National Commentary

Democracy Weeps at Journalism’s Fail

bentonmugSo now comes a new major difference between the Republicans and Democrats, as regaled on the many national TV blab shows last weekend. This one takes the cake: it is centered on whether huge financial contributions to political campaigns should be a matter of public record, like the ads they help to buy, or not.

bentonmugSo now comes a new major difference between the Republicans and Democrats, as regaled on the many national TV blab shows last weekend. This one takes the cake: it is centered on whether huge financial contributions to political campaigns should be a matter of public record, like the ads they help to buy, or not.

The idea that this is portrayed as a partisan issue is an outrage.

Republicans say keep the information secret. Democrats say make it public. It is not hard to figure out who stands to gain the most in the upcoming mid-term elections from the ability of donors, both domestic and foreign, to pump millions into attack ads without the slightest accountability for either the veracity of the content of the ads, or their own ulterior political motives.

I am reminded of the storied contrast between dropping a live crab into a pot of boiling water and placing one into a pot of mild water and gradually turning up the heat. In the former case, the crab will scream and leap with all of its might to get out of the water. In the latter case, the crab will continue to sit in the water, oblivious to the constant incremental rise in temperature until it is fully cooked!

The American population is now in the process of being fully cooked, distracted by its heavy offerings of bread and circuses while bit by bit, essential democratic freedoms are eroded by those powerful financial interests who are hijacking the current elections. They’re doing it with tons of secretly-funneled dollars buoying phony grass roots movements and misleading the public with a tsunami of half-truths and innuendo spewed forth in anonymous “citizens united” TV ads.

They’re injecting unreported millions directly into the day-to-day operations of groups like the Tea Party Express. The Tea Party was the creation of Dick Armey’s “Freedom Works” outfit in Washington, D.C., and although everyone seems to know it, no one will say it. (The same goes for the politically-motivated creation of something calling itself a news network, Fox News).

Instead, the so-called mainstream major media is responsible for actually creating the viability and supplying the credibility of these movements, these institutions, and their candidates, simply by not reporting the salient facts about where their funding comes from, by not questioning the fact that there is no transparency in campaign giving for this election.

Instead, the media is treating this steep decline in the viability of free and fair elections as disputes defined by mere political partisanship.

It was astonishing to witness NBC’s host of Meet the Press, David Gregory, taking off against White House press secretary Robert Gibbs this Sunday, accusing President Obama of “scare tactics” and the “politics of fear” for assailing this secret giving.

Gregory, himself, sounded like a proponent of the Republican right with his harsh rhetoric. And we’re supposed to believe he is a genuine journalist?

If I were Gibbs, I would have asked Gregory what, as a journalist, he thinks about undisclosed campaign contributions. Doesn’t he, as a journalist, believe in the public’s right to know about such things?

But no, the modern newsman of the Gregory ilk is simply a referee, someone who sits passively in the middle of a debate between two waring sides, occasionally interjecting questions for clarification.

This is a far cry from the reporting of the Edward R. Murrow era, when the thuggery of Sen. Joe McCarthy in the early 1950s would not have ceased but for a determined effort by Murrow and CBS news to reveal the extent of the excess.

Alas, now the legacy of Watergate, and the media’s famous role in that one, is rapidly fading. (Without knowing any insider details behind Howard Kurtz’ departure from the Washington Post, his role was to call the news profession into account on just such grounds as these).

Democrats are screaming about the erosion of free and fair elections represented by the cloaked millions pouring into this fall’s campaigns, as well they should. But they’re being painted as doing it only for partisan reasons, so the general public is tuning out.

Without robust independent news reporting to tell it like it is, well…it seems like it’s getting awfully warm in here.


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at nfbenton@fcnp.com

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