Our President sends us amazing messages of hope in the slippery world of mass communications. Public uplift is palpable in a time when “hope” and “change” are often buzzwords for falling back or stepping in place. So, reading between the lines, where is the hope?
Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch~~--Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There,1872)
In the American dream, media tend to whitewash American failures or paint them as successes -- informed citizens make poor consumers of public relations. Otherwise, playing our hopes, dreams and fears (like color-coding vague states of danger) is good marketing -- anxious, uncertain citizens can be sold almost anything.
Toxic sludge is good for us, gene manipulation improves nature, polar ice caps are melting to provide us new oil fields in the arctic, data imparts wisdom, wealth confers worth, some institutions are too big to fail, we are winning the endless war for peace, and national security trumps civil liberties, health care, education and jobs.
We suffer these conundrums, taking hits to the head daily, and may fail to connect some dots:
· Most media are corporate.
· By law, corporations must seek maximum profit for shareholders.
· War funded by taxpayers; private health care; and deregulation of trade, banking, utility and environmental safeguards are good for corporate profit.
· Corporations are the constituency, in effect, of elected officials through campaign contributions and so-called soft money. Network news, interlocking boards, and revolving doors between business and government dominate democratic process.
· Media are sponsored mainly by the military-industrial complex. Some media owners are principals of this complex.
. Despite protests of arm’s-length integrity, most media are mouthpieces of their owners and sponsors. Money talks, fear and favor listen. Frank Wisner, early deputy director of the CIA (active in publishing and broadcasting), called media "The Mighty Wurlitzer" after the well-known brand of pipe organ that played background music for silent movies and the stage. The Mighty Wurlitzer wins hearts and minds.
· The less educated, less informed and more impoverished we are, the less time and attention we have for our own governance.
We have the burden -- no one else will do it for us -- to find sources, increasingly available to increasing numbers, that cut through smoke and coded language to satisfy the golden mean of our various home truths. Opposing points of view often intersect on a common ground of information that is public, verifiable and frequently little known.
In 2007, Jello Biafra wrote in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, "I don't see why people are so upset about cloning sheep. American television networks have been doing that to their audiences for years." That could still be true, because President Obama is seating his table with the usual suspects, war pimps and deregulation perps, presumably for their clout and insider wisdom. But he still talks the talk. He says he can’t make change by himself and asks for help from the grassroots movement that got him elected.
Obama’s campaign Website, my.barackobama.com, was highly interactive and self-organizing, and signed up more than 10 million people, including 1.5 million money contributors. The blogging, social networking and interactive sites of Web 2.O are in place and growing to give conventional media a run for their money.
Obama knows where his public support base is and apparently seeks to keep it alongside the players who hold markers on his administration. His new-media team revamped whitehouse.gov to make announcements and ask for public opinion in a signature move of our cyber culture. In form at least, Obama invites a public end-run of influence around media and lobbies.
We would be wise to treat whitehouse.gov as daylight in dark times, put cynicism about any ulterior, co-opting motives aside, and join forces to use it to drive a wedge into business as usual, persevering as long as Obama's invitation stands. His game is far from perfect, but the miracle of his election may be that, with our help, his heart and courage will prevail over media carping, Beltway backstabbing, and the old boys and mentors in his corridors.
With whitehouse.gov, President Obama offers We the People, and himself, a new tool. Hopefully, it will be used for public good.