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WE R IN UR MEDIA, STEALING UR DEMOCRASSY
February 15, 2010 11:59 AM   Subscribe

The Lobbying-Media Complex. The Nation explores the pervasive influence of paid lobbyists on the media landscape.

A nice companion piece to this article is Ken Silverstein's "Their men in Washington: Undercover with D.C.'s lobbyists for hire" (previously discussed here on the blue).
posted by saulgoodman (21 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another influence is that it helps to make the Daily Show hilarious.
posted by JHarris at 12:05 PM on February 15, 2010


Might as well pop this article by Lawrence Lessig in here.
posted by djgh at 12:09 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you for smoking 2: Turkmenistan boogaloo
posted by The Power Nap at 12:32 PM on February 15, 2010


Before this gets too depressing, perhaps we could focus the collective brainpower on potential solutions to this problem.

Bonus points for solutions that are difficult for aforementioned lobbyists to undermine and kill via the usual channels of misinformation and influence peddling. (c.f. universal healthcare)

Anyone?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:51 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


> Before this gets too depressing, perhaps we could focus the collective brainpower on potential solutions to this problem.

You're touching on points covered in a very good essay I read this morning: When Is Transparency Useful? (via Nat Torkington)
posted by ardgedee at 12:58 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Anyone?
posted by srboisvert at 12:59 PM on February 15, 2010


Start by demanding a uniform algorithmic basis for apportioning congressional districts. Gerrymandering is the root source of many evils. The solution most often suggested for corrupt congress critters is to vote them out. Gerrymandered districts help ensure the status quo.
posted by Babblesort at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it's pretty bad. You basically have "The village", the Washington DC insiders who network constantly, all know each other and move between rolls as hill staffers, lobbyists, think tankers and as they get older the ones who have networked the best end up as corporate board members and in the media. Or you have the alternate path of congress people and people who go to serve government ending up as lobbyists. Tom Daschle is a great example.

Things have been this way but for a long time it was easy (for liberals) to blame "Republican corruption" for the problem. After all Republicans = evil so of course they are all corrupt. Now that the democrats are in charge, it's much easier to see how corrupt the whole system is. Especially since at least with the republicans they're actually supposed to be pro-corporate. With democrats, you have senators going completely against their nominal positions for corporate cash, and making up ridiculous, obviously nonsesical positions about "Moving to the center" and "Being bipartisan".

Those excuses are absurd because obviously the right wing grass roots isn't any more fond of bailouts and corporate handouts then left wingers.

(I mean seriously Tea Baggers complain about bailouts, etc 24/7. How on earth is being more supportive of the banking sector "moving to the center"!?)

Actually, I don't even want to get started about how the "centrist" and "bipartisan" senators are actually strongly ideological, as opposed to practical. It's just that their ideology is pro-corporate, and they're way outside of the mainstream of the American public - either on the right or the left.

Speaking of Lawrence Lessig, He gave this fascinating speech at Cato about corruption in general and how it harms libertarian/conservative goals as well. He talked allot about how, for example, lobbyists help corporations rent seek by actually seeking out regulation that is consonant with what they're doing in order to get an edge over corporations. It was a really interesting speech, and that actually is a real problem (lobbyists causing more regulation)
posted by delmoi at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2010 [6 favorites]


The Pentagon scandal where military employees presented themselves as "independent analysts" dozens of times was effectively erased from history, because this is standard practice now.

Hopefully the MSM eats itself, because there is no solution. Well, the solution would be, for the public to be smart enough to realize that TV news is crap. Top-down broadcast media will always be controlled by vested interests, precisely because it is possible to control. Transparent, publicly-owned broadcast corporations such as the CBC and BBC have had some success, but simply shift the source of influence.
posted by mek at 1:06 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Start by demanding a uniform algorithmic basis for apportioning congressional districts. Gerrymandering is the root source of many evils. The solution most often suggested for corrupt congress critters is to vote them out. Gerrymandered districts help ensure the status quo.

The problem with this theory is that the house of representatives is actually functioning a lot better then the senate right now, which is obviously not gerrymandered. In fact, I would argue that the people in risky seats are actually doing a lot worse. Why? Because fundraising is far more important for them then it is for people in safe seats.

Congresspeople in safe seats are free to vote for whatever they think is best, while people in risky seats end up being far more dependent on donors and thus "Centrist" in a way that doesn't actually move them to the center of the population, but moves them to a place where they can fund their difficult re elections.

What we really need is reform of the way campaigns are paid for.
posted by delmoi at 1:07 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


So, is it possible to form some sort of grassroots 'anti-corporate centrist' agenda without it being co-opted? Are folks who are against this just hopelessly outgunned/outfinanced? It seems like an organization like Fox News has the capacity to completely swallow/take over a putatively grassroots movement like the Tea Party folks. What are the options?

Does a movement towards transparency make a difference when the majority of voters get their information from corporate media outlets with clear political goals?
posted by leotrotsky at 1:08 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Delmoi: as you know, the key problem with campaign finance reform right now is that the Supreme Court seems to feel that corporations are entitled to the same free speech rights as individuals. That's a real big problem when corporations control significantly more capital than individuals.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:11 PM on February 15, 2010


Hold journalists feet to the fire. Demand they identify lobbyists as lobbyists. Demand they identify so-called "think tanks" as the propaganda mills they actually are. Remind them (nicely - be impersonal) this kind of thing undermines representative democracy. Call them on the phone (be polite!) if you can. E-mail and comment threads are too easy to ignore, and are full of crackpots and (I often suspect) paid propagandists.
posted by tommyD at 1:21 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


perhaps we could focus the collective brainpower on potential solutions to this problem.

already done. it's called a Guillotine.
posted by sexyrobot at 1:22 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Start by demanding a uniform algorithmic basis for apportioning congressional districts. Gerrymandering is the root source of many evils. The solution most often suggested for corrupt congress critters is to vote them out. Gerrymandered districts help ensure the status quo.

The problem with this theory is that the house of representatives is actually functioning a lot better then the senate right now, which is obviously not gerrymandered.

This comparison isn't enough for a valid inference; there are too many confounds. The well-functioning House may be so because its shorter terms make it more responsive to the people than the Senate. Or because it has different rules on the floor. Or because the barrier to getting a Senate seat (statewide popularity) is so much higher than getting a seat in the House (districtwide popularity) that Senators are on average wealthier (by virtue of the selection pressures at work) and so have particular interests they'd like to preserve. Etc.

Any particular reason why defeating gerrymandering would hurt?
posted by Jpfed at 1:41 PM on February 15, 2010


Or maybe the very nature of the Senate... two seats from each long-ago arbitrarily-created 'state' whether it has a population of 500,000 (the state that gave us Cheney) or 36,000,000 (the state that gave us Nixon and Reagan)... is an 'elephant in the room'-sized part of the problem.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:12 PM on February 15, 2010


The US Constitution virtually endorses gerrymandering by giving State Legislatures (and assumingly the party majorities therein) the right/responsibility/privilege to set Congressional Districts with no rules or standards except population requirements. It will take a Constitutional Amendment to reign in the practice (because you KNOW the current Supreme Court won't allow anything less).
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:19 PM on February 15, 2010


> Before this gets too depressing, perhaps we could focus the collective brainpower on potential solutions to this problem.

This is all I can think of.
posted by Decimask at 5:02 PM on February 15, 2010


The thing is: this has always been true. Maybe Edward Murrow and Walter Cronkite did us a disservice. They did their jobs too well, and we learned to trust the media. We need to re-learn that the Wall Street Journal and CNN are no more trustworthy that J Random Blogger.
posted by SPrintF at 7:14 PM on February 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


There isn't going to be a solution.

All the solutions proposed, and any solution I can think of, require a miracle, and that miracle would be for our elected leaders to act in our interest and against theirs.

Does even one person here believe this will happen?

What's going to change America is going to be collapse and nothing else. I've said this here before... but for years I said that Americans wouldn't change until there were bodies littering the streets. Well, I was wrong: bodies littered the streets, twice in four years, and there was no change. Mr. Obama was our last hope for change, and if we got no real change in the first year, we ain't going to get any change at all.

We're going to keep going on this way with people covering their asses and spreading blame until the whole thing goes down - 20 years tops.

Feel free to dispute it - but any solution is going to require adults working together to generate complex solutions that aren't really popular to anyone - and that will simply never happen again.

The system is set up so a minority can completely block any ability to act on anything except starting new wars. And we know that about a third of Americans are batshitinsane - the crazies who felt that Bush did a good or excellent job on Katrina, who feels Palin is an excellent Presidential candidate, who believe that Mr. Obama wasn't born in the US.

There is no solution until a major collapse convinces these assholes that they are wrong - or simply kills them.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:03 PM on February 15, 2010


One important starting point would be to make it mandatory that a news organization declare whether or not any commentator has worked for a PR firm or lobbyist organization.

That way, at least people would know where their commentary was really coming from.
posted by lucien_reeve at 1:02 AM on February 16, 2010


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