AlterPolitics New Post

New Gallup Poll: Americans’ Distrust In The Media Hits All-Time High

by on Friday, September 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm EDT in Politics

A new Gallup study reveals that sixty percent of Americans state they have “little or no trust in the mass media to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.” This is the highest negative rating the mainstream media has ever received.

Gallup Poll (Sept 21, 2012)

Americans should be concerned about the viability of their democracy when a major majority, responsible for electing U.S. leaders, believes its major news sources — tasked with informing the people so that they may make rational choices — is both untrustworthy and inaccurate.

“whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them right.”
~ Thomas Jefferson

Can A Democracy Function When The President Can Evade His Critics?

by on Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 12:52 pm EDT in Election 2012, Politics
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

A democracy is built upon the premise that our elected officials will routinely be confronted on their policies in the public square. And from this public engagement, this battleground of ideas, Americans will be better equipped to determine the best policies, thereby ensuring the democratic process actually strengthens the health of the nation, rather than weakens it.  

But for some reason, the President of the United States is free to elude this ongoing battleground.

Only at election time, every four years, is he expected to participate in a handful of debates, and these are somewhat controlled environments. Debate questions tend to be the predictable ‘establishment’ ones, unrepresentative of the ones many Americans would like answered. All third party candidates, and the important issues they would bring to this national contest, are deliberately and systematically banned by the two major parties.

Once elected, Presidents begin to mirror ‘regal’ figureheads, suddenly ‘above’ subjecting themselves to pesky, potentially embarrassing, press conferences. They sidestep any engagements where they might be confronted on controversial policies.

President Bush went as far as to build a literal fortress around himself. It was oft-reported how his administration aggressively “screen[ed] audience members, remov[ed] protesters, and script[ed] questions prior to Bush appearing at public events.”

There are literally no laws in place that require the President of the United States to confront his critics.

And their efforts to evade this form of ‘check’ on Presidential power only seems to be getting worse. Whereas George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton held 56 and 31 news conferences, respectively, during their first three years in office, George W. Bush held only 11, and Barack Obama has held only 17.

When they agree to appear in televised interviews, rarely is it ever a hard-nosed Q&A session. Instead they opt to appear on The View, Jay Leno, or some other non-serious venue, where they are more likely to field questions about their daughters’ grades than meaningful ones, like the signing of the controversial National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

When they do find it opportune to appear for questioning on actual news programs, they carefully select venues where they believe they can easily control their message. Accordingly, political pundits — all desperate for that coveted Presidential interview — treat them deferentially, by asking softball questions. When the odd tough question does get asked, more often than not, the pundits gladly accept whatever scripted non-answer the President gives them. 

Access is the bread and butter of corporate-owned news networks. The White House’s limited and conditional access ensures the corporate media establishment remains compliant. Embarrassing the President on national television, by pinning him down on an obvious lie, would be construed as “an unwise business decision.”

It could be said that the only REAL interview that Obama has endured these last three years, occurred in October of 2010, when he chose to appear on left-leaning comedy program, The Daily Show, believing he would surely be in ‘friendly territory.’ He quickly discovered that the Left, as represented by Jon Stewart, were probably the most disenchanted of all his constituents. Something tells me Jon Stewart has now lost future ‘access’ to the President.

But this seems to be less of a problem in many European democracies.

When President George W. Bush, who rarely gave interviews, sat down in 2004 for a televised interview with Carol Coleman of Radio Television Ireland, he learned very quickly that he was indeed far from Texas. This interview was the first time in 20 years that an American President had granted an interview with the RTÉ. I suspect it will be the last.

Coleman asked questions regarding Bush’s controversial Iraq policies, and when he attempted to filibuster with meaningless slogans, she interrupted him to ensure he actually addressed the questions. Unlike the American media establishment, she did not graciously accept his meaningless talking points as legitimate answers.

The interview became extremely controversial in America. The White House complained to the Irish Embassy, Laura Bush canceled her later-scheduled interview with the RTÉ, and none of the U.S. main stream media networks would air it. When it was discussed on CNN’s Larry King show and CBS, it was described as ‘contentious’.

The U.S. establishment seemed stunned that a journalist would have the audacity to try and pin the U.S. President down on his policies, when she had to know that by not accepting his dumbed-down talking points, she would embarrass him. And surely that is not behavior befitting a King, err a U.S. President.

Coleman disagreed with those sentiments: 

“In Ireland, we give all our politicians a tough time,” said Ms. Coleman, who agreed with the suggestion that European politicians are more battle-hardened by the parliamentary requirement that they face regular and direct questioning from the opposition. “I felt I did my job,” she said.

This mandatory parliamentary questioning that she refers to, is also required in Great Britain.

Every Wednesday, the British Prime Minister gets directly challenged for about half-an-hour by his opposition in Parliament at the PMQs (Prime Minister Questions). In order to withstand this confrontational barrage, the Prime Minister must have a firm working knowledge of all issues, and be able to articulate why his proposals and policies are the most logical and sensible courses of action.

Conversely, when a U.S. President makes a showing before Congress — usually only once a year, at his State of the Union Address — members of both parties rise and applaud as he enters, and remain standing and clapping until he takes the podium. From here, he has a one-way conversation with the elected body. He talks, they listen, he leaves, and they bid him farewell with another standing ovation. Just like a King addressing the members of his royal court.

It could be argued that Britain’s weekly televised PMQs helps to demystify that nation’s highest office. The Prime Minister gets seen as a mere mortal — required to be responsive to the peoples’ representatives. If caught unprepared, on any given Wednesday, he could seriously embarrass himself — all to be captured on television. The U.S. President, having no equivalent requirement, gets seen as more of an insulated, powerful, reverential figurehead — like a monarch, completely shielded from ever having to defend his policies against his critics. 

As Carol Coleman of the RTÉ alluded above, when journalists witness their top leader having to defend his policies each week to the Congressional opposition, they begin to view that leader as someone open to tough scrutiny, rather than someone to be treated deferentially. 

And if the President could no longer shield himself from ever having to publicly defend his policies, he might reconsider passing indefensible policies. 

Imagine how different the health care bill debate would have been if the President had been forced to engage with Congress each week, and to take a visibly forceful stand on critical pieces of the legislation, rather than hide in the background, cutting back-room deals, and working the back-channels.

Another unforeseen repercussion from allowing U.S. Presidents to evade critical questioning, is it actually encourages incompetent, incurious, and inarticulate people to seek the highest office in the land. Case in point: George W. Bush. It would be highly doubtful that a person incapable of defending his policies to a non-deferential journalist, would consider running for an office that required him to defend the intellectual soundness of his policies every single week against his fiercest critics, on national television.

Even Tony Blair, who had a reputation for performing exceedingly well at PMQs, later admitted in interviews, that they had been a constant source of stress for him. At his final PMQs he told the MPs:

“This is still the arena that sets the heart beating a little faster. And, if it is on occasions the place of low skulduggery, it is more often the place for the pursuit of noble causes.”

It is ironic that the United States, a nation founded upon the rejection of monarchy, would allow its top leader to evade his critics, much like a monarch, while Great Britain — with a Queen still residing in Buckingham Palace — would demand the very opposite from its Prime Minister. 

WATCH: Jon Stewart Blasts MSM For Trying To Marginalize Presidential Candidate Ron Paul

by on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm EDT in Politics

Last Saturday (August 13), Presidential candidate Ron Paul came within 152 votes (behind Michele Bachmann) of winning the Iowa straw poll, only to find himself completely ignored and marginalized by ALL the mainstream media outlets who covered the contest.

Here are the straw poll results:

1. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (4823, 28.55%)

2. Congressman Ron Paul (4671, 27.65%)

3. Governor Tim Pawlenty (2293, 13.57%)

4. Senator Rick Santorum (1657, 9.81%)

5. Herman Cain (1456, 8.62%)

6. Governor Rick Perry (718, 3.62%) write-in

7. Governor Mitt Romney (567, 3.36%)

8. Speaker Newt Gingrich (385, 2.28%)

9. Governor Jon Huntsman (69, 0.41%)

10. Congressman Thad McCotter (35, 0.21%)

On the Sunday morning political shows that followed, not a single news network invited Ron Paul to appear. Nutter Michelle Bachmann appeared on all five major networks: NBC’s Meet the Press, CBS’ Face the Nation, ABC’s This Week, Fox News Sunday and CNN’s State of the Union. Tim Pawlenty (who received less than half the votes cast for Paul) appeared on ABC This Week, and Shit4Brains Herman Cain (who came in 5th, receiving less than a third of Paul’s votes) appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union”.

Politico’s Roger Simon wrote yesterday: “Ron Paul just got shafted”, and he pointed out that most of the major newspapers’ coverage of the event, either completely ignored Paul, or trivialized him with a side note: 

A Wall Street Journal editorial Monday magnanimously granted Paul’s showing in the straw poll a parenthetical dismissal: “(Libertarian Ron Paul, who has no chance to win the nomination, finished a close second.)”

Again, Paul won second place (out of ten candidates), and Michele Bachmann only beat him by 9/10’s of a percentage point to win first place.

To me, this just highlights the deep-seated contempt the elite media holds for democracy itself. It doesn’t care who the American people believe to be the best candidate(s) in a given race. The corporate media believes itself to be the custodian of the US political process, entitled to thin the pool of candidates down to the ones it deems ‘suitable’ for consideration.

So the logical question would be, “What is it that worries the MSM about Ron Paul?”

The MSM aggressively promotes ‘establishment narratives’ on a whole host of issues, which in turn become the ‘acceptable public discourse’ for ‘serious candidates’. Be it narratives on US Middle East policy, torture, Bush war crimes, the Federal Reserve, WikiLeaks, the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, etc — the MSM will not allow a candidate who doesn’t walk the line on these narratives to get the favorable exposure they need to win an election.

Makes no difference whether the candidate in question is from the right, like Ron Paul, or from the left, like Ralph Nader. 

Personally, I disagree with Ron Paul on most of his ‘free market, anti-regulatory’ domestic initiatives, but this MSM ‘blackout’ serves as a great example of how the establishment marginalizes popular Presidential candidates who refuse to walk their line.

This Jon Stewart video is a must-watch. Stewart takes the MSM to task for their brazen effort to bury Ron Paul as a viable Presidential candidate: