The Threat to Democracy

By Troy J.

Since my digestive system doesn’t allow me to view Fox News with frequency, I rely on reports from others about that network’s deep end reporting.  Jon Stewart’s, “The Daily Show” is an amusing source revealing Fox’s version of breaking news; Frank Rich at the New York Times is another for exposing what Fox is up to.  It was a nugget at the end of Frank Rich’s column of May 9, 2010 that stirred me.  Brave man that he is, Rich viewed one of Sean Hannity’s rearrangement of the news.


Apparently after the Times Square bombing in New York City Hannity invited viewers to participate in text voting to determine who was responsible for the failed attack in Manhattan’s midtown. Instead of reporting the facts as known, Hannity ran a poll of viewers which concluded that Al-Qaeda was responsible. The rest of the world was informed that the accused had ties to the Taliban, and as Rich noted, it might be helpful if we knew precisely which terrorists were responsible. Fox’s new slogan could be “You decide, then we’ll report it.” The rise in influence of the Rupert Murdoch empire from Fox to the New York Post, to the Wall Street Journal, is only a portion of what’s wrong in the media world.

Daily newspapers are shedding reporters as the public boasts that it’s getting its news from the internet. Not that the news can’t be gained from the internet, but the loss of reporters on the dailies is a direct threat to our democracy. Investigative reporters are the lifeblood of a free society, holding people in power, government or the private sector, accountable.

The recently released documentary film “Casino Jack” is a vivid inspection of corruption in Washington, D.C., focusing on the career, trial and conviction of Jack Abramoff without ignoring the antics of Congressman Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, and an assortment of scoundrels. The film discloses that it was the pursuit of a single reporter, Susan Schmidt of the Washington Post, who broke the story which led to an avalanche of revelations. To witness this hypocrisy with an Orthodox Jew and a Christian Conservative using their out-front religious fervor to conceal their behind the scenes avarice and foul language is enough to make you ill. We see their proximity to the most powerful people in the nation; all the way to the George W. Bush White House, and it’s chilling. The film, “Casino Jack,” also insists, even with the jailing of Casino Jack, Jack Abramoff, the corruption and selling of democracy is still in place. Only a responsible and lively press could expose the self-interests that dominate the nation’s capital. The corruption was spread out over a decade evolving from conservative college youths, who pushed their way into positions of influence that became more about filling their pockets than promoting conservative politics.

The Washington Post reporter shown in the movie, Susan Schmidt, followed the odor of Abramoff which led her to Tom DeLay’s Chief of Staff Michael Scanlon, who left government to become Jack’s partner. That team ripped off Native American tribes, and we hear their contemptuous views of Native Americans as they pocketed millions of their dollars that were paid to them. Scanlon and Casino Jack established phantom companies. In one instance Scanlon hired a lifeguard to be the CEO of an international corporation that pulled in hundreds of thousands of dollars for consultant fees – except there was no company. The mailing address was a postal box at a Delaware summer resort. The lifeguard interviewed in the movie was amused at being named president of an international outfit. He laughingly says, “I’m a lifeguard. I couldn’t run a Baskin-Robbins.”

Today in America schools are being closed, hospitals shut down, and senior centers are pulling back, all because of the lack of money. But during the first decade of this century hundreds of millions of dollars were going into private coffers of a handful of politically connected individuals. Ralph Reed, using his Christian credentials, fought to ban gambling in Texas, while he was a silent partner advocating casinos that were on the Louisiana side of the Louisiana/Texas border. Casino Jack is doing four years with the Feds for his deeds, others did less time or were given community service. They ripped off hundreds of millions of dollars. I know men doing 15 years for a twenty dollar burglary to support their drug habit.

We need a curious and well staffed press corps to expose the corruption, or it will continue unchallenged. When the noisiest press sounds are coming from Rupert Murdoch, the fox is in charge of the chicken coop. Daily newspapers with a tradition of investigative reporting like Bernstein and Woodward, Seymour Hersh and Susan Schmidt, they’re all vital to our democracy. The expose the lies that justify wars, and corruption, and companies that have fought regulations.

We need a probing press. If you boast that you get your news exclusively from the internet, you’re short changing yourself. Can we leave the news to Hannity and Glenn Beck? I’m just reporting, you decide.

I’m Troy J., out on a limb.

7 Comments on “The Threat to Democracy”

  1. Isn’t it interesting, Troy, that the media in the US, whether print or electronic, will always blindly promote pro-Israeli news or “news” and suppress all evidence of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people? I wonder why it is that except for rare sites like antiwar.com, US media always fights shy of critical views of Israel? I wonder why the US media in 2003 all fell over each other to back the invasion of Iraq? Surely they weren’t all Fox-ies? Surely some could have probed for the truth? A little Googling shouldn’t be too much to expect, should it?

    Of course, as a blatant bigot, Troy, probably I’m blinding myself to the wonderfully balanced view of Israel in the US media. But somehow I don’t think so.

  2. I remember an old proverb – “the petty thief rots in prison whilst the great brigand commands a kingdom.” When you get right down to it, the state isn’t significantly different from the mafia: both follow the money, peddle influence to assist their “associates” and use force to implement their will – the only real difference is that the state needs to justify its actions in the eyes of the public.

    Let’s just get one thing straight about the state and the media right now – the mainstream press *needs* the state. The state uses its influence to give them access to information (edited as it is) and protects companies that sponsor the mainstream press via advertising (the #1 source of revenue for nearly all media outlets): the press cannot function without the state. Hence the reason you don’t see too many reporters going after it (sure, they might attack an individual lobbyist or politician – but usually it’s because they have been incited to do so by a competing lobbyist or politician, which effectively *serves* the interests of the state).

    The idea of a “free press” in the context of mainstream media is a lost cause – I stick to independently owned and operated blogs for most of my information, and if you wish to avoid the corruption of the media as much as possible you will too…

  3. Christopher I have to disagree with your statement “the state isn’t significantly different from the mafia.” I feel like it is, the Mafia has rules that they basically adhere to. They also have the primary objective of making money. If you kill someone you lose money period, hence more legs get broken and more money is collected. Nobody had their homes repossesed by the Mafia, they were just reminded via a stay in the hospital of their responsibilities. By and far as it turns out the Mafia is more fair than the state and many times runs better. Nobody’s widow had to pay for their mistakes either.

    As for this article, I do realize it is somewhat satirical but truly, the broadcast media’s time has past. They are nothing more than dressed up tabloids. We do better these days getting our news at the barber shop.

  4. I don’t think the media needs the state as much as the state needs the media. The media is its tool. It uses the media to advance its interests, sway popular opinion and to squash its opposition. Although the media gets paid well for pampering favored members of the state, they are still, at heart, hounds. They will bring down anyone who stumbles because it makes news. They will champion anyone who looks like a winner according to their popularity count. If tomorrow, the entire United States was to lose interest in the fundamentalist Christian movement, the entire affair would be chunked out the window in favor of the new trend, whatever it happened to be.

    Responsible reporting has very much become unpublishable reporting as this is not what the mainstream wants. It wants sensationalism, gossip, thrills. It wants media whores that will say or do anything to remain in the limelight. It wants a three ring circus to keep them entertained.

    These are times that try the ethical considerations of any writer who doesn’t wish to prostitute his or her work to the clamoring voice of commercial enterprise. The choice is, cave to the demands of the popular movement or lose your chances of becoming known. I too, will stick to the independent voices.

  5. [quote=Karlsie]I don’t think the media needs the state as much as the state needs the media. The media is its tool. It uses the media to advance its interests, sway popular opinion and to squash its opposition. Although the media gets paid well for pampering favored members of the state, they are still, at heart, hounds. They will bring down anyone who stumbles because it makes news. They will champion anyone who looks like a winner according to their popularity count. If tomorrow, the entire United States was to lose interest in the fundamentalist Christian movement, the entire affair would be chunked out the window in favor of the new trend, whatever it happened to be. [/quote]

    I think you oversimplify the relationship between media and state – yes, the media chases the latest trends, but at the same time it does so without significantly impeding the affairs of the state (even reporters who go after the political class only do so because other members of the political class incite them to do so). Even as the media claims to be the “watchdog” and attacks one segment of the hydra that is the established order, it only serves to benefit a competing head that seeks greater power.

    Hence all actions they take inevitably benefit the state and the status quo never really changes in spite of all the efforts of individual journalists.

  6. Christopher, i was brooding much on the hounds that pursued Princess Diana to her death, who gobbled up Tony Hawk like The Examiner at its best, that generally witch hunt for any scandal they can reveal; but you’ve brought me back to the den; the source of scandal. When ex-Senator Ted Steven’s head was brandished under the media axe, the first thing i thought was, “why do they wish to topple the King?” Not that i supported someone whose fingers were so firmly entrenched in the pork barrel. We’ve had a great many clashes in politics, but like the old school mafia, he protected the interests of the Alaskan people in some astonishing ways. We were his family, even if his favors were doled out through a pecking order. The answer soon became clear; to replace the king with a new one; in this case a deranged princess who still craved the spotlight of her beauty queen career.

    Never trust the politician the media, and consequently the public, adores. That popularity is being paid for somewhere by someone whose interests have nothing at all to do with what benefits society. The purpose is to enslave us, put us at war against each other, and conquering our will and self determination.

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