Dark Money Dominates Election
Campaign--and media coverage--still tainted by Citizens United decision
The Corporate Media's Attempt to Kill the Occupy Movement Monday, 07 May 2012 13:15 By Michael Corcoran and Stephen Maher, Truthout | News Analysis
"It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen." George Orwell, "1984."
This May Day brought the explosive global resurgence of Occupy, one of the most significant social movement in decades. In New York City, the heart of global capitalism and center of the movement, the New York Civil Liberties Union estimated that 30,000 demonstrators took part in a massive rally and march down Broadway, led by a score of city taxicabs. As has become alarmingly common for a country that constantly proclaims its zealous devotion to democracy, the day ended with brutal police violence and arrests.
The visible success of Occupy in creating a space for the voice of the people impelled uncontrolled thousands to pour onto the streets of New York City, Oakland, and elsewhere around the country and across the world on May Day, in the start of what US organizers have called an "American Spring." Touting its message of class solidarity--"we are the 99 percent" - Occupy has revealed the profoundly undemocratic nature of a democratic consensus expressed by corporate-sponsored political representatives, demanding direct popular involvement in areas of social and political life normally dominated by ruling class power.
The powerful rejuvenation of the Occupy movement, however, was used by the US media - owned by the very same interests that Occupy directly threatens - as an opportunity to finally kill the Occupy movement and marginalize the voices of its participants. Since September, the mainstream press in the US has systematically ignored and demonized the Occupy movement. The nakedness of the class bias in this case, however, was especially jarring: the size and significance of the protests were downplayed, reports of police brutality were largely ignored, and the movement was portrayed as violent and dangerous. Many of the most prominent US news outlets, such as The New York Times, practically ignored the protests altogether. These shameful distortions by the corporate press display the function of the media as an organ of the rule of "the 1 percent," and reveal how threatened elites are by organized, direct action and democratic participation.
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Extra! February 2012
Ignoring Monetary Stimulus as Economic Policy
U.S. media offer austerity as nonsensical solution
By Michael Corcoran
Despite this enormous amount of coverage, corporate media present only a narrow range of possible policy prescriptions for the economic crisis. While reducing entitlement spending and otherwise cutting the deficit tend to worsen economic downturns, they have been the policy solutions the mainstream media has amplified the most (Extra!, 6/10). Meanwhile, policies that are traditionally more effective for recovery are either disparaged—the treatment given to fiscal stimulus—or, when it comes to monetary stimulus, largely ignored.
This dynamic prompted Ari Berman of the Nation (10/19/11) to ask about this “central paradox in American politics over the past two years”:
The answer, Berman argued, is that the media narrative has been dominated by an “austerity class” made up of Washington pundits, politicians and think tanks with a shared interest in redirecting government finances to the corporate private sector. From the point of view of these advocates for the 1 Percent, the most effective way to revive the economy—restoring lost demand by increasing the supply of money and putting it in the hands of the poor and middle-class people most likely to spend it—is also the worst way. And so, in the corporate media discussion, monetary stimulus remains safely off the table.
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Uygur Out at MSNBC
Another progressive show canceled for political reasons
By Michael Corcoran
Uygur’s ouster represented the third time in recent years that a show hosted by someone with progressive ideals and a willingness to challenge the status quo was canceled, despite good ratings. In January of this year Keith Olbermann, well known for his public disputes with right-wing figures, was terminated by MSNBC, just after control of the channel was sold by General Electric to Comcast (Extra!, 3/11). In 2003, during the run-up to the Iraq War, Phil Donahue (one of the few elite media members to openly oppose the invasion) was taken off the air due, a leaked memo would reveal, to his antiwar views (FAIR Action Alert, 3/7/03).
Uygur, who began hosting MSNBC Live in the 6 p.m. weeknight slot in January, said he was warned before his show was cancelled by MSNBC president Phil Griffin that his aggressive style did not reflect MSNBC’s role as a reputable establishment outlet, and that he needed to “tone it down.”
“Outsiders are cool—but we’re insiders, we’re the establishment,” Uygur says Griffin told him (Salon, 7/21/11). “There are two audiences. There is the audience you are trying to appeal to, the viewers. And there is management. And management is basically the club. And they want to make sure that you are cool—can play ball with the club.”
His bosses also told him that “people in Washington were concerned about [his] tone,” Uygur said, and even sent him notes asking him to “act more like a senator.”
Ignoring this advice, Uygur saw his ratings consistently increase; his show, he said, consistently beat its 6 p.m. competition on CNN. But ratings clearly aren’t everything at MSNBC: In June his show was axed.
MSNBC took a drastic ratings hit following the removal of Olbermann, whose replacement, Lawrence O’Donnell, lost about 35 percent of the viewers in the advertiser-coveted 25-to-54 age group. The weak lead-in ratings have also hurt Rachel Maddow’s ratings at 9 p.m., which are down 15 percent, and have put the channel “on the verge of falling back into third place among the cable news networks,” the New York Times (9/27/11) reported.
Uygur was offered a reduced role as a weekend and fill-in host that would have paid him twice as much money, but he declined the offer (Democracy Now!, 7/22/11).
Griffin took issue with Uygur’s account, telling the New York Times that (7/20/11) “we never told Cenk what to say or what not to say.” (Uygur acknowledges that he was never directly censored, just pressured to conform.) But in the same article, Griffin acknowledged he did, as Uygur alleged, reference “people in Washington” having negative views of the show.
“The ‘people in Washington,’ [Griffin] said, were MSNBC producers who were responsible for booking guests for the 6 p.m. hour, and some of them had said that Mr. Uygur’s aggressive body language and overall demeanor were making it harder to book guests.”
But given MSNBC’s past record in similar instances, Uygur’s accusations seem quite plausible. After Donahue’s show was canceled in 2003, a network memo leaked out (FAIR Action Alert, 3/7/03) saying the host’s antiwar views presented a “difficult public face for NBC in a time of war.... He seems to delight in presenting guests who are antiwar, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.” The show, the memo said, could become “a home for the liberal antiwar agenda at the same time that our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.”
Olbermann’s firing came just after NBC was purchased by Comcast (Extra, 3/11). The host had come to represent the channel’s reputation as the most liberal option on cable news. He had long drawn the ire of the corporate executives he answers to at NBC, and a few months before his firing, he was briefly suspended for making political donations to guests (Guardian, 11/5/10). Olbermann had also raised hackles at the network for his constant spars with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, which prompted Fox News and NBC officials to attempt to muzzle their stars from further back-and-forth attacks (FAIR Action Alert, 8/7/09).
Fears that Comcast—whose executives have prominently donated large amounts to conservative campaigns and causes—would make the network even more inhospitable to progressive voices have hardly been allayed by Uygur’s cancellation. As Lee Fang of Think Progress (11/5/10) reports, Comcast also has a motive for avoiding antagonizing the incumbent administration:
Unlike Donahue, Uygur could not be accused of promoting a “liberal antiwar agenda”; he supported the Afghan War until very recently (Huffington Post, 12/1/09) and supported Obama’s decision to bomb Libya as part of a NATO campaign (Truthout, 6/3/11).
Uygur was, however, frequently quite critical of Obama, especially in his dealings with Republicans on economic and environmental issues. Before being given his own show, he suggested that Obama was either “the world’s worst negotiator” or might actually “not be a progressive” (Dylan Ratigan Show,12/8/10). When the White House lashed out at progressives who were critical of the administration in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, saying they were “irresponsible,” Uygur responded angrily, saying Obama lives “in a bubble in D.C. where you try to please all your Washington buddies, the right-wingers and the media” (Early Morning Swim, 9/29/10), and accused him of trying to “scapegoat his own base” for a poor showing in 2010.
As a full-time host, he continued his attacks on Obama. Uygur said Obama passed a weak financial regulation bill in June because he didn’t want “to offend the Wall Street guys,” in part because he “takes their money” (MSNBC Live, 6/2/11). He also criticized the president for legitimizing Bush administration surveillance tactics, such as the warrantless wiretapping program (MSNBC Live, 6/2/11): “As a former constitutional law professor, he should be embarrassed of that decision. That program basically destroys the Fourth Amendment.”
Could Comcast have been unsettled by such critiques from the left? Former presidential candidate Al Sharpton, who replaced Uygur, recently vowed “not to criticize the president about anything” in an interview with 60 Minutes (5/19/11). The segment also noted that Sharpton was now “a trusted White House adviser” and that “given his loyalty and his change from confrontational to accommodating, the administration is rewarding him with access and assignments.”
Interestingly, Current TV, which hired Olbermann earlier this year to host a nightly news program, has recently hired Uygur to bring his popular Internet show, the Young Turks, to cable TV (Current TV, 9/20/11). While the young channel has only a tiny fraction of the audience that MSNBC gets, its willingness to collect talentMSNBC deems too anti-establishment could steal away some of the very viewers the psuedo-left channel is trying to target.
Michael Corcoran (MichaelCorcoran.blog spot.com), a freelance journalist based in Boston, writes frequently for Extra!, as well as for such outlets as the Nation and the Boston Globe.
An Occupy Wall Street protester is detained following an attempt to re-enter Zuccotti Park, in New York on November 15, 2011. Hundreds of police officers arrested about 200 demonstrators early Tuesday in an operation to clear the nearly two-month-old camp. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)
City officials in Burlington, Vermont, recently used the suicide of a 35-year-old man as an excuse to deceptively close down the occupation. In New York City, just this morning, police threatened arrest to anyone who did not clear Zuccotti Park - the birthplace of the Occupy movement. Across the nation the media, right-wing critics and city officials are wrongly blaming Occupy for seemingly any crime or incident that occurs anywhere in their respective cities in an especially sinister smear campaign that aims to discredit and ultimately try to destroy the movement. Other occupations are in jeopardy of being shut down by the police. Organizers and supporters must act bravely and quickly to save - and expand - this movement as we head into the dead of winter.
A new and vicious smear campaign against the Occupy movement is in full swing. The narrative of this campaign is to portray the movement as a hotbed for violent crime and danger. This false narrative, if it sticks, could prompt more city and town officials across the country to shut down occupations, as the City of New York has attempted to do just this morning, and weaken the movement. This cannot be tolerated.
The full picture of the smear campaign became evident to me when I received a message on a social networking site from a right-wing relative of mine. His message linked to a right-wing smear site  that, citing the suicide of a 35-year-old homeless man in Vermont among other things, painted the occupations as one of "sexual assault, violence, vandalism, anti-Semitism, extortion, perversion and lawlessness."
My relative and many of his right-wing comrades, it seems, really believe that the Occupy movement is in favor of murder, violence, rape and drug dealing. This is rather astounding, but it is also the reality of how far beneath contempt the opponents of Occupy are willing to go to kill this movement. The mention of "sexual assaults" is especially slimy, given that it was a protester from Occupy Wall Street  who was the victim, not the perpetrator, of an alleged rape and her fellow protesters assisted her with medical and legal help and reported the alleged rapist to authorities.
It is fascinating - as well as scary - to see the way attacks on Occupy have evolved since it first started in late September. Originally, the media coverage and the right-wing attacksattempted to portray the protesters  as aimless, lazy, hippie freeloaders, who were fornicating and defecating on the streets, while banging on drums and rambling about nonsense. This caricature did not work, as the support and diversity that make up the movement and its supporters were just too obviously different from the cartoonish portrayal the movement's critics tried to paint. As Bill Maher rightly said on his HBO show "Real Time," "Occupy is not the counterculture. It is the culture ."
But, now, this new and far more sinister smear campaign is well underway. The corporate media, right-wing critics and city and town officials are trying to blame the protests for virtually any and all crime that has occurred on or near the encampments. The headlines in the media outlets - which are owned by corporations  that make up the 1 percent in most instances - continue to amplify these narratives and push for the closing of the occupations. The vast majority of these crimes and incidents have nothing to do with the Occupy movement; in fact, many of them speak more about the major social and economic injustices the protesters are trying to end. But that has not stopped city officials from trying to use these instances to stop the occupations. The occupation in Burlington, Vermont, has already been shut down. Occupy Oakland has been shut down twice. Zuccotti Park, the birthplace of the movement, is being cleared out by police as I write this . And if the false narratives continue, other occupations - and the strength of the movement - could be in jeopardy.
This is now a crucial moment for the Occupy movement. How organizers and supporters proceed in the next few days may well shape the health and survival of the movement heading through the winter and into the spring. It is absolutely essential that Occupy organizers and supporters (including independent media) work aggressively to: 1) counter the false narrative that tries to, absurdly, link the movement to street violence, rapes and drugs deals, in order to discredit the movement; 2) better explain the relationship between the homeless and the Occupy movement, as the media has portrayed the relationship between organizers and the homeless as vitriolic and divisive, while understating the spirit of acceptance and cooperation between activists and the homeless - themselves products of our unjust economic system; and 3) most importantly, the movement must continue tomaintain the occupations, even in the face of crackdowns from city officials and police. This movement is the single most exciting development in decades for the prospects for creating a more just society. It must continue.
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