After pondering here whether MSNBC's progressive hosts are being handcuffed by editorial control, I received an email from someone upset over Comcast's announced move to demote MSNBC into a separate subscription package cable customers will have to pay extra for.
MSNBC's fear of rubbing partisan cable-franchise gatekeepers the wrong way is telling. Ironically, the message came from the Chattanooga area, ground zero in the controversy surrounding SmarTech's basement office which houses servers many believe still must be examined to find answers to 2004 election night abnormalities.
This is a perfect illustration of why MSNBC may be censoring coverage of "toxic" topics, preventing anchors Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow and others from mentioning controversies that would go where no network newsrooms dare. If a partisan affiliate in Chattanooga feels they don't need so much penetrating inquiry, can MSNBC sterilize the content by omission?
A 60 Minutes segment alleging a political conspiracy to imprison Gov. Don Siegelman was blacked out on an Huntsville, Alabama station. Accused of censoring this story, the affiliate later claimed it was a technical error. But backroom decisions made 60 Minutes scrub news throughout the Bush years, including Harriet Miers involvement in a cover-up of Bush's draft-dodging and a minority voter purge by Karl Rove's office. CBS also delayed a detailed piece on forged documents claiming Iraq's intent to buy Nigerian uranium till after Bush was re-elected.
A majority of Americans still get their news from ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and other broadcasts which are condemned roundly for shallow political coverage of deep issues. The right feels the mainstream media is "in the tank" for the Democrats, while the left claims coverage of rampant Bush-era crimes and scandals have been whitewashed. With networks playing it safe, they have it both ways with the under-informed public. But can we tolerate this when it comes to voting integrity?
As I imagine the reasons Maddow or Olbermann would bury stories like the Connell scandal, Tim Griffin's caging list evidence, the Sibel Edmonds saga, or the overflowing spate of other Bush era violations being probed by progressive leaders in Congress like Conyers, Kucinich and Leahy, it points to an industry wall of silence. Surely an MSNBC exclusive on the Mike Connell story would force big sister NBC to answer to their non-coverage. This makes the other networks either cover it or not as well.
Do the networks want America debating 2004 voting improprieties? Surely not - Gore Vidal's Fog Facts and Wag The Dog author Larry Bienhart laid bare big media's reluctance to report the findings of their own-privately funded recount of Florida 2000's results. It's ugly business...
As perhaps the left-most correspondents on TV, I feel Keith and Rachel's silence betrays their former thoroughness, intellect and journalistic noses. In an age where networks no longer fight for exclusives but maintain pacts to quell the masses, it's almost as if they aren't calling the shots themselves...
Adding to this struggle between reporters, mid-level editors, their corporate bosses and finicky network affiliates, there's another factor - the sponsors. Could xNBC conceivably be shaping the news in consideration of the enormous contracts they maintain with a host of advertisers in every industry? I think so. Sponsors routinely vote with their dollars to reward channels who report news favorable to their products and downplay the ills. This pay-for-play exists at every level of media, from the six o'clock newscast to the small town paper that makes businesses buy ad space in exchange for "editorial" coverage.
Beyond even these factors, yet another specter hangs over big media - big brother. Remember accusations that the Bush White House directly called networks to alter the course of stories due to air? These claims are only a small part of Dan Rather's $70 million lawsuit against CBS for improper editorial censure of the Texas Air Guard story aired by 60 Minutes prior to the 2004 election. Later, Rather disclosed CBS deliberately squelched the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal as well, covering it only once others had.
White House pressure could also have something to do with the decision by ABC's 20/20 to conceal the findings of research ABC News conducted after being given exclusive access to the DC Madam's call list. Abruptly, ABC and correspondent Brian Ross went mum on the story, pulling the teaser off their website. Interviewed before her hanging death, Ms. Palfrey confirmed Dick Cheney's name was mentioned alongside Senator Vitter and others in connection with her client call logs, but the networks uniformly deemed the story radioactive.
After benefiting from industry consolidation and federal cross-ownership license deregulation, it's apparent big corporate media trades favors, like agreeing to cover an arrest before a federal prosecutor even undertakes a case. The media that once exposed government wrongdoing has become an organ-grinder's monkey, spinning "narratives" that keep things uncomplicated and the people docile.
But the Connell story is about vulnerabilities in our voting apparatus, and it's rife with compelling questions, whether you believe the election was tampered with or not, whether you believe the IT guru was threatened or not - the fact remains Connell worked behind the security firewall of our most sensitive Congressional committees at the same time he presided over highly partisan campaign websites like the SwiftBoat Vets, also enabling Karl Rove's "off-line" e-mail system, which may have skirted transparency requirements for White House correspondence. The ultra-religious Connell justified some of the seedier IT plumbing work he did to friends by claiming he was helping save the unborn.
I was following closely any and all Connell news after learning he stonewalled during forced testimony a day before the 2008 election. But when I heard he was killed, I began monitoring media non-coverage as well. It was as if Karl Rove issued a proclamation to all the networks, ordering them to lay off. Even the NY Times passed over the story as "Connell" topped the keyword search list on their website.
It was indie web reporters at Raw Story, BradBlog and ePluribus Media who led the way in publicizing unsettling questions discovered in the election fraud case against Ken Blackwell and others in Ohio Circuit Court. The same findings made their way into the Congressional articles of impeachment filed by Rep. Kucinich. But the story still doesn't exist in the mainstream media matrix.
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