Archive for corporate media

Shape up, MSNBC

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MSNBC and I are old friends. Many Team MSNBCers and I follow each other on the Twitter Machine, and I spend more time watching MSNBC than just about any other channel or cable news outlet on the Tee Vee Machine. I pretty much have to, because getting my televised news [sic] elsewhere is too frustrating. I always had such high hopes for them. But now, some of the weekday daytime shows are becoming so hard to watch that I find myself muting the sound or just turning off my TV.

Not that there isn't a lot to like about MSNBC, but since Comcast took over (coincidence?), much of what I see drives me to stabbing myself in the eye with a sharp remote, banging my head on the nearest wall, or simply screaming at my poor Samsung.

The more trivial issues involve typos. They really need an editor to edit the editors. Whoever writes the MSNBC ticker that crawls across our screens, along with their chyron-master, needs stronger glasses. Or a better education. Anyone else catch all the spelling errors and typos? "Eric Holders"? Really?

And speaking of the news crawl, why oh why did they go back to starting it at "Top Stories" after every interruption, both commercial and within a segment itself? For awhile it picked up where it left off, but no longer. Just as we get to "Politics" or "Health," back it goes to "Top Stories," mid-headline. How many times do we need to see the same five "Top Stories"? And don't get me started on those alarmist headlines that are maddeningly vague, suggesting without any specifics that there is some killer virus or new war that will imminently affect us all. A few more words of explanation would serve everyone well.

But the more serious problems involve reporting. The other morning on one show, an immigration expert was reporting that the number of Central American migrants arriving here had slowed noticeably. Not an hour later, in the next show, Luke Russert came right out and stated that there was no abatement at all in the number being met at the border. They were pouring in at the same rate as ever, he said. But today, again, it was reported that the numbers had dropped.

If MSNBC can't keep their own reporting straight, if the information reaching their viewers is that inconsistent, then their credibility suffers. And if their credibility suffers, then so does that of liberals, because MSNBC has the reputation-- deserved or not-- of being a liberal network.

Which brings me to their programming (I won't get into that whole forcing me to "go to prison" thing). I DVR their prime time shows religiously. But daytime leaves something to be desired (weekend mornings excepted). Luckily, Morning Joe is on too early for us West Coasters, but some of Andrea Mitchell's interviews/guests make me wish that show was on too early for us, too. While Mitchell is a respected and informative news veteran and manages to break news that's worth breaking, her show tends to feature the same old Beltway types with the same old Obama and/or Dem policy critics and the same old faulty speculation that have frequently misled viewers for years.

Not to say Mitchell also hasn't stood up for some progressive causes, but generally, I want to bathe after listening to all too many of her interviews with the same ol' same ol' DC journalists.

And don't even get me started on Ronan Farrow. With all due respect, Mr. F, you may be very smart, and for all I know you may be very nice, but you're d-u-l-l. I couldn't even tell you whether he's on the same page as us lefties, because I can't make it through the first two minutes of his show.

Since I know I'll be hearing from my anti-Tweety pals, allow me a few words about Chris Matthews, and then I'll shut up about the shows, because this post is becoming endless (if you want a snarkier take on MSNBC, please read MSNBC: Preen forward #OhButIKid). I actually admire Matthews, his grasp of history, and all that experience and historical perspective he brings to the show. But I prefer watching him on "Real Time with Bill Maher" where he's more lay-back, cracks up a lot, engages with humor, enjoys himself, all with his own special Tweety stamp. Yes, I realize he's a only a guest and it's a comedy show. On his daily show, I enjoy his "Let Me Finish" rants, where his more liberal side most often makes an appearance. He can be kind of a hoot. But he can also drive a lot of us a little crazy. 'Nuff said.

My point, if there is one, is: If MSNBC would truly commit to being a truly liberal cable news channel, then it would not only be the only one around, it would also be more consistent and less infuriating to an audience who expects it to be destination viewing for progressives . Lean forward, MSNBC, not backward. And wake up your editors.

Note: Edited.

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We must climb out of the black hole of American injustice and apathy

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As regular readers know, I do a weekly radio spot with Nicole Sandler, and today we tried to climb out of the black hole of American injustice and apathy as we discussed some of the stories you won't hear or see in the corporate media.

Every week, Nicole has someone on from Talk Radio News Service who fills her in on the morning's breaking news. Chief White House correspondent and global analyst Victoria Jones was her TRNS guest this week, and this is the disturbing report that she brought us. Ready? Emphasis mine:

Intel Chief Issues Press Limits:

The Obama administration has barred officials at 17 agencies from speaking to journalists about unclassified intelligence-related topics without permission. The directive, issued by DNI James Clapper, also requires agencies' employees to report any unplanned contact with journalists (NYT, Hill, me) [Laffy Note: If you recall, Clapper wasn't exactly forthcoming with Congress about NSA surveillance.]

• Officials who violate the directive may be disciplined or fired. The directive was issued in March. Clapper also issued rules to protect whistle-blowers who report info about waste, fraud or abuse via approved govt channels, although not to the news media

• Those rules, carrying out a presidential order, don't apply to intel contractors, only agency employees, a gap that's attracted scrutiny amid the debate over leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden - who pointed out he wasn't covered

The directive was reported by Steven Aftergood, head of the Project on Govt Secrecy. He wrote: "So under most circumstances, an intel community employee is at liberty to discuss unclassified "intelligence-related information" with his or her next-door neighbor,"

• "But if the neighbor happened to be a member of the media, then the contact would be prohibited altogether without prior authorization." (well, when you put it like that...)

You can read more details here, at the New York Times. This is not easy news to process, let alone accept.

Needless to say, Nicole and I lamented about the state of our dwindling rights, the decrease in feasible ways to organize and fight back, our abysmal lack of real news, and the mounting difficulty in disseminating accurate information, the soon-to-be extinct liberal radio outlets (did I mention Randi Rhodes is going off the air on May 16th?), among other things. The Political Carnival will post the podcast covering all of this later today.

The account above followed news of the terrible Supreme Court ruling that upheld Michigan’s affirmative action ban.

Jacob Dean of Filter Free Radio posted this quote in the chat room during the show:

"We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.”

Chris Hedges

We clearly have our work cut out for us.

Voting is only part of the answer. Growing a movement, using social media, forcing our elected officials to hear us, supporting Progressive candidates for local offices on up, and refusing to accept the status quo matter. Pay attention, Progressives, organize, speak out loudly, and never ever give in or give up.

Between these reports, the (sometimes violent) extremists on the right, their lies, fear tactics, and propaganda, the growing polarization of this country, the threats of climate change and assault on civil rights, and the (often willful) ignorance of voters, it's time to wake up and act before it's too late.

We can do this. But we have to start right now.

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MSNBC: Preen forward #OhButIKid

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Oh, but I kid MSNBC. I watch it every single day, and despite it being the only major cable news outlet I can tolerate (or appreciate), there are a few observations that I can no longer keep to myself. Gotta vent. Here's my (satirical) take on MSNBC daytime:

MSNBC Host 1: So welcome to my very own show. So, today's guests are Goldie Taylor, Howard Fineman, David Corn, Joan Walsh, Michael Steele, Jonathan Alter, Michael Eric Dyson, Nicolle Wallace, Mark Halperin, Michael Isikoff, Jonathan Capehart, Kasie Hunt, Eugene Robinson, Ezra Klein, Dave Weigel, Steve Schmidt, and all my fellow MSNBC hosts who are all here to talk about their very own shows! Every single one of them. So have I told you guys what a great job you do? GOD you're good. You all excel at your jobs! To call you stellar doesn't do you justice! I'm so proud to call you "colleagues."

Chuck Todd, Steve Kornacki, Alex Wagner, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Ronan Farrow, Krystal Ball, Karen Finney, Melissa Harris-Perry, Ari Melber: So, thank you, my friend! So, congratulations to us! So, group hug to Camera Three!

MSNBC Host 2: So when we return, we'll explore why every MSNBC commentator begins each thought with, "So..." We'll be back in 15 minutes after these messages from Cialis, Cymbalta, Lipitor, Abilify, Celebrex, Humira, Nasonex, and Lyrica.

Chuck Todd, Steve Kornacki, Alex Wagner, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Ronan Farrow, Krystal Ball, Karen Finney, Melissa Harris-Perry, Ari Melber: So you forgot AT&T, BP, Exxon, Citibank, catheters, vaginal dryness meds, and Christian Mingle!

One hour later...

MSNBC Host 2: So here to help us make some sense of our top story is the host of [insert any MSNBC daytime show here]. Thanks for being here, Other Host.

Other MSNBC Host: So I'm honored, my friend. You are awesome.

MSNBC Host 2: So no, YOU are, my friend.

Other MSNBC Host: No, YOU! So.

Luke Russert: Um, hello? So did somebody forget to intro Tim Russert's trying-to-fill-his-father's-big-shoes son over here on the monitor? So I've got an exclusive I'm dying to break right here on your very own show, MSNBC Host 2!

MSNBC Host 2: So we could never forget YOU, Luke, my friend, my brother. What's your scoop? You always have the BEST scoops! GOD you're good.

Luke: So, so are you. You are a FABULOUS host, as are you, Other MSNBC Host. You two are superb at everything you do. Nobody does it better. So I'm in tears. Seriously. So how cool is it that we're all such good friends? So who knew being this incestuous could pay so well?

MSNBC Host 2: So tell us your scoop, Amazingly Adept Luke, my brother, my friend, MSNBC's own Sage of Washington DC, Our Capitol Hill Crusader! So don't you just love these obvious displays of public camaraderie? It's like our own private little club! So whatcha got, my friend?

Luke: Well crap. I forgot.

MSNBC Host 2: So we'll be back right after these words from Cialis, Cymbalta, Lipitor, Abilify, Celebrex, Axiron, Humira, Nasonex, Lyrica,  AT&T, BP, Exxon, Citibank, catheters, vaginal dryness meds, Febreze, Aleve, Verizon, Samsung, Cliffside Malibu Rehab Center, Christian Mingle, GE, financial groups you've never heard of, and endless promos of other MSNBC programming and the new MSNBC website!

One hour later...

MSNBC Host 3: So now for more repetitive analysis, welcome back to the hosts of all of our other fantastic shows. You all do such great work. Nobody does it better than you, my friends. GREAT reporting! You all look GREAT! Our audiences should be tuning into each of your shows every single day and night, no matter what effect that much exposure to redundant political infotainment has on their personal relationships!

Chuck Todd, Steve Kornacki, Alex Wagner, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Ronan Farrow, Krystal Ball, Karen Finney, Melissa Harris-Perry, Ari Melber: So Rachel has a very special Special coming up! Let's plug it! Over and over and over again!

MSNBC Host 3: I was just about to. But first, may I just say, you guys really set a high bar for journalistic standards. GREAT reporting, guys! But now it's time for the Tweet of the Day from Chris Matthews, MSNBC's very own god. But first: So when is Ezra Klein getting his own show already? He may put us to sleep in seconds, but he does such incredibly GREAT work! GREAT reporting! What a find! Am I right, my friends? Hey Farrow, stop giggling. So I'll get your responses to this and more on the other side of the commercial break. We have a new sponsor: ZzzKlein, er, Quil.

Fade out.

(Laffy Note: I didn't forget to include Lawrence O'Donnell, Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, or Rachel Maddow in the Long Host List. While they do pop in on election nights or to promote a special or a book occasionally, they rarely guest on other shows as commentators/panel members.)

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Expert on cultural production of ignorance "watches Fox News all the time"

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ignorance via Armando Lioss smallerPhoto via Armando Lioss

One of my favorite columnists, Michael Hiltzik (scroll), along with most sane people (read: not right wing extremists), does not think ignorance is bliss. In fact, he points out how the commercialization of ignorance has not only dumbed down America, it has endangered it. Hiltzik describes how industries thrive on disseminating public misinformation while they profit off of selling harmful concepts and products, exploit a willing media, all at the expense of increasingly oblivious consumers.

He cites the work of Robert Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford and "one of the world's leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance."

Hiltzik's piece in the Los Angeles Times is one that should be read in its entirety, but the highlights alone will make your hair stand on end. Alcoholic beverages and/or sedatives strongly recommended prior to reading:

Robert Proctor doesn't think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don't know can hurt you. And that there's more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense. [...]

The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson's files, "Doubt is our product." Big Tobacco's method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo's author wrote, but to establish a "controversy."

Yes, infuriatingly, they peddle doubt and go out of their way to create controversy in order to implant big question marks in the minds of an unsuspecting, undereducated public. By inducing the media to "present both sides" when, in fact, there may not be two legitimate sides (science, anyone?), they divert focus and evade facts. For example, we've seen how they "sow doubts about the safety of childhood immunizations" (coughBachmann!cough) and deny climate change. And don't get me started on the lies about the Affordable Care Act:

When this sort of manipulation of information is done for profit, or to confound the development of beneficial public policy, it becomes a threat to health and to democratic society. [...]

And all those fabricated Obamacare horror stories wholesaled by Republican and conservative opponents of the Affordable Care Act and their aiders and abetters in the right-wing press? Their purpose is to sow doubt about the entire project of healthcare reform; if the aim were to identify specific shortcomings of the act, they'd have to accompany every story with a proposal about how to fix it.

My head couldn't stop nodding in agreement when I caught this part:

"Nonsense is nonsense, but the history of nonsense is scholarship." As part of his scholarship, Proctor says he "watches Fox News all the time."... Citing the results of a 2012 Gallup poll, Proctor asks, "If half the country thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old, how can you really develop an effective environmental policy? This sort of traditional or inertial ignorance bars us from being able to act responsibly on large social issues."

He goes on to explain how Big Tobacco exploited the tea party's obsession with what they love to call "freedom" and "choice," which of course plays into their anti-government meme, a position that consequently benefits the cigarette industry. Hiltzik emphasizes the importance of educating Americans in order to renew their trust in science. Competent journalism wouldn't hurt in that regard, now would it? He ends with this quote:

The effort needs to begin at a young age, [Proctor] says. "You really need to be teaching third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-graders that some people lie. And why do they lie? Because some people are greedy."

in greed we trust

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Banishing the Poor, Unemployed and Working Class from the Mainstream Media Implies That They are Worthless

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Your Daily Dose of BuzzFlash at Truthout, via my pal Mark Karlin;

How often do you come across an article or a television news story that presents a poor person in a positive light?  Or for that matter when do you read about or see a story on an unemployed individual or the challenges of a working class American whose salary is receding as the stock market soars? [...]

In short, if you are not a member of the economically made, political or corporate elite, you generally don't appear in the news. You are voiceless, faceless. The reality is that you are not news; your existence is hardly worthy of note, with the obligatory exception of an occasional "gee it's tough to live like this" profile of a "welfare mom" or person unemployed and looking for work for three or four years. [...]

Otherwise, in urban areas, the only regular stories you see about the poor is the knife and gun coverage of violence [...]

Some union members are well into the middle class, but even labor gets short shrift by the corporate mainstream media.  Why? Many reasons, but one of the big ones is that the owners of news "machines" in America are generally not keen on unions.  They cut into their media conglomerate profits.  So why promote the union viewpoint?

But there's another key point to remember.  News that relies on advertising for revenue and profit – which is almost all the news media ...– are shaped as conduits for advertisers to deliver to a defined market.  And guess what? Poor and low income people don't have the money to make them a desirable advertising audience (with some exceptions) for big media. So why write articles about them in the corporate media? [...]

To many in the society, their mere presence on earth blights the landscape of the prosperous.

Please read the entire post here.

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"The press reporting on the press is indicative of the very problem with the press"

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner at the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C., April 27, 2013. First Lady Michelle Obama attended the dinner with the President. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Please welcome guest blogger Cathi Peyton Erman to TPC. She's one of my favorite Twitter, Facebook, and Sulia pals, is a lifelong Baptist Christian who is Pro-Life, Pro-Gun and Pro-Death penalty.  She is also president of the Tea Party Patriots Intelligence Brigade.  Her political idol is George W. Bush and her religious idol is Rev. Pat Robertson.  She proudly receives her information from Fox's News and also follows Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

But oddly, per her Sulia page, she's a "Progressive, liberal Socialist Democrat who tries to find some humor  in the brain numbing Republican party." Go figure.

She'll contribute posts whenever she can while Paddy is recovering from surgery on her broken arm.

Here's her take on the White House Correspondents' Dinner:

Am I the only person to have ambivalent feelings about the White House Correspondents Association dinner, aka #nerdprom?

I have wondered for a long time now about how this dinner has changed through the years.  We no longer have very many true “journalists”.  “Infotainment News” has all but replaced hard-hitting news.

I don’t really blame the writers and journalists that much, because it seems our “news” is now a cross between flashy, attention grabbing three-minute segments and a reality show about the Kardashians.  The faster, more lurid scandals of the moment have replaced in depth journalism of the old days.

Also, it always struck me as odd that Hollywood celebrities attending the dinner are there at all.  I mean, really.  The press coverage that the dinner receives is pretty much all about the glitter – celebrities, red carpet and comedy routines.  Am I the only one who finds that the press reporting on the press is indicative of the very problem with the press?

Then it dawned on me.  Corporate sponsors!  They own the news!  I could go into a rant about that, but Charles P. Pierce wrote the perfect blog about all of this mixed bag of questions that have perplexed me.  Now HE’S a writer!

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Facebook made $1.1 billion in profits in 2012, paid zero corporate income tax, will get over $425 million in refunds

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unfriended

I do not like Facebook. I do not like Facebook with a passion. I wish I could delete my account, but we use it for sharing our Political Carnival blog posts, and we get such positive feedback (meaning people thank us) that we continue to post there.

I could even give up FB access to my family and friends, although it wouldn't be easy, which is exactly what I plan to do if and when my association with TPC, or the site itself, ceases to exist.

Why? There are so many reasons, among them the constant frustration with glitches, privacy issues, and the increasingly user-unfriendliness. Facebook used to be fun and welcoming, but now it's, well, too big to bail.

Here's another reason now! One that just broke!

FB attacked

And just when I thought I couldn't get more exasperated, this new report from Citizens for Tax Justice made me seethe all over again:

Earlier this month, the Facebook Inc. released its first “10-K” annual financial report since going public last year. Hidden in the report’s footnotes is an amazing admission: despite $1.1 billion in U.S. profits in 2012, Facebook did not pay even a dime in federal and state income taxes.

Instead, Facebook says it will receive net tax refunds totaling $429 million.

Facebook’s income tax refunds stem from the company’s use of a single tax break, the tax deductibility of executive stock options. That tax break reduced Facebook’s federal and state income taxes by $1,033 million in 2012, including refunds of earlier years’ taxes of $451 million

Think Progress notes that "this tax preference for corporations costs the U.S. about $2 billion in revenue per year."

And the wealth gap widens...

As does my dis-"like" of Facebook.

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