THE CRUMBLING OF ROGER AILES AND GOP-TV

Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes built the Republican party –

now both are crumbling in plain sight

Richard Wolffe

Very few citizens are aware of the historic role Fox News creator Roger Ailes played from the late sixties onward to foster the rise of the modern Republican party and alter the tenor of political discourse in America.

 

That history is clearly delineated in How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Factory by Tim Dickenson five years ago in Rolling Stone, and further articulated by media reporter Gabriel Sherman in his 2014 biography, The Loudest Voice In The Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News — And Divided a Country.

Worth reviewing are the interview with Gabriel Sherman by Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air on NPR,  in 2014 about how Ailes rose to such prominence; and Jane Mayer’s recent reflection in the New Yorker on Fox News trading in political scandal.

 

BREITBART NEWS, STEPHEN BANNON AND THE RISE OF THE “ALT-RIGHT”

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Mr. Trump’s decision to make Stephen K. Bannon, chairman of the Breitbart News website, his campaign’s chief executive . . . formally completed a merger between the most strident elements of the conservative news media and Mr. Trump’s campaign, which was incubated and fostered in their boisterous coverage of his rise.

                                           Aug 18, 2016, New York Times

The advent of Stephen Bannon as Donald Trump’s new campaign manager is a significant milestone in the steady evolution of the Republican Party to the extreme right long facilitated, and now lead by experienced “alt-right” media manipulators. The history of this poorly understood evolution puts into stark relief the failure of for-profit media, particularly TV journalism, to illuminate this dangerous development in American politics.

In 2013, respected political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein sought to draw greater media and public attention to the troubling rightward drift of the Republican party in their book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional  System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. In an interview with Bill Moyers on PBS, they expressed  surprise and disappointment that none of the major network TV news organizations showed any interest whatsoever in discussing this topic.

Only recently have a few journalists and pundits begun to draw more attention to the role Breitbart News has played in the rise of Donald Trump. A key episode was the remarkable duping of the New York Times in covering the campaign by Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe to destroy the community organizing group ACORN by posing as a pimp and his prostitute seeking advice to circumvent the law.

Though the failure of Republican leaders to recognize their responsibility for the rise of the “alt-right” and its enabling of Donald Trump as their presidential candidate is finally being widely discussed, there are still too few connections drawn between the huge profits generated by right-wing media organizations and the threat they pose to the functioning of American democracy.  Speculation regarding a new right-wing media organization involving Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon and deposed Fox News guru Roger Ailes to cash in on demonizing Hillary Clinton should she be elected president is worth following closely in the run up to election day this year.

 

Who “Founded” ISIS?

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The Night That Obama and Hillary Founded ISIS

 

Donald Trump once again captured major media attention over several days in August by claiming unequivocally that President Obama was the “founder” of Isis, and that Hillary Clinton was the “co-founder,”  something he first suggested in early January. This presented a challenge to news organizations nationwide to explain whether there was any truth to Trump’s claim about who was responsible for creating Isis which did not end when he eventually said he was being sarcastic.

This generated even more accounts explaining why Trump supporters do not care whether what he says is true or not because the news media are biased against him. The Washington Post reported the complex factors and policy decisions made over many years by members of the Bush and Obama administrations, as well as actions by Congress, which contributed to the rise of Isis. Unfortunately, analysis of this kind is all too rare and not suited for careful consideration on commercial television news programs.

Boiled down, key underlying factors leading to the creation of ISIS were:1) invading Iraq with only dim awareness of the deep Sunni-Shia historical divisions suppressed by Saddam Hussein; 2) not providing sufficient civilian and ground forces to maintain stability; 3) the disaster of allowing Nouri al-Maliki to oversee Iraq’s transition to democracy which greatly exacerbated Sunni-Shia tensions.

These major developments were primarily the responsibility of the Bush administration, as was promoting the false connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda as reason to invade Iraq and topple him. Absent more thoughtful, fact-based discussions about how Isis came to exist, wild accusations about who is responsible will continue to be taken seriously by large numbers of voters in this election season.

Election 2016 Reveals a Glaring Deficiency in Critical Media Literacy

trumpmccarthy 2 2 2Very few regard the 2016 presidential election season as normal in any respect thanks to the unique reality TV talents of Donald Trump. His masterful seizure of our public discourse is endlessly discussed with every new outrageous statement he makes, many now questioning the journalism that is being practiced even by reputable news organizations.

Media analysis from respected sources such as Jay Rosen, Jeff Jarvis and the Columbia Journalism Review have weighed in about widespread journalistic malpractice, and CNN host Brian Stelter specifically criticized Fox News for greater public shaming.

But there is little analysis pointing to a more systemic problem, namely that our commercially driven media system combined with under-resourced non-profit media organizations serving audiences as citizens, not consumers, require the systematic teaching of critical media literacy at all K-12 and college levels of instruction.

Unlike all of the British Commonwealth countries and most of Western Europe, the U.S lags far behind in teaching basic media education. Entirely too few American citizens, including Supreme Court justices, are aware of practical explanations as to WHY we as a nation are experiencing such breathtaking sophistry, mendacity and manipulation of public discourse this election cycle.

A healthier balance of commercial and public media is unlikely to be realized in the U.S. for a very long time, in large part due to the paucity of critical media literacy skills among our citizenry. Perhaps a growing awareness of the dangers facing our democracy related to our hyper-commercial media system and scarce knowledge of media education that have allowed a rank demagogue the opportunity to actually become our president will open the American mind to this unexamined reality. Key organizations addressing this issue worth following:

Global Critical Media Literacy Project (GCMLP)

Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME)

Project Censored

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

News Literacy Project

Media Literacy and Digital Culture Program / Sacred Heart University

Centre for Excellence in Media Practice (CEMP) / Bournemouth University

DEMOCRACY LOSES WHEN PUNDITRY TRUMPS JOURNALISM

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                                              Trump Will Still Lose. Here’s How.

Bloomberg View, January 7, 2016

 

A basic question of the 2016 presidential election cycle is how Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, could possibly be taken seriously given his repeated, well documented lies, constant insults, and questionable policy positions. It is credible to argue that Sarah Palin opened the door for the current Trump media phenomenon. And Glenn Greenwald is right to point out how cost effective it is for pundits to appear on television, how rarely they are held accountable for their questionable predictions, and that the preponderance of pundits spouting opinions masks the cold fact that ever less independent, investigative journalism is taking place to help citizens consider which candidates to vote for.

James Baldwin long ago suggested that a good measure of public education is the level of political discourse taking place in a presidential election season. By this standard, our country is failing to grasp the most basic tenets of media education and the need for a more robust public media sector willing to examine such issues.

2016 ELECTI0N COVERAGE: AN EPIC MEDIA FAILURE

trump-presidential-announcement-2015The 2016 presidential race thus far strongly indicates this will be a change election due to the surprising success of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders as anti-establishment candidates as well as the remarkable failure of the mainstream media to cover their campaigns responsibly. Trump continues to dominate the coverage on the Republican side which now includes heated debates about the role commercial media, especially TV news, is playing.

Pulitzer-Prize winning historian of the press, Doris Kearns Goodwin, considers the coverage of Donald Trump a journalism fiasco. Supporters of Bernie Sanders have complained for many months about both the lack of coverage of his campaign as well as the general quality.

Sanders regularly criticizes the commercial TV networks for their relentless focus on personal attacks instead of serious issues like income inequality, campaign finance reform, inadequate healthcare and family leave, our crumbling infrastructure, and the rising cost of higher education.

Since the commercial TV networks profit handsomely from the costly political ads they air while continuing to cover candidates as celebrities to boost their news ratings, there is a great opportunity this election season for citizens to consider the general failure of our commercially driven media system to adequately cover the significant issues they will be voting on. There is a profound connection between the lack of media attention to issues American citizens care about most and the gross imbalance between commerical and public media.

Amusing Ourselves To Death Redux

Colbert OreoThirty years ago, Neil Postman, a professor of media ecology at New York University, published Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, a sobering critique of American television news as entertainment programming that blights civic discourse because it is consumed passively, it’s content determined by commercial feasibility.

The opening program of Late Night with Stephen Colbert contained a brilliant satirical segment demonstrating acutely how insightful Postman has proven to be about the remarkable failure of commercial television news to engage citizens in the political issues of the day, accurately predicted in the 1920s by John Reith, the first Director General of the BBC.

The unfortunate shortcoming of Colbert’s satire is an overwhelming sense nothing can be done about this sad state of affairs, while also generating handsome profits for his parent company CBS. In contrast, public service media attempt to shed more light on this peculiarly American political pickle, but with too meager resources. A robust debate about such issues is now taking place in the UK over renewing the charter of the BBC, something Americans who want to do something about this dilemma could learn from.

It is conceivable that the failure of our commercial media to properly serve the public interest needs of citizens in our democracy could become a major issue in the 2016 election, but only with widespread grassroots pressure to force mainstream media to address the issue.

MEDIA POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF DONALD TRUMP AS A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

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In the past several weeks, Donald Trump has surged in the polls to become the leading Republican candidate for president in 2016 despite making incendiary statements widely regarded as “unpresidential”. What explains this? Analysts are flooding the media with a variety of explanations, but few point to the major failure of mainstream journalism to question the radical positions Trump and other political leaders have expressed for many years.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne hints at this in his amusing “Trump has the GOP establishment’s number”, describing how the party “created the rough beast it is now trying to slay.” Few Republican leaders bothered to challenge Trump when he repeatedly questioned Barack Obama’s legitimacy to be president because he would not reveal an “authentic” birth certificate. Poll results in 2014 show two-thirds of Republican voters believe either a) President Obama definitely was born outside the US, or b) possibly was.

Something is amiss when these realities are barely referenced. In the view of Media Matters analyst Eric Boehlert, mainstream journalists repeatedly report how polarized political debate has become without making clear how far to the right of center the Republican party has steadily moved for decades. Historian Heather Cox Richardson traces this theme comprehensively back to the 1950s. Such views appear in alternative media but rarely reach the broader public, in large measure because commercial media dominate our political discourse while public media remain marginal in both reach and impact. Go here and here for more evidence of this.

Opportunities for Media Change Projects

The Media Stewards Project is announcing a new initiative and we need your ideas.

We are launching Action for Media Change, a new effort to strengthen public demand for a better national media system. Our goals are to work in alliance and coordination with existing media reform organizations to energize citizens to insist on a media system they deserve; to offer information, ideas, and debate; and to see a strong media change plank added to the emerging progressive platform.

Our new collaborative initiative seeks to highlight and support visionary public actions that illuminate the way forward. We are looking for your ideas for low-cost innovative citizen ACTIONS that will call out prevailing assumptions and practices; attract grassroots participants; educate people about our contemporary media landscape and how it got this way; and inspire ideas and hope for change. We seek creative, non-violent, legal actions to videotape and distribute, to complement other Action for Media Change videos we are planning.

Organizations and individuals may apply for project support. To submit your proposal, please send a crisp project description (1 page), info about yourself or your organization (1 page), and a discussion of the desired impact, with top-line budget and schedule (1 page). We are working on a rolling deadline and will consider projects 4 times a year. Email submissions to john@mediastewards.org.

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Public Schools. Public Libraries. Public Transportation. Public Health.

And Public Media. We need more public in public broadcasting.

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We believe that our current media landscape, with small but bright exceptions, is a big part of the problems we face. Public media is weak; corporate media is worse than weak. And citizens agree: last year’s Gallup poll found that public faith in TV news, newspapers, and internet news is ranked just slightly higher than Congress, the current lowest of the low. We think lousy media are implicated in our entrenched economic and racial inequalities, pay-for-play politics, and violent culture, yet we don’t even have a progressive vision for media change.

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Our health care, education, employment, immigration, and national infrastructure all need major reform or re-creation. Our media system is just as vitally important, and as urgently in need of re-creation, but we don’t hear that being addressed.

What changes do we need to make to create a citizen’s media system for the 21st Century? Can we imagine a system of mixed public, corporate, and non-profit entities that serves the public interest, delivering the news, information, and cultural reflection that citizens need and desire? Can we nurture a US media system that is:

– free, accessible to all, and well funded
– independent of Congress and other political pressure
– protected from undue commercial pressure for profits and ratings
– not controlled by billionaires
– able to create good programming on a sustainable basis
– serves the 99%, including working people and minority communities

 

WATERSHED MOMENT FOR DEBATING MEDIA POLICY : US v UK

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Rising political awareness of the grotesque and growing gap in wealth and income inequality is fast becoming the biggest issue in the 2016 presidential campaign, and signals a watershed moment for assessing media policy in the Unites States. Among many indications:
* Candidate Bernie Sanders regularly criticizes the main stream media for ignoring such major issues as the Trans Pacific Partnership, dark money in political campaigns, seniors barely surviving on Social Security, record levels of child poverty, and the shameful realities of gross income inequality.
* Admitting he said things that were not true, Brian Williams will start reporting for MSNBC, though for less than the $200,000 a week he received as anchor of NBC Nightly News, saying: “My new role will allow me to focus on important issues and events in our country and around the world, and I look forward to it.”
* Political analyst Elizabeth Drew writes repeatedly about the pernicious effect on our democratic process of ever larger campaign contributions by millionaires and billionaires, most of which are spent on false and misleading political TV ads.
* The Federal Election Commission has effectively ceased to function, a subject rarely covered by commercial TV news.
* AT&T is fined $100 million dollars by the Federal Communications Commission for slowing down wireless broadband access without informing their customers, vindicating the recent FCC ruling to maintain network neutrality which the major telecommunications companies strongly argued was unnecessary.
It is worth recalling in this moment that media policy debates  in the US have always favored a “light touch” regulatory approach for commercial broadcasters in terms of serving the public interest, and minimal funding for public media compared with the UK, Canada, Australia, Western Europe and Japan. This is reflected in the information the BBC makes available to the public about its purpose, mission and accountability. We believe a more robust public media system here at home would help us to “clarify the political pickle” of the day, in the words of E. B White.