Wednesday, July 12, 2006
I don't have to remind anyone here why "news" shows have few progressives on, why ABC contradicts its own polling to pretend that majorities are minorities, why the press acts as a propaganda arm of the state under Republicans and as a snarky peanut gallery under Democrats. We do not live in an age of bullshit, we live in an age of propaganda.
The same people who own the GOP and the DLC, the corporate party, also own your news. It's not the same thing as state run media, it's just that the people who own the state own your media. Through a kind of back door, we have the same arrangment they have in North Korea. Some stories just disappear.
There are a number of ways to measure the right's deathgrip on America's "news," and what follows is a preliminary attempt to do so in a way that I have not seen done elsewhere in any systematic fashion.
It's not that I'm bearish on the bull[shit] market, I just don't think that having my intelligence insulted somehow equals "news." Of course, you still run in to dead-enders who spout the "liberal media" line, the kind of people who think the earth is flat or is only 6,000 years old. You know: morons.
I could tell you that a grand total of 118 people run most of the mass media in this country or that channel X is owned by corporation Y which also owns subsidiaries A, B, and C ...
... in fact, I will:
These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations. In fact, eight out of ten big media giants share common memberships on boards of directors with each other. NBC and the Washington Post both have board members who sit on Coca Cola and J. P. Morgan, while the Tribune Company, The New York Times and Gannett all have members who share a seat on Pepsi. It is kind of like one big happy family of interlocks and shared interests.
But what does that really tell you? I know this confuses many people, but corporations aren't people, and if it's an agenda we're looking for, we need to look at actual flesh-and-blood people. I recently ran into some idiots who not only cling to a sad belief in the "liberal media," but who also thought that because Time Warner gives mostly to Democrats, CNN must be "liberal." Meanwhile, Turner Broadcasting actually gives three times as much to Republicans as it does to Democrats. But how to explain the chain of command to people so dumb they think Ted Turner still runs CNN? Hopeless.
The right is fond of waving around a survey that "proves" that the media is "liberal." This is funny on so many levels. First of all, they don't even know what "liberal" means, they've just been taught that it means "bad" by their social betters (or rather, by the PR organizations hired by their social betters, since their social betters are too busy doing whatever it is that elites do in a nation trending towards third-world status). Second, the survey claims that the fact that a majority of reporters voted with the plurality of Americans in the 1992 presidential election is somehow significant. It "means" that they're so far to the left that they're lying to you all the time, which is why you need to get your news from a fat drug addict.
I know, I know. Monkeys play with typewriters, conservatives play with statistics. Aren't they cute?
Meanwhile, back in a little thing I like to call reality, reporters don't pick their stories (or even their angles), write their headlines, choose their photos and captions, hell the talking heads you see on the Tee-Vee don't even write their own copy. Conservatives who bitch about Dan Rather are like dogs barking at a mannequin.
Actually, it turns out that reporters are generally more conservative than most Americans on many issues and if they espouse any political affiliation at all it tends to be the right, not the left. It still doesn't matter: they don't run the news, their bosses do. The people who determine the content of your news are the people who own the media, especially those with the authority to determine its content. That is the question.
To whom do the people who run and/or own US news media organizations give campaign donations?
Who gets what, after all, is the surest measure of what people want out of government, since money=speech and policy is a commodity traded on an open market in our former Republic. I have seen scattered examples over the last few years, but no systematic survey. So, I spent a good chunk of yesterday burning up the search engine over at opensecrets.org looking up the campaign contributions of the owners, boards of directors, editors, and other executives of the largest media organs in America between the Age of Monica and the present political cycle. This is especially tedious when one has forgotten one's reading glasses, but I persevered.
Short verson? Their campaign contributions range from about 2 to 1 Republican to completely Republican, and it's getting worse. Yeah, I know. You're in shock, aren't you? But there were a few surprises along the way.
Using the list from Project Censored, I looked up the boards of directors and executives and other high muckety-mucks of the corporations in question. It would be unfair, however, to cite the CFO of one company, for example and say "a-HAAA! I found a Republican!!!" I expect the CFO to be a Republican, and he probably has sweet fuck-all to do with the content of the news. Likewise, finding a contribution from a newspaper's lawyer to Emily's List ($500 over two years, to be exact) isn't very important either.
I expected to find Republican money, but with a trend toward Democrats. Why? Because overall corporate money is doing exactly that. They can read the writing on the wall. But what I found, overall, was that political contributions from media executives took a sharp, partisan turn around 2000 and seem to be getting more Republican all the time.
Leslie Moonves, for example, who is the President and Chief Executive Officer and CBS Corporation, used to give heavily to Democrats. Then he stopped dead after 1999. CBS' General Counsel, however, continues to give heavily to Democrats. The President of Disney-ABC Television Group, for instance, gave mostly to Democrats in the late 90's, but has since switched to the GOP, giving mainly to Ted Stevens' campaign, and to George Bush's reelection.
Rupert Murdoch, who needs no introduction, gives mostly to individual campaigns. Over the last few years he's given to Specter, Santorum, and Snowe, but back in 1997 he also contributed to Bob Graham. He's also given to the Motion Picture Association (a majority GOP contributor at the time, believe it or not, and one that has only trended toward the GOP since) and a small donation to Solutions America, which is 100% GOP. His Senior Advisor, however, gave only 54% of his campaign contributions to Reublicans. It will not suprise you to know that the rest of the Board gives exclusively to the Republicas. One Board member from San Francisco used to give to Pelosi in the 90's, but has since been a strict party-line contributor, giving $10,000 to the RNC in one transaction alone.
The Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of NBC Universal, who is also Vice Chairman and Executive Officer of GE, began as a marginal contributor, giving $500 to Newt Gingrich in 1998, but has since increased his political giving dramatically. For each of the last five years he's given $5,000 to the Professionals in Advertising PAC, which has gone from slightly GOP (47% to Democrats, 53% to Republicans in 2002), to 2 to 1 GOP, to 3 to 1 GOP in the present cycle. This PAC may or may not be a company favorite, as the President and Chief Information Officer for Media Works at NBC Universal and the President of NBC Universal Television Stations have each thrown small sums at that organization in the past few years.
The strategy seems to be giving sub-maximum contributions to individual Democrats while giving vastly more to GOP-heavy or GOP-exclusive PAC's, generating the appearance of bi-partisan giving.
For TBS, which owns CNN, the Chairman and CEO, the President of Turner Entertainment Group, and the President of Domestic Distribution are all backing Saxby Chambliss. All are also giving to the GOP through the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and their own company. Two of these executives split their bets a bit in 2003, giving to $1,000 each to Daschle, Leahy, and $250 to Peter Deutsch.
It seems that the further you get from the newsroom, the more likely you are to be a Democrat. Hey, if you need the job done, you turn to the Reality Based Community. I don't want to get anyone in trouble, but the COO at FOX News, of all places, is a major moonbat. DOOD! You even gave to my favorite organization, the NDN! You're my heee-ro!
The Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Tribune was a McCain supporter in the late 90s. He's since given $1,500 to Democrats and $14,000 to GOP PAC's. The Tribune's Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration, Senior Vice President of General Counsel and Secretary, Senior Vice President of Development, and Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations all give exclusively to the GOP, but that's shooting fish in a barrel. The President of Tribune Broadcasting has given $11,500 to the National Association of Broadcasters PAC, which varies from 2 to 1 to 3 to 1 GOP. The executives of Gannett Newspapers also did not appear to have given campaign contributions, but the President and CEO and the Executive Vice President of Gannett Broadcasting both have been contributing to the same National Association of Broadcasters PAC.
I don't know what is going on with Knight-Ridder, but I had to pull their officers off of google's cache. Nothing earth-shaking. Their Chairman and CEO made a sub-maximum contribution to the original Bush campaign, but his new Chief Legal Officer and Assistant, hired this February, gave $500 to Emily's List, a PAC dedicated to putting pro-choice women in office, back in the late 90's.
I also took a look at the nation's two newspapers of record, the NYT and WaPo, and they were pretty much off the radar. The Grey Lady's CEO gave $200 to the "Minnesota Democrat Farmer labor Party," whatever that is. The former publisher of the Times is a longtime supporter of Amo Houghton, though he also donated to a handgun control organization, which I guess is arguably leftish. His son, however, who now runs the paper does not seem to contribute. I could find no contributions from the higher-ups at the Washington Post. What I would like to see is a breakdown of the contributions from the largest nationwide chains of newspapers.Bayou Leader PAC, a small 100% GOP PAC, keeps popping up for some reason.
Media money is so overwhelmingly Republican that even the most common PAC's for their industry are heavily Republican. A period of corporate media consolidation has been simultaneous with increasing American stratification. Our "news" is coming from an increasinly alien elite.
A better way to examine this issue, if anyone is interested, might be to break down each corporation from fourteen years ago, when consolidation began in earnest, noting changes in corporate leadership and then tracing the contributions of this much larger group. For the sake of convenience, I have examined the contributions of people who happen to be in power now which sometimes predate their tenure. In this way we can trace their political trajectory and shed some light on their current agenda. In the case of NBC/Viacom, I'm glad I did.Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to flip on my Tee-Vee so that Skeletrina the Walking Blowjob can tell me what my betters want me to hear....