The Press and Politics: The Immorality of Concentrated Centers of Power
By Michael McGehee at Dec 02, 2010
I read an interesting question the other day, put forth by Julian Assange: “How is it that a team of five people has managed to release to the public more suppressed information, at that level, than the rest of the world press combined?”
That's a good question. But, as Justin Podur recently pointed out, some of the cables are ideological nonsense, or not really saying anything. The cable about Saudi Arabia calling for bombing Iran’s nuclear program doesn’t actually prove there is a program. But Julian’s point is that the media is too close to political power to actually try and inform their readers and viewers. If they wanted to, the press could expose a helluva lot of criminality and corruption and bring down our economic and political systems. And as Chomsky’s and Herman’s Propaganda Model shows, this isn’t likely because they are moved by five filters that affect their work: ownership, finance, sources, flak and ideology (Glenn Greenwald is the exception that proves the rule).
Julian’s question could also be used to explain something similar with the Democrats.
How is it that the Democrats have not managed to bury the Republicans?
The Republicans are openly saying they will block unemployment benefits from being extended if the wealthy aren’t given tax cuts. They are open with their class warfare, and when 80% of the population is on the other side it is amazing the Republicans haven’t been chased out of the country. They openly want to destroy the left hand of the state (i.e. social benefits for the poor and working class) while maintaining and strengthening the right hand of the state (i.e. military, police state and corporate welfare).
For two years the Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate. They had one of their own in the White House, and issue after issue they moved to the right. Apologists say they were trying to be bipartisan or extend a hand or that the Republicans were blocking them. But what really did the Republicans block? Did the Democrats try and pass EFCA? Did they really fight for it? What about ending the wars or cutting military spending or turning Bush and Co. over to war crimes tribunal or closing Gitmo or ending their illegal spy games or kidnappings or ending the Cuban embargo or cutting aid to Israel or ending torture or extrajudicial killings or passing singlepayer healthcare reform or reigning in the banks or tax justice or a stimulus bill that actually got people working and the economy going or signing an international cap and trade treaty (with no grandfathering clauses and built on the Kyoto protocols) and on and on and on?
They didn’t really try anything and the Republicans didn’t really block anything. Democratic policies aren’t really that far removed from the Republicans, which you can tell by the proposals of the Cat Food Commission. In fact, Obama and his administration have gone out of their way to say our relationship with Israel is “rock solid” that the banks are “good guys” that singlepayer is not on the table. They have voted against ending the Cuban embargo. They have not resisted the imperialistic policies against Iran and the rest of the Middle East. Obama personally sabotaged the climate talks in Copenhagen last year. He gave healthcare reform to the insurance companies and even proposed denying undocumented immigrant’s access to Medicare for emergency purposes—the ability to do so was passed by Republicans and signed by Reagan! If liberals were honest with themselves they would admit that claims of bipartisanship and extended hands and blaming Republican obstruction are a cover for moving the Democratic Party to the right.
What if they had and the Republicans did try to block it? Would that be all the Democrats could have done? Hell to the no. They could have used their bully pulpit and media access to make a big stink about it and urge the public to stand up for themselves.
After Obama won the election the Pentagon advised him to cut military spending. He increased it.
Once he took office he began secretly meeting with the healthcare industry executives and he has openly said he collaborated with them in writing reform so they could prosper. He has admitted this. He didn’t fight for real meaningful reform. He didn’t fight to actually lower costs. The same is true with the financial reform.
Conservatives like to say Capitalism has made America great and Obama and Democrats agree with them. But Capitalism and Conservatives have not been behind anything great in this country—and many liberals for that matter. Were they for abolishing slavery or women’s rights or labor rights or civil rights? Nope. Radicals, the poor, minorities, immigrants, communists, socialists, anarchists and trade unionists—they fought and won these struggles. The Conservatives and the Capitalists were the opposition—again, and many liberals for that matter.
The Republicans and their conservative and libertarian followers say low taxes will help the economy, but historically that just isn’t true. Taxes are historically low. If what they say is true then the economy should be doing fine. The last time taxes were this low, especially for the rich, was right before the Great Depression. And the best our economy has been—the so-called Golden Age of Capitalism—is when taxes were high: more than 90% for the rich. Unemployment was low, government debt got to its lowest levels and the economy was growing (even corporate profits were high). But the rich were progressively taxed. And as we began lowering the taxes debt started growing, along with income inequality. To make matters worse, our productivity has grown by more than 350% since the age, which means all the wealth generated by our increased productivity has been sucked up to the top.
And, what about our trade deficit? The Republicans and the Democrats rarely talk about that. As we outsource our manufacturing base to developing countries so our business leaders can profit off of exploiting their cheap labor, we have become more and more dependent on foreign imports.
If the Democrats were a working class party then none of this would be the case and even if the Republicans tried obstructing them then they could certainly incite rebellion. They’re not because like the Republicans they are servants to the Lords of Capital, just as the press is. They don’t bite the hands that feed them. They bow down and worship them. Their god is Mammon—greed.
How is that five people without pay and in four years can give more suppressed information to the public than the global press has in its entire existence? The answer is the same for how it is that the Democrats have failed to bring down the Republicans for good and protect the interests of the working class: it’s not on their agenda.
Only the working class can emancipate itself. Like Bakunin, the famous nineteenth century Russian anarchist, said years ago, “The supreme law of the State is self-preservation at any cost.” Of course the same holds true for any social institution based on hierarchy because “the supreme law […] is the augmentation of its power to the detriment of internal liberty and external justice.” So long as social institutions and public services like the economy, government, the press, our education system, and our healthcare system are tied to systems built on domination and exploitation then it is not in their agenda to serve the public.