FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Media Revolution or Mirage?

Perhaps you have to be a visitor, as I am from the UK,  to register the astonishing media revolution currently underway in the United States – and the threat it constitutes to the country’s progressive press.

Once upon a time the New York Times backed the Iraq War, published  phoney reportage on WMD and supported an [unsuccessful] coup against  Venezuela’s elected leader. Some of its star columnists – with super-jingo Thomas Friedman  heading the list –  purveyed market fundamentalism. As for the US cable networks, their chauvinism and demagogy is a by-word.

Yet suddenly I’m living in a parallel universe where Newsweek’s cover declares ‘We Are All Socialists Now’, and the New York Times outflanks the Nation, the Comedy channel turns deadly serious and MSNBC mocks the consensus.

Instead of neo-liberal triumphalism the New York Times finds space to cover some real issues. Safire and Kristol have been dropped and in their place a steady drumbeat from Krugman and Dowd urges Obama to nationalize the banks and lock up miscreant CEOs. Recently a detailed op-ed explained that the administration’s foreclosure policy – giving tiny loans to help mortgagees make their interest payments – was useless. What had to be done was for Treasury to pony up serious money to pay down principal on mortgage debt. Another outlined ‘How to Leave Afghanistan’. On March 14  Evo Morales explained to  Times readers that the campaign to criminalise the chewing of coca, ‘a healthy indigenous past-time’, was cruel and unjust. And in the Business section Gretchen Morgensohn’s exposé of the Pharaonic scale of the public indulgence of AIG and the zombie banks was picked up and endorsed by the main section.

Meanwhile the most circulated item on Facebook is Jon Stewart’s Daily Show interview with Jim Cramer of CNBC’s ‘Mad Money’, in which he took the strident share-booster to the cleaners, complete with deadly clips showing Cramer advocating scams he now claims to disavow. Stewart previously denounced Israeli slaughter in Gaza when the rest of the US media and political world preferred to look the other way.

The new openness of the Times no doubt reflects a new conjuncture  – the voters’ pain at depression hits, anger at bail-outs for the rich and greedy, a creeping paralysis which the White House fails to address, and, close to home, the purchase of the paper’s stock by Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire – not forgetting the specter of an end to print newspapers. Likewise the Daily Show is occupying new territory at a time when Rachel Maddow of MSNBC is refreshing the tired recipes of cable news by imitating alternative network stars like Amy Goodman and Laura Flanders.

Obama’s Plan A – inviting those who created the catastrophe to fix it – is foundering before our eyes, so it is good that some are working on Plan B. The trouble is Plan B needs a lot of work if it is not to collapse like a credit default swap issued by Lehman Brothers. Indeed what is really needed is Plan C.

Thus nationalizing the banks is a good starting point if the aim is to construct a public utility finance system. But if the aim is simply to return the banks to the private sector as soon as possible – as Krugman urges – their lending policy will not help investment and small businesses on the scale now needed. Likewise ‘withdrawal’ from Iraq and Afghanistan is fine, but should not mean leaving behind huge military bases bulging with US troops.

All those pieces comparing Obama with Roosevelt alert us to a problem. Then the president had to reckon with a surging labor movement. And he could mobilise a strategic detail of red experts when he gave $40 billion to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to build five hundred giant plants, taking a strategic stake in all the corporations which need these facilities. By 1945 the US government owned large chunks of Lockheed, Boeing and GM, but red scares led to the closing of the RFC.

The TVA and RFC were examples of the sort of bold public enterprise now needed but where are those needed to staff them? Some of those laid-off bankers might serve as useful foot-soldiers but they will need competent commanders and planners.

Of course there is a dream-like quality to media radicalization. Friedman’s effort in the Times of March 18 brought me back to reality. Apparently we all have to rally behind an even larger bail-out of the very same banks that have been rescued at such cost several times before. Forget nationalization. Instead US households who have lost about $12 trillion (so far) must foot the bill for ‘bank healing’ which requires ‘another big, broad taxpayers’ safety net’.

The media revolution may be exhausted but if the president follows this advice it could be street barricades and bank occupations next.

ROBIN BLACKBURN writes for New Left Review and is a visiting professor at the New School in New York.  He can be reached at robinblackburn68@hotmail.com

 

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: COVID-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail