Friday, June 25, 2010

Talking back to the local Fox propaganda branch

Weekday evenings I pretty regularly catch the Fox 29 local news before the nightly airing of The Simpsons. I watch not so much to learn anything about the world - a person who doesn't view at all is more likely to have some idea of what's going on, their head not filled with distortion and lies - but to keep tabs on what a lot of the public is being fed about what's going on.

The broadcasts are cartoonish distortions of the worst of modern American local news from which Kent Brockman himself would resign. Each evening there's a full 90 minutes of emptyheaded narcissist talking heads speeding through a confusing mix of edutaining half-factoids, garbled together in a dumbed-down stew of rightist elitism disguised as populism.

In between the daily jabs at government waste (the private sector is presumably efficient and honest) and a xenophobic tone against anything or anyone the slightest bit different, there is a clear and persistent attack on unionized workers, most regularly public sector workers. This regularly manifests itself in attacks on teachers, who are uniformly depicted as greedy, incompetent and criminal social deviants who bankrupt state and municipal government.

The obvious reason that public sector employees are targeted is that the vast majority of American private sector employees have had no real rights to organize since the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act in the late 1940s, and almost all of the private sector union jobs have disappeared. I imagine Fox 29 would also attack local Leni Lenape for all of Philadelphia's problems if there were more than a handful of those people left. Fox lets no weakened social actor go unmolested, the consumate bully.

I am not exaggerating. Hardly a broadcast goes by in which unionized teachers especially are not villified in the manner of "commies" in the 1950s blacklisting days. This is the constant drumbeat of any of the many media outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch throughout the world, and has been on four continents for decades. If you want to work even in local news for Fox, you have to take cheap shots at honest working people every single day. In a just world these jackholes would be driving themselves to honor-salvaging suicides.

This evening they ran a piece titled "THE WORLD IS BROKE" with it's own big, scary red-bold-lettered graphic as the third of fourth "news story." Why is the world broke? Because Pennsylvania and New Jersey teachers won't take a pay cut below the wages guaranteed in their current contracts. Of course! This was stated as fact, with no opposing viewpoint, with no suggestion that cutting teachers' wages and benefits was anything other than the only way to balance state budgets.

I wrote an email to the two anchors of this travesty of a news show immediately following its broadcast, pasted below. I'll let everyone know if I hear anything back from these cowardly cheap shot artists. Fuck them.


I watched your commentary - certainly not a news piece but an opinion piece disguised as news - under the rubric of "The World Is Broke" this evening. It's difficult to say where to begin, but if you submitted that work in a freshman economics class I doubt you would pass the course. The piece did nothing to explain any actual budget troubles and solutions, but did much to continue your incessant biased drumbeat against union employees, particularly ones in the public sector.

This is to be expected from any Rupert Murdoch-related propaganda outlet. What amazes me is the lack of any attempt to disguise your hate for a living wage and decent benefits, and your advocacy of state governments breaking binding legal contracts with their employees. A more effective propaganda machine might even have some token opposition, preferrably an ugly individual with a poor speaking voice and foreign-sounding name. Astoundingly your "fair and balanced" coverage can't be bothered with even a token word of opposition, even taken out of context. Mr. Murdoch must be a demanding person for whom to work.

I'm left wondering both how you're allowed to continue to hold an FCC license and how you sleep at night.

Your collective ignorance of economic concepts and realities is immense, but I expect little from Communications majors. We don't have enough time to educate you fully, but consider a few bullet points:

- The statement "The World Is Broke" taken by itself has not even internal logic. If there are debtors there are also creditors. Perhaps you mean to state "The World's Wealth Is Inequitably Distributed" or something similar. I long for the day when daily news broadcasts point out that usury has bankrupted our ability to meet the needs of our citizens.

Some 2 billion people on the planet face food insecurity on a daily basis, in large part because of austerity measures imposed to collect on national debts and transfer public wealth to commercial banks, because of cheap food commodity dumping by the richer nations and because of a lack of fair compensation for work. Somehow "The World Is Broke" was not about them.

Some 10% of the able-bodied American workforce is idle (these are official figures; reality is worse) because of an ecomony wrecked by Wall Street casino losses, offshored jobs and low wages. Somehow "The World Is Broke" was not about them.

Tens of millions of Americans have one or more jobs but still live in poverty (low wages) and/or face bankruptcy (#1 cause: healthcare bills). Somehow "The World Is Broke" was not about them.

No, your piece focused on state budget battles. PA, NJ and DE state governments are "The World."

- Given that last point, we could see a number of ways to balancing state budgets. One way would be to collect taxes from corporations and richer citizens at the higher rates they were collected decades ago, when government deficits were not what they are now. Another method might be to cut corporate welfare spending. Another might be a small transactional tax on risky commodity trades of the sort that imperil most people's economic well-being. Another option would be for the federal government to fund its state mandates, which it could easily do by cutting the war budget (half of discretionary spending all by itself) and/or by collecting taxes from the 60% of domestic and 70% of foreign corporations who pay none, or even receive rebates.

You suggest none of this.

No, your world is broke and the primary cause is that public sector union workers have the temerity to get paid a day's pay for a day's work, and expect to receive the pensions they've been paying into their entire working lives. Worse, these people expect to receive the pay and benefits they've already negotiated for and have received a contract to do. "Shame on them!"

I wouldn't write this as parody because it's not believable in fiction as a depth to which a "news" organization might stoop. I'll add I've never held a public sector position, union or otherwise. I just can't believe how vicious, how hamfisted and cartoonish your attacks on those people are. You don't even shill well.

- Deficit spending has always been considered a legitimate means of economic pump-priming by government. This is why FDR is generally lionized by historians and why the Hoover years are generally recalled like a bad case of acne. I would suggest looking up the name "John Maynard Keynes." He was the most influential 20th century economist, and you've basically turned everything he had to say on its head. In short, government can spend some cash in temporary deficit to employ people, create growth, and eventually make the money back through taxation. Do you think when the government spends money that it disappears down some hole, never to be circulated again? This has the side effect of keeping people from starving and rioting, which many of us regard as positive.

I assume some of you are actually aware of these ideas and reject them because of deeply held (if not in fact deeply thought-out) right wing beliefs. In the end it doesn't matter if you've arrived at this position through honest stupidity or willing ignorance, either way you are poisoning the public discussion and you need to stop.

- You have a fantastic ignorance of the wealth and health of societies with strong unionized labor in the public sector. Scandinavia as an obvious example has far more unionized workers as a % in both the public and private sectors than do we. Their public debts are lower compared to GDP than ours. They have healthy citizens, low crime rates and a longer life expectancy. They have higher wages and more benefits. Clearly paying a day's pay for a day's work bankrupts neither the individual nor the government.

The Third World has almost nothing in the way of public or private sector unionization. They have low wages and often no benefits... and high ratios of public debt. Clearly tearing union labor to shreds is not the path to economic recovery. It is, in fact, the road to ruin.

Forty years ago roughly 30% of the American labor force was unionized. Wages were higher, unemployment was lower, national debt was lower and state debts were not problematic. Certainly no austerity measures were imposed on public sector workforces.

Obviously these facts have no place in your fantasy broadcasts, which are unfair (as in "not fair") and imbalanced (as in "crazed.")

When, if ever, are you going to be running a one-sided screed in favor of state governments honoring current labor contracts, especially as a means of keeping our societies out of the toilet?


[signed with contact info]


I'll let everyone know if I hear anything back. Fuckers.
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