Saturday, July 30, 2011

Why the media miss the story

Jeff Cohen’s Common Dreams column, “Mainstream Reporters: Too Close to the Field and Teams to get the Debt Story,” uses sports' play-by-play coverage as an analogy for why the Press is missing (and the Public isn’t getting) the real story about the country’s economic and fiscal crisis.

He blames the Press’s “cult of balance” and “impartiality” for its woeful short comings.

The analogy to game coverage, while helpful, misses the point.

The real failing of the media is that underlying causes aren’t “news” to a Press corps working the 24-hour news cycle. A cause doesn’t “develop” or change each and every day. Causes are “old news” and hence unreported.

And so we, the public, forget or ignore the causes of our problems.

It is hardly breaking news that this country has a shameful disparity of income between the wealthy and the poor, that the rich own the political system, and that the tax code is shot through with loopholes benefiting the wealthy and corporations.

It isn’t news that the military accounts for nearly half our budget and shovels money (and retired generals) at corporate America.

Meanwhile our infrastructure, our health system and our schools crumble. No “news” there, either.

Instead, the “news” of the day, and hence the public’s focus, is play-by-play coverage between the 10-yard markers on the field, as Cohen notes. Such coverage results in headlines like, “Boehner gets debt plan through House.” Big deal.

Imagine a front-page story with this headline: “The richest 10 percent account for 80 percent of Republican campaign coffers” or “Tea Party: bought by, beholden to Billionaires” or “The Richest Americans scapegoat the Poorest.”

The problem is that each of these stories did not "break" in the “news cycle.” In short, it doesn’t fit the definition of "the news." No, to find out about these mega-causal issues, you have to read books.

Who in this knee-jerk, instant analysis, Twitter world has time for that?

Finally, Cohen knows, but doesn’t mention, that the Press is beholden to its advertisers, stockholders, interlocking corporate boards and financial chiefs. And just who might they be? (think Rupert Murdoch...) And to what extent do they define the news and determine the information the public receives?

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Beyond checks and balances

The nation’s founders wanted a government of checks and balances. What we have now are checks with no balances. Deadlock.

The next to go, thanks to a small group of folks with a whole lot of money (and hence power), are the checks.

The super-rich are on a course to take over the country.

But what kind of unchecked country do they want? What kind of life do they want for themselves? And what will it mean for the rest of us?

Do they really want to live in private, guard-dog patrolled fortress-mansions? Do they aspire to endless jaunts on private golf links? Is the goal a yacht in every harbor? Is it fleets of lofty helicopters, Lear jets and armor-plated limousines? Is it endless pool-side hours with vats of sunscreen and margaritas at the ready?

Is it the assurance of luxury for their equally vain and selfish progeny?

And do they really want lives filled with paranoia about retribution from angry masses who have been evicted from their homes, left without jobs and deprived of health care and security?

Do they want a planet beset by drought and famine — a cinder in space, a barren globe awash in toxic, rising oceans?

Do they want a country of spreading ignorance caused by a crumbling school system? Do they seek endless wars abroad and blood in our streets?

Are the rich and powerful really willing to spread disease, suffering, ignorance and anarchy to feed their own private profligacy?

It would seem.

Nor are we blameless. We have bought into a value system of consumption and mass deception that now has produced a “checks and balances” government of, for and by the rich.

Soon, we will be forced to act beyond the bounds of checks and balances. I have no idea what the tipping-point actions will be (mass demonstrations? boycotts? riots? strikes? out-and-out insurrection?), but I do believe this tired, values-challenged, rigged game must end.

While we work on getting rid of it, we must plan for its replacement. It’s easy to imagine. It is committed to long-held universal values: peace, a sustainable planet, equality, education and knowledge, health, adequate food and shelter, honesty, and trust....

Such values should not be subjected to “checks and balances”; they must be established and defended as sovereign rights.

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