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2012: Another Year in Mainstream Media Malpractice

Corporate news whitewash

As we ring in 2013, it’s time to recognize how the major media buries the issues most important to Americans. With newsrooms focusing so much right now on the fiscal cliff and gun rights, it’s instructive to see nobody looking at the heart of either issue.

But even bigger issues face us, now in the fifth year of prolonged recession and the second decade of a debt-fueled war on terror. It’s more evident each year how “professional” journalists are unable or unwilling to report on reality-based news, making them ever more feeble.

The major media is not useless to you just because of billionaire ownership, it’s also the non-disclosure clauses in contracts that prevent anchors or reporters from telling the story behind the story. Final editorial control over what goes out over the air causes major behind-the-scenes conflict. Even when marquee names try to blow the whistle, the contractual gags always hold in the end.

The Fiscal Cliff
This could be settled quickly if the news simply said “House GOP favors needless tax cuts for rich in continuing class warfare”. Friday night we even saw President Obama dance around this millionaire money grab in his presser, blaming Congress only in vague terms for the manufactured crisis – but the media is worse, long avoiding the stark reality that the Bush tax cuts for the rich have poor stimulative effect, fail to create jobs, produce inadequate revenue and add debt.

When Republicans crow about some economic benefit, they are simply lying, helped along by Fox News and right wing talk radio, but the rest of the media also won’t debunk the slick talk in simple language, leaving voters unable to sort the mumbo jumbo. Obama flirted with the facts last week, adding to his talking points for the first time that middle class tax cuts are for “97% of small businesses” as well as 98% of income earners. But most media refuses to call out Republicans voting to continue the wealth extraction from our economy.

Gun Control
The gun issue is also a lark, a perennial wedge issue exploited in elections to divide voters over tribal lines using fear, chest-puffing, passion plays and subliminal racism. If the news reported plainly that the rise in gun availability is statistically linked to tragic outcomes, most would see that buying a firearm increases the chances someone in their household will end up shot over the long term. Instead, media tells us to arm for an eventual government siege – or the boogeyman next door.

Obama’s Non-Prosecution of Fraud
2012 marked the failures of media again, refusing to call out Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for selling justice as five-year statutes of limitations expire. Obama’s immunity deal with the biggest mortgage banks took away vast accountability for the 2008 economic collapse, for pennies on the dollar. All but a handful of state Attorneys General signed on to the deal along with the SEC and HUD. By contrast, 1,000 indictments resulted from the Savings and Loan fraud scandal of the late 1980s.

Obama’s DOJ also turned a blind eye to a massive overseas bribery scandal involving Walmart and their ultra-wealthy top executives, a corruption scandal still unfolding as investigations confirm whistleblower charges that went ignored until the evidence was handed to the NY Times. Oops. Expect the executive branch to be simply “cut in” for billions on Mexican plunder when Walmart’s deferred prosecution settlement is briefly announced on news stations receiving millions in Walmart ad revenue.

Industry Ads Trump Science in Hydrofracking Debate
2012 revelations about hydrofracking show the practice is inarguably a poor choice for our children. Even as advertisers blitz TV and radio with ads about “safe, clean fracking” (you can see these ads every night on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show) crucial facts that surfaced this year went down the rabbit hole. Campaign contributions tantalize lawmakers, but just when we needed the science made public, we saw the networks contaminated by industry cash.

For example, internal industry documents obtained by Gasland director Josh Fox show that new wells fail at the rate of 6%. With the passage of decades of erosion, land shifting and seismic activity, many more abandoned wells will fail as well. Our children will be burdened with monitoring and repairing these wells indefinitely, long after our generation pissed away the energy. Contrast this to Denmark or Germany who are leaving their children a legacy of free, lasting clean energy, by investing today in solar panels and wind turbines.

FCC Unaware Of Federal Communications Law
I reported this year on documented abuse of public airwaves by radio stations who blatantly shilled for Scott Walker in Wisconsin. During Walker’s recall election period, a watchdog group filed an official complaint to the FCC showing that Milwaukee stations WTMJ and WISN were not even remotely in compliance with quasi-equal time provisions on the books in the Communications Act.

Specifically, an provision known as the Zapple Doctrine holds that the public airwaves have to allow major candidates or surrogates some opportunity to rebut claims made on air “in the public interest”. The formal complaint was made in a ‘Petition to Deny’ FCC relicensing, but all indications suggest the FCC will act in the corporate interest. Even worse, the major media just yawns over the whole idea that everyday citizens would fight back against concretely quantified broadcasting malfeasance.

Top Media Cover for the “ACORN Pimp”
Another report barely touched this year involves a young black woman’s criminal and civil complaint accusing the infamous “ACORN pimp” James O’Keefe of drugging her in a sex plot attempt. During the holidays last year, our coverage of the story was referenced by David Shuster, filling in for Keith Olbermann on Current TV’s Countdown.

A young Breitbart reporter by the name of Nadia Naffe filed charges describing harassment by O’Keefe. As the sordid details emerged, Naffe’s story contained explosive allegations, confessing she aided both O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart in the illegal wiretapping of Congressional Rep. Maxine Waters and her husband. Naffe also alleged “Team Breitbart” has a secret financial relationship with Americans For Prosperity, the Koch brothers front organization.

The story was ignored by all but a few indie media outlets. The media may not believe Naffe’s claim that O’Keefe slipped her a mickey, but they wouldn’t even explore her side of the story to debunk it. It’s since come out that O’Keefe inadvertently gave Naffe access to his secret emails, revealing he had alleged connections to folks like billionaire Foster Friess and big plans to “dupe” Jeremiah Wright into talking about Marxism, gay infidelity, pedophilia rings and “the damn Jews”.

The saga continues today, with Naffe pursuing a lawsuit against members of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office for online harassment on O’Keefe’s behalf. O’Keefe is still being sued for illegally recording an ACORN employee in San Diego.

Ignoring The Bigger Picture: Our Constitution Under Attack
The most serious and long-lasting stories avoided by the media this year involve the raping of our civil liberties.

The Sixth Amendment
You may have heard about the NDAA, but the TV news has not. As part of the last defense authorization bill, one sentence wiped out every American citizen’s Sixth Amendment right to due process, to attorney, to a speedy trial by a jury of your peers, and to face your accuser, replacing all this with the word of a single bureaucrat.

Gun rights advocates wetting their pants over the Second Amendment “citizen militia” clause handed over their right to trial like sheep, saying nothing about the guarantee of American citizens’ individual liberty enshrined in the the Bill of Rights for centuries and centuries more  going back to habeas corpus and the Magna Carta of 1216.

Provision 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 holds that anyone merely suspected of associating with terrorists can be indefinitely detained. When asked about it, President Obama did an awful job of explaining the bill. After a federal judge struck the ruling down as wholly unconstitutional, Obama’s lawyers had it temporarily reinstated just as fast in an appeal. The case may be headed for the Supreme Court depending on a higher court ruling due in January.

Meanwhile, a new NDAA for the upcoming year seeks to further re-cement the same law in place. All because terrorists committed crimes in September 2001, we are told. But the Bush administration already had plans to abrogate our privacy rights the previous February, as discussed below.

Increasingly, people realize it’s not terrorist acts that prompted the heavy handed NDAA’s US citizen detention provisions, but the Occupy movement which grew spontaneously September, 2011 in almost every major city in the nation, an enormous measure of wide, broad and deep discontent with economic inequity and corporate-government coziness.

Lt. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff and counsel to Secretary of State Colin Powell describes a fear campaign, intended to chill free expression in the event the economy should plunge into depression. We knew about the NDAA and the militarization of local police forces, but did not know until last week the FBI and DHS monitored and infiltrated Occupy Wall Street right from the start.

The First Amendment
This also explains the stealthy, fast-tracked passage of the Trespass Bill, HR 347, making it a felony punishable by up to ten years in federal prison to protest anywhere certain government officials don’t want you to. Depending simply on a designation of “national importance” by the White House, your right to show up somewhere with a sign, chant, sing or march just got rescinded whether you know it or not. So much for the First Amendment “right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Fourth Amendment
We were stunned to see how little coverage was given in 2012 to the NSA whistleblowers describing Stellar Wind, an operation to collect all your communications over years and develop profiles.

This is a naked attack on the US Constitution’s guarantee that: “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause…”. Meet the Fourth Amendment.

It’s pathetic to consider that we gave this up this right voluntarily because of the cowards that attacked us on 9/11, a kick in the teeth to our founding fathers, but it gets worse. The Stellar Wind surveillance program designed for US citizens was greenlighted as soon as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney took office, according to William Binney, one of the program’s architects. After internal protest and resignation, the 32-year agency veteran eventually turned to the press to alert the public.

President Obama has vastly expanded the NSA program, to more efficiently and automatically record, store, data mine and analyze your private communications. The current argument is that it’s not actually considered “eavesdropping” until a human looks at the data, and if it’s done after there is a law-enforcement need, it’s all okay. In other words, the federal government will be able to retroactively search the communications of citizens after they do something to draw suspicion…if you believe what we’re told.

“Son of Citizens United” Creeping In Every Direction
Even less has been published about the day the Supreme Court crushed Montana’s limits on campaign spending. This in turn affected all 50 states, yet we heard nothing about it. We might think Citizens United was overcome, based on the results of the 2012 election, that the billionaires, Karl Rove, the Koch brothers and all their SuperPACs were defeated as the people proved money cannot buy elections.

With the spotlight shining on the race for the White House, it may seem so – but it’s not so. The House of Representatives did not stay in Republican hands because they earned more votes, the GOP actually received 500,000 less votes than Democrats. What kept the House red was gerrymandering, the sneaky art of redrawing Congressional district lines to ensure Democratic voting strongholds get split up to lose impact. This was possible because the GOP won control of the House in 2010 – when Citizens United had its greatest impact.

This is why House Republicans are so quick to flip off the middle class in current fiscal cliff debates – they are not afraid of the swing voter, they are afraid of well-funded primary challengers, they are afraid of losing their sugar daddy fundraisers because they just saw how secure their district was made.

Indeed, the lesson learned by Karl Rove, The US Chamber of Commerce, FreedomWorks, the Club for Growth and the other secret donors is that their money works better without so much scrutiny. The smaller the race, the less media coverage it receives, the easier it is to buy. Folks don’t really follow races for state legislator, sheriffs, county executives, judges or local council seats, but even Congressional races are decided by low-info voters.

This makes what the Supreme Court did last June so striking. Their original ruling in Citizens United v. FEC allowed unlimited, anonymous spending in federal campaigns, but didn’t mention state and local races. In June, the state of Montana’s showed that their 1912 campaign finance law has been necessary to prevent corruption for 100 years.

With “Son of Citizens United”, the SCOTUS barely used one page to strike down the Montana Supreme Court ruling, and with it, any limitations on spending in state and local races, expanding Citizens United so widely it now affects every campaign in the land, down to local school board elections.

Who most benefits from these new billions in campaign spending? Most of it cannot go to the candidate, so it goes instead to pay for ads – straight into the hands of the media – the TV and radio stations, the network affiliates, ad agencies, PR firms and political strategists. The Romney campaign was already caught sharing addresses and paid media consultants with Restore Our Future, it’s biggest Super PAC, so there has been no media reporting or law enforcement as the rules prohibiting “coordination” are openly mocked.

This avalanche of cash made broadcasters not only more liable to ‘massage’ the news, they became actively lobbying participants in efforts to make campaign financing less transparent. Today’s corporate media is therefore not just burying important news, they are leading an assault on democracy, making us more misinformed than ever. The six billion spent on this year’s campaigns could have paid ten years salary for over 3,500 teachers.

I Said It Last Year And I’ll Say It Again This Year
I’m not sure what you saw, read or wrote that was under-reported in media this year, but feel free to share it in the comments below.

I’ll bet however, that regardless what your foremost burning issue is, whether it’s war, income disparity, health care, energy, the environment, education, civil liberties, corporate personhood, food safety, human rights, LGBT equality or anything else, I guarantee the problem stems from the bigger issue of money in politics and cannot be fixed until our elections are fixed first.

Cross-posted from OpedNews

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