What we are witnessing in our time is the nullification of the First Amendment. A corporate coup d’etat sponsored by the plutocracy has commandeered both government and the press.
What you are about to read may seem counterintuitive. In fact, you might even wonder why I’m bringing up what could be considered old news. Surely, I should be writing about the latest Donald Trump outrage or the newest Kanye fiasco instead of focusing on what happened at the White House Correspondents’ dinner on April 28.
However, mainstream media’s incessant need to manufacture sensationalism and their occupation with yellow journalism necessitates a revisit of Michelle Wolf’s thesis that she nailed at the door of corporate media. There is a reason pundits and news personalities took to social media to protest and howl at Wolf’s performance. Their anger had nothing to do with her jokes and everything do with her devastating criticism of the media-politico complex.
The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald tweeted that cable hosts are rated not for each show but for each segment. Personalities such as Wolf Blitzer, Joy Reid, Sean Hannity and the rest of the highly paid pundits on TV are incentivized to focus on the outlandish, rather than report on news that matters. This is why the bombing of a village in Syria or the ongoing poisoning of Flint, Mich., gets short shrift, but the musings of a rapper or the infantile tweets of Donald Trump get elevated to the level of breaking news.
What is true of cable news is truer still of the whole of mainstream media. News has become commodified, with the focus on enhancing revenues instead of speaking truth to power. This is what happens when a few companies hoard a vast majority of the media landscape. The rush to maximize corporate profits has superseded the ethos of journalism. The days of muckrakers are long gone. We live in the age of muckers who preen on TV, pretend to be truth-tellers and carry on incestuous relationships with the authorities they are supposed to keep in check.
In many ways, we are at the nadir of journalism. Courageous reporting has become the exception, and buffoonery for the sake of attention has become our new normal. Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges noted in a 2010 speech that mainstream media personalities are nothing more than corporate courtiers. They put on face powder and dance for their patrons as they divert our attention from the ongoing fleecing of society and the raping of our planet.
It is this vaudeville of lies that Wolf was torching. One of the most powerful statements she made was when she spoke of corporate journalists’ love/hate relationship with Trump.
“You pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him.”
This is why Mika Brzezinski, Andrea Mitchell, Sean Spicer and ivory tower punditry caught a collective aneurism. How dare someone walk into their circle jerk of self-adulation and expose their fraudulence? As Thoreau once said, truths and roses have thorns about them.
On an occasion in which the press royalty gathered to be treated to roses, they were instead greeted with the thorny truth about who they are. The society of corporate propagandists and government shills were in an uproar because someone reminded them of the souls they once had before they sold them to acquire status and fame.
“You guys love breaking news, and you did it—you broke it.”
The funniest jokes are always grounded in the truth. Corporate journalism is broken beyond repair. When people’s livelihood and a company’s existence are dependent on the largess of the powerful they are covering, rooting out corruption takes a back seat to self-interest. If you want proof of this, go to CNN’s website, and you’ll be bombarded with so many advertisements you will feel like you are walking in Times Square.
The Bill of Rights enshrined the independence of a free press and made a robust fourth estate a vital component of our collective freedoms for a reason. The founders realized that a government that goes unchecked quickly becomes the very tyranny they fought against.
What we are witnessing in our time is the nullification of the First Amendment. A corporate coup d’etat sponsored by the plutocracy has commandeered both government and the press. Wolf walked into this nexus of media and politics and breached decorum by having the audacity to hold a mirror to the conclave of corporate sycophants that was the White House Correspondents’ dinner.
There are five stages to grief. We saw denial and anger last week as corporate journalists reacted with vitriol to the truths Wolf spoke. They will never get to acceptance. Fortunes and being treated like demigods have a way of making people rationalize their immoralities and focus on the depravities of a greater clown in the White House. It is up to us, the consumers, to stop drinking from the poisoned chalice of corporate news and seek truth somewhere else.
Teodrose Fikre is a journalist and the founder and editor of The Ghion Journal. Once a defense consultant, he was profoundly changed by a two-year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of…
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