The Price of Media Corruption

by William Skink

What the media reports on, and how it is reported, has been the subject of a few local posts worth looking at. Last Best News has this anecdotal story reminding LBN readers why newspapers still matter, while Intelligent Discontent’s main blogger throws another tantrum regarding the ease in which the MT GOP can exploit the media to engage in a political hit-piece against Bullock. The title of that post includes a naughty word, so you know that blogger means business.

The sorry state of our media is a very serious problem. To understand this problem it might help going back 20 years, when the Clinton regime paved the way for corporate consolidation with the telecommunication act, passed in 1996. Here is a portion of a Truthout piece examining this sad Democratic legacy:

Twenty years ago this week, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The act, signed into law on February 8, 1996, was “essentially bought and paid for by corporate media lobbies,” as Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) described it, and radically “opened the floodgates on mergers.”

The negative impact of the law cannot be overstated. The law, which was the first major reform of telecommunications policy since 1934, according to media scholar Robert McChesney, “is widely considered to be one of the three or four most important federal laws of this generation.” The act dramatically reduced important Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations on cross ownership, and allowed giant corporations to buy up thousands of media outlets across the country, increasing their monopoly on the flow of information in the United States and around the world.

“Never have so many been held incommunicado by so few,” said Eduardo Galeano, the Latin American journalist, in response to the act.

Twenty years later the devastating impact of the legislation is undeniable: About 90 percent of the country’s major media companies are owned by six corporations. Bill Clinton’s legacy in empowering the consolidation of corporate media is right up there with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and welfare reform, as being among the most tragic and destructive policies of his administration.

Yep, and despite the persistent tantrums from a partisan blogger who doesn’t like how his candidate is being treated by corporate media, candidates like Hillary Clinton do benefit from this corrupted media landscape:

Hillary Clinton’s supporters often argue that mainstream political reporters are incapable of covering her positively—or even fairly. While it may be true that the political press doesn’t always write exactly what Clinton would like, emails recently obtained by Gawker offer a case study in how her prodigious and sophisticated press operation manipulates reporters into amplifying her desired message—in this case, down to the very word that The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder used to describe an important policy speech.

The emails in question, which were exchanged by Ambinder, then serving as The Atlantic’s politics editor, and Philippe Reines, Clinton’s notoriously combative spokesman and consigliere, turned up thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request we filed in 2012 (and which we are currently suing the State Department over). The same request previously revealed that Politico’s chief White House correspondent, Mike Allen, promised to deliver positive coverage of Chelsea Clinton, and, in a separate exchange, permitted Reines to ghost-write an item about the State Department for Politico’s Playbook newsletter. Ambinder’s emails with Reines demonstrate the same kind of transactional reporting, albeit to a much more legible degree: In them, you can see Reines “blackmailing” Ambinder into describing a Clinton speech as “muscular” in exchange for early access to the transcript. In other words, Ambinder outsourced his editorial judgment about the speech to a member of Clinton’s own staff.

While bashing Lee Newspapers is a perennial endeavor for some partisan bloggers, the broader implications of media corruption are not given the proper context. Instead, those of us who value alternative media have been the subject of ridicule from those same bloggers who throw tantrums when they feel their candidate is being treated unfairly.

Counterpunch is one of those media outlets that I have come to rely on, and that reliance has been a point of contention with a few commenters in past posts (on past sites). But Counterpunch has been incredibly important for me when it comes to understanding what is happening in the world.

When you understand how corrupt our corporate media landscape has become, relying on it would be irresponsible, because it might lead you to make wild claims, like the one made five years ago by Don Pogreba regarding the intervention in Libya being another example of rational humanitarian foreign policy. No, it was not, and five years later we can assess how wrong this statement now appears, in hindsight:

In the end, the US and NATO did an admirable job. They used a relatively inexpensive mission which gave the rebels breathing room in which they could defend themselves against a despot. And then the people of Libya did the rest. We can’t know what kind of government or future Libya will have, but I think we can be sure that it will be better than the past two generations.

Geez, who could have anticipated that regime change in Libya would create a vacuum of power that jihadists and extremists would exploit, necessitating more military scheming from the Pentagon and more American tax dollars used to intervene, again? Certainly not some lowly blogger relying on alternative media sources for his information, right?

Well, thanks again to Counterpunch, those of us who claimed back then that humanitarianism had nothing to do with enacting regime change in Libya can now point to conclusive evidence from Hillary Clinton’s emails that this sociopathic architect of Libya’s destruction knew what motivated France to join the destructive melee in Libya, which we now know unleashed chaos and created a safe haven for ISIS. Here is Ellen Brown exposing the Libyan agenda with a closer look at Hillary’s emails:

Of the 3,000 emails released from Hillary Clinton’s private email server in late December 2015, about a third were from her close confidante Sidney Blumenthal, the attorney who defended her husband in the Monica Lewinsky case. One of these emails, dated April 2, 2011, reads in part:

Qaddafi’s government holds 143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver . . . . This gold was accumulated prior to the current rebellion and was intended to be used to establish a pan-African currency based on the Libyan golden Dinar. This plan was designed to provide the Francophone African Countries with an alternative to the French franc (CFA).

In a “source comment,” the original declassified email adds:

According to knowledgeable individuals this quantity of gold and silver is valued at more than $7 billion. French intelligence officers discovered this plan shortly after the current rebellion began, and this was one of the factors that influenced President Nicolas Sarkozy’s decision to commit France to the attack on Libya. According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues:

1 A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production,

2 Increase French influence in North Africa,

3 Improve his internal political situation in France,

4 Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world,

5 Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa

Conspicuously absent is any mention of humanitarian concerns. The objectives are money, power and oil.

When it comes to media corruption, what is more damaging, a local story that criticizes the Governor of Montana or a corporate media campaign to mislead the American people into thinking that monsters like Hillary Clinton have humanitarian reasons for destroying sovereign nations like Libya?

I think the answer can be found in the fact that Hillary Clinton is running for president instead of standing trial at the Hague.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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33 Responses to The Price of Media Corruption

  1. Matthew Koehler says:

    Another solid post William Skink. Thank you. I always seem to learn a bunch about foreign policy in your posts, and I like how you tie things back together, even though at first glance they might not seem connected. Please keep writing.

    The ID blog has never once expressed concern about the many puff pieces written from staged political or campaign events of Dem Party politicians. But it seems as if ID takes aim at the media nearly every time they write a similar article about a GOP politician. I have to wonder how the reporters at the Lee papers in Montana, for example, feel about ID’s partisan media coverage obsession, and if that partisan obsession may actually have the opposite intended impact. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

    Same with the Gov’s Chief of Staff going after the reporter here: “The governor’s chief of staff, Tracy Stone Manning, said The Gazette’s coverage of the governor’s plane use seemed like a ‘hit piece,’ driven by Republican accusations. Stone Manning suggested The Gazette spend a few weeks researching the issue before publishing an article.”

    Former Lee newspaper reporter Chuck Johnson was interviewed about the Gov’s plane use and he offered up his insights based on his years covering MT politics and lots of different governors. Seems to me, that Gov Bullock’s plane use – and especially just having the Montana taxpayers pick up the full bill, is outside the norms of what past Governors, both D’s and R’s, have done. So, hence the relevance of the story, eh?

    People should just that interview a listen here:

    And here’s the MTPR write up about what Chuck said: “Republicans are criticizing Bullock for flying to campaign fundraising events held the same days as events that are part of his official duties. They question whether taxpayers should be footing the bill for the flights. Chuck Johnson points out some past governors – both democrat and republican – have paid for part or all of such flights out of their campaign coffers.”

    • JC says:

      My dad flew the state plane for 5 different governors. He always said that if there was a campaign event that the state would expect to be reimbursed by the campaign for the cost of what a commercial transit would have been.

      He also said that he judged a governor’s character by whether or not he cheated at cards while flying. I’d bet Bullock cheats at cards, and everybody around him lets him get away with it. If I were Bullock, I’d pay the state back for the price of a commercial transit, and say “mea culpa.”

      • JC – For those who are not familiar, here is the questionnaire that Pogie uses for vetting office holders:

        1. Are you a Democrat? (If yes, just sign and return. You passed.)

    • Bob Williams says:

      William S., Thanks for best MT online journalism piece i’ve viewed this week! Could also be said that the ’96 Act, after voided Fairness Doctrine, paved the way for media profiteeringb
      by showcasing Don Dtrumph.

  2. steve kelly says:

    Perpetual, global war/chaos tolerates no national sovereignty, no sovereignty of any kind. A state is a vassal state, or it is an enemy of Empire. Dems and Repubs submit like any other organization or face extinction. Ultimately there are no exceptions. The next financial meltdown and major war may be closer than we think. Is there a peace candidate for president allowed to speak to citizens on national media? Case closed.

  3. The Telecommunciations Act was passed well into the post-Watergate period where Congress had ceased to function, the presidency was an empty vessel, and industry was writing its own legislation, the job of Congress reduced to pretend-debating and Kabuki dancing prior to to passing it as handed to them. Thus the ’96 Act, thus Obamacare. Clinton was responsible for the ’96 Act in the same vein as it might be said that the high school student council is in responsible for curriculum and tuition.

    However, regarding media, I cannot help but note in my reading how there never seems to have been a time when it was free and unfettered and reported honestly. Many people like to point to 1947 and CIA’s “Mighty Wurlitzer” or Colby supposedly saying that CIA owns every important voice but media has been corrupt since time immemorial, for as long as we have had ownership by oligarchs. We have always had to turn to rags and “disreputable” sources to learn anything true.

  4. Clinton was only the second person in the tag team. Reagan got rid of the Fairness Doctrine in the 80’s. What happened? As the Fairness Doctrine died and Infotainment became a substitute for actual factual news, when TV anchors and reporters seriously and without reservation, held all- the powerless AND the powerful accountable, just SIX Corporations own and control of over 90% of all media on television and in print.

    Walt Disney Co.
    Time Warner
    CBS Corp.
    (and of course) The GOP’s very own 24/7 Propaganda arm, News Corp-Fox “News.” it must be in the air or something.

  5. Eric says:

    The part that’s wrong about Pogies tantrum, is that the GAZETTE is notoriously liberal. For them to actually print a negative piece about a Dem candidate can only mean one thing – GUILTY and not getting away with it.

  6. Big Swede says:

    I’m confident that the pre-80’s news cabal would have been all over this story.

    “Hillary Clinton defended on Monday her push for regime change in Libya while she served as secretary of state, telling MSNBC’s Chris Matthews the U.S. “didn’t lose a single person” in the north African country.

    But the Democratic presidential candidate appears to have forgotten about the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks that left dead Ambassador Chris Stevens, State Department information officer Sean Smith and former Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.”

    Read more:

  7. steve kelly says:

    “Imagine calling yourself a journalist, and then — as you watch an authoritarian politician get closer to power by threatening and unleashing violence and stoking the ugliest impulses — denouncing not that politician, but rather other journalists who warn of the dangers. That is the embodiment of the ethos of corporate journalism in America, and a potent illustration of why its fetishized reverence for “objectivity” is so rotted and even dangerous.” – Glenn Greenwald

  8. One can practically feel the foundations of neoliberal capitalism shake after this mighty post.

    • JC says:

      Do you think Che’s unpublished “Motorcycle Diaries” did much to shake “the foundations of neoliberal capitalism” during his lifetime? Would they have shaken the foundations if they had been published right after he wrote them?

      I don’t know about you, but I like to encourage people who write about the failures of neoliberal capitalism. You never know from whence the next Che will come. Of course, that assumes one appreciates the literary bounty of Che, and others who look out for the “little people.”

      • Big Swede says:

        Che’s motorcycle broke down before he made to the next border so the rest of the trip was in boats and cars.

        He also died a coward, begging for mercy. Little defenseless people were often his victims.

        Hoping the new Che stops by my place first.

        • JC says:

          Died a coward? More like he was assassinated by the CIA, or a CIA-backed Bolivian military forces. Little defenseless people? Really??? Revolution is dirty business, whether it is a color revolution by the CIA which can kill millions, or a CIA-backed sniper taking out some cops in Ukraine.

          It’s easy for you to beat up on Che, but my point still stands that his early writings would have shaken the neoliberal capitalist world if they had been printed while he was alive.

          One should not ridicule a writer’s words, not knowing what the future will bring. I particularly think that Don understands the notion of encouraging writers to write, and not ridicule them. It may be hard being the focus of sarcasm and criticism, but he should take it with a dose of pride tempered with some humility that his writings are even referred to.

          What is worse is to be ignored for being irrelevant.

        • Big Swede says:

          “One should not ridicule a writers words”, a Che quote perhaps? Che hated freedom of speech, one of these top five.

          Do you doubt my resolve?

        • JC says:

          You worried about freedom of speech? The U.S. slipped to #49 out of 180 countries, behind such stand up places like El Salvador, Chile, Ghana and Uruguay. So says Reporters Without Borders.

          Revolution is messy business. No wonder your resolve is so strong, and you are so afraid of it.

        • Big Swede says:

          Only 12 countries worse than Cuba.

      • Yeah, this blog is comparable to Che Guevara, both in terms of insight and impact.

        • this blog didn’t run for Governor in 2008, although that would be more practical vs. delusional if you were “in” on that quirk of MT politics, as reported by logicosity:

          In 2008, Don Pogreba and Jason Neiffer, two Helena-area high school teachers, stepped forward to assist the Schweitzer-Bohlinger ticket when it sought re-election. Ironically, they weren’t needed as shills. At the last moment, another, more legitimate ticket, Bill Fischer and Steve White, both from the Flathead, for the D nomination

        • JC says:

          Stop with the mental health BS, Don, or you’ll unleash another blog war, not unlike the last. I was being nice. I really had a lot stronger comment to you that I toned down.

        • Matthew Koehler says:

          Once again it’s strange to me that someone employed as a public school English teacher would go to such lengths to 1) make fun of people’s writing and 2) Flippantly and passive-aggressively raise mental health issues (which is certain a serious public health crisis in America).

    • You continue to impress Don. This is your milieu, sniping and shooting darts in comments. You didn’t write the bog post. Did you.

      I think I have got you pretty well analyzed, which you hate, I know. And I know why.

      • Mark,

        I don’t know how to make this more clear. I did write the post. With John Lennon. He and I and a team of “victims” from CIA false flag operations write most of them from our bunker.

        You cracked the case, Clouseau. Take your victory lap.

      • Yeah yeah yeah, did not see any of that coming. I am just curious why your writing voice changes from writing a blog post to commenting, and how you go from well-informed and sourced to snippy, thin-skinned and not very knowledgeable. (Although I must say that particular post, angry and snippy, did sound more like you than most. Perhaps you wrote the opening paragraph?) You’re a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded in mystery. You fascinate me. It would be like Kralj commenting as he does and then turning around and writing lovely poetry. It just doesn’t happen.

        Regarding my considered, evidenced and reasoned thoughts in matters beyond your imaginary powers, those attitudes you have adopted – I know they comfort you. You are indifferent and incurious about the important events of our times. You are smug about it, thinking yourself wise to be so. But I must advise you that from a distance your attitude is indistinguishable from stupidity.

        Ergo the fascination, a man capable of insightful (if Democrat-focused) prose and ignorant snark, all in the same package. You’re Kraljy and thoughtful at once.

  9. djinn&tonic says:

    Truth telling has been shoved off into the alternative Internet media where I would wager the government runs sites that proclaim wild conspiracies, the purpose of which is to discredit all skeptics.

    — Paul Craig Roberts.

    • Interesting thought – it is true that most of the tragic events of our time, usually spook sponsored and done by our own people, are also layered in levels of cover-up deigned to muddy the waters. The whole “9/11 Truth” movement, for instance, is an intelligence operation designed to lead people who are too smart to buy the official story down blind alleys. Ergo bombs in the buildings, nukes and mini nukes, nanothermites and holograms, all there to create additional layers of confusion.

      It is not a world for people who cannot use their noggins properly. The truth is out there, but is not easy to unravel.

  10. steve kelly says:

    What could be more delusional than still having faith in either political party — Tinkerbell effect — will change anything on Wall Street, K Street, at Langlely or at the Pentagon?

    “We are devolving into a nation that increasingly resembles countries such as Mexico and Greece where the destruction is more advanced. We are undergoing a slow-motion crash. The continued reliance on established mechanisms of political participation and reform—the chief mistake made by the supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders—will not work. The entire system has to be demolished, as radicals in parties such as Syriza and Podemos understand. The effort is not only a war to bring down financial systems. It is a war to bring down political systems. It is a war that requires widespread and sustained popular revolt dedicated to overthrowing all the mechanisms of corporate power.” – Chris Hedges

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