October 18, 2005
and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and
Destroy Democracy by John Nichols and Robert
McChesney and Nichols are two of the country's foremost champions of media reform. They co-founded Free Press, an organization that drew a sold-out crowd of more than 2200 people earlier this year to a conference on returning journalism to its roots of ferreting out the truth.
The authors of this book have been pulling the fire alarm on the dangers of media consolidation for years -- and now they've jointly written a book on how their worst warnings came true in the Bush Administration. Big media has become an obstacle to democracy for so many reasons, you'll just have to read the book.
But, first on the list is the obvious fact that big media is big business -- and big business doesn't want to offend the Republicans in power, because the GOP gives them tax breaks and generally supports further media consolidation. The mainstream media, particularly television, puts themselves financially at risk -- so they think -- when they expose Bushevism. They have a monetary incentive to play it safe and run with White House propaganda -- because they can get away with it.
Mary Mapes, a CBS producer fired in the wake of the "60 Minutes" report on Bush's infamous National Guard record, makes the observation in her new book about the incident coming out in November: "Not only did Viacom [owner of CBS] cringe at alienating conservative viewers and consumers of its news division's programs as well as its theater chain and radio and entertainment empire kingdom. The company could not afford to alienate the Bush administration. An angry administration could make trouble in a hundred ways and kick Sumner the where it really counted: in the wallet."
We live in an age where the mainstream news is tailored to achieve corporate bottom line goals, not to get at the truth. In many ways, big media has become a public relations megaphone for the status quo. Journalism pretends to live in some sort of sacred tower, but what we get from the big boys and girls on television is not journalism; it's propaganda and celebrity sagas for profit and government "spin" to protect the bottom line.
No one knows this better than McChesney and Nichols. The title of their media exposé comes from a James Madison quotation that if citizens are deprived of accurate information, it will result in a government that "is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both."
We wish Madison hadn't been so prescient. McChesney and Nichols fill us in on how the media ushered in the tragic farce of Bushevism.