Dover Bitch

Monday, January 22, 2007

Bernie Sanders on the American media

(update below)

On Democracy Now! today, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lays out a case against the American media. Quite simply, it is a must-hear (or the transcript is a must-read).

This post is relatively lazy because I'm going to let Sen. Sanders do all the work. I just want to give this speech some more attention. Some highlights (emphasis mine)...

On the media in general, particularly the war:

If you are concerned, as been said, about healthcare, if you are concerned about foreign policy and Iraq, if you are concerned about the economy, if you are concerned about global warming, you are kidding yourselves if you are not concerned about corporate control over the media, because every one of these issues is directly controlled and directly relevant to the media.

Let me just talk about a few. Four years ago, George W. Bush told the American people that a third-rate military power country called Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that they were about to attack the United States of America. That's what he told us. I can tell you, because I was there in the middle of that, in opposition to that -- that day after day, those of us who oppose the war, among many other things, would be holding national press conferences that you never saw. I can tell you, as you know, that hundreds of thousands of people in our country were so disgusted with the media simply acting as a megaphone for the President that they turned off American media, and they went to the BBC or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In terms of the war in Iraq, the American media failed, and failed grotesquely, in exposing the dishonest and misleading assertions of the Bush administration in the lead-up to that war, and they are as responsible as is President Bush for the disaster that now befalls us. Media plays a role. And the disintegration of Iraq, the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, of over 3,000 Americans, the cost of hundreds of billons of dollars out of our pockets -- directly related to the failure of the media.

On the collapse of the middle class:

How did that happen? How did it happen today that a two-income family has less disposal income than a one-income family did thirty years ago? How does it happen that thirty years ago, one person working forty hours a week could earn enough money to take care of the family; now, you need two, and they're still not doing it? Now, one might think that this is an interesting story. One might think that globalization and disastrous trade policies, which have lowered the standard of living of millions of American workers, might be a story that should be covered.


People working long hours, people working for lower wages, they turn on the television set, they do not see that reality. What they see is the issue is personal responsibility. You can't afford healthcare? You're losing your pension? Then the problem is with you. Work a little bit harder. It is not a systemic problem. It is not a problem that can be solved by government. It is not a problem which asked you to be involved in the political process. You are the only person who can find a job that pays you a living wage. That's your fault! And you are the only person who can’t find a job that provides you with healthcare. That's your fault! And you're the only father who can't afford to send your kid to college. That's your fault! Don't get involved in the political process. It won't do any good. So people turn on the television -- they’re hurting, they're exhausted -- they do not see a reflection of their reality in the media. They do not understand that participation in the political process can bring about change, and that is not by accident.

When we wake up in the morning and we brush our teeth, for better or worse, we see our own reflections in the mirror. When we turn on the television, somebody is providing us a mirror to the world, and what we want is that mirror to reflect the reality of ordinary people and not the illusions of a few.

On health care:

But, you know, go out on the street and ask people how many major countries in the world do not have a national healthcare program, which guarantees healthcare to all people. And you know what? Most people do not know, because they have not seen it reflected in the media, that the United States of America is the only nation on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all of its people. They do not know about the healthcare systems in Scandinavia. They do not know about European healthcare systems. And the only thing they will hear about the Canadian healthcare system are the problems that that system has. That's what they will hear.

On the environment:

In terms of the environment, if we are told over and over again that there is a serious scientific debate about the causation of global warming or whether global warming actually exists, it has an impact upon our consciousness. Why should we break our dependency on fossil fuels, why should we move to sustainable energy, if there is a debate among the scientific community? And that is, in fact, what you hear in the media. Well, you know what? There is no debate among the scientific community.

On the widening rift between the rich and poor in America:

Now, here's an issue that I’m sure you see on the TV almost every night -- it probably bores you, you see it so much -- and that is that the United States today has the most unfair distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth. I was joking. You don't see that on television very often. Now, here is at issue, you know, which is of enormous significance from an economic point of view, as well as a political point of view, as well as a moral point of view. Richest 1% of the population in America owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. Richest 13,000 families earn more income than do the bottom 20 million families. In many ways, in my view, we are moving toward an oligarchic form of society. Do you think that maybe this is an issue that should be thrown out there on the table? Do we think it's a good idea that so few have so much and so many have so little? But that is an issue that is beyond the scope of what establishment media is literally allowed to discuss.

Now, I have been in politics for a long time. I have been asked a thousand questions by media. Not one member of the media has ever come up to me and said, "Bernie, what are you going to do to deal with the outrage of America having the most unfair distribution of wealth of any country on earth? What are you going to do about it?" Have you ever heard any political leader ever being asked that question? Why not? Why is that issue outside of the scope of what we are allowed to talk about?

The American people deserve much better than we are getting from our media. Sen. Sanders is absolutely correct and should get a tremendous amount of support from the blogosphere. The American people should take advantage of the fact that we have such a vocal advocate in the Senate.

UPDATE: I just want to point out that I don't endorse every single conclusion that Bernie Sanders has reached about policies, realities, etc. I just agree wholeheartedly that the American public deserves a media that is willing to honestly address these topics and allow our democracy to engage in substantive debates on these crucial issues.

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