing Saddam Hussein posed a deadly threat to the United States - that's beyond the capacity of mass communications amateurs like Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and G.W. No, it was the constant corporate media megaphone that so expertly herded the public into the corrals of delusion and death. There's a huge section in the dock of future Nuremberg trials reserved for corporate shapers of false realities that lead to the death of millions.
So successful have the media giants been in inventing facts and foisting on the public false scenarios, they have lately taken the logical step of fashioning the circumstances of political campaigns out of whole cloth. Why fiddle around on the edges of fiction, when you can concoct the whole show?
Has everyone forgotten the "serious journalism" that invented Howard Dean's "unelectability" issue in the 2004 campaign? As I reported in Black Commentator four years ago, there was literally no evidence that Dean would fare any differently than the two other "top tier" Democrats in a general election campaign against George Bush. In mid-December 2003, with Dean surging in the polls, a Newsweek survey found that "Dean, [John] Kerry and [Wesley] Clark were doing equally in a match-up with George Bush, at 40, 41, and 41 percent, respectively. There was no statistical basis to single out Dean as unelectable." But that's exactly what the mega-media chorus did, belting out in unison the unsubstantiated song that Dean was a general election loser. Democratic voters took the corporate media's declaration at face value and, desiring above all else to defeat Bush, abandoned Dean in droves.
By mid-January, Dean had lost half his popular support, frightened away by the corporate media's bald-faced lies about his "unelectability." The corporate press, acting in shameless concert, threw the Democratic nomination to John Kerry.
"ABC was among the most aggressive of the corporate commissars."
In both 2004 and 2008, the corporate media guaranteed that the Democratic primary contests would be conducted along the narrowest of ideological lines by ultimately banning the "left" from participation. During both cycles, ABC was among the most aggressive of the corporate commissars. The network's two top news money-makers, Ted Koppel of Nightline and the now-deceased evening news anchor Peter Jennings, relentlessly bullied "bottom tier" candidates Carol Moseley-Braun, Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. Dennis Kucinich to leave the field. Koppel singled out Kucinich for abuse:
"You've got about $750,000 in the bank right now, and that's close to nothing when you're coming up against this kind of opposition. But let me finish the question. The question is, will there come a point when polls, money and then ultimately the actual votes that will take place here in places like New Hampshire, the caucuses in Iowa, will there come a point when we can expect one or more of the three of you to drop out? Or are you in this as sort of a vanity candidacy?"
Serious journalists? More like determined thought police. "The day after the debate," as I wrote in January 2004, "ABC withdrew its reporters from all three campaigns."
Kucinich was ultimately banished from the 2008 race as well, while the networks currently pretend that the candidacies of Ralph Nader and former Rep. Cynthia McKinney do not exist.
The U.S. corporate media do their misinformation and censorship jobs so well, even establishment outfits like the Pew Research Center consistently note that Americans view the world vastly differently than Earthlings outside the U.S. corporate media bubble. Journalism has, in some respects, ceased to exist as a readily available commodity in the United States, thanks largely to the "serious journalism" practiced by corporations. Stephanopoulos and Gibson are not aberrations - they are models of corporate media merit. It does the truth no service to pretend otherwise, as did the signers of the recent debate complaint letter.