Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Spring Fund Drive: Keep CounterPunch Afloat
CounterPunch is a lifeboat of sanity in today’s turbulent political seas. Please make a tax-deductible donation and help us continue to fight Trump and his enablers on both sides of the aisle. Every dollar counts!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Making a Killing

I’ve written before warning about the ways in which American elections have been transformed into a business.  Sadly, the second debate between Barack Obama and John McCain appears to offer more evidence of the same.  While the debate was unlikely to dazzle an electorate that’s been terrified about the housing collapse and the implosion of the economy, the business of negative campaigning has persevered, remaining insulated and unaffected by society’s larger problems.  Media corporations continue to make a killing off of negative campaigning, in the process poisoning our elections and turning off voters to the real policy issues at hand.

Media critic Robert McChesney warns against the dangers of the media’s profiteering from elections in his superb work: The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century.  In the book, he points out that media corporations’ percent of total revenues earned from campaign advertising increased from just three percent in 1992 to ten percent ten years later.  This dramatic increase has been accompanied by elections that are radically higher in cost; for example, the amount of money it took to successfully win office in the House of Representatives and the Senate (on average) increased by 85 percent in both bodies from 1998 to 2006 alone.  Sadly, the money required to buy these offices looks like it will continue to increase indefinitely into the future.

Coverage of the second Presidential debate has been heavily dominated by the business of election politics.  The following day’s (October 8th) coverage was noteworthy in the ways it subtly and not so subtly reinforced the interests of the election profiteers.  Online news sources like CNN.com and the Washingtonpost.com completely abandoned any pretense of objectivity by running profitable negative campaign ads for John McCain and Sarah Palin alongside stories on the debates and the election.  The Post and CNN ads, attacking Obama for denying middle class workers tax cuts and promoting McCain for being a “maverick” and the friend of the middle class, were shamelessly run alongside other marketing campaigns promoting Chevron, AT&T World Connect, Window’s Mobile Phone, as well as promotions of Lifestyle.com and auto insurance quotes.  That the candidates are considered little more than products to be sold alongside these other goods and services speaks strongly to the deterioration of American’s “choices” in this election.  Perhaps CBS.com expressed the perversion of democracy best, as it subsumed all of its reporting of Iraq under the banner “Presented by ExxonMobil,” located at the top of the debate coverage page.  Such blatant corporate control over the election process would be comical if it weren’t so tragic.

Of course, the debate coverage was full of political spin as well.  ABC News featured a “Nightline Report Card” with media commentator George Stephanopoulos which asked “Who Dominated the Debate?”  Stephanopoulos answered that, clearly Obama had outperformed McCain in terms of strategy, accuracy, and style.  Why voters should take Stephanopoulo’s views even remotely seriously (considering he was a senior political advisor to Bill Clinton and the administratin’s communication director) when they decide who won the debate was left unexplained by ABC.  Did ABC executives honestly think there was any chance that Stephanopoulos, considering his background, would have seen John McCain as the victor?  This inconvenient and troubling question was never addressed.

Fox News resorted to its usually partisan hackery, only featuring stories glorifying the Republicans at the expense of Obama.  The major stories featured on the Foxnews.com website included such hardhitting investigative pieces as: “Cindy McCain: Obama Campaign Dirtiest in History,” “Palin Keeps Focus on Ayers Ahead of Debate,” and “Obama Admits Bumming Cigarettes on the Campaign Trail.”

The nation’s elite print media hardly fared much better in terms of substance.  Frank Bruni of the New York Times complained that “Tuesday night’s presidential debate was remarkable for the dourness of its mood and for the subdued demeanors of the candidates even as they tore into each other.”  Americans have become painfully familiar with this lame, superficial approach to assessing candidates, divorced from their actual policy stances.  Perhaps the one ray of light in the media response was seen in the Washington Post, where Tom Shales attacked the media for its own failures in coverage.  Shales rightfully took aim specifically at debate moderator Tom Brokaw, who was seen as “the biggest wet blanket on the debate stage… [he] also played a kind of military role: Commander of the Clock.  Time and time again, the NBC newsman inflicted frivolous rules on the candidates that only served to frustrate true debate and the kind of give-and-take that a ‘town hall’ format supposedly encourages…Exactly what the rules were [in the debate] remained unclear, even though Brokaw explained them at the start of the debate.  He called for ‘discussion’ periods that seemed only a minute long; what kind of ‘discussion is that?  If a discussion really did threaten to break out, Brokaw got grumpy and called it off.  The least important thing on an occasion such as this is a bunch of arbitrary rules concocted by the debate organizers.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself.

ANTHONY DiMAGGIO teaches Politics of the Developing World and American Government at Illinois State University.  His book, Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Examining American News in the “War on Terror” will be released in paperback this December.  He may be reached at: adimagg@ilstu.edu

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

May 24, 2018
Gary Leupp
Art of the Dealbreaker: Trump’s Cancellation of the Summit with Kim
Jeff Warner – Victor Rothman
Why the Emerging Apartheid State in Israel-Palestine is Not Sustainable
Kenn Orphan
Life, the Sea and Big Oil
James Luchte
Europe Stares Into the Abyss, Confronting the American Occupant in the Room
Richard Hardigan
Palestinians’ Great March of Return: What You Need to Know
Howard Lisnoff
So Far: Fascism Lite
Matthew Vernon Whalan
Norman Finkelstein on Bernie Sanders, Gaza, and the Mainstream Treatment
Daniel Warner
J’accuse All Baby Boomers
Alfred W. McCoy
Beyond Golden Shower Diplomacy
Jonah Raskin
Rachel Kushner, Foe of Prisons, and Her New Novel, “The Mars Room”
George Wuerthner
Myths About Wildfires, Logging and Forests
Binoy Kampmark
Tom Wolfe the Parajournalist
Dean Baker
The Marx Ratio: Not Clear Karl Would be Happy
May 23, 2018
Nick Pemberton
Maduro’s Win: A Bright Spot in Dark Times
Ben Debney
A Faustian Bargain with the Climate Crisis
Deepak Tripathi
A Bloody Hot Summer in Gaza: Parallels With Sharpeville, Soweto and Jallianwala Bagh
Josh White
Strange Recollections of Old Labour
Farhang Jahanpour
Pompeo’s Outrageous Speech on Iran
CJ Hopkins
The Simulation of Democracy
Lawrence Davidson
In Our Age of State Crimes
Dave Lindorff
The Trump White House is a Chaotic Clown Car Filled with Bozos Who Think They’re Brilliant
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Domination of West Virginia
Ty Salandy
The British Royal Wedding, Empire and Colonialism
Laura Flanders
Life or Death to the FCC?
Gary Leupp
Dawn of an Era of Mutual Indignation?
Katalina Khoury
The Notion of Patriarchal White Supremacy Vs. Womanhood
Nicole Rosmarino
The Grassroots Environmental Activist of the Year: Christine Canaly
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
“Michael Inside:” The Prison System in Ireland 
May 22, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Broken Dreams and Lost Lives: Israel, Gaza and the Hamas Card
Kathy Kelly
Scourging Yemen
Andrew Levine
November’s “Revolution” Will Not Be Televised
Ted Rall
#MeToo is a Cultural Workaround to a Legal Failure
Gary Leupp
Question for Discussion: Is Russia an Adversary Nation?
Binoy Kampmark
Unsettling the Summits: John Bolton’s Libya Solution
Doug Johnson
As Andrea Horwath Surges, Undecided Voters Threaten to Upend Doug Ford’s Hopes in Canada’s Most Populated Province
Kenneth Surin
Malaysia’s Surprising Election Results
Dana Cook
Canada’s ‘Superwoman’: Margot Kidder
Dean Baker
The Trade Deficit With China: Up Sharply, for Those Who Care
John Feffer
Playing Trump for Peace How the Korean Peninsula Could Become a Bright Spot in a World Gone Mad
Peter Gelderloos
Decades in Prison for Protesting Trump?
Thomas Knapp
Yes, Virginia, There is a Deep State
Andrew Stewart
What the Providence Teachers’ Union Needs for a Win
Jimmy Centeno
Mexico’s First Presidential Debate: All against One
May 21, 2018
Ron Jacobs
Gina Haspell: She’s Certainly Qualified for the Job
Uri Avnery
The Day of Shame
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail