By Tony Palmeri2112 Recalls the Media
From the June 2012 edition of The SCENEOn June 5th Wisconsin voters will make history. Will they recall Scott Walker and restore Wisconsin's lost reputation as a laboratoryfor democracy? Or will the forces of wealth and reactionary politics, dividers and conquerors spending millions propping up their point man Mr. Walker, buy another election? We'll soon see.
What will future historians say about Wisconsin’s corporate media Walker era performance? Transport your mind 100 years from now, to the dystopian world imagined in the rock band Rush’s classic “2112” album. In the epic title track, the Priests of the Temple of Syrinx control all information for a dumbed down populace. The song’s protagonist finds and learns to play an old guitar, but is angrily rejected by the Priests. “Father Brown” (who I imagine looks a bit like Scott Walker) crushes the instrument.
In my version of 2112, the Priests of the Temple reflect fondly on ancient Wisconsin media of 2012, holding it up as a role model of how to discourage human beings from wondering how or why things happen. “The Media Priests of 2012 in Wisconsin told only enough to keep the rabble in line. They were Masters of Manufacturing Consent,” mused Father Brown.
In 2112 the SCENE exists as an underground communique’ for regime opponents. To avoid Temple Priest persecution, SCENE writers hide their identities by using pseudonyms. The 2112 Media Rants column is authored by “Seldes.” Seldes’ Media Rants column of June 2112 recalls the corporate media coverage of the 2012 Wisconsin recall movement:By 2012 it had become clear that news media should meet three key responsibilities: establish the CONTEXT for public controversies, CALL OUT undemocratic actions of public officials, and take leadership in building a small-d democratic COMMUNITY. In Wisconsin in 2012 during the reign of Temple Priest hero Scott Walker, the corporate media failed spectacularly at all three.
Governor Scott Walker’s union busting Act 10, passed with limited public testimony, was put forth under the pretext of Wisconsin being “broke.” Instead of treating the core contextual issue of whether Wisconsin was “broke” as a question of fact to be resolved by rigorous journalistic investigation, corporate media treated the question as one that could not be reliably answered. Whether Wisconsin was broke was “in the eye of the beholder.”The same pattern appeared when it came to calling out the undemocratic actions of public officials. Scott Walker remains the most extreme product of the “pay toplay” politics brought to the Badger State by Republican governor Thompson in the 1990s and then reinforced for many years by Republicans and Democrats alike. While occasionally lamenting the corrupting influence of Wisconsin’s broken campaign finance rules, major media failed to connect the dots and establish as FACT the hijacking of Wisconsin’s government by monied interests. The best reporting came from independent, nonpartisan groups.
Case in point: The Center For Media and Democracy (CMD), building on a foundation laid down earlier by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, Common Cause, and others, exposed how the hyper corporate American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) exerted excessive public policy influence; ALEC model bills and budget provisions were at the core of the Walker legislative agenda. From 2008-2012 legislative ALEC members received $276,000 in campaign contributions from ALEC corporations, while Walker received $406,000 in the same time period. Corporate media in 2012 insisted on calling themselves government “watchdogs” at the same time leaving it to public interest groups to do meaningful watchdog investigations.Most disturbing in 2012 concerned the media’s failure to stand up for democratic community values while simultaneously enabling divisive and antidemocratic politics. Governor Walker and his cohorts learned early that no amount of demonizing opponents, hardball politics, or convoluted spin could prod the corporate media bosses into saying “ENOUGH!” Some noteworthy examples:
*UW Madison history professor William Cronon wrote a New York Times opinion piece, “Wisconsin’s Radical Break,” comparing Walker to communist hunter Joe McCarthy (another Temple Priest favorite) in terms of both forgetting good government lessons of neighborliness, decency and mutual respect. Then in response to a Cronon blog post about ALEC, the Wisconsin Republican Party filed an open records request seeking access to his emails; a clear attempt to silence a critic.*After Wisconsin citizens collected nearly a million signatures to launch recalls against the Governor and Lt. Governor, efforts were made to degrade signers in a disgusting display of antagonism toward basic citizenship rights. Not even theGannett Corporation, a behemoth self portrayed as a champion of First Amendment freedoms, could bring itself to stand up to the bullies and defend the basic right of their own employees to sign a petition.
*A video surfaced showing Governor Walker advocating a “divide and conquer” strategy to turn Wisconsin into a red state. And when he didn’t like the reports of job losses occurring on his watch, 3 weeks before the recall election he came out with a “more accurate” way of measuring job creation that could not be verified until 3 weeks after the election!
Since the reporting on these atrocities upset partisans on all sides, the corporate press concluded they must be doing something right. With 100 years of perspective, we now know conclusively that they did everything wrong, and paved the way for the stupefying Temple Priest Press we are now subject to in 2112.