by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
March 7, 2016
ENFORCING THE STATUS QUO IS JOB NO. 1 FOR THE CORPORATE PRESS
DUMMERSTON, Vt. --The late muckraking journalist George Seldes once wrote that "there is only one viewpoint which the entire press of the nation expresses, respects, represents and works for: the viewpoint of business, money, wealth and power represented by what is generally known as the God of Things As They Are, or the Status Quo."
And if someone in the press, or in academia, strays too far away from the established consensus, you are cast out into the wilderness.
Boston-based journalist Michael Corcoran, writing for the left-of-center news site Truthout.org, recently illustrated this point by showing how The New York Times, one of the chief enforcers of adherence to the status quo, made sure Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders felt its lash.
The Times ran a story on Feb. 15, 2016, that interviewed or quoted five "liberal-leaning economists," most of whom are aligned with the Democratic Party establishment, and had them dismiss Sanders' economic agenda as being "magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars," "fairy tales," and "wishful thinking."
Corcoran pointed out that Jackie Calmes' story, "Left-leaning economists question costs of Sanders' economic plans," had no quotes from any economists who support Sanders' plans.
She did not bother to interview Gerald Friedman of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who voluntarily did an economic analysis of Sanders' proposals for single-payer health care (or "Medicare for All, as Sanders calls it) for his campaign.
She certainly didn't talk to any genuine "left-leaning economists" such as former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, Dean Baker of the of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, Richard Wolff of Democracy at Work and the New School for Social Research, or James K. Galbraith at the University of Texas.
Most of all, she ignored the multitude of studies done over the past decades that show single-payer health care would deliver better health outcomes for less money, as it has in every other nation that uses this system.
It might have been helpful to remind her readers that the United States remains the one nation in the industrialized world without a public, universal health-care system. Or that many nations - including Brazil, Finland, Germany, France, Sweden, and Norway - offer tuition-free college to its citizens. In other words, neither idea is particularly radical - except here.
Calmes' story got a big boost when liberal economist, Times columnist, and Hilary Clinton supporter Paul Krugman endorsed it on his Twitter feed and in his blog, dismissing Sanders' single-payer proposal as being a "magic unicorn."
Other corporate media outlets picked up the narrative of Sanders and his supposedly unserious policy ideas, a narrative reinforced by a letter written to Friedman and Sanders by four former chairmen of the Council of Economic Advisors that attacks Sanders' economic plan as making "extreme claims that cannot be supported by the economic evidence."
The four have close ties to the Democratic Party establishment, but that is of little consequence, especially when the goal, in Corcoran's words, is to create "an imaginary left-wing consensus against the most transformative Keynesian reforms in Bernie Sanders' economic agenda.
"Many economists and experts have since attempted to counter this manufactured consensus, but the mainstream media have largely ignored these efforts. As this false narrative turns into conventional wisdom, prospects for much-needed and substantive changes to our economy - universal health care, access to higher education, a dignified standard of living for all - continue to dwindle."
That's by design. Remember Seldes' words about the press sticking up for the status quo?
The status quo is maintained, Corcoran wrote, by a press "which keeps parameters of debate limited on an extremely narrow spectrum. These parameters are largely shaped by the political parties, with the Democratic Party reflecting the liberal end of acceptable discourse in publications like The New York Times. To go beyond this point will result in one being marginalized, ignored or mocked - treated as if they have taken 'off from the planet,' as Noam Chomsky once described the phenomenon.
"Given the narrative the mainstream media have pushed in recent weeks, it appears that proposals like single-payer health care and tuition-free college go well beyond these parameters. This is not all that surprising given the Democratic Party's financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry and the financial services industry."
Sanders has never been cozy with either industry, which explains why they have been in his rhetorical crosshairs for as long as he's been in Congress. He does not do the status quo, and never will.
But the enforcers of the consensus will never allow anyone who doesn't accept it the divine power of capital to do what it pleases to be within shouting distance of power.
That's why the Times needed to do the hit job on Sanders and his economic agenda. And that's why there is such a disconnect between the corporate press and the people.
AR's Chief of Correspondents, Randolph T. Holhut, holds an M.P.A .from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and has been an award-winning journalist in New England for more than 35 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at email@example.com.