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The Corrupt Mass Media in the West

I'm Sick of the So-Called "News"

Thursday, 11 August 2016 16:50 By Thom HartmannThe Thom Hartmann Program | Op-Ed
The CNN control room, in a photo taken on March 27, 2009. (Photo: Michael Newman)The CNN control room, in a photo taken on March 27, 2009. (Photo: Michael Newman)
I'm sick of the so-called "news" in this country.
If you turn on MSNBC or CNN any morning, all you'll hear is the hosts and guests arguing about the latest absurd thing that Donald Trump has said.
On Monday, Trump laid out his economic plan, but the media ignored the details and the fact that his plan is Voodoo Economics 2.0, and they instead focused on the fact that he called Hillary Clinton unfit to serve as president.
On Tuesday, the networks focused on the fact that dozens of establishment Republicans and national security advisers had signed a letter calling Trump dangerous, but, again, never mentioned issues, just personality.
By Wednesday, Trump had broken new ground by apparently encouraging "2nd amendment people" to assassinate Hillary Clinton or her Supreme Court nominees.
And today, if you were to turn on any of the 24-hour stations you'd know that Trump declared last night that Obama literally founded ISIS.
Honestly, it doesn't matter what day of the week or what time of day a person tunes into the 24-hour news networks, he or she can always find out the latest vapid and boorish insult that's spewed from Trump's lips.
The problem is… it isn't news!
It's nothing but pure infotainment.
The corporate commercial networks are much, much happier presenting personal drama in the form of packaged infotainment and faux outrage rather than any sort of programming in the public interest.
This isn't just me saying this either, I've put this challenge to my radio listeners for the past several weeks: If any listener or reader can find a moment where CNN or MSNBC has hosted a real substantive policy discussion on any significant issue, we'll reward that listener or reader with a copy of one of my books of their choosing.
So, how many books have we given away?
Zero, zilch, none.
It's not because the candidates aren't saying things that are worth serious discussion, it's because the so-called "news" refuses to cover those things.
On Monday for instance, Trump basically presented Paul Ryan's House Republican economic plan as his own, but Trump is still claiming that he wants to protect Social Security and Medicare, even though the Republican party has been openlly working for decades to gut both programs.
These are important issues that Americans care about, but you haven't heard any host on the 24-hour news networks confront a Trump supporter about how the GOP and Trump at least appear to disagree on the issues of Social Security or Medicare.
When Hillary Clinton gives speeches, it's one policy position after another, and she lays out her visions with a substantial amount of detail.
But after the speech is over and it's time for CNN and MSNBC to discuss it, you don't hear soundbites about rebuilding our roads, water and sewage systems on MSNBC or CNN.
No, despite the fact that average Americans care about rebuilding our roads and water systems, it's a relatively "boring" topic, so you're much more likely to hear this soundbite.
The corporate media drives viewership and profits by airing personal drama over public policy, and the end result is that viewers turn off the TV at the end of the day as ill-informed as they were when they tuned in.
There's no silver bullet for this problem, because this crisis in our media is the result of more than 40 years of conservative policies that have radically altered our news media.
One problem is that corporate commercial broadcasters don't have any reason to talk in-depth about real issues, their only aim is to get more viewers so that they can get more advertisers, CBS chief Les Moonves made that unsettlingly clear during the primaries last year.
Another problem is that groups like Northrop Grumman, the American Petroleum Institute and the Pete Peterson Foundation buy the ad spots, so networks don't want to talk about reining in the military industrial complex, or the realities of human-made climate change, or about the popularity and success of Social Security that Peterson wants to privatize to his buddies on Wall Street.
Likewise, anti-union telecom giants like Comcast and Verizon don't just own the broadband infrastructure, Comcast actually owns MSNBC! So you're unlikely to hear anything of substance about any real labor issues, or net neutrality, or about the Trans-Pacific Partnership which they and/or their trade groups and lobbyists helped negotiate.
Step one to fixing this problem is to break up the telecom and media monopolies that rapidly formed after Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and we need to demand that they require broadcasters to cover issues fairly and in the public interest, to provide real news.
It's reached the point where the stranglehold that multinational corporations have over our media is actually harming our ability to have a functioning democratic republic.
And that requires us all to wake up and demand some real changes to our media landscape.  
This article was first published on Truthout and any reprint or reproduction on any other website must acknowledge Truthout as the original site of publication.


Thom Hartmann is a New York Times-bestselling, Project Censored-award-winning author and host of a nationally syndicated progressive radio talk show. You can learn more about Thom Hartmann at his website and find out what stations broadcast his radio program. He also now has a daily independent television program, "The Big Picture," syndicated by FreeSpeech TV, RT TV, and 2oo community TV stations. You can also listen or watch Thom on the internet.


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