By Tony Palmeri
from the October 2012 edition of The SCENEOctober 2012 represents the 25th anniversary of one of the worst stock market crashes in global history. On “BlackMonday” October 19, 1987 the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced the worst ever one day percentage drop. Then as now, corporate mass media revealed an unwillingness to delve meaningfully into the root causes of monetary meltdowns, ensuring only the business as usual continuance of a fucked up financial system. Then as now, great writers with a grasp of Wall Street’s rigged casino culture, like Rolling Stone’s MattTaibbi and ProPublica’s JesseEisinger, expose the rot from the margins while the mainstream press mostly enables the status quo.
Reflecting back, I remember seeing the Wall St. crash as nothing more than an inevitable consequence of the culture of trickle down economics and greed sanctioned by the Reagan Administration. After Reagan assumed power in 1981, media fascination with millionaires reached points not seen since the 1920s. Oliver Stone’s 1987 film Wall St. perfectly captured the ideology of the period.
About Boesky, NewYork Magazine argues that “the biggest surprise about his crime is that he managed to get away with it for so long. It wasn’t any secret that he was taking massive positions in stocks in companies that, in a matter of weeks, became takeover targets of the corporate raiders of the day, earning the financier huge profits. Boesky sold himself as a genius. . . In the popular press, the wizard act was pretty convincing. . .” Boesky’s “wizard act” was so blatantly over the top that press treatment of him before his arrest can only be described as a kind of journalistic negligence. Broadcasters that should have been Boesky badgerers became, at least for a bit, Boesky boosters.
Indeed, before federal prosecutors reined him in, Boesky in public provided ample signs that he was up to no good. Stone’s Gordon Gekko in Wall St. famously says in part that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works.” In real life in May of 1986 Boesky delivered the commencement address at the Berkeley School of Business Administration and said "Greed is all right, by the way. I want you to know that. I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good about yourself."
Corporate mass media hardly ever spark a sense of urgency about going after Wall St. crooks because, in a real sense, CORPORATE MEDIA ARE BOESKY. Consider the major tenets of Boeskyism: greed, insider fetishism, and a reduction of all moral questions to the “bottom line.” What institution then and/or now operate according to those tenets more than corporate mass media?
Boesky broadcasting is always awful, but probably at its worst during presidential election years. Let’s apply the tenets of Boeskyism to corporate media coverage of this year’s race.
Greed: As of the middle of September the Obama campaign had raised about $755 million while the Romney team reported about $710 million. It’s no secret that the insane level of money raised for today’s campaigns is due in large part to the cost of media advertising, especially television buys. Given that the air waves belong to the public, it’s absurd that private corporations make windfall profits off of campaign year advertising.
While most democratic countries allow some form of free advertising for ballot qualified candidates, the United States has a “pay to play” system. The result? Narrow choices for voters (third parties can’t afford pay to play) and enhancing the power of the Super Pacs and big donors to the Democrats and Republicans. In the past polls showed huge support among the public for free air time, but status quo politicians won’t move legislation forward and the Boesky broadcasters are in no hurry to put the brakes on the gravy train.
Insider Fetishism: A group of high profile political reporters recently told Politico that they “loathe” covering the 2012 campaign. They are apparently tired of being spun and manipulated by campaign flaks, fed daily sound bites instead of substantive policy statements, and roped into covering silly controversies. So locked into the Boesky mindset these reporters cannot even imagine doing things that would whip the Dems and GOP into shape. Give serious coverage to the platforms of Green Jill Stein, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Constitutionalist VirgilGoode and you’ll force the Republicrats to grow up. But the third party candidates aren’t insider approved candidates, making each persona non grata for Boesky broadcasters.
Bottom Line Morality: On September 11th NBC broadcast an interview with Kris Jenner (the Kardashian matriarch) about her breast implants rather than observe a moment of silence for 9/11 victims. From a Boeskyian perspective NBC’s choice makes total sense: mama Kardashian played up the “boob tube” side of television, which is good for the bottom line. The inane coverage of campaign ’12 is very much like that interview. Such is the consequence of the Boesky broadcaster’s bottom line morality.