The story untold, the issue unexamined
The degree to which the corporate news outfits control public discourse in this country truly is appalling.
Even people who rail daily at the unbalanced coverage, corporate cheerleading and outright lies of cable and network news and daily newspapers are sucked in. We allow CNN and Fox and the publishers and editors of the Los Angeles Times and Minneapolis Star Tribune and the New York Times (with it's wonderfully rich looking, and thin, veneer of social responsibility) decide what we talk about and how we view events and issues.
The most effective tool the phony newsies have, and the one they use most often, is the simple one of ignoring events and facts they would prefer we not notice.
Or, truthfully, sometimes they ignore topics of great importance because they don't recognize the importance. Journalism is operating these days with greatly diminished mental capacity.
On the deliberate side, think of how the big operators channeled the presidential campaign to the selection of their preferred candidates; they refused to allow the voices of those they did not like to reach us. It's a much more powerful technique than lies or distortion, and much less dangerous to the perpetrators. Someone calling them on lies and fiddling the facts might be believed; anyone yelling because of a lack of coverage generally is dismissed as a whiner.
These thoughts, recurring ones for me, arise this time from the way in which the news bosses have turned public attention away from what may be the most important political issue the Democratic Party has ever faced.
There was a brief flurry of coverage, and then silence, on the threats of Hillary Clinton's big-money supporters against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. There was no subtlety in the warnings; they included other Democrats who have said or were a threat to say that the party's superdelegates should choose the candidate preferred by the majority of Democratic voters.
(Pelosi, in typical form, has since backed down from her original statement.)
Makes one wonder what the rich and powerful are saying privately to the various Democratic office holders and others who may think it's time for Clinton to get out of the race. CNN, the broadcast networks and Fox surely won't tell us.
The thing is, that blackmail by the “consultants,” lobbyists and rich contributors is considerably more significant than the corporate news people would have you believe. They minimized it with short coverage, mostly not in prime time or on front pages, and then quickly went quiet on the subject. It deserves much more probing and one hell of a lot more public discussion than it has received.
I've been waiting for some well-known and respected columnist or a serious editorialist to dig into the issues that should arise from those threats, but it looks like I may as well sit down at the corner and wait for Godot.
However, the twerps of TV suddenly, and all together, began a couple of days ago to devote hours of air time to sliming the Democrats who suggested that it is time for Clinton to withdraw. I watch very little television, but in total viewing time of perhaps 12 minutes Monday I heard three different youthful twits on three different cable faux news channels proclaim with jutting chins and self-righteous airs that “She has the right to stay in the race.” In exactly those words.
What a coinkydink.
Those three and a couple more I caught later are making it very clear indeed that they want Clinton to keep running.
Well, they would.
The talentless young reporters who are trailing the candidates would die of boredom if Clinton withdrew. They've been in their most enthusiastic “Let's you and him fight” mode for months, because such fights are exciting to them, and require no real effort or mental exercise to cover. The loss of Clinton would leave them with few choices other than to cover the issues and the differences between the Democratic nominee and John McCain, gawd forbid.
And, of course, having the last-standing Democrats chewing each other up – or, actually, having Clinton chewing up Barak Obama -- exactly suits the agenda of the billionaire media moguls.
(Have you noticed, by the way, that almost no one on television does straight reporting any more? Monday I watched a couple of callow 20-somethings display their sub-par educations and lack of historical perspective while proclaiming Clinton's right to go on running -– a right no one has disputed.)
All of the noise covers the fact that no one is talking about the real issues raised by the pressure on prominent Democrats to shut up.
The story in a nutshell is this: A letter signed by 21 high-buck fund raisers for Clinton – people who dig money out of corporate treasuries and billionaires' petty cash funds for their candidate, in exchange for publicly unspecified services – wrote Pelosi a letter in late March, telling her to stay out of the contest for Democratic superdelegates.
They were angered because the speaker suggested a couple of days earlier that the superdelegates should support the candidate -- obviously Barak Obama -- who has the widest popular support among Democrats.
The New York Times and some other outfits reported the obvious fact that the letter carried specific threats, the main one being that if Pelosi and other high-ranking Democrats who believe the party's voters should pick the candidate don't shut up, the money guys would close the spigot and refuse to fund Democratic congressional candidates. Refusal to fund Obama, should he beat Clinton, also is implied. The consultants are fairly frothing at the mouth over the suggestion that rank and file Democrats should be allowed to pick their candidate.
That's a fairly straight story. The problem is that it brings before the public, or at least before Democrats, an issue that cries for much greater airing, and nobody in what we call the news media wants to touch that issue.
In fact, the story and its greater meaning lie at the heart of the biggest of all questions for the Democratic Party: Will it continue to be a poor cousin to the Republicans – the Washington Generals to the Republican Harlem Globetrotters -- going along with most of the corporate agenda and being granted terms of office when public anger against the Republican power elite grows strong enough to be a problem? Or will it become again what it once was, the political voice of the majority of Americans who are not billionaires, religious fanatics or complete suckers for corporate propaganda?
The letter from the Clinton fundraisers clearly identifies, even describes, the failures that turned the Democratic Party into the limp and largely useless body of corporate toadies it has been in recent decades.
Big money consultants-cum-fundraisers tell the party leadership and high-level candidates what positions to take, what the candidates should say, what subjects are off limits and, very often, who the candidates should be. They make their choices based on calculations which recognize that Democrats must appear somewhat more liberal on some issues than Republicans (say gay rights, global warming and stem cell research) but not so liberal as to seriously endanger relationships with very rich donors and corporate elites.
The corporate bosses recognize (wink, wink) that Democrats must seem to the public to have somewhat liberal positions, but they need to be assured that the Dems won't necessarily act on those positions, or at least go too far.
Consultants position themselves with the corporate bosses because they are, essentially, part of the world of business/political elites and also because they know only one way to operate: by financing campaigns with money from corporate and super-rich donors.
They do not understand, nor can they accept, that the Internet and organizations such as MoveOn and all of the other highly effective liberal organizations, can raise as much or more money in small amounts as the elites can from their big donors. To accept that is to acknowledge that they are dinosaurs who should lie down and sink quietly into the ooze.
In fact, the reaction of those consultant fundraisers to the challenge of the genuine liberal organizations is to become ever more arrogant, to demand with increasingly strident voices that the party leaders and candidates and office holders toe the line, follow orders and throw away any real beliefs or ethics they may once have embraced.
Hillary Clinton is the epitome of the corporate Democrat. Where Obama stands remains unclear.
Clinton's career and that of her husband, the slowly self-destructing Bill, are entirely woven into the lattices constructed by the consultants and big-money donors. They eagerly conned the public, giving away American jobs and pretending to liberal causes while acceding to virtually every desire of the high rollers.
Hillary, having played the game by the corporate rules, now obviously can't fathom why she's still struggling to get the presidential nomination. She obviously believes the presidency is her right, that it is her turn, and she is stunned and angered that there are some who want to deny her what she believe belongs to her. Some of her consultants and staffers are wildly and openly outraged that Obama didn't go away like a good little apprentice when she deemed it time for him to go.
So the Dems are now at a deciding point. Does the party belong to Hillary and Bill and the consultants who so ably serve big money, or can it be, as it once was, something better for the American people?
No one I've heard or read recently even acknowledges that the question is open for debate.
Here's a related subject no one is talking about: Maureen Dowd suggested recently, after nosing around among Clinton campaign insiders, that there may be a plan, or at least consideration of a plan, to do Obama so much dirt that, though he seems destined to win the Democratic nomination, he will lose this year's general election. Give John McCain one term, and then Hillary will be back in business in 2012, without Obama to get in her way. If there were some real reporters around, they might dig into that and either confirm or disprove that such an idea is on the table at Clinton HQ.