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Posts Tagged ‘control’

Agenda Setters and Gatekeepers: How Mainstream Media Controls Information

In media on April 28, 2010 at 11:39 pm

“Information is the currency of democracy.”

The quote is attributed to both founding father Thomas Jefferson and political activist Ralph Nader. Regardless of who said it, the statement is a profound one.

In a America, citizens are assured the news offers differing viewpoints. From FOX News to MSNBC, most viewers are convinced they are getting both “sides” to a story. But are they really?

The truth is, mainstream media is controlled by a tightly knit group of corporations. The “big six,” as they are sometimes described, consist of General Electric, Time Warner, Walt Disney, News Corp, Viacom and CBS. Together, these mega-corporations make up and control virtually all mainstream news.

Notice how, when switching between “conservative” and “liberal” mainstream networks, topics covered and facts reported are almost always the same. The perceived difference in bias convinces viewers their source of choice is somehow independent.

Not only does the mainstream media serve as gatekeepers of public information, it also sets the agenda for other news sources. Foreign and local media find themselves marching to the beat set by the “big six.” As a result, massive amounts of information go unreported to the public. Mainstream decides for all what, how much, and the manner in which the news is reported.

But a powerful weapon has emerged in recent years able to counteract big media. The internet has provided the individual with a plethora of opinions and an explosion of information. Free Press accurately describes the World Wide Web as offering “hope” to the public:

“The internet is radically changing the way most everyone experiences media. It could become the central nervous system of a healthy democracy — the greatest engine for free speech, civic engagement, and economic growth ever known. It may be our last, best hope to make an end-run around the traditional media gatekeepers.”

Also see The Nation’s interactive list of “The Big Ten.”
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Picking presidents; debate commission controls candidates’ chances

In Uncategorized on March 15, 2010 at 2:15 am

From the time American children enter school they are told they can be anything they want to be — even president of the United States. After all, America is the land of opportunity where all you need is a big dream and a little hard work.

In reality, only those allowed to participate have a shot at the United States’ presidency.

I’m not talking about the vast amounts of wealth, Harvard degree or friends in high places one needs to be eligible. While a certain pedigree and small family fortune (or, at the very least, wealthy donors) are necessary steps toward the Oval Office, the most insurmountable obstacle is that posed by the Commission on Presidential Debates.

The commission was created in 1987 to “ensure that debates, as a permanent part of every general election, provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners,” according to its website. But civil rights activist and lawyer Connie Rice says the CPD is far from being a public service.

“The CPD is under the total control of the Republican and Democratic parties and by definition bipartisan, not non-partisan,” Rice said.

In Rice’s Top 10 Secrets They Dont Want You to Know About the Debates, she contends that the CPD purposefully shuts out third-party candidates.

“This is what I call the Obstruction of Democratic Debate Rule, which sets an impossibly high threshold for third-party candidates… Where are we, Russia? Isn’t Vladimir Putin wiping out democracy in Russia by excluding all opposing candidates from the airwaves during his re-election campaigns? Most new ideas come from third parties — they should be in the debates.”

Rice is not alone in her harsh criticism of the CPD. The League of Women Voters, which used to run the debates, withdrew its support in October 1988 because of the “campaign-controlled environment.”

“The League of Women Voters is withdrawing its sponsorship of the presidential debate scheduled for mid-October because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetrate a fraud on the American voter,” League President Nancy M. Neuman said in a press release. “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

But hoodwinking is exactly what the CPD does.

According to the report, Deterring Democracy: How the Commission on Presidential Debates Undermines Democracy, the Democrat and Republican parties took over the presidential debates in 1986. The CPD was created by then chair of the Republican Party Frank Fahrenkopf and then chair of the Democratic Party Paul Kirk. Both Kirk and Fahrenkopf still reside as chairmen on the committee. The consequences of such partisan creation and control are devastating, according to the report:

“Candidates that voters want to see are often excluded, such as Ross Perot. Issues the American people want to hear about are often ignored, such as free trade and child poverty. And the debates have been reduced to a series of glorified bipartisan news conferences, in which the Republican and Democratic candidates exchange memorized sound bites.”

Even Walter Cronkite called CPD-sponsored debates an “unconscionable fraud.”

It’s disturbing that in a so-called democracy as America, such a dictatorial system exists. When it comes to selecting the most important person in the nation — and arguably the world — debates, and thus elections, are anything but democratic.