By Robert Romano
“The most powerful weapon deployed by the Clintons is the corporate media. Let’s be clear on one thing: the corporate media in our country is no longer involved in journalism. They are a political special interest, no different than any lobbyist or other financial entity with an agenda. And their agenda is to elect the Clintons at any cost, at any price, no matter how many lives they destroy. For them, it is a war — and for them, nothing is out of bounds.”
That was Donald Trump in a West Palm Beach, Fla. speech on Oct. 13 offering a bleak assessment of the current state of not only the presidential election, but also journalism and even the health of our democracy. Trump’s comments came amid a barrage of media attacks on his candidacy over his video comments about his treatment of women in 2005, followed up by numerous accusations against him of inappropriate conduct, and as Wikileaks revelations showed the Hillary Clinton campaign colluding at the highest levels with major media entities to advance her candidacy.
That part of the charge is clear enough. As the most devastating disclosures against Clinton from Wikileaks were coming, the media assault on Trump reached a fever pitch to obscure just how corrupt and criminal the Clintons really are. Imagine the uproar if it had been discovered Donald Trump had deleted evidence subject to a Congressional subpoena. And then, if it had been revealed that the Justice Department colluded with the government to cover it up.
The nation certainly remembers the uproar when Richard Nixon erased 18 minutes of the White House tapes that were under subpoena. And then his infamous Midnight Massacre as Justice Department officials were fired until he got the outcome of the investigation into himself he wanted. Then, major media outlets played a role in holding corrupt government officials accountable.
Now, media outlets are very much a part of the cover-up of Clinton’s crimes.
But this goes beyond mere liberal media bias — as if the problem was simply confined to the hiring practices at media outlets. That trivializes the issue. Trump went deeper, offering a wider context in his indictment of corporate influence over the country.
“The Washington establishment, and the financial and media corporations that fund it, exists for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself,” said Trump, adding, “For those who control the levers of power in Washington, and for the global special interests they partner with, our campaign represents an existential threat. This is not simply another 4-year election. This is a crossroads in the history of our civilization that will determine whether or not we the people reclaim control over our government.”
To Trump, the corporate media in its current form represents a threat to democracy itself: “This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. This election will determine whether we are a free nation, or whether we have only the illusion of democracy but are in fact controlled by a small handful of global special interests rigging the system. This is not just conspiracy but reality, and you and I know it. The establishment and their media enablers wield control over this nation through means that are well known.”
Here’s the thing. Trump is basically right.
Most of all media in this country is owned by just a few companies, Free Press finds in a 2011 of study of media consolidation across print, television, radio and the Internet. Just 24 companies are listed, but the assets owned number in the hundreds. A chapter on the topic in Censored 2006 by Bridget Thornton, Britt Walters and Lori Rouse, “Corporate Media is Corporate America” noted the massive overlap of individuals who sit on the boards at major media outlets and those of non-media corporations.
Throw in the new social media giants: Google, Facebook and Amazon — or Internet domain name system megaopolies ICANN and Verisign — and the same pervasive trend towards consolidation and liberal politics emerges.
To be fair, these new companies have created digital platforms that on the surface allow all sides the argument, the marketplace of ideas, to compete. But even now, accusations emerge of suppressing stories and growing online censorship, not just in the political realm, but also the business realm. Robert Epstein, Senior Research Psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, painstakingly put together an eye-opening piece for U.S. News & World Report, “The New Censorship.” He compares these Internet titans to public utilities and notes numerous ways that Google censors content on its search engine every day.
As Epstein warns, “When Google’s employees or algorithms decide to block our access to information about a news item, political candidate or business, opinions and votes can shift, reputations can be ruined and businesses can crash and burn. Because online censorship is entirely unregulated at the moment, victims have little or no recourse when they have been harmed.”
All the while our corporate overlords assure us there is nothing to it. Just Google, “Google suppresses search results,” without the quotes. See how many pages of “nothing to see here” mouthpiece articles you find. Then imagine what might happen if the water company could just turn off the water to dissidents.
In the information age, we marvel at all the seeming alternatives now presented to us, but the vast majority of those outlets are again owned by those same 24 companies — a number that could shrink even more in the future. Is that a real choice?
It must be said that simply the fact of consolidated ownership is meaningless in itself but just glance at the front pages of major media publications in your region and you will note a definitive trend in favor of Clinton. Granted, some are better than others. But less obvious to the naked eye, these outlets seem to almost universally seem to agree on certain issues: Open borders, bailing out banks, expanding trade agreements beyond what we already have, global warming, gun control, abortion and government as the solution. All of the airwaves singing with one voice. Isn’t that nice? Meanwhile, Republicans who embrace these issues get a pass.
The fact is, media reflects the biases of those who own it. In a marketplace of ideas with unlimited space, this would not be a problem. But in reality media operates on platforms, and there are only so many of those and so much spectrum to go around, and in recent history, they have been in fact consolidating at lightning speed. So let’s consider the trend and its implications.
When we observe pervasive bias consistent with consolidated ownership, as we do today, we must then call the very structure of our democracy into question. The very choices we are able to make depend greatly on the options that are presented to us. If in that process of self-reflection, we discover that the deck is stacked — indeed, that it is rigged by these corporate interests where one set of options is preferred and the other blacklisted — we must reject it and seek out alternatives to this new brand of totalitarianism.
The whole body of federal communications law and media ownership rules in the U.S. were designed to prevent this very outcome from occurring, to prevent media monopolies, yet here we are.
Of course, there are exceptions, including the voices of individuals who deviate and speak out against the obsessive groupthink. Talk radio and a few conservative news sites stand out. There is also what remains of the locally owned and operated newspapers and broadcasters.
Wikileaks too is performing a public service as one of the few remaining press organizations devoted to holding government accountable for their crimes. But how long will it last?
These remain exceptions to the rule of corporate control, and like other endangered species, for how much longer they will be allowed to operate is anyone’s guess given the establishment’s penchant for control we see on display today. No less than total domination is the true end here. The ship may have already sailed.
So what to do?
To editors who take umbrage at this narrative, prove me wrong. Publish this article.
For everyone else, the only thing left to do with the corporate media is to simply reject it, just like Britons did in the Brexit vote. They were promised financial armageddons and a thousand other lies but had the good sense to ignore it. So, do the opposite of whatever the corporate mouthpieces tell you to do or think, naturally within the constraints of the law, which I only mention because the nature of our new masters is take out of context what you say and then attack you for what you didn’t say.
For example, Trump has flat out said the election could be rigged this November, and his campaign points to examples of dead people and non-citizens voting in past elections. So, naturally, that means he’s calling for armed revolution if he loses. Right? Actually, it likely advises for stricter voter ID laws and more poll watchers in battleground states. Meanwhile, Democrats routinely accuse Trump of working with the Russians to steal the election, but that’s “news.” But I digress.
If, by doing the opposite of the party line being fed to you, that means voting for Trump, realize there may not be another viable alternative to the corporate state — a true alternative — presented in your lifetime. This could be it.
Trump is a well-established and very successful businessman but it is hard to countenance somebody with a real chance of winning ever again raising the issues he has — of control of media, of our financial and political institutions — so pervasive in our public life. The only reason he has succeeded to date is because of his built-in name and trusted brand recognition. He successfully cast himself as an agent of change in the primary. But that alone was not enough to prevent the onslaught now being waged against him. In many ways, it’s the reason for it.
As Trump noted in his speech, “Anyone who challenges their control is deemed a sexist, a racist, a xenophobe and morally deformed. They will attack you, they will slander you, they will seek to destroy your career and reputation. And they will lie, lie and lie even more.” Again, that’s basically true. The ink of Trump’s West Palm Beach speech was barely dry before the same media voices who never gave him a chance to win the Republican nomination now told us his indictment of internationally controlled corporate media was somehow anti-Semitic and other similar echo chamber nonsense.
Again, it’s bigger than Trump. In truth, Trump is standing up for U.S. sovereignty, which depends greatly on the strength of our democracy, our freedom to choose.
Having a one-sided media promoting a one-sided global corporate agenda — again, “open trade and open borders,” in the words of Hillary Clinton — will simply result in one obvious outcome. And that is one-party rule. Throw in media consolidation on the single-platform Internet and competitive democracies could already be in dire jeopardy very shortly into the so-called information age.
This new order does not offer the freedom to choose. Instead, it offers freedom from worry. Freedom from choice. Freedom from thinking. It hides alternatives.
Only the naïve will ignore it. And only the evil or fearful will embrace it. It is the same groupthink that pervaded much of Soviet life in the 20th Century. Don’t ask questions. Don’t speak up. Lest you be singled out.
Given the constraints imposed on the political process by the very same corporate media that Trump now wars with, we rarely if ever again will be given a choice as real as the one we have been given in 2016.
In short, if you really believe the system is rigged, Trump’s your guy. Or you can go with a career criminal who will never be held accountable by the corporate media or Congress. Your choice, but be fully advised going in what you were signing up for.
Surely, a Trump presidency will have its share of challenges, but the one upside you can count on is that he will serve as an actual, real counterweight to the corporate media, to foreign countries and to those international institutions that do not have America’s best interests at heart. It may not be a perfect choice, but it is the only viable, true alternative to the status quo being offered on the ballot on Nov. 8.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.