Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Road That Was Taken And The Less Traveled One [Anthony McCarthy]

I hope it's a good sign that Rick Sanchez was fired so quickly after he shot off some of the more typical anti-Semitic remarks about Jews in the media the other night. After all, look how many weeks, months and years CNN kept on Lou Dobbs as his show turned from allegedly discussing financial matters to an anti-Latino campaign. The Sanchez firing was like lightning. Dobbs, a years long campaign that has turned our politics sour, Sanchez, once, that I'm aware of. If you applied the new Sanchez standard evenly on the cabloids you could pretty much turn over at least half of its staff and probably about three-fourths of its frequent guests. Imagine if we could force them to apply the Sanchez standard to people who made veiled anti-Black comments. Beyond doubt, during the Obama admistration, if they applied it to staff and their quasi-employees, the professional pundit class, the marginal insider lobbyists, spokesmen, hacks and flacks in regard to women and a range of other frequent targets of bigotry, they might have time to report news.

But I'm lying, I'm not hoping its a good sign because that standard will not be applied across the media, covering the entire range of stereotype and bigotry because anti-Black, anti-woman, anti-Latino, anti-gay bias is a tool of the group that really controls the media, the oligarchs.

What we see in Rick Sanchez's complaints about the limits on Latino presence in the media, who he sort of held responsible, is the same thing we saw in the use of race to dupe low-income white people who got the shaft from the aristocrats. Early on in our history, black people and other racial and ethnic groups were used by the ruling class to shield them, the ones who were really oppressing and cheating poor white men, the group in most of the country who could have some chance of forcing that thing which the oppressive rich fear beyond anything, equality. Jewish people and the Irish were famously used that way in the 19th and into the last century for that purpose, as were all of the groups mentioned already. Due to subsequent history the vicious use made of those two aspects of identity became socially unacceptable, which only shows that progress in that area isn't uniform. Look how acceptable misogyny is after an enormous and long struggle to suppress it.

The identity of Rick Sanchez as a Latino will, I predict, mark him as the example of anti-Semitic bigotry costing someone their career in the media. Look how they still go back to Janet Cooke as the example to hold up as an example of journalists making up stuff and destroying their career*. And in that we see the real bias in the media. Sanchez's outburst was practically unnoticeable as compared to the fountain of anti-Jewish innuendo coming from Pat Buchanan for decades. I haven't noticed it keeping him off of the guest list over those decades. It never kept him off of the cabloids. Who says it is clearly an issue in the effect it has, as the myriad of white fabricators who worked in the media well after their lies and inventions were fully revealed. Many of them have shows and columns today. I doubt that ethnic identity is the determining factor in the promotion of media figures but it clearly has a role in the price you'll pay for your screw ups and inopportune revelations of bias.

The problem with the media is that it is the mouthpiece of the oligarchs, it is a machine for selling convenient lies and one of those convenient lies is bigotry. I know enough of Rick Sanchez past work to not have a high opinion of him as a journalist or as being all that bright, though he is certainly no worse than most of the people who have worked in cable or broadcast media. I'm not surprised if he had real limits put on him as a Latino working in the media, no more than I'd be surprised that a woman or an African-american would. I'm pretty confident that it's white skin that is the real component of racial advantage and having a y-chromosome is the real component of gender advantage in the class system of the United States. While those are real limiting factors in the media the two important ones are economic class and, most of all, the extent to which you are useful to those who own the media and those who they service. But I can assure you if Rick Sanchez was the kind of person who would have spouted off about economic oppression, he'd never have been on to begin with. I think the really sad thing about Sanchez, is that I believe he was almost getting to reporting the real reason he couldn't aspire to more in the media, he is still part of a group that is useful in the oligarchic hold on power. Latinos, especially after Lou Dobbs' promotion of bigotry against them on CNN, are useful to the real rulers in the same way that Jews used to be used by them. He almost got to a real critique of it in economic class terms but he heard where he was going, panicked and took what might have seemed the less risky road that so many have taken and focused on the less dangerous distraction of ethnic identity. That road doesn't lead to justice and equal opportunity.

* If you want to make a case study, look at the generally liberal Boston Globe and compare the firings of Patricia Smith, Mike Barnicle and the non-firing of Jeff Jacoby. The minor case of invention by Smith, a black woman who is, primarily a poet, as compared to the flagrant, continuing and racially saturated ones of Barnicle, which had to reach a huge mass before they fired him, and those of Jacoby which caused him to be placed on leave but which haven't ended his career as the papers offical right wing op-ed presence. Both Barnicle and Jacoby have made frequent use of veiled reference to race and other aspects of identity that aren't far removed from what Sanchez said. This says something about different levels of tolerance for screwing up in even the legitimate media. As I recall one of the great crimes Smith was accused of was writing about an Elton John concert she couldn't prove she'd attended. Last time I looked Barnicle hasn't disappeared from the media.