Saturday, October 09, 2010

Cynical Nihilism Defines Corporate Culture And The Media That Serves It [Anthony McCarthy]

That Lou Dobbs would become a news item this week wasn't something I knew last week when comparing his role in the anti-Latino erruption that has fouled politics and society to the incident of anti-Semitic speech by Rick Sanchez. Now we know that while he was railing against illegal immigration and those who employed illegal immigrants, especially those from Latin America, those very people were tending his landscaping and taking care of the prize-winning horses his family owns.

If I had the time and skills I'd do an analysis of the two stories in the media, but it's my impression that the coverage of the hypocrisy of the voice and face of the anti-Latino backlash has been vastly more sympathetic than that of Sanchez. Consider the role in public life of the two men and the incidents that have embarrassed them. Sanchez's one-time descent into anti-Semitism on a talk radio show most of us have never heard of before, hasn't fueled laws like the one in Arizona that requires police to racially profile Latinos and others. It won't become a wide-spread and ugly campaign of the kind that was fueled by the years and years of Lou Dobb's CNN powered campaign. I haven't heard of Rick Sanchez being asked to address any mass meeting on the basis of his diatribe, though Lou Dobbs was scheduled to address a Republican-teabagger election season event today. Anyone who thinks that it wasn't his part in Latino bashing that got Dobbs the invite is lying.

These incidents open up so many of the serious and dangerous issues facing the ongoing fight for justice that it could generate a large number of posts. I'll go into one, very briefly. I watched Lawrence O'Donnell's show in which he had on Dobbs and Isabel Macdonald, the reporter who broke the story in The Nation. It became clear that Macdonald is quite good in print but she's not a performer in the way that Dobbs is. That is almost certainly why Dobbs would only talk to her on air, where he can use his skills to fudge and obfuscate instead of address fact. That is one of the biggest problems with broadcast and cable, which are more about performance than facts. Macdonald isn't a polished, experienced, performer which will be exploited in the cover up job. I guess that her gender will figure in that attempt as well.

In looking at what's being said about this, the constantly repeated lines are that Dobbs doesn't seem to have broken the law, himself, that he didn't directly hire the people who, we are apparently supposed to believe, he didn't notice were doing menial chores at his estates and with his prize horses. But the charge wasn't that Dobbs broke the law and that assertion has become part of the smoke screen. Isabel Macdonald's article shows that there was a serious case of Dobbs having low paid, illegal workers doing his grounds keeping and taking care of the show horses his family owns during years in which he was whipping up a national frenzy against illegal immigrants and the people who employ them. I haven't heard him deny that was the case, as he kept pointing out that he'd obtained their services from contractors. It's clear in the article that Dobbs and his adult daughter could hardly have not noticed that the people doing their work were Latinos and working in industries which employ large numbers of illegal immigrants, requiring them to work horribly long hours at very low wages and without much in the way of protection or benefits. Dobbs, working as a journalist covering exactly those issues for years and years, can't claim to be ignorant of these issues. His ADULT* daughter certainly doesn't get to claim she was unaware of her father's show.

But, as this develops, the Republican-teabaggers will overlook Dobb's hypocrisy and the fact that many of the same politicians and media figures who use hatred of Latinos employ low-paid Latinos, many of whom are almost certainly not here under exactly legal conditions. The news media will also bend over backwards to cut Dobbs slack, notably supporting him in exactly the way it didn't support Sanchez or other low-level, especially, minority people working in journalism. Dobbs made millions of dollars a year from his promotion of bigotry and there is nothing that wins the media over more than someone who has millions of dollars. And the media aren't bothered one bit by how they did it.

One of the most important things I've learned by watching the teabaggers is that it isn't that they're ignorant, it isn't that they believe the lies they're sold, it's that they don't care if what they hear and what they spout are lies, they don't care about the truth, they don't care about morality. The teabaggers are a completely nihilistic phenomenon fueled by a cynically nihilistic media and the corporate interests that harnesses them. They have no moral core, they value nothing except wealth and the power that is useful to getting more of it. That is the real movement that Lou Dobbs is a poster boy for, but he's just one of many who could serve that purpose.

The small, mostly poorly paid effort to report fact is really not the same thing as the corporate media. The people who do that should be aware of the fact that they not only have little in common with the corporate-electronic media, but that their work will be attacked by that same media. The more factual it is, the less convenient it is for their owners and masters. Real reporters need to realize that to protect themselves and the integrity of their work. They should develop the performance skills necessary to do that as well.

Note: The Tea Party has been carefully cultivated by the media, all you have to do is compare how every small PR event the teabaggers mount is covered by the media as compared to huge rallies of progressives such as the one in DC last week.

* Before I read the story the impression I got from the media was that she was a teenager. I would like to also compare the media treatment of rich adults in their 20s with poor kids in their teens and younger when they get into trouble.