Monday, July 30, 2012

As Seen Through a Fun-House Mirror: Corporate Media Review

Congratulations to a British prostitute for setting a standard for moral clarity well beyond the norm for news stories. Becky Adams, a retired hooker and madam, recently said that she would not object if her 16-year-old daughter followed in her professional footsteps. "At least prostitution is an honest profession," she said. "I'd much rather she work as an escort than a banker."

Many Penn State critics feared that the university would be given the "death penalty" for collaborating in Jerry Sandusky's sexual predations (it wasn't). What constitutes the "death penalty?" Giving Penn State a year off from participation in football in order to reassess the proper role of football in its educational mission. Wow. That certainly sounds like a death penalty. The equivalent in a murder case would be to give the killer a one year jail sentence - to think things over - and then allow him to return to his personal life. Anyone think that that definition of "death penalty" would win broad acceptance?

Meanwhile, Monsignor William J. Lynn, found guilty of concealing child sexual abuse by sending former priest Edward V. Avery to serve in a parish without warning of his history of such abuse, said he was sorry for allowing, in judge M. Teresa Sarmina's words, "monsters in clerical garb" to "destroy the souls of children." Lynn claimed he did his best to prevent abuse, but lacked the authority to do more. The lack of authority stems directly from Rome's belief that sexual predation is a private matter best dealt with by healing and prayer. According to the Catholic Church, Jerry Sandusky's only crime was choosing the wrong profession.

After Iraq suffered 40 coordinated attacks in 15 cities, leaving more than 100 people dead, the Wall Street Journal editorialized that "the U.S. abdication in Iraq" had left Washington with "little leverage" while an "arc of instability" threatened to form through Syria and Iraq into the Persian Gulf. Instability is a code-word meaning insubordination. When Washington foments violence in pursuit of regime change its media lapdogs never describe it as instability. Quite the contrary. But when violence is used against U.S. foreign policy, or against those who have collaborated with its bloody interventions, the corporate media choruses that "instability" needs to be brought under control, thus laying the ideological groundwork for further U.S. meddling.

The upshot is that the Wall Street Journal and all right-thinking policy wonks in the major media believe the world belongs to Washington and its corporate backers by natural right. That this conviction is manifestly contradictory to anything deserving the name democracy simply can't be perceived by the media czars.

President Obama recently remarked that, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen." Predictably, this sparked an uproar. Clarice Feldman in accused the president of being "utterly divorced from the majority of Americans," who, he insisted, believe in "hard work, self-reliance, and individual achievement."

Much ado about nothing, as usual. Individual achievement, no matter how great, absolutely depends on cultural inheritance, which includes the contributions of government. On the other hand, culture cannot evolve without the genius of personality, which centralized government tends to stifle. This rather obvious insight carries no implications about voting for either Romney or Obama, two outstanding mediocrities whose only genius lies in manipulating the electorate into endorsing suicidal policies.

Veteran Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, on trial for alleged racial profiling by his department, was confronted with his past statement that being compared to the Ku Klux Klan was "an honor." Liberals seem not to realize that the rhetorical excess lies more with them than it does with the embattled sheriff. That Arpaio is guilty of abusing people is not in doubt. But to compare rounding up illegal immigrants by law enforcement agents with terrorism by lynching is grotesque.

Toni Morrison despairs over the infantile state of corporate entertainment (misnamed popular culture), complaining "I really want some meaning. You have to navigate just to find something that has nourishment. What do you [get] in place of nourishment? It's usually junk. Junk food or junk clothes or junk ideas." Or junk politics. Morrison herself is on record for stating that Bill Clinton was our "first black president."

Crippling U.S. sanctions on Iran have sent the price of chicken and other commodities through the roof. Chicken has tripled in price over the past year. So the chief of Iran's police forces recently announced that images of people eating chicken can no longer be shown on T.V., because such a "class gap" might touch off a popular revolt. Iranian police also shut down 87 coffee shops in Tehran "for not following Islamic values." Max Fisher in the Atlantic commented that this is what happens when a government tries "to maintain a stable society without giving up its nuclear program."

Incredible. Iran is allowed to have a nuclear energy program, so what needs to be criticized first and foremost are the sanctions. Secondly, in a situation where only rich people can afford chicken, ANY country might be on the verge of revolt, with or without a nuclear energy program. Fisher is simply making himself an instrument of the Israel fanatics, who want to extend Jewish hegemony in the Middle East via regime change in Iran. Don't let them.

Taking Mitt Romney to task for not mounting an effective defense of outsourcing, David Brooks praised the practice as a good method of keeping a company "efficient and dynamic" in a global economy. Michael Tanner in had a similar take, saying that Romney should publicly embrace outsourcing while offering "a full-throated defense of capitalism." Because of outsourcing U.S. businesses make more money and U.S. consumers buy cheaper goods, and "it's time for Mitt Romney to stand up and say so."

Yes, companies can achieve remarkable profit efficiency by throwing Americans out of work and inducing them to shop for cheap foreign goods with their unemployment benefits. So what? Making this the proud centerpiece of U.S. economic policy is simply national suicide, not that big business has any reason to care about such trivialities. But the rest of us ought to bear in mind that BOTH Democrats and Republicans favor exporting the U.S. productive base in order to save on labor costs, American workers be damned. And throwing a strip of paper in a ballot box from time to time will do nothing to stop this.

A slightly more novel approach on outsourcing was taken by Clive Crook in The Atlantic, who says outsourcing is "good for workers in developing countries." Right. The maquiladora industry south of the border is the envy of workers everywhere.

Enough already with the "polio is better than cancer" truisms of crackpot realists. What we need is not more free market mythology, but a full throated attack on capitalism, not later, but now.


"The Week - All You Need to Know About Everything That Matters," August 3, 2012

------Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George," both from Common Courage Press.

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