Friday, March 20, 2015

Government subsidizes Fox war on Media Matters

You may have noticed that Fox news has been conducting a massive propaganda assault on Media Matters for criticizing Fox and they claim that Media Matters is fighting a war with tax payer subsidies. This is partially true apparently; however they fail to mention that Fox news is also fighting this propaganda war with the assistance of much larger tax payer subsidies. Media Matter first came to my attention from Robert McChesney author of several books about “The Problem With the Media” and “Rich Media Poor Democracy,” etc. Many of the things he wrote were also confirmed by several other authors including Ben Bagdikian and Eric Klinenberg. McChesney is also the co-founder of Free Press which is apparently associated with Media Matters.

Some of the basic reporting on the problem with the media involves the consolidation of the Mass Media which has been taking place over the past several decades. This has been occurring with the support of the government which was run by politicians that have been collecting an enormous amount of money from corporations including Mass Media corporations. With or without a “Quid Quo Pro” the government has been passing one law after another to benefit the people who coincidently also happen to donate to their campaigns. This includes many members of the Mass Media including, of course Fox News. In return for their contributions, or perhaps coincidently they have passed laws that enable the Mass Media to consolidate so that a very small percentage of the public has complete control over the majority of the Media that is presented to the public. In addition to this at times when some small community organizations have attempted to provide what they call micro-radio that uses the unused spectrum that is left behind the government passed legislation that would prevent them from doing so. In return for the monopoly rights to massive media spectrum the government and the public gets….nothing. That is right this is a massive give away or corporate subsidy or welfare for the Mass Media that is given away for free, well almost for free maybe. The Mass Media doesn’t have to pay the government anything nor are they required to give anyone they don’t approve of access to the Mass Media however they do give a massive amount of campaign contributions, which they don’t refer to as bribes to the government.

Not only is this a massive subsidy but it should also be considered a blatant violation of the first amendment! When they give one small segment of society a massive advantage to both free speech and free press while shutting out the vast majority of the public they are clearly violating the core principles of democracy. This is one of the things that sincere critics of the media including McChesney and as far as I can tell Media Matters have been trying to stand up to. McChesney has openly called for subsidies to the press so that the majority of the public could have equal access to the press from many different points of view. The reason for this is that without some regulation those with the most money can dominate the system and drown out the voices of the vast majority; which is what is happening now. The subsidies he recommends aren’t designed to favor one point of view they’re intended to even the playing field and give everyone an equal chance to get their point across; assuming it is done right. He has not attempted to deny this by accepting one subsidy without admitting it and demonizing a much smaller subsidy by people that disagree. McChesney and others from his organization have been open to allowing others to have equal access to get their points of view across; what they’ve been objecting to is those that have been attempting to dominate the Mass Media and use their control of it to spread an enormous amount of misinformation to the public that has often gone unchecked to a large segment of society. There have been an enormous amount of much lower profile efforts to debunk an enormous amount of misinformation that has been provided by all the Mass Media outlets, not just Fox; however these efforts have gone unnoticed by the majority of the public since they have no way to get their message across the way the Mass Media does. In many cases they’re relying on grass roots help from sincere people that access the information they get from these organizations and spread it to others that aren’t inclined to listen to other sources.

I have often thought that a lot of this is extremely foolish due to a common old adage “never argue with a fool; no one will be able to tell which is which.” My opinion has often been that Glen Beck is so absurd that only the biggest fool would possibly believe anything that he says, unless they had confirmation from another reliable source or they could confirm accurate principles independently. Many people have given into the temptation to believe that if someone like Beck says something therefore it must be wrong; a problem with this is it is extremely hard to be wrong all the time; even Glen Beck can’t do this. Another problem with this is the fact that demagogues often lure people in with accurate statements that lead them to believe package deals full of misinformation. This doesn’t mean Beck or other members of the Fox crew have any credibility, of course but it would be foolish to jump to the other extreme and when arguing with fools the greatest demagogue often wins; especially if the audience is predisposed to believe the superstition they’re promoting any way.

However my belief in just ignoring this clearly isn’t adequate since there are many people who haven’t been taught from birth to sort through many of these details; instead they’ve been taught to believe what they’re told from the appropriate leaders so it clearly isn’t good enough to ignore fools like Beck and Fox any more than it good enough to ignore Hitler. Therefore there should be a massive effort to debunk the propaganda that is being put out by these fools in the most effective way possible. This can’t be done quickly since that has been what has got us into this mess in the first place. The Mass Media has been inventing an enormous amount of quick sound bites that they use to promote their agenda and repeating it over and over again without rational scrutiny. The most effective way to refute this presumably involves presenting the true basic facts and repeating them over and over again; and in addition to that an effort needs to be made to present the more complex details that may take more time. This party can’t be repeated over and over again since it takes too much time; instead the public needs to spend more time to learn how to sort through the details.

Ironically the extremes that Fox has been going to has enabled many of the more rational people to see how corrupt they are; however without a good alternative many of them may turn to other media outlets that are only slightly less rational that are also controlled by the same corporations that have been corrupting the political process. One of the most insidious examples of this right now may be MSNBC which often raises many good points when and only when it suits their own purposes. It may actually be more important to remind people that they are also being controlled by the corporations and they should be viewed with skepticism. In many cases like Rachel Maddow’s recent sound bite about how unrelated topics that divide the country may be good politics but they’re “really bad for the country,” they have very good points that should be accepted at face value but there have been many times where they have also spread disinformation as well or distracted the public from more important issues. If the majority of the public is forced to rely either on the most extreme media outlets like Fox or the more moderate outlets like MSNBC then they may not have access to many of the most important points of view that aren’t being presented by the corporations; which is why we need more media outlets not less. This is a good reason to continue to encourage other outlets like Media Matters even if they don’t agree with the most fanatical outlet. In fact especially if they correct the massive amount of misinformation that Fox is putting out since we have a large need for this.

Fox has resorted to relying on what they call an expert on psychology, Keith Ablow, who has attempted to make it appear as if David Brock is a narcissist that will do whqat5 it takes to get attention and approval. They claim that he did the same thing when he was previously a conservative and he was in agreement with people that Fox represents. I don’t know much about David Brock personally but this would be far more credible if it actually involved some investigation and it wasn’t being done by someone with an axe to grind against Media Matters. Also even if this were true, which I doubt, it wouldn’t change the fact that many of the issues that Fox addresses are routinely distorted and organizations like Media Matters go to a lot of trouble to debunk them and show the work behind their debunking. Any attempt to refute the debunking without actually addressing the sources and facts that Media Matters presents should be considered suspect. Fox is clearly using many of the same manipulation tactics to refute Media Matters that they routinely use to present what they call “fair and balanced news.”

Unfortunately for many people these inconvenient facts may not matter though. A large segment of the audience for Fox is essentially a bunch of cult followers that don’t know how to check facts and routinely trust the appropriate leaders. Also, a large segment of those in power work with, or for, the same corporations that are taking advantage of the propaganda that Fox is putting out. They have something to gain by allowing Fox to conduct business as usual. Even MSNBC gains by it since they can receive credit for providing the highest profile debunking which enables them to appear to be the “good guys,” and sell more advertising and avoid addressing many of the most important issues that the corporations don’t want to address.

Therefore this may be enough for the politicians to provide what they call justification to withdraw tax exempt status for Media Matters. This will especially true if Fox News can convince enough of their cult followers to call in and complain as they’re trying to do. If this succeeds then the current mess with the Mass Media will get even worse. On the plus side they’re giving Media Matters much more attention than they received before. They were previously unknown by a large segment of the population that isn’t inclined to do their research in the right places. Also there are many people who clearly see that Fox is incredibly biased and this will increase awareness of the fact that Media Matters and others are standing up to them. Unfortunately many of them may not be as inclined to act on their beliefs. If the majority of the public that is more capable of thinking rationally remains complacent then the most fanatical segment of the political community will continue to gain additional control. If more people speak out on this issue then perhaps this can be changed.

Also this may be a good time for anyone that is so inclined to donate to media Matters while it is still tax except. There may not be a guarantee that people will be able to take advantage of the tax exception although there should be. It would be highly unethical to withdraw the tax except status retroactively if at all; however the current group of politicians routinely acts in such an unethical and undemocratic manner so that doesn’t mean anything. It may still be a good time to donate if people are so inclined for different reasons; if they do withdraw the exemption it would be best to donate while it is still except or if they can’t claim it they can have another issue to argue about the corruption of the government when educating the public in the future.

This is clear evidence that we need Election Reform that enables the public to control the election process and interview the candidates of their choice and choose people who actually address the most important issues. We also need many more Media outlets that cover different issues and they should have much better access to the Mass Media. The current mass Media shouldn’t be allowed monopoly rights over who gets to address the vast majority of the public. In fact they should be required to give many other organizations fair time in return for their rights to spectrum which are given to them from the government; assuming they should get those rights at all. Perhaps the current mass media shouldn’t get those rights at all since they’ve been so corrupt; in that case then other organizations should get them and the current Mass Media should have no more rights to free speech and press than the majority of the other organizations. This doesn’t mean they should be deprived of their right to free speech or free press; just that they should no longer be allowed to deprive others of this right.

On an unrelated note, I thought it would be worth mentioning a Rachel Maddow report from last night that is worth some attention as well. It is about Humberto Leal, Jr who was executed last night in violation of the Vienna treaty which requires the USA and other countries to provide council for foreign citizens. This wasn’t done and now when US citizens need help if they’re wrongly accused in other countries they won’t be able to count on the high ground when the USA attempts to help them. This is another example of the USA acting as if they have no obligation to the rest of the world but the rest of the world should respect their rights. This will come at a cost in the long run. This was also reported on a blog by Execution Watch located in Austin Texas.

For additional articles on Fox’s government subsidized war on Media Matters see the followin:

(For more information on Blog see Blog description and table of context for most older posts.)

The following are the original replies when this was first posted on Open Salon.

Chris Matthews touched on this subject yesterday. I'm no longer sure I live in a democracy.

Sarah Cavanaugh July 08, 2011 01:10 PM

I caught part of that; I don't think it was too bad as far as Mathews goes but he's no prize either.

This isn't a democracy and it won't be as long as the public remains complacent. the corporations decide which candidates are viable and they don't inform the public about the sincere ones so they only have a chance in a handful of local elections where they can reach the public. Bernie Sanders may be the rare exception; however the vast majority of sincere candidates can't get past corporate vetoes of those that won't go along with the corporate agenda.

On the plus side we do live in a society where the public can change this and implement election reform if they're not complacent.

zacherydtaylor July 08, 2011 01:30 PM

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