Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Underdog Phenomenon

EDIT 07/08/05: I've kept this one around because nothing in it was specific to 2004. The media is still playing its own game, and both sides are still claiming to be the victims of bias...

Whose side is the media on, anyway?

It's interesting, browsing the right-wing forums, to discover that they still to this day rage against the liberal bias in the media. Meanwhile, the left-wing forums are busy decrying the right-wing slant we see every day.

So which one of us is right?

Or are we both seeing only what we want to see, ignoring instances which don't back our hypothesis? Why are both sides determined to place the media in the opposition's camp? Why do both sides maintain that our message is silenced by a hostile press?

It has a lot to do with American culture. The underdog has always featured heavily in our cultural mythos, and we strive to adopt the mantle of the underdog whenever possible. How better to do that in the context of politics than to claim an unfavorable press bias? Immediately, any flaws of our campaigns become a part of a larger struggle to be heard, shouting valiantly against the hostile roar of a national press determined to drown us out. It lets us feel as though we are a part of something noble, an epic struggle for what is right, fought against impossible odds, for ideals we believe are right, and which we feel the majority of the people would agree to, if only they could hear the truth...

Of course I believe that the left is the true underdog in the national media, but I'm sure there are countless right-wing blogs making the same argument. So whose side is the media on?

To put it simply, they're not on either side. They're out to make money, as much of it as they can. They're out to grab the biggest ratings share and they're willing to adopt whatever position will get them that. That being said, it can't be denied that there is a definite case to be made for a conservative bias at the top. The owners of most major media outlets decidedly lean towards the GOP. Campaign donations at the top are overwhelmingly pro-Bush. This should come as no surprise, because greed and a pathological fixation on the bottom line are cornerstones of the Republican party. So any corporation more concerned with what's profitable than what's ethical fits right in under the GOP's big tent of avarice and gluttony.

What's disurbing is that the media has come to adopt these views. That the bottom line holds more sway than the pursuit of truth should chill any sensible person to their core. Because a world driven by money is a world devoid of humanity, a world where a lust for profit absolves the violation of human rights and basic decency, a world where the rich and powerful hold free reign over the lives and deaths of the penniless slaves laboring at the heart of the mighty corporate juggernaut. When truth and justice take a back burner to profit and influence, the end of free thought is never far behind.

An independent media, removed from the vagaries of popularity and profit, is crucial to the future of our country. We are rapidly approaching Orwell's nightmare vision of a fascist dystopia where the past is continually rewritten to conform to the needs of the present. Every day, Bush offers new and wildly contradictory statements and is given a free pass by the corporate-run media. Is it any wonder that the majorit of today's youth watch "The Daily Show" for their news needs? Because Jon Stewart is the only TV anchor with the temerity to splice together footage of Bush's hypocrisy and casual disregard for the truth. The fake news is, ironically enough, the only station that will report the truth.

Until we manage to wrest the media back out of the clutches of its corporate masters, we are doomed to a world where truth is obscured by a business platform. Free-traders will tell you that deregulation is healthy, that it encourages growth and that industries will self-regulate out of a sense of common good. History says otherwise. Every period of deregulation in the history of the world has brought massive corruption, the enslavement of the working poor, the exploitation of the masses and the destruction of all but the most powerful and ruthless corporations. Deregulation is the death of freedom, and the start of the dominion of vicious greed and unchecked aggression. Corporate influence must be crushed now, before it becomes impossible. Our future depends on it.

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