August 9 2003
reviewed by MC5
"'This is not the TV news business, this is the entertainment business.'"--an assistant news director (p. 43)
"The answer is Jay Leno and David Letterman. Even at Nightline information goes begging when ratings are at stake. There's a reason why they aired over forty broadcasts on Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, [a hypocritical television preacher caught in a sex scandal--MC5] and it had nothing to do with the public's need to know.'" (p. 82)
"One month into the O.J. story, ABC decided to be the first network to stop broadcasting live court hearings and put its soaps back on the air. Ratings dropped immediately, precipitously." (p. 193)
"No one in the mainstream media has taken an oath to protect anything, although they do protect their jobs." (pp. 275-6)
"Do we have a free press today? Sure we do. It's free to report all the sex scandals it wants, all the stock market news we can handle, every new health fad that comes down the pike, and every celebrity marriage or divorce that happens."(pp. 309-310)
"'Most of the nation's newspapers and magazines and television stations, seeking greater profits through larger audiences, fed the public a diet of crime news, celebrity gossip, and soft features, choosing to exclude more serious topics that news managers feared would not stimulate public attention.'"--Peter Arnett (p. 349)
This is a book by 18 senior journalists who finally did stories important enough to be censored in the united $tates--stories about 100,000 CIA crimes a year, the crash of TWA Flight 800 caused by a missile, how Jeb Bush removed 50,000 people (90% Democrats) from voter rolls in Florida illegally to assist his brother (Greg Palast), Monsanto's bovine hormones (Jane Akre), the massacre of southern Koreans during the Korean War (J. Robert Port) and the CIA's guiding of the contra's cocaine trade into the united $tates to rival the Medellin cartel. Not for nothing it should be called the Cocaine Importation Agency (CIA).
Gary Webb had worked in investigative journalism happily with good pay for 17 years, before he had an experience proving he lived a lie. What these journalists all have in common is the experience of being in the corporate journalist world only to have a story censored or in Monsanto's case, altered to be false.
Getting into the details of investigative stories and how they are squelched is one good reason to buy this book. From MIM's perspective, this book should be seen as the "raw material" of understanding politics.
In fact, it is frustrating to read about people who so largely were oblivious to the larger social forces at work affecting the lives of the media. In the last chapter, Robert McChesney attempts to draw connections among the stories without offering enough by way of solutions.
A vague faith in active citizens is not enough. Staying up on the Internet is part of the solution. Even more, we must disconnect the economics of journalism from journalism and this is something McChesney does not do practically.
Realistically, at the current moment, journalism needs to be a product of academia. State universities should be running newspapers as academic departments and journalists should be protected professionals similar to tenured professors. We believe such a newspaper would eventually become the preference of the public and pay for itself, but if it does not, it deserves funding paid for by a tax on the entertainment industry that has so undermined serious news reporting to the point where it is an endangered species. The O.J., Tonya Harding, Monica Lewinsky, Gary Condit industry should pay. The bottom line is that journalism has to be truth for its own sake. Public universities are the place to go, because private universities have to kowtow to corporations who donate money. Of course, state legislatures will still threaten newspapers run by state universities, but this should probably not affect national and international news and if all 50 states set them up, New Hampshire's academic newspapers can report on things in Vermont. What is more, universities have a long history and experience in fighting outside political interference from state legislatures. We need to push a movement for expanding the functions of universities so that they compete with entertainment corporations without being guided by the same goal of profit. Really any non-profit institution that relies on subscriptions should be able to perform the same service, but universities are large institutions that should be able to handle an adjustment of expanding into new services relatively easily and on a large enough scale to make such an enterprise more viable.
That is for now. Also for now, MIM itself has the principal task of "building the independent institutions of the oppressed and creating public opinion to seize power." Concretely that means financing our own efforts and it means that our newspaper work is a kind of moonlighting.
In the future, under a communist-led dictatorship of the proletariat, we will have some advantages and disadvantages in reporting serious news. A large portion of news related pressures connected to profit will be abolished/made illegal. Journalism for profit will be illegal, period. In response, our critics will say that the leaders of the communist party will squelch the news "for their own power." However, the reason that say the CIA fights with the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) in a competitive "for their own power" environment as explained by Michael Levine is that the CIA feels compelled to accomplish something it would not in a dictatorship of the proletariat. The proof is that Mao closed the borders to drugs successfully and turned China from a nation of opium addicts into a healthy population. That's not possible where money is the guiding star instead of something closely monitored. We cannot agree more with 25-year DEA agent Michael Levine when he says: "The bottom line is money."(p. 275) There is no way to stop the drug problem under capitalism. When the DEA succeeds in cutting supply slightly, prices go up, and capitalism increases the supply. That's basic economics exalted by bourgeois economists. That's why any DEA agent worth his/her salt should be a communist.
Michael Levine is absolutely right that what the DEA is now is a show, a fraud to convince the public something is being done, when what happens is that the world's major drug kingpins are protected CIA agents. All the sacrifices of the DEA agents in time and sometimes lives are for nothing. All the people they arrest are mere pawns, sacrificed by the government-dealer alliance to make it look like the government is doing something.
The "for their own power" argument about corruption applies under both capitalism and socialism, so we reason that being done with profit is still a step forward even if "for their own power" corruption still exists. In fact the "for their own power" argument is a sterile anarchist argument that will be true until humyns cooperate enough to do without a state--in the advanced stages of communism also known as anarchism.
In response our critics would say that is possible to play profit-mongers off against bureacratic-power-mongers to benefit the truth in the current u.$. system. If we eliminate profit-mongers the state will have a monopoly of power.
The trouble with that argument is that the state itself is not monolithic as Michael Levine's story shows. People are not monolithic. The only difference between the corruption we have now and what MIM proposes for the corruption under socialism is that under capitalism it is possible for a government official to do the wrong thing both for reasons of his own power and his monetary gain. The CIA's head William Casey ran down the stock of ABC by attacking its FCC license for criticizing the CIA and successfully benefitted from his multi-million dollar portfolio in another company attempting to buy ABC at the same time--even as the FCC found Casey's criticism without merit. (Here was a case of one big government agency resisting the will of another.) Of course, it is also well known how friendly government officials do their duty in the government only to leave it and get well-paying jobs in the private industry they are regulating afterwards, another source of bribery that is completely legal.
In actual fact, the contention of power-struggling interests is not what produces truth and integrity. There is no substitute for building a motivation for truth. For this reason, MIM has proposed that upon coming to power, party members will average below-average salaries and people seeking money will be rewarded with posts outside the party. In this interim stage of humyn organization where there is bound to be some corruption still, we seek to channel people with altruistic intentions into the party while we create outlets for those who wish for the rewards of money. Reducing corruption is a matter of organizing society correctly with outlets for the money/career-driven and the altruistic.
To ensure this state of affairs, Mao said cultural revolutions were necessary to attack those who sneak into the vanguard party to use it for purposes other than advertised. The will to power to promote positive change will not be seen as "megalomania" but will in fact be honored, but the will to power to reward oneself and one's friend's while doing incompetent jobs will be punished. This should all be spelled out before anyone tries to join the party for careerist reasons.
MIM has pointed out that only by shooting the most corrupt party members, imprisoning others and re-educating all will it be possible to keep the party functioning with a truth-guided dynamic instead of a profit-guided one. Without disincentives for joining the party to abuse power, the party will be turned into another vehicle for bourgeois career pursuits. When Stalin died, darling of the Liberals Nikita Khruschev and his successors did not shoot the corrupt and the party became just another bourgeois vehicle as in any other capitalist society.
Until the various Liberals understand this, they are doing the most to undermine what is necessary for the production of political truth. If party members can be shot for using the party press to promote someone's fame that in turn results in money, we will find that the party press is not abused and our problem will be a shortage of communist party members, which is the problem as it should be. Our problem should be a shortage of altruistic people doing a competent job.
Along these lines, like Mao, we advocate a freedom of the press to criticize the corrupted members of the party. That is what the Cultural Revolution in China was about.