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The Corporatist Manifesto Tells Pundits of America: Unite!

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As expected, the highest-profile corporate spokesmen in the punditocracy are quickly uniting to try to divert the debate over the UAE port security scandal from where its focus really should be: on America's dangerous "free" trade policy that lets these kinds of deals happen all the time, with almost no scrutiny. It is as if these pundits - many of whom are supposedly "liberal" - are reading from a Corporatist's Manifesto that tells them all to unite against any effort to seriously look at what we all know this scandal is actually all about. And they are employing the most overt form of hypocrisy in their desperation.

The best place to see this truly pathetic behavior is from the New York Times' Tom Friedman. In a column this week vigorously defending the UAE port deal, Friedman preached:
"As a country, we must not go down this road of global ethnic profiling -- looking for Arabs under our beds the way we once looked for commies. If we do -- if America, the world's beacon of pluralism and tolerance, goes down that road -- we will take the rest of the world with us. We will sow the wind and we will reap the whirlwind. If there were a real security issue here, I'd join the critics. But the security argument is bogus and, I would add, borderline racist."

So, according to Friedman, we must simply believe that a country with very recent ties to Osama bin Laden, terrorist financing, and some of the 9/11 hijackers supposedly poses no "real security issue" and that anyone who says otherwise is a "borderline racist." But even worse, consider that Friedman was one of the loudest voices pushing for the invasion of Iraq - even though he knew full well there was absolutely no evidence tying Iraq to 9/11. He aggressively pushed this illegitimate war against a country that posed no threat to us but was a nice easy Arab target - a war, thus, based on the same form of "global ethnic profiling" and "borderline racism" that he is now righteously deploring.

Friedman is employing this hypocritical tactic, of course, to prevent anyone from questioning the free market fundamentalism that is at the core of this scandal - because to question that fundamentalism would be to question the very political/economic elites that Friedman now makes his career sucking up to.

But Friedman isn't the only reliable corporate mouthpiece turning up the volume in the punditocracy. There was Joe Klein on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight trying to flip the national security issue back at critics of the port deal, claiming that rejecting a deal allowing a country with recent terrorist ties to own our ports would be to create more terrorists. Such verbal acrobatics and distorted logic is so ridiculously twisted its really incredible it could be aired on television. Klein is actually creating a rationale that could be applied to any basic effort to defend America. Demand the Saudis crack down on funding terrorists? No, Klein's logic would say, that might offend the Saudis. Go after Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan? No, Klein's logic would say, that might make the Afghanis mad.

And then there was the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof on Sunday. He said, "If we want to promote global markets, as an avenue to peace, we have to practice what we preach."

The phrase "promoting global markets," as the Davos crowd well knows, is a euphemism for promoting corporate-written free trade deals that are designed to prevent any scrutiny of deals like the UAE port transaction, lest they get in the way of Big Business's quest for profits. So, at least Kristof tacitly acknowledges his own hidden corporate agenda/bias. That said, he tries to make us assume as fact that "promoting global markets" has really helped secure America, when all you have to do is look at the rising tide of anti-Americanism in our own Southern Hemisphere to know its the exact opposite. Right here in our own backyard where America's government has tried to enforce free market fundamentalism, South America is aggressively revolting against us. Kristof's free market orthodoxy may be an avenue to burgeoning corporate profits, but we're finding out it isn't necessarily an "avenue to peace."

Of course, we shouldn't be surprised about the major pundits coming together to keep the focus off the free trade policies they have rammed down our throats over the last two decades. This is exactly what these pundits are paid to do, after all. And they've done it for a long time. Just look at this excerpt from a piece by Howard Kurtz in 1993 right after NAFTA passed:
"From George Will and Rush Limbaugh on the right to Anthony Lewis and Michael Kinsley on the left, most of the nation's brand-name commentators led the cheerleading for NAFTA...Meg Greenfield, The Washington Post's editorial page editor, said her op-ed page reflected the fact that most of her regular columnists supported the agreement. 'On this rare occasion when columnists of the left, right and middle are all in agreement . . . I don't believe it is right to create an artificial balance where none exists.'...Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), a NAFTA critic, said The Post had published 63 feet worth of pro-NAFTA editorials and columns since January, compared with 11 feet of anti-NAFTA commentary."

As economist Jeff Faux notes in his new book The Global Class War, the punditocracy's virtual blackout came at the very time polls showed the public had serious reservations about NAFTA. Yet people like Greenfield justified the blackout by claiming she would have had "to create an artificial balance where none existed."

There's no mystery about why the punditocracy is so hostile to those who question free trade orthodoxy. From the same Kurtz article, we get a good explanation:
"'One reason for the press unanimity is that there are no $35-a-week Tijuana bureau chiefs" to steal their jobs, columnist Mark Shields said. Most pundits, he said, 'are more worried about whether they're going to the Vineyard next year.' New York Times columnist Abe Rosenthal agrees. 'For people like editorial writers -- all my friends -- it's difficult for them to see the sorrows of other people,' he said. 'When a factory closes we say, 'Well, another 30,000 people out of a job.' I would not give up my job with pleasure, and you wouldn't, if you were told you had to hit the road and find a job in Nashville or San Antonio at half the price.'"

That's really what this comes down to - a cultural hostility to the interests/desires of the general public by those at the highest echelons of elite opinionmaking in this country. The hostility seems motivated primarily by economic class. And as we see with the UAE port scandal, pundits - even those who normally posture as tough on terrorism - are willing to put their own economic agendas over even the most basic national security concerns.

David Sirota is the author of the upcoming book Hostile Takeover, due in bookstores Spring 2006.
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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)

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