A couple of years ago I wrote “The Bush administration constantly refers to its pursuit of what it calls an “ownership society.’’ But average Americans have been deceived if they believe that term applies to them”; it is more correct to say we are the ‘owned’ society, more so now than ever. Basically this is a White House that maintains what is good for business is good for America. And in every area that theme is played out in the kinds of appointments the president makes, the shrinking pool of media outlets and the interpretations of what defines our interests around the world.
One disturbing result of six years into the corporate mindset has been that, for example, the coal industry is overseen by business moguls who seem to be less concerned with ensuring mine safety than in improving the bottom line of an industry with which they have an intimate relationship. As for the environment, the administration makes policy on the basis of analyses that target the cost of controlling emissions and other sources of pollution before health and other concerns. Or, as pieces of Antarctica’s frozen ice-cap melt and fall into the ocean, it calls for more studies to determine whether global warming is really an important issue.
Today in that subtle and not-so-subtle creep of tortured definitions, and not just about torture itself, it is said that the president alone, as Commander-in-Chief, may determine when it is necessary to attack or invade a country – – not because it is an imminent threat but because it may sooner or later pose a threat of one sort or another not just to our homeland, but to “our interests.” Thus, no matter what the extraneous message, it is the control of resources including the price of oil that often ends up influencing whether or not we take an aggressive course of action. Already major oil companies are staking their claims to Iraq’s oil.
In terms of the media, even when a news outlet doesn’t fall precisely into the category of ownership by a mean-spirited corporate giant it is often manipulated by political forces whose deceptive, back-door methods limit the public’s ability to get at the truth. Judith Miller was content to serve as stenographer for the White House using Scooter Libby’s ‘feed’, to create front-page stories in the NY Times, reinforcing the party line about why we should invade Iraq. Then, although this administration is no fan of the Times, the vice president could be heard referring to Miller’s articles as if they were an independent source when they were just regurgitating administration talking points.
With respect to who owns what it isn’t always obvious how few independent Cable channels and general news outlets there are. Neither is it apparent until you receive your latest bill that SBC has become AT&T or that Cingular has been swept into that huge centralized communications caldron. In the case of AT&T it now owns Bell South and Cingular. Remember when Bell South was one of the “Baby Bells” after AT&T was broken up because if was considered too much of a good thing? As for ABC – – it is owned by Walt Disney whose interests also include partial ownership of ESPN, Lifetime and A&E cable channels as well as over sixty radio stations spanning the country. And you thought Disney was all about Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.
And although the myth continues that this country is a liberal-media haven it can take enormous effort to surmount the roadblocks corporate media sets up in defense of its fealty to political forces that smooth its way in the world. ABC’s “Path to 911” was an insulting, biased political statement that seemed to have been intended to support the administration in the upcoming election. Apparently it failed in that regard.
But when blogger, Spocko, had the audacity to send clips to advertisers illustrating the kinds of vitriol airing on various ABC affiliates the wrath of ABC/ Walt Disney descended on him. Some advertisers stepped up and pulled their spots, enraging the two giants. But instead of vetting the comments talk-show hosts and guests were making, they threatened Spocko with a trumped-up copyright infringement lawsuit and took his site down temporarily, an action of seemingly dubious legality itself.
Criticism of poisonous remarks from such as Michele Malkin were looked at simply as an attempt to limit ABC’s money-making capability – – no sense of shame there. In fact, one of cable’s most disturbingly inflammatory commentators, Glenn Beck, is now a contributor on ABC’s “Good Morning America” – – a man who invited newly-elected congressman Ellison, a Muslim, to his show on CNN and then said he was nervous about the interview and felt like asking him if he were working for our enemies.
The bad news is that huge corporate entities, encouraged and supported by our government, can make life so difficult for ordinary, well-intended people. The good news is that ordinary people still have a voice and do make a difference. Getting the big guys all in a dither is part of the good news – – calling them to account, positively exhilarating.

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