Sunday, May 4, 2014

The White House Correspondents' Dinner: A Big Neoliberal Schmooze Fest

Last night featured one of the most revolting events of the year for true citizens and lovers of democracy: the spectacle of supposedly independent and influential journalists of the press corps schmoozing and joking with the most powerful members of the government, i.e. the Neoliberal bastion and its insiders and players. Anyone, I mean anyone, who has read Robert McChesney's book, The Problem of the Media - would have come away barfing nonstop having merely been exposed to clips of this farce.

As McChesney noted (op. cit.) the most pervasive problem of the media today is precisely being in bed with the power mongers to the point it allows them to get away with almost everything and never hold them to account. This could be on the economic-financial front (large bailouts of banks, GM etc, without adequate accountability), on the international front (think of stirring up trouble in the Ukraine) or the national security front (think of the press' shameless giving a pass to NSA mass surveillance while excoriating Edward Snowden).

So, the spectacle we witnessed was one of the supposedly independent Fourth Estate knob polishing the Neoliberal elites. Well, this is why we call them the "Neoliberal media".  Their odious mingling with those they are supposed to hold to account and criticize (that now mainly left to bloggers and the indie press) has left this nation's citizens  mainly derelict and deprived of information about what's really going on in their midst.

McChesney and others (e.g. Michael Parenti, Douglas Rushkoff etc.) have pointed out there is NO room, zero, nada for "friendliness" between the press and the powerful.  The reason is simple, so much so that anyone can grasp it: If you are charged with reporting on the powerful, particularly their violations of the constitution and other transgressions, then you cannot also be their 'pal'.  If you are a pal then you cannot be objective nor can you do objective reporting on their misdeeds.

This means that you are obliged, if you are a serious reporter, to keep your distance. You cannot be an "insider" and if you are, you are not a reporter or journalist, but a craven propagandist.

This point of being an "insider" as opposed to "outsider" was interestingly brought up by Sen. Elizabeth Warren two nights ago on Chris Hayes' ALL In.  She related to Hayes how Lawrence Summers had told here that "insiders don't criticize the powers that be" - and that was what "outsiders" did. And "outsiders" would never have the ear of the powerful. Warren had a choice at that point to not make waves with her Consumer Protection Bureau or go all in, and she chose the   latter, By doing do, she made herself an "outsider", but at the same time a real person to speak truth to power as opposed to being exploited by power to dispense propaganda.

Incredibly, the White House Correspondents' Association (WHCA) was actually founded to protect the independence of the press corps from encroachment and interference by the (Woodrow) Wilson administration.   This alone ought to inspire cognitive dissonance, given you don't form an association with the power center of the nation in order to preserve independence from it. The more rational choice would be to form your own media-press association.  Ah, but then you'd likely have to forgo access to those in power.

So what?  You don't need 'insider' access to report on their actions, decisions- which effects can be visibly manifest. Insider access merely grants you personal time, possibly for interviews, in which they will merely dispense more bromides and PR in any case.

In fact, the only funny part of last night's event was when Obama mentioned that his call for "Yes, we can!" had since turned into his reaching for Control-Alt-Delete, and the joke that the "47 percent" phoned Mitt Romney and apologized (well, not quite). Basically then he could at least laugh at the truth and facts of his plummeting poll numbers.  But whether he really understood why his poll numbers have tanked (including in 93 other nations across the world, see e.g. is another matter.  Even he kidded that the press corps "wasn't doing its job" (in keeping him humble - though the polls ought to).

The most important aspect of the White House Correspondents' Dinner? How we have no real free and independent press which means, of course, we cannot trust the information coming from our media.

Pals of the power mongers cannot be pals to us, in terms of giving us what we need to know. And thus, if the press corps can't or won't do its job we have to do it for them - hence the reason for "outsider" political blogs, or blogs that (part time) feature  attention to political issues, such as Brane Space. People then at least have a choice, of getting some kernels of truth as to what is happening, or going to the PR pit of the mainstream media.

See also:

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