Corporatized political ritual presenting itself as “news”

May 11, 2011 | By | 2 Replies More

To my dismay, my law office installed a flat screen high definition television in the lunch room a few months ago. You couldn’t design a better device for shutting down spontaneous conversation in the kitchen. I’ve also been dismayed to see the kinds of topics covered by the networks, hour after hour. The major news networks pump out endless headlines about war, terrorism, conflict, freaks, athletes and celebrities. There is also a constant droning on by economics-charlatans. All of it punctuated by commercials attempting to make me believe that I’m a failure because I don’t own something.

I’m trying to look at this television invasion as an opportunity to be more knowledgeable about television “news.” When I go in to refill my glass of water in the kitchen or grab a snack, I often take a small camera so that I can capture something bizarre about the “news,” so I can illustrate a post. I’ve rarely been disappointed. There is always something wacky going on, both on the shows and on the commercials. The way they present the “news” is news to me because I don’t watch any live television at home (we do watch movies, but no live TV), so I only know the news by clips I choose to watch on the Internet. Seeing bits of the news streamed in live, day after day, is shocking for many reasons that I’ll be discussing in future posts.

Images from CNN - mosaic by Erich Vieth

Today I watched a CNN segment featuring modern news-less American political punditry that left me saddened that networks and shows like these are failing so miserably in educating Americans to be responsible citizens. I must note that many people consider CNN middle-of-the road news, but I see it as highly corporatized. So much so that it earns this sticker (created by Free Press).

People who watch these shows called “news” assume that they are learning important information, but they are actually learning to allow corporations to do their thinking for them.

Today’s “news” was that Newt Gingrich has officially announced that he will be running for president of the United States. What should we make of this announcement? CNN is ready, able and willing to tell us, it seems. But viewers will not actually learn anything important. What they “learn” is that Gingrich is going to run, even though he has been making it known for months that he would run. Viewers are told that Gingrich has some ethics issues in his past and that his many divorces might haunt him. Not so, says the hack from the Republican Party, for whom any Republican candidate would be acceptable (OK, except for Christine O’Donnell). Why isn’t there someone unbiased commenting? How about hiring political independents for a change?

Intelligent folks who care know that almost all national politicians are bought and paid for and that this way of conducting elections is ruining the country. Who has bought Gingrich? We aren’t told. The show makes it clear that Gingrich is a serious contender, but why should he be considered “serious,” other than the fact that he has money because he is bought and paid for (like all of the other candidates, including Obama). We hear from the hack that Gingrich is strong on the “economy” and the “war on terror,” whatever that’s supposed to mean these days.

The piece ends with discussion about horserace politics. What do the polls say? They pull out some pretty bar graphs. What do people think of Gingrich, despite the fact that shows like this tell them nothing of importance?

In the absence of useful information, we are given slick graphics and energetic music. But then the segment suddenly ends. It’s time to turn to an armed conflict somewhere in the world, or to fret about “terrorism.” The Gingrich segment ended because it turns out that there wasn’t time to discuss the issues meaningfully. Maybe next time, and maybe not.


Category: Journalism, Media, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Erich, we have allowed the networks and pundits to control the peer review function in politics that used to be controlled by the political party regulars.

    I blame liberals!

    The reformers brought us open primaries which allow any person to vote to select any party's candidate and allowed the television networks to prosper by taking the choice away from those involved in the day-to-day party and giving the decision to whomever has consumed and followed whatever the latest corporate purchased 15 to 30 second sound bite tells them.

    It's true that the pundit class has also been allowed to insert itself between candidates and the public and to usurp part of the political party peer review role also by feeding whatever high pablum or low pablorum they have been paid to dispense like latter 19th Century snake oil salesmen.

    It's up to citizens to become informed and actively BE citizens. Only when voters take the reins into their own hands can they make informed choices and guide poltics in a given direction.

    The peer review problem is one I've pondered for many years and have come to the conclusion that direct democracy is one of the first responses citizens can take to control the political agenda and guide the country in the direction that ordinary Americans would like to see. I was very active in getting the minimum wage ballot effort started in Missouri. I did the preliminary research, went to many organizations and pitched the minimum wage issue, along with similar healthcare and educational issues in Missouri. I was only successful at getting critical mass behind the minimum wage proposal. I wrote about the others here at DI several times.

    I think that the support of citizens in various communities needs to be focused through the development of community foundations to educate the public. The foundations may also have a poltical arm to advocate but it should be remembered that even a 501(c)(3)tax exempt group might still be able to use limited funds for advocacy (less than 10% last I checked!)

    Citizens then will have the ability to focus money and other resources on issues important to them and to focus general attention to the same issues through the use of alternative media such as social media and guerilla media. Social media such as twitter, e-mail, facebook, weblogs and websites and others along with free media events to publicize your issue(s) (the Tea Party event at the river was effective-although polluting!), letter writing campaigns and petitions and ballot initiatives (CWIP in Missouri!)are what my old group MoPIRG used to do to create the critical mass for change, which was seen in Missouri's recent minmum wage proposal which got nearly 70% of the vote!

    You will notice that I do not discriminate by any politcal spectrum on how citizens need to get involved. I see the recent attraction of many to the Tea Party as a reaction to the problem described herein. I think that open and full political participation by all spectrums of poltical thought will allow a true marketplace of ideas to be created and to prosper for the betterment of the current corporate run political situation and for all Americans.

    We can take back America from the corporate and monied interests but, only if we do what is necessary–get informed, get motivated and get involved–and stay that way!

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