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.