A while back CNN ran one of those non-scientific polls asking its viewers if they were “concerned that a small number of companies own all cable, TV, radio and web properties.” 96% of the viewers responded ‘yes’. There was genuine astonishment in Lou Dobb’s voice as he reported the figures to his viewers. He said something to the effect that it was the most lop sided poll results in CNN history.
In the last two decades an epic revolution has transformed America’s political landscape. A combination of two separate mega forces has morphed into a monster that has steadily eroded the very foundations of democracy in America. Cable TV and a few high caliber think tanks have combined forces to seize the reigns of power in Washington.
The Orwellian paranoia of state controlled media is a thing of the past. 1984 is long behind us and we are now at a stage of history were the biggest threat is a media controlled super power. A new political system, Murdochracy, has gradually degraded the political landscape of America and made it hostage to the whims of a few unelected media barons. The mass media conglomerates now dictate public agendas and determine policy outcomes.
Perhaps nothing illustrates the power of the new Machiavellian oligarchs than the success they had in confronting and containing the vast number of dissidents who objected to a preemptive invasion of Iraq. Using the combined power of FOX and CNN, Rupert Murdoch led the charge against a peace movement that was still using the tactics of the Vietnam War. Just like old generals, the peace movement went to the barricades employing the familiar strategies used in previous anti-war struggles.
The millions of Americans and Europeans who took to the streets in an attempt to prevent this war were ambushed and defeated by a handful of jingoistic pundits who agitated for an immediate ‘shock and awe’ display of raw military power.
To undercut the incredible display of ‘people power’, CNN and FOX simply turned off the cameras and low-balled estimates of the number of citizens who participated in a futile exercise of ‘speaking truth to power’. The media barons who now chart America’s destiny were in no mood to listen or engage in a rational debate. Peace advocates were rarely given a chance to voice their views. Prominent activists like Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon were smeared with the charge of treason. Dissent against the war was deemed unpatriotic. Michael Moore was portrayed as an eccentric clown. Even conservatives who opposed the war, like Patrick Buchanan, were silenced.
The public was bombarded with ‘experts’ from think tanks that have a well-documented history of Arab bashing. Richard Perle and like minded neo-con pundits took virtual control of the podiums at FOX, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, MSNBC and the Wall Street Journal. Well placed neo-con operatives like Judith ‘WMD’ Miller, Krauthammer, Safire, Friedman, Hannity and Blitzer fed the public a regimented war fever diet.
A Blitzer interview with Perle would be followed by a report on the latest wisdom emanating from the mouth of the deranged Paul Wolfowitz. As subsequent events unfolded, Wolfie was proven to be wildly off the mark. Yet, hardly a word of criticism was directed at the tribal chief of the neo-con cabal. By the time the bombs rained down on Baghdad, 80% of the public favored war. War fever had become epidemic and we all had front seats to one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in American history. Aaron ‘arson’ Brown of CNN rhapsodized about what a ‘perfect moment’ it was for embedded journalists to get a real time view of the battlefield.
To this day, due to a deliberate coordinated campaign of misinformation, many FOX and CNN viewers continue to believe that Saddam and Al Qaida were a single two-headed monster posing identical threats to the United States. An incredible number still believe that the WMDs have already been found or that the jury is still out. And a vast majority has swallowed whole the canard that the war was due to an ‘intelligence failure’.
One year into the occupation, the same pundits who dragged us into this war are insisting that we prolong the conflict as a show of support for our troops. While the soldiers on the ground have reached the obvious conclusion that the Iraqis ‘don’t want us there’, the media barons insist on the value of extending their mission and escalating the war. Murdoch is willing to tolerate casualties as long as his imbedded camera crews continue to produce reality TV footage of a conflict that has sent FOX ratings through the roof. War has become a profitable entertainment venture for the media moguls.
Using bait and switch techniques, the mass media is now marketing the unlikely notion that the United States went to war to promote democracy in Iraq. This latest ruse has many eager buyers among Americans who still feel the need to show pride about this war of choice. Even the evidence of systematic torture at Abu Ghraib has not intruded on this fantasy.
We are now supposed to believe that the same media Likudnik thugs who have a nasty habit of cheering on a serial war criminal like Sharon are idealists who want to bring freedom and democracy to the rest of the Middle East. They applaud the repression of the Palestinians with one side of their mouth and sing songs about Iraqi liberty with forked tongues. Those who buy into this latest farce should first explain why the United States didn’t take up the golden opportunity of transforming Kuwait into a showcase of a secular democratic state. America had thirteen years to put training wheels on the Kuwaitis and promote them as an example for the lesser people of the Greater Middle East. But that was not to be. After liberating Kuwait, the United States handed it back on a silver platter to the Sabah ruling family to operate it as their personal oil plantation.
Once again, the very same pundits who were all wrong about the war are paraded on the podiums of the media moguls to market their Likudnik neo-con agenda. While those who dared to challenge the mass deceptions of their well-oiled propaganda machines have been relegated to obscurity. Senators Byrd, Hollings and Kennedy are nowhere to be seen or heard. Scott Ritter and Hans Blix apparently have nothing of value to say. Those who rallied against the war are still tarnished as unpatriotic ‘blame America first’ partisans who stand against ‘our values, our freedom and our way of life’. Accurate accounts of the war by journalists like Justin Raimondo, Jim Lobe, Charley Reese, Robert Fisk, Alexander Cockburn and Amy Goodman go unnoticed. While the jingoistic fantasies of Krauthammer, Friedman, Miller, Blitzer and Murdoch’s minions are widely syndicated.
Those who doubt the advent of Murdochracy should consider conducting the following survey on any randomly chosen group of Americans. Does Murdoch’s FOX network have more influence in setting public policy agendas than the Supreme Court? When Murdoch teams up with CNN and The New York Times can they overwhelm Congress? If a president of the United States or a candidate for the White House should be rash enough to propose a balanced and even policy in the Middle East, how much damage would be inflicted on his political prospects? Did a tiny cabal of unelected neo-con ideologues project their power using their considerable influence on like-minded fellow travelers like Rupert Murdoch and Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times?
Is the New York Times above the law of the land? Did Judith Miller break the law by participating in a domestic weapons of mass deception propaganda campaign coordinated with the Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon intelligence unit? Isn’t that illegal? Is Rupert Murdoch a one-man demolition squad fixated on eroding the democratic process and marketing his warped political agenda? Is Murdochracy a good thing for America? We report, you decide.
On the one year anniversary of the war, peace activists across America demonstrated the strength of their numbers as tens of thousands marched through the streets of Seattle, San Francisco and New York. They sang peace songs, carried signs proclaiming their dissent and chanted resurrected slogans from the Vietnam War. One chant that bought tears to my eyes was ‘THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE.’ In the case of the Iraq war, a more appropriate slogan would be ‘THIS IS WHAT MURDOCHRACY LOOKS LIKE.’
It should be evident by now that political power has shifted in America. The sooner peace activists come to grips with this new reality, the better they will serve the cause of peace and freedom. A new era demands new tactics. Directly confronting the warmongers at FOX, CNN and The New York Times should be given priority over demonstrating in front of deserted Capitol Hill buildings or a vacant White House. Systematically disbanding these ruinous mass media franchises is essential to resurrecting democratic institutions that have served America well for over two centuries. Restoring America’s vibrant democratic traditions requires public awareness of what it means to live under the rule of a media controlled state. As news consumers, we have potent options to confront and reverse Murdochracy. We can turn off FOX and CNN and tune in to fair and balanced alternative journalism or let the nation and the world taste more of the bitter fruit of Murdochracy.