Is Corporate Media a danger to Society? Coverage of Trump v. Sanders

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

ABC World News has given one minute to Bernie Sanders this year (actually, it is just 20 seconds). It has given 81 minutes to Donald Trump.

Bernie is taking on corporations, and it is the corporations that are reporting on him, or rather blacking him out.

Trump is a corporation, and is a true American fascist. Moreover, his rhetorical bomb-throwing attracts eyeballs, which lets Disney Corp. charge more money for commercials aired during ABC World News.

Bernie in polling consistently defeats all the GOP candidates in a one on one contest. So why isn’t he the newsworthy one?

What better for corporate news. You pretend there isn’t a candidate in the race addressing growing economic inequality or the woes of the working class. You put all the spotlight on someone who insults and even incites against Mexican-Americans, African-Americans and Muslim-Americans. It is a tried and true tactic of the American business class to keep the workers and middle class divided by playing up minor ethnic issues.

The end result, however, is fire-bombing of mosques and attacks on minorities and other white hood phenomena familiar from past epochs of American history.

Write ABC News and tell them we want them to be more socially and politically even-handed and responsible. Tell them they are polluting our airwaves with hate and ignoring the healing messages, all for a profit off the people’s airwaves.

Having the news be a profit center, having it be in the Entertainment division, and giving limited American airwaves away to corporations who use it so recklessly is against everything the Founding Fathers stood for.

We need a people’s Federal Communications Commission, to push back against this naked attempt to divide us and demagogue us and keep us down. A handful of multi-billion-dollar conglomerates owns all major media news outlets. They will reply that the cybersphere has allowed diversity, but the airwaves dominate the cybersphere conversation, and anyway you can’t compare the influence of a blogger to that of ABC News.

The delivery of corporate news depends on public accommodations; they owe the public more than this.

We need to restore the principle of fairness in the reporting of political news. Because the lapsing of that principle is taking this country down the road of the brownshirts. It should be remembered that in Europe as well, a coalition of corporations, fascist political parties and churches took the continent into a far-right death spiral.

If needs be, we need a constitutional amendment.

Obviously, we have to start by taking back control of the drawing of political districts from the political parties, as California and Ohio have done, and make it a neutral matter. We’ve been gerrymandered into a permanent far-right majority in Congress.

When that naked power-grab is reversed, then we can legislate three or four key measures that would reverse the dominance of a left-liberal American majority by a handful of hateful billionaires and some surburban hangers-on.

We’ve been had, folks.


Related video:

Secular Talk: “Nightly News Covers Donald Trump 23X More Than Bernie Sanders”

52 Responses

  1. I would honestly love to buy a bernie sanders bumper sticker for the car (I first learned of Bernie through seeing a bumper sticker on a car) but I am concerned as an already visibly Muslim person for my car getting keyed or tires getting slashed. That would just make it all the more likely.

    • ML, I understand your concerns and wish it were not so but very unfortunately, we live with far too many irrational, hate filled people in this country. Thanks for voicing your concerns.

    • While the other candidates are worse and I love Bernie, he has been a bit squishy about US Mideast policy, being too pro-Israel for those of us who have a balanced view. So, you may want to hold off anyway.

      • My perception is that Bernie is not pro-Likud while Hillary and all of the repub candidates definitely are. To me, that provides the closest possible to a balanced view of Middle East policy.

  2. Indeed we’ve been had. The US Constitution does not protect elections and mass media, the principal institutions of democracy, from economic concentrations that did not exist when it was written. The essential amendments to limit funding of mass media and elections to limited and registered individual contributions cannot even be proposed to large numbers because those instruments of public debate are already controlled.

    Money measures industry and intelligence only over a narrow range in each economic class. The class of an individual is determined by circumstances, and often reduced by the moral and intelligent choices of a career in education, science, or social services. Wealth and power go to the most unethical schemers for money, who then purchase testimonials to the virtue and intelligence they lack. They are among the most ignorant, selfish, hypocritical, and malicious members of society, and a failed Constitution allows them to dominate the rest of us. Their enemy is democracy.

    The right wing has throughout history used public debate to invent foreign enemies to pose as protectors and accuse their opponents of disloyalty, ruling the sheeple with propaganda and fear, hollowing out democracy to the empty suit of armor we now have, that blunders around the globe, swinging its sword madly.

    A people’s FCC would help, but would not be permitted by campaign contributors, and the public would never be allowed to hear about the issues. Bureaucrats would be installed to block changes and plead helplessness. We would have far more democracy under Chinese communism than we have under US capitalism: they actually round up and prosecute scoundrels, rather than paying them billions to get more bribes.

    • The root of the problem goes back to the Supreme Court decision in Buckley vs. Vallejo, where the Court ruled that spending money and political speech are equivalent. I sincerely doubt the Framers intended this reading of the First Amendment, so we need a progressive court to over turn this decision and Citizens United.

      • Very true, but the Supreme Court is the most corrupt of the federal and state courts, rubberstamping any denial of constitutional rights. They are appointed by the politicians installed by corrupt funding of elections and mass media. So there can never be election reform from the Supreme Court. The US people are propagandized that the judiciary are Santa Claus that they can run to when wronged, and nothing could be further from the truth. They are the most dedicated of all traitors against democracy, wrapped in the flag.

  3. Good to know. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to write to ABC, if it makes one feel better. That’s the reason I sometimes write to elected officials.

  4. We do not need a constitutional amendment. We need to amend the Apportionment Act of 1911 which sets a limit of 435 representatives. If we had real representation, as envisioned in the constitution, we should have double that many representatives.

    • Not enough people are discussing this idea. At one time we had maybe one representative for every thirty thousand or so inhabitants. Now it’s almost one per million. That makes for easy one-stop shopping for oligarchic interests. Not only should we have several thousand representatives, but they should all stay in their district offices and rely on teleconferencing to deal with each other.

    • The number of representatives is limited to make debate manageable: but even the elimination of gerrymandering does not address the problems of corruption, election funding, and control of public debate by right wing ownership of mass media. We certainly do need constitutional amendments to keep money out of mass media and elections and policy making. Why not?

  5. Sanders is the last good person standing and the only candidate the millionaires, billionaires and corporations have to stop at all costs. They are doing it mainly by throwing their enormous political clout behind Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary. And they aren’t even subtle about it. They are, however, very clever. For example, in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, which might have reminded Democratic voters of Hillary’s involvement in the failed invasion and occupation of Iraq, regime change in Libya, the attack on Benghazi and her reckless policy proposals for Syria, the New York Times gave her a prime Op-Ed opportunity to roll out her plan to “restrain” her main campaign contributor, Wall Street. (If Mr. Sulzberger Jr. and his editorial board at the Times have offered Bernie Sanders equal time on the Op-Ed page, I’m not aware of it.)

    On the other hand, sadly, Bernie seems to be laboring under the illusion that Hillary’s millionaires and billionaires are somehow better than the Republican millionaires and billionaires. He has been unwilling to make the kind of attacks on her record, her positions and her character that would force the media to cover his campaign the way it covers Trump’s. (As though Trump doesn’t know all of that anyway and won’t use it if he runs against Hillary.)

    If you write to ABC, send a copy to your local ABC affiliate and demand that they put it in their public file where it can be used against them when their license comes up for renewal.

    • Excuse me, but you have completely overestimated the wisdom of the American people. To them, across most of the political spectrum, wars to slaughter Moslems are JUSTIFIED by Moslem terrorist attacks. They never see it as vice versa because they see America as defending a just status quo. There was no danger that Clinton was going to be made to look bad by terrorists, except from successful right-wing fearmongering that she is not murderous enough. None. Zero. Not at all. That is the kind of country you’re living in. We will always believe in Manichean struggles, and we will always believe that the side we back will prevail after sufficient violence. Even the Americans cheering for ISIS (or the USSR, or Mao, or Saddam Hussein, or Gaddafi) to destroy the American empire have fallen into that trap. But inevitably they are outnumbered by people cheering for their country, because humans are like that everywhere.

      • I think it was H.L. Mencken who once said that nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

        • That might have been PT Barnum or Mark Twain. HL Mencken added that “The average man …avoids the truth as diligently as he avoids arson, regicide or piracy on the high seas, and for the same reason: because he believes that it is dangerous, that no good can come of it, that it doesn’t pay.”

  6. Whether it was 1913, 1947, or 1963, the U.S. has been taken over mightily by the corporations. Everything is about making money, but yet there isn’t enough to go around. Our elections are rigged by gerrymandering, and our news media is anything but independent. Donald Trump gets attention because he is outrageous, and as Professor Cole stated this sells commercials. We would all do well, too sit at home one day, and just do nothing. No shopping, no traveling on airplanes, no buying gasoline, no nothing. Maybe, my idea isn’t that great, but my point is we the people need to put our foot down, and correct our course as a nation. First we need a leader, and then we need campaign reform to the extreme. Think about this, if we the people do vote for the wrong candidate, then our Supreme Court will do our voting for us. Wow! Talk about fascism.

  7. Popular media has become entertainment. Objective news is cerebral, it involves the mind, entertainment is essentially the orchestration of emotion without cerebral involvement. Selective, highly professional coverage of wars, bomb outrages, mass slaughter, and guys like Trump provides plenty of compelling low cost and immediate entertainment it would be prohibitively expensive to replicate.

    • I have a theory that the corrupt aristocracy of Games of Thrones actually is how most Americans would prefer to be governed as long as they didn’t have to bear the consequences of being on one of the many losing sides. They project themselves out of their miserable lives and into imagined lives as barons and knights who can get away with murder. Queen Elizabeth I knew what she was doing when she subsidized Shakespeare’s patriotic plays.

  8. I would hope that people with influence would bring pressure to bear against all networks to give Bernie more time,but as we know, TV. is all about sensationalism and we can only hope that the exposure to the Trump Bigotry is powerful enough to force more honest people to vote in the right direction.

  9. “News” outlets like the Huffington Post run editorials and stories criticizing Donald Trump daily. Also, they run editorials and stories about Donald Trump daily. They do the same with very few critical stories about Secretary Clinton. It’s no wonder they’re so popular and leading polls. Less than critical thinkers know what they like and they like what they know.

    This isn’t a question about whether Bernie Sanders stories appear in the capitalist corporate media because they do. The questions are what are the frequencies and emphases of political candidate stories. The truth leaks out in the capitalist, corporate media in dribs and drabs, but it’s overwhelmed in quantity and volume by their propaganda.

    It’s apparent by the metrics above that capitalist, corporate media, military industrial and security complex and political establishment, i.e., the ruling class and their enforcement mechanisms have picked Hillary Clinton as their favorite. She’s the one that will bring more war, more surveillance and more of the same old, same old, watered down, half stepping, thin as gruel, mealy mouth policies of the last thirty years or so with a few crumbs for the working class that mindlessly support her.

    It’s going to take a political revolution as Senator Sanders says to prevent it.

  10. Corporate-owned and controlled media herded our country, including Congress, into an orchestrated false war that destabilized an entire region of our planet for decades to come, and wasted TRILLION$, killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

    Corporate-owned and controlled media is currently employed to turn one of our most cherished American privileges – democracy – into circus sideshow and soap.

    Is Corporate Media a danger to Society?

    It is now.

  11. Flip

    Of course! Proof is piling up :/ #CorporateMedia But “Never despair” – as #WilliamofOrange said when he founded the #Netherlands

  12. The American future certainly has a dystopian prospect and the on-going political charade looks more like a Greek tragedy every day. But there could be a silver lining. America might follow Germany’s example. After the collapse of the Third Reich a vibrant democracy was developed in Germany with excellent leaders such as, among others, Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt. So, if the United States continues on its current path towards a neocon/neoliberal/fascist state we can look forward to its inevitable collapse and a restoration of a democratic society. Unfortunately, with US influence democracy in Germany might again be a temporary event which might also mean restoration of a democracy in the United States might also be temporary, but at least it will help keep the concept alive.

    But it isn’t just the US. Britain’s decadent upper class and its sycophants in the media are trying to do to Jeremy Corbyn what our hacks are doing to Bernie Sanders.

  13. I doubt it has much to do with a deliberate corporate conspiracy, but rather to the pernicious effects of many small profit maximizing decisions at all levels of the media. The capitalist system values eyeballs over truth, emotional stories over substance and so on. Outrage, resentment, and fear are easy to sell, and hence profitable. The result is not just dis/misinformation, and the training of our baser emotions, but also we get habituated to the quick emotional hit, at the expense of careful logical thinking.

  14. I am going to nitpick in order to include a good quote, paraphrased. The experts agree, Donald Trump is not a Fascist. Vox ran an interesting article where they contacted a number of academics who have studied and written about Fascism and asked them if Trump is a Fascist. I like what one said. To paraphrase, he said that you can be an arrogant, xenophobic, racist, hateful asshole and not be a Fascist. Chris Hayes put it well last week in commenting on reporting about the San Bernardino massacre. The news does not report on planes that land safely. So, even with a balanced media, which we don’t have, the nature of journalism is that the ignorant, over the top guy gets more coverage than the measured, learned guy with all the facts. So, it is a two pronged problem–unbalanced media and a journalistic ethos that puts selling papers, or getting internet clicks, above getting to the truth and doing in depth research and reporting.

      • I have read a fair amount of modern European history, especially the 1930’s, and I found the Vox article persuasive. Among the experts consulted was Stanley Payne, perhaps the foremost expert on Franco. Check it out. I would say Trump has fascistic tendencies.

      • Could “Trumpism” rekindle the fire for democracy or fascism be a precursor to a revolution?
        Maybe Trump is exactly what we need now rather than kicking this can down the road.

    • I’d recommend Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation. Polanyi personally observed the fact that the symptoms of fascism in the 1930’s were vague and ambiguous.

      “People often did not feel sure whether a political speech or a play, a sermon or a public parade, a metaphysics or an artistic fashion, a poem or a party program was fascist or not.”

      In the end, fascist victories were easy and complete.

    • There’s at least one very clear parallel. Both Hitler and Mussolini started out as laughing-stock.

  15. Stopping gerrymandering is good, but it’s not nearly as fundamental as better and national ballot initiatives. As Bill Moyers says, “reformers in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and South Dakota are already considering ballot initiatives [to end gerrymandering] to follow in the footsteps of Arizona, California and Florida.” link to

    Ballot initiatives are the origin of everything from women’s suffrage to minimum wages to sunshine laws to renewable energy mandates to medical and legal marijuana. link to

    We need initiatives in the 26 states lacking them, national ones to either pressure or go around Congress, online petitioning so it’s not just for the rich, and Oregon’s new citizen initiative review:

  16. Matthew de Lellis

    There is no “independent press or media”,..its ALL corporate owned and operated which is why we get spin rather than any real news. Stop watching and listening to this mind poison.

  17. I think the moral equivocation between Clinton and Donald Trump at sites like this is disgusting. It’s like leftists in Weimar Germany complaining that the Social Democrats aren’t pure enough and not bothering to vote against Hitler.

    As they said in Louisiana when Edwin Edwards beat David Duke, “Better the crook than the Nazi.” But in fact Trump is both:

    link to

    • My experience of both Clintons is that their idea of good government is to enrich themselves, while rewarding their benefactors and cronies and punishing their enemies. The fact that they are a lot like Trump may be disgusting, but it’s true.

  18. It’s clearly time for a new Party. The Clintons, the Democratic Leadership Council, and Obama have turned the Democratic Party into Republican Lite. I’ll never forget the revulsion I felt when new President Obama crawled up to Wall Street calling the lying jackals that caused the crash of 08′ “Savvy Businessmen”.
    I am supporting Sanders because 8 years of Hillary could be the tipping point of our Democracy and the planet.

  19. The pattern of media concentration in corporate hands is repeated throughout the Western world and is especially found in the West’s neo-colonies. It is part of the basic game plan of crony capitalism. It is extremely naïve to think that common citizens can change this.

    Research shows that the wealthy class has one over riding allegiance – undying loyalty to their class. Even when proposed progressive legislation promotes the interests of their industry and makes sense – many in the upper class will oppose. In other words, their allegiance is more to class interests than industry interests.

  20. The GOP has come to resemble a cult, with a dangerous groupthink mentality. It would appear that they get their ideas and energy from watching television. Yes the US is heading down the path to Nazi-ism. Will the Democrat candidates call out the GOP on this? Or will they just play along, leading the country down that dangerous path themselves?

  21. Trump won’t win, but my question is would a Sanders presidency be good for the US economy, or just drive more jobs overseas?

    • The major driver of jobs overseas has been late capitalist rewarding of corporations for leaving. Contrast Germany & Sweden.
      Bernie could stop the hemorrhaging by cutting tax breaks

      • Regarding foreign policy, so far as major media institutions are concerned, my impression is that over the years the AP wire service has been subtly but shamefully tilted toward Israel and adverse the Palestinian people. By the skilled use of language it convicts the essentially imprisoned Palestinians and exonerates Israel on the issue, for example, of the use of terror. I suppose there are exceptions, but the situation calls for systematic examination of AP’s objectivity done according to accepted academic standards. AP articles have a global reach.

        But can he cut them if the Congress is perpetually gerrymandered?

  22. I am interested in the consequences of Trump media coverage and it’s correlation to the well-being of the American People. I am curious about the relationship between “frequencies of outlandish/discriminatory comments made by Trump to the coverage he receives from media outlets and that coverage’s potential to drive Trump’s electability as measured by polling data, as we have seen lately. That being said, I state the following “glass half full” perspective that might soften the frustration associated with the daily media cycle: the higher Mr. Trump climbs, the less likely a candidate, holding even some of his discriminatory beliefs, ascends to the highest office in the land. It would seem, in my opinion and analysis, more coverage of Trump = less coverage of others = less opportunity to weaken others = higher likelihood for a candidate with more socially moderate beliefs (and a less discriminatory policy platform) to be elected. Simply, more media coverage for Trump = more votes for liberal policy initiatives/candidates. This is the game and Trump is a player, let’s let him play and see what happens, we may actually like the winner.

  23. US MSM focuses on any issue that causes divisiveness. meanwhile, Bernie Sanders speaks about our common concerns as citizens – real issues that pull us together. MSM does not want us to pull together on any issue and only adds more fire daily to divide us.

  24. Regarding foreign policy, so far as major media institutions are concerned, my impression is that over the years the AP wire service has been subtly but shamefully tilted toward Israel and adverse the Palestinian people. By the skilled use of language it convicts the essentially imprisoned Palestinians and exonerates Israel on the issue, for example, of the use of terror. I suppose there are exceptions, but the situation calls for systematic examination of AP’s objectivity done according to accepted academic standards. AP articles have a global reach.

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