Tuesday, April 26, 1994

Formation of U.S. Public Opinion on the Arab-Israeli Conflict


This paper explores the formation of U.S. public opinion regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict from 1948 until the present. There are several specific periods in the five decades this time span encompasses when events in the Middle East have focused world attention on the conflict over Palestine. The most significant include (1) the events of 1948, culminating in the founding of Israel; (2) the 1956 Suez Crisis, and the dispatching of U.S. Marines to Lebanon in 1958; (3) the Six-Day War of 1967; (4) the 1973 Yom Kippur War; (5) the 1978 Camp David Accords and Israel's two invasions of Lebanon, in 1978 and 1982; (6) the Persian Gulf War of 1991; and (7) the still-evolving "peace process" that grew out of historic Israeli-PLO contacts in 1993.

Rather than focus in great detail on any one of these time periods, I will give a broad overview of how key events during each were interpreted by press coverage in the mainstream U.S. mass media. I will also identify the primary Arab and Israeli-aligned domestic U.S. interest group players in the ongoing battle to shape U.S. Middle East foreign policy and U.S. public opinion on the subject. My research will reveal consistent propaganda themes that have been used over the years as substitutes for true information and dialogue on this issue. Such themes draw their strength from repetition over time, but their orgins lie in distortion of historic facts and misuse or withholding of proper historical contexts in news coverage. They must be examined in the total context of past news coverage and domestic U.S. interest group propaganda activity to be fully understood.

(Editor's note: Unfortunately, this paper never got written, but I had a great bibliography ready to go!)

Research Bibliography

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Friday, April 22, 1994

The Zionist Dream Revisited by Amnon Rubenstein

From a review of Amnon Rubenstein's The Zionist Dream Revisited in the Summer 1984 issue of Foreign Affairs:

"Ever since the war of 1967, and especially since that of 1982, the old questions of the meaning of Zionism and Jewish destiny have become the subject of increasing concern and debate in Israel. Rubinstein, a member of the Knesset from a small party, shows how the concept of a model, secular nation-state, formerly generally accepted, has been undermined and challenged by new developments. The revival of religious fundamentalism and the rise of Likud especially have contributed to this and have brought the country to the status of international pariah, to match that of Jewish communities in the old diaspora, and sparked the revival of anti-Semitism in the world. He acknowledges disappointment and failure but retains the belief that Zionism came to Palestine to build a home, not a temple, and must seek to make Israel "a good neighbor, not a recluse destined and willing to reside alone."

Chapter 3, "Religious Versus Secular Tensions."

In this chapter, Rubenstein presents a history of the theological and ideological strands that have guided the development of Judaism and Zionism. He shows how tensions have existed between the concept of Jewish chosenness and universal human equality (specifically, Jewish equality with others) since the Jews first became "a people" (p 35).

Rubenstein stresses the ancient origins and endurance of the Jews' historical sense of themselves as God's chosen people, "separate from the 'Gentiles of the earth'" (p 35), in other words, everybody else. The Jews were nationalist before the eighteenth century saw the rise of nationalism, in addition to being monotheistic before monotheistic religions became the world's dominant forms of religion. However, many "modern Jews" (p 36) responded to the passing of the pagan world and rise of European nation states by abandoning the concept of chosenness, consigning their Jewishness to the realm of private religious practice, and turning to secular assimilation. Thus, while doctrines of gentile racial superiority were developing across Europe, "toward the end of the 19th century, the enlightened jews were the vanguard of universal equality and ecumenical fraternity" (p 37).

He next explores the unique nature of Zionism as a "total entity," (p 37) that fully and totally combines nationalism with religion. I feel this point is crucial to any understanding of Zionism's seemingly fanatical endurance as a movement over time. Rubenstein explains how both political and religious Zionists were able to co-exist with one another during the years leading up to Israel's establishment (and for at least the first two decades of its existence). In the eyes of both political and religious Zionists, the religious component of Judaism had become "naturally dominant in exile" (p 39), while the nationalistic component had faded. Then, modernization and the development of competing doctrines concerning the purpose and explanation of life (such as socialism) began threatening adherence to Jewish religious traditions. A revived nationalism was seen as the key that would simultaneously end anti-Semitism while sparking an overall Jewish cultural and religious revival and fulfilling the Jews' long awaited "Return to the Holy Land" (p 40).

Unfortunately, this convergence of Zionist political and religious interests did not last forever. "The great majority of political Zionists (became) involved...with the practical hardships of turning a dream into reality...their principal goal was to save the Jews from their misery...(and make) Israel a nation of healthy, liberated people" (p 41). In the process, critics such as Judah Leon Magnes and Martin Buber suggested that too great a focus on nationalism would lead to disaster, make Israel just like every other nation, and destroy the very covenant with God that had made the Jews a chosen people. As Magnes described Zionism in a 1929 pamphlet entitled "Like All the Nations":

"The desire for power and conquest seems to be normal to many human beings and groups, and we, being the ruled everywhere, must rule; being the minority everywhere, we must here be in a majority." (p 42).

However, "the Holocaust and Israel's emergence finally relegated (these) views of an extra-nationalist Zionism into oblivion" (p 42). The opposing, "radical labor view" (p 43) was for Israel to pursue total normalization. A middle ground Zionism developed, characterized by "a need for adherence to Jewish heritage, and the singularity of the future state as an exemplary model society" (p 44). But tensions remained. Under the leadership of Mapai, Labor Zionism gradually replaced the role played by "traditional scripture and prayer books (with) new writings which spoke with messianic passion about a new millennium: a classless society, the religion of work...the communal settlement experience...the kibbutz...the Histadrut as a workers' society" (p 45).

He says that if "political Zionism sought to return Israel as a normal nation to the international fold and thus establish equality on a national basis, Labor Zionism wanted to turn Israel into a moral leader" (p 46). In doing so, both Zionist "factions" drew on the historical conception of Jewish chosenness to create an overly nationalistic, chauvinistic, self-righteous society that naturally began neglecting "the rights of minorities and the liberties of the individual" (p 49). Rubenstein is identifying what he sees as the fatal flaw of modern Zionism - that over time it has warped the traditional theology of the Jews as a chosen people into a doctrine of Jewish superiority over others, and specifically, over the Palestinian Arabs who provide Israel with a ready made minority population to oppress.

Chapter 6, "The Six-Day War: An Ideological Watershed."

Here, Rubenstein makes a convincing case for seeing the events of 1967 as watershed developments. In large part they set the stage for the current chapter of Arab-Israeli conflict over Palestine. Again, he combines analysis of religious with secular developments to provide a deeper understanding of Israeli behaviors and policies from 1967 to the present.

In the weeks leading up to the June War, Israelis perceived that the military might of the surrounding Arab nations threatened them with a second Holocaust and that the outside world was once again abandoning them to their fate (pp 76-77). These perceptions, combined with Israel's "stunning victory" (p 78) in the fighting and "harsher reactions from outside" (p 79) as Israeli control over the occupied territories increasingly assumed imperialist dimensions, created a new national mood in Israel. "(Israel) inherited the mantle of the rejected Jew, differing only in its ability to be defiant. This ideology started in hubris, but ended in despair" (p 80). As Rubenstein sees it, "the suspicion of the outside world implanted during that period (1967-1977) affected the national psyche" (p 81), helped erode the "traditional, liberal, and humanitarian concepts of historical Zionism" (p 81), and paved the way for the Likud victory of 1977 (p 88).

Rubenstein identifies another trend which caused increasing conservatism on Israel's part in the decades following 1948: a gradual popular rejection of the universal ideals of Labor Zionism and its socialist emphasis, evidenced by "a drift towards religion (that) took place within the secular majority" (p 95). This trend has experienced ebbs and flows. For example, although the occupation of the West Bank and with it, Israeli control over the holy places of East Jerusalem helped create a short-term religious revival of "born again Jews" (p 78), Rubenstein feels that "growing materialism and hedonistic permissiveness" (p 78) came to characterize post-1967 Israeli society, until the 1973 October War disrupted the country's economic boom. Partially in reaction to this new hedonism, partially a result of increasing international criticism, including a rise in anti- Semitism "in the guise of anti-Zionism" (p 83), partially due to long-term trends in Israeli religious behavior, it was inevitable that "the small, determined minority of religious- nationalist zealots would increase their hold over Israeli society" (p 82).

Finally, Rubenstein explains how the historical example of the "blood libels" was used by condition the Israeli public against being overly concerned by growing international criticism of its treatment of the Palestinians. The blood libels were nineteenth century anti-semitic accusations "against Jews for allegedly using Christian victims' blood for baking Passover matzoth" (p 85). He goes on to claim that medieval anti-Semitism, which "contained some guarantees for Jews and had a theological raison d'etre" (p 87), was actually less of a danger to the Jewish people than the modern variant. As he sees it, the "modern day monster" (p 87) confronting the Jews is a "secular and racial anti-Semitism" (p 87). This is confusing, because it negates the character of anti-Zionist sentiments as experienced by Palestinian Arabs, who in their hatred for Israel are responding to several generations worth of violations of their individual human rights, communities, and national sovereignty.

Source: The Zionist Dream Revisited (1984), by Amnon Rubenstein.

How Not To Improve Race Relations on College Campuses

The senior thesis I chose to critique was authored by Vandana Ramaswamy. Entitled "Racial Diversity and Integration at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill," it was submitted to the Public Policy Analysis curriculum in April, 1993.

In the paper's two-page introduction, Ramaswamy sets out her main thesis - UNC-CH is not laying the institutional groundwork necessary for harmonious race relations to exist between its students. "The current theory used to solve racial problems at our university has failed" (p 6). She informs her reader about several of the paper's structural aspects: that it uses everyday language in order to understand the problem "as students and experts it" (p 5); that only black-white relations will be examined (pp 5-6); that historical background on the issue of UNC-CH race relations will be minimized because "while history helps us understand why we are where we are, an obsession with history should not blind us to the obvious facts of our present situation" (p 6), and that "the research for this paper is primarily anecdotal" (p 6). Ramaswamy is very helpful to do this, because she alerts us at the outset about two major flaws that severely and repeatedly hamper her paper's effectiveness - a lack of historical context and over-reliance on anecdotal evidence.

Her problem definition encompasses fifteen pages. It begins by charging the university's current roster of programs designed to "relieve the existing racial tensions" with "(doing) just the opposite" (p 7), because they are "attacking the symptoms of the problems instead of the illness itself" (p 8). Ramaswamy lists what she considers to be "the real problems" (p 8) behind poor race relations at UNC-CH - one, the nation, including "schools, workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, and virtually every other aspect of our lives - remains segregated"; two, "a disparity exists between the academic performance of the black and white communities" (p 11); and three, "the intolerance of different views and the increasing racial hostility on campus" (p 12).

The previously mentioned problem of over-reliance on anecdotal evidence first appears in this section. Even worse, Ramaswamy relies on only one source, and one of questionable value, for much of her "anecdotal evidence" concerning the nature of UNC-CH race relations. In her paper's opening Acknowledgements, Ramaswamy tells us that she worked in UNC-CH student government for over a year with 1992-93 Student Body President John Moody, and that the paper "stems from" (p 2) the work she did with him. She quotes him at length from personal interviews for a total of five times over the fifteen pages of her problem definition. This places Moody in the same category with Ramaswamy's other sources for this section, such as Andrew Hacker, Arthur M. Schlesinger, Alexis de Tocqueville, Dinesh D'Souza, and Shelby Steele.

In contrast, the views of other UNC-CH students in the same fifteen pages are represented only when Ramaswamy quotes two sentences from an article in UNC-CH's Black Student Movement paper, the Black Ink (p 11); quotes the editor of the Black Ink, Corey Brown, from a tertiary source by citing a Carolina Alumni Review article in which Brown was interviewed; and quotes a one-sentence statement made by the 1992-1993 President of the UNC-CH Black Student Movement, Michelle Thomas.

To rely too heavily on any one source necessarily subjects one's analysis to the charge of personal bias. Also, the credibility of any sources chosen is critical. Just as one couldn't quote Ronald Reagan on the subject of the U.S. budget deficit and expect to be taken seriously, anyone who knows who Student Body President John Moody was would scoff at the suggestion that he was a race relations expert.

He ran what was considered to be the most blatantly race-based SBP campaign at UNC-CH of the past ten years against a minority female candidate, narrowly defeating her by only 43 votes out of more than 3,000 cast. His election campaign was largely premised on his opposition to a free- standing Black Cultural Center, and helped at the last minute by posters featuring an "endorsement photo" of himself standing outside a local fried chicken restaurant called "Time-Out" with a cook named Billy. During the night shifts at Time-Out, hundreds of drunken frat boys come in to buy chicken, and while waiting in line "good-naturedly" curse and harass the all-black cooking staff for not preparing their food fast enough. Billy's claim to fame is that he curses back at them. The nightly demeaning treatment that this restaurant's staff endures is a long-standing sore spot for Chapel Hill's entire black community. Moody devoted much of his one year administration to working against the nearly-realized construction of a free-standing Black Cultural Center, itself the main goal of the organized UNC-CH black student community for the past twenty years.

While the first and third purported "real problems" behind poor race relations at UNC-CH that Ramaswamy identifies are conceptually sound, the second is not. Her assertion that "a disparity exists between the academic performance of the black and white communities" (p 11) suffers from a fatal assumption that because "the above statement may not be fashionable to mention in today's climate" (p 11), it must speak to some essential truth and thus spelling it out is a courageous thing to do. This unconscious self-righteousness obscures the statement's basic flaws, which are outlined as follows.

There are a limited number of universities in the U.S., and the larger, more financially endowed ones have spent the past twenty-five years recruiting minorities with an aim to reach minority student population levels comparable with minority percentages in the general population. Highly prepared and better educated minority students are themselves a minority in comparison with the rest of their peers, just as the same is true of the white student population. This has created intense competition for the most qualified minority students among America's top colleges, and necessarily means that other, less prestigious schools have to reach further down in the academic pool to find enough minority students to assemble a student body that is representative in a racially proportionate sense. This might provide an argument for an end to race-based recruiting, but more importantly, provides evidence that while continued black/white socioeconomic differences are important, apparent racial discrepancies in academic performance are even more a product of inevitable majority/minority numerical discrepancies.

In light of the fact that UNC-CH is not an Ivy League institution, but a public university in a state where many poorer counties lack adequate education resources, and that five years of budget cuts have further steadily eroded its national rankings, it is no wonder that academic disparities exist between UNC-CH black and white students. Ramaswamy would have to provide statistics from schools like Harvard or Yale to prove her point about these disparities being racially based.

Another problem that pervades this paper is that it purports to examine the "increasing racial hostility on campus" (p 12), seemingly a multi-faceted issue, yet presents evidence of an amazingly one-sided nature. Repeated examples are given of statements made and actions taken by black students and their allies which have supposedly contributed to the "chilly climate" (p 21) of race relations on campus. No mention at all is made of racially antagonistic incidents for which white students were responsible, although a large number of high-profile ones have occurred on our campus in the past few years (a black Homecoming Queen's tires slashed, the posting of racist flyers on students' dormitory doors, the defacing of Martin Luther King Day posters with slogans like "KKK" and "No N-gger Homecoming Queen").

The paper is also sprinkled with weak arguments, half truths, and questionable assertions at every turn, such as "white students now feel attacked of being inferior because they are not black" (p 18); "by accepting the premise that black students are in need of support to withstand the oppression from other members of the university, the university reaffirms negative stereotypes of white students" (p 20); and "blacks of the 1960's thought differently than the student activists today" (p 22).

Discussing segregation in on-campus housing, Ramaswamy comments that "it has long since been known that the residence patterns on campus represent self-segregation" (p 43). No historical background is given that might explain how this pattern of housing segregation originated in the late 1960's, when black students were first being admitted to UNC-CH in large numbers and initially chose to live in the South Campus highrise dorms because of their recent construction and better amenity levels. Over time, the North/South campus housing gap between black and white students solidified into tradition, and could plausibly come to be seen as "self-segregation," but it is misleading to label this a clear cut case of self-imposed racial segregation without providing further context.

Similarly, when Ramaswamy says that "what is forgotten is that many students today have not oppressed anybody" (p 15), she is asserting that students have no need to learn about the system of institutionalized racism that existed in our country up until thirty years ago. White students of today may not have oppressed anybody, but we all must recognize that black Americans still feel the effects of past discrimination.

In her background section, which numbers thirteen pages, Ramaswamy presents a ream of statistics and the closest thing to historical background that one can find in her paper. Nearly all of the statistics come from Andrew Hacker's 1992 book Two Nations, although they originate from sources such as census data and the U.S. Office of Education. Hacker's book is a balanced treatment of the race relations issue, but again, the problem is that it is only one source. This necessarily weakens Ramaswamy's arguments. The statistics she cites are also national ones, and difficult to relate to the issue of UNC-CH race relations. Again, they also lack enough historical context for one to draw meaningful conclusions from them.

Finally, I found her policy recommendations to be either misguided or nothing out of the ordinary. This represented a let down from the sweeping buildup she gave them in the paper's introduction. Instead of bold new approaches that could creatively solve some of the race relations problems we have on our campus, Ramaswamy proposes the following: (1) an expanded academic support system for academic borderline students, both black and white (pp 46-50); (2) more comprehensive recruiting of non-minority students (pp 50-52); (3) integrated orientation programs (pp 52-53); (4) a redirection of the Office of Student Counseling's mission away from serving primarily minority students (pp 53-54); (5) random dorm assignation for freshman students (pp 54-55); (6) requiring fraternities and sororities to submit biographical information to the University indicating which rushees were accepted or rejected (pp 55-56); (7) eliminating different expectations for different racial groups (pp 57-58); and finally, but most importantly, (8) not building a free-standing Black Cultural Center (pp 58-68).

Recommendations one and five are reasonable, but nothing out of the ordinary. Number two would be counter-productive, it is doubtful that number six would do anything to encourage Greek system desegregation, and number seven is only a platitude with no specifics behind it. Recommendations three, four and eight seem to ignore the very theoretical foundations laid out at the paper's beginning, which is that "the problem our university is facing is still partly racial discrimination and a lack of racial diversity" (p 8). To propose eliminating the only support systems for minority students that exist at UNC-CH in the name of equal treatment for all students is actually attacking the solutions to the problem rather than the problem itself. To pretend that harmonious majority-minority relations in a society can be achieved without the need for creative, special measures to be taken in order to counteract natural human tendencies towards conformity, group solidarity and outsider prejudice is ignorant at best, stupid at worst.

Tuesday, April 5, 1994

Corporate Media: Cheerleaders for the Status Quo

It should come as no surprise that some very important issues don't receive fair or adequate treatment in the U.S. mass media. Here are five of them:

(1) Long-existing technologies that could allow for development of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power, and the large-scale manufacture of electric or solar-powered cars.

(2) Billions of dollars stolen annually by corporations from U.S. consumers through fraud, rip-offs, product overcharging, and other forms of corporate crime such as government contracting fraud, pollution, and illegal toxic waste dumping.

(3) The U.S. economic system as a blatantly unfair game that favors the rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else, and the huge increase in the numbers of the working poor and the overall rich-poor gap under Reaganomics.

(4) The ongoing concentration of mass media ownership into fewer and fewer corporate hands, and the threat it poses to democracy.

(5) Continuing and widening economic inequality between the rich, industrialized nations and the poverty-stricken Third World, its basis in multinational corporate exploitation of Third World labor and resources, and the system of U.S. military imperialism that supports it by propping up anti-democratic regimes around the globe run by elites who profit from the exploitation and continued impoverishment of their own countries.

Twin factors of corporate control and advertiser influence create inherent biases in the supposedly "objective" news we see and hear. Most channels of mass communication in our country are organized and owned by large media corporations. Some of these corporate entities are themselves directly owned by other conglomerates, such as General Electric, the company that owns NBC. GE "has long been a key player in the military-industrial complex...there are few modern weapons systems that GE has not been instrumental in developing." (Lee and Solomon, p 76).

Most are controlled by boards of directors whose members also own and control other large, non-media corporations - the so-called "interlocking directorates" of the corporate ruling class.

"The boards of directors of the Big Three (networks) are composed of executives, lawyers, financiers, and former government officials who represent the biggest banks and corporations in the U.S., including military and nuclear contractors, oil companies, agribusiness, insurance and utility firms." (Lee and Solomon, p 81).

"Seated on the board of directors of the company that owns the Washington Post (and Newsweek) are representatives from IBM, Johnson & Johnson, Bank of New York, Bankers Trust, Heinz, General Electric, and Coca-Cola." (Parenti, p 29).

Nearly all of the mass media are involved in business relationships with other large corporations who pay them to advertise their products. On average, magazines derive 50% of their total revenue from ads; newspapers approximately 75-80%; and network television, 100%. (Dominick, p 126-146.)

Corporate control and advertiser influence over the mass media cannot help but influence the selection and presentation of news. If news stories surface that reflect badly on companies owning mass media outlets, the stories will be ignored or minimized. The existence of interlocking directorates tying media boards of directors directly to dozens of other non-media corporations extends this aura of preferential journalistic treatment to business interests far beyond those who exercise direct ownership power over a particular media entity (such as GE's power over NBC).

It can be argued that the mass media's economic need to maintain advertising revenues by staying in good favor with corporate advertisers has made the entire corporate system into a "sacred cow." Occasional instances of blatant corporate wrongdoing, consumer fraud, or worker exploitation may be publicized, but (a) only enough to make people think the mass media is fulfilling its adversarial, public watchdog role, and (b) infrequently enough to perpetuate the illusion that such scandals are rare exceptions in a smoothly running corporate system rather than being the rule in a badly functioning, exploitative one.

As critics such as Ben Bagdikian have shown, increasingly concentrated mass media ownership by fewer and fewer corporations has undoubtedly increased the media's pro-corporate bias. However, it is not a new phenomenon. In a 1969 book entitled Don't Blame The People, media critic Robert Cirino exposed a catalog of pro-corporate, pro-system mass media biases that had existed throughout the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Most were nearly identical to those Noam Chomsky speaks about in 1988's Manufacturing Consent or Michael Parenti's Inventing Reality (1993). Only the places and faces have changed.

And over time, these biases have functioned to rob most Americans of an honest, critical understanding of how and why our society is malfunctioning. They may know that things are going wrong, but they don't know who to blame, or why it's happening, or what to do about it.

Finally, another set of interlocking relationships function to bias the mass media even further against the public interest by failing to cover issues the public should know about. Just as corporate pressures of ownership and advertising bias the media towards the status quo of the corporate system, government influences create biases that favor the status quo in areas of public policy. Government influence over the U.S. press has little to do with the broadcast regulatory powers of the FCC, which have never been exercised in sustained, coordinated enough fashion to force the U.S. broadcast media to serve the public interest. Ironically, this lack of regulatory influence has itself influenced the mass media greatly by allowing them to pursue profits instead of informing the public.

Instead, government influence over the media comes from two sources. The first is government control over information, the raw material that news organizations need to function.

"A daily assembly line of proposals, tips, press releases, documents, and interviews rolls out of the White House and various federal agencies...the Pentagon alone employs a public relations staff of over three thousand people." (Parenti, p 63).

Since most reporters who cover government beats have to rely on long-term contact with specific officials for their stories, it is little wonder that over time they come to see things from the same general perspectives as the Establishment members who fill these positions at local, state and national levels.

The second is the revolving door that allows for constant interchange between media professionals and government personnel, specifically at the national level. The high profile cases include names like Pete Williams, former Assistant Secretary of Defense under George Bush, who now covers defense issues for NBC. William Safire, Pat Buchanan, and Diane Sawyer are all former Nixon staffers. Bill Moyers worked for Lyndon Johnson, and Pierre Salinger for John Kennedy. David Gergen has worked for Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and now Clinton. Links also exist at the top of media and government power chains.

"Former top officials like Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, Defense Secretary Harold Brown, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Attorney General William French Smith, and CIA Director William Casey have held executive or board positions in the corporate structures of major media like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, GE/NBC, and CBS...with rare exceptions like Bill Moyers, these revolving-door people share the ideological perspective of the national security state in whose employ they feel comfortable." (Parenti, p 63).

The U.S. mass media thus combines pro-corporate with pro-national security state biases. Is it any wonder that our press functions primarily as a permanent cheerleader for America's corporate and government ruling class?

Issues like the five mentioned here do not receive the sort of extensive, sustained coverage they deserve, no matter how helpful an understanding of them would be in helping ordinary citizens understand how the U.S. system is malfunctioning.

Stories about alternative energy sources and transportation technologies threaten the profits of the oil and automobile companies. Exposing the high levels of corporate crime that exist in our society undermines popular support for the corporate system. The same is true of stories about the inherently unfair nature of the U.S. economic system, and how government policies enacted by elites have helped mantain its injustices. The corporate-controlled mass media is certainly not about to devote attention to how profit-making defeats its own purpose for existence by perpetuating public ignorance about any issues that threaten the corporate system, or the system of U.S. government control by elites.

Finally, the multinational corporate system derives so much of its continued strength from modern day imperialism that it cannot afford to jeopardize its access to Third World labor and resources. People in the rich, industrialized nations cannot be allowed to grasp the true conditions of life that the vast majority of the world endures so that we may live as we do. It might disrupt the consumer culture with such unpleasant emotions as guilt.

We are supposedly a democracy, yet time and time again, decisions are made that only serve elite, wealthy interests. Companies downsize and move their production lines overseas, enforcing continued Third World poverty while lowering living standards for U.S. workers. Education and social service budgets are slashed, but we continue to spend $260 billion a year on weapons of destruction. Only the wealthy or those who serve the interests of the wealthy can afford to run for office, so we're governed by an entire class of elected officials who allow private interests to take precedence over the broader public interest.

Things will only change when corporate control of the U.S. mass media is smashed. Direct government control is also no answer to this problem. Only a new direction will provide true hope for returning the media to a mission of public service. There must be a third way.

The media must be wrested away from for-profit, private interests and transformed into non-profit organizations, but remain independent of government control. It will be difficult.

One method would be to focus attention solely on broadcast media and newspapers. First, nationalize all existing television stations, cable systems, and big city newspapers, and pass legislation designating them non-profit NGO's. Next, pass a constitutional amendment to provide these new media organizations with some levels of government funding, but independent of government controls over staffing. Allow advertising, which would continue at high levels (on television, at least, because advertisers need television), and provide the media NGO's with additional revenue. The removal of the need to realize profits and the addition of government subsidies would go a long way towards alleviating advertiser influence over programming. This is, admittedly, a radical scheme.

An equally radical approach, but one that functions within the confines of the capitalist system would be to attempt to establish broadcast media alternatives that are funded by advertisers who exist outside the dominant corporate system, and/or through public subscriber bases, profits from other business enterprises, etc. More creative approaches could be taken in attempting to topple newspaper monopolies. Competing papers could be established in one-paper towns and reader boycotts of the monopoly papers organized. Readers would be encouraged to split their subcription monies in half in order to provide financial support for two community voices instead of one. If such boycotts were successful, monopoly papers would have to cut back on their profits. They couldn't just stop delivering the paper to half their subscribers, because they would lose their advertisers.

However it happens, the mass media must become a set of institutions dedicated to truly informing the U.S. public if our democracy is to survive.


Dominick, J.R. The Dynamics of Mass Communication. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990.

Lee, Martin A, and Norman Solomon. Unreliable Sources: A Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1990.

Parenti, Michael. Inventing Reality: The Politics Of News Media. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.

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