Uncommon Sense: Fear and Envy on the Campaign Trail - Part 2

The fact that the Obama campaign alone will raise a billion dollars -– most of which will line the already deep pockets of big-media interests -– tells us just about everything we need to know about the state of American politics and the true function of big media in American democracy.

I’m not a party man, so I don’t buy into either side of the political duopoly that the media has carved neatly into polarized red and blue states to facilitate the sale of political advertising. (Much of which is paid for by public campaign dollars).  

As far as I’m concerned, the only real difference between the red states and the blues states is that the red states are full of media addicts who do nothing but consume 12 hours of media each day, while the blues states are full of media addicts who not only consume 12 hours of media each day, but also produce, sell and distribute almost all of the media that everyone consumes.

We hear much nowadays about the corrupt influence of institutional money in politics. True, money buys influence, but big media (and campaign finance reform) always focuses on the wrong end of the campaign finance continuum -- where the money comes from. The real focus belongs on the other end: where the money winds up.  



Because it doesn’t stop with the politicians. It ends up in the aforementioned deep pockets of big media. Hence, rise of perpetual political campaigns as described last week in "Fear and Envy on the Campaign Trail -- Part 1."

Big media minions may talk ceaselessly about the corrosive influence of institutional money in politics, but they never examine the corrosive influence of big media –- except as opportunities  to excoriate each other through character assassination. They never talk about where the institutional campaign money actually winds up because any focus on that instantly extends any discussion of collusion and conspiracy beyond the power brokers of Wall Street and the Beltway (the obvious villains) to the real benefactors of political graft: big media -- the self-described purveyors of truth and democracy.

Big media’s self-serving focus on where the money comes from (instead of where the money goes) is designed to polarize the dialogue and inflate the demand for more media. Likewise, fair-and-balanced, media-bias, red-state-versus-blue-state and all related arguments are nothing more than media inventions, artifacts designed to inflame political passions and sell more media. Big money in politics is all about big media, and big media is how politicians buy votes these days.

That said, all of the above describes a far more sinister and insidious mechanism at work: our addiction and fealty to all things media -- the single biggest threat to our democracy and the quality of our lives in the 21st century.  The demise of American politics and the corruption of democracy are predictable byproducts of our descent into the grips of a media-driven mega-addiction.

Left unchecked, our addictions -- regardless of the narcotic -- eventually become moderators of all our internal debates. Eventually, they dictate our behaviors and determine how and where and with whom we spend our time and money. Those things that protect and elevate the self-serving interests of the addiction float to the top as priorities, while those things that challenge its hegemony are buried and neglected.

Big media’s focus on where the campaign money comes from protects and promotes the interests of our addiction to media, and therefore floats to the top. Conversely, any focus on where the campaign money winds up challenges the interests of the addiction and gets buried in the back of the book -- if it appears at all. My advice is to follow the money, and know that where it comes from is never as important as where it winds up.



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