Wall Street Manipulates Deficit Angst with ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Fear

by Dean Baker, The Guardian/UK, December 4, 2012

Deficit hawks rely on media allies to report budget doom to advance their agenda of cutting Medicare and social security

Many of the nation’s most important news outlets openly embrace the agenda of the rich and powerful that colors its coverage of major economic issues. This is perhaps nowhere better demonstrated than during the current budget standoff between President Obama and Congress, which the media routinely describes as the “fiscal cliff“. This terminology seriously misrepresents the nature of the budget dispute, as everyone in the debate has acknowledged. There is no “cliff” currently facing the budget or the economy.

If no deal is reached this year, then on 1 January, daily tax withholdings will rise by an average of about $4 per person. Any money actually deducted from pay checks will be refunded if a deal is subsequently reached that returns tax rates to 2012 levels. Government spending probably won’t change at the start of the new year, since President Obama has considerable discretion over the flow of spending. No one can think that this modest increase in tax withholdings would plunge the economy into a recession, but the Wall Street types seeking to dismantle social security and Medicare have used their enormous wealth and allies in the media to generate this kind of fear-mongering across the country.

One way in which they have pushed their agenda has been in misrepresenting projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO’s projections show that if higher tax rates and lower spending are left in place for the whole year, then it will substantially slow growth and push the economy into a recession. However, these projections explicitly assume that we go a whole year without reaching a deal. They say nothing about what happens if the government cuts a deal by the second or third week in January. Even a Washington Post editor should be sharp enough to understand this distinction; nonetheless, many stories have implied that the recession projections apply to missing the 1 January deadline.

Wall Street types have also pushed this idea that the markets are demanding for programs like social security and Medicare be cut. This sort of assertion, which is treated as a fundamental truth by the Washington insider crowd, has the wonderful feature of escaping contradiction. Of course, none of us knows exactly what will trouble the financial markets or by how much that trouble would hurt the economy. (In fact, even a sustained drop in the stock market has a limited effect on the economy, and short term fluctuations have almost no impact.) This means that when Wall Street, or their designated mouthpieces, make authoritative-sounding claims that the markets will be upset if we don’t cut social security or Medicare as part of a budget deal, there is no direct way to refute them. After all, it is possible that they might be right.

If economic reporters did their job, though, they would be looking for evidence to support these assertions about financial markets. They could start by looking at the track records of those issuing the warnings. If they examined the track records of people at organizations like the Campaign to Fix the Debt, and other deficit hawks, they would reveal to their audiences that these “experts” have the distinction of being almost 100% wrong on just about all their economic predictions over the last five years.

This crew has been predicting that large budget deficits would cause interest rates to skyrocket ever since President Obama’s first round of stimulus, almost four years ago. Many also predicted that inflation would explode. Yet, none of them warned us about the housing bubble: they were too busy running around the country yelling about the budget deficits even when the deficits were small enough that the debt to GDP ratio was actually declining.

In short, major national news outlets have adopted the agenda of the Wall Street elite that displays zero evidence of any understanding of what drives the economy, wholesale. Their assertions that the markets will panic without a budget deal that cuts social security and Medicare have no apparent foundation in reality. It is just a threat that they have concocted to advance their agenda. Now, that would make for a very good news story.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). He is the author of The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer and the more recently published Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of The Bubble Economy. He also has a blog, “Beat the Press,” where he discusses the media’s coverage of economic issues.

Article printed from www.CommonDreams.org

Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/04-3

Fiscal Cliff Fictions: Let’s All Agree to Pretend the GOP Isn’t Full of It

by Michael Grunwald. TIME Swampland, Nov. 30, 2012

Excerpts

It’s really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama’s opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It’s even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn’t cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.

This isn’t just cognitive dissonance. It’s irresponsible reporting. Mainstream media outlets don’t want to look partisan, so they ignore the BS hidden in plain sight, the hypocrisy and dishonesty that defines the modern Republican Party….

I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened….

Whatever. I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day.

Full text

It’s really amazing to see political reporters dutifully passing along Republican complaints that President Obama’s opening offer in the fiscal cliff talks is just a recycled version of his old plan, when those same reporters spent the last year dutifully passing along Republican complaints that Obama had no plan. It’s even more amazing to see them pass along Republican outrage that Obama isn’t cutting Medicare enough, in the same matter-of-fact tone they used during the campaign to pass along Republican outrage that Obama was cutting Medicare.

This isn’t just cognitive dissonance. It’s irresponsible reporting. Mainstream media outlets don’t want to look partisan, so they ignore the BS hidden in plain sight, the hypocrisy and dishonesty that defines the modern Republican Party. I’m old enough to remember when Republicans insisted that anyone who said they wanted to cut Medicare was a demagogue, because I’m more than three weeks old.

I’ve written a lot about the GOP’s defiance of reality–its denial of climate science, its simultaneous denunciations of Medicare cuts and government health care, its insistence that debt-exploding tax cuts will somehow reduce the debt—so I often get accused of partisanship. But it’s simply a fact that Republicans controlled Washington during the fiscally irresponsible era when President Clinton’s budget surpluses were transformed into the trillion-dollar deficit that President Bush bequeathed to President Obama. (The deficit is now shrinking.) It’s simply a fact that the fiscal cliff was created in response to GOP threats to force the U.S. government to default on its obligations. The press can’t figure out how to weave those facts into the current narrative without sounding like it’s taking sides, so it simply pretends that yesterday never happened.

The next fight is likely to involve the $200 billion worth of stimulus that Obama included in his recycled fiscal cliff plan that somehow didn’t exist before Election Day. I’ve taken a rather keen interest in the topic of stimulus, so I’ll be interested to see how this is covered. Keynesian stimulus used to be uncontroversial in Washington; every 2008 presidential candidate had a stimulus plan, and Mitt Romney’s was the largest. But in early 2009, when Obama began pushing his $787 billion stimulus plan, the GOP began describing stimulus as an assault on free enterprise—even though House Republicans  (including Paul Ryan) voted for a $715 billion stimulus alternative that was virtually indistinguishable from Obama’s socialist version. The current Republican position seems to be that the fiscal cliff’s instant austerity would destroy the economy, which is odd after four years of Republican clamoring for austerity, and that the cliff’s military spending cuts in particular would kill jobs, which is even odder after four years of Republican insistence that government spending can’t create jobs.

I guess it’s finally true that we all are Keynesians now. Republicans don’t even seem to be arguing that more stimulus wouldn’t boost the economy; they’ve suggested that Obama needs to give up “goodies” like extending unemployment insurance (which benefits laid-off workers) and payroll tax cuts (which benefit everyone) to show that he’s negotiating in good faith. At the same time, though, they also want Obama to propose bigger Medicare cuts, even though they spent the last campaign slamming Obama’s Medicare cuts and denying their interest in Medicare cuts. I live in Florida, so I had the pleasure of hearing a radio ad from Allen West, hero of the Tea Party, vowing to protect Medicare.

Whatever. I realize that the GOP’s up-is-downism puts news reporters in an awkward position. It would seem tendentious to point out Republican hypocrisy on deficits and Medicare and stimulus every time it comes up, because these days it comes up almost every time a Republican leader opens his mouth. But we’re not supposed to be stenographers. As long as the media let an entire political party invent a new reality every day, it will keep on doing it. Every day.
Read more: http://swampland.time.com/2012/11/30/fiscal-cliff-fictions-lets-all-agree-to-pretend-the-gop-isnt-full-of-it/#ixzz2DuCXBUyL

Pundits and politicians contend for the soul of the Republican party

by Paul Harris, Guardian/UK, November 12, 2012

Excerpt

A civil war is brewing in the GOP – between the realists who have to get elected and the ultras in the conservative media…the fascinating element of this sure-to-be-brutal conflict lies not in the opposing arguments, but in the make-up of each side. For long years, buoyed by Fox News and a legion of talk radio shockjocks, the conservative media and its allies in radical think tanks have been an integral part of the Republican party…internet scribe Matt Drudge, radio host Rush Limbaugh and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist…Steve Deace, a radio host in Iowa…Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the American Family Association…Limbaugh…Herman Cain…What do these people all have in common? No one elects them. They are pundits and firebrands whose very existence relies on stirring up the base. That is where they get readers, listeners and donors. These people do not fear election losses. They thrive on them. Opposition suits their purpose…Among the GOP’s elected representatives – and its more traditional elites – there is a sudden outbreak of moderation….it is not really a battle between two sets of warring politicians. Instead, it is a fight between politicians and pundits. It is policy versus talking points, voters versus ratings. Even Democrats should hope the politicians win.

Full text

A civil war is brewing in the GOP – between the realists who have to get elected and the ultras in the conservative media

There is rarely anything “civil” about civil war. That definitely seems to be the case as the Republican party and conservatives react to defeat at the hands of President Barack Obama.

As with most such fights – think of the Labour party in Britain in the early 1980s, or the Conservatives in the early 2000s – the conflict is between modernisers dragging a party more in line with the electorate it seeks to represent and reactionaries convinced salvation lies in a harder adherence to ideology.

On the one hand are people who accept the Republican party has now lost five out of the last six popular vote tallies in US presidential elections. They examine the changing demographics and social attitudes of Americans (less white, less religious, and more angry at the very wealthy) and see a powerful need to change.

On the other hand are Republicans who look at Mitt Romney’s capture of 48% of the vote and see a flawed “moderate in conservative clothing” who failed to connect to voters the way a true believer would. Just another couple of percentage points, these folks argue, and it would now be a dawn of a conservative golden age.

But the fascinating element of this sure-to-be-brutal conflict lies not in the opposing arguments, but in the make-up of each side. For long years, buoyed by Fox News and a legion of talk radio shockjocks, the conservative media and its allies in radical thinktanks have been an integral part of the Republican party. If you agreed with them, you saw people like internet scribe Matt Drudge, radio host Rush Limbaugh and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist as necessary watchdogs on slippery politicians. If you didn’t, it seemed that in the Republican party, the inmates had taken over the asylum.

Look at those now standing on the side of retrenchment. There is Drudge, promoting the “secession” petitions that grassroots activists have sent to the White House from every state. That sort of extremist posturing feels very pre-2012 election (even Texas Governor Rick Perry – no stranger to secession talk – thinks so). Or look at Limbaugh. He dubbed critics of conservatism “the usual suspects” and asked millions of listeners to hold firm. Across the country “mini-Rushes” are repeating that message.

Take Steve Deace, a radio host in Iowa, who has slammed potential 2012 modernising candidates like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or New Jersey’s Chris Christie. “Those people will never happen,” he emailed Business Insider.

Or look at Bryan Fischer, a radio host with the American Family Association. On the key issues of immigration, gay marriage and the deficit, Fischer’s argument is for more of the same message that has just rejected at the polls. “There hasn’t been such a rush to surrender since the French dropped to their knees before the Nazis in 1940,” he wrote this week.

There is even talk about a third party emerging from this fight. Limbaugh has floated the idea. So has Herman Cain, who may have run for the GOP nomination, but whose real power lies in his radio show and his speaking tours.

What do these people all have in common?

No one elects them. They are pundits and firebrands whose very existence relies on stirring up the base. That is where they get readers, listeners and donors. These people do not fear election losses. They thrive on them. Opposition suits their purpose.

The last thing they need is any form of accountable relationship with actual voters. Former George W Bush speechwriter David Frum, firing a brutal shot from the moderate camp, summed up their tactics the best: “Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex,” he told MSNBC.

So, what of the people who actually have to appeal to the voters?

That is where the other side of the GOP civil war is pitching its camp. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s remarkable interview to Politico this week had him sounding like MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. Jindal, echoing the “nasty party” fears of a previous generation of British Tories, said it was time for Republicans to stop being the “stupid party”. He went on:

“We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything. We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys.”

Wow. That is heady stuff for anyone who has listened to Republican dogma over the past decade or more.

Among the GOP’s elected representatives – and its more traditional elites – there is a sudden outbreak of moderation. The new intake of the House of Representatives now includes a dozen Republicans who have refused to sign Norquist’s “no tax increases” pledge. Others have recanted their allegiance. It is a clear sign of an ideological break with the past in favour of practical reality.

House speaker John Boehner is making noises about not seeking to repeal Obamacare, apparently accepting that most virulent of political fights is finished. Chris Christie has not backed down despite conservative ire over his across-the-aisle back-slapping with Obama in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Indeed, Christie has now earned the displeasure of the Koch brothers-backed conservative group Americans for Prosperity, which once fervently supported him.

And Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol – the epitome of the Washington establishment conservative – even recently raised the prospect of supporting tax hikes. “It won’t kill the country if Republicans raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. It really won’t,” he told the flabbergasted viewers of Fox News.

Finally, there is immigration reform. Witnessing Obama’s overwhelming support among Hispanics, Republican politicians are rushing to embrace this once toxic issue. Three Senate Republicans, in the shape of John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Marco Rubio, are making noises about legislation that includes the once-unmentionable idea of a path to citizenship.

This sort of thing is a huge shock to the “conservative entertainment complex” Frum so accurately identified. Which is what makes the coming Republican civil war so unique. For it is not really a battle between two sets of warring politicians. Instead, it is a fight between politicians and pundits. It is policy versus talking points, voters versus ratings.

Even Democrats should hope the politicians win.

http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/commentisfree/2012/nov/14/republican-party-soul-pundits-politicians

Republicans Lied To by ‘Conservative Entertainment Complex’ – David Frum

By Alexander C. Kaufman, Thewrap.com, November 09, 2012

Newsweek columnist David Frum called Republican leaders “cowards” and said the right-wing base has been lied to by a “conservative entertainment complex.”

Frum, a conservative who served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, made his remarks Friday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” He added that the GOP had been overrun by fear-mongers.

“The problem with Republican leaders is that they’re cowards,” Frum said, adding that the party’s base of donors “went apocalyptic” in the last four years.

Republicans have been fleeced and exploited and lied to by a conservative entertainment complex,” he said.

“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough pressed him to “name names,” which Frum skirted around, but he said there were “too many.”

Frum said he interviewed protesters at Tea Party rallies and found that a majority was convinced that taxes increased and that the federal government spent more than $1 trillion on welfare each year. Both claims are false.

“The followers, the donors and the activists are so mistaken about the nature of the problems the country faces,” Frum said.

http://www.thewrap.com/media/article/david-frum-republicans-lied-conservative-entertainment-complex-64421

The National Debt and Our Children: How Dumb Does Washington Think We Are?

by Dean Baker, Huffington Post, 10/15/2012

While much of the country is focused on the presidential race, the Wall Street gang is waging a different battle; they are preparing an assault on Social Security and Medicare. This attack is not exactly secret. There have been a number of pieces on this corporate-backed campaign in the media over the last few months, but the drive is nonetheless taking place behind closed doors.

The corporate honchos are not expecting to convince the public that we should support cuts to Social Security and Medicare. They know this is a hopeless task. Huge majorities of people across the political spectrum strongly support these programs.

Instead they hope that they can use their power of persuasion, coupled with the power of campaign contributions and the power of high-paying jobs for defeated members of Congress, to get Congress to approve large cuts in Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other key programs. This is the plan for a grand bargain that the corporate chieftains hope can be struck in the lame duck Congress.

Most of the media have been happy to cooperate with the corporate chieftains in this plan. There are two main ways in which they have abandoned objectivity to support the plan for cutting Social Security and Medicare.

First they continually run stories about how the deficit and debt are the biggest problems facing the country. They routinely use phrases like “crisis” and other hyperboles to scare their audience about the risks that the debt poses to the country.

The whole notion of a “fiscal cliff” is an invention that implies an urgency that does not exist. There is almost no consequence to not having a deal in place by the end of 2012. The dire projections of recession and rising unemployment assume that we don’t ever get a deal on the budget.

The fixation on the debt certainly cannot be justified by any objective standard. Clearly the most pressing economic problem facing the country is the tens of millions of people who are unemployed or underemployed as result of the collapse of the housing bubble. These people and their families are seeing their lives ruined due to a monumental failure by policymakers.

Furthermore, it is easy to show that the large budget deficits of recent years are entirely the result of the economic collapse. If the economy were back near full employment, the deficits would be relatively small as was the case before the collapse. Yet it is the deficits and debt that dominate news reporting and debate questions, not the overall state of the economy.

The other way in which the media have been pushing the agenda of the corporate honchos is by refusing to press candidates on their support for the cuts to Social Security that are a likely part of a grand bargain. Does President Obama support reducing Social Security benefits by 3 percent by cutting the annual cost-of-living adjustment? Does he support raising the age of Medicare eligibility to 67? How about your candidates for the Senate or the House?

It’s unlikely that many people know the answers to these questions because the reporters have not been asking them. Yet these policies and other cuts that would likely be part of a grand bargain would have a much more direct impact on most people’s lives that the tax proposals being touting by President Obama and Governor Romney.

To be specific, the reduction in Social Security benefits from the cut in the in the cost-of-living adjustment that is being pushed as part of a grand bargain would have more impact on most future retirees living standards than ending the Bush tax cuts on the richest 2 percent would have on their living standards. While the media have done endless pieces on the impact of this possible tax increase on the wealthy, they have done almost nothing on the impact of cutting the cost-of-living adjustment on the living standards of retirees.

This, of course, fits the needs of the corporate honchos who are pushing the agenda for cutting Social Security and Medicare. They don’t want these cuts to become an issue before the election because it will make it harder for members of Congress to vote for them.

This is why the reporters covering this election deserve nothing but contempt from the public. It is their job to highlight the issues that will matter to people’s lives, not to help push the agenda of corporate America. But clearly they have decided to do the latter.

Dean Baker is Co-director, CEPR; author, ‘The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/national-debt_b_1968868.html?utm_hp_ref=daily-brief?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=101612&utm_medium=email&utm_content=BlogEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief

Fox’s Unbalanced Ethics Threatens Democracy by Wendell Potter

Huffington Post.com, December 9, 2010  

Anyone who still clings to the notion that Fox News is actually a news organization rather than a propaganda machine for special interests — and that it actually is led by journalists who adhere to the code of ethics of the Society of Professional Journalists — must read the leaked memos Media Matters for America disclosed this morning. 

Under the heading of “Fox boss caught slanting news reporting,” Media Matters shared on its Web site an internal memo that Bill Sammon, Fox News’ Washington managing editor, sent a memo “at the height of the health care reform debate” to his network’s so-called journalists, directing them not to use the phrase “public option.”

 

Instead, Sammon told them, they should use focus-tested Republican and insurance industry talking points “to turn public opinion against the Democrats’ reform efforts.”

 

In his October 27, 2009 memo to his staff, Sammon offered what he call a “friendly reminder: let’s not slip back into calling it the ‘public option.’” Instead, he ordered:

1)  Please use the term “government-run health insurance” or, when brevity is a concern, “government option,” whenever possible.

2) When it is necessary to use the term “public option” (which is, after all, firmly ensconced in the nation’s lexicon), use the qualifier “so-called,” as in “the so-called public option.”

3) Here’s another way to phrase it: “The public option, which is the government-run plan.”

4) When newsmakers and sources use the term “public option” in our stories, there’s not a lot we can do about it, since quotes are of course sacrosanct.
As I wrote in my book, Deadly Spin, PR firms representing the health insurance industry routinely furnished conservative pundits and so-called journalists with talking points their consultants developed to scare people away from reform.

 

The insurance industry has spent millions of our premium dollars over the years on linguistic research and message testing to assist it in disseminating false and misleading information to manipulate public opinion.

 

I devoted an entire chapter to the industry’s “playbook.” Here is one of the tactics I said included in the playbook:
Feed talking points to TV pundits and freaquent contributors to op-ed pages. They will know how to get talk show hosts with big audiences like Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly or Glenn Beck to say things on the air to support your point of view and discredit your opponents.

This morning grassroots advocacy coalition Health Care for America Now asked its supporters to “reject Fox News and its attempts to continually attack the Affordable Care Act and the people who support it under the guise of legitimate ‘reporting.’”

 

I am calling on Rupert Murdoch to fire Sammon, and I am calling on Fox’s so-called journalists and the network’s producers, many of whom I know and have worked with over the years, to denounce Sammon’s partisan approach to reporting and commentary. I am further calling on them — and the news staff at the Wall Street Journal, also owned by Murdoch, to dedicate themselves to truly being “fair and balanced” and to familiarize themselves with the profession’s code of ethics.

 

Northing short of our democracy is at stake here, folks.

 

 
This Blogger’s Books from   
Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans by Wendell Potter
 
Follow Wendell Potter on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wendellpotter
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14 Propaganda Techniques Fox “News” Uses to Brainwash Americans

By Cynthia Boaz, TruthOut.org
Posted on July 2, 2011 on Alternet.org

There is nothing more sacred to the maintenance of democracy than a free press. Access to comprehensive, accurate and quality information is essential to the manifestation of Socratic citizenship – the society characterized by a civically engaged, well-informed and socially invested populace. Thus, to the degree that access to quality information is willfully or unintentionally obstructed, democracy itself is degraded.

It is ironic that in the era of 24-hour cable news networks and “reality” programming, the news-to-fluff ratio and overall veracity of information has declined precipitously. Take the fact Americans now spend on average about 50 hours a week using various forms of media, while at the same time cultural literacy levels hover just above the gutter. Not only does mainstream media now tolerate gross misrepresentations of fact and history by public figures (highlighted most recently by Sarah Palin’s ludicrous depiction of Paul Revere’s ride), but many media actually legitimize these displays. Pause for a moment and ask yourself what it means that the world’s largest, most profitable and most popular news channel passes off as fact every whim, impulse and outrageously incompetent analysis of its so-called reporters. How did we get here? Take the enormous amount of misinformation that is taken for truth by Fox audiences: the belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that he was in on 9/11, the belief that climate change isn’t real and/or man-made, the belief that Barack Obama is Muslim and wasn’t born in the United States, the insistence that all Arabs are Muslim and all Muslims are terrorists, the inexplicable perceptions that immigrants are both too lazy to work and are about to steal your job. All of these claims are demonstrably false, yet Fox News viewers will maintain their veracity with incredible zeal. Why? Is it simply that we have lost our respect for knowledge?

My curiosity about this question compelled me to sit down and document the most oft-used methods by which willful ignorance has been turned into dogma by Fox News and other propagandists disguised as media. The techniques I identify here also help to explain the simultaneously powerful identification the Fox media audience has with the network, as well as their ardent, reflexive defenses of it.

The good news is that the more conscious you are of these techniques, the less likely they are to work on you. The bad news is that those reading this article are probably the least in need in of it.

1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. The idea is to terrify and terrorize the audience during every waking moment. From Muslims to swine flu to recession to homosexuals to immigrants to the rapture itself, the belief over at Fox seems to be that if your fight-or-flight reflexes aren’t activated, you aren’t alive. This of course raises the question: why terrorize your own audience? Because it is the fastest way to bypasses the rational brain. In other words, when people are afraid, they don’t think rationally. And when they can’t think rationally, they’ll believe anything.

2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person’s credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. No category of character assassination is off the table and no offense is beneath them. Fox and like-minded media figures also use ad hominem attacks not just against individuals, but entire categories of people in an effort to discredit the ideas of every person who is seen to fall into that category, e.g. “liberals,” “hippies,” “progressives” etc. This form of argument – if it can be called that – leaves no room for genuine debate over ideas, so by definition, it is undemocratic. Not to mention just plain crass.

3. Projection/Flipping. This one is frustrating for the viewer who is trying to actually follow the argument. It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you’re using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. We see this frequently in the immigration discussion, where anti-racists are accused of racism, or in the climate change debate, where those who argue for human causes of the phenomenon are accused of not having science or facts on their side. It’s often called upon when the media host finds themselves on the ropes in the debate.

4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. The Downing Street Memos on the Iraq war were a classic example of this on a massive scale, but it happens daily and over smaller issues as well. A recent case in point is Palin’s mangling of the Paul Revere ride, which Fox reporters have bent over backward to validate. Why lie about the historical facts, even when they can be demonstrated to be false? Well, because dogmatic minds actually find it easier to reject reality than to update their viewpoints. They will literally rewrite history if it serves their interests. And they’ll often speak with such authority that the casual viewer will be tempted to question what they knew as fact.

5. Scapegoating/Othering. This works best when people feel insecure or scared. It’s technically a form of both fear mongering and diversion, but it is so pervasive that it deserves its own category. The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.

6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness. This is more of what I’d call a “meta-frame” (a deeply held belief) than a media technique, but it is manifested in the ways news is reported constantly. For example, terms like “show of strength” are often used to describe acts of repression, such as those by the Iranian regime against the protesters in the summer of 2009. There are several concerning consequences of this form of conflation. First, it has the potential to make people feel falsely emboldened by shows of force – it can turn wars into sporting events. Secondly, especially in the context of American politics, displays of violence – whether manifested in war or debates about the Second Amendment – are seen as noble and (in an especially surreal irony) moral. Violence become synonymous with power, patriotism and piety.

7. Bullying. This is a favorite technique of several Fox commentators. That it continues to be employed demonstrates that it seems to have some efficacy. Bullying and yelling works best on people who come to the conversation with a lack of confidence, either in themselves or their grasp of the subject being discussed. The bully exploits this lack of confidence by berating the guest into submission or compliance. Often, less self-possessed people will feel shame and anxiety when being berated and the quickest way to end the immediate discomfort is to cede authority to the bully. The bully is then able to interpret that as a “win.”

8. Confusion. As with the preceding technique, this one works best on an audience that is less confident and self-possessed. The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along. Less independent minds will interpret the confusion technique as a form of sophisticated thinking, thereby giving the user’s claims veracity in the viewer’s mind.

9. Populism. This is especially popular in election years. The speakers identifies themselves as one of “the people” and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always “elitist” or a “bureaucrat” or a “government insider” or some other category that is not the people. The idea is to make the opponent harder to relate to and harder to empathize with. It often goes hand in hand with scapegoating. A common logical fallacy with populism bias when used by the right is that accused “elitists” are almost always liberals – a category of political actors who, by definition, advocate for non-elite groups.

10. Invoking the Christian God. This is similar to othering and populism. With morality politics, the idea is to declare yourself and your allies as patriots, Christians and “real Americans” (those are inseparable categories in this line of thinking) and anyone who challenges them as not. Basically, God loves Fox and Republicans and America. And hates taxes and anyone who doesn’t love those other three things. Because the speaker has been benedicted by God to speak on behalf of all Americans, any challenge is perceived as immoral. It’s a cheap and easy technique used by all totalitarian entities from states to cults.

11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. The message must be repeated cover and over, it must be everywhere and it must be shared across commentators: e.g. “Saddam has WMD.” Veracity and hard data have no relationship to the efficacy of saturation. There is a psychological effect of being exposed to the same message over and over, regardless of whether it’s true or if it even makes sense, e.g., “Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States.” If something is said enough times, by enough people, many will come to accept it as truth. Another example is Fox’s own slogan of “Fair and Balanced.”

12. Disparaging Education. There is an emerging and disturbing lack of reverence for education and intellectualism in many mainstream media discourses. In fact, in some circles (e.g. Fox), higher education is often disparaged as elitist. Having a university credential is perceived by these folks as not a sign of credibility, but of a lack of it. In fact, among some commentators, evidence of intellectual prowess is treated snidely and as anti-American. The disdain for education and other evidence of being trained in critical thinking are direct threats to a hive-mind mentality, which is why they are so viscerally demeaned.

13. Guilt by Association. This is a favorite of Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart, both of whom have used it to decimate the careers and lives of many good people. Here’s how it works: if your cousin’s college roommate’s uncle’s ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev’s niece’s ex-boyfriend’s sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroying America. Period.

14. Diversion. This is where, when on the ropes, the media commentator suddenly takes the debate in a weird but predictable direction to avoid accountability. This is the point in the discussion where most Fox anchors start comparing the opponent to Saul Alinsky or invoking ACORN or Media Matters, in a desperate attempt to win through guilt by association. Or they’ll talk about wanting to focus on “moving forward,” as though by analyzing the current state of things or God forbid, how we got to this state of things, you have no regard for the future. Any attempt to bring the discussion back to the issue at hand will likely be called deflection, an ironic use of the technique of projection/flipping.

In debating some of these tactics with colleagues and friends, I have also noticed that the Fox viewership seems to be marked by a sort of collective personality disorder whereby the viewer feels almost as though they’ve been let into a secret society. Something about their affiliation with the network makes them feel privileged and this affinity is likely what drives the viewers to defend the network so vehemently. They seem to identify with it at a core level, because it tells them they are special and privy to something the rest of us don’t have. It’s akin to the loyalty one feels by being let into a private club or a gang. That effect is also likely to make the propaganda more powerful, because it goes mostly unquestioned.

In considering these tactics and their possible effects on American public discourse, it is important to note that historically, those who’ve genuinely accessed truth have never berated those who did not. You don’t get honored by history when you beat up your opponent: look at Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln. These men did not find the need to engage in othering, ad homeinum attacks, guilt by association or bullying. This is because when a person has accessed a truth, they are not threatened by the opposing views of others. This reality reveals the righteous indignation of people like Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity as a symptom of untruth. These individuals are hostile and angry precisely because they don’t feel confident in their own veracity. And in general, the more someone is losing their temper in a debate and the more intolerant they are of listening to others, the more you can be certain they do not know what they’re talking about.

One final observation. Fox audiences, birthers and Tea Partiers often defend their arguments by pointing to the fact that a lot of people share the same perceptions. This is a reasonable point to the extent that Murdoch’s News Corporation reaches a far larger audience than any other single media outlet. But, the fact that a lot of people believe something is not necessarily a sign that it’s true; it’s just a sign that it’s been effectively marketed.

As honest, fair and truly intellectual debate degrades before the eyes of the global media audience, the quality of American democracy degrades along with it.
Dr. Cynthia Boaz is assistant professor of political science at Sonoma State University, where her areas of expertise include quality of democracy, nonviolent struggle, civil resistance and political communication and media. She is also an affiliated scholar at the UNESCO Chair of Philosophy for Peace International Master in Peace, Conflict, and Development Studies at Universitat Jaume I in Castellon, Spain. Additionally, she is an analyst and consultant on nonviolent action, with special emphasis on the Iran and Burma cases. She is vice president of the Metta Center for Nonviolence and on the board of Project Censored and the Media Freedom Foundation. Dr. Boaz is also a contributing writer and adviser to Truthout.org and associate editor of Peace and Change Journal.

© 2011 TruthOut.org All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/151497/

The real media bias is for the horse race by John Rash

Star Tribune, April 24, 2012 

Riffing on a refrain heard often during an election campaign, Mitt Romney said last Tuesday that “there will be an effort by the, quote, ‘vast left-wing conspiracy’ to work together to put out their message and to attack me. They’re going to do everything they can to divert from the message people care about, which is a growing economy that creates more jobs and rising incomes.” 

Romney later added that “many in the media are inclined to do the president’s bidding, and I know that’s an uphill battle we fight with the media generally.” 

According to a study released Monday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, Romney may be right about the press passing on the key issues: 64 percent of campaign coverage so far has been about the race itself (remarkably, that’s down from 80 percent in the 2008 GOP primary season). 

But Romney’s wrong about the media doing the president’s bidding. In fact, the study indicates that, if anything, the press has been tougher on the president than on his GOP challenger. Negative coverage of President Obama exceeded positive press in 14 of 15 primary season weeks studied. 

Conversely, coverage of Romney was more positive than negative in six of the 15 weeks, and evenly divided in four, according to Pew, which used a computer-assisted analysis of 11,000 news outlets and human coding of 52 key outlets. 

“While a sitting president may have access to the ‘bully pulpit,’ that doesn’t mean he has control of the media narrative, particularly during the other party’s primary season,” the report stated. 

Indeed, the GOP candidates’ bully pulpit was one of the main factors cited for the president’s bad press coverage. Other factors were more issue-focused — a lukewarm economy, a hot mic picking up comments about postreelection “flexibility” Obama made to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a continuing cold reception for his health care plan, among others. 

But at least some coverage of the president was about policy, not politics. That was barely the case for his GOP challengers: “Domestic and foreign policy issues” accounted for 21 percent of Obama’s coverage, compared with 8 percent for Romney, 7 percent for Rick Santorum, 6 percent for Newt Gingrich and 9 percent for Ron Paul. 

The landslide margin for stories about who’s up and who’s down reveal the real media bias: Choosing horse race coverage far more often than it saddles up for substantive stories about issues that really impact voters. 

This fixation with political competition is one of the main reasons the actual coverage of Romney belies his characterization of it: Once the press sensed the presidential nomination was his to lose, Romney won a more favorable narrative, while his challengers were chronicled more negatively, and less often. 

There’s even a decisive turning point: The Feb. 28 Michigan primary, when Romney homed in on his home state and locked in inevitability. 

When the press pursued “personal issues,” the difference in the tenor of coverage of Romney and that of his rivals wasn’t dramatic. The topic comprised 6 percent of Romney’s overall coverage; 4 percent of Santorum’s, and 5 percent of Gingrich’s. Romney just won more often, and thus got more coverage. 

When he was winning, Santorum also had three brief two-week periods of net positive press. Gingrich, conversely, enjoyed only one net positive week, when he won the South Carolina primary — even though he had to hit back against agonizing allegations by one of his ex-wives. 

And because Paul never won, the press lost interest in him. So even though his coverage was net positive in 11 out of the 15 weeks studied, he got only about one-eighth as much press attention as Romney, and a quarter as much as Santorum and Gingrich. 

With so many profound presidential decisions to be made by the eventual victor, it’s distressing that the press stressed “strategy” for 64 percent of its campaign coverage, compared with 12 percent on “personal issues,” 9 percent on “domestic issues,” and 6 percent on both “public record” and “other.” 

And despite the Arab Spring, winter for the euro and what looks to be a long hot summer of Mideast strife, only 1 percent of coverage was dedicated to “foreign issues.”

As respected as Pew is, and exhaustive as the study is, the data won’t end the debate over campaign coverage. 

But it should shift it away from partisanship to this fundamental question: Does anyone really believe that the overwhelming press preference for horse race coverage is a good bet for voters?

http://www.startribune.com/opinion/commentaries/148598645.html
————-

John Rash is a Star Tribune editorial writer and columnist.

Money in politics

The power of money trumps the power of democracy todayDemocracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and PowerBill Moyers

financiers who presided over the market collapse… could have and should have seen it coming.…the financial crisis was not an accident and they were not powerless. The crisis was the result of irresponsibility and misjudgments by many people…Congress’s efforts at financial reform appear to be weakened daily by politicians who are more concerned with campaign donations than regulating the financial system. Who’s Not Sorry Now? Editorial, New York Times, April 11, 2010 

 

“You and I don’t have a lobbyist and so we are not represented in this melee. There is no balance here. There’s a drastic imbalance between the people who created the problem and the people who had to pay the problem and it has not been addressed.”  Gretchen Morgenson, How Big Money Bought Our Democ­racy, Cor­rupted Both Par­ties, and Set Us Up for Another Finan­cial Crisis

 

 

 

Billionaire Koch Brothers Spending Millions To Deny Health Coverage To Low-Income Americans 

The Koch Brothers’ “Samson Option”

Some People Are Making Big Bucks Sabotaging Obamacare

Crony cap­i­tal­ism is about the aggres­sive and proac­tive use of polit­i­cal resources, lob­by­ing, cam­paign con­tri­bu­tions, influence-peddling of one type or another to gain some­thing from the gov­ern­men­tal process that wouldn’t oth­er­wise be achiev­able in the mar­ket…Money dom­i­nates pol­i­tics. As a result we have nei­ther cap­i­tal­ism nor democ­racy. We have crony cap­i­tal­ism.” David Stock­man, for­mer bud­get direc­tor for Pres­i­dent Reagan

 

O Little Town of Washington by Michael Winship, Bill Moyers.com, August 23, 2013

When Election Regulators Are Mocked By THE EDITORIAL BOARD, New York Times, April 13, 2013

Plutocracy, Paralysis, Perplexity by Paul Krugman, New York Times, posted on CommonDreams.org, May 4, 2012 — …money buys power, and the increasing wealth of a tiny minority has effectively bought the allegiance of one of our two major political parties, in the process destroying any prospect for cooperation…the Republican Party is dominated by doctrines formerly on the political fringe…the real structural problem is in our political system, which has been warped and paralyzed by the power of a small, wealthy minority. And the key to economic recovery lies in finding a way to get past that minority’s malign influence…

How the Gun Industry Made a Fortune Stoking Fears That Obama Would Take People’s Guns & Ammo

America’s Duopoly of Money in Politics and Manipulation of Public Opinion

How Big Money Bought Our Democracy, Corrupted Both Parties, and Set Us Up for Another Financial Crisis By Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company, January 22, 2012 – posted on AlterNet.org - “Crony capitalism is about the aggressive and proactive use of political resources, lobbying, campaign contributions, influence-peddling of one type or another to gain something from the governmental process that wouldn’t otherwise be achievable in the market. And as the time has progressed over the last two or three decades, I think it’s gotten much worse. Money dominates politics.” Those are the words of [David Stockman] former budget director for President Reagan…“As a result,” Stockman says, “we have neither capitalism nor democracy. We have crony capitalism.” Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times business and finance reporter Gretchen Morgenson: “You and I don’t have a lobbyist and so we are not represented in this melee. There is no balance here. There’s a drastic imbalance between the people who created the problem and the people who had to pay the problem and it has not been addressed.”

What Shel­don Adel­son Wants — Editorial

Republicans and the Gun Lobby – Editorial, New York Times, April 13, 2012 April 13, 2012

Big Media Is Raking in Billions on Political Ads By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Alternet.org,  March 30, 2012

The Big Money Behind State Laws, Editorial, New York Times, February 12, 2012

A Bitter, Losing Fight Against the Power of Money by Rupert Cornwell, Independent/UK, December 5, 2010  - …amid the turbulent craziness of American politics, there is one constant: money rules….
It is the very rich who have done best out of those cuts pushed through by George Bush in 2001. Indeed, real take-home pay has stagnated for most people over that period, while the poor have, if anything, got poorer…
Republicans, however, are adamant; the cuts (which lowered the top rate of income tax from 39 per cent to 35 per cent) must be extended for the rich and super-rich too. Do otherwise, they challenge Democrats, and you will be forever branded the party that raises taxes. In US politics, there is no deadlier accusation…the fundamental law of American politics: money rules.

How the GOP Became the Party of the Rich by Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, November 24, 2011

ALEC: Facilitating Corporate Influence Behind Closed Doors  by Mary Bottari, PR Watch, August 15, 2011 – Through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), corporations pay to bring state legislators to one place, sit them down for a sales pitch on policies that benefit the corporate bottom line, then push “model bills” for legislators to make law in their states. Corporations also vote behind closed doors alongside politicians on this wishlist legislation through ALEC task forces. Notably absent were the real people who would actually be affected by many of those bills and policies. With legislators concentrated in one city, lobbyists descend on the conference to wine-and-dine elected officials after-hours…ALEC’s power lies not only in generating corporate-sponsored “model bills” for state legislators to make law, but that it facilitates multiple levels of influence-peddling. ALEC itself has a $7 million budget and 32 staffers. In addition to this budget, ALEC technically acts as an intermediary for about a million dollars in travel “scholarships” that pay for many legislators’ trips to ALEC meetings…ALEC spokeswoman Raegan Weber notes that a piece of model legislation passed by the task force still must be approved by the 22-person Board of Directors, all of whom are legislators (and all of whom are Republicans.) Nothing that the legislative board votes on, however, gets to the board unless the corporate wing of each task force has voted in favor of it. The ALECexposed.org site launched by the Center for Media and Democracy in July demonstrates that over 800 bills and resolutions voted for by corporations have been ratified by the ALEC legislators selected for its board…

Koch-backed political coalition, designed to shield donors, raised $400 million in 2012

Communications

15 things everyone would know if there were a liberal media

Your False-Equivalence Guide to the Days Ahead James Fallows Sep 27 2013  –A kind of politics we have not seen for more than 150 years…As a matter of journalism, any story that presents the disagreements as a “standoff,” a “showdown,” a “failure of leadership,” a sign of “partisan gridlock,” or any of the other usual terms for political disagreement, represents a failure of journalism and an inability to see or describe what is going on…This isn’t “gridlock.” It is a ferocious struggle within one party, between its traditionalists and its radical factions, with results that unfortunately can harm all the rest of us — and, should there be a debt default, could harm the rest of the world too.

Our Dumb Democracy: Why the Untied States of Stupid Still Reins Supreem by John Atcheson, January 22, 2013 by Common Dreams – …Want to know how our political discourse got so mind-numbingly stupid? Well, we can start with this little fact:  The press is so enamored with “balance” that they’ll treat even the most ignorant, shallow, fatuous movement – a [Tea Party] movement composed of the selfish, the self-obsessed, the angry, the bigoted, and the blissfully ignorant – as if it were a serious movement.…At one time this kind of foolishness would have been laughed off the national stage. Now it dominates one of our major political parties, thanks to the media’s embrace of balance and false equivalence and the Democrats’ silent complicity…today’s political discourse is so thoroughly littered with “conventional wisdom” without an iota of wisdom...our media has replaced truth, accuracy and reality with balance, false equivalency, and stenography and Democrats have been silent co-conspirators. Why?  Because the press is a wholly owned subsidiary of corporations, and too many Democrats feed at the corporate trough. And that’s not funny, but it is stupid.

A Great Debate By GARY GUTTING, New York Times blogs, Feb­ru­ary 19, 2013…our polit­i­cal “debates” sel­dom deserve the name…Is there any way to make gen­uine debates — sus­tained back-and-forth exchanges, meet­ing high intel­lec­tual stan­dards but still widely acces­si­ble — part of our polit­i­cal cul­ture?..Such debates will not end our polit­i­cal dis­agree­ments, but they will set much higher stan­dards of dis­cus­sion, requir­ing fuller expla­na­tions of posi­tions and even mod­i­fi­ca­tions to make them more defen­si­ble. It’s unlikely that either side would ever sim­ply give up its view, but, polit­i­cally, they would have to react to a strong pub­lic con­sen­sus if they had not made a respectable case…The only major obsta­cle to imple­ment­ing this pro­posal would be get­ting the par­ties to par­tic­i­pate. Here, I sug­gest, shame would be a prime moti­va­tor…Of course, many peo­ple will not have the time, inter­est, or the abil­ity to fol­low debates of this sort. But those who do — includ­ing the lead­ing com­men­ta­tors and opinion-makers — will be among the most con­cerned and artic­u­late, and their views will have a sig­nif­i­cant effect on the terms and tone of the gen­eral discussion. Facts and rea­son­ing will never set­tle polit­i­cal issues. All of us have fun­da­men­tal com­mit­ments that are imper­vi­ous to argu­ment. If an argu­ment seems to refute them, we take this as a refu­ta­tion of the argu­ment. And, of course, many of us are too igno­rant, self-interested or prej­u­diced on cer­tain issues to be moved by ratio­nal con­sid­er­a­tions. But ratio­nal­ity almost always has some role in our deci­sions, and more ratio­nal­ity in our polit­i­cal dis­cus­sion will at a min­i­mum help many to bet­ter under­stand what is at stake in our dis­putes and why their oppo­nents think as they do. So why not give rea­son a chance?…

How the Mainstream Press Bungled the Single Biggest Story of the 2012 Campaign

What Watchdog? How the Financial Press Has Failed the American Public

Are Conservatives Rethinking Fox News’ Endless Outrage Model?

Republicans Lied To by ‘Conservative Entertainment Complex’

How Conservative Radio Creates an Echo Chamber of Hate

The real media bias is for the horse race by John Rash

Why the Mainstream Media Are Clueless About the Religious Right by Adele M. Stan, AlterNet, August 18, 2011

The Virus of GOP Ignorance: Why Don’t Media Protect Us From the Lies Spewed in the Republican Primary? By Eric Alterman, The Nation, November 23, 2011 – It is a symbol of our current political predicament that anytime anyone tells the truth about anything in the contest for the Republican nomination, a new scandal erupts…The respectful response of the media to the batshit-crazy statements one hears from the second-tier Republican candidates…is doing definite damage to this country…Gingrich…Cain and Bachmann…Pretending that these people might be president, and hence deserve to be treated as if what they say is true, is not merely unjustified—given that the nominee is almost certain to be Romney—but akin to playing accessory to a kind of ongoing intellectually criminal activity.In their new book, The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age, Randall Stephens and Karl Giberson explain the nature of intellectual insularity of so many in this world, in which “the teachings of dubiously credentialed leaders are favored over the word of secular experts in the arts and sciences.”…
The authors describe “what amounts to a ‘parallel culture,’” where people like alleged “historian” David Barton… abd psychologist James Dobson…proffer phony-baloney history lessons that distort almost everything professional historians know to be true about America’s founders. Reporters representing reliable media outlets are supposed to defend the discourse from the virus of this ignorance. But for a variety of reasons they no longer do so. Part of the explanation can be found in the foolish willingness of so many reporters to treat Fox News, Drudge and various talk-radio hosts as respectable voices in the debate without regard to their motives or qualifications. A second, no less significant problem is the tendency of even the most sophisticated political reporters to treat the entire process as a contest between rival teams and ignore the substance of their arguments and policies, as if politics were simply a spectator sport

The End of Newspapers and the Decline of Democracy, By Eric Alterman, Center for American Progress, Think Again – March 22, 2012

How You Will Change the World with Social Networking by Deanna Zandt, AlterNet.org, July 24, 2010