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A Progressive Response to an Undemocratic Media Wally Bowen Mountain Area Information Network Asheville, North Carolina © 2005 Wally Bowen Misperceptions, The Media, and the Iraq War “Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions…”

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a progressive response to an undemocratic media

A Progressive Response toan Undemocratic Media

Wally Bowen

Mountain Area Information Network

Asheville, North Carolina

© 2005 Wally Bowen


Misperceptions, The Media, and the Iraq War

“Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions…”

The PIPA/Knowledge Networks Poll


Jurgen Habermaswinner, 2004 Kyoto Prize

“The Public Sphere”“Theory of Communicative Action”

20th Annual Kyoto Prizes for Lifetime Achievement in Arts and Philosophy awarded to Jurgen Habermas

June 11, 2004

The 2004 Kyoto Prize for Arts and Philosophy was chosen from the field of Thought and Ethics and awarded to philosopher Jurgen Habermas, Ph.D., 75, of Starnber, Germany.Habermas received the award for achievements in social philosophy, in particular his establishment of the communicative action theory and discourse ethics.Considered among the world's leading awards for lifetime achievement, the Kyoto Prizes are presented to individuals and groups worldwide who have contributed significantly to human progress in the areas of “Advanced Technology,” “Basic Sciences,” and “Arts and Philosophy.”


“In private life we associate with people who share similar outlooks and values. In public life we meet people from backgrounds unlike our own. The first principle should not be that we’re all the same — an assumption privileging dominant cultural groups — but rather that we are dissimilar. This leads to a recognition of the moral ambiguity of politics, the awareness that we cannot expect simply to impose our values.”

Harry C. Boyte, “The Pragmatic Ends of Popular Politics” in Habermas and the Public Sphere, MIT Press (1992), pp. 351-52.


“The First Amendment . . . rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society. Surely a command that the government itself shall not impede the free flow of ideas does not afford non-governmental combinations a refuge if they impose restraints upon that constitutionally guaranteed freedom. Freedom to publish means freedom for all and not for some. Freedom to publish is guaranteed by the Constitution, but freedom to combine to keep others from publishing is not. Freedom of the press from governmental interference under the First Amendment does not sanction repression of that freedom by private interests.”

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black in ASSOCIATED PRESS v. U. S., 326 U.S.1 Argued Dec. 5, 6, 1944, Decided June 18, 1945


“In 1850, census data showed that 95% of all U.S. newspapers had a political affiliation … Traditional party journalism … eased readers’ participation in politics by creating an accessible political world.”

C. Edwin Baker, Advertising and a Democratic Press, Princeton University Press (1994), p. 5.


“The province of men with money, the newspaper business generally represented their interests. That was why a region whose voters were roughly half Democrats and half Republicans had an overwhelmingly Republican press. The men who put up the capital, the Northern business class, were predominately Republican... Through the press, the well-to-do had the opportunity, largely unavailable to any other social group, to disseminate their conception of politics and partisanship and set the public agenda.”

“The Press Transformed” from The Decline of Popular Politics: The American North, 1865-1928 by Michael McGerr, Oxford, 1986.


“The public must be put in its place... so that we may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd... The common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality.” This specialized class of “public men” is responsible for “the formation of a sound public opinion.” “Manufacturing consent” is the means by which public opinion is directed in support of “the national interest.”

Public Opinion by Walter Lippman, Macmillan, 1922.


“Leo Strauss was very pre-occupied with secrecy because he was convinced that the truth is too harsh for any society to bear; and that the truth-bearers are likely to be persecuted by society - specially a liberal society - because liberal democracy is about as far as one can get from the truth as Strauss understood it.“Strauss's disciples have inherited a superiority complex as well as a persecution complex. They are convinced that they are the superior few who know the truth and are entitled to rule. But they are afraid to speak the truth openly, lest they are persecuted by the vulgar many who do not wish to be ruled by them.”Shadia Drury, author of Leo Strauss and the American Right (1998) and The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss (1988).


Christopher Hitchens, “Voting in the Passive Voice” Harper’s Magazine, April 1992.

“Opinion polling was born out of a struggle not to discover the public mind but to master it. It was a weapon in the early wars to thwart organized labor and in the battle against Populism . . . .

“. . . as all pollsters will tell you privately, the answers to poll questions are very greatly influenced by what has lately been defined as important by the television news. . .”


Christopher Hitchens, “Voting in the Passive Voice” Harper’s Magazine, April 1992.

[Pollster Pat Caddell quoted]: “It’s all part of an attempt to keep order. It defines politics and politicians to suit those already in power. . . .Like many other technologies in politics [polling is] and instrument for deception whereby the truth is obscured and the public will be excluded and ignored.”


The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations by Larry Tye, Henry Holt & Co., 1998.


“In the United States the 170,000 public relations employees whose job it is to manipulate news, public opinion and public policy in the interests of their clients outnumber news reporters by 40,000. A study in 1990 discovered that almost 40 percent of the news content of a typical U.S. newspaper originates as public relations press releases, story memos, and suggestions. The Columbia Journalism Review reported that more than half the news stories in the Wall Street Journal are based solely on corporate press releases (cited in Korten 1995:146 [When Corporations Rule the World]). “United States corporations spend almost half as much on advertising (approximately $120 per person) as the state spends on education ($207 per person).”

—Richard Robbins, “Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism,” (Allyn and Bacon, 1999) p. 138.


“ …the impartial, objective form of television news situates the viewer as a ‘passive observer, a mere consumer of news. [By contrast] commercials ask us to become active, … to do something, to change, indeed to improve something. But what we’re asked to improve is not the world but our own private situations and selves’…news (objectivity) and commercials (partisanship) act together to ‘position viewers as depoliticized consumers…”

C. Edwin Baker, Advertising and a Democratic Press, Princeton University Press (1994), p. 28, 41, 43.


From the March, 1926 “Midwest Employers Bulletin”:

“ Think of the speeches that may go forth. Wild and radical speeches listened to by hundreds of thousands. These wild men in their wild talks regardless of consequences, may reach the ear, possibly inadvertently, of your influential and trusted employee, who may be detracted from paths favorable to his employer’s success.”

Cited by Robert W. McChesney in Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy: The Battle for Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935, Oxford University Press, 1993.


“There is not room in the broadcast band for every school of thought, religious, political, social and economic to have its separate broadcasting station.”

From General Order 40 of the Federal Radio Commission, cited by Robert W. McChesney in Telecommunications, Mass Media and Democracy: The Battle for Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935, Oxford University Press, 1993.



Nine months of a dramatic coal strike against the Pittston Company in Virginia (23 network minutes) received far less coverage than eight days of a coal strike in the Soviet Union (37 minutes). The takeover of a coal processing plant by the Pittston strikers — the first major plant takeover since the Flint (Michigan) sitdown strike of 1937 — was ignored by all three networks and the New York Times. Source: Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, www.fair.org


The Sound Bite Society: Television And The American Mind(Four Walls Eight Windows, New York : 1999)

by Jeffrey Scheuer


“Television, in nearly all its forms and functions, and for both economic and structural reasons, acts as a simplying lens, filtering out complex ideas in favor of blunt emotional messages that appeal to the self and to narrower moral-political impulses.

“For reasons that are inherent in the nature of ideology and do not impugn the politics of the left or right, simplication promotes, and epitomizes, political conservatism. Indeed, simplicity and complexity are the basic polar organizing principles of the political spectrum.”Jeffrey Scheuer, The Sound Bite Society: Television and the American Mind, Four Walls Eight Windows, 1999.


Conservative agenda is minimalist:

• less government

• less regulation

• focus on individualism

• democracy and market capitalism are synonymous

“This simpler, minimalist view of the world is more vividly and coherently portrayed via the commercial media's ‘sound bite’ culture.”

From Sound Bite Societyby Jeffrey Schnerer


Progressive agenda is more complex:

• bigger role for government

• collaborative approaches to social ills

• market capitalism and democracy are not synonymous

• democracy requires checks and balances on corporate and government power

“The more complex, nuanced progressive perspective requires context and detailed explanation. Commercial media is not structured to portray this worldview accurately.”

From Sound Bite Societyby Jeffrey Schnerer


“The problem with public broadcasting is bias — programming that does not disseminate a common culture but imposes a partisan attitude... Remove Federal funds and you remove officials’ ability to influence the system... to make programming more truly national and better able to serve its legitimate unifying purposes.”

“How Not to Fix Public Broadcasting” by Leonard Garment, New York Times, Dec. 21, 1994.


“Architecture is politics.”

Mitch KaporElectronic Frontier Foundation


Public Sphere

Information Commons

Public Domain

Public Space

Creative Commons

Innovation Commons


Posted on Mon, Dec. 15, 2003

Battle to control Internet threatens open accessBy Michael J. Copps

A new battle is brewing at the Federal Communications Commission. It's about the future of the Internet. Entrenched interests are threatening open consumer access to the Net and stifling innovation and competition in the process.

The Internet was designed to defeat government or business control and to thwart discrimination against users, ideas or technologies. Intelligence and control were consciously placed at the ends of a non-discriminatory network. Anyone could access the Internet, with any kind of computer, for any type of application, and read or say pretty much what they wanted.

This Internet may be dying. At the behest of powerful interests, the FCC is buying into a warped vision that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that the FCC should excuse broadband providers from longstanding non-discrimination requirements.


A Net of Control

Unthinkable: How the Internet could become a tool of corporate and government power, based on updates now in the works

By Steven Levy

Newsweek International

Issues 2004 - Picture, if you will, an information infrastructure that encourages censorship, surveillance and suppression of the creative impulse. Where anonymity is outlawed and every penny spent is accounted for. Where the powers that be can smother subversive (or economically competitive) ideas in the cradle, and no one can publish even a laundry list without the imprimatur of Big Brother. Some prognosticators are saying that such a construct is nearly inevitable. And this infrastructure is none other than the former paradise of rebels and free-speechers: the Internet.



Justices question cable's control of Net access

By Scott Lanman and Greg Stohr

Bloomberg News

March 30, 2005

The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday questioned federal rules that say Time Warner and other cable-television operators don't have to open their Web-access networks to rival Internet service providers...


Keep control of TV local

October 19, 2003

By Richard Burr and Jesse Helms

“Supporters of the FCC's decision to raise the ownership cap from 35 percent to 45 percent argue that it promotes the benefits of deregulation.Yet the whole point of deregulation, especially among conservatives, is to place more power in the hands of local decision-makers. Deregulation is worthless when it leads to the nationalization of a single product, policy or point of view that can’t be adjusted to reflect the diverse needs of our local communities.”


Free Press




• Advertising RegulationThe spread of advertising, both in public spaces and within programming content, can and should be controlled.

• Billboards and OutdoorThrough local policies, communities can regain control of their natural environments and preserve their distinctive characters.

• Online MarketingThe web's potential as a democratic communications medium should not be overshadowed by commerce.


Broadcast and Cable

• Broadcast and Cable RegulationRegulations need to be crafted for the public, which owns the airwaves, not the profits of commercial interests.

• Children's ProgrammingTruly educational programming must be encouraged and marketing toward children must be stemmed.

• Low-power and microbroadcastingSupport of technologies and policies for delivering diverse programming to local audiences is crucial.

• Public AccessPublic access to cable and satellite systems for local community programming must be preserved as technology evolves.



• Commercialism in SchoolsThe disturbing trend toward increased advertising and marketing in our schools needs to be reversed.

• Media LiteracyInitiatives that enable citizens to critically understand, consume andcreate media are absolutely necessary.

• Student mediaStudent groups and the unrestricted exploration of the issues they face can be better supported.


Global Media

• Global Media GovernanceInternational dialogue and solidarity will give citizens a chance to balance the interests of big business in shaping media policies worldwide.

• Global Trade & MediaMedia and culture should be excluded from global trade deals that would otherwise stifle creativity and restrict public-interest media.

• World Summit on the Information SocietyThis United Nations Summit is a chance to build momentum for the democratization of global media policy.


Media Subsidies

• Arts SubsidiesAny platform in support of structural media reform should include greater access to money for the arts.

• Independent MediaSupport for this vital tool for challenging the corporate media structure and creating an informed democracy is crucial.

• Postal SubsidiesMailings from nonprofits and publications without advertising should benefit from a lower-cost mailing distribution policy.


Communication Rights

• CopyrightCopyright law and policymaking should be democratized to encourage the free interchange of ideas in the public domain.

• Freedom of InformationPublic access to information pertaining to government policy through the Freedom of Information Act should be defended.

• Information PolicyDemanding the public's access to information is vital to democracy, as is protecting our own privacy in this era of constant surveillance.

• PrivacyOnly direct policy can protect our individual privacy, especially with the emergence of the Internet.


Digital Frontier

• BroadbandEfforts to democratize the Internet should involve open access to networks to support independent voices and efforts to increase Internet access for the underserved.

• Internet RegulationInternet policymaking must be an open, democratic and inclusive process.

• SpectrumThe most valuable resource of the Information age is owned by the public—and should be used to benefit the public interest.

• StandardsThe rules of the road on the Internet should favor openness and fairness.

• TelecommunicationsThe increasing convergence of communication technologies must not occur at the expense of the public.


Judicial Front

• Corporate ReformThe burden of proof should be on media corporations to prove that their activities are not detrimental to the public interest.

• First AmendmentCitizens' First Amendment rights must be protected, and media ownership polices should be judged with the First Amendment in focus.

• Legal ChallengesThe courts are increasingly important in the fight for media democracy, as legislation is increasingly drafted by and for corporations.


Media Workers

• Diversity in StaffingIt is vital to have a minority media sector controlled and operated by minorities themselves.

• JournalistsJournalists and journalism must be buttressed against increasing strain from media conglomerates and other sources.

• Labor RightsThe rights of media workers must be protected against corporations that make decisions based on the bottom line.

• Recording ArtistsThe negative effects of media concentration on musicians and other recording artists must be highlighted and reversed.


Ownership and Control

• Antitrust and MediaAntitrust prosecution is potentially a powerful recourse in the fight against media consolidation.

• Media OwnershipThe loosening of media ownership restrictions must be reversed.

• Minority OwnershipAccurate representation of minorities and can only result from greater minority ownership.

• Radio OwnershipThe diversity of voices and local nature of radio can be reinvigorated through policies supporting ownership diversity.


Politics and Media

• Campaign Finance / Political AdvertisingThe public can and should require broadcasters to provide free political airtime to candidates.

• Candidate DebatesPolitical debates should be opened up to allow access to those outside the two dominant political parties.

• Lobbying & Regulatory ReformReform of campaign finance structures and the powerful media lobby will encourage more open and public debate.


Nonprofit Broadcasting

• Community BroadcastingSupport for programming by and for local communities is essential.

• Public BroadcastingOnly when supported with sufficient and insulated funding will public broadcasting be able to genuinely serve the public interest.

• State-based InitiativesSome states have taken their own initiatives to broaden what is offered on public broadcasting.


Citizens for Media Literacy

www.main.nc.us/cml• Media Literacy • Commercialism in Schools• Public Access


The Media Arts Project

www.themap.org• Digital Standards• Copyright• Recording Artists




• Public Access TV for Asheville/Buncombe County