Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Trouble With The Media

For the longest time there has been something that I haven't been able to figure out with the media. For most of my adult life, the media has been a fairly reliable reflection of the opinions and leanings of America. Sure, there would be the exception here and there. I would hear a story that I thought was "out there" or just an obvious job of political slant but those seemed to be the exception. For the most part the sentiment of the media reflected the sentiment of the people.

Then recently things took a major change in direction. Starting shortly after President Bush's election, nearly all of the media content seemed to take an extreme slant to the left. Looking closer, it wasn't' just the words of the reporters taking that slant, it was the words of the sources they were using in their stories. It seemed like nearly every source quoted was hammering on the administration or its policies. I got the impression going into the 2004 elections that Bush was toast. In fact, even the polling numbers the media was reporting showed Bush behind. But even that had me puzzled because the reporting of the media didn't seem to be anywhere near the polling numbers. While the press seemed 75 to 80 percent against Bush in their reporting, the polls numbers being reported had Kerry ahead by a few points. The reporting seemed to be more out of line with the sentiment of the people than at any time I could remember.

Then Bush won and the problem got WORSE. The press turned even more away from what appeared to be the sentiment of the population at large. At first I blamed the journalists and the media organizations thinking that it was obvious from their reporting that they had a political agenda to push onto the people. Lately, though, the more I dig into the issue, I am coming to the realization that our press has been hijacked. Major media outlets are being spoon fed sources and stories and events to report on. In fact, these events are being carefully orchestrated with the same group holding the strings. Today was one of those days. We had the Secretary of Defense being heckled at a press conference, Cindy Sheehan in Canada begging them to accept deserters, a column by Lt. Gen. William Odom and an interview with Lawrence Korb all on the same day. The fact is that all of these people are connected.

What has happened is that a relatively small cross section of the American political spectrum has been given access to the media that is greatly out of proportion with their numbers or their popularity. The effect is to make their political agenda seem much more popular than it really is. There is a public relations firm called Fenton Communications that is associated with a large number of political cells. Each of these cells is composed of a fairly small number of people, some of them are maybe a half dozen, sometimes a little more. Names such as Center for International Policy and Center for Economic and Policy Research and Fund for Peace and Institute for Policy Studies and Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and Iraq Policy Information Group and a bazillion others are all cut from the same cloth. You might recognize some names that have popped up in the news ... Dana Priest, reporter for the Washington Post. Her husband is associated with the Center for International Policy. That is where a woman named Mary McCarthy worked after she left the White House before returning to the CIA. A guy named Joe Wilson is the featured speaker for the Iraq Policy Information Group, a spinoff cell of the Center for International Policy. When these groups get too large or want to branch out into a different issue, they spin off a new cell.

What all these have in common is a PR firm called Fenton Communications. So does Cindy Sheehan and so does I found it interesting that just about all the people involved in Washington's latest news grabbing headlines are all connected to each other and have probably known each other for a long time. Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, Dana Priest, Mary McCarthy, all are connected to organizations that themselves are interconnected. The common item to all of them is Fenton Communications.

In the course of my research, I discover that this isn't the first time a lot of this kind of stuff has happened. During the Reagan administration there was one freshman Senator Kerry who was holding hearings on our efforts to combat the Sandanista government in Nicaragua. There was a journalist involved named Martha Honey who seemed to be getting a lot of CIA leaked information. There was a group of CIA types called the VIPs who were seemingly on her side. Martha Honey is now with the Institute for Policy Studies.

What seems to be happening is that the PR agency, who claims to be "very selective" in who they take as clients (basically, you have to be anti-Republican) manages to get these people in front of journalists for interviews, get columns out, get events staged (like the Rumsfeld press conference today) and generally spoon feed the media with events, information, and message. Fenton Communications "owns" the anti-war and anti-Bush movements. They set the message, they set the information flow. They place it right into the journalists lap packaged exactly as they want it. The journalists are simply reporting what they see. They either don't know or don't care that what they see is being carefully managed.

One of the advantages of having so many groups working through one PR agency is that there is a certain economy of scale when it comes to information. They can make sure the various groups reinforce each other to an extent. Validate each other's messages, not work at cross purposes, incorporate each other's buzzwords when applicable. "Mother" Cindy Sheehan is "Peace Mom". They all "Speak Truth to Power".

The net result is that a very small group of people gets a very large percentage of the media coverage. What did getting fired mean to McCarthy? She was "days away" from retiring anyway. It isn't like her career is ruined. Joe Wilson is making more on the speaking circuit than he would ever make as a government employee and Valerie Plame is today looking at a book deal.

Our media has been hijacked. Fenton Communications apparently "owns" the Associated Press, the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post when it comes to getting their message out. The second stringers then pick up the stories from the lead outlets. Our journalism trade has gotten lazy. There are few real reporters left. The few that are left will gladly take information that is laid in their lap and everyone else repeats it.

The bottom line is that the political message from the main media no longer reflects the opinions of the American people as a whole. The opinion of the population is more divided. An accurate representation would result in more debate in the articles in our mainstream media. There would be more pro-Administration viewpoints, about evenly divided. The result of this drift away from the opinions of the people is a drift by the people away from the media. People are coming to the conclusion that the media doesn't reflect their opinions on their own. The media can only publish propaganda for so long and the people either buy it or they don't. Apparently we aren't buying it. This is pushing people into other forms of information exchange such as blogs and media outlets that haven't allowed themselves to be hijacked in this manner (Fox News might be an example of that). Those outlets are seeing an increase in popularity. It isn't that the people aren't interested, they just aren't interested in "artificial news".

It is high time that the commercial news media in this country spoke truth to power, and that power is the people who digest their content. If they aren't honest, they will find themselves abandoned because we have alternatives in this age, and it appears that we are using them.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is garbage, your blog is garbage

Sweetness and Lies, that is what you have become

8:46 AM PDT  
Blogger crosspatch said...

Ah, I must have hit a nerve! That tends to happen when people get close to the truth. Would you care to elaborate on exactly what you find "garbage" and exactly why? There's room for debate here. Will you take part or are you simply going to sling insults without backing them up with some reasoning?

That anonymous comment is a perfect example of what I see coming from the left these days. Mean spirited insults with no substance to back them up.

3:12 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Crosspatch,

You don't know how true you are!

As far as Martha Honey goes, she is still active at Institute for policy studies, and is booking tours to Cuba with Phippip Agee's travel agency.

Another player from the Reagan administration was Bob White, now the head of Center for International policy. He was Jimmy Carter's ambassador for El Salvadore, and a strong supporter of Kerry's investigation and the Sandinistas.

Fenton is also linked. If I'm not mistaken, Fenton sponsored a big concert for Honey and the Christic institute when she tried to sue Hull in the 1980s. Fenton also had Danny Ortega as a client.

So you see, what's going on now is nothing new.

All of these people are linked very very closely.

4:48 AM PDT  
Blogger crosspatch said...

Fenton Communications is the PR agency for both IPS and CIP.

1:40 PM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

try an even bigger fish..

P.s. I sthat the same Jeniffer Glick chick of 9/11 fame? I'm a little slow.

4:58 PM PST  

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