Thursday, April 28, 2005

BuzzFlash interviews Robert McChesney; Robert Parry on the media; The Black Commentator on the Black Caucus

We'll note that BuzzFlash has an interview with Robert McChesney that's a wide ranging discussion on the media:

BuzzFlash: You are the founder of Free Press, which is the organization sponsoring the National Conference for Media Reform May 13 - 15 this year in St. Louis, Missouri. The title is "The Media Are in Crisis. The Time To Act Is Now." What will people get out of attending this conference?
Robert W. McChesney: It's going to be a large and heterogeneous conference with two or three thousand participants, so no two people will experience the exact same thing. The unifying thread is that we need to organize politically to change media policy. We will address three planks of media activism. Even though our conference is aimed primarily at emphasizing the political organizing that has to go on and the full range of media policies, we also pay attention to people who do independent media, and the experts who critique lousy media coverage.
People will come here to learn about media policy issues and how groups are working on them at every level, from local to global. People who are active will get a chance to talk to each other, interact and share ideas. A great conference will enable us to share one or two or three years of work in one weekend. A lot of people will be interested in policy and want to learn about it, but the other aspects will be independent media and media criticism. There also might be activists in areas such as campaign finance, environmental issues, civil liberties, et cetera, who can link up with like-minded people. There will be a huge division of people doing independent media who will be able to get out there, to talk to and meet with each other. Likewise, a lot of the people who do the great media criticism of our times will be present.
This conference will bring together people who are devoted and are thinking about the issues in a lot of different ways, so only good things are going to happen. It's about raising the knowledge level of everyone. We know from our first conference, you can't really predict exactly what’s going to happen. It's like popping popcorn.

BuzzFlash: You're a professor of communications at the University of Illinois, focusing on the mass media. And you're in practically every DVD on the media BuzzFlash has
offered as a premium. You're sort of the lead act on media reform. Free Press has offices in Northampton, Massachusetts and in Washington, D.C. Is the media reform movement growing?Robert W. McChesney: I think the obvious answer is yes. You know, MoveOn and True Majority each polled their membership in recent months about what issues their groups should be working on and putting energy into over the next couple of years. In both surveys, media reform ran second, ahead of environment, education and many other great, pressing issues. There's a growing recognition by people that, unless they do something about media in this country, they're going to have a lot of trouble winning all the other issues they care about. Part of the process of changing this globe for the better, and democratizing society, is to go through changing the media. It's a very important part of our work.

There's so much to read there, worth reading, but I'll highlight this section below because members who've read Bonnie Anderson's book really love it:

BuzzFlash: We interviewed Bonnie Anderson, author of NewsFlash, who had worked for CNN for many years. One of the things she mentioned was that the first obligation of a corporation is to the shareholder of the company that owns it.
Robert W. McChesney: Bonnie's book, by the way, is terrific. I just read it. And now we have bookshelves filled with books like Bonnie Anderson's, by high quality, greatly respected journalists. The point of all of them is that corporate pressure has destroyed journalism in this country, period. There's no other way to read it. We have to radically change our media system. We have to think boldly. We cannot let journalism be the province of these companies. They've lost their right to control our journalism. They've abused that phenomenal privilege that they have been given. And we've gotten answers. We've got creative ways to come up with enlightened democratic policies to promote viable journalism, to promote a free media. I think in the long term we want policies that can promote more competitive markets, and much more local ownership. We've got to think creatively about encouraging and expanding nonprofit and non-commercial media and creating a more heterogeneous nonprofit sector. These are the institutional steps we've got to put in place to build the sort of press system that can do the job that has to be done if democratic government's going to amount to a hill of beans in this country.

Also on the topic of the media, Robert Parry is addressing what's prompted some Dems to find a spine? From "Mystery of the Democrats' New Spine:"

But another part of the answer lies with the Democrats. They appear less defensive, more willing to make their arguments without so many equivocations. Though there are still flashbacks to the old Democrats -- for instance, Sen. Joe Biden's reference to Alberto Gonzales as "old buddy" at the Attorney General’s confirmation hearing -- those examples are rarer.
One explanation for the Democrats' turnabout is the rise of progressive media, most notably progressive AM talk radio which has expanded rapidly over the past several months. Finally, Democratic leaders can go on sympathetic radio shows and make their case directly to listeners.
Before, Democrats almost always would find themselves speaking in unfriendly territory. Sometimes they would appear on conservative media, such as Fox News, or they'd face mainstream pundits eager to prove they weren't liberal by being tougher on Democrats than Republicans, the likes of NBC's Tim Russert.
Faced with hostile questioning, national Democrats often sought a safe middle ground, which made them look weak or indecisive, opening them to attacks as "flip-floppers" or "lacking conviction." On the other hand, Republicans could count on friendly receptions from conservative hosts and mostly deferential treatment on mainstream programs.
Limbaugh's Value
For more than a decade now, conservative talk radio has had the Republicans' back.

Republicans could count on Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, et al to go out on the nation's air waves and organize support for conservative positions. Whenever Republicans were in a tough spot, they knew they had defenders.
That, in turn, meant Republicans had more margin of error when making their case. An overstatement -- or even an outright falsehood -- wouldn't be a political death knell. So, Bush could talk loosely about Democratic senators as "not interested in the security of the American people" or pretend that Iraq's Saddam Hussein had barred U.N. weapons inspectors before the war and expect little fallout. [See's "
Reality on the Ballot."]
By contrast, Democrats could expect any clumsy remark to be turned into a huge controversy both by mainstream and conservative news outlets. In Campaign 2004, John Kerry got pummeled for saying that he had supported one version of an Iraq War appropriations bill but opposed another, when it was barely mentioned that Bush had opposed the first version and supported the second.
Four years earlier, Al Gore saw his words twisted beyond recognition to make him out to be a liar or delusional, a crucial factor in Election 2000. [See's "
Al Gore v. the Media."] During the run-up to war in Iraq, Gore was savaged again for his thoughtful critiques of Bush's unilateralist foreign policy. [See's "Politics of Preemption."]
The liberals simply lacked a media that could defend Democrats when they took tough stands or when they made innocent mistakes. They were pretty much on their own, helping to explain their timidity.

Cedrick e-mails to highlight, from The Black Commentator, "
A crack has opened in the historical Black continuum. 2005 will be recorded as the year that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) came apart at the seams, the victim of an unprecedented rightwing money and media offensive in Black America, rank treachery by a hardcore handful of Caucus members, and the indiscipline and gross irresponsibility of many more.
The CBC's collective failure to stand for its constituents and the struggle-birthed legacy of African Americans is also, ironically, a product of historical Black political practice and instinct: the imperative toward unity, which has up to now been the salvation and defining characteristic of the African American polity.
Black progressives, seeking unity above all else, have allowed the Congressional Black Caucus (and other Black institutions) to be neutered by the machinations of a small and unrepresentative group of corporate collaborators who are paid specifically to create the illusion of vast new fractures in African American public opinion. These mercenary men and women profit by bearing false witness to their own constituents' core beliefs on issues of peace, social and racial equality, public power vs. corporate domination, elemental fairness in the marketplace and public sphere, and the struggle to abolish privilege.
Having no stake in Black unity -- quite the opposite -- these turncoats advertise their deviance from historical Black political thought and practice, signaling their openness to the enemy's agenda. Disastrously, progressive African American politicians, representing the overwhelmingly progressive Black public, fear to challenge the sell-outs, lest the veneer of Black unity be tarnished. As a result, the malefactors are allowed not only free reign to market their treachery, but are afforded a de facto veto over the CBC's collective decision-making. The Congressional Black Caucus has been paralyzed, as if bitten by a venomous snake.
CBC Chairman Mel Watt (NC), a progressive lawmaker, admitted as much to
Lizz Brown, talk show host on St. Louis radio station WGNU. Watt urged Brown not to read too much into the fact that ten of 41 CBC members voted for the Republican bankruptcy bill, since the Caucus as a whole "did not take a position" on the legislation. But of course, the Caucus could not take a position on bankruptcy, if unanimity or near-unanimity were required. Therefore the CBC, as an institution, sat out a "bright line" vote on an issue of monumental consequence to their core constituency: the predatory lender-besieged Black community.
The CBC also disappeared as a political entity in the fight over repeal of the estate tax, a Republican measure that benefits
less than one-half of one percent of Blacks, weakens the nation's capacity to maintain a social safety net for all the rest of us, and reinforces wealth privilege. Eight Caucus members sided with the rich, and against their constituents -- with not a hint of sanction from the CBC, which "did not take a position" on the matter. (See BC, "Black Caucus Losing Cohesion," April 21, 2005.)
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